Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Garbage Man Competition Winners

Apologies to our three winners of copies of Joseph D'Lacey's excellent urban horror, Garbage Man. I've had this post stuck in draft format since Friday and for some reason it would not release/update ...BUT! after deleting it and reworking it, here it is. (We hope.)

The winners are:

Rachel G from Derbyshire
Kirsty G from Kent

Lex W from London

Congratulations to all three. A copy of Garbage Man will be winging its way to you shortly courtesy of Bloody Books.

The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda


Fifteen-year-old Billi SanGreal never meant to make history. Dragged at the age of ten into the modern-day Knights Templar by her father, the Grandmaster, Billi's the first girl ever to be a Templar warrior. Her life is a rigorous and brutal round of weapons' practice, demon killing and occult lore – and a lot of bruises. But then temptation is placed in Billi's path – an alternative to her isolated life. But temptation brings consequences. In this case – the tenth plague – the death of all first borns and so Billi must choose her destiny. And as she soon discovers, death isn't even the worst...

I have been chomping at the bit to release this review for Sarwat Chadda’s The Devil’s Kiss, published by Puffin at 7th May 2009.

The synopsis of the book should give you an idea that this is a YA novel of a different slant. It is violent, it is grim, it is melancholy, it is about a group of fighting monks fighting the forces of evil and they feel as if they are losing, it is about magic, demons and angels, it has a heroine who has issues and a charismatic, supremely violent and unhinged antagonist.

Looking at this little paragraph I’ve typed up, I am keenly aware that I’ve really stripped much of the story from The Devil’s Kiss. What you see above is truly the very bare bones of The Devil’s Kiss, ignoring character growth and subplots.

Sarwat Chadda has taken years to flesh it out his debut novel, padding the story and the characters and turning Billi, the female heroine, into someone you would want to read about. About both her internal and external struggle and her journey and how she comes to the decisions which she makes in the book. It is also chock-full of adventure and takes place in a hyper-real and very darkly gothic London and you know, it is a pretty terrifying read as the premise is genuinely scary – somehow being responsible for releasing the tenth plague amongst the populace! A heavy burden for a young teen to drag behind her.

The author must have been deeply aware of the implications of turning one of the traditionally perceived good guys in legend and biblical history into the bad guy, but then, it is all a matter of perspective! Sarwat manages to capture the essence of the bad guy and to show him as being undaunted by the possibility that his action are as close to genocide as it can get. And yet, there is that tiny spark of being able to understand where his insane idea is coming from - it will be for the greater good - and he is blind to everything else.

The Devil's Kiss is a non-stop action ride from start to finish and if you are interested in the mythological / occult / theological aspect of things, there are loads to keep you entertained.

Sarwat Chadda has drawn on a plethora of research regarding the Knights Templar, the occult and the various world religions. He then retired to his study and after much wrestling, has come up with a good, strong and fun read about an unrelenting charismatic bad guy and about a reluctant heroine who could tip the scales in favour of or against humanity, either way. Nothing in The Devil’s Kiss is clear cut – nothing is safe, half-hearted or so-so. It is an all out action adventure with a great cast of characters and a lead character with enough demons riding her to turn her into a proper urban fantasy heroine.

The Devil’s Kiss is a recommended summer read and it should have a wide appeal amongst both young adults and adults. For adults missing watching Buffy and for kids who were that little disappointed in the TV show Demons, this is the perfect cure.

Find Sarwat’s blog here and the main website here. The Devil’s Kiss is released in the UK by Puffin on the 7th May 2009.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If I Stay, Gayle Forman


It follows seventeen-year-old Mia in the twenty-four hours after a catastrophic car accident. As Mia lies in coma, between life and death, her mind wanders back over her life – her eccentric family, her first kiss, her love for playing the cello – and now Mia must choose; life or death. Stay or go.

Here I am with my freaky synchronicity thing: friend and fellow blogger Adele Walsh over in the Land of Oz was telling me via Twitter about this amazing book which completely blew her away by its powerful writing and intimate story. I was intrigued and addded it to my Amazon wishlist as it looked like one of those Sunday afternoon reads whilst lying on the couch in the sun.

The following day, out of the blue, an email arrived from Random House UK asking me if I would be interested in reviewing this amazing book that has everyone in their office talking – it is called: If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

Icy cold shivers pawed their way down my back. Naturally I agreed and the next few days I spent reading If I Stay, during my commute into work. I kept in touch with Adele as I read it. I couldn’t help it. It is a buddy book. There is so much to talk about. It is also a highly emotional book and I spent a lot of time sniffling into a tissue, giving the impression to my fellow commuters that I am going through a tremendous ordeal of some sort.

If I Stay is wonderfully written and the story has a strong fresh voice. Of course there will be comparisons with Ms. Sebold’s work (The Lovely Bones) and with Jenny Downham’s book, If I Die. Unfortunately there is no way to avoid this as these two books have had a tremendous impact with readers of all ages, because of their subject matter and the skill with which the stories were told. And I would like to think that If I Stay will be seen as part of a trilogy of amazing books written by three very different authors who have such varying voices. But in the end, If I Stay should be looked at as it's very own creature and an expertly told one at that.

If I Stay takes place in the here and now and it follows the story of Mia on one snowy morning and how her life gets torn to shreds by a freak accident that leaves her in a coma in hospital and her family dead.

Pretty grim, you would agree, right? But there is so much more to the novel than this – the accident is a catalyst for us to find out about her life and see her decisions about her onward journey. As Mia lies in the hospital ward she recounts her story in a powerful but understated and fresh voice – her relationship with her family, complete with her ex-punk rocker dad and her mom who is a die hard rock chick and who still dresses the part, right down to her little brother Teddy who has aspirations of being a drummer too. Focussing on how different she is to her exuberant family we learn that Mia plays the cello, she has a penchant for world renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and how she struggles to appear normal in her parents’s eccentric household. Although she is part of their family unit, and is very much loved and indulged, she still feels the odd one out, because of her music preference and also in her looks. She isn’t blond and noisy, she is dark and studious. We also meet her friend Kim and we learn how they became friends, after a drag out fistfight tussle at school. When we are introduced to Mia’s boyfriend Adam we find that here is a young man worthy of our heroine. They come from completely different places in their music – she is a cellist, he is the lead guitar player and singer in an up and coming rock band, but they have that incredible connection that makes their relationship fizz. Their relationship is written with great care and with subtle descriptions which are all pointers to something almost magical.

The back-story of Mia’s life (if you want to call it that) blends seamlessly with her current situation, where she lies in hospital, on the outside giving no indication that she is there whilst very much being aware of what is going on around her. We see friends and her extended family rallying around her and she watches as they struggle to cope with the loss of her parents and her baby brother, and the possibility of maybe losing her too. There are some gripping scenes written a restrained hand, never slipping off the edge into gratuitous melodrama.

If I Stay is a work of tremendous grace, courage and it is truly haunting. It can also be read on many levels, making it an unusually striking book to indulge in. I’ll make no bones about it – it should come with a warning: keep tissues at hand whilst reading. But even so, it a must read full of hope and promise and the sheer beauty of the language makes it a dream to read.

Find Gayle Foreman’s site here . She has set up a playlist to look at which I found really interesting – it reflects the relationships between Mia and Adam and Mia’s parents. Also, unless you know the artists, it’s a good way to find new favourite people to listen to.

If I Stay will be available in the UK on 7th May, as published by both Random House and Transworld. Gayle will also be visiting the UK for the release so if you get a chance to go and meet her, do!

Over in the States the feature film rights for If I Stay were acquired by Summit Entertainment (they did Twilight) and they’ve slated Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight director) to look after this project. Follow the link through to Catherine’s IMDB page and look at some of those critically acclaimed movies she’s had a hand in and you just know that she’ll be doing If I Stay justice.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Horror Blog Fest - David Moody stops by for a chat

Mark and I are hugely proud to present David Moody as part of the MFB mini horor blog fest. If you're not sure who he is, read on, if you do and horror is your thing, read on! Find David's blog here. Hater's been published in the UK by Gollancz.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about you and your writing career.

I’m David Moody and I’ve been writing for fifteen years with varying degrees of success. My first novel ‘Straight to You’ was published in 1996. When overnight success, fame and piles of money were not forthcoming I decided to take a different approach with the publication of my second book. I self-published ‘Autumn’ in 2001 and made it available as a free download on my website with the idea being that I would a). generate a little publicity, b). expand my readership and c). develop a captive audience for the planned sequels to the book (which I’d charge for!). Half a million downloads and four sequels later, and with a movie adaptation of ‘Autumn’ (starring Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine) due for release later this year, I’m pretty happy with how my experiment turned out!

I set up my own small publishing house – Infected Books – in 2005 to produce print editions of my books (until that point I’d been exclusively releasing ebooks), and in summer 2006 I released ‘Hater’. Somehow (I’m not sure how it happened – I’m not even sure if I want to know, the odds against it happening are too frightening to think about!) a copy of the book ended up on the desk of some pretty powerful people in Los Angeles, with the end result being that the book was optioned by Mark Johnson (producer of the Chronicles of Narnia films) and Guillermo del Toro (director of the Hellboy films and Pan’s Labyrinth).

The book (and two planned sequels, and my five book ‘Autumn’ series) were sold to Thomas Dunne Books in the US so I’ve now become a ‘proper’ author. ‘Hater’ was re-released in February this year and will appear in numerous other countries later in 2009. The movie is in pre-production with J A Bayona (The Orphanage) directing.

I live just outside Birmingham with my wife, our two daughters and two of my three step-daughters (and you wonder why I keep writing about Armageddon!). The last few years have been incredibly surreal and I feel like I lead a double-life... fitting books, films and publicity around still having to get the kids to school, walk the dog and cook the dinner!

What is your most recent novel about – if you are allowed to tell us?

I’m currently working on ‘Dog Blood’ which is the first sequel to ‘Hater’. It’s a very bizarre and twisted story, which is unavoidable given how the first book ended! Book one followed Danny McCoyne, an unremarkable, ordinary man, as he struggled to come to terms with a world which was rapidly falling apart around him. In ‘Dog Blood’, the entire world has become incredibly vicious and unpredictable and is virtually unrecognisable from what it was only weeks earlier. Danny has to make a journey back to the place he used to call home before the wave of unstoppable violence which has swept the globe finally destroys everyone and everything.

What do you think makes the horror genre so fascinating to readers and writers?

I think horror allows you to ask ‘what if?’ It lets you look at the worst case scenario, lets you get a glimpse of what will happen when it all hits the fan! You know the feeling when you have a really intense nightmare which wakes you up? You sit up and, when the disorientation fades and your heart stops thumping, you realise it was just a dream. That feeling of relief – that glimpse into the abyss before you’re pulled back to reality – is, I think, why so many people continue to be fascinated by the genre. You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help yourself...
It’s escapism at its most extreme.

As a horror writer / fan, what sells a story / concept to you?

I’m a sucker for virtually any kind of horror story, told in any medium. But what really sells a story for me is how much it makes me think. If I forget a pitch or a plot moments after I’ve heard it, then it probably wasn’t worth hearing in the first place. But if it won’t go away... if it keeps creeping back into my head, freaking me out and making me think about how, why and what if... then I’m sold. I like originality and individuality and am turned off very quickly by remakes and clich├ęs.

I also get switched off by gratuitousness (such as ‘torture porn’ films like Hostel and Saw). I can stomach any amount of violence and gore, but only if it matters to the story.

What movies / books influenced your development as a genre writer? Similarly, what books, movies, comics, get you excited as a fan?

The writers and filmmakers I’d cite as major influences are those of whom I’m also a fan!

As far as books go, I grew up reading John Wyndham (the Day of the Triffids was a major influence on me), H G Wells (War of the Worlds in particular), James Herbert and Stephen King. To be fair, I used read anything that looked vaguely horrific! In the days before video (and during the early 1980’s when the UK government banned virtually every horror film on the shelves) I’d scour bookshops for film novelizations. I remember sneaking novels as diverse as ‘Alien’ and ‘The Incredible Melting Man’ into the house because, as a pre-teen, they were the only way I could get a decent horror fix!

I love B movies, and I’ve been addicted to them for years. It’s not the far-fetched plots or the bad effects though, it’s the passion that went into these low budget films that always won me over. I’d always choose to watch something like ‘Brain from Planet Aros’, ‘Invasion of the Saucer Men’ or ‘The Day the World Ended’ over a modern high-budget, low-imagination remake.

Having written about zombies for years, I have to mention George Romero. My first viewing of Night of the Living Dead (on an imported laser disc, in the middle of a massive thunderstorm when I was far too young to watch it) pretty much changed everything for me!

In terms of other directors, David Cronenberg is my undoubted number one, closely followed by John Carpenter (in his ‘golden period’ – from Dark Star through to They Live).

Who do you go all fan-boy about when it comes to the horror genre? Have you ever met anyone more famous than yourself and how did you react?

I guess I’ve already answered this! I don’t know how I’d react if I met Cronenberg, Carpenter or Romero. No doubt I’d try to maintain my cool but would inevitably start blathering like a fan-boy and end up looking an ass. But seriously, I know that copies of ‘Hater’ were sent to Cronenberg and Romero prior to publication, and to know that they’ve even just held copies of my book is cool enough for me!

If you had a chance to invite any horror legend, be it actor, writer, director, author (living / dead / undead) over for some tea, who would you choose and why?

Good question! I’m not sure. I’d love to meet any of the people I’ve already mentioned but, rather than just sit and chat to them, I think I’d like to watch them at work. To sit on set or in the editing booth with these masters of horror would be an absolute privilege.

Lights on or off when watching horror flicks?

Lights off (but light switch close).

Which do you prefer: Romero originals or remakes?

Really tough question! If he hadn’t made ‘Land of the Dead’ or ‘Diary of the Dead’ then I would have gone for originals. But, he did make those two movies, and I have to say that I preferred the ‘Dawn’ and ‘Night’ remakes to either of his recent films.

I don’t think you can beat his original trilogy. That said, I’ll be first in the queue when the new ‘... of the Dead’ movie comes out!

What is the best advice you ever received from someone about horror writing?
It’s all about keeping the brain fed! I think Steven King said ‘a good author writes for four hours a day and reads for four hours’ or something like that. One other quote springs to mind (although I can’t remember the exact wording or even who said it!). A frustrated writer’s wife walked into his office one day and saw him sitting at his desk, staring out of the window. She asked what he was doing and he replied, ‘writing’. This is the only job I know which you can do when you’re running, shopping or in the bath!

I’ve learnt that it is absolutely vital to keep watching, reading and firing-up your imagination if you want to produce any kind of fiction that matters.

The horror genre has seen many incarnations over the past few years – what do you think the future holds for the genre?

I’m not sure. I think the genre often thrives and produces its best work when the ‘real’ world is struggling. If that’s the case then we should be in for a horror boon in the very near future! But at the same time, in movies and TV right now we seem to be drowning in badly made, completely unnecessary remakes, sequels and prequels which are clearly designed to generate maximum profit with minimum effort and risk. It’s really disconcerting, because there are plenty of good, original ideas which remain undeveloped and forgotten at the expense of these ‘products’.

Do you have a zombie apocalypse survival plan – apart from going to hide in the Winchester, that is! – and will you be able to implement it?

Yes I do! If I’m honest, though, I don’t know whether or not I’d be able to go through with it. My fear is that when it all kicks off and the dead begin to rise, I’ll go into automatic ‘Englishman’ mode and deny there’s a problem until it’s too big to avoid! We have this bizarre mentality here sometimes when, if it’s not happening directly outside my house, it doesn’t matter!

All joking apart, I think that 99.9% of all well-intentioned survival plans will fall apart in the first hours of any kind of end-of-the-world scenario. If the dead began to walk the streets, would you really be able to kill your neighbour with a snooker cue? Or behead a recently deceased member of your own family with a shovel...? It works in the movies, but I’m not so sure...

My plan, for what it’s worth, is simple. Get the family in the car and get out to the most isolated place I can find (I know a few). Get in some supplies (enough for six months if it’s possible) and sit and wait. The six month mark is vital – by then the bulk of the immediately effected (i.e. undead) population should have decayed away to the point when they’re no longer such a threat.
I’ve been thinking about this too much, haven’t I? In all seriousness, things are pretty grim right now, and if they don’t improve then Armageddon might be closer than we think. I was in the supermarket the other day. When I got to the till I realised that I’d actually started stocking up with bottles of water and tins of food! Now that’s not healthy!

Are there any “how to” books on your bookshelf you would recommend to aspiring authors?

No, I don’t have any books like that and I’m not even sure that such a book exists. There are many different techniques and approaches – there’s no right way or wrong way to write. I think that writing fiction is actually within many people’s grasp, they just don’t believe it. When I started out I set myself a few simple ground rules which have stood me in good stead and which I continue to follow today:

* Plan your writing before you start – develop the structure of your story and have a 2chapter by chapter breakdown written before you try and write a word.

* Don’t force yourself to write – if the words aren’t flowing, staring at a blank screen and cursing yourself won’t help.

* Feed your brain regularly (see earlier comments!)

* Keep a notepad handy all the time – you never know when inspiration will strike.

* Set daily targets (i.e. a page a day or 1000 words a day etc. etc.) and stick to them.

* Resist the temptation to go back and start editing before you’ve finished your current draft. Get to the end, read it through and then start again.

* There’s no such thing as negative feedback. Even when criticism hurts, take it on the chin, think about it and learn from it!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Dating Disasters Diary (by Kelly Ann), Liz Rettig


Kelly Ann is a total tomboy. She loves football and computer games and has no idea why anyone would want to bother with soppy romantic stuff and stupid crushes on boys. Her best mate is Chris, the boy next door, and he's not into that stuff either, is he?

Follow Kelly Ann's ventures into the crazy world of love through her stonkingly funny diaries.

In the mood to rock with laughter, to hoot with glee and shake your head as you cringingly remember your own self at age 14? Buy a copy of My Dating Disasters Diary by Liz Rettig, narrated in first person by the tremendously likeable and flippant tomboy, Kelly Ann.

Kelly Ann likes nothing better than to slouch around in baggy clothes, playing her Playstation or jumping on a skateboard to visit her friend Liz (who constantly tries to psychoanalyse her!) or her best mate, Chris who she’s known since they were teeny tots.

Kelly Ann is not a girly girl. She does not get the whole why girls like boys thing. She is happy to muck around on the football field with them, and to chat with them, but to have one of them as a boyfriend...she doesn’t quite grasp the concept. She is doomed to stay VL (virgin lips) forever it would seem.

My Dating Disasters Diary isn’t so much as diary about dating, it is about the quest to find a boy to go on a date with. Her approach is a bit heavy-handed and makes for hilarious reading. She is one of those girls who slightly intimidate boys – she can run, climb, play as fast as they can and she knows her Playstation games backwards and forwards. She doesn’t know how to turn her head sideways and stare at someone adoringly, unlike all the other girls in her school. She doesn’t quite get flipping the hair to one side and giggling inanely, whilst staring at subject of adoration in well, adoration.

Add onto this two parents who are as funny and eccentric as their daughter and a sister who make Kelly Ann believe she’s been adopted (who goes to college wearing a knee length skirt and white blouse buttoned to the top and then comes home with a new boyfriend in tow, an American bible basher, to boot!?).

The cringeworthy incidents in MDDD are too long to catalogue but there is a spectacular scene involving the Prince of Wales, toothpaste used as spot remover and a pair of Winnie the Pooh pants worn on the head. Liz’s writing style is tongue in cheek and the book moves along at a good pace, broken into short punchy diary entries which never varies in tone.

For instance, this little gem nabbed from Liz's site:


There was a pool party tonight for adults and older kids with a free buffet and cheap drinks. Everyone went.

Had a great time until two of the reps announced the start of the karaoke.

Oh my God. Not karaoke. Please, God, don't let my parents volunteer.

They were first up. Dad sang 'Sex Bomb' while thrusting his hips back and forth energetically. Mum didn't sing. Instead, she circled round him, writhing about suggestively and waving her sarong.

I am never, ever going on holiday with my parents again. Even if social services have to take me into care for two weeks and I'm beaten to a bloody pulp every night by the other kids because my mum isn't on methadone and I know my dad's name. Never.

My Dating Disasters Diary (by Kelly Ann) by Liz Rettig is the perfect summer read – there is lots of heart and hilarity and even some action adventure (but only a little). Find Liz Rettig’s equally hilarious website here with some rib-cracking excerpts from the diary posted on the site. Please note that My Dating Disasters Diary will only be available in the stores on 7th May and is published by Corgi Children's Books UK..

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gone by Michael Grant


Suddenly there are no adults, no answers. What would you do? In the blink of an eye, the world changes. The adults vanish without a trace, and those left must do all they can to survive. But everyone's idea of survival is different. Some look after themselves, some look after others, and some will do anything for power...Even kill. For Sam and Astrid, it is a race against time as they try to solve the questions that now dominate their lives...What is the mysterious wall that has encircled the town of Perdido Beach and trapped everyone within? Why have some kids developed strange powers? And can they defeat Caine and his gang of bullies before they turn fifteen and disappear too?

It isn't until the world collapses around you that you find out what kind of person you really are. This is a chilling portrayal of a world with no rules.

Gone is probably one of the best young adult novels I have read this year and will definitely make the Best of 09 pile of books to reminisce about closer to the end of the year.

Right from the get-go you are caught up in the nightmare that breaks over the kids from Perdido Beach. One moment the teacher was there, yakking on about something and the next thing, he’s gone. So are all the other teachers…including kids over fifteen…

Initially everyone thinks it’s a bit of a joke, maybe it’s a very belated April Fool’s but then the laughter turns into panic and hysteria when the kids realise that their parents aren’t at home or at work, that all adults have completely and utterly disappeared – leaving them on their own, to fend for themselves.

At the middle of this living nightmare we find Sam, his surfer buddy, Quinn and fellow school mate Astrid who are doing their best to keep it together. Sam is convinced that he somehow has something to do with IT. Quinn just wants for things to go back to normal, he wants to see his mom and hit the surf, whilst Astrid is keen to find her baby brother, Little Pete who is autistic and could be in great danger and not even know it.

Sam’s character is that of the reluctant hero – he is scared that something he did, something he can unexpectedly do, something almost supernatural, is the cause of the adults disappearing. He tries to keep his thoughts ordered and thinks things through logically, step by step, as is witnessed by him sorting out help for a burning building, and then going into the building to help save a toddler – who in turn turns out to be a revelation. The toddler, like Sam is different. He is almost killed when the little girl turns on him, with fire spewing forth from her hands. Sam has no recourse and uses his own ability, to save himself and knock the little girl unconscious so that he can help her and carry her out of the burning building.

Sam the hero, everyone thinks, praising him, looking to him for further instructions, asking him for direction. It is an awful time and all Sam wants to is find somewhere quiet to think, to figure it all out, to make sense of it.

The entire novel is written with immediacy which helps keep the pace of the novel going at tremendous speed. There is also the mention of people nearing their fifteenth birthday and no one is quite sure what’s going to happen when they turn fifteen: do they get to stay in Perdido or do they disappear, like the adults? Does the nuclear power plant down the road have anything to do with the odd visible wall / sphere that appeared at the same time all the adults vanished, cutting off Perdido Beach (some call it Fallout Alley) from the rest of the world. Is the rest of the world still there? How many kids at Perdido can defend themselves with odd new powers? Why do they have odd new powers? Animals are learning to talk, mutating faster than years of evolution can account for.

There are thousands of questions to be asked in this scenario and by the end of the novel some are answered, but the majority aren’t – leading into a perfect segue for the next upcoming novel (is counting the time already).

The characters are well defined and carefully different from one another. Caine, on the other hand, the main antagonist is a nasty piece of work and tremendously charismatic. He has with him a group of kids from their exclusive private school on the hill, and he rolls into Perdido Beach and takes over as Mayor and set sup an infrastructure to help everyone...or so it seems, at first.

There is a lot of conflict, both physically and emotionally within these various characters and it is well paced, drawing back from becoming too me-me and instead focussing on the wider issue at hand – how to survive in a town, physically cut off from the rest of the world, when there is the requirement to feed and clothe everyone, make sure that order rules, that there are people looking after necessities like caring for the very young kids who can’t feed or clean themselves and more importantly, how to not lose yourself into becoming one of the bullies.

Gone is a good, strong, vivid read which I would recommend for older, more confident readers and those who do not suffer to greatly from nightmares! I also think that adults who read speculative fiction would enjoy this thoroughly – although the book is aimed at young adults and focuses on young adults in a dire situation, it is a very cleverly written book, highlighting society and the structure society imposes on us every day and what happens if that structure is removed.

Find Gone's UK publisher, Egmont's site here and a site dedicated to FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fallen, Tim Lebbon

Make sure to click on the picture of the cover to view the larger version for full impact.


Shrouded in mystery from time immemorial, the Great Divide – a treacherous sheer cliff soaring miles into the clouds above – has long provoked curiosity and fear in Noreela’s human inhabitants. If anyone can penetrate the myths surrounding it, they will instantly enter into legend and garner wealth and glory beyond imagination.

The potent lure of promised fame and riches entices two Voyagers, Ramus and Nomi, to attempt the impossible and they embark on their perilous quest amid great secrecy. But with danger lurking in the shadows around them, they never suspect the greatest threat may lie within themselves…

Having pawed the hardback copies of Fallen several times whilst visiting Forbidden Planet purely for its pretty cover (the truth, I swear, ask Sian!) I was incredibly chuffed to receive a copy of the newly released paperback in the post from Tim's UK publishers, Allison and Busby.

I fell to it with gusto. And if you follow me on twitter and Facebook, you will now that I've been putting notes out saying: Fallen is awesome, brilliant, amazing, a must-read...

Well, now that I've actually finished it, had some time to reflect on it and form coherent sentences in my head, here's the review.

What makes Fallen such a treat in fantasy writing is the fact that Tim Lebbon's taken his characters and set them up to go on a phyiscal journey and the tremendous feat he manages is: to keep your attention all the way through to the end.

Read any how-to book, read several published authors blogs and agent blogs - you are warned to stay away from books about journeys. As journeys are boring. Nothing ever happens on them. Even if there is a bit of fighting, well, you know, the characters get over it and move on.

Not in Fallen. The trick is that Fallen is plotted meticulously, within an inth of its life. But you don't actually realise this till after the fact. Every hook, every conversation, every bit of information you are given, serves to draw you further and further into the story and the two Voyagers' quest, to travel to the Great Divide to find what is there, is the lifeblood of the story.

Nomi and Ramus are two wildly different characters. Ramus (my favourite) is renowned for his knowledge and his sensible ways. He travels and goes on a Voyage to discover and come away with information and maps. He processes all of this, does more research and we realise that his quest is not for fame or fortune, but for knowledge and what that holds. He does not live a glamourous life. In fact, when we meet him he hardly has two coins to rub together. But his life is full of books, his research and his maps. Maybe he is a bit lonely but then time flies when you are so wrapped in your own research.

Nomi on the other hand is the one who glories in her discoveries - a shrewd business woman she has made a fortune exporting wine and selling the vintage beverages for silly prices to rich merchants and nobles. Her life is one of perceived leisure - she has money to spend on the finer things in life and she loves her home with all its small items which she had bought on her trips. She cannot read and isn't interested in sitting around in some dusty library, fingering old scrolls and breaking her head on musty writings.

But when she is offered a scroll by a wanderer she realises that this could be the game. The one that will not just make her fortune but will make her even better known than the first Voyager. She goes to Ramus, whom she is friends with, and puts the information to him. Ramus' researches the scroll and although he feels that it may mean the end of them, he agrees that she should buy this item. It is a mystery, a chance to find out more about the Great Divide, who knew what answers lay on the other side.

Nomi sets the plans in motion and too soon they are off on their journey with a group of experienced warriors, lead by Beko, the "captain" for this expedition.

The land they travel through is strange, with odd quirks. It may rain frogs and scorpions on you one moment or you may be followed by a wraith, the next. Personally I found this uncertainty to be disconcerting and a clear indicator in the novel that not all is what it seems and that as a reader you should be aware that this is not going to be the usual fantasy trope.

When the massive break-up between Ramus and Nomi happens - because it has to, to drive the story forward and give you a perspective on one group, then the next - I was so stunned and shocked but secretly titilated because well, this is what good writing and plotting does. Instead of sending in a man with a gun, Tim Lebbon decided to rip apart the happy status quo in the small group and thereby he upped the pace of the novel. Ramus and Nomi reveal their true selves to each other and the group and it causes a rift - an unconquerable rift. Awful things are said and the party splits. And things go utterly pearshaped as the journey turns into a race to get to the Great Divide first...

I found the writing to be very tight, the plotting a good example of how things ought to be done and the characterisations very finely drawn, even the hired hands as secondary characters were interesting and enigmatic. A thoroughly enjoyable romp by a well established author at the peak of his game - it will make an excellent beach read as it literally sweeps you along.

Highly recommended!

Find the site here with the official Tim Lebbon site here. Keep an eye out for Tim's guest blog at the beginning of May and an opportunity to win copies of Fallen.

Amos Daragon - The Mask Wearer by Bryan Perro


The legendary masks of power bore the sacred magic of the elements and were only given to those of great courage and spirit.

Amos Daragon was one of the chosen. On the day of his birth the supreme goddess of the world, the Lady in White, wrote his fate in golden letters in the great history of eternal heroes. There she waited patiently for the day he would begin to fulfil his destiny.

Pretty covers on books are a massive selling point for me. I know, I am unashamedly shallow and I am equally unapologetic about it too! When I received a copy of Amos Daragon – The Mask Wearer, I was instantly smitten. The artwork is full of motion and very evocative. Then I opened the cover and read the first few pages...and was struck by how quickly I got sucked into Amos’ world.

If you read the above synopsis and you are tickled and interested, pop by to and you will find the opening chapter which should be sufficient to give you a glimpse of what I mean.

Amos Daragon is definitely a read for a younger audience which both boys and girls alike should enjoy reading. There is action, adventure, shape changers, creatures from myth and legend and then there is Amos himself who is a very likeable hero who is very clever – but not a smartypants so you never do get irritated by him.

The antagonist in the Mask Wearer is a very daunting character, a naga, and I have to applaud the author’s creativity when it comes to creating the world which Amos, his parents and friends live in. Although the book is a slender offering, it packs a punch and the impression you get from reading it, is that you are watching an IMAX movie in wide cinemascope. The Mask Wearer sets up Amos for the rest of his adventures and looking at the upcoming titles, they are going to be genuinely good fun.

The books are hugely popular in the author’s native Canada and as far as I can tell Amos’ adventures extend to nine books already. All of these should be due for release in the UK shortly, with the second one in the series being released in September 09.

Find the author’s website here - - which is in French but Wikipedia - - seems to have some good information about the entire series which may be worth checking out, including details about Amos Daragon being made into an animated television series.

Horror Blog Fest - A chat with Joseph D'Lacey

Mark and I are very chuffed to have met Jospeh and his partner in crime...uhm, horror, Bill Hussey, this weekend past at Eastercon. But before even then we were fans of them both. Confession: it is because of their LOVE for the horror genre that I dreamed up this two month horror blogfest on MFB. And it also so happens that both Joseph and Bill's books are released during this time...cunning ploy or mastermind marketing...or pure coincidence...I'll let you decide!

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about you and your writing career.

My name is Joseph D’Lacey – author of MEAT, Garbage Man and forthcoming novella The Kill Crew. I love writing short fiction and have always written poetry, even though I never admit to it in these kinds of interviews.

It’s taken twelve years from that whimsical moment when I decided I’d like to be a ‘real’ writer to arrive where I am now. I keep thinking it’s going to get easier but it never does.

MEAT was my full-length debut. It’s been translated into German, French, Hungarian and Turkish at the last count and I’ve just printed off the first draft of the movie script. It arrived attached to an email from the screenwriter just now!

I co-curate Horror Reanimated with Bill Hussey and Mathew F. Riley. The site is dedicated to exploring and promoting the genre.

What is your most recent novel about – if you are allowed to tell us?

I’d be delighted to tell you about it (them!).

Garbage Man (7th May, Bloody Books) deals with what happens to all the rubbish we bury in landfill – also the burial of secrets and the past. In the novel a huge, filthy dumping ground is struck by lighting, animating the trash and triggering an apocalypse. There’s a lot of Gaia theory in there. Like MEAT I’d label it ‘eco-horror’. There’s an ensemble cast again, each character trying to find his/her own way through a battle with zombie trash.

The Kill Crew (10th August, Stone Garden Publishing) is a survival horror tale. Two hundred survivors of an unknown ‘event’ have barricaded themselves into a single city block. Every night the ‘changed’ inhabitants of the city attack them. A daily lottery decides the seven members of The Kill Crew whose job it is to leave the safety of the barricade after dark and destroy as many of their assailants as possible. The heroine is a shotgun-toting lady called Sheri Foley – she kicks arse!

What do you think makes the horror genre so fascinating to readers and writers?

Whoa! That’s a big question! – one we try to answer on the Horror Reanimated blog all the time.

From a writer’s perspective, the genre allows me to explore all manner of weird stuff, which I love. Stories without an element of the unusual or bizarre tend not to interest me. Very occasionally, I do write straight fiction or humour but even that will tend to be skewed in some way.

For readers it’s a different thing. We all live with the threat of ‘extremity’. A sense of fear or worry over what may happen to us is always at the back of our minds. Horror seems to give vent to that fear. Like catharsis or therapy – as with a rollercoaster – a perfectly safe moment of terror. I doubt the genre would go down too well in a war zone where people face real horrors every day.

For some people, the pursuit of that kind of extremity is purely a thrill ride and nothing more. For others there’s an obsession with dark subjects; they can’t leave horror alone. For me, when I discovered horror at a very young age, it was like finding a new world. The stories were about things people never talked about, things you never found in ‘normal’ books: other worlds; horrible deaths; evil beings; twisted sex; boxed-in terror!

I never picked up an Enid Blyton title again!

As a horror writer / fan, what sells a story / concept to you?

As a writer, it might be as whimsical as phrase that comes to mind. I wrote The Kill Crew because I liked the sound of the title. I had no idea what the story itself would be about – certainly no idea that I’d be writing a female protagonist in the first person! Otherwise, I just ‘know’ when an idea is odd enough to keep me interested for as long as it takes to finish.

As a reader, what sells a story to me is story in the first place. If it’s a great story, if the writer steps back out of the writing to let the story take you, that’s a good start. It doesn’t have to be horror, either. I loved the ‘voice’ of the narrator in DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little – the voice pulled me through that novel like a fish on a hook. Or it can be the high concept behind the story that draws me in and keeps me. I just read Thomas Ligotti’s My Work is not yet Done and in that case it was the mix of concept, flowing story and voice that made the novella such a great read.

What movies / books influenced your development as a genre writer? Similarly, what books, movies, comics, get you excited as a fan?

Movies: The Thing, Alien, Aliens, Blade Runner, Liquid Sky, Dark Star, Angelheart, Jacob’s Ladder, The Matrix, Robocop. There are bound to be others I haven’t remembered and I haven’t mentioned any movies which aren’t genre-related.

Books: The Rats, The Fog, The Stand, Night Shift, The Great and Secret Show, Tales of the Unexpected.

These days, I’m reading to catch up. I’ve read almost no ‘new’ horror in the last ten years. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road blew my mind – so bleakly beautiful. I rarely read comics; nothing against them but I can’t justify the time. Movies – anything where SF and Horror meet tend to give me the fix I need.

Who do you go all fan-boy about when it comes to the horror genre? Have you ever met anyone more famous than yourself and how did you react?

I think my postman is more famous than I am.

Pre-empting your next question a bit, I’d like to meet Stephen King. I read his books from an early age and was inspired. When he read and blurbed MEAT, I almost fainted with pride – I still can’t quite believe it. The man is a phenomenal story-teller. It has been suggested that a meeting is a possibility. Rest assured I’ll take the opportunity if it comes up.

If you had a chance to invite any horror legend, be it actor, writer, director, author (living / dead / undead) over for some tea, who would you choose and why?

I’d go for the dead ones, I think. Poe, Lovecraft and Kafka would make for a very giggly tea party.

Lights on or off when watching horror flicks?

Off, of course! With a family of venomous spiders roaming the house.

Which do you prefer: Romero originals or remakes?


What is the best advice you ever received from someone about horror writing?

The best advice, for any writer, I suspect: “Write the first million words…” I tried to find out who originally said this but I can’t find any reference to it. Perhaps someone made it up just to terrorise hopeful writers! It sounds trite but there’s a lot of truth in it. It gives a realistic idea of the commitment and consistency necessary to ‘do the job’.

The horror genre has seen many incarnations over the past few years – what do you think the future holds for the genre?

It’s my hope that the genre will continue to develop in depth and complexity, even in revisiting old horrors and monsters. Fear is a rich seam of creativity and it’s far from being exhausted. In mining that seam, I believe we learn a lot about ourselves. Not only that, we live in a world where new fears arise every day; fears about the overuse of technology and the price of worshipping in the temple of science, fears about our own planet dying. Those fears point the finger very firmly back in our own faces – we’re responsible for all of it. Horror exploring these themes will be the horror our children will fondly remember. Assuming they live long enough.

Do you have a zombie apocalypse survival plan – apart from going to hide in the Winchester, that is! – and will you be able to implement it?

First of all, Liz, no-one’s going to make it. However, I understand your ironic use of the term ‘survival plan’.

The important thing to remember when facing the inevitable and imminent zombie apocalypse is this: you can die running or you can die fighting. It’s a matter of right and wrong. I’m darn sure that people who get eaten because they were hiding under the bed will NOT go to heaven.

In every room of my house, I have easily accessible weaponry for exactly this purpose. The combat will be necessarily close-quarters and projectile weapons won’t be much use. Therefore, Brain-damaging or head-removing equipment is the order of the day (of judgement) – swords, axes, crow-bars, pick-axe handles etc. We have them all. I’ve even got a plastic hammer for the baby to use.

Are there any “how to” books on your bookshelf you would recommend to aspiring authors?

I have tons of such books but the ones I found most useful and inspiring were The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and On Writing by Stephen King. The Artist’s Way restarted my creative engine about twelve years ago and I haven’t looked back. On Writing gives me a refuel when needed.

**Competition News**

Joseph's publishers Bloody Books (Beautiful Books) kindly agreed to give THREE copies of GARBAGE MAN away to three lucky people. Now, if all goes well, you'll get these before the release date which is, to be honest, very cool. Here's what to do: email us at myfavouritebooksatblogspot(@) with your name and contact details (address only, no mobile numbers required) with Garbage Man in the subject. We'll announce the winners on...24th April 09 - so there's a week. And, as usual, this is UK entrants only.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Garbage Man, Joseph D' Lacey

Until I closed the covers on The Garbage Man, I’d never really paid much attention to the assorted leftovers and rubbish I’d shove into the bin at home; it had always just been one of those little chores that simply needed doing. But now..

Joseph d’ Lacey has given birth to an insidious creation, one whose touch lingers long after you’ve turned the lights off. A subtle tension permeates everything; even in the calm before the storm, when the cast of characters are playing out their hitherto unremarkable lives, there’s an unmistakeable feeling that everything is about to hit the fan.

At the centre of the web sits Mason Brand, an enigmatic loner with a relationship with Mother Earth bordering on incestuous. Joseph shepherds Mason and rest of the cast along at a commanding pace, letting the darkness seep into their lives as they head inexorably towards their respective fates, many of which are wonderfully unpleasant. No one is safe..

The birth and metamorphosis of what rises from the polluted earth brings with it some of the most vividly savage imagery I've had the pleasure of coming across in a good long while.

All in, I was very impressed indeed -it's a wonderfully visceral horror that deserves to be bought and devoured by anyone with a taste for the macabre.

I've added Meat, his previous novel, to my wish list- if it it's anywhere as fun to read in a darkened room it'll be a crime to miss it.

The Garbage Man is due out for release from Bloody Books (Beautiful Books) on 7th May 09. Watch out for an upcoming interview with Joseph D'Lacey in the next few days, to further celebrate all things horror during our April and May month horror fest.

Michael Crichton - Two new books on the horizon

From the Michael Crichton website:

HarperCollins is proud to announce the global publication of two posthumous Michael Crichton novels. The first, Pirate Latitudes, will be published on November 24, 2009; the second, as yet untitled, will be published in Fall 2010. Pirate Latitudes is an adventure story about piracy in the New World. Set in 1665, when Jamaica was a British colony holding out against Spanish dominance, the story centers on a plan hatched by the island's governor and a notorious pirate called Hunter to raid a Spanish treasure galleon. Fast-moving and suspenseful, Pirate Latitudes is a historical classic from one of America's best-loved authors. The novel was discovered amongst Crichton's files and was written contemporaneously with Next, published in 2006. Jonathan Burnham, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Harper, says, "Pirate Latitudes is a fantastically enjoyable and light-hearted adventure yarn about pirates and profiteers in 17th century Jamaica. It is deeply researched and full of lively historical detail, and it shows Crichton going back to the territory he explored in novels such as The Great Train Robbery - old-fashioned entertainment, with a twist."

Full article here.

Monday, April 13, 2009


This is not me or Liz!

There are two competitions ending today, both genuinely good reads:
The winner for a copy of Biohell by Andy Remic is: Nathan T of Manchester;
the winner of Mechanicum is: John K Rose (am not entirely sure where in the UK JKR is, but have emailed him the question).
Thanks everyone for entering - more comps are on the way, so keep an eye out!

**Gemmell Award Short List**

People, it's here. I've been dying to post this since Saturday morning but ya'know, embargoes and threats of extreme violence stopped me. But it's official, as of yesterday - here is the list in alphabetical order:

Check out the main site for the official announcement. All I can say is, congratulations to everyone who made it - we have a strong representation here of authors who wrote in the spirit of David Gemmell's books.

To the others who didn't make it - Mark and I got to see a sneak peek in the way the listing panned out and let me say, it was a close run thing. Several authors (who have appeared on this blog) just didn't make it by a hair's breadth. I am glad that I was not the one looking after the listings, my nerves would have been raw.

So, now it's down to these five - make sure you vote for your favourites. I already have mine picked, Mark has his and I am happy to say, it is a house divided.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wot we bought at Eastercon

We're back!

We had a fantastic time - we met loads of authors, organisers, other bloggers, reviewers, journalists, a few publishers and we got to meet up with old friends and familiar faces. (I'll post a bragging list later on and do a bit of an Eastercon Redux but first it is time for tea and a movie to "unwind").

I am a definite fan of Eastercon - what a genuinely well put together show by the organisers. I am just glad that next year it is due to be held in Heathrow (I think) - which means a lot less travelling. The drive there was incredibly easy but very long and Mark acquitted himself very well getting us there and back.

Naturally we went a bit insane when it came to the dealer room. I took these books with me to get them signed:

And I managed to get them all signed...except for Tony Ballantine's Twisted Metal...which is fine, as we get to go to FP to have it done.

And then these are the books Mark and I came back with!

Notice: 1 x first edition of Yarrow by Charles de Lint, 1 x first edition of Emma Bull's War for the Oaks (both published by Tor), an amazing copy of Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlin. A hand delivered copy of Oisin McGann's Strangled Silence (and signed by him).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

Watch this video - watch it very carefully. Book trailer for one of the best books of '09 in the urban fantasy genre. I am about 1/3 of the way through (it would have been finished but I left it behind when we flew to Malta *stupid Liz*) and it is amazing. I love these viral trailers Orbit had created tho - it's creepy and perfect.

Want to illustrate children's books?

This article from The Bookseller magazine:

Waterstone's has launched a search for the next big children's illustrator, offering a publishing deal to illustrate a new book written by Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo.

The winner of the 'Picture This' competition will win a publishing contract with Macmillan to illustrate Donaldson's latest book, Freddie and the Fairy, which will be published Christmas 2010. The book is about what happens when a boy who won't talk clearly meets a fairy that can't hear well and is told in the same rhyming style as The Gruffalo, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The complete text of the story was uploaded onto the retailer's website this morning at Aspiring artists who wish to enter have to submit an illustration for two pages from the story as well as character sketches for the main characters.

The deadline for submissions is 18th May. A panel of judges, led by Julia Donaldson and including her agent Caroline Sheldon and her Macmillan editor Suzanne Carnell, Waterstone’s picture book buyer Kate Skipper, children’s writer and illustrator Lauren Child and Daily Telegraph writer Cassandra Jardine, will select a six-strong shortlist on 26th May. The six artists will be asked to submit further work for the book.

The winner will be announced at the Bath festival of Children's Literature in September.

Kate Skipper said: "This is an incredibly exciting competition that will change the winner’s life. Julia is the biggest and the best in the business—there can’t be a child in the country who hasn’t enjoyed one or more of her books—and we are very proud to be working with her.

"Freddie and the Fairy is full of Julia’s trademark wit, charm and invention and is an absolute gift for any good illustrator—a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with this incredibly talented, and much loved, writer!"

Julia Donaldson said: "This is a leap in the dark for me and is both exciting and scary. But finding and fostering new talent is important and I look forward to meeting my new illustrator later in the year!"

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twilight - The Movie

Mark ran out before dinner, Edward-style, faster than light, to pick up a copy of Twilight, the flick, from our local Blockbusters.

We somehow managed to miss seeing it on the big screen entirely. So we settled down with our lovely dinner and watched the movie for the first time.

And you know...I liked it...but I didn't like it at the same time. So much was left out - it was really the very condensed Readers Digest version of the book. Which is understandable as it is a movie and you can't exactly pull a Peter Jackson, now can you?

I felt that the character development could have been better handled - Bella and Edward's relationship is the crux of the movie, the main story, yet their scenes together are disjointed and weird - you don't have a sense of time passing from one scene to the next. So, in all honesty, Bella could have fallen for Edward in maybe four days - or rather, that is how the flick made it seem.

Also, the female lead, Kristen Stewart, went through this hit and miss stage of facial expression acting in the beginning - like she had a nervous tick. It was a bit off-putting and I kept marvelling at Edward's amazing make-up and thinking that the make-up person should have been fired as there was a very visible line of where his make-up ended, and his real skin-tone began.

I'm making it sound a complete farce, but it isn't. The acting could have been much improved but to be honest, the beauty of the area the flick was shot, is simply stunning and made up for a lot. I would have loved to have seen more screen time for Jacob and his friends, but this will no doubt happen in New Moon. I think the chap who played Bella's dad was well cast. He had some of the funnier lines.

And although I enjoyed looking at the exceedingly pretty Edward/Robert Pattinson I am still Team Jacob - all the way. In fact, probably more so now than before.

I am glad I got a chance to watch Twilight. Oh, and the tiny scene of Ms Meyer appearing in the one shot was quite sweet - I liked that. It's like spotting Stan Lee in any of his comics turned movie movies.

Next up to watch over the upcoming weekend is Inkheart - from a book even more dear to me than the Twilight series as Cornelia Funke is a sorceress when it comes to writing elegantly. I have no expectations, having not read any reviews on the movie. I'm going in "blind."

Watch this space. Remember to blink!

Extreme Kissing, Luisa Plaja


Carlota and Bethany are best friends. Bethany is the sensible one with a long-term boyfriend, Carlota is the crazy one with a wild past and rebellious nature. All is fine in their world - apart from Carlota hating her stepdad and longing for a old flame. And apart from Bethany thinking her boyfriend is about to dump her and that her period is late...

Carlota comes up with a plan to put all their troubles behind them and go on a girls-only wild day out, with only their favourite magazine to guide them through the day. If they open it on a fashion page they have to get hold of a fabulous new outfit and pretend to be models. If they open it to a page on snogging, they have to find a boy to snog. The magazine will take them everywhere they need to go - but will it help them to reveal the secrets they are keeping from each other?

There is a fantastic concept encouraged by the fictional Spice! teen magazine in Luisa Plaja's second novel for teens: Extreme Travelling. Take a favourite magazine (in this instance, it will be Spice, as read as gospel by Carlotta and Bethany)open it anywhere and figure out the challenge the page has set you. And then go ahead and do it.

The two girls travel all over London following these randomly set of quests. They get into trouble, they meet some dodgy people, they take part in an X-Factor type show, the drive around in a Limo and pretend to be tour guides on one of London's Tourist Guide busses - it is sniggerlingly funny.

Initially I had my doubts - I did, I won't lie. The cover was just too cutesy for me at first, but now I love it and have grown very fond of it. My other doubts extended to me liking these two very girly girls and relating to them. These doubts were unfounded. It turns out that these two kids come across as being so sweet and real that I felt a bit sad closing the book on them last night.

Carlotta's character is that of the exuberant wild child who gets into trouble, she keeps being grounded by her step-father (the Diplomat) for doing daft things, purely because she does not think things through. She is more than a bit selfish but not in a necessarily mean way - she sees herself as that one step ahead of the pack, someone who always gets what she wants because she deserves it.

Bethany's character on the other hand is the one that goes through the most radical change in the novel. She is funny, intelligent, a bit shy and hesistant, the responsible one, the one parents love and she has the ability to charm the Diplomat into letting Carlotta out of the house, even when she's grounded. She initially gives the impression of being a bit weakwilled, following along in Carlotta's shadow, doing what she is told. She's also the one who has the biggest problem - she may be pregnant. Her boyfriend's not been sending her any text messages and she's going a little stircrazy - there is pressure from her dad to study for her GCSE's and to crown it all, proof positive that she's pregnant: she's had a "tummy bug" for a few days...

The pace of the novel is brisk - something to get used to. The novel is told from the two difference characters point of view in alternating chapters. It serves to make story move forward rapidly and it is interesting to experience some events from the two different character's points of view. There is very little overlap, but as you read each chapter, you begin to realise what makes these two girls tick.

They are firm friends - not at all blind to each other's faults and failings, but friends nonetheless. Their adventures through London are very amusing and there are some sterling scenes - for instance, when they have a silent disco at the London Eye and then they manage to get loads of tourists shimmying around with them. Excellent and giggling stuff.

There is much more to this book than meets the eye. Much more. Charlotte's behaviour is easy to analyse once you realise how much she dislikes her mother. She appears very vacant, at first but then you realise she is forcing herself to behave the way she does, doing all these crazy things, like getting herself a massive reputation when doing Kissing Etcetera with boys at school. It is to get her parents to notice HER not what she's doing. Bethany knows she has a future as she is intelligent and studious all the while desperate not to think about being pregnant - the thing is, she's too scared to do the test. Doing the test would confirm it for real. Making it genuine and true and not something that can change.
Both characters go through an amazing internal journey in one day and it will have far-reaching consequences for them both. It is all skillfully handled by an adept writer with a keen eye for cutting to the quick of the matter.

The novel ended with a tremendous conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mark was dubious, like me, but I sat sniffling into a tissue last night after finishing it he just nodded and said: "Yep, that was a good book" and handed me another tissue.

Find Luisa Plaja's website here. The novel is now available in all good bookshops and online.

Horror Blog Fest - Debut Author Kaaron Warren

This is a bit of a coup for MFB. Kaaron is one of the lucky few who got chosen to be published by the new Angry Robot imprint. Slights will be published in the UK on 1st July 09, with a US edition following in September.

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about you and your writing career.

My name’s Kaaron Warren, and I’m an Australian currently living in Fiji with my family. Important things seem to happen every eleven years. At 22 I met my husband. At 33, I had my first child. At 44, my first novel is published.

I’ve always written fiction which is slightly outside the norm. Those are the ideas which appeal and appear to me. I’m squeamish, which surprises people but that’s how I can write squeamish horror with emotion.

I wrote a novel at 14, and my first serious short story then, too. The novel is full of events of my life at the time and of the kinds of boys I wished went to my school. Interesting, smart and handsome. It was heavily inspired by S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders”.

I wrote stories for about ten years before sending the first one out to a magazine, and it took four years after that for the first one to be accepted. Since then, I’ve sold stories every year and always had that joy of receiving contributor’s copy. Seeing my stories in print.

What is your most recent novel about – if you are allowed to tell us?

Slights is about a woman who, at 18, accidentally kills her mother in a car accident. I’m really bad at writing these descriptions, so I’ll give you the blurb I sent to Angry Robot Books as part of my submission: Stephanie (Steve) experiences near death as a result of her injuries, but she sees no shining light, hears no loving voices. Instead, she finds herself in a cold dark room, surrounded by people she barely knows. The only thing she recognises in them is anger; she sees that they are anxious for her to die so they can devour her.

She visits this room a number of times throughout the novel as she attempts suicide periodically. She is unpopular, disliked, unable to fit in to society. She gradually recognises the people in the room; each and every one is a person she slighted in some way.

Steve becomes obsessed with death. Her brother, a successful politician, has no time for her, and her police officer father died years earlier, a hero. She is obsessed with her own death because in the afterlife, at least, she is the centre of attention. And she becomes obsessed with the deaths of others.

She digs up her backyard with the intention of planting night-blooming jasmine, a comfort flower. Instead, she finds odd things; a cracked glass cufflink, an old belt, a dented lunchbox, a shoe heel, many more odd, small items. These lead her to understand more about her past, and about why she is driven to do the things she does.

What do you think makes the horror genre so fascinating to readers and writers?

I really can’t go past an answer I gave when I was in Year 6. I remember it clearly, because the teacher, a broad, tall, scary bloke who demanded a lot of his students and let you know when you were an idiot, ran a class at the library. He spoke about the different books you could read, and when he got to horror stories and ghost stories, he asked, “Why do you think people like these sorts of stories?”

I knew the answer, but was too frightened to put up my hand. He’d roar if I got it wrong. No one else answered, though, and his cheeks started to turn red, so I put my hand up and said, “People like being scared?”

His cheeks faded to pink and he gave me a broad smile. “She’s right. She’s exactly right.”

I think there’s a bit of shadenfreude about watching other people suffer in movies, or reading about them in books. It’s not just horror; it’s the tragic love stories, the war stories, the family dramas. That could happen to me, but it won’t. I think we gossip for the same reason. Though that could be a bit of the tall poppy syndrome, too.

There’s also the concept of catastrophic thinking. Imagining the worst. I think that once the worst is imagined, then whatever comes after can only be an improvement.

As a horror writer / fan, what sells a story / concept to you?

I’m a bit of an odd horror reader in that I’m not big on vampires, mummies, slash killers or anything like that.

I like to be surprised. I don’t want to know where the story is going to go. I love crime fiction but I don’t like the ones with recurring detectives, because so much of the story in these is going over what has been said before. I’m hungry for new material!

Some of my favourite writers for this reason are Martin Amis (Dead Babies is one of my favourite books), David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas in particular), Stephen King (The Stand and The Shining, among others), William Golding (everything the man ever wrote), Lisa Tuttle (short stories and novels), and there are many others. Suzy McKee Charnas is a recent discovery.

What movies / books influenced your development as a genre writer? Similarly, what books, movies, comics, get you excited as a fan?

I don’t think I was influenced to be a genre writer. More, these are the stories which come to me and genre is where they are accepted. The places I like to go in my fiction can be shocking, and the things which happen disturbing. I think when you label something ‘horror’ you are given more leeway.

Bruce Gillespie, the Australian critic, says that I write from within the world of my stories, not as an observer. I think this is one of the reasons what I do is considered horror, because my characters accept and understand the things which are happening. I suck the reader into this as well. In “The Blue Stream”, I have children from the ages of 13 to 18 sent into suspended animation to get them through the hormonal stage. It’s a story which makes people angry, because the characters who are doing these things are the ones the reader is supposed to identify with.

The main genre writers who influenced me are Stephen King and Harlan Ellison.
Ellison because he writes wild, imaginative fiction which can go anywhere, and King because he builds horror by using the characters.

Agatha Christie is an influence because I admire her story telling and the way she weaves her clues through the story. Her character descriptions stay with me; I can still picture Vera from “And Then There Were None”.

S E Hinton, who wrote “The Outsiders” at 15, inspired me because I was young and wanted to be a writer and she succeeded. As I said above, my teen novel owes a lot to hers!

I don’t think there are any graphic novels or movies which influenced me as a writer, though I do find ideas in every thing I read and see. I always have a notebook handy (as most writers do) for scribbling down the what-ifs.

There are songs which have influenced me, though. I thought of this when singing karaoke at a Chinese restaurant in Suva last week. We were belting out “Hotel California”, and I was reminded of what a perfect horror story that song is. Draws you in gently, finishes in exactly the right place. I think the ending, “…but you can never leave” inspired me to finish my stories where they finish, rather than feeling as if I have to tie up all the loose ends to make a story work.

Who do you go all fan-boy about when it comes to the horror genre? Have you ever met anyone more famous than yourself and how did you react?

Author Lisa Tuttle
I was at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2007. Lisa Tuttle was one of the guests and she was friendly and accessible. I never dared talk to her! I’ve adored her writing for probably twenty years and I just couldn’t think of anything to say. My best chance was at a wonderful performance of two M.R.James short stories. The actor performed them as M.R. James himself, sitting in his study in Cambridge. The audience sat in the dark, with the stage only lit by candlelight. Lisa Tuttle sat two seats away, and still I didn’t say anything! But I worry about interrupting someone’s night. Being a fangirl and disturbing them. I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded.

If you had a chance to invite any horror legend, be it actor, writer, director, author (living / dead / undead) over for some tea, who would you choose and why?

I’d have a ladies’ luncheon with Daphne du Maurier, Rosemary Timperly and Celia Fremlin. I’m not sure about Rosemary Timperly, but du Maurier and Fremlin were both mothers, and both came up with nightmarish, very believable horror. I admire the tone of normalcy which runs through their fiction alongside the awfulness. We’ll have cups of Earl Gray, a large variety of sandwiches with the crusts cut off, tiny cakes and lots of chocolate. I’d like to ask them how they managed the balance; how, when they had devils dancing in their heads, did they fix dinner with a smile.

Lights on or off when watching horror flicks?

Lights off! Unless I’m also doing something else (ie reading, writing, playing computer game, cross-stitching) then lights on.

Which do you prefer: Romero originals or remakes?

The Romero movies are my exception to the rule that I’m not a fan of zombie movies. I haven’t seen the remakes, though. There are some hilarious scenes in the originals. I love the setting of “Day of the Dead”, where the zombies stagger about the shopping mall with their trolleys. Not a subtle depiction of non-dead shoppers, but still funny. I thought of it a couple of years ago, when travelling in Canberra. There is a pub about an hour’s drive out, in the bush, which was the meeting place for bikies all over the region. It burnt down in the Canberra Bushfires of 2003. The time I travelled past, the black frame still stood. And in amongst it? Bikies, drinking beer they’d bought from home, their beautiful bikes sitting amongst the ashes. It made me think of people and their habits, how they stick to them. The image helped inspire a story called “Cooling the Crows”, about a bouncer (doorman) working in a pub which burns down periodically.

I also love the joke in “Dawn of the Dead”. The zombies eat all the paramedics, then get on the radio and say, “Send more paramedics”. Cracks me up!

What is the best advice you ever received from someone about horror writing?

I’m not sure if I received this first, or started giving it; do not balk. Do not pull back from where you need to go to make the story work.

The horror genre has seen many incarnations over the past few years – what do you think the future holds for the genre?

I think we’ll see more urban horror, more historical horror and I think that slash horror will be with us for a while yet.

Do you have a zombie apocalypse survival plan – apart from going to hide in the Winchester, that is! – and will you be able to implement it?

Here in Fiji, we live in a cyclone-proof house with double reinforced doors. I reckon that’ll do for zombies, too! We even have a cyclone plan: Stage 1. Preparation. Action you can take now. Stage 2. Zombies are possible. Stage 3. Zombies are Imminent. Stage 4. Post Zombie Recovery.

We’ve got water, food, masking tape, candles, matches and a radio. I also have a set of sea monkeys, which my writer friend Cat Sparks calls zombies. They all died over Christmas, but I never got around to throwing out their water. By February, we had more seamonkeys. Back from the dead! So I figure any zombies which come will be so fascinated by the sea monkeys they’ll leave us alone.
"So I figure any zombies which come will be so fascinated by the sea monkeys they’ll leave us alone."

Are there any “how to” books on your bookshelf you would recommend to aspiring authors?

Stephen King’s “On Writing”. He moves well beyond genre and speaks to everyone who’s ever written, or wanted to write.

The other book I use as a how to is my Fowler’s Modern English Usage. I had to buy it again in Fiji, because I stupidly put my other copy into storage. I refer to it often.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Biohell, Andy Remic

The City: an entire planet teeming with corruption, guns, sex and designer drugs. Humans are upgraded by the injection of microscopic nanobots, courtesy of new technology from the NanoTek corporation, but when this highly desirable technology heads onto the black market, millions of people inject themselves with pirated biomods- and transform into zombies. Now they roam the streets, out for blood, packing shotguns and bombs. The Combat-K squad are dropped into this warzone to uncover what’s turned the planet into a wasteland of murder and mutations, and soon their focus is on the darkness at the Nano-Tek corporation itself.

This was my first foray into the world of Combat K. I fished it off my ‘too many books, too little time’ shelf and, feeling a bit sheepish about the dust I’d allowed to gather –sorry Andy-, I cracked it open immediately. Coming straight off my latest bout of 40K adulation, the first chapter or so was a short, sharp bout of cold turkey.

Once the brain cramps wore off and I let myself go with the flow, the pages just kept turning. I hardly noticed the insanely bumpy flight to Malta; my mind was in zombie country, marvelling at the sheer amount of splatter and general chaos crammed between the two covers. It’s is a pedal-to-the-metal smorgasbord of mutants, zombies, killer androids, explosions, gunfire, tanks, giant cyborgs -and a lot of puss. There’s even a twisted romance grotesque enough to be strangely endearing.

Biohell plays out across The City, a lawless urban jungle that spans an entire planet, a teeming hive where almost a generous slice of its population have succumbed to the lure of Biomods, the gene-manipulating nanobots that carry the promise of a better body and a better life… no surgery required, just a quick injection... Once the Biomods begin their rampage, their world goes straight to hell, without passing go or collecting $200. It's not pretty, but then, when you've got zombies toting RPG's, it was never going to be.

Each of the Combat K squad are drawn into this maelstrom through a combination of vengeance, love and betrayal, forced to put aside their differences in order to survive. They’re certainly not the chisel jawed heroes of classic sci-fi adventures; they’re flawed, immoral, fallible and occasionally demented, but they fit the world they live in.

Biohell was a treat to read, a refreshing blast of unadulterated, violent fun*.
It does what it says on the box! You can read an extract here.

*And I’m not just saying that because it’s got zombies with guns.