Category Archives: Books
Fancy forty-one tales and three poems from out of my head? Read tales of Robin Hood, torture, unicorns, death, poo, toffee apples, giant spaceships, stuffed dogs and more. With additional stories from the highly talented Alex Brightsmith, KJ Collard and Ellie Cooper, this collection might just burst all over you while you’re reading. So, you know, sorry about that.
One problem with publishing a collection of forty-one disparate short stories (and three poems!) is deciding what to do with the cover. Do you clutter it with references to every story, or just pick a few items? I decided to go a third way, and just embrace the title story. When Thom White graciously agreed to continue our association for a fifth book, I specified “spare, simple, almost brutalist” for the cover. Here’s what he made:
He did a brilliant job. I love how the fold between front cover and spine form the corner of a wall spattered with blood. That wonky ‘THE’ emphasises the original subtitle of this book: forty-one tales of a world askew. It’ll certainly stand out amongst a slew of other covers on Amazon, and be easy to find on your bookshelf. Notice also that my running man motif continues, here making his first appearance on the spine.
“The Museum of White Walls” will be available on Saturday, for Kindle and in paperback from Lulu (then a few days later on Amazon when it filters through). Thom, you talented bugger.
I know, it’s a crap word, but I couldn’t think of a clever one. If you do, let me know and I’ll edit this and credit you. They say you should always find a unique title for your book, but given the vast sweep of history and all its words, that’s not always possible. I set out to find out what other books share a title with mine.
First up, there’s a 64-page version of Tolstoy’s War & Peace presented using photographs of rabbits dressed in clothing. It’s called ‘Rabbit Warren Peace’ and it looks BRILLIANT. Also, famed science-fiction writer Bob Shaw has written a couple of comedies about a cardboard-like, sitcom-like hero, Warren Peace, called ‘Who Goes Here’ and ‘Dimensions’.
Warren Peace Title-twins: 2
I expected to find that “there’s loads of books called Fog”, as a visitor told me at Indie Litfest last year but, although a legion of books have the word within a longer title, only James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’ comes close to the singular, and as I pointed out to my surly visitor, his doesn’t have a cool running man in the letter ‘O’.
Fog Title-twins: 1
In my innocence I imagined that ‘Moth Girl’ (even without her bats) would be unique, but no! Here comes ‘Moth Girls’ by Anne Cassidy, so called because girls are drawn to a particular house like moths (that’s light, Anne, not houses), rather than because, like my heroine Thea, they look like a moth when dressed in a weird cloak and flying goggles.
Moth Girl Title-twins: 1
This one surprised me. Who’d have thought there’d be other ‘Blood on the Ground’s? There are, though. There’s Paul Usiskin’s torrid tale of murder, dangerous love, and techno-porn (I know!) across the Israel-Palestine divide. Not a lot of laughs in that one, I’ll warrant. I’d prefer Lenora Rain Good’s ‘Blood on the Ground: Elegies for Waiilatpu’, 22 poems about the 1847 Waiilatpu massacre. Sod it, I’m buying that one.
Blood on the Ground Title-twins: 2
Happily, my other titles – Cubic Scats, Soul of the Universe, Cutthroats and Curses, Human 76 and the imminent The Museum of White Walls – appear to have no title twins at all. Which I choose to interpret as a 5-4 win for me, so ner.
A little teaser from one of the stories in ‘The Museum of White Walls: forty tales of a world askew’, to be published soon.
“No, no! Listen,” Crow explained hastily, “The skinny bloke reckoned that this map would lead us to treasure. Buried here, where there’s a big ‘X’, near this pool that feeds down into the bay.”
“What does the ‘X’ stand for? Oh hell, it’s not ‘xylophones’, is it? Not much call for xylophones along the Skull Coast. No wait, it’s ‘xenopus’, isn’t it? You want me to load the Little Mavis with xenopusses.”
“No no no, the—” Crow began, then paused. “What the flaming hell is a xenopus?”
“African clawed frog. Produces eggs in response to the urine of a pregnant woman. Used for pregnancy testing.”
“Oh,” said Crow, pausing for a moment to consider the odd mind of his captain. “No, it does not indicate the location of a xenopus. The ‘X’ doesn’t stand for anything. It just marks the spot where the treasure is buried.”
“Then why didn’t they put a ‘T’, for ‘treasure’? That would make much more sense.”
“I don’t know why they didn’t put a ‘T’,” sighed Crow, “It doesn’t matter why they didn’t put a ‘T’. What matters is that the skinny feller said that here,” Crow’s grimy fingernail indicated a scratchy ‘X’ in the centre of the map, “is a treasure more valuable than gold coin.”
Is this the worst sex scene ever written? It should be, since I compiled it from the books nominated for this year’s Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, along with two also-rans. I’ve colour-coded the sentences so you can see who wrote what, and have altered pronouns and tenses so that the whole thing makes a kind of horrible sense. Get the smelling salts ready…
She locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo. His heart immediately started hammering like mad, and a fiery heat welled up inside him. He wanted to ask something, something tremendously urgent, something incredibly important, something that was tingling on the tip of his tongue but already her other hand was on his other buttock. Once he’d trained his sphincter to stop reflexively impersonating a Chinese finger trap, it felt pretty good. She pushed on his hips, an order that thrust him in. He entered her. Not only his prick, but the whole of him entered her, into her guts. “Anne,” he said, stopping and looking down at her. She was pinned like wet washing with his peg. “Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better.” He swayed and they listened to the soft suck at the exact place they met. The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors. The cheap mattress bounced. They breathed heavily, breached, adjusting to air. There was a fish smell too, as if the tide had just gone out. When she was sufficiently aroused, a hush finally settled and then with a sigh she rolled over gently onto her back and lay like a doe turning in leaves.
Men Like Air by Tom Connolly
The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (yes, the former Blue Peter presenter)
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler
A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin
The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Game is a futuristic bloody killfest put on for the entertainment of the masses in the late 21st century. An Exhibition Match is mounted to decide the greatest fighters of all time, and the book is written from the viewpoint of the commentator known as The Voice.
Unlike some reviewers on Amazon, I found the opening slow. I had to force myself through the first few chapters before the style of writing – a combination of interviews, flashbacks and autobiographical rantings from The Voice (not a character I ever really warmed to) – began to weave its spell on me.
I’m pleased that I persevered, for the novel grows into a “beautiful kaleidoscope of blood, violence, gore and vengeance”. Not kidding, these pages are soaked with red, but the action is so well-written, so well paced that I never felt like I was reading some schlock-horror pulp. This is superbly-crafted book for adults. Take it on the bus with you and you’ll miss your stop.
4/5 wombats for Ed Kendrick’s The Voice of Reason.
So, the first ever UK Indie Literary Festival in Bradford was a thoroughly jolly beano and no error (sorry, I went all Fifties Celia Johnson for a moment there). Organised superbly by the remarkable Dawn Singh, author of the excellent Regina books, it all went swimmingly, though no one got wet.
This was my first book festival as an attendee, and my first wow was at other authors’ banners, proudly announcing who they were to visitors. Made my laminated A4 sign look a bit meek, but then I had something they didn’t – free sweeties and a daft hat. Never underestimate the attraction of a daft hat.
The table that really struck me was Alex Brightsmith’s, as did the paper aeroplane that she threw at me, entirely oblivious to the distinct possibility of HAVING MY BLOODY EYE OUT! This inspired a happy ten minutes of flinging the thing around our end of the room with reckless abandon. And that’s the memory that will stick with me most from this event – the friendship and supportive good-humour; the laughter and respect in that room full of truly talented writers. Plus I signed and sold a few books, too, so, you know.
I found it difficult to find a table guard so missed many of the readings and panels, although once the current Mrs. Wombat turned up I did manage to attend a fascinating panel on World Building given by Dawn Singh and Joe Kipling. That too rippled with laughter. My own reading went very well, I thought, and I was flattered to be complimented on my woman’s voice. No really.
And of course I collected some books. My #UKIndieLitFest tsundoku (reading pile) consists of Alex Brightsmith, J.G. Clay, Rose English, G.K. Holloway, Diana Jackson and more I’ve grabbed since on my Kindle. These should keep me going for a long while yet. Thanks for all the fun, UKIndieLitFest Alumni. Here’s to next year!
Hello, kids! Are you around Bradford on Saturday 23rd July? Why not pop into St. James Hall to say hello to me and loads of other cracking authors? There’ll be books and book-related swag galore.
Date: Saturday 23rd July
Time: 9am – 5pm
Venue: St James Hall, Bolton Road, Bradford, BD2 4LH
‘Summer 2016 is to be an exciting time for authors and reading fans in West Yorkshire. With amazing best-selling authors the first ever UK Indie Lit Fest is set to a must for all book lovers and aspiring writers.’
Dawn Singh (Festival Director)
You’ll have the chance to:
Meet over thirty authors and get signed books. And you know me, I’ll sign anything else you thrust at me.
Enter competitions to win signed novels from attending authors.
“Snap a picture with authors” it says here on the blurb, although I’m not sure that’s such an attraction with the Wombat beard.
Hear the music that inspired the writers and watch book trailers for the latest releases.
Talk to authors around the globe via Skype
Attend FREE workshops and readings, hosted by top authors. I’ll be doing a reading at 9:15, if you’re an early bird. As yet I have NO idea what to read, so any suggestions will be gratefully received.
The festival features best-selling Indie authors from every genre you can imagine, including Romance, Sci-fi, fantasy, YA, historical fiction. Among those attending (as well as over 25 in person) Kendare Blake will be answering fans questions via Skype. Blake is the best-selling author of the critically acclaimed Anna Dressed in Blood series, which has been snapped up by Stephenie Meyer’s (author of Twilight) film production company. Don’t miss the chance to support this amazing event and meet authors from around the country and across the water.
The UK Indie Lit Fest supports Lumos. All proceeds from competitions, raffles or give-aways will be donated to Lumos.
Pick up a copy of the special festival anthology, Indie Visible at the event. Half of the proceeds will go to Lumos, the other half will go to funding next years event. Ask any of the Indie Army festival helpers for more details.
Lisa Shambrook has written about the origins of Human 76, I have written about its development, and all sorts of people are contributing their thoughts on the characters and stories that have moved them. Individual authors have expressed their own points of view.
Alex Brightsmith has talked about how her character Chrissy developed when she crossed paths with my own Glint.
Denise Callaway has published a short extract from her story, Underneath, as has Michelle Fox from her frankly terrifying Human X. Another snippet, this time from Steven Paul Watson’s non-stop The Hunted, can be found here.
Just two more links for you – the ePub version is free at the moment, but will soon rise to a reasonable price. You might want to grab your download sooner rather than later. Might I recommend, though, that you shell out for the paperback, which is a thing of beauty. Not only will you find that it contains a map of Ghabrie’s journey not in the eBook, but you’ll also have a warm glow of satisfaction from knowing that you’ve helped a worthwhile charity.