Posts belonging to Category Short fiction & anthologies



Halloween half-price sale on Challoner, Murray & Balfour, Monster Hunters at Law!

For one day only, (though it’s an extended day to take account of time zones), you can buy my short collection of stories about a group of Victorian monster hunters from Wizard’s Tower Press at half price – and this offer’s only available from Wizard’s Tower Press.

So if you fancy a few Halloween shivers with some classic monsters, paying tribute to the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, H G Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, click on through.

You can find out a bit more about these stories in my earlier blogpost here.

Language problems for time travellers – the ones we don’t see.

I’ve been thinking about time travel, in particular questions of communication. This is something we’re used to seeing glossed over for the most part. Occasionally someone turns up from Elizabethan England saying things like ‘forsooth, varlet!’ but that’s about as much of a nod as it gets. This has always irritated me, after having studied Chaucer in the original at school. Drop me in 14th Century England and I’d be reduced to communicating by writing things down in Latin, always assuming I could find someone who could read Latin.

On the other hand, there are obvious issues for storytellers, where being accurate about linguistic barriers is going to throw massive obstacles in the way of smooth narrative. I’m reminded of the TV series, Stargate SG-1, where they did try to avoid the whole ‘universal translator’ cliche in the early series, thanks to the polyglot Dr Daniel Jackson. That faded away pretty soon, I’m guessing as script writers, actors and directors alike simply found it too unwieldy.

The thing is though, this wouldn’t be the whole story by any means. Even if people are conversing in mutually recognisable English (or any other language), there are still going to be misunderstandings around slang and pop-culture references. Here’s an example. A few years ago now, I was sitting in the lounge, reading a book. There was some music playing and a son came into the room. We had the following conversation.

Recognising the music, but not quite able to place it, Son: ‘Who wrote that?’

Mostly concentrating on my book, Me: ‘Elgar. Nimrod.’

Mildly indignant Son: ‘Okay, I only asked. No need to be rude.’

Looking up, slightly bemused, Me: ‘Sorry, what? You asked about the music and I told you. Elgar wrote it. It’s called ‘Nimrod’.’

Incredulous Son: ‘He called a piece of music, ‘Nimrod’?’

Now definitely confused, Me: ‘Yes, Nimrod, the mighty hunter.’

Curious Son: ‘So how did it come to mean ‘stupid person?’

Closing my book, Me: ‘It means what?’

Okay, we subsequently established that, at least according to the Internet, ‘nimrod’ became a term of derision thanks to Bugs Bunny. That’s what he repeatedly calls Elmer Fudd, in ironic fashion but presumably younger cartoon viewers didn’t get the literary, Biblical reference and simply went with the insult. Which does make me wonder what happened in the RAF, since that was the name of one of their planes through the 70s and 80s. In my experience, aircrew are much more likely to be familiar with Looney Tunes than the Book of Chronicles. But I digress.

I’ve been trying to think if I’ve seen this sort of thing ever covered in SF&F. The closest I can come up with is Janet Edward’s ‘Earth Girl’ trilogy (highly recommended YA SF) which isn’t about time travel at all but is set in the future where linguistic shift has seen ‘butt’ become a taboo swearword.

Oh and I think there may have been a few one-liners in the TV series ‘Quantum Leap’ but it’s so long since I watched that I may well be misremembering.

Can anyone else flag up a book, TV programme or film that’s tackled this sort of thing, well or badly?

At least this wouldn’t be a problem for gadgets finding themselves Temporally Out of Order. Or could it be? I wonder if we’ll see any stories along those lines in the anthology we’re hoping to write. Excuse me while I go and see how well the Kickstarter’s getting on today.

Where did I get my ‘Temporally Out of Order’ idea?

So we’re halfway through the Kickstarter today and at time of writing this, we’re a hair under 80% funded. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, we’ll have passed that milestone and be well on our way to fully funded and better yet, the stretch goals.

I really want to see us hit those stretch goals. Because I really want to read those extra stories. Yes, I really want to write one of them, because I’ve got an awfully good idea… Would you like to know a little about the puzzle that’s prompted it?

Let me tell you something that my younger son has discovered. He’s eighteen and being very musical, he and a similarly talented pal go busking in Oxford. We all live within striking distance of the city and the lads are properly licensed by the local authority and obey all the relevant regulations. On a good day, especially in the tourist season, they can do very nicely, thank you. Even on a quiet day, they’ll earn more that they would spending their time stacking shelves in a supermarket on minimum wage.

One of the entertaining things as we count and bag up the money for banking is spotting the foreign coins. They’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and have amassed a couple of dollars in US quarters from various states, along with one Sacagawea dollar and some nickels and dimes. They get a few Euro coins and coppers each month so that all goes in the family travel fund. Other coins have come from Egypt, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, Finland, Norway, Hungary, India. They can’t cash such small amounts of coin but that’s not a problem. They’re interesting in their own right, to show how far folk travel to visit Oxford, and the gesture of appreciation for the lads’ music is, well, appreciated.

Then there are the old coins, and they’re a real curiosity. Every so often, we’ll find a coin that’s no longer legal tender here in the UK. Outsized ten and fifty pence coins that were withdrawn from circulation years ago. Even older, pre-decimal coins. Half crowns. Sixpences. We’ve even had some from Europe; pre-Euro francs and centimes and a couple of Deutschmarks. Here’s a picture of the latest; a 1962 old penny. That’s older than me!

1962 Penny

Who goes out, let alone on holiday, with a pocketful of outdated small change and gives it to buskers? Why?

No, that’s not what my story’s going to be about. Not directly, anyway. But you can’t expect a puzzle like this not to get a writer’s imagination working…

So if you want to read the story, and haven’t yet backed the Kickstarter? Well, over to you.

Learn more about the ‘Temporally Out of Order’ Authors (and try their work)

When you’re buying an anthology, whether that’s by backing a Kickstarter (like Temporally Out of Order), or after picking it up in a shop, what often seals the purchase is seeing a story listed by one of your favourite authors. It’s one reason why I like anthologies; seeing something new by a valued writer or getting a sidelight on a novel or characters of their’s that I’ve loved.

As an extra bonus, I also find anthologies a good way to find new authors to read, as I work my way through the rest of the stories. And yes, as a writer, that’s one reason why I like to be part of these projects. I love getting those emails from folk new to my books, who say they first came across my work in an anthology where another author was the main draw. Trust me, I don’t mind that in the least!

Occasionally though, there’ll be an anthology where I’ve read none of the names. I’ll doubtless know of them from the Internet or conventions or bookshops but for some reason or other, I’ve never got round to trying their work. Hurrah for the Internet and authors willing to share a taste of their work for free, along with the writerly advice and pictures of cats and all the other stuff that writers put up on their websites.

So here’s a few links if you’re curious to know more about some of the ‘Temporally Out of Order’ team

– editors

Joshua Palmatier’s Throne of Amenkor series (including free chapters)

Patricia Bray’s website by way of a link to her podcast ‘Everything I know about writing a series’

– core authors

David B Coe (and his alter ego D.B. Jackson)

Laura Anne Gilman, a woman of many talents and now several names.

Faith Hunter and her Jane Yellowrock series

Gini Koch’s Blah, Blah, Blah blog

Stephen Leigh (whose First 400 Backer Extra is still available!)

Seanan McGuire (who is also Mira Grant)

Laura Resnick’s website – a work in progress, lots of good stuff to find in the left hand links.

– and my fellow stretch goal authors –

Jean Marie Ward, via her page of free reading

Jack Campbell, via a full novelette he’s made available online!

That should give you some idea of why this project is so well worth backing.

Kickstarter 2/3rds funded after a week? Time to relax! Er, no, it isn’t…

Crowd-funding’s a new, wonderful and truly weird thing. I’ve been involved in a couple of these now, though I’ve yet to dare try one on my own, for fear of so very publicly coming unstuck if a project didn’t meet its target. Some writer friends like C.E.Murphy and Laura Anne Gilman have more courage than me, so I’ve watched their experiences as well. The peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows in the way people sign up really is fascinating. I know there are folk out there keenly analysing the patterns, with conversations that almost certainly include the word ‘algorithm’.

Well, all I know is there’s never a time to be complacent, from Day One to Day Thirty. So if you’ve been looking at the ‘Temporally Out of Order’ Kickstarter and thinking, ‘Ooh, that sounds like a really good read,’ and now you’re seeing we’re two-thirds there, you’re thinking, ‘oh, they’ll be fine, I’ll just pick up the book later on,’… please consider backing us now. Because if we don’t meet that target, there won’t be a book later…

And yes, obviously, I have a horse in this race. As a stretch goal author, I really, really want to be involved! I’ve got such a fine idea… and I’ll tell you all about that next Monday, by which time I really hope that first target will be met, the first stretch goal will be secure and we’ll be on our way to my story, Jean Marie Ward’s and Jack Campbell’s.

Meantime, if you’ve come to this website for the first time thanks to this Kickstarter, hello and welcome.

If you’re wondering what my writing is like, you can read the opening chapters of my novels and also download the free ebook of my short story The Wizard’s Coming.

If you’re curious to see a little of what I write other than epic fiction, I’ve collected together a couple of short stories for free reading here.

Enjoy!

While I go and see where you can find a taste of my anthology stable-mates’ writing.

Meantime, let’s see how the project is going?

‘Temporally Out of Order’ – how can you resist this new anthology via Kickstarter?

A while ago, I got an email from Joshua Palmatier (a fine writer, do check out his books) proposing a new anthology project for the small press , to be edited by Joshua himself, along with Patricia Bray (another fine writer).

Now, I’m always interested in any project which these two are proposing. I’ve written stories for them before, in After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar and for The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity. Not only did I find them excellent editors to work with on a personal level, these anthologies proved to be fascinating reads as a whole, with an excellent mix of stories from a very interesting range of writers.

The only reason I didn’t submit anything for their next project Steampunk Universe: Clockwork versus Aliens was lack of time due to other commitments – but you may be certain I followed the progress of that Kickstarter with keen interest. As you’ll see they ran a very professional, successful fundraiser and that anthology’s now available for Kindle, Nook etc, as you prefer (like the earlier titles).

So what’s the new anthology going to be about? Well, here’s what Joshua had to say in his initial email –

While sitting at the airport waiting for a flight, I saw a phone booth with a note reading “Temporally Out of Order.” Obviously it was a typo, but the mistake takes on a whole new meaning when viewed from a science fiction/fantasy frame of mind. This anthology will take on the challenge of interpreting what “temporally out of order” could mean for modern day—or perhaps not so modern—gadgets, such as the cell phone, laptop, television, radio, iPod, or even that microwave or refrigerator!

Doesn’t that sound intriguing? I can’t wait to see what the other authors involved come up with and have been musing on ideas of my own ever since.

But wait, there’s more! For the first time, as part of a Kickstarter, I’m a Stretch Goal! I’ll be contributing once the total raised reaches $15,000. There’ll also be the chance to get yourself into my story at that point, or at very least your (or some lucky friend’s) name, by means of a Tuckerisation – something I’ve never actually done before, so this will be another first :)

That’s by no means the only incentive on offer. All backers of $15 or more in the first 24 hours will be getting a free ebook called FOUR FOR MORE (with four short stories) from Jean Marie Ward. She’s another stretch goal author, along with myself and Jack Campbell (aka John Hemry).

There are a few limited pledge levels, such as tuckerizations in some of the authors’ stories, a “missed out on the first kickstarter for CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE, but I want to catch up” reward level, and a few other limited items, so get there early if you want those. The anchor authors for this anthology are: Seanan McGuire, Gini Koch, David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, Laura Anne Gilman, Stephen Leigh, and Laura Resnick (in no particular order because, honestly, how could you rank them against each other?).

Do you fancy seeing your own name on a Table of Contents alongside those authors? Once the project is funded, the remaining slots (a minimum of 7) not being filled by anchor or stretch goal authors will be filled by an OPEN CALL for submissions. Yes, ANYONE will be able to submit a story for a chance to be part of the anthology!

Excited? I am and you should be. So click on through, get a better look at that fabulous artwork, and get involved!

A Knight in the Silk Purse: Ghosts of Taux (Tales of the Emerald Serpent Book 2)

Do you remember Tales of the Emerald Serpent? The shared world anthology I’m part of, funded by Kickstarter? With its interlinked stories by a host of great writers, further enhanced by truly splendid artwork? All set in the mysterious city of Taux with inspirations drawn from Central American and other mythologies as well as the authors’ and artists’ fertile imaginations.

If so, you’ll recall we ran a second successful campaign and now the second volume is here! This anthology is even more intricate and ambitious. Our returning characters are caught up in official investigations as a Paladin tries to uncover the truth behind a gruesome murder while the Festival of Flowers fills the city with perfumes and parades, the perfect cover for some and their dark secrets…

Once again, I had tremendous fun writing my story, featuring Zhada the Lowl (a race of dog-headed men). If you’ve been at all curious about his romance with one of the city’s leading merchants’ daughter, you should definitely be reading this.

And yes, we’re discussing possibilities for Volume Three. We’re having far too much fun to stop, if we can possibly arrange it.

(I’ve linked to Amazon UK but obviously both books are available via Amazon US as well)

medallion

“Challoner, Murray & Balfour; Monster Hunters at Law” – my new ebook out today.

As established fans may remember, I’ve had three stories featuring these characters previously published; one in the BFS ‘A Celebration’ anthology and two in Murky Depths magazine. If you’ve read those, you will recall one tantalizing loose end. What becomes of poor Bertie? Well, now you can find out. As well as those three earlier stories, this little collection includes a whole new story, The Fate of the Villiers, in which the hunt continues…

Artwork by Nancy Farmer

Artwork by Nancy Farmer

You can find the book here at the Wizard’s Tower Press shop and it’ll be rolled out to other ebook retailers over the next few days.

But hang on, I’m an epic fantasy writer. Why am I writing adventure stories set in the 1890s with supernatural monsters and steampunk apparitions? Well, first and foremost, I write to entertain; to engage and thrill my readers. I can do that just as well in late Victorian England as I can in Einarinn. Because one of the great things about writing SF&F is the immense freedom it offers.

Wait, what? Surely that’s a bizarre thing to say about writing in a genre – any genre. Isn’t the whole point of genre following the rules? Well, yes, and no. Bear with me.

When I’m writing epic fantasy, I’m looking to honour that particular genre’s core traditions while at the same time examining, testing and driving those traditions forward to ensure the genre still stays relevant to the world today and readers who live in it. Which is why aspiring fantasy writers really should be reading Robin Hobb, Kate Elliott, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Stephen Deas (among many, many other excellent current writers) as well as Tolkien, CS Lewis and Lord Dunsany – to see how the genre develops.

Er, how is this relevant to a book with a werewolf in evening dress on the front? Because as well as appreciating the roots of speculative fiction in Tolkien, Lewis and similar works, aspiring writers will also do well to read the classics of Victorian and Edwardian popular literature by the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, H G Wells, H Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. These are at least as much a source for modern SF, Fantasy and Horror as anything Tolkien or Lewis wrote. They are as much part of our literary heritage as anything by Dickens, Hardy or the Bronte sisters – and written to be enjoyed in an age before artificial genre boundaries arose. Indeed CS Lewis was a passionate advocate for the values and virtues of popular reading, as his letters to FR Leavis reveal when the latter was determined to embed literary snobbery in university English degree courses between the wars.

So I wrote these stories – and may yet write more featuring these characters if this collection proves popular – to honour these other forebears of our genre. Also, as you’ll discover on reading, I wrote these tales with an eye to both recognising and challenging some of those forebears’ less palatable assumptions about men, women and their respective roles a hundred-plus years ago. Because such debates are still relevant today.

Because it is never enough to merely revisit our literary sources. We should all aim to be breaking new ground, not merely trailing after well-trodden footprints which will only bring us back to our starting point. That’s where the real challenge – and the most fun – lies in writing genre fiction.

(And once you’ve written it, if you’re as lucky as me, you’ll have the immense fun of seeing your creations envisioned by a talented artist, in this case Nancy Farmer.)

Tis the Season – to catch up with Aethernet Magazine or give it as a giift!

You’ll recall me mentioning Aethernet Magazine from time to time this past year – the online magazine with my epic fantasy serial story in it?

Well now, here’s something interesting for the holiday season. The 12 Weeks of Aethernet. For £20 you can sign up for all twelve issues, one a week, starting from December 25th. Catch up with the stories by Chris Beckett, Tony Ballantyne. Adrian Tchaikovsky, Philip Palmer, Ian Whates, Eric Brown, Keith Brooke, Harold Gross (and extracts from some of these, along with mine are available on the Aethernet website here)

Or you can buy a SF&F fan among your friends and family a very distinctive and personal present for their ereader.

Full details on the offer here.

My World Fantasy Convention Schedule

Here’s how my schedule looks for the next few days.

I’ll be arriving in Brighton around 2pm on Thursday so hope to be at the con by 3pm.

I’ll be at the Gemmell Awards from 8pm, and at the Legends Anthology launch thereafter, not least since I have a story in the collection and given the rest of the line up, I’m eagerly anticipating reading the rest.

On Friday, I’m on the ‘Broads with Swords’ panel at 4pm with Laura Anne Gilman, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan and Gaie Sebold. And yes, I know, that title… but our full brief invites us to talk about new female writers in this particular area and I’m very keen to share some of my recent reading.

I’ll also be at the mass-signing on Friday evening from 8pm, and if that doesn’t suit your own plans, I’ll be signing at the Solaris stand at 4pm on Saturday.

On 10am on Sunday morning, I’ll be joining my fellow authors for the launch of Tales of Eve, from Fox Spirit Books. There’ll be juice and fizzy drinks to revive you after your Saturday night and lots of fun as we celebrate this venture.

In between times, I’ve got a few meet-ups planned, and have some panels ticked to attend. If you see me around, feel free to say hello.

Assuming I get everything packed and sorted in time to get my train(s) tomorrow morning…

Right… ironing…