Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 

Journeys Beyond Advice


The wonderful Kseniya Gomzjakova poses with my Journeys Beyond Advice, which is a collection of novellas, novelettes and short stories that were inspired by William Hope Hodgson, H.P. Lovecraft and Jorge Luis Borges in equal measure. This volume is therefore more seriously 'gothic' (or 'weird' in a particular supernatural-story sense) than most of my books and features ghosts, angels, occultists, devils and monsters galore and all without humorous intention. For reasons I have never quite understood, sober and straight weirdness is far more acceptable to the palates of most readers of fantastical fiction than the intoxicated and ironic kind.

The original hardback was issued by Sarob Press back in 2002 and now fetches high prices. It went out of print not long after publication and has been out of print for nearly 12 years, so I decided to bring it back into existence under the aegis of my own Gloomy Seahorse Press.

This paperback version is considerably cheaper than the limited edition original. It can be obtained directly from Lulu (in which case I get a bigger cut) or from Amazon... The book contains the novella 'The World Beyond the Stairwell' (which John Clute rated as the finest Hodgson tribute tale ever written) and the novelette 'The Swine Taster' (which for a long time I regarded as my best ever story).

Finally, a word about Kseniya: not only is she one of the most beautiful women I have ever met but she is also an extremely nice person and if you're on Facebook you can check out her page here. The book is dedicated to her.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

 

Cthulhu Talk


This has the potential to sound very egotistical, pompous and puffed up, so I need to very careful as to how I phrase it. Ready?

I don't get invited to do talks very often. Maybe two or three times a year, and this surprises me because my knowledge of literature is rather wide and also quite deep. Personally I think I deserve to be invited to do more talks and readings and panels.

Anyway I am doing a talk and taking part on a panel themed around the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft on Saturday April 26th at the Discovery Room in Swansea Central Library.

I plan to play (semi)-devil's advocate. I think this is only right and proper. Otherwise the event will end up being too much of a communal kowtow. I want to talk along the lines of, "Why, if Lovecraft isn't a very good writer, is he 'good' nonetheless?"

Thursday, April 03, 2014

 

Exploits of Engelbrecht Ebook


"To my mind one of the best examples of imaginative fiction to appear in England since the war is Maurice Richardson's The Exploits of Engelbrecht... These 'Chronicles of the Surrealist Sportman's Club' are superbly laconic pieces, concentrating more original invention into fewer words than almost any writer I can think of. They outshine, for me, almost anything else remotely like them, including the stories of Borges and other much admired imaginative writers." -- Michael Moorcock

Written in the 1940s and published in the legendary magazine Lilliput, the stories of Engelbrecht the dwarf surrealist boxer were collected and published in book form in 1950 by Phoenix House. That edition didn't sell very well but it become a  'cult classic', beloved by a small number of highly enthusiastic readers. It was republished by John Conquest in 1977 in an edition that also didn't sell. And then published for a third time by Savoy Books in 2000 in a deluxe edition that sold as poorly as its two predecessors...

...except that recently there seems to have been a very belated surge of interest in Engelbrecht: the Savoy edition has gone to a second printing at last; and a French translation seems to be doing well, better than any of the English editions in fact. My own sequel to Maurice Richardson's masterpiece was one of my slowest selling books, but there also seems to be a belated surge of interest in that one too; it can still be obtained from Dead Letter Press for only $30. It's a very beautiful book indeed.

One person who took note of my sequel was Richardson's daughter, Celia, who got in touch with me. It occurred to me that what was needed was a low cost edition of her father's book. We discussed this idea and she gave me the rights to publish an ebook version of The Exploits of Engelbrecht under the aegis of my own Gloomy Seahorse Press. And after various delays it is finally here!
Amazon UK
Amazon US

I also decided to turn my own sequel into an ebook...

It can be obtained from Amazon as follows:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Formatting this one proved very tricky because it's full of unusual layouts.... Anyway, out of all my books it's the one I slaved most over and is packed with more incident than days in a millennium... You don't have to read the original to understand the sequel as it's a stand-alone novel as well.

Friday, March 28, 2014

 

Lovecraft's Something


With luck I am going to a Lovecraft-themed event next month where I'll hopefully get the chance to do a reading and be on a panel and argue my own corner about this flawed but hugely important author.

Lovecraft was not an accomplished writer. His prose is grammatically and syntactically weak, his story structures ponderous and ineffective, his conceptual abilities poor, his descriptive powers misaligned, his characterization nonexistent, his politics repellent... and yet his work still has 'something'. What is that something? I have often wondered. I have wondered for years.. This morning a plausible answer came to me. He gratifies (or at least assauges) the revenge yearnings of readers who feel they have missed out on life.

The main underlying message of his work is this: "Don't worry that you were too shy and inept and unlucky to live an exciting and experience-rich and successful life. Humanity is worthless anyway and will be destroyed by monstrous cosmic forces. And by reading these stories, and enjoying them, you are associating in a small way with those very powers of darkness and evil that will annihilate petty human concerns, so actually you are superior and not inferior to all those people you have envied for so long who always seemed to get the girl, the luck, the happiness..."

This might sound totally disparaging, it's not really. This message (if I'm correct) is a human reaction to a human need and it fulfills the needs of others.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

 

Fifty Years of Alasdair Gray


Actually the following book spans sixty one years but I couldn't resist the pun in the title of this blog post. Anyway, this arrived for me the other day. Filled with scores of superb stories (including my favourite ever novella, 'Five Letters from an Eastern Empire') it's a thousand page monster and spans almost the entire career of one of our most original and brilliant living writers. Furthermore the design is a work of art because the volume is crammed with Gray's illustrations and he is one of our finest draughtsmen. I am going to stick my neck out and declare that this is the best collection of short stories ever published...

Gray is one of my biggest literary heroes. I met him once, back in 1995, and he was a delightful bloke. Publishers say he can be "awkward" but I find that hard to believe. Mind you, I haven't worked with him. He did, however, sign my copy of Poor Things and it's a book I have treasured ever since. What I like about Gray's work so much is that it's simultaneously intellectual and emotional, personal and political, profound and light, serious and comic: it's writing for the head and the heart at the same time. I would love to be regarded as the Welsh 'equivalent' of Alasdair Gray one day. I have a heck of a lot more work to do to earn that accolade! But it remains an aspiration.

Monday, March 24, 2014

 

I Always Knew I Was Going to Limbo -- instead of Heaven or Hell


So many of my recent posts have been about books, mainly my books, that I thought it would be nice to talk about something else for a change, like I used to...

I have got back into exercise again, running and cycling mostly (but no climbing yet) and dancing too! The great thing about dancing is that it can be vigorous exercise but is so much fun that it doesn't feel like an ordeal. I am going to try learning salsa again and a few other styles.

On Saturday night I went to a show hosted by a local group of international Latin Music enthusiasts, musicians and dancers called La Gente. This photo shows me attempting the dance known as the "limbo". I found it extremely difficult and kept falling over. I did finally manage it successfully though!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

 

The Return of Twisthorn


Out of print for two years, my novel Twisthorn Bellow is coming back into print soon courtesy of my own Gloomy Seahorse Press. The best thing about publishing my own books is that all the design choices are up to me. I can insert little illustrations throughout the text and use typographical tricks and know they will appear unaltered in the final book. The freedom is rather wonderful.

I have just prepared the back cover of this novel and here it is. It features many of the monsters that appear in the text itself. The monsters are (from left to right and from up to down)...

Shylock Cherlomsky: Not really a monster as such, but his mind and heart are monstrous. Here we see him in the basement beneath the Ethnology Department with the collection of kpingas at the disposal of his Agency. (I modelled personally for this one)

Baddie TwoShoes: a sort of footwear komodo. He’s the pet monster of Lord Doublestuff, who always does everything twice. In keeping with his owner, Baddie TwoShoes has two soles. Baddie TwoShoes, you don’t think, don’t joke, what do you do? Eat goodies, is the answer to that!

Bob the Lock: The graceful but evil padlock swan, swimming serenely with his wife, Raypova, and his son, Paddy.

Crystalbonce: He may look like a bulldog clip balanced on an inverted tea light with a yellow crystal for a head, but Crystalbonce is an extremely suave and dastardly robotic being. He’s French and his cry of “C’est pour toi que je suis!” has been known to strike terror even into the unbeating hearts of golems.

Highly Contrived Name: at home in the city of Moonville.

Ruby dubDub: standing above an indoor sundial. Some people don’t believe in the existence of indoor sundials, but they are useful. She appears to have acquired the hands of Enid Hans. Ah well!

Enid Hans: He isn’t French but Prussian and he has massive hands! Not only can he use them to grip and gesture, but they enable him to fly too. That’s quite bad! In an emergency he can even open bottles of wine. Makes him more sociable.

Janrel MacScabbard: Here he is balancing on a cairn that is being carried on the back of a dolphin. That happened in Patagonia; and if you look closely you can see a ghostly set of books in the mountains. Spooky! Educational!

MeMeMeMeMe U, a yeti who enters Britain without a visa when the block of ice that entombs him is shipped from Tibet to the Imperial Ice Museum in London. Then global warming thaws him out and all hairy hell breaks loose! After many adventures he returns to a secret valley in Tibet and grows old gracefully, losing all his hair, which is how he is depicted here. Coincidentally, a hairless yeti closely resembles a badly painted brown man!

Ptula Graaark. The work of a pterodactyl includes soaring, swooping and croaking. This example of the species, Ptula, is preparing a nightcap of Ovaltine, one of the few reliable methods by which a stressed pterodactyl can become a calmodactyl. Or so it is rumoured.

Two photos of the arch villain République Nutt follow. First we are presented with a frontal view, showing clearly the fiendish Walnut Whip Helmet that he wears atop his head. The Walnut Whip Helmet has the power to create unfounded rumours and transmit them across vast distances. One of the first rumours it created was the rumour of its own existence in a cavern deep under the city of Strasbourg. That’s how République Nutt was able to get hold of it! The second photo shows his death at the hands of Twisthorn Bellow. I’m pleased to report this isn’t actually how the fiendish chocolate-headed rascal dies. We see Monsieur Nutt impaled on the golem’s favourite weapon, the kpinga, a throwing-sword typical of north central Africa, but in fact Twisthorn deals with his foul enemy unarmed.

Sappy Ever After: The robot villain is relaxing in his private chambers in the city of Moonville just prior to being mailed as a parcel to his enemies. He has an incorrectly completed crossword for a face and this explains his cryptic but pithy fury.

The monster in the next picture is the diabolical pitta bread cyclops known as Snagtooth Toasta. To make him I toasted him in my new toaster, balanced him on a piece of driftwood and arranged him against a backdrop of silver foil. Only joking: he’s a real monster!

Tiktac Spittlegit: He’s not French but he’s malign! He can transform into any domestic object and has no ‘basic’ topology. Here we see him changing so rapidly between the forms of garlic bulb, bird eye chilli, mate gourd, tea light case and drawing pin that he appears to be all those things at once. Which makes him look like a bad owl. This photo of him was done on a Monday. Owls don’t like Mondays. They want to hoot the whole day down.

Monday, March 10, 2014

 

Three Gloomy SeaEhorses


The first three Gloomy Seahorse titles are now also available as ebooks. They are as follows:

More Than a Feline: an illustrated collection of cat-themed fiction and poetry.
£1.23 from the British Amazon
$2.06 from the American Amazon

The Gloomy Seahorse: poems
£0.77 from the British Amazon
$1.29 from the American Amazon

Flash in the Pantheon: 123 flash fictions
£2.46 from the British Amazon
$4.12 from the American Amazon


Des Lewis has started one of his 'real time' reviews of Flash in the Pantheon, reviewing one story every day. Click here to read what he has written so far. It's going to take him a long long time...

Other Gloomy Seahorse titles will follow as ebooks as they are published. Future titles include Journeys Beyond Advice, The Less Lonely Planet, Twisthorn Bellow, Mirrors in the Deluge, Tellmenow Isitsöornot, My Rabbits Shadow Looks like a Hand, The Crystal Cosmos, etc.

My Gibbon Moon imprint will publish new writers, works by forgotten masters and books by excellent foreign writers who haven't been adequately translated into English before. For starters you can expect The Twilight of the Gods by Richard Garnett, Old Tales from Spain by Felipe Alfau, The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson... and a fabulous novel from a previously unpublished writer, Faery Story by Michael Westley.

All these books will be available as paperbacks and ebooks soon, soon, soon!

Monday, March 03, 2014

 

Rhysop's Fables Film


Well, I made the film I said I was going to make! It features my very first attempt at stop-motion animation and needless to say it's like Bagpuss gone bad. But it was fun to make and at the end of the day that's what counts.

The film is basically me reciting a small selection of the fables that can be found in the book. The book is currently available from Lulu here and soon will be available from Amazon too.


Click on the arrow in the centre of the above image to play the film. Hope you enjoy!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

 

Absolutely Fabulous!


After a couple of years of just being an ebook (two separate ebooks in fact) RHYSOP'S FABLES is now a real book. I had problems getting the cover right. In the first version I spelled the title wrong... Ahem!

But anyway, it is done to my satisfaction now. I think it has come out the best of the five Gloomy Seahorse books so far. This one consists of 207 fables and also includes the parable of a homeless fable. My fables are a lot less helpful than traditionally is considered desirable in this genre...

This picture shows the book as a physical object at last with the animals and the painting that I used to design the cover.

I am currently in the process of making a short film featuring a selection of these fables and with luck that will be done in a couple of days. I am slightly hampered by the fact I know almost nothing about film making. Ah well!  In the meantime, here is one of the fables so you can get a fair idea what they are like:

DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER

A king once ordered a messenger to deliver a sealed envelope to another king. The messenger set off on the dangerous journey and he was never tempted to open the envelope and read the message within.

After months of hard travelling, he finally reached the palace of the second king, who opened the envelope in front of him and read the letter with a frown that grew deeper and deeper. Finally he reached for a loaded blunderbuss and pointed it at the messenger’s head.

“Clearly you have received some bad news,” said the messenger, “but I’m not responsible for what has happened, so don’t shoot the messenger! I simply completed my given task.”

Silently, but with a grim expression, the king handed the letter to the messenger, who began sweating as he read it. The message said simply, “Please shoot the messenger who delivers this to you.” The king pulled the trigger of the gun and it went off.

¶ Go on, shoot the messenger!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

 

Zwicky Fingers Book


The Sticky Situations of Zwicky Fingers, which hitherto has only been an ebook, is now a real book too, made out of paper and requiring no electricity to read. Zwicky is a giant fruit bat detective who is asked by his policeman friend Procopius Dork to solve various crimes that are paradoxical or even impossible.

This is the fourth book to be published by my own Gloomy Seahorse Press. I intend to publish exactly 10 of my own books, no more, and then I will concentrate on publishing material by other writers. I have, for instance, just accepted a novel by a new writer for publication this summer.

With a cover by the marvellous artist Chris Harrendence, the ten adventures of Zwicky Fingers can be purchased from Lulu here, and soon it will be available on Amazon and other online bookstories.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

 

Flash in the Pantheon for Real


"If only I'd had Flash in the Pantheon with me when I hitchhiked through Germany in 1959! I did have Fredric Brown's Nightmares & Geezenstacks flash fictions, to which Rhys Hughes tips his hat—but half way down the Rhine I ran out of flash; and I don't mean torch battery. Many of Hughes' microstories imply much, served with wit and whimsy and word-relish, high spirits and bittersweet twists—like a candied anchovy in a shot glass of rum; and some are very punny. Hughes would have kept me going till I got to the Hofbräuhaus." -- IAN WATSON

My collection of flash fiction, which has only been an ebook until now, has finally become a real book too... And the paper book is bigger and better than the ebook was... 123 stories, none longer than 999 words and some of them only one sentence long... The cover was done by the genuinely amazing Brankica Bozinovska from Macedonia. And the awesome Ian Watson, genius wordsmith and doyen of the gedanken, gave it a nice blurb too, as you can see above, which delighted me profoundly...

Information about the contents of the book and how they compare with the contents of the ebook can be found here. This collection took a long time to put together and there were many false starts. I kept revising the contents, finding old material that would fit, writing new work, increasing and decreasing the number of fictions in the volume. At one point it consisted of 144 tales and I subtitled the book "a gross of microfictions" but ultimately too many stories weren't quite right for the project, so I dropped them. What I finally achieved is leaner, sharper and funnier... and it's here!

The book will be available from Amazon soon, but in the meantime it can be ordered here.

The book is surprisingly beautiful and I am hugely indebted to the talented Brankica, who did this cover for me way back in 2007. Not everything is a flash in the pan: some things burn for a long time before exploding!


Saturday, February 08, 2014

 

Poetry in Undersea Motion


The cover of my poetry collection wasn't quite right and the contents needed to be very slightly adjusted. So I made the required changes and the revised copy with the mildly tweaked cover and contents arrived today. I am very pleased!

I will be sending out review copies next week. Watch it get reviewed abroad but not in any publications in Wales! The Welsh 'literary' establishment seem to have me on some sort of blacklist.

Anyway... that doesn't matter. The book exists and is available; and poems that have been sitting in boxes or on floppy discs or in the pages of very obscure small-press magazines for twenty years have finally been liberated and now are gathered together in one place. Yay!

Click on this link for more information or for the chance to purchase the book.


Saturday, February 01, 2014

 

My Twenty-Eighth Book


Steady! / My first poetry book ever / is now ready / and that's the truth / Forsooth!

Well, here it is... I have been thinking about this for ages and finally decided to do it for real. I doubt I will ever have another poetry book published. I don't write enough poetry to fill up a second volume. Back in the 1990s I wrote a reasonable amount of poems and occasionally recited them in public too; then I had a brief resurgence in 2005/2006 and won the First Poetry Slam to be held in the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. But since then I haven't written much at all.

Anyway... some of these poems were published in obscure 'journals' a couple of decades ago. Most weren't. They aren't like normal poems, though, so do be warned!

The book is priced at £3.99 but post and packing is £2, which is a bit cheeky. Make sure you select the 'standard delivery' option and not the more expensive one with tracking. If you click on this link and choose the 'preview' button under the cover you can read the first five poems for free... Just so you can see what to expect if you buy it...

My one and only poetry book ever, including poems that have been lying idle for twenty years... Rejoice you ten or eleven people who are likely to buy it!

Friday, January 24, 2014

 

Gloomy Seahorse Press


The Gloomy Seahorse by Adele Whittle
I have set up my own small press. Gloomy Seahorse Press has in fact been in existence since September 2011 but it has only published my ebooks until now, twelve of them in total. Now I plan to issue paperbacks too. The first title was More Than a Feline, which came out in December and is available to buy on Amazon and elsewhere.

The second book will be my one and only poetry collection. I have been planning this volume for a long time. Originally it was going to be called The Knight of Whatever and the cover was going to depict a lazy knight, but when I asked the artist Adele Whittle to design a logo for my company I liked the image she produced so much that I decided to use it as the cover instead, which necessitated changing the title of the book to The Gloomy Seahorse and writing a new poem to represent the cover.

This picture is the painting in question... The Gloomy Seahorse Press won't just be publishing my own work. In the future I hope to publish other authors. My dream would be to publish brilliant authors who have gone out of print or who haven't been translated into English, for instance W.E. Bowman,  Shinichi Hoshi and Jacques Sternberg.


Monday, January 20, 2014

 

Strange Tales IV


STRANGE TALES IV arrived for me yesterday. What a great looking book!

Tartarus Press really have cracked the presentation lark: it is impossible to mistake their books for those of any other publisher, but they don't stain for the effect of uniqueness; it seems a natural quality embedded in every aspect of their design process. It's a beautiful book, simple as that...


I am delighted and honoured to have a story included in this anthology and it's a story I am especially pleased with called 'The Secret Passage'. Re-reading it, I kept saying things to myself like, "Puppets! Mazes! Hypercubes! Ooh!" which gives an idea of what it's about without giving too much away...



Monday, January 13, 2014

 

Stories From a Lost Anthology is an Ebook


Tartarus Press were the publishers of my first book. Without them I might not be a writer now at all; and I certainly wouldn't be the kind of writer I am. It was Mark Samuels (author of The White Hands) who introduced me to Tartarus back in 1994, so I must extend my thanks to him also. I remember submitting a story entitled 'The Forest Chapel Bell' to an anthology called Tales From Tartarus and it was accepted and liked to a sufficient degree for the publisher to request more stories. From this beginning eventually came Worming the Harpy; and that volume led directly to The Smell of Telescopes; which in turn resulted in Stories From a Lost Anthology... and it could be that a fourth collection is on the cards.

In the meantime, my three existing collections have been turned into ebooks. The original hardbacks are often tricky to find and expensive too. So I am pleased that readers new to my work will now have the chance to read these collections. Worming the Harpy has been available as an ebook for two years; The Smell of Telescopes was made available in this form one month ago. And now comes the third volume, Stories From a Lost Anthology... Michael Moorcock wrote the Introduction to this collection, a fact that delighted me then and still delights me, especially considering the fact that I have probably read more fiction by him than any other writer.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

 

First Acceptance of 2014


This morning I had my first acceptance of the new year. I'm pleased to announce that it's a novel. I haven't actually signed a contract yet, so I won't say too much more at this stage. It's a novel I am very happy with, but that's hardly a surprise: I am happy with nearly everything I write. Is that wrong? Probably. This particular novel is a journey from fairly conventional science fiction and steampunk beginnings to something much more odd. The publishing company that accepted it is very good at promotion and marketing strategy, so I should get to do some proper book-launches again. About time!

I have a strong feeling that my output of wordage for 2014 is going to be even lower than it was last year. But that doesn't matter. Quality is always more important than quantity. This year I will be concentrating first on writing new material for a future collection, New Milesian Tales, including the resumption and completion of a couple of novelettes I started many years ago (primarily two pieces entitled '500 Eyes' and 'In Trance'). I also want to finally finish writing The Clown of The New Eternities. Every year I make a resolution to return to that novel and complete it. This year I really must do so!


Thursday, January 02, 2014

 

Telescopes is an Ebook


My fourth ever book, The Smell of Telescopes, was published back in the year 2000 by Tartarus PressRated by Michael Moorcock as one of the top ten 'overlooked speculative fiction classics' it consists of 26 short stories, some of which are collected into three story cycles which all converge (and are resolved) in the final story in the book.

Telescopes remains one of my best books, I think. The second edition was published by Eibonvale Press in 2007. The original Tartarus edition is now worth a fair bit of money. I am therefore hugely delighted to begin the new year with an announcement that the book is now finally available as an ebook more than thirteen years after it first appeared. It can be obtained directly from Tartarus here.

It is also available on Amazon and elsewhere...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

 

A Cat Called Tufty




A photo of the cat Tufty with the illustrated book of cat stories and poems that features Tufty on the front cover... The artist I had lined up for the cover was too busy to produce any work so I just used a photo I had already taken of my favourite cat; and when the book was published I showed it to the real cat. I think he was impressed but I can't be sure.

More Than a Feline is available from Lulu (the printing company, not the female singer) by clicking on this link and the book is currently, er... the 11,922nd most popular book on the sales rank there!



Monday, December 23, 2013

 

Literary Review of 2013


Last year (2012) was my best writing year ever; and this year was my best reading year ever. I discovered more great authors unknown to me this year than in the previous five years combined. Admittedly, some of those authors have been sitting on my shelves (or tucked away in boxes) for a long time, decades in a few cases. But the point is that I finally got round to reading them and they generally exceeded my expectations.

I read some books that weren't so great, of course, but let's not concentrate on those. Every time I finish a fiction book I tend to add it to my Goodreads page with a brief comment; feel free to add me as a friend on that site, if you like. My page can be found here.



First novel I read in 2013 was The Miscreant by Jean Cocteau and it was excellent. A great way to start a reading year! I love Cocteau's epigrammatic prose style. It's heady and addictive and enthralling. This novel (his first, dating from 1921) is a masterpiece. The actual story is fairly slight, merely an account of a love affair that goes wrong among a couple of denizens (he more sensitive and less pragmatic than she) of a semi-Bohemian corner of Paris in the early years of the 20th Century; but the way the tale is told is truly exquisite. 




Even better was The File on H by Ismail Kadare, who is one of the authors that has been sitting unread on my shelves for too long. What a genius! I enjoyed this novel so much that I also read Kadare's Agamemnon's Daughter, a collection of shorter work. The File on H is a funny, ironic, absurdist, erotic, and just extremely well written novel. Agamemnon's Daughter contains a long novella, a shorter novella and a short story, and all three pieces are absolutely amazing. I was especially impressed with the middle piece, 'The Blinding Order', which is certainly one of the best novellas I have ever read. It's harrowing and awful but also sublime and a true revelation. Kadare is a genius.



Alan Garner was my next long overdue discovery. I borrowed The Stone Book Quartet from the library without any high expectations. I was just feeling in the mood for something non-fantastical, something more pastoral than my usual fare. Turns out I made an excellent choice! Garner's writing is superb: uncluttered but magical, and the characters come alive on the page almost instantly. Somehow Garner has tuned in to some 'universal consciousness'. The incidents he describes seem common to all of us but also unique to the particular characters. I felt an acute mixture of nostalgia, sadness and glee as I read these four linked novellas. I now have The Owl Service and Red Shift waiting for me.



A collection of stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa also impressed me very much. Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories is a retrospective of his entire life’s work (he died when he was only thirty five) and divided into four sections. The first section is devoted to his early stories, including the monumental ‘Hell Screen’, a dark and fiery classic, a disturbing horror story with a particular Japanese slant that is non-supernatural and supernatural at the same time. The second section features three historical stories, ‘Dr Ogata Ryosai: Memorandum’, ‘O-Gin’ and ‘Loyalty’. The third section contains three gems of tragicomedy, the brilliantly odd ‘The Story of a Head that Fell Off’, the offbeat romance ‘Green Onions’ and the absurdist comedy ‘Horse Legs’, which is possibly my favourite story in the entire collection, a lighter-hearted version of Kafka with a relentless logic of its own. The fourth section reveals Akutagawa in an entirely different light, as a tormented personality and depressive paranoid personality, struggling to keep a grip on his sanity. ‘Daidoji Shinsuke: The Early Years’, ‘The Life of a Stupid Man’ and ‘Spinning Gears’ chronicle a tormented psychology and a life in despair.


Jose Saramago was my next discovery. Why did I put off reading him for so long? He was an amazing writer. I read The Elephant's Journey and then Cain. Both are superb.The first is a novel based on the true story of an elephant that walked from Lisbon to Vienna in 1551. The writing flows with grace, elegance and irresistible momentum. It was very refreshing for me to read a novel almost entirely devoid of evil incidents. None of the main players, including the Archduke of Austria, are malign and the elephant himself is a magnificent character. Wise, witty and charming. The second is a Candide-like satire, as flippant and profound as anything by Voltaire, that follows the wanderings of Cain after he was cursed by God for murdering his brother Abel. It's an angry, political and deeply philosophical novel in many ways; and yet none of the driving intellectual energy behind its creation interferes with the simple but ingenious emotional delights of the story. Cain is a very sympathetic character. His adventures are in turns bitter, erotic, illuminating, melancholy and triumphant. The ending is surprising and astounding.


Bruce Chatwin was an author I discovered back in 2008 (I loved The Viceroy of Ouidah). I finally got round to reading another of his books this year, The Songlines. It's a marvellous book, a novel that is also non-fiction, the story of Chatwin's travels to Australia and his gradual understanding of a particular aspects of Aboriginal culture (not that the Aborigines were ever just 'one' people, as is made clear in the book itself) concerning the way the indigenous people regard the land. The 'songlines' of the title are similar to mnemonics in that they enable a traveller to navigate across vast tracts of open country, but they are much more than that: mythic, cultural, ancestral, part of the actual identity of the person who uses them. But fascinating as they are, this is only one aspect of this totally immersing book; and Chatwin's extracts from the journals he kept over many years create a plausible and enthralling 'alternative' hypothesis regarding our earliest hominid ancestors.


The Scorpion God by William Golding staggered me with the sheer quality of the story-telling. I have had several William Golding books sitting on my shelves unread for years. He's an author I always intended to get round to one day but somehow never did -- until 2013. And what can I say? I'm an instant convert! I now intend to read as many of his books as I can. The Scorpion God consists of three novellas. They aren't linked by characters, plot or even mood; but they do seem to be related in some deeper way. The first is set in Ancient Egypt, the second in an unspecified African region, the third in Imperial Rome. All are brilliant. All crackle with astounding prose, remarkable imagery and a feeling of momentous changes taking place at every point on the page. The density of action is incredible, even when that action is only the shifting of philosophical viewpoints. Three pages of this book feel like thirty pages by another author. Golding was clearly a talent of enormous significance and I am very glad I've finally got round to delving into his works!


Yet another author who has been on my 'to read' list for years is Milan Kundera. I chose Laughable Loves, a collection of short stories, to begin with and I can say that I found it excellent and engrossing and extremely well-written. Although I enjoyed these stories enormously, if I was a woman I would probably have been annoyed by the sexual politics of the writing. All the stories are fundamentally based on the objectification of females. Although I disapprove rationally of such an outlook, I like Kundera's honesty in this regard. He's utterly sincere about the cynicism of his own psychology, which, if we are going to be completely candid, is also the base psychology of most males... It's difficult to pick a favourite among these stories but the first and last, 'Nobody Will Laugh' and 'Eduard and God', are both superb.


Last year I rediscovered Kurt Vonnegut and this year I continued to make up for lost time by reading no fewer than five of his books: A Man Without a Country, While Mortals Sleep, Armageddon in Retrospect, Jailbird and Breakfast of Champions. The last one on this list was the best; in fact it might be my favourite Vonnegut book of all. It isn't crammed with ideas the same way that Cat's Cradle or The Sirens of Titan are. In fact, not much actually happens in the novel. But there's something about it that makes up for that, a poignancy, a dark and wistful charm, a mischievous cosmic resignation -- I am not quite sure what exactly -- that fully compensates for the diminished quantity of ideas and plot turns.




And yet despite all this excellence, there was another author waiting for me who I regard as my greatest discovery of the year. Andrei Platonov. I picked up Soul and Other Stories at random when I was in the library and I am glad I did! I liked it so much that I instantly ordered Happy Moscow and The Foundation Pit too. Platonov fills me with the same enthusiasm I used to have when I was young and literature was an unexplored world for me; an enthusiasm that gradually faded over the decades but now is back. I can't recommend the short novel 'Soul' highly enough.




Friday, December 20, 2013

 

My Twenty-Seventh Book


My 27th book is also my fifth and last book of 2013. I am putting out too many books too quickly at the moment: they are interfering with each other in terms of sales. I remember the sage advice of Jeff VanderMeer many years ago: "One book a year, maximum!"  But I tend to ignore advice in most areas of my life. Ah well!

More Than a Feline is my first self-published book. I don't intend to make a habit of self-publishing (just two or three books in total) and I don't expect this collection to do well; it's more a gift to myself than anything else. I did enjoy having complete control over the contents, layout and design though! Such total control might not actually be a good idea in general, but hey, it's a collection of stories and poems about cats. Like cats themselves, it's not really going to go far...

I designed the cover myself. It's a photo I took of Tufty, a cat I regularly look after. The book is dedicated to Koshka, the cat I once 'owned'. The collection is illustrated and eight artists contributed a drawing. Not knowing anything about printing and image resolution, I didn't expect the illustrations to come out especially well, but to my delight they are very clear. I am very happy with the look of the book. More information, including how to buy it, can be found on the relevant link here.

Meeow!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

 

More Than a Feline


I don't intend to make a habit of self-publishing, but I have just dipped a toe into those murky waters; and so my next book will be a self-published one, a collection of cat themed stories and poems called More Than a Feline. I am a confessed cat lover and decided to put together all (or most) of the cat stories and poems I have written over the past 20 years into a single document. Then I asked various artists to submit drawings of cats and eight of them obliged.

Lunar Love Cats by Adele Whittle
So the book will be an illustrated collection of feline fiction and verse. I had a great artist lined up to do the cover but he was so busy with other commitments (and I am by nature such an impatient person) that I finally decided to do the cover myself. I took a photo of a cat I know called Tufty and used that for the cover! I uploaded the book to Lulu yesterday and it can be found here.

I wanted this book to be inexpensive, so I set a low price for it of only £4.99. But I have also arranged for a 20% discount, so for the next month it will be only £3.99. It should be on Amazon soon. I don't expect this book to sell well, but I enjoyed writing the stories and poems and that's the main thing that counts. Cats are great!

The illustration above is a painting on a pebble that is one of the pictures included in the book. It was done by the artist Adele Whittle and other examples of her work (paintings and jewellery) can be viewed and purchased by clicking on this link.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

 

Online Bishopping


Nebula Award Winner Michael Bishop

Michael Bishop has recently said nice things about my most recent story collection and I am hugely delighted that such an eminent and wonderful author likes my work. Moments like this make the hard work worthwhile... Mr Bishop is one of the finest writers of modern fantasy and SF. His work has a depth and richness and emotional punch that very few of his contemporaries can aspire to.

The Just Not So Stories is my lowest priced collection still available and can be purchased by visiting the relevant webpage here.

Several years ago, Michael Bishop wrote the introduction for my novella The Crystal Cosmos (which is also available as an ebook together with several of my other SF stories) and he was generous enough to ensure that his introduction was also a piece of fiction,a short story which we agreed would be my hypothetical 612th story... That was long before I had reached the number #612 in my scheme of writing exactly 1000 stories.


When I did eventually reach that number I decided to return the favour (as best I could) by writing a tribute story to Michael Bishop called 'Transmigrating the Bishop', which as well as being available to read online will be one of the stories in my forthcoming book of tribute stories to authors I admire, The Senile Pagodas, due out next year from Centipede Press... Anyway, on the chess board of modern literature I dearly want to be a Knight, but compared with Mr Bishop I am probably only a Pawn.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

 

Young Dictator Audio Sample


The publisher of my most recent novel has made a short film which includes a brief reading of the opening of the first chapter. I'm going to fib and say that the extract is read aloud by Dylan Moran because that's who it sounds like and also because I'm not actually sure who 'Thaddeus Lovecraft' really is. He might be Mark Lloyd, who runs Pillar International Publishing, or he might not be. Anyway I am thinking that my novel might make a rather nice audio book and the publisher agrees with me. Watch this space.



The Young Dictator is available from Amazon here and other online bookshops and hopefully soon will be on the shelves of real bookshops too.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

 

Book Bigamy!


How does one promote two books AT THE SAME TIME?

The only answer is to duplicate yourself and promote them both equally... So here we go. I closed my eyes and strained and eventually popped into two individuals this morning! It wasn't easy...

THE JUST NOT SO STORIES on the left; THE YOUNG DICTATOR on the right. (And yes, she is mainly on the right, even if not always in the right)


The Just Not So Stories can be purchased by clicking on this link.

The Young Dictator can be purchased by clicking on this link.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

 

Publishing Schedule


I have been so productive in the past five years that things are starting to get a bit confusing... In an attempt to get matters clear in my own mind I have made the following list of my books that are due out in the near (or reasonably near) future:

(1) More Than a Feline (a book of cat stories, poems and drawings)
(2) The Lunar Tickle (the complete adventures of Thornton Excelsior)
(3) The Senile Pagodas (a book of tribute stories to authors I admire)
(4) The Million Word Storybook (365 stories and exactly 1,000,000 words; it will be the longest single author collection ever published and only available as an ebook)
(5) Sangria in the Sangraal (updated second edition)
(6) Bone Idle in the Charnel-House (a collection of gothicky stories)
(7) Modern Milesian Tales (a collection of dark fantasy stories)
(8) The Knight of Whatever (poetry collection)
(9) Tintin in Oz (a novel that I haven't actually written yet but that has been commissioned)

This list may be subject to changes, of course; projects might be added (for instance The Impossible Inferno collection) or subtracted from it. The world might end first, etc. But this is a rough schedule. I do have the feeling I've left something off though!

I am supposed to be promoting my new most recent books, The Just Not So Stories and The Young Dictator, instead of talking about forthcoming books; I'll return to doing that imminently!

Friday, November 08, 2013

 

Young Dictators


Just a photo of a few copies of my new book...


It's always nice when a concept turns itself into words and those words are actually printed and gathered together into a physical object...

Friday, November 01, 2013

 

My Twenty-Sixth Book


I am delighted to announce that my twenty-sixth book was published yesterday. The Young Dictator is available from Amazon right now and will be available from many other places in the coming weeks... This novel is my most accessible book to date, so if you are new to my work and want to try something but don't know what to go for, I'll say try this one. It has been described as Roald Dahl meets Spike Milligan and Kurt Vonnegut and that's exactly the effect I was aiming for!

Many years ago I tried to write a children's story but I never completed it. Then back in 2010 the editor Mike Ashley asked me to write a YA (young Adults) story for an anthology he was compiling. I dusted off the story I had started long before and finished it for him. As it happened, his anthology was cancelled so I decided to make my story the first chapter of a novel. The result was The Young Dictator. It's not really a YA novel, though I do think it can be easily read by anyone from the age of 12 onward.

That first chapter was published as a stand-alone story in the Spring issue of the BFS (British Fantasy Society) journal last year and was received well by readers. I sent the finished novel to my agent but he didn't like it very much. He felt that the main character, Jenny, a young girl, was too vicious. But that's the point. The novel is a comedy about dictatorship and nice dictators aren't much fun in fiction, are they? My agent also didn't enjoy the fact that the novel often uses lateral logic rather than the logic of everyday events.


Luckily there was a publisher out there who was willing to embrace absurdity and humorous darkness. Pillar International Publishing was founded in Ireland in the 1930s by Victor Lloyd and named after Nelson's Pillar, a structure that stood in the middle of O'Connell Street in Dublin until it was blown up by the IRA in 1966 (it had already survived an earlier attack in 1955 in which nine students had tried to melt it with flamethrowers). The original press issued many murder mysteries of the Death Carries a Coffin and She Died of Death type...


Victor's grandson, Mark Lloyd, refounded the press last year and by happy chance I learned of its existence thanks to the writer Sara Crowe. I submitted the book and it was accepted, and now it is a physical object and an ebook. I am proud of all my books but this one has increased the width of my grin by an unprecedented magnitude. It can be purchased online from Amazon here. All hail The Young Dictator! All hail her Gran too!



Thursday, October 31, 2013

 

Happy Halloween!




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