Monday, 31 May 2021

RETURN OF THE SWORDS

Decades ago, back in the mists of time, my earliest attempts at writing revolved around what I later came to know as Sword & Sorcery (somewhat influenced initially by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars series, and then Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion books). These primitive, immature scribblings morphed over time, and my earliest printed work was a very short story in the British Fantasy Society’s magazine, Dark Horizons #10 – “Designs of the Wizard” – in 1974. Two sequels followed – “Shadows of the Weaver” and “The Closing of the Days” – in Dark Horizons #12 and #14 respectively. All were bundled under the overarching title of “The Second Dragons”, and told an epic tale of human versus humanoid lizards in a post-apocalyptic desert Earth in well under 10,000 words. I returned to that particular world a couple more times – “Nightfall of a Dying World” (Dark Horizons 28, 1985) and “Fair Dues” (Dark Horizons 33, 1992) – when the mood struck, and may well do so again. I even wrote a novel, expanding on the original three stories; posterity will be relieved to know it no longer exists.

Now and then I’d dabble in other S&S tales [“The Pistol and the Sword” (Dark Horizons, 1979), “But the Stones Will Stand” (Fantasy Tales 10, 1982), “Sword of Light” (Victor Summer Special, 1987), and “Day of the Dark Men” (Fantasy Tales Vol.12 #6, 1991)], but over time I drifted away from that particular genre, for some reason. (Although I never entirely left: the jokey “Saving Prince Romero” was published in Unfit for Eden: Postscripts 26/27, in 2012).

Then, during 2020 – whether it was the unusually summery weather, or lockdown madness, who can say – I discovered a new enthusiasm for the form. I found time to dust off some of my unpublished S&S fiction and give it a good polishing (read: re-writing from the ground up) and I’m glad to say the exercise bore a little fruit. And so – by one of those typical coincidences which often plague the writer’s world – two pieces are appearing within a sort time of each other. “Face of Heaven, Eyes of Hell” has just been published in Phantasmagoria #18, while “The Essence of Dust” will shortly be released on an unsuspecting world in Swords & Sorceries Volume 2. And although there is little to connect either tale, they do take place in a shared universe (or should that be multiverse?).

I think it’s fair to say my S&S days are actually far from over.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

PALADIN FLIES AGAIN

The new expanded edition of The Paladin Mandates is now out from Pro Se Press. In addition to "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" (which was only in the original Kindle edition), and "Deck the Halls" (published in the Occult Detective Monster Hunter anthology in 2015) there are two pieces unique to this new edition: "Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking" and "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf".

Available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon US and Amazon UK

MORE HOLMES, GARDENS, AND SINGULAR WORMS

As I mentioned in my previous post, where I mused on some of my published Sherlockian pieces, I briefly mentioned my contributions to the long-running MX series of charity anthologies which are compiled for the restoration of Undershaw – the former home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and now a Stepping Stones school.

The first was “The Adventure of the Vanishing Man” which saw print in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part V: Christmas Adventures in 2016. This has the honour of being the first canon Holmes story I ever wrote – since the Steampunk mashup Vallis Timoris certainly doesn’t count. Next came “The Adventure of the Haunted Room” in  The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part VII: Eliminate the Impossible, 1880-1891 the following year – investigations of possibly supernatural events which always have a rational explanation. A third – “The Adventure of the Singular Worm” – will debut in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part XXIII: Some More Untold Cases, 1887-1894, the middle volume in a trilogy exploring the references Watson makes to some of Holmes’s undocumented cases over the years 1877 to 1903.

If you’d like to contribute to the Kickstarter for those books, the link’s here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

HOLMES IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Many years ago there was an independent bookshop in Birmingham by the name of Hudsons. During its declining years they introduced a bargain basement (no doubt to get rid of odd items of stock) where all sorts of goodies could be found. One time I came across a thin coffee table edition entitled THE SHERLOCK HOLMES SCRAPBOOK (dated 1973), edited by none other than Peter Haining, with a foreword by the one and only Peter Cushing.


It was a fascinating book, filled with articles, artwork, ads – in fact any kind of Sherlockian ephemera you can imagine. And it also mentioned new Holmes fiction had continued to be published after Conan Doyle’s death in 1930. That made me sad because I quite fancied the idea of writing a Holmes pastiche, but imagined the day for such things was gone (and I wouldn’t have known where to find a possible market at the time, anyway).

Fast forward to the 21st century, and that daydream finally came true. Not only did I end up writing that Holmes pastiche, I somehow managed a mash-up novel (VALLIS TIMORIS, Fringeworks, 2015), and a couple of shorts for David Marcum’s MX series of anthologies besides (“The Adventure of the Vanishing Man”, “The Adventure of the Haunted Room”) with a third – “The Adventure of the Singular Worm” – due out later in 2020. I even sold a Professor Moriarty story, “A Function of Probability” to Maxim Jakubowski’s THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF THE ADVENTURES OF PROFESSOR MORIARTY (Skyhorse, 2016). And did I stop there? Oh no. The latest to see print is in Belanger Press’s second volume of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE OCCULT DETECTIVES anthologies, edited by John Linwood Grant: “The Direction of Sunbeams”. Once again proving, it’s never too late.


And if I’d told that impressionable younger person as he bought that original Haining book, I wonder if he’d consider the idea “Incredible!” or “Elementary!”.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

IT'S PHANTASTIC


It’s all happening as 2020 kicks off. No sooner is Stephen Jones’ THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: RISING published, but Trevor Kennedy’s PHANTASMAGORIA magazine is running a special (#2, if we’re counting) based around the book and Lovecraft. Among its many delights will be a brief life and times of one Damian Paladin – which means I get to share cover billing with some quite delightful people. Probably be the one and only time, so I’d best make the most of it (and since it’s alphabetical, I get to be on top).


PHANTASMAGORIA #14 will also include my short story “Chasing the Dragon” (originally published in Emby Press’s SUPERHERO MONSTER HUNTER: THE GOOD FIGHT), and elsewhere in that issue there may even be some of my artwork. So don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Both mags will be available later in March, with an official launch at StokerCon, Scarborough, in April.

Also launching at StokerCon is THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS 2: STRANGE STORIES AND WEIRD TALES. Damian Paladin – along with Leigh Oswin, Andy Raven, and Leo Saint-Germain – crop up, the proverbial bad pennies, in “Digging in the Dirt”: an indirect sequel to the “Hastur La Vista, Baby” crossover with Adrian Cole’s Nick Nightmare published in THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: RISING. Almost as if it was planned (and if you believe that, you give me way too much credit).


Saturday, 28 December 2019

2019: THE YEAR THAT WAS

This year’s annual round-up is pretty brief. One of those outwardly calm years when nothing much seems to be happening.

It started with a short SF piece seeing publication in KZINE #23 in January – “A World in Aspic”. Set in the Derry & Toms roof garden, in an alternate 1920s/30s, with the sort of clunking robots that graced the old movie serials I’d catch the odd episode of at the Jacey cinema in Birmingham during rare childhood Saturday afternoon visits.

I also worked on a couple of novellas I’d promised people in moments of weakness. One was for Fringeworks: a steampunk Sherlock Holmes sequel to my VALLIS TIMORIS mash-up; the second for Dion Winton-Polak’s TWISTED EARTH shared world. All that interspersed with editing a couple of novels for a friend.

During the latter half I teamed up once again with old mate Adrian Cole to co-write another Damian Paladin/Nick Nightmare team-up for Stephen Jones’ THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: RISING. Entitled “Hastur La Vista, Baby”, we somehow kept things going over two separate timelines that eventually merged; and I took the chance to shake things up a little in the Paladin-Oswin universe.

Speaking of Paladin and Leigh, they continue to fight the good fight in “Digging in the Dirt” for THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF HORRORS 2 (out early 2020), and their decidedly VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA-inspired adventure “Cradle of the Deep” is due to appear imminently in STARTLING STORIES #1.


I also kept the Sherlock Holmes banner flying with the decidedly non-canon “The Direction of Sunbeams” for the self-explanatory SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE OCCULT DETECTIVES anthology coming from Belanger Books.

And in late 2020 I’ll be making another appearance in a Stephen Jones edited anthology, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF FOLK HORROR, with “All I Ever See”.

The year ended with one of those coincidences that crop up infrequently: two interview requests, each coming hard upon the other. One was for Trevor Kennedy’s PHANTASMAGORIA #13, the Christmas special, and the second for an article by Stephen Jewell on DC Thomson’s STARBLAZER digest comic of blessed memory, commissioned by the JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE. Both issues emerged just in time for Christmas.


As for 2020 itself? Who can say. I continue to fly by the seat of my pants, with little to no planning – but at least I’m keeping boredom at bay. And life still, on occasion, surprises me.

And so may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year, and continuing good fortune in these trying days. 

Monday, 12 August 2019

ALL I EVER SEE

Really happy to announce my short story "All I Ever See" has been accepted for Stephen Jones' forthcoming anthology The Mammoth Book of Folk Horror. And chuffed to find I'm also going to be sharing it with such luminaries as David A Sutton, Alison Littlewood, and Jan Edwards.
The title's a line from an old Status Quo single. That and the above image are all the clues you're going to get.

RETURN OF THE SWORDS

Decades ago, back in the mists of time, my earliest attempts at writing revolved around what I later came to know as Sword & Sorcery (so...