Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lost Civilisations Doing Well For Itself

Dark Tales: Now Kindley.
With plenty going on and absolutely nothing at a stage I can say anything useful about, I thought I'd spend one last post plugging the Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations anthology that I had a story, The Door Beyond the Water, in a couple of months back.

Firstly, because I've actually managed to read it, and enjoyed it rather a lot.  (For what it's worth, my personal favourite tales were Mark Lee Pearson's To Run a Stick Through a Fish, Jackson Kuhl's Quivira, Caw Miller's The Small Black God and Joe Lansdale's The Tall Grass, but there's plenty of other good stuff in there.)

Secondly, because I owe Eric Guignard one for helping me nail down the ending of another story, Prisoner of Peace; possibly the best horror story I've written, probably my personal favourite, and that bit better for Eric's contribution.

And thirdly, because Dark Tales has been running around like that kid in every school class whose parents feed him nothing but sugar and haven't even heard of ritalin, getting lots of attention and starting fights with the big kids and biting the dinner lady's bosom. 

What does all that mean?  I don't know, my analogy got out from under me.  What I do know is that Eric sent my an e-mail telling me lots of neat stuff.  Like ... Dark Tales is now out in e-book, here at Amazon and here at Barnes & Noble.  Like, it's been picking up nominations for a Stoker, which is pretty respectable for a small press collection from a debut editor.  Like, Goodreads are running a best horror anthology contest and it's currently at number 3, beating out some astonishingly tough competition ... not least that little Living Dead anthology thing I was in a couple of years back.  Like, it's been picking up some excellent reviews for itself. 

(And then, just as I was about to finish this post, I got a membership offer from the Horror Writers Association, who'd read The Door Beyond the Water and liked it enough to see if I'd be up for joining their gang.)

So all in all, hats off to Eric ... firstly for putting so much thought and care into creating such a strong collection, and secondly for managing to get so many of the right people to notice it.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Tales of Damasco: Update 5

It seems a while since I've done a Tales of Damasco update, and I'm tempted to say that that's because not a lot's been happening, but actually that isn't entirely true.  I guess it's more than the news has been trickling in in dribs and drabs, and until now it hasn't quite added up to enough to warrant a full blog post.

Closest to my heart right now is that I'm finally entering the last leg of the first draft of Prince Thief.  I'm five chapters from the end, and those five chapters are all conclusion ... the conclusion not only of this book but of the wider story I started in Giant Thief.  That means that in the remaining twenty-five thousand words or so, I have to clear up once and for all the fates of not only the ever-scoundrelish Mr Damasco himself, but Saltlick, Marina Estrada, Alvantes, Castilio Mounteban, a host of secondary characters, two or three new and major characters you haven't met yet unless you're me, and ... oh, lest we forget ... the entirety of the Castoval.

So.  No pressure, right?  Or at least - right now anyway - only the self-imposed kind that involves a bit of my brain constantly screaming, "don't screw this up, Tallerman, it's taken you five bloody years!" But you know what?  Five chapters and a month and a half to go until the end of this first draft, and I'm still feeling good about Prince Thief.  I only hope I can say the same in six weeks time, as I oh so slowly and melodramatically finger-type THE END.

Meanwhile, Crown Thief has gone off to the typesetters, which means that from my point of view, it really is truly and completely and finally done at last.  It even has a finished (well, a provisionally finished) cover, which is that bit of loveliness over on the right there.

Last up, there have been a few more reviews of Giant Thief trickling in since the release of the audiobook.  And funnily enough, they all come to fairly similar conclusions, though with varying degrees of positiveness.  Focusing specifically on the audiobook, The Guilded Earlobe says that "Giant Thief won’t distinguish itself as a modern classic of the Fantasy genre, but it’s a fun, clever adventure tale full of reluctant heroes and outrageous situations," and praises James Langton's reading in particular: "I felt instantly comfortable with [Langton], and I think he handled the characters and pacing of this novel just right."  Meanwhile, Fantasy Book Critic thought that "overall Giant Thief is an entertaining fantasy novel, with a strong enough main character to make me look forward to the next volume in the series," and Ryan Skardal from Fantasy Literature, agreeing but not enjoying the experience so much, felt that "Giant Thief is an amusing, if familiar, fantasy novel."

Most interesting for me, though, was to hear the thoughts of Bull Spec editor Samuel Montgomery-Blinn; Sam published my story The Burning Room way back when and so I take his opinion a little more seriously than that of the average reviewer.  Sad to say, he wasn't exactly bowled over, finding some of the plot turns in the second half unconvincing and drawing unfavourable comparisons with the mighty Mr Scott Lynch.*  Sam also offers some interesting thoughts on the the cover art and its representation of Damasco; I won't repeat his thoughts here, as I suspect the subject he touches on warrants at the very least a blog post in its own right, but it's certainly a topic worthy of discussion.  So I'm glad someone raised it and I recommend taking a look and then following the links that Sam's put in there.

* But hey, sometimes just getting the comparison in the first place is enough, you know?  

Friday, 6 July 2012

Breaking (Into) the Glass Parachute

I'd promised myself that if anyone else asked me for a story I'd definitely say no.

This is The Glass Parachute.
I mean, unless they were offering a load of money to go with the request.  Because let's face it, I'm pretty busy this year with Tales of Damasco stuff - promoting Giant Thief, putting the finishing touches to Crown Thief and writing Prince Thief.  By February I'd more or less decided that if anyone wanted me to do anything besides all that, I had every right to say no without seeming mean.  Surely "Sorry, I'm busy simultaneously working on three novels" is a good enough excuse?

So when Matt Edginton got in touch and said he was planning a first anthology for a fledgling small press publisher, Villipede Publications, I had no problem with saying to him, politely but firmly, "Um, I don't know, probably not but maybe."  It was supposed to be a no, it was, but Matt mentioned that he was an artist and I'm a sucker for working with artists at the best of times, and his mentioned that the collection was going to be illustrated by him and his artist mates, and not only that but I had a look at his online portfolio and it was really good.

Then Matt said how he wanted to put together, and I quote, "A really professional, personal collection," and he'd read some of my work and liked it, and by that point I didn't have much willpower left, being pretty lousy at saying no to anything shy of random and unnecessary brain surgery at the best of times, and absolutely helpless in the face of compliments.

It's going to be very illustrated.
There did, however, remain the problem of what I could offer Matt short fiction-wise.  Because I'd also pledged myself that I'd leave my unsold story backlog alone once and for all.  Whatever my feelings on the matter, there had to be some reason why certain stories were failing to shift, and maybe it was time I let them die a quiet death.  Obviously there were flaws I was never going to see, but that editor after editor had picked up on.

Only, when I started flicking and came across a sci-fi - or maybe more horror - story I'd called Final Relocation, I knew exactly what was wrong with it.  A couple of editors had even told me, it just hadn't quite sunk in.  I even remembered a scene that was supposed to have been in the first draft and that I'd somehow forgotten about, which would have pretty much fixed that one crucial failing.  So I sent it over to Matt, on the understanding that if he thought it was okay I'd rewrite it, fixing the problems I'd recently discovered.  He liked.  I rewrote.

Anyway, all of this actually happened months ago, but it's only recently that Matt got a page together to promote the collection - which is actually due pretty soon now, I think.  So I figured I should probably mention it while I still have the time.