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Hearken, I bear tidings for thine ears (or eyes), my lackadaisical collection of followers…
So here it is: Less than 2 weeks from now, on October 17th I will be staging a launch party for my novel Vampsov 1938: A Spectre Haunting Europe.
And you are all invited!
Not that any of you needs an excuse to party, but I suppose some explanation is required as to why I’m doing this now, nearly two years since the book first hit the streets. I mean how slow is that? What are you playing at, dragging those floppy boots of yours so slowly? Well, yeah, you got me there, but I have an excuse see, I was out of the country or skint or both during large chunks of that time. Only now do I have my shit together sufficiently to stage any sort of bacchanalian extravaganza (is that what book launches are? Do I need more Monster Munch?).
Better late than never, I think. I also wanted to put on an event like this in case I never get another credible reason to hold one. Writing is hard, getting published even more so, who knows if I will ever finish another book? So many possible slips between cup and lip, it’s like drinking tea out of a strainer. The main thing holding me together while I worked on the book were my friends, fellow writers, and family. So I’m giving you this party, to celebrate your help, kindness and the kind of bollockings that in hindsight can be recast as ‘support’.
So, the room is booked… Phoenix Square, no less, the books have arrived and the bar has chilled the beer to perfection. I have a new pen to sign and dedicate any books I sell, I have a stockpile of tasty snacks awaiting. Everything is ready.
All I need now is your esteemed company for the evening (kick-off is at 7 pm).
I look forward to seeing you there!
PS Staging any kind of literary thing in the East Midlands and especially Leicester is difficult as there are now so many great things happening all year round. The date I chose deliberately avoided the Everybody’s Reading festival, the FantasyCon at Nottingham, Alex Davis’s writers day in Derby, which coincides in terms of date but not time (some people I know are coming to my launch after a day at that event). In a sense it is a good headache to have, as it shows how busy and vibrant things areat the moment. Long may it continue!
It has been a about three months since my first published novel, Vampsov 1938, made it out of the pre-publication darkness and into the light (OK, the Amazon warehouse, if you can call that light). This period has been a rather hectic one for me, seeing as I had been moving around quite a bit and have ended up working in Germany. Germany? I’m sure Ludmilla my main character, would not approve. But hey, different times and places and all that.
So I sits here, nursing my Franziskaner Weissbier and twiddling a pretzel between my fingers as Oktoberfest goes on all around me and I reflect on what has been happening to my infant book during its first months out in public. Hasn’t won a Booker yet or outsold Stephen King even. But hey, early days and all that.
In all seriousness, I have been told that it takes time for the gears to crank up and sales and critical opinion to begin to make their mark. Perhaps I am to blame for this neglect in some way because I feel that Vampsov is a bit of an orphan at the minute. The book was launched far away in the US, I wrote it in the UK, yet am now living in a non-English speaking market so I can’t very well promote the book other than through the web and all. Poor ickle thing must feel abandoned. Keep promising it a big launch party, press releases, bookshop signings, events etc. And I can’t do any of that here. Still, the money for all that has to come from somewhere and how else am I going to earn it?
Despite all this disruption I am still very much a happy camper. For a start here is the (perhaps childish) thrill of knowing I’ve done it. I’ve got a book out! Woohooheehaaaa! On a more balanced note, I have had a lot of feedback that has given me reason to smile. A lot of the people who have read my book get it: the drama at the heart of the story, the family struggle mirrored in the political savagery. The dark humour borne of hopelessness. The vampire and the Stalinist toe to toe… a real monster facing an imaginary one. I’ve even given a snazzy interview to the force of nature that is the amazing Johnny Worthen.
And even the criticisms so far have been fair, given me pause for thought, pointed towards things I can improve on. Because I want to improve, grow, become better at this fascinating and exasperating craft. Dammit, next time you will find it harder to find fault, any fault!
So here is what I’m going to do to help out my little orphan Vampsov. A UK launch event will happen sometime next year, I’m thinking of a launch and birthday party combo with Borscht and balloons. My little orphan will be getting a little brother or sister too. I am writing the sequel to this volume (Vampsov 1940), and I hope to have a polished draft sorted soon.
Finally, I will try not to think out loud when surrounded by chaps in lederhosen. Some of them are giving me funny looks, I tell you. Nothing to see here guys, just sippin ma beer and twiddlin me pretzel… Blimey, I must be the only person wearing proper trousers this side of Holland.
Yep, Hikuri, a Son Jarocho band I encountered on my travels back in the early 1990s are back! recording a whole new album in the US . Listen and be enthralled…
It’s been a long time coming, my debut novel. Finished my first draft in late 2009 and believed it was all fine and dandy. I even had it spellchecked! In my grubby mitts I held a copy of a Vampire novel set in the Soviet Union of the 1930s with Stalin in it and everything. What more could any editor want? Lots, as it happened. Early the next year I submitted three chapters to an editor at a conference in Loughborough. He panned it. Not the idea, mind, just the execution. Told me to change it around to his specification and come back to him the next year. Head bowed, a tear in my eye, I swallowed my pride and knuckled down.
After a year I asked about submitting, but the agent concerned seemed less than keen. So, back to the drawing board, I began submitting to small presses with my updated version. Again, no luck.
My last batch of rejections included a good one. Kate Jonez the guru of Omnium Gatherum Press in far off Los Angeles, sent me a letter telling me she rejected the manuscript as it stood. She liked the strong female character at the centre of the novel, but the manuscript needed another thorough revision. Again, I went away and did as I was told. This time (it was getting on for 2011 by now) success. Kate gave me the OK to send the full manuscript and in time, gave me a contract to sign. Success!
Well, sort of. Another rewrite was necessary. Again, I did it. By now 2012 had danced its way across the world until the beast had finally been tamed. Only minor corrections and proofreading remained. The beast of Vampsov had been conquered.
And so here it is, five years later, a lean, mean 80,000 word book with my name on it. Prould of the little fella, as it happens. Like all five year-olds its bursting with energy, ideas, imagination and thought-provoking questions –but it doesn’t start having tantrums in the supermarket when you don’t buy it sweets. I think you should own one. I’ll sign it for you too, if you like. You can buy them at Amazon or the good folks at Omnium Gatherum. Available to you from June 7th 2013.
Writing is a funny old pastime when you think about it. It is at once the most solitary of pursuits while at the same time it throws people together into weird looking clusters; like those new-fangled breakfast cereals where grains and nuts are glooped together with honey (supposedly honey, corn syrup more like). And so my own story goes. The sticky substance of collaboration stretched sweet tendrils and drew me fast, into a world I had no inkling of before. And there, in the milky morning bowl of writerliness, I found some kindred souls (and overstretched a simile).
Faction Paradox (FP) is a fictional universe (multiverse, is perhaps more accurate) created by Lawrence Miles. It is based on the worlds created in the BBC TV series Dr Who, particularly the struggles and wars fought by Timelords and other dastardly shenanigans throughout history. FP stories are wide-ranging and varied. Time-travel can take you anywhere, after all. There is a defined nucleus to all the stories, the city of London and the mythical 11 Day Empire which is home to the time-travellers. There’s a lot more too it, of course, which you can read about here, if you want.
And so Jay Eales, Obverse Books’ editor of the story collection Burning With Optimism’s Flames asked me to contribute. Jay and I are both long-term members of The Speculators writers group and had invited me (and fellow ‘Speccie’ Jim Worrad) to contribute stories. For me it was an honour, a chance to collaborate with Jay and contribute to my first ever short story anthology. I’m so glad I did.
Burning With Optimism’s Flames is an excellent read. All the stories are good, although, of course I have my personal favourites. Stephen Marley’s ‘All the Fun of the Fear’ set in an Ealing comedy version of 1950s London made me chuckle and had a great little plot in there, driving the story. Cate Gardner’s Elizabethan tale of doom and ravens is another highlight. Alan Taylor’s story is also dark and weird and its description of the banalities of office life struck a chord too. Philip Purser Hallard’s story bubbled with ideas esoteric and doctrinal and reminded me of Philip K Dick’s last book, ‘The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Helen Angrove’s epistolary into the travails of an anti-Darwinist explorer. A mention too to Jim Worrad whose dazzling prose made an alien world come alive (It also reveals his background as a classicist, methinks). But as I say, those are the ones that I liked best at the first few readings. I shall, however, keep a lookout for further works by all these authors and am now hooked by the Faction and its devilish paradoxes. Cheers, Jay!
A special mention has to be made of the fantastic cover illustration made by Paul McCaffrey, especially as my wee story ended up being featured in the largest Russian Doll!
I’ve been away for how long???
Oohh, uuhh… whassertime? Oh my God, I’ve been asleep for ages! I’ve neglected the old Floppybootstomp tower. Just look at the place. Ugh! The cobwebs, the rubbish, the stench of rat urine.. what a huge bloody mess!
And yeah, big mea culpas are called for. I got complacent after my 50 000th hit and 100th post, thought I could rest on my laurels and my big fat behind. But I’ve just woken from my dream and am ready to face the omnishambles that has become of this blog/bomb site. More posts are coming, my poor, benighted remaining readers. Posts on Faction Paradox to enthrall the Whovians, news fresh from the press, more stuff on comics.
Yeah, but before that is the washing up, the laundry, got to find out what day the binmen are coming and all. See you anon, my faithful readers, speak to you soon.
I borrowed the DVD of this obscure Science Fiction TV show from my esteemed colleague and editor, Jay Eales a few weeks ago. So far, I have managed to hold on to it and see all seven episodes twice. I’ll have to return it soon, I suppose, but it will be a wrench to see it go. You see I remember watching the original series when first transmitted and for some reason, never forgot it. This fact is surprising to me. I have a memory like a sieve and Kinvig was only broadcast once in 1981. To date the series has never been repeated on any TV channel. Not ever.
An aura of failure has clung to the series. The programme itself comes from one of SF’s greatest TV writers. Nigel Kneale had already written Quatermass, The Road, the first version of Orwell’s 1984 and the play ‘Year of the Sex Olympics’. Kinvig is Kneale’s first sitcom and perhaps too full of ideas and lacking in a special effects budget to look anything but ridiculous. Perhaps that’s why it failed to get a second series. The TV station that commissioned it, LWT also churned out the execrable Metal Mickey which earned a place in British hearts just like you’d expect a cute robot with a catch-phrase to do. No taste or patience, these TV chaps.
Kinvig deals with the typical British TV staple, the abject failure. Des Kinvig (Tony Hagarth) has inherited a run-down electrical repair shop he runs with his wife Netta (Patsy Rolands). Des’s best friend Jim Piper (Colin Jeavons) is a UFO fanatic and collector of conspiracy theories. One day as Des walks Netta’s dog Cuddly late one night, he spots a spaceship. Inside he discovers that one of his most difficult customers, Miss Griffin (Prunella Gee) is in fact an agent from another planet. Miss Griffin gives Des the task of helping thwart an alien invasion of the Earth in a series of missions most of which involve plotting against the local borough council.
A strength (or perhaps a weakness in terms of a mainstream audience) is the ambiguity of the whole thing. One never knows whether Des is in fact mad or if the enigmatic Miss Griffin is really an alien agent. Jim and Des are pathetic characters with nothing going for them and are already prone to fantasize about alien abductions and government conspiracies. Des is also lazy, incompetent and his relationship with Miss Griffin is far from platonic.
Obviously a sitcom that deals with such unsympathetic leads (and possibly their erotic fantasies), will have a hard time in the world of commercial television – however well written it is. I, however, tip my hat to Mr Kneale and his cast. Kinvig is perhaps the best example (Dennis Potter notwithstanding) of magic realism in a TV comedy. Jim and Des have a world view that maybe skewed to believing in irrational or fantastical events, but this is a very human trait and it makes for a very human story. A bit like Billy Liar with space aliens. I loved it all those years ago (in 1981 I was starting to cram for my O-levels) and held it in my memory as an example of the thought-provoking Science Fiction I’ve always loved. The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy was also being broadcast at the time. No wonder I did so badly in my exams…
As milestones go, it’s pretty pointless, but hey, 100 blogposts on Floppybootstomp compress! No bad, eh? And I’m featured on the Phoenix Writers website this month as well. Happy days, you bank-scammed economic crisis-riddled people, happy days…
Hint: Don’t Write Genre
The 20-45 year old female narrator gripped the steering wheel and gazed out at the road ahead. The car ate up the black asphalt and road markings as she sped to her destination. It was a destination of some significance to her and the trip allowed her to meditate on her life. Soon a Crisis Generating Event (CGE) would unfold, we’d be told she’s married to an astronaut or a root vegetable would crash through the windscreen or something. But before that, you have to ladle on the back-story.
This formula; female driver on road trip getting all wistful followed by a CGE/confrontation, is the sort of stuff the judges liked last year. When I say formula, I don’t mean formula-formula like those awful genre stories – you know the ones I’m talking about; westerns, crime, scifi, horror, romance, chick-lit or vampires. No, I mean bona fide mimesis-enhanced formula that’s dead clever and reserved for proper literature. Oh, and have her glance at her mobile or waiting for a text message or something that gives the story a contemporary feel, you’ll lose brownie points if you don’t.
So anyway, your heroine is in a speeding car and something is about to happen. She glances in the rear view mirror or she changes gear. This allows a flashback. Because rear view mirrors mean looking back, shifting gears signal a change in perception. See? Clever stuff, this. So what bit of her past should your female character think about? Her best friend at school? The day she stubbed her toe while making a sandwich? That awkward moment at John Lewis’s, wondering which set of coasters to buy her mum for her birthday? Nope, it’s the man in her life, that’s what she thinks about in her little flashback. That’s what the judges looked for.
And what a total wanker he is (was). What did our plucky protagonist ever see in him? OK, so at first she was wowed by his worldly charm (make sure he’s way older than her, of course), but then there is a cutaway to dialogue… she asks a heartfelt question, his answer is clipped and evasive. Uh-ho, trouble at t’ mill I’ll wager…
But don’t reveal all his terrible faults just yet, because it’s time for your CGE to happen. Put it in now. Crisis ensues, a turning point that mirrors her conflict with the man in her life. Feel free to mix and allude at will here, but make sure the ending gives no hint of resolution or (god forbid) a twist at the end or a punchline.( i.e. The narrator looked sniffily as the heat of the bonfire warmed her face. The journey had come to an end in one sense, but in another it hadn’t at all. Wednesday’s washing wouldn’t be ready until Thursday, she thought. The End).
And there you have it, a guaranteed winner. Of course the judges might decide to change the formula they want without telling you. Those bastards often do. Maybe the vogue will be for a middle class businessman who loses everything when he suddenly realizes he’s been dead for years (metaphorically as well as physically), another year it will be a harassed junior school teacher musing about a Pupil With Problems and comparing their own issues (see ‘man in her life’ above) to the hints and allusions to child abuse hanging over the poor ickle PWP.
So you never know what the judges will chose to favour next. It won’t be genre, that’s for sure, but whatever it is it will be dead clever, proper literature and it will signal a rebirth of the short story form as serious fucking shit. Or not.
Good luck with all your entries.