Thursday 27 February 2014

Todays guest post comes from Joanne Hall. You may remember her previous interview on this blog.

Joanne Hall

lives in Bristol, England, with her partner. She has  been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen, and gave up a sensible (boring) job in insurance to be a full time writer, to the despair of her mother. She dabbled in music journalism, and enjoys going to gigs and the cinema, and reading. Her first three novels, which made up the New Kingdom Trilogy, were published by Epress Online. Since then she has had to move house to make more room for books. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, including

Dark Spires and
Future Bristol

, as well as a number of magazines. A collection of short stories,

The Feline Queen, was published by Wolfsinger Publications in April 2011, and her latest novel,

The Art of Forgetting: Rider

, was published by Kristell Ink at the end of June this year. She is also one of the founders of Bristolcon, Bristol’s only Science Fiction convention. Her blog can be found at, and she’s always happy to hear from readers.
Over to Jo
In the light of recent discussions concerning the visibility (or lack of visibility) of women in speculative fiction, Pete has confessed that he doesn’t think he reads enough books by women. He asked me if I could come up with some recommendations.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Todays guest blog comes from Jim King who runs the Thoughts from the Darkness website here:

The pictures are of Bristol Central Library book hive, BCL are celebrating "bringing books to life"

Why do I read books?

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Johannes cabal: The Fear institute by Jonathan L Howard



You wish to isolate fear. Ah, well, if only I'd realised your ambitions were so simple. Perhaps we can work up to it by capturing faith, bottling hope, and presenting love to the world as a commodity, available by the pound, wrapped in greaseproof paper and topped with a bow.


Johannes Cabal, after his previous two outings, is at home where visitors are not only discouraged they are likely to be eaten by the things that live in the garden. It is with some surprise then that he greets the gentlemen from the Fear Institute who come to procure his services as a guide to the Dreamlands on their quest to capture the Phoebic Animus and dispel fear forever. With the promise of the Silver Key as payment Cabal agrees and the Fear Institute set off on a Victorian expedition into this most unusual of planes. Cabal is, of course, his usual brilliant self and this time round we are treated to a very clever plot that has lots of nods to Lovecraft, such as a sly nod to Ulthar.


Cats, as any rational person knows, are solitary, opportunistic, ambush predators, much like spiders, but with fewer legs and a better fan club.


Howard is very much having fun and invites us all along with him as the book capers around gleefully. This is a great series and I am hoping that the 4th book gets a UK deal as well as the already announced US one. If you enjoyed the first two it is a fair bet that you’ll enjoy this one. There is a lot of fun to be had if you’re well read in Lovecraft but I don’t think it’s necessary to be well read in Lovecraft to enjoy it.


Overall – Fun sequel in a highly recommended series.

Monday 24 February 2014

Discovering the diamond by Helen Hollick


This is a writing book pitched at indie authors (self or assisted publish) mainly about how to edit & market your book. It’s short and pithy and worth a read if you don’t know much about publishing. It also has plenty of examples on how to write using the author’s own work to underline the writing advice – showing bad and good writing side by side.

Overall – Solid advice in this short book, but nothing new (to me)

Just Add Writing by Meg Kingston


This is a great little book that you can slip into your pocket and take with you to dip into and keep dipping into. Especially if you invest in a set of dragon dice so you can use the randomisers in there. There is a quiz to see if you have what it takes to be a NanoWriMo author (or indeed an author) and plenty of fun tips. It is written in an informal and engaging style and although only took an hour to read is one that will take a while to sink in & I know I’ll be revisiting it again.

Overall – Great little book of writing advice, some interesting writing tasks, one to keep dipping into

Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason


We follow the story of an ex-pat jewel thief as he dresses as a werewolf to roam the rooftops of Paris and steal people’s jewels. He is in love with his lesbian neighbour and plays chess with a misogynist friend who gives him tips on how to stare at women’s T&A better. When the real werewolves of paris find out they target him. The ending is a bit odd. Being a Jason comic the art is strange with anthropomorphic animals but always seems to gel with the story.

Overall – a bit staccato with each page seeming to stand partly alone it is a bit too episodic to work well as a coherent narrative, and yet it is very enjoyable nonetheless

The Gigantic beard that was evil by Stephen Collins

Category – 6 GN


Dave has been bald all his life. Except for 1 hair. Dave likes to draw pictures of his street. Dave lives in a place called Here, with his back to the sea that separates Here from There. Everything is tidy in Here but when Dave grows a beard everything changes. This is an understated book but one with a core idea that will make you think. The panel layout is nicely done and the understated art is great.

Overall – This is a book with a big idea, presented simply and beautifully rendered in A4 printed on high quality paper with a reassuring heft. Recommended

Friday 21 February 2014

I've been talking to Anna Kashina about her latest book - Blades of the Old Empire


Anna Kashina grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She works as a biomedical researcher and combines her career in science with her passion for writing. Anna's interests in ballroom dancing, world mythologies and folklore feed her high-level interest in martial arts of the Majat warriors.


You can find out more about Anna and her books at the following links:




Thanks for supporting my new release. It is a pleasure to be here.


Tell us a little about the world of the book.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Airship Shape


Bristol Fashion

To celebrate the launch of Airship Shape & Bristol fashion Bristol Book Blog (BRSBKBLOG) will be running a First lines competition.

Each of the stories in the book are listed below with their first lines. Can you write a Steampunk story title and first line that would fit? Entries by email (detail below). What we're after is a great title and evocative first line only, no need to write the whole story. Word count is up to you but it should be 1 sentance. (not open to the contributors of the book)
First lines from the book -  

Case of the Vapours, by Ken Shinn


Brassworth, by Christine Morgan

It’s at times, don’t you know, when I’m aboard an airscrew driven factory, about to meet a captain of industry while pretending to be a peer of the realm, that even I have to stop and ask myself, “Reggie, old bean, how do you get into these predics?”

The Lesser Men Have No Language, by Deborah Walker

Visitors to Bristol’s green shaded streets may well be astonished at the city’s multitude of lesser


Brass and Bone, by Joanne Hall

The abyss yawned beneath her feet.

The Girl with Red Hair, by Myfanwy Rodman

In my dreams the city is dying.

Artifice Perdu, by Pete Sutton

Its hand lay upon the trembling bird.

Miss Butler and the Handlander Process, by John Hawkes-Reed

I was hiding inside my father’s test elephant when they came looking for me.

Something In The Water, by Cheryl Morgan

If you are reading these words then I will be dead.

The Chronicles of Montague and Dalton: The Hunt for Alleyway Agnes, by Scott Lewis

The Asiatic Cholera epidemic of 1866 swept through Bristol like the proverbial hot knife through butter.

The Sound of Gyroscopes, by Jonathan L. Howard

We have spoken of Blakes before, and it seems we shall speak of it again.

Flight of Daedalus, by Piotr Świetlik

In the beginning there was light.

The Traveller’s Apprentice, by Ian Millsted

The rusty digging tool hit something metallic.

Lord Craddock: Ascension, by Stephen Blake

Lord Byron Craddock was deemed mad by many, at least strange by most.

The Lanterns of Death Affair, by Andy Bigwood

The hangar doors opened, armoured slats pulling apart to reveal first a line of incandescent sunlight, and then the blue and white cloudscape of an English summer’s day.

The prize?

A hardback copy of Airship Shape & Bristol fashion signed by as many of the contributors as I can possibly track down (and/or come to the launch) AND a miniature of Sutton’s Writers Unblock

Tasting Notes -  What better way to enjoy your first trip to Cambridge, than to visit the first distillery in Cambridge?! As a whisky fan, it was no great surprise that Peter’s gin should be rich and complex with plenty of earthy, smoky character. At once spicy, floral and herbaceous, Sutton’s Writers Unblock is best enjoyed with only ice as an accompaniment.

The gradual dilution from slowly melting ice reveals more and more of the character of this gin, allowing time to enjoy the ever changing palate whilst contemplating the important matters in life, such as the correct placing of an apostrophe!

Mail with your entry before the 22nd March.

Winning entries will be chosen by an expert panel and announced at the Airship Ball
 and on the Blog on 29th March.
I've been chatting with David Edison about his new book The Waking engine:

The Waking Engine was released Feb 11, 2014 in the US—we don’t have a UK release date yet.

David Edison was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. In other lives, he has worked in many flavors of journalism and is editor of the LGBTQ video game news site He currently divides his time between New York City and San Francisco. You can find him on Twitter.
Read chapters one and two of The Waking Engine on



Tell us a little about the world of the Waking Engine & the City Unspoken


The Waking Engine is the first book in a quartet of books which center around the City Unspoken. If death had a capital city, this would be it: a city older than humanity, built and rebuilt like a palimpsest through the ages.


The worldthe metaverse—arose from my dissatisfaction with existing takes on the afterlife: I wanted a premise that would give mortals more time to learn how terribly messed-up we are.  'Way, way too long’ seemed a more promising definition of one’s existence than ‘way, way too short.’  That led me to dismantle deities and see what kind of flawed people might be hiding within, and by that point I had the makings of a book.


One of the strengths of the book is its complexity – did it take a long time to write & edit? What was the path to publication like?


It did indeed take a long time to edit - we went through two major edits after the sale, and one before.  I began tinkering with the ideas that would become the book around 2003, but shut them up in a drawer until 2008-2009, when I finally found myself in front of an agent, and she told me to finish the few chapters I had.  About 18 months later, I brought back a completed manuscript—my agent told me to cut 100 pages and change the ending, so I did.  Then my editor at Tor told me to do the same thing, so I did, again!  After the first edit at Tor, my editor, who is wonderful, said, “This is what a book normally looks like when we first buy it.”  I got the hint, and know what to shoot for this time around.


How would you describe its genre? If you agree with the New Weird label its getting can you expand on what you think makes a book New Weird?


I absolutely agree with the New Weird label, because labels help books reach their target audience, and most things that fall under New Weird already have a handicap in that regard. I dont put much stock in the New Weird concept myself, insofar as I dont think about it when Im writingmy attitude is, forget about genre while I write.  Someone will assign it a genre if they think it will sell.


We live in a world of elevator pitches: I dont begrudge an industry an umbrella term that catches the interstitial or cross-pollination of genres.  My concept of New Weird is that it must have elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and be otherwise immune to categorization.  I’m sure there are better definitions! 


You’re obviously a big fan of Walt Whitman (no spoilers), which writers would you say influenced you most whilst writing this book?


I really drank deeply from the well of writers I chose to inhabit for the epigraphs—I begin most chapters with a fictional quote from a deceased writer, sort of my chance to be an actor and a writer on the page at once.  What might Sylvia Plath have written, had her suicide failed the way it would have in this world?  All of them were inspirational and therapeutic.  When I couldn’t stand the sound of my own voices anymore, I’d go pretend to be Jack Kerouac for a bit.


British fantasist Storm Constantine is a huge, huge influence on me as a weird writer and a queer writer, both.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that her work was largely responsible for teaching me that I could write the weird, queer things I wanted to write.


If you could be a character from the book who would it be and why?


I spend a lot of my time acting just like Purity Kloo.  That’s my wish-fulfillment.  I remember Anne Rice talking about how Lestat was her alter-ego—well, Purity might be mine.


What are you working on right now? (apart from this interview of course!)


The next book!  I realized early on that this story would not fit into one volume, decided to make it a quartet rather than a trilogy for multiple reasons (mostly I’m bored of them and worry that the middle volume always seems to suffer), and threw myself at the task.  I’m about 60,000 words in and am just finding my stride.  I love my job.


What are you most proud of about the book?


Its mere existence.  I know it’s a cliche, but I suffered so much doubt about the viability of this story that to see readers and reviewers enjoying and responding to it—how much more can I want?  To have your work generate conversation, that’s the brass ring, as far as I’m concerned.  Also I pulled off those epigraphs. 


You are a graduate of Clarion West – how did you find that experience?


Truthfully, I did not even meet another speculative fiction writer until I had finished the novel.  I kept myself in seclusion, I was so afraid of losing my nerve.  When I finished, and realized that I had a lot more to learn, Clarion West was an absolute oasis: I met 19 soul mates and learned at the feet of giants like Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Ellen Datlow… I had to make peace with the fact that The Waking Engine would not benefit from my Clarion West education, which took some resolve, but now I’m more excited than ever to continue with the work.


Clarion West was six weeks at Hogwarts, Starfleet Academy… It was heaven.  Anyone even thinking about applying should do it.


Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it? What did you learn about writing whilst writing the book?


I am a critter of habit, so I have a routine, but it isn’t particularly special.  I wake up, write over coffee or tea, then go off and do other things, and then come back to writing in the evening and late at night.  I write most days, but when my brain needs to rest, I let it.  I always warn the men I date that my job is 60% daydreaming, and I’m protective of that.  You can’t sit down with the intent to daydream—you’ve got to create space in your life for daydreams to sprout on their own.  Or at least I do.  Room of one’s own kinda-sorta thing.


What I learned?  Oh, SO MUCH.  To stay humble, that perfection is an ever-receding horizon, to listen to criticism especially when it hurts, and to slaughter my darlings left and right.


In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?


KEEP WRITING.  I’ve yet to learn anything half so important as that.
Bristol Book Blog review -  
Seems I have some things to catch up on. I went to the Kitschies awards, saw Mike carey at Toppings and last night went to BristolCon Fringe.

Friday 14 February 2014

This week I've been chatting with author Meg Kingston who is launching a book about writing.
Meg is a self-publishing, profit-making author based in South Wales – just across the bridge from Bristol. Her latest book, Just Add Writing, is a pocket guide for new (and experienced) writers who want to take their writing to the next level. Her previous book was Chrystal Heart, a Steampunk novel; the one before that was The MonSter and the Rainbow: Memoir of a Disability.
So naturally I asked her what her top ten tips for new writers were.

Over to Meg

Monday 10 February 2014

I grabbed a pre-release copy of Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson and had a chat with him about it. My review follows the interview. The book is now available.

Friday 7 February 2014

Todays Guest post has been provided by Gaie Sebold. I thoughly recommend her rip roaring rollicking (run out of r's for any more alliteration but rest assured they're really good) Babylon Steel books, seek em out and give them a damn good reading.

Over to Gaie -

Thursday 6 February 2014

Bristol Bad Film Club

Having thoroughly enjoyed attending Bristol Bad Film Club I asked the guys a few questions. Why films when this is a book blog? Well as well as books I'm a keen film fan and occasionally do rant and/or froth on here about film ( you may remember this rant from May last year - Anyway without further ado here are Ti & Tim to tell you all about Bristol Bad Film Club:

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