Tuesday 27 January 2015

Interview with Mike Shevdon

(Photograph by Mark Lewis Photography)

Mike Shevdon is a writer of modern fantasy fiction, melding history, fantasy and imagination into tales for the 21st Century. Blending English folk tales into the world of mobile phones and CCTV, he has caught the imagination of readers worldwide since 2009. Mike's series, The Courts of the Feyre, follows Niall Petersen as he discovers a world of magic, danger and wonder hidden in plain sight.

You can find Mike on the Net here: 

Twitter: @Shevdon

Available now worldwide from all good bookstores:
-  Sixty One Nails
-  The Road to Bedlam
-  Strangeness and Charm
-  The Eighth Court

Friday 23 January 2015

Launching the Ship

On February 19th, at 6pm at Foyles Cabot Circus, Bristol, Bristol Festival of Literature is proud to bring Antonia Honeywell to Bristol to launch her stunning debut novel - The Ship

Antonia Honeywell's "mind-blowing" debut novel will be released by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in February 2015. The Ship is described as "rites-of-passage novel, a love story and a high-concept thriller", telling the story of a world in collapse, where a wealthy man buys a huge ship to transport a handpicked group of 500 – including his 16-year-old daughter - to a safe destiny. However daughter Lalla begins to question and then challenge her tyrannical father as the ship approaches its destination. 

Antonia Honeywell is a graduate of the Curtis Brown novel writing course 2011 and Bristol Festival of Literature is proud to bring Antonia to Bristol to launch the book at Foyles. Antonia will read a passage before being interviewed by Cheryl Morgan, a Hugo award-winning British science fiction critic and owner of Wizard’s Tower Press. There will then be a signing.

The Ship

I am living on a ship of my father’s creation. I live with five hundred people whom my father has chosen. We have everything we could ever need – endless freezers full of food, access to music, art, films. Games, craft materials, time to learn, to share, to try. Everything is clean, everyone has work and a purpose. We have an infirmary supplied with medicines and equipment and a doctor who knows how to use them (although he couldn’t save my mother).
My father has banished time. He has abolished the days of the week. There are no longer any dates – as he says, we no longer need them. Everyone is so grateful for what we have and so afraid of what we left behind that there is no need for my father to enforce his one rule – that we do not look back. Who wants to remember starvation, homelessness, disease? Governments killing their own people? The petrolheads on the street, the bodies of the dispossessed?
But I remember London. I remember our walls dancing orange when the street dwellers lit oildrums in the square. I remember the foul smells of the outside, the hunger and the fear, my mother and I leaving food for the people hiding in the British Museum, where she taught me. I have made friends; I think I might have fallen in love. But Patience in the laundry, Helen in the school, Gerhardt in the kitchen, even Tom, can’t stop me wondering whether I will ever see a fresh egg, or eat an apple. Or why are there twelve cots and a wedding dress in the stores, or why the sun now rises and set on the same side of the ship.
My mother is dead and there is no one I can ask. Everyone else was chosen, and they are too grateful to ask questions. But I am my father’s daughter. He did not choose me. Everything I know, I learned at the British Museum. And now I must decide what I am to do next.
“mind-blowing….a dystopian novel with a utopian heart that will appeal across genres and age-ranges”
Arzu Tahsin, Weidenfeld & Nicolson deputy publishing director.
Click here for link to Bookseller press release, and click here for an interview with Antonia.
Join the Bristol Festival of Literature Facebook Event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1534875333434985/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
Or RSVP to bristolevents@foyles.co.uk to let us know you are coming

Guest post from David Nielson

Today I have another guest writer from the Refossiling Anthology. David has dropped by to talk about humour in Horror (or because he's from across the pond - humor)

David is a classically-trained actor/storyteller based in Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, NY. He performs for audiences of all ages, from Pre-K to adult. So whether you’re interested in madness-inducing one-man show “H.P. Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu,” historically-accurate and highly-entertaining presentation of “British Major John Andre Saves the American Revolution,” or hiring his services for a one-of-a-kind birthday party or anything else, head on over to https://neilsenparty.wordpress.com/.

Weirder shadows over Innsmouth

The lovely folk at Titan have given Bristol Book Blog two copies of their new Lovecraftian anthology to give away.Please mail BRSBKBLOG at GMAIL dot COM with a, no more than 50 words, mail with the Subject Line - "I need a copy of Weirder shadows over Innsmouth" and telling us in the body of the mail why you need a copy. The two most entertaining entries will win a copy of the book (if you make us laugh or scream in terror whilst simultaneously losing our minds, that will automatically put you on the shortlist).

Respected horror anthologist Stephen Jones edits this collection of 17 stories inspired by the 20th century’s master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” in which a young man goes to an isolated, desolate fishing village in Massachusetts, and finds that the entire village has interbred with strange creatures that live beneath the sea, and worship ancient gods.


Wednesday 21 January 2015

The Refossiling & A guest post by Ken Goldman

The Refossiling (including my story - "The body in the lake" is due out soon. We've seen the proofs and are awaiting a test copy back from the printer.

Here's the lovely cover

There's a whole bunch of talented folk involved (and me) and one of them, Ken Goldman, has dropped by to introduce himself.

Monday 19 January 2015

The accidental adventures of Sherlock Holmes


When Sherlock Holmes unknowingly murders his own client, the game is on to track down the criminal mastermind who did it - Holmes himself!

Join the world-famous detective as he unravels the strangest case of his career with Tobacco Tea Theatre Company

It's a crying shame that this is only on for 2 nights at the Bierkeller Theatre (but there's tickets for tonight so get yourself down there) because it really is rather good.

As a veteran of the Edinburgh Fringe I've been to see a play or two over the years and know from bitter experience that plays are of variable quality. 

However when they work, when actors, script and direction find that magical alchemy, they are an almost unparalleled entertainment.

Happily Christopher Cutting (Writer/Director) has produced such alchemy. It is a comic, and knowing, exploration of the Sherlock Holmes ouvre and the laughs kept building over the 50 minute running time. No flab in this script and a slew of great one liners, some causing very deep guffaws in the audience.

I was also impressed by the intelligence of the script as well as it's comedic value, a musing on writing and a sly meta-wink at detective fiction, plays and Holmes himself made for a very satisfying experience.

Holmes was ably played by Jasmine Atkins-Smart whose pockets always seemed to have just one more pipe. 
Watson, who also acted as the narrator was played by Thomas David Parker with muttonchops, mousetache and a fine comedic performance. Joshua Phillips shone as Moriarty as well as a memorable Mrs Hudson on drugs.

If you get the chance to go then please do, you won't be disappointed.

Friday 16 January 2015

Guest post from Sarah Ash

Today's guest post comes from fantasy author Sarah Ash

Sarah Ash read music at New Hall, Cambridge for four years, studying with Robin Holloway and John Rutter for her finals. Her interests in music and drama led her into teaching where she has been lucky to work with many dynamic and talented young people.
Although she had co-written several musicals for young performers, she decided in 1991 to concentrate her creative energies on her other passion: writing. Having been shortlisted in the final ten of the Guardian Children’s Fiction award for a – still unpublished – fantasy The Mabinogion Mice, her breakthrough came in 1992 with the publication in Interzone of the short story ‘Moth Music’. 

You can find Sarah on the web here: http://www.sarah-ash.com/

Sarah has popped into the Bristol Book Blog to talk about Historical Fantasy.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Short reviews from 2015 reading so far

Andre the giant by Box Brown

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box…


Andre the giant was a wrestler and Fezzig in The Princess Bride and this is Box Brown’s biography. Although it does have Andre’s life sequentially (light on anything pre-wrestling) it felt very episodic and didn’t really have any binding narrative. I was left at the end knowing very little more than I already knew from being semi-aware of him as a wrestler and actor in a film I quite like.

Overall – Just the facts, nothing to bring it all alive

Black Paths by David B

Black Paths by David B.


At the end of the first world war a ‘pirate’ named Gabriele D’Annunzio captures the port of Fiume and declares it an free republic with him as head of state. Meanwhile some former Italian soldiers perform a heist of the spoils that Sicilians have previously stolen, including artwork and a beautiful French singer, with whom one of the soldiers falls madly in love. The art and story capture the mood of the time and is full of revolutionary fervour but a little difficult to follow at times. It’s a little muddled and more concerned with painting a big picture than telling a story but the art is, as usual for David B, well executed, if a little busy at times.

Overall – Nice satire with great art 

Understanding comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by…


McCloud’s now classic exploration of the art of comics in a comic medium. It explores a definition of cimics (a little more than sequential art but not too much more), the history of comics which takes in things like the Bayeux tapestry, art, iconography, pictures, words, gutters, colour, time and well everything there is to understanding comics. This is a tour de force and pretty much required reading for comics aficionados. I learned a great deal and as the blurb on the back says I’ll “never look at comics the same way again.” I highly recommend this to those of you who read GN and those who want to but don’t know where to start and, well everyone else too. I’ll be re-reading this a number of times I expect, to absorb all the different lessons within.

Overall – Required reading for anyone interested in comics. 

Red Handed by Matt Kindt

Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes…


A series of bizarre whodunnits, all investigated by the brilliant Detective Gould who singlehandedly brings the unresolved cases way down. The crimes are all odd, a woman steals chairs, an art thief cuts his haul into little pieces to sell, a woman steals street signs to put them on a warehouse wall to create a new novel etc. Gould eventually finds that al the crimes are related. The art and words are well executed but in the end it failed to move me, it wasn’t as clever as it thought it was and the resolution seemed a bit implausible.

Overall – Competent but not compelling

Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler

Discovering Scarfolk


Scarfolk is a small town in Northern England that is stuck in 1979. The author was sent a package, herein called the archive, by one who escaped its clutches, but not without being changed. Richard Littler has been producing a cult blog for some time - http://scarfolk.blogspot.co.uk/ and this book explores the town of Scarfolk, its residents and bizarre religious practices via the archive. Full of period pictures and a creeping sense of doom arising from office equipment, and some very dubious puns. This is a delightful read that kept me entertained for a period of time where I would otherwise have been suffering the side effects of not taking my lobotomymed. 

"Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay."

Take a look at the blog link, that’ll give you a good idea of what the book is like.

Overall – For more information please reread this review

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Some short reviews of November & December reading

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh


Henry Marsh is one of Britain’s top neurosurgeons and in this memoir he reflects upon his career, on the highs and lows. Especially the lows. This is a fascinating insight into what can go wrong with the brain, that require surgery. The heart breaking decisions surgeons need to make. The state of British and Ukrainian medicine (Marsh travels a lot to Ukraine) and what top surgeons think of the NHS (it’d be great if governments stopped interfering on ideological grounds). Marsh’s prose is matter of fact and unflinchingly honest, regrets are laid bare and he admits to mistakes that “ruin” people or even kill them. This has been put forward for a Costa prize and I’m not surprised. A gripping read throughout.

Overall - If you’re the sort of person who is interested in the workings of biology, medicine or a fan of medical drama this is the book for you.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes


Combining crime and urban fantasy Beukes writes a novel I enjoyed but it was just a little off the mark to gain a Brilliant rating. A mutilated body of the top half of a boy glued to the bottom half of a deer starts a hunt for a new serial killer on the block in Detroit. Beukes does a great job of creating the cop investigating, Gabi Versado, and her daughter, who becomes integral, and the killer. Detroit’s art scene is vividly brought to life and the plot bubbled away nicely. Beukes was spot on with social media in the novel, which was very refreshing, so many modern novels try to ignore mobile phones, the internet and social media, but Beukes interweaves it beautifully. So what was off the mark? The supernatural element, it just felt superfluous, a garnish rather than an integral ingredient. Still that is a relatively minor niggle and I do recommend this book. I am also slightly disappointed that Beukes has started writing books set exclusively in America, I liked that her first two were set in her native South Africa.

Overall – Crime? Horror? urban fantasy? Doesn’t matter what genre you put it in, give it a go

Travels in a thin country by Sara Wheeler

Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through…

Sara, as a young woman, travels to Chile and determines to travel from the very top to the very bottom (in Antartica) and write about her experiences. Whilst this does explore the country it does so in very brief snapshots in each place and there is no overall narrative to bind it together. I read it on holiday, naturally, and can remember very little of it now, a matter of a few weeks later.

Overall -  Not very evocative.

Distant Star by Roberto Bolano

Distant Star by Roberto Bolano


Novella about poets during the Pinochet era. Bolano obviously took sly digs at actual poets and the overall tone is interesting but in a novella it’s a very odd choice to abandon the plot half way through for an extensive aside. I didn’t really enjoy this one, it failed to grip me and the last third fails at being hard boiled. This is my second Bolano and the second I’ve not really “got”. It came recommended and now I’m wondering if Bolano is for me – perhaps I’m just not trying him at his best?

Overall - This struck me as a pretentious book.

Navidad & Matanza by Carlos Labbe

Navidad & Matanza by Carlos Labbé


The narrator(s), quite unreliable, is participating in a writing experiment/game with six other particpants, all named after days of the week. Each writes part of the story that the others must complete, if one fails they disappear, an obvious allusion to the disappearances during the Pinochet era. Our narrator is obsessed with a family whose the son and daughter disappear in Navidad near the twin village of Matanza. This is a short but chewy novel/novella which twists and turns through a complex structure and plot. I was left a little mystified at the end, obviously missing some of its allusions and Chileanisms. It is a very interesting, but confusing, read.

Overall – Not an easy book, but worthwhile reading

Ways of going home by Alejandro Zambra

Ways of Going Home: A Novel by Alejandro…


Our narrator reflects on his childhood growing up in 1980’s Chile as his parents and their friends try to cope with Pinochet’s regime. On the night of the Santiago earthquake, a mysterious girl, called Claudia, appears and his life is changed forever. This is another Chilean novella about the Pinochet era that I read whilst travelling in Chile and the one that I remember best. It’s a story about finding our way home (as per the title) both physically and emotionally and obviously an allusion of how the country can return ‘home’ after the dictatorship.

Overall – Small book, big themes, interesting reading, recommended.

Pablo Neruda by Dominic Moran

Pablo Neruda (Reaktion Books - Critical…


A biography of that quintessential Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Nobel prize winner, diplomat, philanderer. Moran’s biography concentrates on what the poetry says about the man going back and forth between the works and what was happening in the world, in Chile and in Neruda’s life. A controversial figure, unable to criticise Stalinist Russia because of his deeply held belief in Communism. Fleeing from Franco’s Spain, but then spending great effort to get others out once he was safe. Horrible to his wives, the third of whom was utterly devoted to him. Neruda’s character is complex and fascinating. Moran also gives us an oversight of some of the more famous poems and poetry collections. It was very interesting to tour Neruda’s hoses in Santiago and Valparaiso after reading this book.

Overall – A riveting, if not very flattering, portrait of a complex character, one you cannot help but dislike.

On Liberty by Shami Chakrabarti

On Liberty by Shami Chakrabarti


Shami Chakrabati gave up a promising career working as a lawyer for the home office to join Liberty, a cash-strapped charity fighting on behalf of the oppressed for human rights. Here she tells her story and why liberty (the concept) and Liberty (the organisation) are important. Human Rights in this country (the UK) have come under attack lately as people leap on board the UKIP bandwagon with its mistaken belief that some people do not deserve any rights, and that rights have been assigned and enforced incorrectly by faceless bureaucrats in Europe. What they don’t admit to is that Human Rights were enshrined in law after the holocaust, written mostly by British lawyers. Chakrabarti lays out the facts about the act, quotes it extensively, debunks the counter-factual claims of the Right (including our delusional Conservative party, as well as the nutters in UKIP) and explains with patience, passion and intelligence why human rights are important.

Overall – People either side of the human rights debate should read this book.

Why are we the good guys? by David Cromwell

Why Are We The Good Guys?: Reclaiming Your… 

David Cromwell of Media Lens - http://www.medialens.org/ challenges the assumption that the West is a force for good. To quote the back - <i> One of the unspoken assumptions of the Western world is that we are great defenders of human rights,  a free press and the benefits of market economics. … the prevailing view is that the West is essentially a force for good in the wider world. Why Are We The Good Guys? is a provocative challenge of this false ideology.</i>

Interweaved with Cromwell’s incisive analysis of the modern media is a memoir of how he came to be an iconoclast, growing up in one of the very few communist families in his home town. I like iconoclasts, I like to have my assumptions and cosy opinions challenged, I think this is healthy, if you have an opinion, understanding why you have that opinion and being able to defend it is a useful skill. Cromwell makes many good points but I feel goes too far the other way, we are neither universally good nor universally bad. Perhaps it is his debating technique – to take a diametrically opposite view – but some of what he said eroded his message.

Overall – Thought-provoking polemic  

Bad book club by Robin Ince

Robin Ince's Bad Book Club: One…


Robin Ince is a UK comedian that travels the country doing gigs, on his travels he visits second hand bookshops looking for reading material. Once bitten by the “this book is so bad it’s good” bug he goes on search for the hidden gems of bad celebrity biographies, awful animal horror stories (like [The crabs]) and romances with heaving bosoms, bizarre self-help books and many more. Ince is best when he rants about books written by newspaper columnists or celebrity culture and the chapter on sex has some very bizarre material. However it’s not a book to read all in one go, as the humour wears a little thin by the end. I also felt it was perhaps a little too long, but maybe it was just that the novelty wore off a few chapters before the end. Saying that though Ince is obviously passionate about writing and I really enjoyed most of the book.

Overall – A celebration of bad writing and bad book ideas.

The best American non-required reading edited by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snickett)

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014…


Every year high school students through the auspices of 826 Valencia (and the other 826 locations USA wide) read and choose fiction and non-fiction to be included in an anthology. This was set up by [[Dave Eggers]] and this year, for the first time, edited by Daniel Handler. This should be a very mixed bag right? There are non-fiction pieces, fiction, even extracts from Graphic Novels. But I found it all to be very similar, and, dare I say, a bit bland. So much so that I couldn’t reach the end (I have about three stories left to write and two poems). I started by trying to read in one, went to reading in between other books and it’s now on the TGRO (To Get Rid Of pile).

Overall – What should be eclectic and interesting is somehow similar and bland

How not to write a novel by Sandra Newman

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic…


Turning the usual writing advice on its head, and providing plenty of examples of deliciously bad writing, the authors of this little help novel tell you how to write an unpublishable novel. How to write bad characters, bad plot, bad dialogue, bad settings, bad pacing, the works. This is entertaining and educational and I read it in a few hours.

Overall – Lots of fun writing guide

Sunbathing Naked by Guy Kennaway

Sunbathing Naked: And Other Miracle Cures -…


Guy Kennaway has psoriasis, and this is his skin’s memoir. Kennaway rushes through his biography up until he gets the dreaded red patches, then gives us a bit of context with a little bit of history of psoriasis, and the fact that “lepers” in the Bible should actually be Psoraitics, not sufferers of Hansard’s Disease as commonly assumed & provides the etymological evidence for this. There is a call back to this later as he discusses the Jesus cures a Leper parts of the Bible. He blends in the biographies of other sufferers (which he admits are conglomerates of people he’s met, rather than actual people) and an extended article about the wonders of sunbathing naked in the Dead Sea skin resort in Israel during one of its occasional wars with Palestine. Then, when he leaves Israel in remission, the book takes a bizarre turn as Kennaway becomes a sex addict, being free from the crippling self-hate he has when covered in psoriatic lesions. This bit of the book was both sensational and also a little coy – he discusses in detail his treatment in rehab, but says nothing about how this affected his family, who I assume he is still with as he thanks them in the acknowledgements. Apart from this odd bit though this is a good book to get an idea of what psoriasis (and other skin disease) sufferers go through on a daily basis, not only physically but mentally too.

Overall – Interesting memoir about a struggle with a disease that affects self-esteem

The brothers Cabal by Jonathan L Howard

The Brothers Cabal (Johannes Cabal Novels)…


Hmmm how to review this without spoilers of the previous novels? By not mentioning the plot (which is great btw and the bit where the wotsit and the thingy were introduced was amazing) but just by saying – it’s like the previous books, but better. Has some characters you’ll know, and some you won’t. Has acts of derring do and wicked plots and perfidious practices. And there are brothers, they are named Cabal and you may or may not have met them both in earlier books. There are monsters from beyond the sane angles of reality of course and dark gloomy castles, and it may not be giving too much away to state that there is a train, but not that train, and there may also be sarcasm and necromancy.

Overall - This really is a great series and if you haven’t spent time with Johannes Cabal then you should remedy that immediately.

2015 - looking forward

The following things will happen in 2015 -

The anthology North Bristol Writers have put together will be published - North by Southwest is with the publisher and things are happening. An ETA & ISBN etc will be provided soon.

My short story - "The body in the lake" will be published in Fossil Lake 2 - https://fossillake.wordpress.com/


I'll be submitting 1 story a month again & hopefully putting together an anthology of The Pact's writings from last year.

I'll be editing Far Horizons Magazine on a monthly basis http://info-far-horizons.wix.com/far-horizons-emag

I'll continue to review books for Urban Fantasy Magazine - http://urbanfantasymagazine.com/

I hope to hear about my anthology (nominally called) Thunder and Magpies which is out for consideration with a publisher.

I will be finalising and submitting my novel (nominally called) Seven Deadly Swords to agents and publishers.

I'll be editing an anthology called Former Heroes for Far Horizons publishing.

I'll be at Archipelacon - http://www.archipelacon.org/


And Nine Worlds - https://nineworlds.co.uk/

Image by Genki Gear

And, of course BristolCon - http://www.bristolcon.org/

BristolCon header image 1

And BristolCon Fringe - http://www.bristolcon.org/?page_id=2074

And Small Stories - https://www.facebook.com/SmallStoriesBristolBirdcage

Small Stories

I'll be helping out at this year's National Flash Fiction Day - http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/

As well as Bristol Festival of Literature - http://unputdownable.org/

I'll be continuing to go to the Mr B's Book Group - The Emporium Strikes Back - http://www.mrbsemporium.com/

As well as review 1 book a month (my 2015 resolution is to only do 12 ARCs this year so that I can do some non-professional reading too) here on Bristol Book Blog

I hope to appear on the program at a few events too.

Busy & enjoyable literary year ahead! I will, of course, share it with you here.

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