Wednesday 30 March 2016

Fight like a girl review & The discoverability challenge

Fight Like A Girl by Joanne Hall

I received this book in return for an honest review. Happy to say I really enjoyed it.

Grimbold Books  have called some of the best female genre writers together under a fantastic cover to tell tales of what it actually means to 'fight like a girl'. Of course that has been thrown as an insult by boys of all ages but what would it actually mean?

There are stories here that run a gamut of second worlds, near and far futures. There is a collection of superb female characters, often making tough choices. This is a rich and varied anthology.

As with all anthologies the variety may mean that not all stories hit the right note for all readers but there are no real duffers in here. With stories by the likes of Juliette McKenna, Gaie Sebold, Julia Knight, Lou Morgan and Joanne Hall (amongst other names you may recognise) you know there will be a quality selection.

There are women who are hard as nails, women who have tough choices and women who fight because life has left them no other option.

I was especially taken by Danie Ware's near future apocalyptic story, Unnatural History, in which the setting stood out, it would have slotted quite well into a collection of weird fiction, a particular favourite genre. Gaie Sebold's Fire and Ash takes control of your emotions in a fitting end to the collection. And those tough choices are rarely tougher than in Joanne Hall's Arrested Development

Also worthy of note were Turn of A Wheel by Fran Terminiello and Vocho's Night Out by Julia Knight -  neither author I've read before and both I'd like to read more from.

And that brings me to the discoverability challenge. As with the NewCon Press collections I reviewed in January this is a great addition to the shelves as it has a number of female writers new to me, ones I'd like to read more from.

Overall -  If you're a genre reader you need this book on your bookshelf

In February my discoverability challenge book was - All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, but I didn't get on with that one. Too disjointed, not knowing what it wanted to be (is it YA or adult, SF or fantasy, a love story or an apocalyptic tale?)

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Cover Reveal - A Tiding of Magpies

Very happy to be able to reveal the cover to the forthcoming short story collection A Tiding of Magpies

Also very proud to announce that Paul Cornell will be writing the Foreword. Paul is the author of the rather fabulous Shadow Police series, as well as numerous other books and comics and I'm very honoured that he has agreed to write this for the book.

I like the very clean look of the book and its striking black and white design. The next announcement will be of the pre-order and launch dates I expect and I'll be working on the launch.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Guest Blog from A.A. Abbott

AA Abbott is a crime thriller writer, author of The Bride’s Trail and other “racy and pacy” fiction. Read a fuller account of her jury service at

You can follow AA Abbott on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or sign up for newsletters to receive a free ebook!

Have you ever wondered what Jury service is really like? Well A. A. Abbott is here to tell you all about it

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Guest Post from Brian Staveley

After teaching literature, philosophy, history, and religion for more than a decade, Brian began writing epic fantasy. His first book, The Emperor’s Blades, the start of his series, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, the Reddit Stabby for best debut, and scored semi-finalist spots in the Goodreads Choice Awards in two categories: epic fantasy and debut. The second book in the trilogy, The Providence of Fire, was also a Goodreads Choice semi-finalist. The concluding volume of the trilogy, The Last Mortal Bond, is available for from TOR UK on 24 March.

Brian lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order. He can be found on Twitter at @brianstaveley, Facebook as brianstaveley, and Google+ as Brian Staveley. His blog, On the Writing of Epic Fantasy, can be found at:

Brian dropped by to talk about reading:

Monday 14 March 2016

Interview with Clifford Beale

Clifford Beal's profile photo

Clifford Beal is a former international journalist and the author of Gideon’s Angel  and The Raven’s Banquet by Solaris Books. Following a swashbuckling past where he trained in 16th -17th century rapier combat, he now leads a more sedentary life but daydreams of returning to fighting trim. When not imbibing endless mugs of tea and writing, he can usually be found imbibing endless mugs of tea and reading. Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, he lives in Surrey, England with a fiery redhead of a wife and a crazed Boston terrier named Buzz.

Clifford stopped by to talk about his latest book - The Guns of Ivrea

The Guns of Ivrea (Tales of Valdur) by…

Tell us a bit about the book - what was its genesis and how long did it take to write?

CB:  I’d been casting around for a while trying to come up with an idea for an epic fantasy after taking a break from historical fiction. I came across this 19th century ceramic plate, faux renaissance, that had a scene with a large carrack surrounded by sea monsters and mermen riding dolphins. How would humankind and merfolk interact? It gave me the kernel of an idea for a secondary world similar to our own 15th century Mediterranean world but populated by exotic and mythological creatures including merfolk. The plot follows several character arcs: a pirate princeling who’s inherited his fleet and who has jealous enemies lurking; a young monk who’s not terribly dedicated but blunders into an underground discovery that will rock the religion of the kingdom to its foundations; and a Mer princess who is more than curious about the affairs of men and determined to reintegrate her people into Valdur from self-imposed exile. The book took form rather intuitively and took me about 10 months to write.

This is your first secondary world novel, what did you find good and bad about that?

CB:  It hits you very early on, say compared with writing historical fiction, that now you have to make up virtually everything. And when you start world-building, questions beg more questions. It was challenging. Equally, it sets you free from the confines of a known timeline and that gives you ultimate freedom.

Why mermen?

CB: Merfolk were a great artistic theme of the middle ages and renaissance, used in verse and painting and decoration. In keeping with my idea to write an epic fantasy that might resonate with our own renaissance period, I felt that merfolk would be a great race to introduce into the plot. Differences in physicality, culture, language, emotions really give scope for dramatic interactions with human characters.

gideons-angel-mockup-2a (1)

Do you sail? Did you do a lot of research?

CB: I have sailed but would hardly call myself a sailor. But I did research into sailing vessels of the 15th and 16th centuries to get a sense of how the vessels of the era handled. I also had devoured all the Patrick O’Brian Captain Aubrey books over the past decade so that helped too as well as the research I did on my first book, Quelch’s Gold. Apart from nautical research, my many years of medieval sword-fighting in full armour helped tremendously for getting some accurate feel injected into the fight scenes and battles.

Which character in the book do you most identify with and why?

CB:  I’d say it is Captain Julianus Strykar, a mercenary officer of the Company of the Black Rose. Middle-aged, a bit world-weary and definitely very jaded but ultimately, with his heart in the right place. He was probably the easiest character to write for me because he’s closer to my own age and because I’ve slung a sword (albeit non-lethal).

Considering that they were probably very bad in real life, what's the enduring appeal of pirates as characters?

CB: Pirates have no doubt been romanticized in the last 100 years. They’ve become an archetype that symbolizes freedom from authority, notions of  the equality for all (including gender and race), and an adventurous spirit. But many were outright killers particularly when the English crown began to adopt a shoot-on-sight policy towards piracy. In Valdur, pirates and corsairs are fairly amoral—like most of its denizens. My main character, Nicolo Danamis, is actually a pirate lord turned king’s man who’s providing the muscle of the royal fleet.

Raven's Banquet

Tell us about the worldbuilding - how did you tackle it? Did you draw a big map and fill it in like an encyclopedia?

CB: Most authors have their own philosophy about “world-building”. I sort of follow Mike Moorcock’s creed on that when he once said, “I don’t need to know the GDP of Melnibone”. That could be apocryphal but it resonates with my own attitudes. I try to let my characters define their world rather than building it first and having them populate it. Some secondary world fantasies get bogged down in such detail that it detracts from the plot and dramatic impetus. I just set a few parameters: that it’s a vast island, subtropical climate, late medieval/renaissance technology and let it develop from there. Actually, geographically speaking, Valdur is a larger version of Madeira!

Jonathan Oliver (editor in chief at Solaris) says that it has some of the most thrilling battle scenes in fantasy - how do you approach writing a battle scene - do you sketch it out first?

CB: Well, I’m overwhelmed by Jon’s compliment. I can say that I think the key to a good battle scene is keeping it tightly focussed. Not a panoramic birds-eye view (which can be detached and emotionless) but instead the viewpoint from the combatants themselves. It can shift around from one to another but the key to imagining a medieval battle is the sheer chaos and lack of awareness beyond one’s own line of sight. That’s best conveyed through a character’s eyes. I do sometimes map out the flow of a battle I’ve conceived to make sure it’s consistent but never in any detail until I actually set out to write the scene.

Which bit of the book are you most proud of?

CB:  I have to say I have a real fondness for writing villains. It’s just such fun. And my Lucinda della Rovera is one tough lady. There are one or two other nasties in the book but she’s my favourite: cool, calm, and deadly.

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

CB: Don’t write what you think will sell, write what you want to write.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Interview with Lee Murray from The Refuge Collection

You can check out the Refuge Collection here:


Multiple Sir Julius Vogel Award winning author of novels such as A Dash of Reality (romantic comedy)Battle of the Birds (children’s novel) and the young adult novel, Misplaced. Lee lives with her husband and two teenaged children near the ocean in New Zealand.

I asked Lee some questions about the Refuge Collection and her story in the collection:

Tuesday 8 March 2016

The discoverability challenge February

Today is International Women's day so it seems appropriate to update the discoverability challenge.

The woman writer new to me in February was Sarah Stodola who wrote Process. I also read a bunch of new women writers in The best of Apex.

My review of Process is here

And of Best of Apex is here

In march I aim to read All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane…

and The Race by Nina Allan

The Race by Nina Allan

Review - The sign in the Moonlight by David Tallerman

The Sign in the Moonlight: And Other Stories…

I received this book in return for a review.

David Tallerman's short fiction is commonly seen in all the best genre magazines and anthologies, which tells you that it is well-crafted. This collection showcases a short story writer of uncommon skill.

In here you'll find stories that brush the unknown with fingers outstretched, that send shivers down the spine, that paint with a palette of darkness. Tallerman is obviously influenced by past writers of the macabre in some of these tales but the range is much broader than that. Be he writing in the style of Victorian ghost tale, pulp era horror or modern his voice comes through.

Tales of mountain explorers, barrow dwellers, Santa Things, freezing deserts, soulful scarecrows and, of course, ghosts fill these pages and you'd be hard pressed to find an off note in the symphony of shadows. It is possible to find favourites though. I was especially taken with The facts in the case of Algernon Whisper's Karma a very clever tale of reincarnation. Also The war of the rats, written especially for this volume, was an utterly compelling tale of World War 1. Another favourite was the charmingly disturbing tale of My friend Fishfingerby Daisy, Aged 7.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this work to fans of Lovecraft, MR James, Algernon Blackwood et al as Tallerman can take his place amongst those, and other, master craftsmen of the dark tale.

Monday 7 March 2016

The Refuge Collection

What is the Refuge Collection? It's a collaboratively created world, six volumes of stories by established and up and coming writers.

You can read all about it at the website here

Heaven to some, hell to others

100% of the proceeds go to charities that help refugees

Yours truly has written one of the stories - and the Bristol Book Blog is catching up with other writers in the series over the next few weeks.

The blog first caught up with Steve Dillon the man who started Refuge and asked him a few questions:

Guest Post by Sanjida Kay

Sanjida Kay lives in Bristol with her husband and daughter. Bone by Bone, published by Corvus Books, is her first psychological thriller. Sanjida has dropped by the blog to talk about sense of place in a novel. She will be discussing psychological thrillers at the fantastic Novel Nights on March 17th. If you're in Bristol and free on that night you should check it out.


Twitter: Sanjida Kay 
Instagram: @Sanjida.Kay

Bone by Bone by Sanjida Kay published by Corvus Books 3 March 2016

Selected by Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express, as a
 Thriller you won’t want to miss in 2016

How far would you go to protect your child? 

When her daughter is bullied, Laura makes a terrible mistake… 

Laura is making a fresh start. Recently divorced and relocated to Bristol, she's carving a new life for herself and her nine-year-old daughter, Autumn. But things aren't going as well as she'd hoped. Autumn's sweet nature and artistic bent are making her a target for bullies.

When Autumn fails to return home from school one day Laura goes looking for her and finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl. In the heat of the moment, Laura is overcome with rage and makes one terrible mistake. A mistake that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter...

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Review - Process by Sarah Stodola

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors…

Process by Sarah Stodola

I find it interesting that this book started out as a method of procrastinating from writing. Stodola sought out other writer's processes whilst avoiding working. If you've ever wondered at the writing habits of George Orwell, Vladimir Nabokov, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Wolf and many many more - then this is the book for you.

Divided into sections such as Nine to Fivers (obvious) such as Kafka and autodidacts (I think that'd be most writers surely?) such as George Orwell and Winging it such as Salman Rushdie.

This is interesting for the sheer variety of approaches to writing as a career but I guess it's a fairly niche interest. Luckily I am well into that niche being a bit of a literature nerd.

I listened to the audio version of this book narrated by Andi Arndt who did bring it to life. However at the end of each chapter Stodola didn't really end with a hook or an obvious "and this is finished" and Arndt just stops so it took me a while to get used to this (as I was listening a chapter at a time)

If you're at all interested in the writing live of your favourite writers then you should check this out

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