Monday 31 October 2016

Reflections on the manic con & fest season

This is quite a long rambling post reflecting on around about 3 years of "stuff"  - it grew in the telling. It also includes a few thoughts about this year's festival of literature and BristolCon - so if that's what you're after bear with me a few paragraphs...

This year started with signing a book deal - although it seems like much longer ago because I've published two books already & a few weeks ago I signed another contract.

A Tiding Of Magpies by Peter Sutton

I never expected to be able to sell novels so quickly, the reason I have done, I think is due to the Festival of Literature and BristolCon which I'll come onto reportage wise soon.

I attended a bunch of Cons, like I have been doing since returning to the Con scene at BristolCon a couple of years ago (2013 I think it was) - BristolCon and Nine Worlds renewed my faith in Cons and I discovered that I was a very different person to when I'd previously dipped my toe in the Con scene in the mid-90's.

I'd visited Octocon in Dublin mainly because of the excellent line up. I didn't know anyone in the Con world, was pretty shy and retiring (you'd not think so but I was painfully shy - so much so that I was given a nickname by a friend's daughter of 'Whisper Pete') and although I enjoyed the panels I didn't see what the fuss was and didn't return to a con until the first Nine Worlds. (I didn't take part in Bar-Con, that was the problem!)

I have been going to literature festivals for many years though - the drop in on a session and then head off format is one I found easier. (I did a post once on the differences and similarities but it seems to have been lost in the mists of the ancient internet) so when Bristol Festival of Literature started up in 2011 I very happily went along. And on a leaflet there was a "if you'd like to volunteer, drop us a mail" I thought it'd be interesting so I dropped them a mail. And now I'm one of the organisers...

So anyway, back in 2012 the festival did an event with the late Iain M Banks (much missed, he was a lovely bloke) and the BristolCon guys turned up. I remember meeting Jo Hall & Claire Carter (there may have been others, apologies if I've forgotten you were there). There was a reason I couldn't attend BristolCon in 2012. It clashed with Litfest events I'd committed to.

I attended lots of the festival's program in 2012 and got to sit in on a whole bunch of workshops and got the writing bug (or rather rediscovered an old dream that I'd never really done much about. My storytelling urge was, to that point, being fulfilled through writing for a roleplaying company). Although I didn't get round to doing anything about it until after a book launch I attended with Vala Publishing in 2013.

So I'd taken a few tentative steps in writing when there was a call for submissions for Airship Shape. I'd also backed the Kickstarter for Nine Worlds. So 2013 was Nine Worlds, Bristol Festival of Literature and BristolCon. See, go to one con and you get the bug and start going to more. Since then I've been to cons abroad too (and will do so again next year).

Jo & Roz choosing to take my story (which needed work. So much work!) for Airship Shape was a seminal moment & the T Party savaging a story I submitted to the critique session at Nine Worlds was another (that story turned into Sick City Syndrome eventually). I determined that a) I needed to read a lot of how to write books and b) I needed to practise...

And so to this year and signing two book contracts and publishing two books. I also attended Bristol Festival of Literature and BristolCon again (as well as SF Weekender, Nine Worlds and FantasyCon) - and because I'm not so shy and retiring anymore I now know a lot of the Con Crowd. I also seem to have become a fixture at Bristol HorrorCon (where I launched my novel Sick City Syndrome)

Sick City Syndrome by Peter Sutton

First up was Bristol Festival of Literature at which the Writing Group I joined in 2013 (the other major influential moment in my writing 'career') The North Bristol Writers did a couple of events. We did spooky tales at Arnos Vale and took part in the Flash Slam, but sadly didn't place this year (we came second last year). There was a great buzz at the festival this year, and we put on some great events.

And then there was BristolCon. Once again writers David Gullen and Gaie Sebold stayed at our house and we left bright and early with a car full of books for the con. This year the writing group decided to sell books and Pat & Rachel McNally stepped up to run the table for us & did a sterling job. This meant I was mostly dividing my time between the panels I had to be in, the dealer's room and the brick out room & bar. I was driving so bar-con didn't start for me until I'd taken the stock home at the end of the day and then got the bus back. Because we then went for a very pleasant dinner with Alistair Rennie who had travelled down from Edinburgh for the con! The real drinking didn't start till late and I feel that I missed out on chatting to so many people. Gareth L Powell has posted his con report and mentions the family atmosphere & tellingly, the Cheers theme. This is my main take away from BristolCon - it's become almost impossible to talk to everyone I know at the Con because I've come to know so many people!

Many thanks to my panelists for the Uncanny Valley of the Mind panel - it was great overhearing a few con-goers chatting in the bar about the panel and some of the things we'd discussed later. Glad to have sparked drunken conversations about SkyNet ;-)

I was also on a panel ably moderated by Ian Millsted about first contact which was also fascinating.

Apart from that I went to the book launch, got roped into the mass-signing. I wasn't planning to but someone asked me for a signature and I got to sit next to Jonathan L Howard (Next year's Guest of Honour) and Sarah Pinborough (This year's Guest of Honour) and sold and signed a few books too.

My last panel of the day was somehow at 3pm  - monstrous women with David Gullen, Jonathan L Howard, Anna Smith-Spark & Dolly Garland which explored some interesting territory between what's eroticised violence and what's gratuitous. I spent the rest of my time in the dealer room

It's such a great little con mainly because I know so many people there & it feels like an annual get together of many of my favourite people. Although there were a few missing this year sadly, due to illness and other commitments. But there are so many folk I've become friends with through BristolCon that I can honestly say it has been life-changing. And one person that deserves a lot of that credit is Jo Hall who stepped down from being the chair after 8 years. (I bet she's feeling very light about now with that responsibility lifted!). I very much hope it'll go from strength to strength and look forward to next year. It has very much become a highlight of my social calendar...

And so it is time to put away the con calendar for the year and reflect on where I am. I have a book to edit (It was lovely to meet my editor, Kate Coe, at BristolCon - that makes a big difference I think) and ideas for more books. I have a decision to make about what to write next and some thinking about where I want to go career-wise. (It still feels weird to talk about a writing career!) and about defragmenting my life (more on that anon). But it may go a bit quiet here for the rest of the year - except for a couple of guest posts.

Somehow this all got a lot longer than I thought it would. You sit down to write a short story and you end up with a novella. I blame sleep deprivation!

Tuesday 25 October 2016


Just a quick reminder that I'll be at BristolCon

My books will be on sale on the North Bristol Writers table in the vendor room

Sick City Syndrome by Peter Sutton

A Tiding Of Magpies by Peter Sutton

I'll be on two panels - as a moderator on one and panelist on the other

And I'll be doing a reading from Sick City Syndrome

10:00 – 10:45 - Call Me Rosetta
First Contact: As a probe sent out from Earth, what am I looking for, and what do I send back? If there’s life out there, when we meet the aliens, how do we say hello? How can we explain ourselves, and what should we keep back until the second date?
13:00 – 13:45 - Uncanny Valleys of the Mind
We’ve been worried about sentient robots for a long time, but are we really worrying about what they might do to us, or what they might do to our understanding of ourselves? When we’re developing smart machines, how do we weigh up the benefits and the dangers, and given that a Twitter chatbot can become a fascist in 24 hours, when do we pull the plug?
13:50 – 13:55 - Reading
I'm not planning on joining in on the mass signing but am happy to sign stuff if you can catch me ;-)

Friday 21 October 2016

Review - David Tallerman & Anthony Summey C21st Gods

21st Century Gods by David Tallerman & Anthony Summey

I was so happy to be able to snag a copy of this from Netgalley. I've been a big fan of Tallerman's since I read Giant Thief and have enjoyed everything I've read from him so far. So when he announced he was tackling a comic (a format I'm a big fan of) involving noir (a genre I like) and Call of Cthulhu I was so keen to grab hold.

And it doesn't disappoint. The art is crisp and reminded me a little of Dave Gibbons and fit the story well. The trenchcoated, bearded detective instantly likeable and the horror built well in this first issue.

There are some well-drawn tableaux's of murders towards the end of the issue that are a morbid pleasure to see. This is a nice little introduction and my appetite is definitely whetted for the next one...

Overall - This is going to be a series to look out for - take yourself over to Tallerman's blog to see what he says about it - it's worth reading

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Guest post - Rosemary Dun

Rosemary Dun is a lover of words and a performer of poetry – she’s been known to whip out her ukulele (unless you ask her very nicely not to!) The Trouble With Love is her debut novel with Sphere, Little Brown, and she couldn't be more delighted. She’s also a creative writing tutor, mother to two grownup daughters (how did that happen?) and she lives close to Bristol’s historic harbourside with her bonkers labrador Tallulah.

I asked Rosemary to provide a blog on one of three possible topics - she's gone above and beyond and provided info on all three topics 9and every interesting it is too)

Thursday 13 October 2016

Reviews - Two by Teodor Reljic & Starve better by Nick Mamatas

Two books of two halves

Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror…

Nick Mamatas has written a book in two halves - Lies and Life. I read this for the Lies part - his advice to writers and there was plenty of inteersting advice from the writer and editor. I like that some of it chimed with my own writing, a celebration of ambiguity for example. Mamatas gained a bit of notoriety for earning money from writing term papers for students for money and the second half of the book, the starve better part, was how to earn fast cash as a writer. Some of which was morally er, ambiguous and I enjoyed that section a lot less.

Overall - if you are a writer you can live without this, but if you do happen to pick it up you may find something inside of use.

Cover by Pierre Portelli

Two by Teodor Reljic

Full disclosure - I was introduced to Teo by a mutual friend at the recent Fantasycon where he gave me a copy of his book.

 First things first - this is a beautiful book - the cover, the designs, the red tint to the pages - it's a visual delight. Luckily the story lives up to the promise of the outside - Reljic tells two tales (hence the title) at once, but in interspersed chapters - those following William and those following Vermillion, the protagonist of a story William's mother has been telling him. William and his parents are on their annual trip to Malta and when things go awry William retreats more and more into the Vermillion stories. The writing is dreamy, and poetic and often exquisite:

She lets words fall one by one, like they’re meant to die after they leave her mouth to be reborn in your mind.

William's POV is convincing and the story feels both complete and open, and there’s that ambiguity that I mentioned as recommended by Mamatas and I often explore in my own writing.

Overall - this is a book that will reward re-reading and is in a very appealing style. I really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing more from this author.

It is worth me stating, since there is a personal connection here, that plenty of people give me books to review, or I obtain books written by friends but I don't always fall in love with them enough to write a review.

Thursday 6 October 2016

On being a complicated writer

A Tiding Of Magpies by Peter Sutton

So reviews are trickling in for my short story collection - A Tiding of Magpies and I'm pondering the ramifications of the following:

"His writing is difficult to categorise:"


"Pete Sutton is a charismatic and complicated writer"

and from the introduction by Paul Cornell

"a number of them could be called magical realism. They fit into that gap between rationality and magic." Although Cheryl Morgan, when she interviewed me on her radio show, said that I can't be Magic Realisat as I'm  not Spanish - she has a point!

On the one hand it's nice to be hard to classify, that means I must have an individual voice. But on the other it means having to build my own audience?

In this post-book lull, (Sick City Syndrome is finished, writing & editing wise - but now needs lots of marketing) I've got a number of directions I can possibly go.

Sick City Syndrome by Peter Sutton

Since signing for Kristell Ink for my novel Seven Deadly Swords work on the edit has commenced - it needs a bit of a structural rebuild before addressing the other issues in a closer edit so still some work to do on that.

But I find myself wondering what's next.

I wrote Seven Deadly Swords as an exercise in how to write a novel (I learn by doing mainly -but also I think that's probably the only way to learn to write a novel) and Sick City was written as KGHH took Magpies with a deal to also give them a novel which I then had to write quick smart!

Now I have a list of possible projects to pursue and wonder which way to go. And in the background is this feedback - hard to categorise, complicated etc.

I've never really thought about doing a series and I'm not one of those writers that has a variety of pseudonyms (I'd get confused - I can't compartmentalise my life) and I have ideas for a second world fantasy novel as well as a novella in the same world which I'd like to get on and write and another contemporary (dare I say more magic realist) novel as well as another historical fantasy (set in the 17th Century rather than the 12th like Seven Deadly Swords) and I expect I'll pursue each of these ideas in good time

But which one first? The 2nd world fantasy one will place me in that - "each of his books is different to the last category" for sure...

Or do I go for same, same but different? 

In the meantime I'm working on some smaller projects - a piece for the Body Horror Book as well as two short stories for North Bristol Writers - one for a chapbook called Flying Cities and the other for a set of Ghost Tales called - The Dark Half of the Year.

Nothing much will progress this month though as I'm going to be busy at HorrorCon, Unsung Live, Bristol Festival of Literature and BristolCon

Do sign up to all those great events!

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Reviews - Good Immigrant, City of Blades, Europe in Winter

So what ties up three apparently disconnected books? A non-fiction collection of essays, a fantasy novel and a near-future SF novel? Apart from the fact they are all new this year and all came across my desk so I'd read and review them?

Well I think they have all been written with an understanding that the world works a certain way, but it need not do so. Stories make the world. We should all tell better ones...

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The Good Immigrant Edited by Nikesh Shukla

From the back - "What's it like to live in a country that doesn't trust you and doesn't want you unless you win an Olympic gold medal or a national baking competition." This Unbound book was inspired by a comment on a Guardian article (don't they always tell you to never read the comments?) The commenter wondered why a more prominent author wasn't interviewed in a piece by an Asian journalist who had interviewed five or six people of colour. The commentator supposed that they were all friends of the journalist just because they were mostly Asian too.So the editor got together twenty writers of colour to talk about what it felt like to be a person of colour in modern day Britain. This was written before the Referendum though, so I can only imagine that it has got worse.

Hence there are personal stories about anglicisation of names, the treatment of Muslims at airports, what it felt like to have no good role models and therefore to choose Kendo Nagasacki as one, why stories have to be about white people and many more.

This is good writing and it is important writing. Representation is massively important and in today's social climate needed more than ever. I was very happy to support this on Unbound and glad it was such a great read, as well as being something I'd like to place in the hands of nearly everyone. Read this, it's important, I'd say...

If you want an idea of the quality & type of writing then you can read this piece by Riz Ahmed.

City of Blades (The Divine Cities) by Robert…

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

What does it mean to be a soldier? This question lies at the heart of the second book from Robert Jackson Bennet in the series. A glittering, multi-faceted gem of a book it is too. I seldom invest in series, the author has to be just damn good to get me to buy more than one book in the same world and few make the mark. Bennett is one of them (Dave Hutchinson is another - see below). City of Stairs was bold, it felt fresh, it ticked all the epic fantasy boxes that I wanted to be ticked (caveat - I'm not a massive epic fantasy fan, you have to do something special in the genre to make me want to read it) and it was just a rollicking good read.

So I approached City of Blades with some nerves - I knew Bennett hadn't planned to write a sequel, I knew it wasn't going to be about exactly the same characters (although Mulaghesh is the main protagonist - and a fabulous kick-ass character too) and, although set in the same world, wasn't going to be in enchanting Bulikov.

Once I'd read a few pages any reservations I had were blown away. Bennett has the knack of grounding you in the story, you are immediately with the characters, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of the world he's transmitting into your brain via the written word. It's a skill I am totally envious of.

General Turyin Mulaghesh has quit but is persuaded to come back for one last mission on behalf of now PM Ashara. The mission? To find a missing member of the government, someone who was investigating a new type of ore found beneath Voortyashtan, the home city of the former god of war and death. And so Bennett pulls out of the hat a second, brilliantly imagined, city in the same world as City of Stairs with an engaging plot, a new cast, with some cameos by old favourites, and a book that builds up to a page-turning second half.

I highly recommend this series to all, but especially to fantasy fans

Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson

Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson

To reveal any of the plot would just involve massive spoilers at this, the third book, so suffice to say we are back with Rudi and the Coureurs and we get to explore some of the loose ends of the previous two novels and get engaged in exciting new plots and plot twists.

If you haven't read the first two books then you need to remedy that! Set in a fractured Europe where the EU has mostly failed and the countries of Europe are breaking into ever smaller kingdoms and polities these books have a thriller/spycraft feel but with a healthy dose of near-future SF.

Hutchinson is a master of the splintered novel with a great many moving parts that in a lesser writer's hands would feel chaotic and random. If you've got this far however you'll know to trust that everything, all the various twits, turns, apparent digressions (that aren't) sub-plots and minor characters are there for a purpose that makes a coherent and quite brilliant whole.

I love that Hutchinson explores parts of Europe that are under-represented in other fiction - places like Poland and Estonia. I really enjoyed the Polish section as I've spent some time in that country working and Hutchinson's description gelled very much with that.

The fact that the first two books made the Clarke Award shortlist should tell you that this is an author to watch and watch I will.

Another highly recommended book.

Guest Post - Claire Fitzpatrick

Claire Fitzpatrick is an Australian journalist, author, poet, and performance 
artist. She writes historical fiction, speculative fiction, and horror. Currently
studying a bachelor of Government and International  Relations, she juggles 
her time between parenting, interviewing people, writing assignments, and
spends way too much time watching My Little Pony. 

Claire dropped by BRSBKBLOG to talk about her new venture - Oscillate Wildly Press

Pete asked me to write something short about my new publishing venture, Oscillate Wildly Press, for his blog. While I’d rather laugh at someone falling over in the street, I’m deeply humbled Pete thought my press was interesting enough to share with others.

      Oscillate Wildly Press (OWP) is something I’ve had on my mind for a long time. I’m a journalist and in my final year of university. I’ve been at uni for five years (I studied a Bachelor of Business for three years before changing to a Bachelor of Government and International Relations, because obviously I’m an idiot) and while I write for several magazines, edit my own film magazine, and am a published poet and horror/sci-fi author, OWP was something I continued to put off because I thought I wasn’t talented, experienced, or knowledgeable enough. However, it’s always handy to have friends in the industry! So I rounded up a few talented people who do have experience in publishing, and I pitched the idea. Surprisingly, people thought it was a great idea.

        I’m somewhat egotistical and over-ambitious, so there was never a time where I doubted my ability to start a small press, however I was afraid of the backlash and hurdles I might face. I’m a firm believer in being the best possible version of yourself you can be, even if that means putting yourself out on the edge of a cliff that you may very well fall off. What is the point of being a flower if you never truly bloom? And I have received criticism, but also support, which I am thankful for.

Call for submissions

OWP was created to publish anthologies and one or two novels a year. So far, we have two novels we are working to publish, as well as two anthologies. I want to provide readers with stories that entertain, and at the same time say something about society and the human condition. I also want to support first-time Australian authors, and authors who live to write, and write to live.

      One anthology is The Body Horror Book, another project of mine, that will feature 26 chapters on body horror from a theoretical, non-fiction point of view. I studied negation at university and like to think of myself as particularly persuasive, so authors include Greg Chapman, Kaaron Warren, Brian Craddock, Gary Kemble, Wolf Creek 2 director Aaron Sterns, and many other fantastic people. I’ve also wrangled award-winning ‘Deltora Quest’ illustrator Marc McBride, who will be contributing artwork next year. So far, The Body Horror Book is the main anthology of OWP, however the other anthology will be ‘Monsters Among Us,’ a collection of fiction from several established and up-and-coming horror writers. I’ve been thrilled and perplexed by the support I’ve received about the anthology. We’ve hit 70 submissions, with still a month to go!

Collaboration of writers and artists to create 'The Body Horror Book' and to support Epilepsy Action Australia.

      I’ll also be publishing my debut novel, ‘Only The Dead.’ Obviously, one of the questions I’ve been asked is whether OWP is a vanity publisher. We’re not. My novel was accepted by a traditional publisher, it was professionally edited for two years, then one day I stopped hearing from them. I waited for months and months, and after unanswered emails and phone calls, I checked the website and saw the company had closed without warning. I felt like all of my hard work had been for nothing. I was outraged. How dare they lull me with a false sense of hope? I received no explanation about what had happened, or what would happen to my contract. Nothing. I decided to self-publish. However, over time I realised this had happened to many more people, and I wondered how I could help them while also helping myself. Thus, OWP was born. Destruction is a form of creation, after all.

     I named it Oscillate Wildly Press after my obsession with The Smiths. The song is an instrumental piece from their album ‘Louder Than Bombs.’ Morrissey supplied the title, a pun on his enigmatic hero, Oscar Wilde. In an interview, Johnny Marr said, “we did it really quickly in just one evening, but it came together beautifully.” We’ll be publishing both fiction and non-fiction in the genres of horror, mystery, science fiction, historical fiction, and the plain weird. I don’t know what ‘plain weird’ is supposed to signify. My face?! There are nine people on the OWP team, all with combined experiences in writing, illustrating, and publishing. Many are people I’ve worked with before, which was rather comforting. I know who they are, their philosophy, what ideas. We are not strangers to each other, and we all want the same thing.
      I’ve run into a bit of opposition. A few people have shamed me (on the internet), condemned me, suggested my intentions are impure, secretive, that I am not who I say I am, that my years as a journalist and my bachelor degree is not enough experience. These people are all editors of other small publishers, and while at first their words were hurtful, it made me stronger and determined to succeed. It was never my intention to appear unseemly, deceptive, or misleading. Human beings gain nothing by acting in such a manner. What is the point of defaming someone’s character for the purpose of spite? All it does it suggest ignorance and aggression. The Cosmological Argument goes like this: Everything that had a beginning had a cause. The Universe had a beginning. Therefore, the Universe has a cause. Why strip away someone’s cause, the beginning of something new? Some people are just idiots. I will not apologise for my humanity, fools!

      I don’t know what will happen in the future, or if OWP will be successful. We have acquired a novel by American author C.E. Robertson, which will most likely be published at the end of the year (hopefully December). What I do know is that I will publish anthologies of the highest standard, with award-winning cover artists, and will provide titles that will engage, thrill, and excite readers. I just need to finish my own damn novel! Eventually. 

Many thanks to Claire - I'm very happy to say that my work will be in the Body Horror Book! As I have written a chapter on skin...

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