Tuesday 31 March 2015

Five reasons why YOU should back the Steve Jackson's Trolltooth Wars Kickstarter

As of the moment this post goes live, there are just 48 hours left to run on the Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars Kickstarter. As of writing this blog post, the project still needs almost £2,400 to reach its funding goal, so now, more than ever, writer PJ Montgomery and artist Gavin Mitchell need your help.

"But why should I help?" I hear you cry. Well here are five reasons...

1) It's Fighting Fantasy - And Fighting Fantasy has found a natural home on Kickstarter, which enables creators to contact the fans who would buy FF products directly, without the hassle of middlemen and all the hoops that would have to be jumped through to get something published. And the more Fighting Fantasy projects that are backed and are successful, the more other creators will follow in their footsteps, and the more FF material there will be in the future. Ian Livingstone himself has said that there may be plans to launch a Kickstarter based on Damien Sparkes' FF sculpts, but only if the demand is there and what better way of demonstrating that than by backing another Fighting Fantasy project?

2) It's a British graphic novel - In a world dominated by American comics we have the chance to back a brand new British graphic novel that doesn't rely on tired concepts and predictable heroes. Comic fans will love The Trolltooth Wars, whether they're into FF and RPGs or not, particularly considering the popularity of fantasy at the moment, in the wake of TV's Games of Thrones and the Hobbit movies. At the same time the book will introduce a whole new generation of fans to a forgotten classic of fantasy literature, written by one of the godfathers of the games industry who, along with Ian Livingstone got reluctant readers (especially boys) reading, long before young upstarts like Harry Potter were even a twinkle in their creators' eyes. The graphic novel adaptation is also being undertaken by two highly experienced and celebrated comics creators - PJ Montgomery and Gavin Mitchell. Just check out some of their work for the book here...

3) Malcolm Barter will be providing brand new art for the book - Announced on Monday, legendary FF artist Malcolm Barter, the man behind the iconic illustrations for The Forest of Doom - the man who brought us the Fire Demon and FF Werewolf for the first time - will be producing brand new pin-up art for the book. Now, for fans of FF and fantasy art, that fact alone has got to warrant pledging at the Rhino-Man level or above.

4) It's Kickstarter - Without your help the book will not happen! You have the power to make this graphic novel a reality. You could be the person whose pledge takes The Trolltooth Wars past its funding target. Yes, YOU! And all for the price of what? A curry? The taxi home afterwards? It's certainly a lot less than the price of a night out. And if cash is a little tight, why not ask someone else to pledge for you and consider it as an early birthday present? Or pledge yourself and think of it as an early Christmas present! Remember - if the project is shy of just £1 its creators will receive nothing, and none of us will get to read The Trolltooth Wars graphic novel!

5) You can get hold of a copy of YOU ARE THE HERO - That's right, if you don't already have a copy of the critically-acclaimed History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, certain pledge levels come with a signed copy. If you're not sure why owning a copy of YOU ARE THE HERO should be such an incentive, just check out the reviews over on Amazon.

So there you have it. If you have already pledged, consider raising your pledge level, or ordering a second copy of the book.

If you haven't pledged yet, and you've been meaning to all along, don't dilly-dally any longer. If the project funds and you're not a part of it, you'll be gutted in the long run, Trust me.

And whether you've pledged or not, maybe you know someone who would appreciate this project, so tell all your friends by whatever means at your disposal. The more people talk about Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars the greater the chance of it picking up new backers.

So, what are you waiting for? Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars needs heroes to help make it happen - heroes like YOU!

Monday 30 March 2015

Saturday 28 March 2015

Sharkpunk Saturday - Gary McMahon

Gary McMahon is the award-winning author of several novels and numerous short stories, who was described by The Guardian as one of the authors, "leading the resurgence of British horror fiction." So, as you can imagine, we were delighted when Gary said he would contribute a story to SHARKPUNK.

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks? 
Gary McMahon: I think it might have something to do with the beauty of the beast, and how much danger is wrapped up in that sleek, unforgiving package. There’s also the mystery of the deep to factor in: we’re all fascinated by the ocean, and what those deep seas might be hiding – things we haven’t yet discovered.

SP: What was the inspiration behind your story Silent Waters, Running Deep
GM: Well, I knew I couldn’t write a pulp horror story about a shark – that isn’t my style. So I imagined a kind of conceptual shark, one that might or might not exist in the real world but certainly existed inside a character’s head. The rest of the story followed on from there.

SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story? 
GM: Nothing out of the ordinary, really, just the usual challenge of writing a decent tale. I needed to make sure that it didn’t lapse into melodrama, so I spent a lot of time on the tone of the piece, making sure I got that right.

SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be? 
GM: It’s got to be the Great White – I’m sure that’s everyone’s favourite. I do also have a soft spot for the Hammerhead, though, because of how it looks. It’s a scary looking thing: monstrous.

SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)? 
GM: Hookjaw, from the old Action comic. I loved that comic strip. It was gory, frightening, beautifully drawn, and really stuck in my mind. I remember a childhood friend had a Hookjaw poster on his wall. I was always jealous of that.

SP: Apart from your story in Sharkpunk, what's coming next from Gary McMahon? 
GM: I’ve been working on my next novel for over three years now, so I hope to get that finished and sent to potential agents before the end of the year. I have a short story coming in Black Static, and a couple of other commissioned stories that I’m working on now. There’s also a novella called The Grieving Stones due to be published by Spectral Press later this year to mark the fifth anniversary of the press.

Thanks, Gary!

Gary McMahon is the award-winning author of nine novels and several short story collections. His latest novel releases are THE END and THE BONES OF YOU. His acclaimed short fiction has been reprinted in various “Year’s Best” volumes. 

Gary lives with his family in West Yorkshire, where he trains in Shotokan karate and cycles up and down the Yorkshire hills. Website: www.garymcmahon.com

Friday 27 March 2015

Gamebook Friday: The Trolltooth Wars, YOU ARE THE HERO, and Radio Saltire

First off, Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars on Kickstarter... This has already raised over £10,000 but there's still a fair bit more to raise and only 5 days to raise it in. Remember - Kickstarter takes no money from you unless the project achieves its funding level, and then the payment only goes through when the Kickstarter has run its course. So, if you've been thinking about it, or saying you'll back it tomorrow, back it today and let's make another Fighting Fantasy project a reality, thanks to crowdfunding!

Secondly, I was interviewed by Kevin Hall recently about YOU ARE THE HERO*. You can read the interview here. And on the same subject, thirdly, I am going to be on Kevin's radio show on Radio Saltire on Sunday (29th March) at around 3.15pm. So, if you're able, why not tune in?

* Which is now also available from Google Books!

Thursday 26 March 2015

SHARKPUNK - The Forbidden Planet Launch!

I am very pleased to be able to announce that SHARKPUNK - the anthology of killer shark stories that I've put together - will be launching at Forbidden Planet, London, on Saturday 9th May at 1.00pm GMT.

I shall be there along with publisher Emma Barnes and twelve of the contributing authors - and you're all invited! So please share the Facebook event page, tell all your friends, and if you're in London on 9th May stop by the Shaftesbury Avenue store and say "Hi!" and (even better) buy the book! :-)

New Who is 10 Today!

Ten years ago today, at 7.00pm*, I sat down, like millions of other Who fans, to watch 'Rose', the first episode of the resurrected Doctor Who. Ten years on, eight series and four Doctors later, New Who is still going strong and I've written for three of those four Doctors.

My first Doctor Who book was The Horror of Howling Hill, featuring the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. The second was Terrible Lizards, printed as one of two stories in Monstrous Missions, and featuring the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams. The third is... yet to be published, but here's a sneak preview...

So all that there remains for me to do is say, Happy Birthday New Who!

* Having hurriedly just put my then almost 8 month old son to bed.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The Sharkpunk Interview - Jonathan Oliver

Jonathan Oliver is an award-winning editor and the man in charge of not one, but three publishing imprints - Solaris, Abaddon Books, and Ravenstone. However, for SHARKPUNK he has brought his skills as an author to bear.

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks? 
Jonathan Oliver: They feel very alien, despite the fact that they are earth-based creatures and I suppose, in many ways, they represents the mysteries of the sea, the draw of the depths.

SP: What was the inspiration behind your story Peter and the Invisible Shark
JO: Short answer is: I have no idea. I just started writing and made it up as I went along. I knew that I didn’t want to have the story set in the sea, bizarre as that may sound, and I struck on the idea of it being a story about haunting early on. But mostly, I just made it up as I went along.

SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story? 
JO: I suppose the main challenge was making the symbolic, real. To make the threat feel genuine and disturbing, when so much is about an individual who is disturbed. I think there’s enough ambiguity in the story that it allows for different readings.

SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be? 
JO: Jaws. Though I realise that’s terribly boring. The original and the best.

SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)? 
JO: See above.

SP: Apart from your story in Sharkpunk, what's coming next from Jon Oliver? 
JO: I have a short story appearing in a Jurassic London publication at some point in the future, and I’ll be collaborating on a novel later in the year.

Thanks, Jon!

Jonathan Oliver is the award winning editor of The End of the Line, House of Fear, Magic, End of the Road and Dangerous Games. He is also the editor in chief of Solaris, Abaddon Books and Ravenstone, and the author of two fantasy novels. He lives in Abingdon with his wife, two daughters and their cat, Fudge.

You can find him online at www.jonoliverwriter.blogspot.co.uk 
and on Twitter as @JonOlivereditor.

Monday 23 March 2015

The Sharkpunk Interview - Josh Reynolds

Josh Reynolds will be a familiar name to Black Library readers and fans of the Charles St. Cyprian Occult Detective stories. After all, as Josh puts it himself, he's a freelance writer, and good at it. Fortunately for SHARKPUNK, Josh has penned a brand new Occult Detective story for the anthology, entitled Deep Red Bells. Here are his thoughts on all things SHARKPUNK...

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks? 
Josh Reynolds: Can I say pants-wetting terror? No, but seriously, I'd guess its for the same reason that people are fascinated by wolves, bears, and any other animal big enough to eat us. There's a thin line between fear and fascination.

SP: What was the inspiration behind your story, Deep Red Bells
JR: Mostly, I just really, really wanted to write about a ghost-shark... I'm a simple man, really.

SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story? 
JR: The same as always, really. I know the beginning, I know the ending, but that bit in the middle? That bit's the annoying part of the whole deal.

SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be? 
JR: I like hammerheads. They're just so freaky looking. Like, you know, one of those things... its a tool?... you use it to hammer things?...a wrench, that's it! They look like wrenches. Freaky.

SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)? 
JR: Hookjaw. Hookjaw is the best.

SP: What's coming next from Josh Reynolds? 
JR: The third Royal Occultist novel, The Infernal Express, will be out later this year. It finds St. Cyprian and Gallowglass (the protagonists from Deep Red Bells) aboard the Orient Express, fighting to keep the skull of the world's most infamous sanguinary aristocrat out of the hands of vampires, secret agents and a Satanic cult. If readers want to catch up on all of the occult action before then, they should feel free to check out the first two books in the series, The Whitechapel Demon and The Jade Suit of Death, both available on Amazon.com or from the online retailer of your choice!

Josh Reynolds is a freelance writer of moderate skill and exceptional confidence. He has written a bit, and some of it was even published. His work has appeared in anthologies such as Miskatonic River Press’ Horror for the Holidays, and in periodicals such as Innsmouth Magazine and Lovecraft eZine. In addition to his own work, a full list of which can be found at http://joshuamreynolds.wordpress.com/, Josh has written for several tie-in franchises, including Gold Eagle’s Executioner line as well as Black Library’s Warhammer Fantasy line. 

And if, after finishing Deep Red Bells, you’re interested in reading more about Charles St. Cyprian and the Royal Occultist, make sure to check out http://royaloccultist.wordpress.com/.

Thought for the Day

1. Get drunk
2. Get angry
3. Get writing"

~ BSFA Award-winning novelist, Gareth L Powell

Saturday 21 March 2015

Sharkpunk Saturday - Al Ewing and Sarah Peploe

SHARKPUNK - the anthology of killer shark stories coming your way in May from Snowbooks - features a couple of stories written by, well, couples. One of those pairings is comics writer and novelist Al Ewing and comics creator Sarah Peploe.

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks?
Al Ewing and Sarah Peploe: Due to the anti-shark propaganda of Hollyweird, sharks are primarily known for their violent consumption of people. Like most people, we're fascinated with anything that wants to violently consume us or otherwise end our sweet lives. Hence our continuing interest in sharks, and also the Truckasaurus, which waits.

Sharkpunk: What was the inspiration behind your story 'YOU ARE THE SHARK'? 
AE: We were in the pub, discussing collaborating, and I remembered an arcade machine from the early days of video gaming in which YOU WERE THE SHARK, which I'd read about in The Winner's Book Of Video Games, a bizarre tome devoted to achieving the highest score possible in the games available back then. It was full of Pac-Man patterns, tips to win Space Invaders (shoot the aliens, shockingly) and other junk of the era. So we figured that might be a good angle to approach the shark element.
SP: I grew up in Norwich, so I spent a fair bit of the summers (and winters and autumns and springs) in the various resorts along the Norfolk coast. I’ve always loved the sea, and more specifically the seaside. The British seaside, nothing compares to it. The meeting of the sand and sea and sky, Victorian architecture and neon, the forces of nature and civilisation, the illuminations and the limitless, salted dark. Hale knew. Also where else you gonna get an ice cream donut? But there’s also poverty, xenophobia, economic uncertainty, the North f*cking Sea in January. You can’t romanticise or sugarcoat that. Anyway I suggested the seaside setting, as this arcade game sounded like it’d be at home in the amusement arcades I used to like trawling around. Then we got to thinking about the kind of child who’d be attracted to this game, to the control and certainty and departure from reality that its name promised. The kind who’d have the tenacity (and maybe a dearth of alternatives) to keep playing and playing...

Sharkpunk: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story? 
AE: It was fun to collaborate in a way we hadn't before - we ended up doing chunks of writing separately and sending it to each other, which we think is how Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman did it. Then we'd mutually edit and offer suggestions until the piece was ready to send off. One thing I tried to do was give the arcade machine a sense of reality without veering too far into dull Winner's Book Of Video Games-style descriptions of how to win at it - only the reader will know if I succeeded there.
SP: As for challenges, I was at work at the time, so often I'd be working STEALTH!, sneakily writing while sitting at one of the work computers in between issuing books/organizing book groups/wishing a protracted death on anyone who ever had a hand in the Universal Jobsmatch website. Also, we were writing about a lonely, alienated young female character, but I reeeaally didn't want to go all Exceptional Girl with her. I was excruciatingly aware that the scene in the kiosk could easily be all "Aw, isn't our protagonist just so Interesting and Special and Ravenclaw compared to this other bint?" So I hope we invested the other characters with enough agency and humanity to avoid that, but not detract from the main character's feelings of isolation.

Sharkpunk: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be? 
AE: I don't know if we have a favourite species. Hammerheads are fun.

Sharkpunk: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)? 
AE: My favourite shark is Gums, the shark from the old kids comic Buster, who was a shark with false teeth who kept losing them, rendering him harmless. He was a figure of fun for cruel fish and was helped, or possibly hindered, by an octopus friend who I seem to remember wore a hat? I don't have a very good memory of this character considering he's supposed to be my favourite shark.
SP: Right Shark. He learns the choreography, turns up on time and discharges his duties to the best of his ability but does anyone turn him into a meme? There's no justice this side of Heaven.

Sharkpunk: Apart from your story in Sharkpunk, what's coming next from Al Ewing and Sarah Peploe? 
SP: I'm part of a small press comics co-op called Mindstain Comics. We'll be exhibiting our special blend of excoriating dystopian scifi, psychological thrillers and vegetable-based juvenilia at various conventions across the UK this year... Other than that I don't know. Keep firing stories off and see which stick. Just like always.
AE: I've got some stuff coming up for Marvel - probably the biggest thing is a trio of Avengers specials where various Avengers of the past fight Ultron in the future. It's called ULTRON FOREVER, and it should be about right for kids from eight to eighty. And above, centenarians!

Thanks, guys!

Al Ewing is best known as a comic-book writer, having worked on Mighty Avengers and Loki:Agent Of Asgard for Marvel Comics, and Zombo and Judge Dredd for 2000AD, among others. He's also known for his prose work, including a trio of Pax Britannia novels for Abaddon Books, and his critically-acclaimed novel The Fictional Man for Solaris.

Sarah Peploe was born and raised in Norwich. She has since headed West/North, working as a student, a librarian, a life model and various breeds of office and retail monkey in the process. Her short stories have appeared in Hic Dragones’ The Hauntings Anthology, Cassiopeia Magazine, Murky Depths, Flash, 330 Words and one of Tiny Owl Workshop’s Krampus-themed Christmas crackers. She illustrated the poetry collections Ghosts at the Dinner Table, He is in the Stars, Livid Among the Ghostings and SALT/LOVE for Manchester-based performance poet Anna Percy. She also produces comics as part of Mindstain Comics co-operative, including Celeriac: Vegetable Spawn of Cthulhu, Convention (with George Joy) and Grunt8790 (with Steven Burton). She lives in York. Sundry yatterings @peplovna.

Friday 20 March 2015

Gamebook Friday: Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars Kickstarter - a guest post by P J Montgomery

The Trolltooth Wars. Those three words will be familiar to Fighting Fantasy fans. The first straight novel set in the FF universe, Steve Jackson’s 1989 book featured familiar characters and settings in an exciting fantasy adventure, in which you weren’t the hero - Chadda Darkmane was. Readers joined Darkmane on an adventure that took him from Salamonis, to the Forest of Yore, to the bizarre town of Shazâar, to the very depths of Firetop Mountain. Fan favourite characters Balthus Dire, Zharradan Marr, Gereth Yaztromo and, of course, Zagor himself, rubbed shoulders with new creations like the Chervah, Jamut Mantrapper and the sorceress, Lissamina. It also spawned a number of sequels, which all further expanded the world of Titan, and gave Darkmane new challenges to overcome.

But, if you’re reading this, you probably already know that.

My name is PJ Montgomery, and I’m a writer based in Cardiff. Jonathan has very kindly invited me to write a guest post all about my latest project, a graphic novel adaptation of The Trolltooth Wars. I’ve been a fan of the Fighting Fantasy series since, as a young child, I discovered some of the books in my school library. A few months and much pestering later, I finally managed to get my mum to buy me a copy of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Sure, that first adventure in Zagor's domain ended with death at the hands of a vampire, but it spawned an obsession within me, which continues to this day.

I’m also a huge fan of comics. This passion began a bit later, with my first issue of X-Men, but it’s burned just as fiercely. It’s a unique medium, combining clever writing and visual storytelling like no other. Comics have the potential to tell amazing stories which feed the imagination, just as well as any novel, while providing stunning images without the budgetary limits which can cause a film or television show to fall short.

Combining comics with Fighting Fantasy feels like an obvious idea to me, and where better to start than The Trolltooth Wars? It’s actually a very visual novel, thanks to Jackson’s clear and descriptive prose, combined with some excellent illustrations by FF legend Russ Nicholson. I’d had the idea to turn it into a comic a while back, but it was only last year that I actually did anything about it, and fired off an e-mail enquiring about the possibility of putting a graphic novel together. Fast forward to now, and a full script has been written, and is in the process of being illustrated by talented comic artist Gavin Mitchell.

Gavin and I have plenty of experience creating comics between us, having worked together previously on the South Wales set horror comedy, Stiffs. I’ve also contributed to the superhero anthology title The Pride Adventures, while Gavin has provided art for books like '80s horror mash-up The Samurai Slasher, and superhero book The Pride, the parent book of The Pride Adventures. So we know what it takes to produce a quality comic. The only thing currently standing in our way, is funding.

As such, we’re in the middle of running a Kickstarter with the aim of raising the money to release the comic later on this year. The money raised is all going into the book, and while we’ve had a good start, we’re not there yet. I love Kickstarter. I think it’s a brilliant site, which can help with the creation of excellent projects which may not otherwise see the light of day. I’ve backed plenty of campaigns myself (including You Are The Hero, naturally), and always enjoyed being part of a campaign, and never been disappointed with the end results. We’re hoping to provide our backers with a similar experience.

Backing the campaign will get you any of a number of rewards, including badges, prints, wallpapers for your computer, and copies of the book. There’s also the chance to get copies signed by me and Gavin, copies sketched in by Gavin, and limited edition copies signed by Steve Jackson! There are even reward levels which will get you a signed copy of You Are The Hero, and, right at the top end, the chance to be drawn into the book, appearing as one of the residents of Titan!

As for the book itself? Well, that'll be coming in at just over one hundred and thirty pages of story, sticking close to the template set by Steve Jackson. The story's the same, it's the telling which is different. Gavin's art is bringing Titan to life like never before, which means that even those who know every word of The Trolltooth Wars, from beginning to end, will be getting a new experience. This book is for everyone, both fans and newcomers. That said, there will be Easter eggs for the fans throughout, and extra material in the back. This will include some of Gavin's original character sketches, work in progress pages, and pin-ups by guest artists.

We’d love it if you could back the campaign, and get all of your friends to do so as well. We’re really excited by this book, and hope you will be too.

Help us make it a reality, and as far as we’re concerned, you really are the hero.

Thursday 19 March 2015

The Book of the Dead - One-Day Giveaway

Did you know that Amelia Edwards (author, suffragette, Victorian ghost story maven, archaeologist and founder of the Egypt Exploration Fund) is getting her very own Blue Plaque, which is being unveiled today, Thursday 19th March 2015?

In honour of the occasion, and a very remarkable lady, Jurassic London is making its Egyptologically-inspired anthology of short stories The Book of the Dead, available for free for 24 hours on Amazon.

The collection contains my own catchily-titled Egyptian death and the afterlife: mummies (Rooms 62-3), which, unusually for me, is a love story.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

SHARKPUNK - The Stories

Here's the long-awaited table of contents for SHARKPUNK - the forthcoming anthology of killer shark stories coming from Snowbooks this May! Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water...

Peter and the Invisible Shark, Jonathan Oliver 
Blood in the Water, Den Patrick 
The Lickspittle Leviathan, David Lee Stone 
Sharkadelic, Ian Whates
Shirley, Amy & Andy Taylor 
Deep Black Space, Toby Frost 
The Shark in the Heart, David Tallerman 
Deep Red Bells, Josh Reynolds 
Sharkcop 2: Feeding Frenzy, Alec Worley 
Sharkbait, Richard Salter 
Goblin, Kim Lakin-Smith 
Blood Relations, Andrew Lane 
Feast of the Shark God, C L Werner 
Le Shark, Laurel Sills 
The Serial Killer Who Thought She Was a Shark, Jenni Hill 
Rise of the Übershark, Robert Spalding 
Swimming with the Fishes, Steven Savile 
Ambergris, Kit Cox 
Silent Waters, Running Deep, Gary McMahon 
YOU ARE THE SHARK, Al Ewing & Sarah Peploe

Monday 16 March 2015

Thought for the Day

"Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one."
~ Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

Saturday 14 March 2015

Sharkpunk Saturday - David Lee Stone

In what has to be said was a bit of a coup, creator of the Illmoor Chronicles, Davey Swag, Gladiator Boy and Undead Ed, David Lee Stone agreed to write a story for SHARKPUNK. Here he reflects on the experience:

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks? 
DLS: I think it's the sheer undiluted horror of something that is basically, as Billy Connolly once said, 'a row of teeth and an ar*ehole'. Sharks are plainly terrifying.

SP: What was the inspiration behind your story 'The Lickspittle Leviathan'? 
DLS: I hadn't written an Illmoor story for nearly a decade, and I loved the idea of doing something really horrific and yet trying to keep a trace element of humour. Hopefully, I succeeded in doing that.

SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story? 
DLS: I think the biggest surprise was that I vaguely appalled myself. I'm not a natural horror writer, and I assumed that dashing through the more gruesome scenes quickly would enable me to cope with them better on re-reading. I was wrong.

SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be? 
DLS: The Hammerhead, because nothing that ugly should be able to come at you quite literally out of the blue... and because it's proof that there have to be at least five different gods who all loved to have a laugh at the creation table.

SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)? 
DLS: Jaws is the one I most remember, because I still have trouble watching that film. Richard Dreyfus always did a great job of making you believe he was terrified of losing a leg, when he really should have been more worried about losing his hair.

SP: Apart from your story in Sharkpunk, what's coming next from David Lee Stone? 
I'm writing a series provisionally called The Underdogs: Heroes of Destiny for Hodder. It's about a group of D&D players who find Pandora's Box and start to take on the powers of their characters. They will publish the first two books in 2016, and the third in 2017. I'm also putting together a new Illmoor collection.

Thanks, David!

David Lee Stone was born ‘David Cooke’ on 25th January, 1978 in Margate, Kent. He has produced series fiction (writing variously as David Lee Stone, David Grimstone and Rotterly Ghoulstone) for many publishers worldwide, including Disney, Hodder and Penguin. 

The Illmoor Chronicles, which have been translated into many different languages, are currently published in six volumes by Hodder in the UK and Open Road Integrated Media in the USA. They comprise three stand alone novels and a linked trilogy. Short stories from the series are currently published on Amazon by Dead Guys Shoe Ltd, including the original Illmoor short ‘Dullitch Assassins’, which first appeared alongside stories from Terry Pratchett and Tom Sharpe in Peter Haining’s comic fantasy anthology Knights of Madness, published by Orbit, Penguin and Souvenir Press. 

David lives in Ramsgate with his wife and two children. He writes a daily blog at www.blokecalleddave.co.uk.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett - 1948-2015

I first discovered Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels in the late '80s when a friend of mine lent me a copy of Mort, saying, "Terry Pratchett could have been as famous as Douglas Adams."

In 1994 I joined the queue in WHSmith, Nottingham, to meet my idol and have my brand new hardback copy of Interesting Times signed. To cut a slightly longer story short, our meeting wasn't all I had hoped it might be and I was left mulling over the old adage, 'Never meet your heroes'. The experience certainly influenced how I interact with my own fans today, but the man remained an inspiration (even if I didn't dare speak to him in 2010 when we both attended the launch of SFX's Summer of Reading - because of what had happened 16 years previously), and it certainly didn't stop me from looking forward to every new Discworld release.

Of course, he wasn't only an inspiration to readers and writers. When he was diagnosed with his 'embuggerance', as he referred to the Alzheimer's, he became an inspiration to fellow sufferers and their families. And as a consequence he also ended up championing the assisted dying cause.

66 is no age, and it is certainly far too soon to lose our very own modern day Dickens. My thoughts are with his family at this time, but also with the rest of us, his readers, who won't get to enjoy another new book by our greatest comic writer, after The Shepherd's Crown is published later this year.

This book has sat on my 'To Read' pile for too long...

... so in memory of a great writer and an inspiration to thousands, including myself, tonight I shall start reading Raising Steam.

I don't normally feel the need to comment on the passing of public figures, but in the case of Sir Terry Pratchett, I'll make an exception. His passing earlier today has also brought to mind another old adage I used to live by, and need to remind myself of again, 'Carpe Diem'. Or to put it in the words of Sir Terry himself, "So much universe, and so little time."

Sir Terry Pratchett - 1948-2015

Saturday 7 March 2015

Short Story Saturday: Sharkpunk Saturday - Kit Cox

I know, I know... First Zombie Zunday and now Sharkpunk Saturday... Whatever next?

Well, the thing is (in case you haven't already heard), in May SHARKPUNK, an anthology of killer shark stories, will be published by Snowbooks.

Sharks – the ultimate predators, masters of their watery domain, a world that is entirely alien and inhospitable to man. So many aspects of the shark are associated with humankind’s most primal fears. The tell-tale dorsal fin slicing through the water, the dead eyed-stare, the gaping jaws full to unforgiving teeth, the remorseless drive to kill and feed… 

Inspired by such classic pulp movies as Jaws and Deep Blue Sea – as well as such ludicrous delights as Sharknado and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus – the stories contained within are rip-roaring page-turners and slow-build chillers that celebrate all things savage, pulp and selachian. 

Covering the whole range of speculative fiction genres, from horror and Steampunk, through to SF and WTF, these are stories with bite!

As part of the build-up to the book's release, I am going to be posting interviews with some of those authors who have contributed to SHARKPUNK and I'm going to start today with, appropriately enough, the author who completed his short story first - Mr Kit Cox!

Sharkpunk: What, do you think, is the reason for people's enduring fascination with sharks? 
Kit Cox: A perceived fear keeps fascination levels up. Until you realise the shark is actually quite unlikely to attack you think about them in every strange stretch of water. If however you go beyond that fear of the fantasy killer shark you find possibly one of the most interesting fish in the sea.

SP: What was the inspiration behind your story 'Ambergris'?
KC: Ambergris comes from the continuing adventures of my character Major Jack Union. A monster hunter for Queen Victoria who keeps the fact monsters exist out of the public attention. I always wanted to do a Moby Dick kind of story for Jack but the original is so good it's hard to top, then I saw a programme about Victorian whaling and the problems they faced with sharks feeding off the carcasses and I realised that was my angle. I couldn't just have a shark I had to have a monster and the easiest way to do that was to take the shark back to its primeval heritage.

SP: What challenges, or surprises, did you encounter in writing your story?
KC: I always want to get a historical message across in my stories, something factual that will make people want to look up the real history of something or someone. In a short tale like Ambergris I didn't have a lot of space to get a fact in. The boat that Jack hunts from is therefore a real vessel of the British Navy of the Victoria era and although it appears fully factual under the correct name in my story it has been featured in a story before as the ill fated Iron clad "Thunderchild" that brings down a Martian War machine. I even have a connection as my great great grandfather was one of the riveters that put her together.

SP: If you had to pick a favourite shark, which would it be?
KC: My favourite shark is the Great White, for all the cliché reasons. I ate in a restaurant next to a shark aquarium, in the states and the Great White was by the glass the entire time and it is a beautiful fish. 

SP: Do you have a favourite fictional shark (in books, comics, films, or video games)?
KC: I have many. In movies it has to be Jaws but in comics it is HookJaw, a rip-off of Jaws but with a harpoon through his lower jaw, it came from Action Comics and I loved it. However, honourable mentions have to go to the rubber shark that attacks Adam West's Batman and gets hit with shark repellent spray and the many sharks of James Bond villains, over the years.

SP: Apart from your story in SHARKPUNK , what's coming next from Kit Cox? 
KC: Well I currently have a trilogy on the go "The Adventures of Benjamin Gaul". With only one part out "The Monster Hunter" and the rest coming out over the next couple of years, I am very proud of it. The story of a young mixed race boy, growing up in a Victorian world, and discovering monsters are real and prey on the unwary. This will be followed by my Cold War story - 1965 spies dealing with the encroaching world of dark Celtic faeries.

Thanks, Kit!

Kit Cox, and his alter ego Major Jack Union, create stories in an alternate history where monsters really do hide in the shadows. Kit writes in his Victorian-inspired study, surrounded by monster relics and jet packs. 

An illustrator who wanted more than a thousand words, his pictures supposedly spoke, to tell his stories, Kit turned to the stage, acting and writing. 

He owns a retro space suit, Le Matt Revolver and is fully prepared for the Zombie apocalypse. Umbrellas are his natural enemy.

Friday 6 March 2015

Gamebook Friday: I am a Fire Demon, a twisted Fire Demon!

The Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars graphic novel Kickstarter has got off to a fantastic start raising over £5,000 in less than two days.

In case you not already aware of the fact, some of the rewards feature signed copies of YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, notably the Fire Demon rewards, although the Warlock and Dragon level rewards also come with a copy.

So, if you don't yet own a copy of YOU ARE THE HERO yet, then why not pledge your support for Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars today?

Thursday 5 March 2015

World Book Day 2015

Today is World Book Day, and this being 2015, you can now purchase many of my books through Google Play, to read on the Android device of your choice.

Latest additional to Google Play is YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, but you'll also find my Pax Britannia Steampunk novels on there, and my Nazi Zombie Army story Götterdämmerung.

Simply follow this link to find out more.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

On Stranger Tides - SFX #259 Book Club

Today sees the release of SFX magazine issue #259, which just happens to include, as this month's Book Club feature, my review of Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides - the book that influenced the creation of my own Fighting Fantasy adventure Bloodbones more than any other.

This is my sixth Book Club piece. The complete list to date reads as follows:

SFX #219 - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
SFX #225 - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
SFX #232 - The Tripods Trilogy
SFX #239 - The Haunting of Toby Jugg
SFX #254 - The Iron Man
SFX #259 - On Stranger Tides

Hopefully Tin Man Games and Snowbooks will be pleased. ;-) 

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars

Today's the day that Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars launches on Kickstarter.

If you're a fan of Fighting Fantasy, or a fan of YOU ARE THE HERO, then you are going to want to be a part of this exciting new project.

The purpose of the project is to fund production of the official graphic novel adaptation of Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy novel, The Trolltooth Wars*. It is being adapted and written by P J Montgomery, with illustrator Gavin Mitchell on art duties.

Here is just some of the artwork that has already been produced to date.

To get on board, search for Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars on Kickstarter, check out the amazing rewards the team have put together, and pledge your support.

* There's a whole chapter on the Fighting Fantasy novels, including The Trolltooth Wars, in YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, funnily enough.