Monday 28 March 2016

Freeway Fighter

Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter might have been published 31 years ago today, but it will be zooming back into your realities soon.

To find out more, join the Facebook group here.

Thought for the Day

"The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing."

~ Ken Macleod

Friday 25 March 2016

Gamebook Friday: Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland at Through the Looking Glass this weekend

This Easter Saturday (26th March 2016) I shall be attending Through the Looking Glass at the Winter Gardens in Eastbourne, and selling copies of my steampunk books, Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland and my Pax Britannia novels.

There will be all sorts of offers available on the day, so if you haven't picked up my Lewis Carroll-inspired gamebook yet, or you need to plug a gap in your Ulysses Quicksilver collection, why not drop by? I'll even sign the books for you. ;-)

The car loaded with books and ready to go!

Talking of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, the Colouring Book is a Number 1 Bestseller in the States again. It's proving to be incredibly popular, and I will have some with me in Eastbourne on Saturday.

The Americans are also taking to the gamebook that spawned the colouring book. Here's what one enthusiastic reviewer had to say about the book:

"It's not at all what I thought it was going to be... It's BETTER! This book is so creative and cool! Its basically D&D meets Goosebumps choose your own path set in Wonderland. I can not wait to binge play this and get as many endings as possible! Character sheets are included in the book, however, in order to do combat you either need two 6-sided dice or a pack of 52 playing cards, depending on how you want to play/what you have available, but you don't need to do combat to enjoy. You can read through and pretend you win every battle!! I'm so excited to have this book!"

So, maybe I'll see you on Saturday, not down the rabbit-hole, but through the looking-glass...

Monday 21 March 2016

Thought for the Day

"To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself."

~ Anne Rice

Sunday 20 March 2016

Shakespeare Sunday: World Storytelling Day

Today is World Storytelling Day. The idea is that it is a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling. It is celebrated every year on the March equinox, on (or near) March 20th. On World Storytelling Day, as many people as possible tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible, during the same day and night. 
Now, this being a written blog, I'm not continuing with the oral storytelling theme but I can alert you to some awesome storytelling that is happening within the pages of Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu. One of the master storytellers who has turned his hand to the task of seamlessly blending the Cthulhu mythos with the Bard of Stratford's celebrated plays is one C L Werner (or Clint to his friends).
Clint and I go way back, to the early days of the Black Library and Inferno! magazine, so probably almost 20 years! When I started editing short story anthologies Clint was naturally on the list of authors I was keen to work with. 
Last year he wrote a story for me for my debut editing gig SHARKPUNK, and he's back in Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu with a story entitled, Once More Unto the Breach.
The following extract comes from part way into the story, as a certain King of England is patrolling incognito among his troops when runs into a very strange stranger indeed...

The rustle of something moving through the brush snapped Henry from his thoughts. His hand sped from the glove tucked into his belt to the dagger hanging from it. His eyes struggled to pierce the darkness. Faintly he could make out a figure moving among the trees. 'Who is there?' he called out in French.

The reply was rendered in accent so barbarous that Henry had a hard time making sense of the words. 'One that would offer service to a king,' the figure answered. Beyond its brutish inflection, the voice had a repulsive quality about it, like the scraping of a snake's belly across a gravel path. Without realising it, the King found he'd drawn the dagger, clenching it tight in his fist.

'Are you Frenchman or Englishman?' Henry demanded. He knew the question was foolish, for such a loathsome voice never issued from either French or English tongue. 'Come forward and show yourself.'

The figure stepped out from the darkness. Henry was surprised to find himself looking upon a man wearing a leather hauberk and a helm of cuir boulli, his leggings tattered and stained, his boots worn and scratched. The features were rough and weathered, the face of a professional soldier. In aspect, the man was alike to the soldiers Henry had so recently spoken with. It was something less tangible that set the King uneasy, something that offended him at a level far more base and primal than reason and sense.

The soldier bowed before Henry. 'I'm only a humble man, sire, but I offer service to you.' Again, the words had that primitive intonation that made the King's ears feel unclean to hear them.

'Your bow will be called upon on the morrow,' Henry told the man. 'Or if you have no bow, then there will be work enough for your sword.' He moved to turn away from this strangely repugnant soldier when the man caught at the hem of Erpingham's cloak.

'The service I offer is worth a thousand bows, a thousand swords,' the man waved his hand towards the distant fires of the French camp. 'No arms can win against that.' A crooked smile worked across his face as he looked up into Henry's eyes. 'You need a miracle, sire.'

Henry would have laughed at that, but his humour faded when he considered that only a moment before his own thoughts had taken a similar turn. 'Are you selling miracles?' he wondered.

The strange soldier straightened. 'If you will forsake scruple and honour, there is a way to ensure your victory. How much do you want to triumph over the foe?'

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, and if you run into any squamous tentacled horrors, clobber 'em!"

Saturday 19 March 2016

Short Story Saturday: Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu

Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu features squamous takes on a host of famous Shakespeare plays, but possibly the most unusual is #Tempest by fantasy legend Jan Siegel...

Massive storm, ship wrecked in rocky cove. Clouds withdraw to reveal Greek-style desert island. Enter @BeardieWeirdie and @Geekgirl.

I did elucidate
how that my evil brother drove us forth
and is in his own vessel now bewrecked
by my enchanted skills. Markst thou not?

Father, I mark't. I merely wisht to scan
my twitterfeed to see if aught could holp
and if my gentle tweets could soothe their screams

Doubtest thou me? Thinkst thou I would kill
these minor characters thus randomly?
Have I not pow'rs beyond that crude device?
Am I not>

>a veritable Gandalf in my strength
and yet a hobbit in my kindly heart?
All shall survive. E'en my accursèd kin
my brother and his son>


>a likely lad
who may yet heal this deadly fam'ly rift
when his keen gaze doth pierce thy untouched heart.

I have to say that this story in particular would transfer very well to a stage performance. Maybe something to consider for the book's launch later this year...

Friday 18 March 2016

Gamebook Friday: Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu

When I first teased Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu on social media, coming as it did on the heels of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, some people immediately assumed it was another gamebook.

I soon put them right, but the idea of using the concept as the theme for a new gamebook hasn't left me. In fact, it's wormed its way inside my brain, like some wormy thing. And so, just maybe, one day, Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu will become a gamebook as well as an anthology of short stories...

Of course it wouldn't be the first time that Shakespeare has influenced my gamebook writing. If you've read my Fighting Fantasy output, maybe you will have spotted the following connections already.

The Tempest ~ Bloodbones

Thursday 17 March 2016

Shakespeare Week - Exit, Pursued By…?

I have been keen to have James Lovegrove contribute to an anthology of mine for some time, so I was delighted when he agreed to be a part of Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu.
His story takes its inspiration from Shakespeare's most famous stage direction, and here's an extract for you to enjoy...
I will tell you this, scribe: it is not as I have always said it was.
For nigh on twenty years now, whenever anyone asks me how I came by my injury, I have lied to them. I have rigorously maintained that the stiffness in my shoulder, the jagged scars which extend from it halfway up my neck, the chunks of missing meat, are all the gruesome handiwork of a bear. The culprit was no more uncommon a creature than that. A roaming black bear pursued me, caught me up in its claws, and tore a pound of flesh from my body with its ravening teeth.
No one queries this reply. Bears are a familiar enough sight in these parts. Bohemia’s forests are riddled with them. Few who dwell in the country’s rural areas can say they have not encountered one at some point in their lives. Most, fortunately, have lived to tell the tale, although some have not been so lucky.
At any rate, with this explanation I have been able to deflect such slings and arrows of curiosity as are loosed at me. Upon hearing it people will offer sympathy, perhaps, or wince as they contemplate the agonies I suffered. I will in turn dismiss their coos and blandishments. “Let us not make a fuss about it,” I will say, sounding brave. “It is much ado about nothing.”
Now, at last, as I lie upon what must surely be my deathbed, I wish to confess the truth. For the first and final time in my life since the terrible events of that night on the storm-tossed southern shore of this land, I, Lord Antigonus, formerly a noble of Sicilia and once close associate of and trusted advisor to her monarch King Leontes, hereby state for the record that I was not attacked by any bear.
No, it was no bear.
It was something stranger and much worse.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Shakespeare Week - Something Rotten...

I was delighted when Adrian Tchaikovsky agreed to contribute to Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu. I was even more delighted when I read his story Something Rotten, and you will be too, when the book is published later this year. Here's a brief extract:
This is not what I told Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, when he arrived with his little band of followers; the desperate adventurer who had heard the Danish royal family was failing and had come to stake his claim.
Well, he has it all now: Norway, Denmark, all of it. And perhaps he sleeps easy, believing what I told him. But he never entered Elsinore., He never saw what I saw, what nobody should have to see. It’s better that way. Let him sleep easy right up until the restless history of that castle returns from that undiscovered country.
You’ve heard the story, of course, the one I told to Fortinbras. I made it lurid and bloody enough that nobody would think to go behind it and find the far more lurid and bloody truth.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Tie-in Tuesday: Shakespeare Week - Beware the Ides of March!

Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu ties together two of the biggest franchises I have ever worked on, and I am fortunate to have some rather big names working on it with me.

The completed tales that will be appearing inside the anthology include...
  • Something Rotten, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Exit, Pursued By...?, by James Lovegrove
  • #Tempest, by Jan Siegel
  • A Tiger's Heart, A Player's Hide, by Josh Reynolds
  • Star Crossed Lovers, by Jonathan Oliver
  • A Madness Most Discreet, by Michael Carroll
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Graham McNeill
  • Once More Unto the Breach, by C L Werner
  • A Reckoning, by Guy Haley

On another note, did you know that the Ides of March also mark the anniversary of the death of H P Lovecraft? I tell you, you couldn't make it up...

Monday 14 March 2016

Thought for the Day - Shakespeare Week

In case you didn't already know, this week is Shakespeare Week. In honour of this my blog will have a decidedly Shakespearean theme this week, starting with today's Thought for the Day...

“To die, to sleep –
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there's the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come...”
(William Shakespeare – Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1)

“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
(H P Lovecraft – The Call of Cthulhu)

Sunday 13 March 2016

Shakespeare Sunday: Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu cover reveal!

Covers are a tricky business. Despite the old adage, people do judge books by their covers all the time. And with somewhere in the region of 185,000 new books being published in the UK each year, you have to do something to try to make your book stand out from all the others on the bookshelves.

For one thing, a book's cover design needs to tell you something about the tone of its content, so as to attract the right kind of reader, who might actually buy the tome having picked it up for a closer look. You also need to give potential readers as many visual clues as possible so that, even if they can't read the title from across the bookshop, they see something which might lure them in closer. And, with that in mind, a clear central image is a must too. (A few well-known genre names don't hurt either.)

All of these considerations went into the mix when we set about designing the cover for Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu. I like to think we have succeeded in what we set out to do, but only time (and book sales) will tell...

 Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu will be published later this year by Snowbooks.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Merchandise for Writers

On Monday I shall be taking part in a workshop at the British Library, entitled 'Merchandise for Writers'. Here's more information from the British Library website:

If you’re an author and you think that having your own merchandise will have to wait till you’re JK Rowling, then think again. There are good reasons why you should develop your own merchandise and this workshop will help you do just that. 
What this workshop will cover: 

  • 5 things merchandise can do for you as an author
  • The difference between products and merchandise
  • Case studies – from JK Rowling to part-time authors
  • The new product development process: 6 steps to avoid mistakes
  • Planning ahead – writing merchandise into your books 
We’ll also amuse ourselves with some truly terrible examples of author merchandise, practise finding product ideas by working on some imaginary book titles and look at how to write a business plan for your products (and yourself as a writer). 
You’ll take away lots of ideas for your own merchandise, a list of recommended reading and a business plan template. This workshop is ideal for authors at all stages – from just getting to started to full-timers.  Fiction and non-fiction both welcome! 
This workshop will be presented by Melissa Addey, the 2016 Leverhulme Trust Writer in Residence at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre. Melissa has over 15 years business experience developing new products and mentoring entrepreneurs, as well as being an author of fiction and non-fiction.  With guest speaker Shaun Levin, author of Writing Maps and author Jonathan Green.

Proceedings start at 10.00am and, best of all, the workshop is provided free of charge as part of the British Library Business & IP Centre’s Artist in Residence programme, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

So, if you're free, why not pop along?

Tuesday 8 March 2016

International Women's Day: Alice the Adventurer

Happy International Women's Day!

When I was writing Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland someone asked me whether I realised that by featuring Alice as the protagonist I was enfranchising a whole generation of pre-teen girls. To be honest, I hadn't. It hadn't been a conscious decision. But then I have a pre-teen girl all of my very own now, so subconsciously something must have rubbed off.

Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland also passes the Bechdel test, which, in case you were unaware, asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.

This one was quite easy, partly because my book took its lead from Carroll's classic, and partly because it was important to me that Alice wasn't sexualised in any way. In the book she is eleven years old, and so she behaves as an eleven year-old would (if the eleven year-old in question goes around wielding a massive two-handed sword, of course).

You can pick up your copy of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland and the Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland Colouring Book here.

Monday 7 March 2016

Thought for the Day

"The secret of great writing is rewriting."
~ Warren Adler, American author

Friday 4 March 2016

Gamebook Friday: SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK

Last Saturday, BBC Radio 4 broadcast SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK, a documentary all about the history of interactive fiction. (You can listen to a recording of it here.)

As the title might suggest, Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks were an important part of the piece, and this in turn lead to me visiting the Radio 4 studios to be interviewed by presenter Naomi Alderman about the books, how I came to write for the series, and even what I'm working on now.

However, this being radio, a half-hour long interview with me was edited down to about two minutes of the actual documentary. But this being a documentary about interactive fiction, producer Alex Mansfield has put together an interactive audio documentary adjunct. There are some rather special treats hidden within it, amongst them an extended extract of my interview.

To listen to it, simply follow this link and then click 'red things', click '1', click 'restricting your options', and then click 'Fighting Fantasy gamebooks'.


Thursday 3 March 2016

World Book Day 2016

In case it had slipped your mind (like it had mine) today is World Book Day, which has got me thinking about which books of my will see the light of day this year.

Here's what came out that I was involved in last year...

My 2015 publications.

As you will already know if you read this blog post earlier in the year, this time last year I didn't even know I was going to write Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, which, after YOU ARE THE HERO, is my best and most reviewed title that I was solely responsible for. And it spawned a colouring book too, which the Americans love! 

At the time of writing, I definitely have three books coming out. The first is a re-issue of sorts - Doctor Who: Terrible Lizards - and the second is another Doctor Who title, but a new one this time - Choose the Future: Night of the Kraken.

And Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu...

Hopefully there will also be a sort-of-follow-up to Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, which I have finally decided will be called The Wicked Wizard of Oz, but other than that, who knows?

Steampunk Thursday: Through the Looking Glass

I can't quite believe it's already March - where has the time gone? - which means that the convention circuit is starting to warm up again.

Although I was at London Super ComicCon a couple of weeks ago, I was attending as a punter rather than a guest. But on Easter Saturday, 26th March 2016, I will be a guest at Through the Looking Glass, a uniquely steampunk event, being held at the Winter Gardens in Eastbourne.

I will be selling my Pax Britannia books as well as my new Alice-themed adventure gamebook, Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland.

So, watch this space for more details...

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Dragons, look you!

In celebration of St David's Day today, and Google's doodle of the day, if you like your fiction to feature firedrakes, then you should check out these stories of mine.

1       Fighting Fantasy: Stormslayer (2009)
1       Black Library Gamebook: Shadows over Sylvania (2013)

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Tie-in Tuesday: SFFWorld Author Roundtable

As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, I am taking part in SFFWorld's latest Author Roundtable.

Starting from today, Tuesday 1st March 2016, and continuing for three to four days, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, David Conyers, Jennifer Brozek and myself will be answering questions put to us by SFFWorld forum members, staff, and each other.

So, as you can see, the conversation really could go anywhere. Indeed, this being Tie-in Tuesday, it's quite possible that my tie-in fiction will end up being discussed.

If you would like to take part you will need to register an account at

I will post the link to join in the discussion below, when I have it myself.

Maybe I'll see you there...