Sunday 29 May 2016

Shakespeare Sunday: The “Iä”s of March

Andrew Lane's contribution to Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu is unusual because it is one of only two stories in the anthology not set during the last 600 years or so. As you have probably already guessed, it was inspired by Julius Caesar, and so takes place before the birth of Christ.
Here's a taster...

The figure up ahead suddenly darted down a narrow alley. When he got to the corner, Casca gazed down its shadowed length. He looked around, checking that he was still alone. If he investigated it was likely he would arrive late at Brutus’s residence for dinner, but given what they were going to be talking about he felt that he ought to investigate. Perhaps Caesar was visiting some mistress whose identity would cause a convenient scandal if revealed. So he followed.
At its end the alley opened out into a small square that Casca had never been in before. A few twisted trees emerged from holes in the pavement around it, and oddly they all seemed to be leaning away from the centre, as if trying to escape it, rather than all being bent the same way by the winds that sometimes swept through the city. In the centre of the square was a temple of grey, weathered marble, raised up on a wide platform of five steps. It was one of the many hundreds of temples scattered around Rome dedicated to one or another of the many gods in the Roman pantheon – a fair number of which had been appropriated from other religions and bought under Roman control. The steps were cracked, and grass was growing out of the gaps between the slabs that formed them. Abandoned, perhaps – its worshippers a small cult or a foreign minority who had gradually died off?
The temple itself looked… wrong. The pillars all appeared straight when Casca looked at them, and the roof was set firmly and properly on top of them, but whichever part of it he concentrated on, his eyes tried to tell him that the other features were somehow twisted, or joined each other at odd angles. It was as if he was trying to make sense of the architecture while drunk, although he hadn’t had any wine since the afternoon, and that had been weak. He might have ascribed the askew look of the place to the results of a long-ago earthquake, or some subsidence in the ground beneath it, but when he looked at it straight there was nothing wrong. It was just when he looked away, or past it, that it was disturbing. It made him feel queasy, and not just in his stomach. Queasy in his head.
Caesar glanced around, and Casca moved back into the shadow of the alley’s walls. Seeing nobody, he climbed the steps and entered the temple.
Nerving himself, Casca crossed the open space and climbed those same steps.

Andrew Lane is the author of eight books in the Young Sherlock Holmes series as well as several Doctor Who-related dramas for Big Finish Audio, and is currently working on a new set of adventure books with the overall title Crusoe. He has recently written Cthulhoid fiction based in the South-West of England for the anthologies 'Secret Invasion' and 'Dead Letters'. He studied 'Julius Caesar' for his 'O' Level English, which renders him suitably qualified to be included in this anthology...

Friday 27 May 2016

Gamebook Friday: The UK Games Expo

Eight days from now I shall be attending the UK Games Expo (which is in its tenth year, this year) as one of the weekend's visiting authors.

I shall of course be promoting Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, as well as giving a sneak preview of a couple of forthcoming crowdfunding projects. (If you want to know what they are, make sure you pop along to stand A23 in NEC Hall One and say "Hi!")

In anticipation of the event, Dirge Magazine has posted a piece entitled '6 Dark Gaming Delights We’re Looking Forward To At The UK Games Expo'. Among the dark delights they're looking for are Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, The Dark Souls Board Game... and Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland. Which is nice.

In other news, a piece appeared in The Irish Times this week, proclaiming that the gamebook is back, and my Tin Man Games app Temple of the Spider God got a mention, which was nice too.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Sherwood Wednesday: Multimedia Maelstrom!

Andrew Orton, official historian of Robin of Sherwood, has released the chapter about The Knights of the Apocalypse audio drama (available to pre-order now from Spiteful Puppet), from the revised and updated second edition of The Hooded Man Volume 2, as a free PDF download.

If you want to know all there is to know about how this special episode of the series came to be, then click this link.

Also, if you're in the BBC South region, apparently on BBC South Today this evening at 6.30pm, there will be a piece about the premiere that I attended a few weekends ago.

Update - The piece went out this evening and is now available for viewing on YouTube, and here (and the novelisation gets a mention too).

"Look, Mum, I'm on the telly!"

Sunday 22 May 2016

Shakespeare Sunday - Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Another coup for Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu was getting renowned Black Library scribe Graham McNeill to pen a tale for the anthology. Having been a fan of his work for a long time, and knowing that he has written a trilogy of Lovecraftian novels, I also knew that he would be a perfect fit. And when this Scottish author said that he would like to take his inspiration from a certain Scottish play, I knew we were on to a winner.
Don’t listen to this.
Seriously, don’t.
I’m not joking, put down the damn phone or whatever the hell it is you’re listening to me on, and do yourself a favour by smashing it with the first heavy object you can find. Or if you’re somehow reading this, burn it. Find some matches and light it up. Please.
I know, I know, why bother recording this if I’m just going to tell you to smash it up, right? Well, if you know who I am, then you’ll know I’m an actor; a narcissistic, egomaniacal prick of an actor. If you don’t know me, then for God’s sake go and see a play sometime.
Still here? Have it your way then. Let me introduce myself. My name is Mackenzie Baladan, and if you’re going to stick around to listen to my last words, then I damn well want you to pay attention to what I’m going to say. So what if I ended the world? What actor could ask for a greater curtain call than that?
Hailing from Scotland, Graham McNeill worked for over six years as a Games Developer in Games Workshop’s Design Studio before taking the plunge to become a full-time writer. Graham’s written thirty SF and Fantasy novels and comics, as well as a number of side projects that keep him busy and (mostly) out of trouble. His Horus Heresy novel, A Thousand Sons, was a New York Times bestseller and his Time of Legends novel, Empire, won the 2010 David Gemmell Legend Award. Graham lives and works in Los Angeles for Riot Games, and you can keep up to date with where he’ll be and what he’s working on by visiting his
Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Graham McNeill
Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Graham McNeill

Saturday 21 May 2016

Sharkpunk Saturday: The sharks are circling...

I have already received a number of submissions for SHARKPUNK 2 and there's still almost six weeks until the deadline.

If you're considering submitting a story yourself, please pay careful attention to the following.

The stories in SHARKPUNK 2 can – and indeed should – cover the whole range of speculative fiction genres, from horror and steampunk, through to science fiction and action-adventure; the only stipulation is that they must all feature sharks in some way. Alternate historical settings for stories are welcomed. I am also very happy that the stories feature recurring characters of your own creation, as long as including them in the anthology won’t infringe upon anyone’s copyright. (In other words, you need to own the rights to the character yourself, or have permission from the copyright owner to have them appear in SHARKPUNK 2 at no charge.)

Stories need to be between 3,500 and 7,000 words in length (although there will be some flexibility with this, depending on the individual stories) and the deadline for first drafts is 1st July 2016SHARKPUNK (Volume 1) features stories involving space sharks, ghost sharks, Franken-sharks, psychological sharks, and “sharks with frikkin’ laser-beams attached to their heads” (just about). However, we’ve yet to read any stories about zombie sharks, Hawaiian were-sharks, alien sharks, or tales featuring vampires and sharks, for example, so please bear this in mind when you are working up your idea. I don’t mind if some themes are revisited, but obviously I don’t want an anthology of nothing but steam-powered sharks made out of brass and walnut panelling – heaven forbid!

The plan is to publish SHARKPUNK 2 in 2017 and I am going to be running a Kickstarter (either towards the end of 2016 or early 2017) to raise funds to produce the book and, just as importantly, to pay the contributors. If your story is selected for publication, subject to a successful Kickstarter, you will be paid £50 and will receive a physical copy of the book. However, you will also receive royalties from copies of the book sold outside of the initial Kickstarter, which will be paid on top of your fee. Not instead of, not offset against royalties, but as well as! One of the Kickstarter rewards will be a signed copy of the book and you need to be prepared to sign however many copies are required to fulfil this reward level.

In terms of rights, Snowbooks ask for exclusive World English language rights for six months from the date of publication, dropping to non-exclusive World English language rights thereafter, with an option for foreign language translation within the anthology should offers be made for overseas editions. They also require rights to special editions, omnibus editions or other anthology editions, where appropriate.

If you are interested in being a part of SHARKPUNK 2, then please read the submission guidelines below very carefully, as any submissions not adhering to them will be automatically rejected.

SHARKPUNK 2 submission guidelines 

1. Fonts – choose something easy on the eye for proofing, something like Palatino, Calibri or Times New Roman.

2. Dialogue – “double quote marks” around speech, ‘rather than single’, which can be used for quoting within speech.

3. Formatting – indent new paragraphs, rather than leave a single line break, but use two (or more) line breaks for a change of scene/time/point of view. Please use a single space between sentences rather than two spaces. Please leave a space after an ellipsis but not before one. Submit your story double line spaced.

4. Spelling – please use English spellings throughout, and ‘s’ over ‘z’ in words like ‘realise’.

5. Proof-reading – please proof-read your story carefully before you send it, and remember that a Spellchecker is your friend (although not infallible).

6. Poetry – SHARKPUNK 2 is an anthology of short stories, not a poetry collection, so no poetry please.

7. Contact details – make sure your name and contacts details (including email) appear on the first page of your story.

8. Document name – this should include SHARKPUNK 2, the name of your story, and your name, for ease of identification.

9. Emailing your submission – send your submission to The subject of your email must include your name, story title, and the words ‘SHARKPUNK 2 submission’ in the subject line. For example, SHARKPUNK 2 submission – The Sharks of Wrath – Jonathan Green’. Please include your real name, your writing name (if different), the title of your story and a one sentence synopsis of your submission. Send your story as a document in .doc (Word) or .rtf (Rich Text) format as an attachment to your email, and not pasted into the body of the email itself. Submissions will only be accepted via email.

10. Reading period – the reading period will be from 1st July – 1st October 2016. Formal feedback will not be given on submissions, unless they are accepted for publication, and discussions will not be entered into regarding reasons for rejection. Please do not submit your story anywhere else, until you know of our decision, and if you are not happy working to the terms outlined above, please do not submit.

I shall look forward to reading your submission in due course, but in the meantime my advice would be, stay out of the water…

Friday 20 May 2016

Gamebook Friday: Alice's Night of the Kraken in Wonderland

People have been saying some rather nice things about my two most recent gamebooks on Amazon lately, which is always very pleasing for an author.

First of all, here's a review from about Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland:

"This book is so creative and cool! Its basically Dungeons and Dragons meets Goosebumps choose your own path set in Wonderland... 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!"

And then there's this review from about Doctor Who: Choose the Future: Night of the Kraken:

"In all honesty I was hoping for, but not expecting, a fully-fledged adventure gamebook where I would be fighting Sontarans armed with some dice and a pencil. But Doctor Who doesn’t entirely lend itself to that medium and ‘Night of the Kraken’ is still more in the ‘choose your own adventure’ bracket than adventure gamebook. 

"However, it is a well written and structured adventure aimed at a much older audience than the ‘Decide Your Destiny’ books. The reader also, sort of, gets to play the Doctor. The book is written in the second person rather than the first, which is the more traditional for adventure gamebooks, so you direct his actions rather than being him. This does feel more suitable for Doctor Who. 

"Despite its relatively short length of 150 sections there’s a fairly intriguing story and a relatively complex adventure. The author creates a believable historical setting with plenty of atmosphere that engrosses the reader in the interactive setting. 

"One of the major strengths of the adventure is that there are two quite independent explanations for events depending upon what options you select relatively earlier on. The less obvious one is reasonably tricky to find so this gives the book extra potential for replay. 

"As normal with gamebooks there are several possible endings. These are mostly partial victories where you win by immoral methods or genocidal tactics. To gain one of the few true victories you must succeed by being faithful to the spirit/character of the Doctor. It is also possible to kill the Doctor off, and the only way to ‘regenerate’ is to return to page one. 

"This is possibly the best crossover yet between adventure gamebooks and Doctor Who. It is a strong start to the new ‘Choose the Future’ series."

I've you've read  Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland or Doctor Who: Choose the Future: Night of the Kraken, why not go and line and post your own review?

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Sherwood Wednesday

If you would like a copy of my novelisation of Richard 'Kip' Carpenter's script for the TV movie Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse, you have until 8.00pm GMT today, Wednesday 18th May 2016, to place your pledge!

To do so, simply follow this link. And remember, nothing's forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten...

Don't worry - the book is on course to make its delivery deadline.

Sunday 15 May 2016

Shakespeare Sunday: Guy Haley - A Reckoning

As you may already know, if you have been following my posts about my latest short story anthology, there are three stories contained with Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu that deal with the life of the Bard, and the lives of those who knew him. Josh Reynolds' A Tiger's Heart, A Player's Hide has already been teased so today it's the turn of a dark tale woven by another Black Library fan favourite, Guy Haley.
Guy's A Reckoning takes as its subject matter the mystery surrounding the murder of Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe, Shakespeare's friend and rival playwright.

So, let me set the scene...
A Rooming House in Deptford, 1593...
Eleanor Bull owned the house.  
Small places full of vice and sin, with such houses Marlowe was well acquainted. Mistress Bull's was low-beamed and dark with smoke, a place where light did not penetrate easily on the brightest day, and on the darkest not at all.
Within three others awaited him, his death upon their right shoulders surely as ravens perch upon the gibbets of unrepentant men. Fellows so sick with a malignancy of the soul, from whom the caladrius would turn its snowy face without demur. All three his comrades once, some soon to be his enemies.
Still he must meet them, and so he responded favourably to the invitation to a feast. Red blood flowed in Marlowe's veins, not whey. Under a lintel borne down by sorrow's weight and desperation's call, Marlowe stooped, his hand upon his sword's pommel, a smile upon his lips.
Guy Haley
Guy Haley
A writer of science fiction and fantasy, Guy Haley is the author of CrashChampion of Mars, the Richards and Klein series and others. He is also a prolific contributor to Games Workshop's Black Library imprint.  
Previously a science fiction journalist and editor, Guy finds making his own strange worlds up even more fun than writing about those created by other people.

You can find hundreds of reviews, interviews, opinion pieces, free pieces of fiction and more on Guy's blog.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Tie-in Tuesday: Hooded Men and Apocalyptic Knights

The last two weeks have been busy. As well as all the usual stuff that fills up what is commonly known as 'daily life', the last two weekends I have been indulging a passion of mine... for cult '80s TV drama Robin of Sherwood*.

The May Bank Holiday weekend saw the second The Hooded Man event, organised by the inestimable Barnaby Eaton-Jones, following on from the first such event back in 2014. I joined around 300 other fans in Chepstow for a weekend of geeking out, highly entertaining interviews, banqueting, lots of laughter, and such impromptu delights as the wedding of Little John and Meg of Wickham, and a reading of a 'cut scene' that explained what happened to Marion at the end of the last series. (Fans of the show will know what I'm talking about.)

The suitably atmospheric venue for the event.

Waiting for the fun to start at The Hooded Man II.

Chepstow Castle, which featured in the series back in the '80s.

However, the highlight of the weekend had to be the first play of the trailer for the brand new audio drama Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse. I say 'brand new', but it's adapted from a script written by Richard Carpenter, the show's creator, back in the 1980s. And I'm writing the novelisation of the same script, and was even doing so over the weekend, while I was attending The Hooded Man II.

If you've not heard the trailer for yourself yet - and when I heard it, it was a real goosebumps moment for me - then you can do so here.

If you would like a copy of my novelisation, the only way you can get hold of it is by backing the KOTA Indiegogo campaign and selecting the appropriate perk. The campaign will only remain open until mid-May, so don't delay - back today!

Whilst I was at The Hooded Man II, I met Jenny Kane (who is organising TivLitFest) for the first time, and picked up the second volume of Andrew Orton's comprehensive history of the show, which now features a paragraph about yours truly. And, of course, I made new friends.

Jenny Kane, author of Romancing Robin Hood.

From Andrew Orton's Hooded Man Volume 2.

(Some of) The Swords of Wayland.

I also got to meet Judi Trott (Maid Marion) and Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much the Miller's Son) for the first time, as well as meeting Jason Connery (Robert of Huntingdon) and Mark Ryan (Nasir, and a real gent) for a second time.

But the fun didn't stop when The Hooded Man II came to an end. For just this weekend gone, I was in London to attend the premiere of the Knights of the Apocalypse audio, which included a champagne reception, a preview screening of the 'Making Of...' documentary, the first 30 minutes of the audio, and a Q&A session with those members of the cast in attendance. Andrew Orton and I formed our own writers' huddle at the back of the auditorium and ended the premiere having our photograph taken with the stars.

Waiting for the fun to start at The Knights of the Apocalypse premiere.

Robin of Sherwood's official historian Andrew Orton, fellow fans Lutine and Annette, and some bloke in a jacket and tie.

Then it was off to the pub, naturally (courtesy of fellow fan Annette's organisational skills), where yet more new acquaintances were made.

Jason Connery holding court at the Cock & Lion.

It is certainly a May that I won't forget in a hurry. After all, nothing's forgotten... Nothing is ever forgotten**.

* There are four things that really define me as a writer***, and they all come from my formative years in the 1980s - Doctor Who, Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, Robin of Sherwood, and Brother Cadfael mysteries.

** Especially not helping Much the Miller's Son find his way back to the nearest Tube station.

*** If you ignore all the Steampunk stuff!

Sunday 8 May 2016

Shakespeare Sunday: The Undiscovered Country

As yesterday was Free Comic Book Day, this week it seems appropriate to highlight the story written by someone who is better known for his comics output than his short form fiction*.
Ian Edginton is a British comic book writer from Birmingham, known for his work on such titles as X-Force, Scarlet Traces, H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and Hinterkind. He has also co-created numerous landmark series for The Galaxy's Greatest Comic 2000AD including Leviathan, Stickleback, Ampney Crucis Investigates, The Red Seas, Helium, and Brass Sun, with still more to come.
For his contribution to Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu he has taken one very famous (some might go so far as to say infamous) sorcerer and developed his backstory. Here's an extract...
I woke to a void, vast and absolute. I called out to Miranda but my speech found no traction. My words fell short from my lips, despite calling at the top of my lungs. The very air, if there was such, seemed closed about me, smothering my voice. Panic rose like bile and it took all the will I could summon to wrestle it back.
I walked forwards, though the ground gave no resistance to my footsteps. I could not be certain if even there was any surface. I felt dwarfed into insignificance by the seeming vastness of my surroundings. I had no perspective, no sense of dimension. I could have been a mighty colossus or an insubstantial mote, it mattered naught to this all-encompassing emptiness. Such an absence diminishes a man’s soul, stripping it of all value, vanity and worth. He finds his true place in the scheme of things.
I stopped and stood as there seemed little purpose in continuing for there was nowhere to go. The silence was eternal. I had no reference point for distance or duration, only the rise and fall of my chest and the steady drum beat of my heart marked the passing of time.
It was then I felt the darkness shift.
You will be able to read the rest of the story when Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu is released upon an unsuspecting world later this year.
Ian Edginton
Ian Edginton

* At least, at the moment...

Wednesday 4 May 2016

May the Fourth be with you, Alice.

Did you know, that in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice dreams that the day she visits Wonderland is May the Fourth?

In Chapter 6, Pig and Pepper, Alice decides to visit the March Hare instead of the Hatter, her reasoning being:
“I’ve seen hatters before,” she said to herself; “the March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad – at least not so mad as it was in March.” 

In Chapter 7, A Mad Tea-Party, the Hatter asks Alice:
“What day of the month is it?” Alice considered a little, and then said, “The fourth.”

Alice Pleasance Liddell, who was Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was also the recipient of the first version of the book, was born on May 4th, 1852. Carroll filled the story with all sorts of references to people and places and things that Alice would recognise, and the birthday shout-out is the perfect example.

So why not celebrate Alice Liddell's birthday (which also just happens to be Star Wars Day) by picking up a copy of either Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland or the Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland Colouring Book?

Monday 2 May 2016

Thought for the Day

"I'd rather write adult programmes for children 
than childish programmes for adults."

Richard 'Kip' Carpenter
screenwriter, author and actor, and the creator of Robin of Sherwood
1929 - 2012

"Nothing's forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten."