Monthly Archives: June 2013

Review for Alchemy Press Book Of Ancient Wonders

Review for Alchemy Press Book Of Ancient Wonders

Review  for Alchemy Press book Of Ancient Wonders from Jim Mcleod over at ‘Ginger Nuts of Horror’aw tiny
This is another one of those reviews that has taken a lot longer to get round to than I had first imagined.  The reason for this is I think that ancient wonders contained within it’s pages were conspiring to make my life difficult.  During my time reading this anthology the book decided to disappear.  I hunted high and low looking for this book, and both times it mysteriously appeared on a book shelf that I checked at least twice. Trust me  here are strange and wondrous powers working within this book.
With a title like this,  you would hope that the stories contained within are ones that will illicit a feeling of joy and wonder, and perhaps a few that are tinged with a slight darkness.  Thankfully, the anthology does this with great aplomb.  The stories on offer are  an extremely high standard in terms of the quality of writing but more importantly they have that magic edge that makes them special.  That ability that brings a wide eyed smile to your face. A lot of the stories have similar themes, of time travel travel, the ancient world impinging on ours, and the legends of old, but each story lives out it’s own fabulous world in the anthology.The opening story Bones  by Adrian Tchaikovsky, is a brilliant story of an archeological dig for some monstrous bones that has a fabulous and subtle twist to the tale.  Adrian packs a lot into this story, to the point that you get a real feel for this futuristic society of … well you’r going to have to read the book to find out what they are.

Following on from this is perhaps my favourite story of the anthology, If Street by James Brogden.  This story will strike a perfect chord with every male reader, don’t lie, I know everyone of you dreamed of being a Roman Soldier as a kid, and probably still do.  If Street, is reads like one of those classic Sunday afternoon dramas, there is wonder, danger, sadness and the loss of childhood innocence.  It’s also full of great ideas, such as what happens to the Romans when they make the journey across the veil into our world.  Excellent stuuff.

William Meikle’s The Cauldron of Camulos is a rip roaring take on Arthurian England, told with Meikle’s spectacular gift to entertain the reader.

Peter Crowther’s Gandalph Cohen and the Land at the End of the Working Day, is one of those unusual stories, that in theory shouldn’t work, but somehow manages to be one that is just pure genius.

The Alchemy Book of Ancient Wonders,  is one of those anthologies that really does live up to the title.  This is fourteen stories of pure magic, that will whisk to lands full myth, magic, and adventure.


Jessica Rydill’ s Malarat

Jessica Rydill’ s Malarat. Pb 2013 by  – Kindle Edition 5170k+s2O9L._AA160_

 Annat Vasilyevich is a shaman and an outcast Wanderer. No longer her father’s apprentice, she watches enviously as he sets out into enemy territory with his new pupil, Huldis of Ademar, and their companions.

War has come to Lefranu, and while Annat defends the besieged city of Yonar, her father has to face his destiny and confront a demon known only to the Wanderers. Their world is about to be shattered by an attack from the most deadly of enemies – the mediaeval Duc de Malarat and his ally, the twisted but beautiful Inquisitor, Valdes de Siccaria.

Malarat is Jessica Rydill’s third book. Set in the same world as her earlier stories, it can be read as a stand-alone novel. Malarat is a much darker work than its predecessors, dealing with themes of loss, guilt and betrayal.

Q&A with Jessica Rydill  for Malarat

 Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m the younger daughter of a naval architect and a social worker. My elder sister is the Fantasy writer Sarah Ash, who has had a huge influence on me, though our books are very different. I’ve spent most of my life living in Bath or London, but I think Bath has won out now. I studied English at University and would have liked to become an academic, but I didn’t get a good enough degree. So I trained as a solicitor and had a somewhat chequered career in local government. The best bit by far was working as a locum for the London Borough of Lambeth; as a housing lawyer as I got to stand up in court (though solicitors have horrible gowns, unlike barristers). I gave it all up in 1998 in order to write. A writing course at Fen Farm taught by David Gemmell was a breakthrough for me. It made a huge difference to my writing though it was still some time before I produced a book that was publishable!

 Malarat is standalone book and somewhat darker than previous books in this world. Can you tell us a little about that?

I suppose Malarat is on a more epic scale than the others. I like to imagine my books as movies, and Malarat is a bit like War and Peace in scope. The beginning is quite light, and one of the main characters is preoccupied with what she’s wearing. But in that first chapter there is a hint of what’s to come. There will be a war, and all the characters will be affected. In some ways it’s a story about obsessions of various kinds. The Duc de Malarat wants to rule the country through a puppet king. The Inquisitor wants to eradicate magic. And behind that is a man with the weirdest obsession of all – Colonel Carnwallis. He sets out to change history and the afterlife in line with his view that the Anglit – the English, in effect – are true descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The way in which these characters set out to achieve their ends is disastrous for everyone else. So there are some dark episodes. The standalone bit relates to the fact that you don’t need to have read my first two novels to understand this one. If anything, I have enlarged the amount of contextual detail relating to the world and country where the story is set. Some of the characters are the same, but the entire episode is separate.

 You had two previous novels set in this world: Children of the Shaman  – short  listed for a Locus Best first Novel – and  The Glass Mountain.  Fill us in on the details.

Children of the Shaman introduced the Vasilyevich family. They are Wanderers, an ethnic group similar to the Jews. They also have magical powers to varying degrees, which is why they are known as shamans. The children, Annat and Malchik, have been brought up by their aunt and grandparents. Their father abandoned them and their mother died young. Malchik is rather nerdy and weedy and Annat, the young girl, is bolder and more adventurous. When their aunt has to go into hospital, their father, Yuda, takes custody of them. He’s on a secret mission to a frontier town called Gard Ademar (which does exist – it’s called La Garde Adhemar). Since the Great Cold ended, the Railway People have been constructing a railway north into the unknown wastes of what is (more or less) northern France. And when they reach Gard Ademar, they accidentally disturb a hornet’s nest. Yuda is there to investigate a series of murders, and he and his children get caught up in the magic of the place. He’s a very mercurial and charismatic person and not at all an ideal father; he can’t accept that his son, Malchik, is not only not a shaman but also completely bookish and wimpy.

The Glass Mountain deals with some of the fallout from Children of the Shaman. It talks a lot more about what it means to be a shaman and focusses on Yuda’s twin sister, Yuste. In this story most of the trouble is caused by a Magus who carries two suitcases with …unusual…contents. He practises necromancy and fancies himself as a rival to the powerful Sklavan Magus Kaschai the Deathless. The mountain of the title is his hideout, and he kidnaps Annat and Malchik to further his purposes. The setting is 19th century again but there are mediaeval elements because of the fact that parts of the world have been set back by the Great Cold.


 Magic and shamanism.

There are (at least) two kinds of magic in this universe. Shamans are an evolutionary phenomenon. Before the Great Cold, they were rare and were found mostly in Cine (which is China). After the Thaw, the centre for the study of shamanism was established in Inde (India). They had a long tradition of academic study, and they were excited when news came through that shamans were starting to be born in Europe. So they sent out a number of emissaries, one of whom was Prakhash Sival, who planned to establish a school or college for shamans in Masalyar. Sival ‘discovered’ Yuda and Yuste Vasilyevich when they were children, and recognised that they were both unusually powerful. So he set out to study and train them.

The characteristics of a shaman are that they can use telepathy, heal, and travel into other dimensions, particularly the spirit world. A small number of them have much more flamboyant powers and can also fight. They are often but not always bisexual, and they tend to be on the short side. But there are exceptions to every rule!

The Magus is a shaman who uses other forms of magic. He casts spells and uses mirrors. The shamans frown on this type of magic because it’s superstitious and tends to involve abuse of power.

There is another species of magic which only gets hinted at: gifts, which are a specific magical ability. In Children of the Shaman, there is a painter called Cluny who can use his paintings to escape from his confinement. He is not a shaman and has no other magical powers.

If you could visit a fantasy world from another book where would it be?

That’s a tricky one! I would once have loved to go to Narnia, but discovering that it was a Christian allegory rather knocked that on the head for me. More recently, I have wanted to go to Lyra’s Oxford. The trouble with fantasy worlds is that they’re dangerous. It’s not unlike going travelling, backpacking, and I these days I prefer my home comforts such as sanitation, hot and cold running water and sofas. I’m emotionally close to Bilbo Baggins before he set out for Erebor. So I think I’d choose Middle-Earth, specifically the Shire, because you can smoke and drink beer (and eat well) but there is also the possibility of Elves.

How do you see the rise of eBooks affecting writers and writing?

I believe it’s too soon to call, really. The effect could be quite deleterious in one scenario. At the moment, many people are rushing into print before they have had a chance to learn their craft, and there is no editorial control. There are thousands of eBooks out there and it is hard to discover which are any good. It’s also very hard to get reviews for self-published eBooks due to the sheer volume of books being produced. So on the one hand there is the opportunity for people to publish work that might not otherwise have been published – but on the other hand there’s no gateway, no vetting process and so it’s almost as if there is an eBook for everyone in the world.

I love ‘traditional’ reading but I fear that in the future it may not survive. I may be completely wrong, but I get the impression that young people enjoy so many different formats – games, films, tablets, music and more. Sitting down to read a book is a much more concentrated and reflective experience. On the other hand, eBooks have a lot of unexplored potential. One could incorporate music, images – who knows what! – into a book.

So I feel the rise of eBooks is a challenge; they rely on technology and a hi-tech society to exist. I’m a bit of a Luddite – I love low tech things like steam trains and wind-up gramophones – but I have to confess I also love iPads and computers and suchlike.

Who is hot on your reading list?

I want to read ‘Wind Follower’ by Carole McDonnell, which has been waiting on my Kindle. Lots more Sherlock Holmes, and some of my Terry Pratchett pile. The Kindle is quite bad for a book hoarder like me (in one way) in that I can download stuff and there it is, waiting for me! I am keen to read more of the Graceling books by Kristin Cashore.

What next?

I’ve started something called Winterbloom. That’s only its working title. I’ve got to scan my first two books to bring them out as eBooks, but Winterbloom is pre-occupying me. It’s my work-in-progress and it looks as though parts of it may take part in England – a fictional 19th century England – and also in the Anglond of the shaman world. At the moment there appear to be characters from three parallel worlds interacting. It may also have Sherlock Holmes in it, but I’m not sure because Conan Doyle was such an outstanding writer. But I used to love the old Sherlock Holmes TV series with Jeremy Brett playing the Great Detective, and now I am a huge fan of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Mark Gatiss. I’m terribly fan-girly about the whole thing! So Winterbloom might have a Sherlock Holmes strand. After Malarat, I wanted to do something a bit more playful, and I have always wanted to mingle my characters with someone else’s. The main problem at the moment is structural – I know what I want to do but not how to get there!

Review for Alchemy Press Book Of Ancient Wonders"

Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac.

The line-up for Alchemy Press anthology Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac is now up!astrologica

Editor Allen Ashley has now fixed the final line up for the forthcoming Alchemy Press anthology Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac. 

Allen says: “That’s it! I have made my final three acceptances and the book is now full.”

So, without further ado, here is the full running order for Astrologica:

Aries – Aspects of Aries by David Turnbull
Taurus – The White Bull Ranch by Christine Morgan
Gemini – The Sun and the Moon by Bob Lock
Gemini – Star-crossed by Stuart Young
Cancer – Ragged Claws by Joel Lane
Leo – The Yellow Fruit by Ralph Robert Moore
Virgo – The Third Face of Virgo by Adam Craig
Libra – The Order of the Scales by Storm Constantine
Scorpio – Cookie by Jet McDonald
Capricorn – Broken Horn by Doug Blakeslee
Sagittarius – Dark Matters by Megan Kerr
Aquarius – Deep Draw by Neil Williamson
Pisces – The Prize by David McGroarty
Pisces – The Fishman by Mark David Campbell

To be launched at World Fantasy  in Brighton UK, October 2013

Words on Repeat.

My first radio interview last night on CRE8 Radio in Stoke – and I have survived, more or less intact!

 Self-promotion is a big thing for any writer these days, and this was the first time I had ventured onto the air waves. I fondly imagined I was being quite careful about the words I used on air.
Presenter Paul Oldfield, along with engineer, Tim Vickerstaff, and the lovely Rosie, all made me feel at home. I gabbled on to Paul as I do, never one to be at a loss for words.
There was time to plug various writing projects.
There was time for my choice of music. Though two of the three songs I had suggested could not be found, but then having been out of step all my life why would music be any different? I was never likely to pick something anybody knew… They did find ‘How Come’ by Ronny Laine – but commented that even that was harder to obtain than they imagined.
There was time to read out a snippet of ‘Bone Wary’ from the A-Z Cities of Deathantho (with all four-letter words omitted for radio use.)
I thought it went pretty well.
But… unbeknownst to me, that terrible affliction ‘word of the moment’ had struck me down. I am quite rabid about repeat words in my fiction, but my brain has a nasty habit of playing tricks on me in real time.
You know the thing I am talking about. That WORD that you come up with every few minutes without realising it. Verbal punctuation that creeps in whilst you think about what else you want to say. The stock reply. The breathing space.
The word ‘But’ is a firm favourite with many, or ‘Actually’.  ‘Yeah’, ‘So’… you know the kind of thing.  That word or phrase that has crept into your consciousness and hangs around ready to leap in at the slightest excuse.
My word of the moment, it turns out, is ‘Absolutely.’
Oh well. It could have been worse… ‘Innit.

Review for Sex, Lies and Family Ties

Review for Sex and Lies

Jan Ruth‘s review
May 29, 13
4 of 5 stars
Read from May 27 to 29, 2013
Sex, Lies and Family Ties

Sex, Lies and Family Ties

Sexuality and Survival in the Seventies.
I enjoyed this novel, set in the 1970’s when I was a teen too, so I could relate to the voice of the central character very well. Incest, rape and domestic violence was a little more hush hush to a large degree in those times, so the story would perhaps not hit quite the same chord with today’s more confident, outspoken young women.
However, the author handles all of these issues with sensitivity and great insight, and never once does she allow any of it to become gratuitous, or let it override the emotional story. And emotional it is, as Carol comes to terms with the death of her brother, the impact it has on her family and the effect it has on her life and future.
Well written and full of poignancy.

Urban Mythic Cover Art

We have a cover for The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic! Final version to come but this is essentially it!
Featuring some truly fabulous artwork by Ben Baldwin!
It is all getting exciting now!