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Andrew's erotic novelette, 'Eton Mess', is now available!



Saturday, 29 December 2012

This Little Piggy: Review

James wakes up with no recollection of how he ended up in a culvert full of corpses’.
That’s the premise behind Craig McGray’s short story ‘This Little Piggy,' which is available from Amazon.’
It’s very difficult to write a meaningful review of this story without giving away the plot.  However, it’s safe to say this is one of the best short horror stories I’ve read. 
Violent horror is difficult enough in a novel, when the writer can take his time explaining the background and putting the gore in context.  In a short, it is very, very difficult to provide this context and stop violence seeming gratuitous.  That McGray can manage all this in just a handful of pages is some achievement.
From the hook at the beginning to the thought-provoking end, this is a lesson in how to writer short horror.  I don’t often write five star reviews, but I’ve no hesitation here.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Sleeping Dog - Review

As anyone who’s read my blog – or any of my novels – will know, I’m a sucker for Celtic-themed horror.  ‘Sleeping Dog’ by R. A. Sharpe offers a horror set in the modern day and uses one of the Welsh Mabinogion stories as a backdrop.

The novel started off with a decent pace to maintain interest, and slowly pulled me in with its realistic settings and believable characters.  While the Mabinogion is a good background, the book’s strength is the quality of its plotting and characterisation which kept me turning the pages. 

The main points and the flavour of the Welsh stories are faithfully maintained.  Sharpe also weaves modern witches seamlessly into the plot.

The storyline has enough twists to keep the reader guessing, but not so many that it seemed to sway all over the place.

I have read reviews that complain about the gore, and it’s probably fair to say Sharpe doesn’t pull his punches in regard to letting blood flow.  I did think most of the violence was in context, but the book probably wouldn’t have suffered from this aspect being toned down a little.

In all, this was a read that kept me engrossed.  If I have any complaints it’s to do with the presentation and editing – there were regular glitches and errors that I suspect can’t all be blamed on the electronic formatting.  These did annoy me in several places, but not enough make me want to stop reading.

Friday, 14 December 2012

John R. Sikes

Writer John R. Sikes has two (yes, two!) books published by Rogue Phoenix Press in December – ‘A Smuggler’s Story’, and ‘Just After Daylight’. Here’s how they came to be written, in John’s own words.

Rouge Phoenix has a great cover designer, Genene Valleau has been a treat to work with. She has a uncanny ability to see what I am thinking. With the cover of A Smuggler’s Story, she sent, the first draft so close to what I wanted it was scary. The book is about the early days of pot smuggling out of Mexico and Colombia into the United States. I had asked for the elements of how the pot was smuggled to be on the cover. The way she placed the plane, ranch and hikers together, was exactly what I had in mind. She comes highly recommended.

I spent a year traveling around the drug routes here in Mexico gathering information for the book to get the feel, not only from the country, but what the people involved were like also. It amazes me how quick people living in a war zone become accustomed to the violence and death that is happening all around them in the war zone. For most of two years when leaving the house driving down the road, we would survey the fence line for human heads, spiked on the fence post along side of the road during the night. Something not often found in the USA but a common occurrence here. The book tells the story of how it started and what help create what is going on right now.

A Smugglers Story and Just After Daylight will both be released December hopefully in time for Christmas. With pot recently legalized in several states the timing of the books release couldn't have happened at a better time. Again, I owe this to Rouge Phoenix Press. Christine and Arlo the editors at Rouge are both worth their weight in gold to a writer like me.

Just After Daylight came about because of the response from my first book of short stories. I created both books of short stories from my person experience as Captain on the ocean and river guide during my life as a professional fisherman. I owe the books to not only all the people in the stories but to work from the illustrators as well. The stories started out for magazines, but on the request from the one of illustrator were sent to different publishers for consideration. I originally sent them to forty three different publishers to look at. Three different ones sent back letters of interest. I went with Rouge and have never regretted it.

The cover cartoon for both books At First light and Just After Daylight was drawn by illustrator Jim Borer. He has taken over since the sudden death of Glen Duncan who started doing them for the first book, At First Light. Glen is surly missed. Glen was the person responsible for convincing me to put the stories together for a book. Genene Valleau tweaked the cartoons a little bit, added text and came up with a cover that really represents the contents of the book. In both of the short story books, I wrote the story, sent it to the illustrator to read and left it up to them to come up with the cartoon to match.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did writing them.

I am currently working on my third book of short stories and a sequel to Fisherman's Son. They will be finished sometime next year, if the Lords a willing, and the creek don't rise.

Sincerely,

John R. Sikes

photoJAF cover

Captain John Sikes spent over thirty years as a professional fisherman. Fishing the Bering Sea, Grand Banks, Gulf of Mexico, North and South Pacific. He helped in surveying fish stocks for National Marine Fisheries along the entire United States coast. He ran fishing charters for salmon, halibut and bottom fish out of Sekiu and Neah Bay Washington untill he retired from fishing in 2011. He guided fishing trips down the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula during the winter steelhead season when not working on the open ocean.

Captain John now spends his winters in the mountains of Mexico. Summers fishing and hiking in the Pacific Northwest and traveling around the rest of the world. He has written four books. "Fisherman's Son," is novel about a young fisherman's exploits on the ocean chasing halibut, salmon, crab and tuna. "At First Light" and "Just After Daylight" are books of short stories about guiding, chartering, fishing, hunting and survival. "A Smuggler's Story" is a novel about the early days of Marijuana smuggling into the United States from Mexico and Colombia.

You can find his books at amazon.com, www.roguephoenixpress.com, Kindle, Barn&Noble and many other ebook stores.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Organising the Novel

There are probably as many ways of novel writing as there are novelists.  I know what works for me, but I also know some very competent writers who approach the craft in completely different ways.

One thing I often get asked is how I do it.  So, here’s my approach…

Firstly, how long does it take me to write a full novel?

The writing takes a year.  Before that, it’s three to six months in planning, and about six months for revising and rewriting afterwards.

The writing and revising are probably obvious, but what about the planning?  What takes me up to six months?

Well, I’m a compulsive planner.  I plan in detail.  I’m scared, for example, of writing a wonderful novel, getting to the last chapter, and then not being able to work out how my hero gets out of the mess he’s in.  I admire writers who have the confidence to work like that.  Here are the various things I do to make sure that doesn’t happen to me.

1.  Characters.  I want to write a bit on characterisation in a future article so this will only be brief.  In summary, I know my characters before I start typing the story.  Most of my novels involve groups.  As well as names and appearance I have to know how they get on with each other and in particular any tensions that have an effect on group dynamics.  I also find it useful to give each character an individual turn of phrase so they are recognisable without having to use a tag.  An early critiquer for ‘The Wood’ remarked on how well I managed characterisation.

2.  Setting and research.  I usually write about things I’m familiar with – Celtic history and myth, for example.  That doesn’t rule out the need for research, and to know my setting, though.  While I hope I have a broad knowledge I usually have to do quite a bit of reading on the particular myth I’m using.  I also research the historical location I’m using.  Google Earth is a great help, and so is visiting locations.

3.  Plot.  Have I mentioned I’m a compulsive planner?  This is probably the area where I spend most of my time before I start on the story.  First, I write a rough outline of perhaps a page.  This gets refined and lengthened to a few pages.  Eventually, it’s a full chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the novel.

Then I’m ready to go!  Writing the novel takes about a year.  There are constant revisions throughout, particularly to my plan which as every novelist knows needs constant change.  My plan, therefore, is liable to updates – sometimes after every chapter!

And I must mention Phil, who gets to see every chapter and suggest changes, or – with luck – give it the okay.

Revising takes the next six months, although I do edit to some extent as I go along.  I don’t polish until I’ve finished, though, as often something will happen in the story which will mean going back and tweaking earlier events.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft

I bought Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft having read and enjoyed another book in the series - Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts

Beltane contains ten short stories, all around the theme of witches and witchcraft.  Some are dark, some light.  (As a horror writer I preferred the darker ones!) 

Some are longer, and some are shorter.  There is quite a difference in length between the stories, which helps give each its own distinct voice and varies the book’s pacing.

Because the stories are varied, both in subject and length, I’m uncomfortable about picking out any that are better than others.  However, I’ll pick out one that is more firmly within my horror genre: ‘Four Bony Hands’ packed a memorably horrific punch at the end.

Overall, I found this and an entertaining read.  I think it’s well worth what I paid for it.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Celtic Travel

I was in north Wales earlier in the month for a really enjoyable long weekend.  We got out in the mountains and did several walks, some familiar and one new.

As my ‘horde’ of fans will know, much of what I write is set in our Celtic past.  Often this is in north Wales – an area I know well.  I’ve never really thought about how my characters get about, but this month’s break set me thinking about the problems of moving from place to place.

I suppose I’ve always taken travel for granted in my historical fiction, largely because I’m so used to jumping in a car or walking prepared paths.  I also come from the south of England, where the ground is often well drained, and travel on gentle hills straightforward.  It’s never been an issue I’ve had to think about.

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However…

This time, we did the stunning Roman road between Capel Curig and Llyn Ogwyn.  The picture on the left doesn’t really do it justice because it doesn’t show the mountains rising on both sides.

(As an aside, the archaeologist hiding inside me was chuffed to spot the physical features that marked the path as a Roman road - and not just its straightness – before I found out it was Roman.)

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Sadly, though, it wasn’t a straightforward walk.  Although the path usually avoided marshes and crags, in places the route was barely passable – as you can see in the picture to the left.

That set me thinking about how difficult travel must have been in north Wales, especially where there aren’t good paths.  The ground is peat that keeps moisture and forms treacherous bogs.  It would have been very difficult for much of the year.  Travel above the valley floors isn’t a viable alternative because the mountains are rugged and difficult.  Strangers would need either luck or guides to get them along a valley.  Movement at night would be almost impossible.

I also appreciated how easy it must have been to set ambushes, and how terrifying it must have been to be ambushed.  With off-road travel not an option for an attacking army, the locals must have been at an enormous advantage.  Movement on foot would have been difficult enough, but an army bringing wagons and provisions - like the medieval English did - would have been very exposed.  Anyone escaping an ambush would have been easy pickings as they struggled through the bogs and crags.

My characters will certainly be more careful in getting around the country in future!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

NaNoWriMo

(Or, to give it it’s full name, National Novel Writing Month.)

I hadn’t quite forgotten that November is NaNoWriMo.  The aim is to write a novel (or, at least 50,000 words) during November.  I want to wish everyone entering good luck, and I hope you all succeed.

I have full respect for anyone taking up the challenge.

I’m not giving it a go, partly because I don’t have a well enough defined project to work on. 

My other reason for not being involved is that for me, one of the pleasures of writing is the variety of tasks involved.  Off the top of my head I can think of:

  • Planning;
  • Drafting;
  • Proof reading;
  • Critiquing;
  • Reading;
  • Marketing;
  • Networking;
  • Admin (keeping my C drive up to date!);
  • Submitting;
  • research.

So, that’s a lot of things for the average writer to do.  Much as I enjoy the craft, I think concentrating on one aspect for a month would be repetitive and I’d fear I’d fall by the wayside.  So, that’s why I respect everyone making the effort.

However...

I am seriously thinking of giving it a go next year.  One of the downsides of writing novels is that I have more ideas than I have time to do anything about them.  If I can get the detailed planning done beforehand, it might be the impetus I need to work on something that might not otherwise see the light of day.

The main downside will be the copious redrafting of what is likely to be a very poor first draft!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Writing Time…

I wondered recently how much time I spend writing.  It’s my main activity outside work, so I expected it to be quite a while.

My wife works shifts – often whole weekends including sleep-ins - and Junior is a teenager so has his own life.  That means I often get the house to myself for hours at a time.  I also do much of my proof reading on hardcopy in the living room with wife and child around. 

So, I don’t think writing particularly keeps me away from being with the family.  Certainly not as much as spending evenings in the pub would, anyway!

For the last couple of weeks I’ve timed myself.  I’m staggered to realise my writing activities take about fifteen hours a week!  That, of course, is about two working days.

I average around an hour each evening after work, and five hours a day at weekends.  That’s assuming nothing else comes up – obviously, if we spend a Saturday or Sunday visiting relatives that’s a chunk out of my fifteen hours.

So, what do I do in that time?

Well, I haven’t timed each activity, but the various tasks include, in approximate order of time taken:

  • Editing with pen and paper;
  • Putting the edited bits into electronic copy;
  • Writing first drafts;
  • Critiquing;
  • Blogging;
  • Keeping web pages, blogs, etc up to date;
  • Marketing;
  • Research;
  • Poring over listings of publishers, reviewers and similar;
  • General correspondence (with publishers, other writers, reviewers etc);
  • Housekeeping the various folders on my computer;
  • Submitting pieces.

Even with fifteen hours a week devoted to writing I don’t run out of things to do.

Is there anything I’d like to do a lot more of?  Yes.  Researching remote, rugged locations hidden away in the north Welsh mountains –preferably near a pub!  Fortunately we were there at the weekend for a break, in a cosy little cottage on the outskirts of Rhyd Ddu in Snowdon’s foothills, then on to a hotel in Capel Curig for a night.  It was great!

Monday, 5 November 2012

‘…a very strong piece…’

Well SmallFellow writer Neil Evans has written a review of The Well. Thank you Neil for reading the story and taking the time to write about it.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Bridge of Blood

I’ve known Philip McCormac for many years, since we met in a pre-internet horror writers’ critique group.

The group folded but Phil remains a family friend. In days gone by my son almost worshipped Phil not only for his sense of humour, but for his inability to pass an ice cream shop without making a purchase!

Phil has written many westerns under a variety of pen names, as well as thrillers and an American Civil War novel.

His latest novel - Bridge of Blood – explores yet another area - contemporary Northern Ireland. So, what was it that drove Phil to write his latest novel?

Here’s what he told me when I asked:

I got my first writing successes with short horror stories so I am pleased to be associated with Greyhart and grateful to them for publishing my supernatural horror novel BRIDGE OF BLOOD and taking me back to my roots.

The incident of the slaughter on the bridge over the River Bann at Portadown is an historical fact. In 1641 there was a rebellion in Ireland against the English settlers and many atrocities were committed on both sides. The story intrigued me and it was while reading accounts of the massacre that the idea of a novel began to take place.

The times were savage and we look back and shudder to think of the barbarity of the age. But consider our own time. The Balkans, the Middle East and Rwanda in Africa to mention but a few - the fighting and slaughter go on and on. Nothing much has changed. I suddenly thought: what drives people to commit such violent acts?

What if there was a malevolent presence spitefully pervading peoples’ minds and making them act in such a manner? So I selected one such demon from amongst the profusion of these supernatural beings – Laldaboth. [For your own curiosity Google him]. It’s there all right and maybe watching you right now. I advise you not to encourage it too much.

I introduce this demon in the prologue where he is inciting the rebels to commit atrocities against their captives. It is imprisoned by a priest in a holy vessel called a ciborium. We move into the present day where a set of circumstances lead to the release of Laldaboth. Gleefully it sets about creating mischief and mayhem.

Bridge of Blood is available from Grayhart Press.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

I’ve been Kindled!

After months of procrastination I’ve bought myself a Kindle.

“So what?” I hear everyone shout.

Well, a lot of my friends are having books published that either aren’t available electronically, or are expensive in print format.  And ‘Art Class’ is (I think) only going to be available electronically.  ‘The Well’ is only out electronically at the moment.  Being able to read e-books on Kindle is much more convenient than being tied to a PC, and I dislike laptops.  I’ll be able to get more involved in reviewing and marketing and the like now I can read e-books.

What do I think of Kindles?

Well, after a few days it’s probably too early to say.  I can see the potential, though.  I do think we’re maybe a version or two away from the perfect product, although I deliberately went for bottom of the range (I only want to read.  I’m not interested in add-ons).  The more expensive versions may well be nearer perfect. 

I thought I would really miss the feel of paper, but I don’t.  To my surprise I’m not even sure I’d rather have a real book than a virtual one, with the inconvenience of having to turn pages and the like. 

However, as a writer, I appreciate having something with my name on it on a shelf, rather than on an electronic device.

Maybe I’m not as much of a technophobe as I thought!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

“Try it, you won’t be disappointed.”

Art Class SmallFellow writer Neil Evans has written a review of Art Class.  Thank you Neil for reading the story and taking the time to write about it.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts - Review

I’ve never really got to grips with how to use ghosts in fiction, despite being a horror writer.  Ghosts are of course traditionally vaporous.  I can’t figure how a writer can frighten a reader with something that can’t cause any physical damage.

Despite that, of course, I know if I were ever to see a ghost, I’d run a mile.

So, I had three reasons for buying the book, which is a collection of short stories by different authors.  First, to find out how other writers use ghosts.  Second, I know a couple of the writers and wanted to read their contributions.  Third, I reckoned I was going to get an entertaining read.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Each story is noticeably different, varying from traditional scary stories, to paranormal romance, and to the bizarre.  It’s not fair to mention a favourite because the stories are all so different, but I will pick out ‘Take me to St Roch’s’ because it was set in the Sussex countryside.  It’s an area I know well from childhood visits to grandparents, so I could relate to the setting which the author brings over well.  Contributions from those other writers I’ve come across before didn’t disappoint, either.

As well as enjoying the read, I also learned a few tips on how to treat ghosts in fiction.  Who knows, I may even try a ghost story myself!

The book isn’t expensive, and is well worth what I spent on it.

The book is available from Amazon, among other places.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

‘Art Class’ Released!

So, the big day has come, and ‘Art Class’ is released.  Thank you to Mary at ‘Dreams N Fantasies’ for accepting it. 

A big thanks also to Summer Steelman for a superb editing job, to Elisa Elaine Luevanos for a stunning cover, and to Gianna Bruno for her help in getting an early draft into a submittable state.

Art Class SmallHere’s the blurb:

Kerry-Jane has always been too shy to do anything about her exhibitionist fantasies. When a friend arranged for her to pose naked for an art class, the opportunity is too good for Kerry-Jane to pass up.

The class goes even better than Kerry-Jane’s fantasies, and she enjoys being admired by the artists. When a couple of the class hunks invite her to stay on for a private lesson, painting is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Writing Historical Fiction

I like writing historical fiction, although I often include fantasy/mythical elements.  ‘Andraste’s Blade’ and ‘The Doe and the Dragon’ are both set in Britain’s Celtic past.

So, someone asked a while ago, do I have any tips for writing historical fiction?

The answer is that I just get on with it, but I suppose there are some elements that help…

1.  Know the period.  ‘My’ time and place is the post-Roman Celtic British Isles (that’s a mouthful!) which I was fortunate enough to study for my degree.  That gave me a confidence that I would know the subject matter at least as well as most of my readers.  I once wrote a story set in the 19th century American west.  I thought the plot was fine, but it didn’t work because I couldn’t write about it with any confidence.

2.  Throw in some historical niceties.  Even if you’re not familiar with a period, a little knowledge can go a long way.  If people styled their hair in a certain way, for example, have a character arranging their hair like that.  If they believed in certain gods, have a character uttering a short prayer.  Have a character mention the king in passing.  A small amount of knowledge may fool a few people!

3.  Research!  The more the better.  Researching a novel should be fun.  If it isn’t fun, it probably means the story doesn’t match the novelist.  I can’t tell you how enjoyable I found researching the shape and size of 5th century north Welsh houses (yes, honest!).

4.  Be prepared to defend yourself.  In other words, know your facts before sending a manuscript to an editor or critique group.  I worked with one editor who queried every historical fact I’d put in a manuscript – I guess trying to make sure the document would stand up to scrutiny.  Fortunately, I could back up everything I wrote.  I think our working relationship would have been a tough one if I couldn’t.

Glaslyn5.  Know the place as well as the time.  The same probably goes for most fiction set in the present day, too.  I set much of my historical fiction in north Wales.  It’s an area I know like the back of my hand, and I can’t walk along the River Glaslyn upstream from Beddgelert (where this picture was taken) without ‘seeing’ Breena and Prince Einion from ‘The Doe and the Dragon’ flirting on the bank.  That sort of local knowledge made the story so much easier (or should that be less difficult?!) to write.

6.  Don’t let the history get in the way of a good story.  In other words, don’t throw so much history at the reader that the plot gets muddled.  Historical fiction should only be set in the past, not swamped by it.

That’s about it.  Unless anyone can think of anything I’ve missed?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Guest Blog: Courtney Rene

I’ve always thought I was doing pretty well by branching out into the occasional erotic novelette in between my horror/fantasy novels. So, it’s a bit of an eye-opener to meet a writer who writes…well, just about everything.

Fellow Rogue Phoenix Press author Courtney Rene has successfully turned her hand at most genres, so I asked about the good and the bad of being a versatile writer. Here’s what Courtney told me:

Versatility

By Courtney Rene

Photo.BasicI’m versatile. I write non-fiction. I write children’s fiction. I write horror, fantasy, and paranormal. I write anything and everything that pokes my brain and interests me. Now you know that, I bet you are wondering, HOW I can write within so many different areas. How can I be scary and gory one moment and fluffy animals the next? Welp, it’s all frame of mind and setting.

Okay, I can already see the look on your face. The one that says “huh?” Let me explain. There are days that I head out on my lunch hour to the park. The sun is shining. The flowers are in yellow and purple bloom. The bees are in full pollination swing. I can’t very well right about murderous zombies and soul stealing demons within this setting. I am too happy and content. Instead, I will write the fun learning story about what makes a hedgehog wonderful in the face of others. But…

In the dark of the night, with only the light of my screen to see by, the house creaking, and the wind blowing against the windows, I can’t write that sunny happy story. So instead, I will write the spooky or chilling story of darkness stealing the light from within the soul to survive. If I can give myself the willies while writing it, then I know I have done a good job.

What about my fans? How can I write so many different genres and for so many different ages? That one is easy to explain. I love to write. I love being able to write what I feel, not what I have to write because I am stuck in one single genre. FOREVER. Children grow into teens, and teens to adults and adults have children and the cycle begins again. You can find me in all sections of life. I like that. A few of my fans have also said that they are finding they like it as well. That it’s nice to have an author they like to read that they can refer other people to, regardless of their age or their genre preferences.

What do publishers think about my versatility? No idea. None have ever mentioned it to me. I do wonder though if I ever thought to venture into the genre of erotica if it would be a problem for the younger markets. I don’t believe that it will ever become a problem though, as I get giggly when I read steamy stuff, let alone try to write it.

So, there you have it. I’m versatile. I like it that way.

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Courtney’s novels have been published by Rogue Phoenix Press. Check them out here, including her most recent release, Shadow’s End.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Two for Eternity - Review

With my fist love being history, I’ll jump at the chance to read any novel set in multiple periods.  That’s exactly what Carl Alves offers in his debut novel, ‘Two for Eternity’.

perf5.500x8.500.inddThe premise is an eternal battle between good and evil in the form of two immortal brothers.  The viewpoint character epitomises good, and his brother, evil.

The novel shows us the brotherly conflict over many lifetimes and thousands of years, from prehistoric Africa to the present day, all the time building up to an inevitable yet gripping climax.

For me, the premise works.  Alves treats the conflicts and the characters’ rebirths as if they are nothing unusual – which they aren’t for the characters.  This makes the fantastical plot seem credible.  I particularly liked the way the ‘good’ brother showed the downside to immortality through the impact of his memories, which helped add to the story’s depth.

The characters either are, or are linked to, several well known historical people.  This gives the reader something to identify with, even for the lesser-known historical periods.  However, the plot is so skilfully woven and the brothers such strong characters the settings almost become secondary.

Passing through multiple time periods gives the book a feel of pace.  Alves doesn’t let things get dull anyway, but the moving through history maintains the pacing.  There were things I had to do between reading sessions, but the book kept me hooked to the point I found it difficult to find a convenient place to put it down. 

Novelists are told to steer clear of flashbacks, but Alves skilfully mixes up the chronology to give backstory at just the right time.

If I have a couple of criticisms, it’s firstly that I would have liked more period ‘feel’ for a handful of the settings, and I think the brothers’ immortality could have been expanded upon.  However, these are pretty nit-picking criticisms of a novel that kept me hooked throughout.  They certainly didn’t stop me enjoying the read.

‘Two for Eternity’ is available from, among others, Weaving Dreams Publishing.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Blooded - Review

I didn’t really know what to expect from ‘Blooded’, which Wikipedia describes as a ‘horror/thriller’.

It’s a film about a group of hunters who are kidnapped by animal rights activists after they kill a deer in remote Scotland. The film becomes a game of cat and mouse as the hunters become the hunted across the region’s bogs and mountains.

The film was in the style of a documentary reconstructing events of the kidnapping. Form the storytelling point of view this allowed for interview snippets throughout, which meant that background could be fed in carefully. I was unsure whether this style of storytelling would work. I don’t think it would in a lot of situations, but I think it was right for ‘Blooded’.

Given the half ‘horror’ tag and the ‘15’ rating I expected a little more blood and violence which didn’t fully materialise.  That doesn’t prevent the film being a very worthy and thought provoking thriller though.  The tension is maintained throughout and there were enough twists to keep me hooked.  The characters and the situations were very well thought through, rounding those involved.  There was also a good amount of conflict and backstory within the kidnapped group without this being overdone.

One very well done element was that the story turned around the obvious plot, making the deer hunters rather than the activists the group that gained viewer sympathy.  That is where I think ‘Blooded’ really excelled – I saw the hunting argument from a side that often gets a bad press and I was made to think about the issue well after the film finished.

In summary, a watch that was both gripping and thought-provoking.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Historical Novelist’s Armoury

Although I’m a horror novelist first and foremost, most of what I write is set in the past, or at least has a historical element.

Writing horror doesn’t need much support.  While critiques are invaluable, in general you can either do it or you can’t, and there isn’t much you can refer to to help.  I’ll leave it to my readers to decide which camp I fall in.

But the historical side of my fiction is different.  I’m always needing to research some detail of my Celtic-themed stories.  So, where do I turn for help?

Well, firstly, I have the standard dictionaries and the like that I guess most writers have my their desk.  I have a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Dictionary of Grammar close to hand.  Because a lot of my settings are Welsh, I also have a Welsh/English dictionary.

What else?

Well, I studied the (post-Roman) British Celts at university so I’ve got all the ‘standard’ textbooks – at least, the ones that were current when I was a student.  Some are probably out of date by now.  They’re on a bookshelf in another room and I refer to them if I need them.  By my desk are three (yes, three) Celtic sourcebooks – a Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, a Dictionary of Arthurian Myth and Legend, and a more historical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain.  I can recommend all three.

I also have to hand any specialist books I need for the novel I’m working on.  For example, I’m currently working on something based around one of the Welsh Mabinogion stories.  I have a paperback translation of The Mabinogion to hand.  I’ve also got web links to a couple of commentaries.

Fortunately in the UK we have wonderful Ordnance Survey maps.  These come in a variety of scales and show everything you could reasonably want in a map.  While for quick reference I use the similar online Streetmap, I make sure I have the Ordnance Survey map for wherever I’m setting a novel.  They show ancient sites and are invaluable for getting an idea of the lie of the land.  I also use the online Google Earth for photographic views.  Having lived in North Wales, I’m familiar with a lot of my Welsh settings as well, which is a great help.

I like to proof read hardcopy rather than electronic.  So, I’ve got a clipboard, copyholder and propelling pencil (more precise than a pen) to hand.

Of course, I’ve also got a lot of writing web sites linked on my computer.  I expect most writers do – other writers, publishers (especially of my works), listings of publishers, publicity sites, critique groups, message boards and the like.

I’ve also got pictures of my covers as both my desktop background and screensaver.  I’ve also got them in frames running up the stairs.  They’re great for moments of self-doubt: they reassure me that I really can write that difficult next scene.

Finally, and most important, I’ve got a coaster (covered in Celtic patterns) for all the coffee I get through.

So, that’s about it for the ‘tools’ I use for my fiction. I suspect if I wrote other genres I’d need different aids. If I wrote more erotica I would certainly buy a whole shelf of genre DVDs – for research, of course.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

‘The Well’ – Another Review

Abyss & Apex Magazine assistant editor Roland de Nedde has written a review of ‘The Well’:

“Andrew Richardson journeys from the more familiar Celtic and British settings of his prior stories to the desert southwest of the United States to deliver a haunting tale of kidnapping, vengeance and tragedy as imperfect people struggle with impossible choices.
When a beautiful heiress to a fast food empire is taken hostage to settle a score between two families, she must dig deep to motivate and inspire the one unlikely person who might rescue her. Trouble is there are more dangerous creatures in this desert than her captors, and they are hungry.

Well SmallAt 26,000 words The Well doesn’t disappoint. It’s got the descriptive elements one would expect in the horror genre, but as usual with Andrew’s work, the writing never gets in the way of the images appearing in the reader’s mind. The plot moves forward building nicely to the end, leaving nothing unsettled.
His characters make believable if painful choices and it’s good to see a change of scenery from Andrew without compromising his usual attention to detail and focus on his story.

Roland de Nedde
http://e-shadowfax.livejournal.com/

Conflict of Interest and Financial Disclaimers: I have received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for this review. This review has not been submitted, nor will it be, to any established review organizations of which I am a staff member. My opinions stated above are my own and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Abyss & Apex Magazine.”

Thank you Roland!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Review of ‘The Well’

Black Horse Westerns author Philip McCormac has written a short review of ‘The Well’:

“This is a finely crafted tale. The author packs so much into the space it has a claustrophobic effect that is very appropriate for the subject matter. Horror is piled upon horror with the tension almost unbearable at times.
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Connie Straker is the victim, well no - Miss Straker is only one of the many victims in this story. This novella will screw with your head as humans, animals and nature are presented in their most malevolent mode.”

Thank you Philip!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Writing Full Time – an Experiment

I’ve been off work for five days – it’s a long Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK.  I’ve also had the house to myself because wife and child have gone camping with friends for four days.  (I didn’t go.  I’m too much of a wimp to tolerate the discomfort of living semi-rough.)

So, while I had the house to myself I decided to see what would be like if I had nothing to do except write (and of course the list of jobs my Good Lady left me).  As I’ve had half a week, I decided to devote half a working week (eighteen hours) to writing over the four days. 

I gave myself most of Saturday off to go the match.  Sadly I’d have been better off writing.

I’ve always limited the number of words I produce.  I prefer to take my time to write something resembling quality than churn out copious amounts of rubbish that need more time putting into order later.  My limit is 3,500 words a week, simply because it averages at 500 words a day, although I rarely hit this limit.  I kept myself to this maximum this weekend.

So, did I fill my time with writing?

Oh, yes.  Because I limit my output, I found I had much more time for other writing things.  And, because writing was my priority - it wasn’t crammed in the odd half hour around work and family - I found the whole experience much more relaxing than I expected.

I managed to catch up on several writing ‘chores’.  For example, the ‘Writing’ folder on my PC was a mess.  It isn’t any more.  I updated the links and this blog, and my Twitter and Facebook pages (feel free to like or follow, by the way!).

I reviewed several other pieces, including improving the health of my Critters credit.

I caught up on some outstanding correspondence with other writers - I’ve let a few things slip which I feel guilty about.  (Of course, being in contact with friends doesn’t really count as a ‘chore’.)

I did quite a bit of research and detailed planning of the next chapters of my current novel.  I also reviewed and improved some chapters I’ve already written.

I submitted a novel.  I also cleaned up and submitted a very old short, which I’ve been meaning to get around to doing for months.

There was still a lot I didn’t get done, which shows how much I’ve neglected the ‘non-writing writing tasks’.

So, did the experience work? 

Yeah, I could cope with doing this all the time.  I did worry that I might find it boring, just sitting in front of a screen for hours a day.  Because the tasks were varied, and because not all needed the computer, and because I could set my own schedule, it wasn’t a problem.  The main thing I got out of it was time to do outstanding ‘non-writing writing tasks’.  The lesson learned is that I need to devote more time to these, even if I produce less. 

Finally, a word on my schedule.  I’m very much a morning person, and I was usually working by 7.00am (with a cup of coffee by my side).  After a break for breakfast I was back at it again until an early lunch.  Then shorter bursts in the afternoon and evening, with relaxing/chores/food shopping/etc in between.

Friday, 24 August 2012

A couple of P/Reviews

It’s a busy time for me at the moment, with ‘The Well’ now out, and ‘Art Class’ imminent.

Well has its first review – by Carole Ann Moleti.  It’s here.

Art Class has been subject to a preview, by Gianna Bruno.  It’s here.

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Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Well

So, ‘The Well’ is released.  Firstly, thank you to eTreasures Publishing for taking it on.

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‘Well’ is a bit of a departure from my usual horror stories.  It has no supernatural element and no Celtic history.  This change of emphasis, and trying something new, made it great fun to write.

The story is a homage to my literary hero, Richard Laymon.  Laymon has influenced both my style and subject matter.  ‘Well’ has many of his characteristics – an American wilderness setting, a feisty blonde in jeopardy, and a nerdish male lead.  I can only hope some readers will think it a fraction as good as the great man’s work.

Many thanks to all those who helped improve an early draft, particularly those American friends who worked hard to translate the book from British English to American English.  It’s my name on the cover, but ‘The Well’ is very much a team effort.

Here’s the link.  It’s electronic only at the moment, but I’m assured print copies will come in due course:

http://tinyurl.com/cha4qem

Finally, here’s the blurb:

When beautiful heiress Connie Straker wakes from a drugged sleep, she has no idea why she is at the bottom of a dry well.

Connie anticipates freedom when her prison floods, but is dismayed to find she remains a captive. If she is going to escape, she must outthink two violent brothers with a grudge against her family, overcome wild animals and find a way through the cage barring her way.

Connie’s best chance of freedom might lie with the college nerd who has had a crush on her for years. But Julian is a creep who Connie despises and she has to decide whether to trust him. Can he overcome his fear of the brothers and help her escape? Or will her captors put a violent end to Julian’s efforts? Will Julian take advantage of her desperation and make Connie’s life-or-death situation even worse?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Unheroic Hero

I find it difficult to be nasty.  I hope my friends and family would agree that I’m not particularly good at it.

So, what has that got to do with writing?

Well, a lot of my novels are set in Britain’s Celtic past; a time when heroes were heroic; a time when charismatic leaders won the day through brute force.

That’s not me.  I’ve tried very hard to be an arrogant bully, but I hope I’ve failed dismally.  That’s why I find it very difficult to write in the Celtic hero’s viewpoint.  Cuchulain, Boudicca, Arthur and the like were doubtless great leaders, but to be successful they must surely have had many of the characteristics I find it so hard to give my characters.

So, how can I write heroic fiction when I struggle to make my characters heroic?

I’ve got around it by concentrating on the more ‘human’ and likeable aspects of personality.  I don’t particularly enjoy writing battle scenes, so I try to keep this ‘off stage’ anyway.  That lets me explore the side of my characters that I want to concentrate on.

DoeDragonFront200

For example, Prince Einion in ‘The Doe and the Dragon’ was a warrior prince, but I was able to concentrate on his struggle to overcome his shyness of beautiful women. 

I made Einion’s father, Cunedda, a once-excellent warrior who has mellowed in his old age and is now more interested in politics and seeing his sons inherit, than in wielding a blade.

I found this approach to characterisation much more satisfying than simply portraying Celtic warrior heroes as violent thugs.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

In the Footsteps of Heroes

Anyone who knows me even slightly will know how much I love North Wales.  I was fortunate enough to live there for three years, and I still return for holidays whenever I can.

I also set a lot of my historical fiction among the region’s mountains and valleys, and woods and moors.  When I’m walking among rugged hills and deep lakes with a low, brooding sky I find it impossible not to think of the people living here in days gone by.

So what have these rambling thoughts got to do with writing?

Well, I find it really helpful to be able to know the places where my characters live their lives.  In fact, putting scenes in places I know is one of the joys of writing.  It also helps me picture some of the scenes.  For example, here is the River Glaslyn a little upstream from Beddgelert. 

Glaslyn

In ‘The Doe and The Dragon’, it was here that Prince Einion first set eyes on Breena, the Irish girl who took his heart.  I walked alongside this stretch of river only a couple of weeks ago, and Breena and Einion are so much a part of the place for me I could almost see their ghosts – particularly as the area is thick with myth and legend.

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I set a lot of the story in the magnificent Gwynant Valley (above); it isn’t difficult to imagine warrior princes leading warbands over this rugged country.

Mine

And one of the characters is enticed into an ancient copper mine by a spirit.  I based the scene at this (slightly more modern but still pretty old!) mine.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Review: Tim Lebbon: ‘The Everlasting’

I don’t get to read professional horror authors’ completed works as often as I’d like.  That changed – temporarily at least – when I took Tim Lebbon’sThe Everlasting’ with me on holiday last week.

Lebbon is a British author with a growing reputation in the horror genre.  Immediately on starting the book it was clear why – the style is very easy to read.  The main characters – Scott and his grandfather (‘Papa’) are expertly drawn and I felt I knew them from the opening pages.  Of all the other writers I’ve come across, I think only the late Richard Laymon does (did, sadly) characterisation better.  Papa appeared only through Scott’s memories, which made his characterisation particularly skilled.

The plot wasn’t unusual, with Scott finding himself on a quest in ‘The Wide’ (an equivalent of the Celtic Otherworld and the like) – I used something broadly similar myself in ‘The Wood’.  The plot was logical, and flowed well.

So, why didn’t ‘The Everlasting’ quite ‘do it’ for me?

Well, I’ve read a couple of other reviews that seem to agree with my assessment, that the book isn’t really horror.  There are some very unsettling elements, but I thought what made the story what it was was unexpected fantastical elements, not horror.  In fact, some of the darker elements were perhaps too surreal to ever be truly scary, no matter how well Lebbon wrote about them.

So, I won’t give ‘The Everlasting’ a mark out of ten.  It will likely satisfy readers of dark, urban fantasies, but I found the cover and the library’s ‘horror’ tag misleading. 

So, it’s still been too long since I read a professional horror novel!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Free Fiction! – ‘Boy Racer’

The rights to most of the short stories I've had published reverted to me long ago. Instead of trying to find new homes for them I thought I'd republish some of them here on my blog. So, here's a (hopefully!) humorous piece about an ogre with a passion for racing.  Find it either here, or at the link on the right.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

‘The Shoot’ and ‘The Wood’

Publishers Eternal Press have taken ‘The Shoot’ and ‘The Wood’ down from their listings.  That’s not a surprise, and is fine, as I suspect the contracts for both has expired.

Both are still available from Amazon, though, and I’ve updated the links on the right-hand side of this page.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Andraste’s Blade: Print Version

BladeSmallDark Realm Press have told me that print versions of Andraste’s Blade will be discontinued from 15 June.  That isn’t really a surprise as it’s been around a while – published in 1995.

Andraste’s Blade will still be available electronically.

Here’s the Amazon link for the print version for the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Savor All The Flavors of Romance

Fellow Eternal Press author Gianna Bruno has invited me to join her on her Coffee Time Romance Forum between 12 and 19 May.  Award winning author Alice Gaines will also be there.

TheJourney_200x300_72dpiHotChocolateKiss_hires

We’ll all be talking about our latest projects and releases, and answering questions.  There’ll be excerpts and previews, and between us we’ll be giving away a prize a day!

Forum registration is required, but it’s easy and secure.

trsmayctrs_promo (1)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Art Class Cover

It’s always good to see cover art because it makes publication seem nearer.  I’ve had the final cover for ‘Art Class’ sent through, and I think it’s great.  I don’t know yet who the artist is, but he or she is due a big thank you!

artclass200x300

‘Art Class’ is coming soon from Keith Publications.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Andraste’s Blade

I’ve been sent royalties for the last period by my various publishers.  To my surprise, my best selling book was Andraste’s Blade – which is the first book I had published, and also the one I’ve not particularly ‘pushed’ recently.

I hope those who bought Blade enjoyed it!  For those who don’t know what it’s about, it’s a historical fantasy/horror set against the background of Boudicca’s revolt against the Romans.

Andraste’s Blade is available from Dark Realm Press.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Keith Publications

Amid all the excitement of exchanging contracts and the like I forgot to confirm that Art Class’s publisher will be Keith Publications

I don’t know the release schedule yet, but I’m looking forward to working with all at Keith.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Acceptance – ‘Art Class’

I heard a couple of days ago that ‘Art Class’ has been accepted for publication.  This is an erotic novelette about a shy woman who poses for a class of art students.

I’m excited to be working with this publisher for the first time, but as usual I’ll refrain from naming them until contracts are signed so as not to embarrass anyone if something doesn’t work out.

A very big thank you to Gianna Bruno who read the story’s first draft and gave me several suggestions which improved it a lot.

‘Art Class’ is my second erotic sale.  The first was ‘The Shoot’, which is still available from Eternal Press.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Wood Review

The Wood” has been reviewed by British writer Neil Evans.  Neil describes the novel as “Highly recommended.”

Read the full review here.