Saturday, 3 September 2016

My Summer Reading List

Thought I'd share some of the books I read this summer. I don't read as much as other people think I should, but I read just enough for me. My favourite read of the bunch is at the end of this little run-down. Here are the ones I've anything (possibly) worth saying about:

Neal Asher's Shadow of the Scorpion...I wanted to like it. In principle, sci fi action, giant laser shooting scorpion on the cover...but it lost me with plasticrete. Stupid thing to lose a reader over, and more me than Neal's book, probably. It's like gum, or flies, or noisy exhausts...shunting words together just gets on my tits. That isn't exactly fair to Asher...otherwise, in another reader's hand, no doubt a perfectly enjoyable read. Of the action sci-fi I've read, I think Andy Remic is more my speed, and I like Stephen North's vibe very much, too. Also, I'm sure Asher and Mr. Child (below) could give a shit what I think...

Lee Child's latest, as the last few, felt irrelevant. I generally enjoy Child's Reacher stories, but like so many 'big' books, I think it's become a victim of its own success. Three or fifteen chapters about figuring out a phone number, or a place, is taking the piss. Perhaps it's the publishers, rather than Child - I suspect he could tell a cracking tale in half as many words, and if he did, I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more.

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett. While not especially a devotee of the Warhammer universe, I always enjoy Dan Abnett. Horus Rising, though it felt restricted by the Black Library's sometime heavy hand, was very enjoyable.

My first Sven Hassel proved a good, easy to digest breath of air. Bloody Death! Or something, I think it was called. I don't think the title really mattered...

Assassin’s Creed something-something by Oliver Bowden - I always try to read an adaptation, or a book set in a shared universe, on holiday. I read this out of curiosity. Bowden was fine. Fifteen pages of stabbing got a bit boring. I didn't finish it.

Shaw’s Rotten Dead Fucks - always enjoy a bit of Shaw, and more and more these days I'm finding myself drawn to the Indie side of publishing than the biggies - just more inventive, fresher, and less restrictive. Obviously, that doesn't always stand true; Indie or Trad - they're both as good, and both as bad, as each other.

Ken Eulo's Brownstone - if King, McCammon and their contemporaries were the pickles of the eighties horror boom, this was the pickle juice. I didn't finish it – not because it was awful, but because there was no need to.

Alison Littlewood's 'Cold Season' - enjoyable small village, claustrophobic, horror.

Also read/also rans:

Butcher's Furies of Calderon...great if you've got three hundred hours for the series. One was enough to sate my curiosity, as Gardens of the Moon did for Steven Erikson. A slower, confused start with Erikson, but both very worthy for fans of books large enough to injure hornets.

An older title by George C. Chesbro, The Beasts of Valhalla, concerning a circus trained acrobat/karate master/professor of criminology and dwarf named Mongo...well, can't beat that.

Re-read Herbert's Sepulchre...much the same as I remembered it, and very much a reflection of the era. Like Laymon, very readable but never quite for me.

Re-read Abercrombie's 'Best Served Cold' - I like him more than most these days, and one of the few I actively seek out.

Mieville's Iron Council...hmm...good. lyrical, pretty, like Banks...but lacking warmth. I've read some of Keith Deininger's (like Marrow's Pit) which I've enjoyed more.

Haldeman's Peace and War - I read the first. I won't read more because I just haven't got the time of life left to read every book and I'm not going to stress about it. Apparently Peter F. Hamilton liked it. I prefer Hamilton, and Reynolds.

King's Revival? Reliable, solid storytelling, King's style just as personal and warm as ever. Didn't blow my sock off, but I don't honestly think I've fallen for a King book for over a decade. I enjoyed 11.22.63 very much, but the last King which really did it for me was Duma Key. Unpopular with other King fans, maybe, but up my street. But then one of my favourite King stories was Tommyknockers. It was unwieldy, sure, but damn it was full of heart. I'll take heart over perfection every time.

Work Reads:

Ryan C. Thomas' third Roger Huntington book. He can share the blurb when it's out, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I read Edward Lorn's latest tale of Bay's End - I'm coming to look forward to these stories, which remind me of King's Castle Rock/Maine phase, and invoke the same kind of glee. He can share his blurb, too - great stuff.

My Favourite:

Shadowland, Peter Straub - from the delightful introduction to the edition I have by the man himself, painting a picture of a bygone era when stories were written on typewriters in wood-panelled rooms, to the story itself - a story about stories, but entirely magical - language, but more than that - this is a book written when narrative structure was exciting, creative. I find narrative structure of many books these days...staid. Perhaps people could be more inventive then. I don't know. Perhaps Big Publishing stifles some of that creativity...I don't know. But while so many stories are two up, two down, this book was motherfucking architecture. Wonderful.

That's it. Love you!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

What I Did on my Summer Holidays

New term starting, so I'm handing in my homework. At the start of the summer holiday (the kids', not mine...but they're pretty much the same thing as I'm home-dad) it all went a bit pear-shaped. I've been working on getting my old books out in paperback and audio and wanted to get that job done by September, when I usually start working again. The kids go back to school, I work again. Since school started, it's been that way. Summer, edit. September, write.

But noooo. Uh-huh. Had an actual, bone fide, act of God. Lightning. It knocked out everything, killed the Internet, the television, the PC.

Dead PC. Hard to work with a dead PC. I mourned for a while. I got sad. I lost not only all my work in progress, but the ability to work as I had nothing to work on. I wrote a little longhand, but I hate doing that. It's just doing the same job twice. Insurance takes a while, as does building a PC. The TV is replaced now. The PC is pending, so I'm writing this on a borrowed laptop.

What the hell do you do when you're a writer and you can't write? Go back to what you know.

Carpentry. I built things.

Yep. I spent the summer sawing and screwing. Screws. Putting screws in things. Forget it.

Decorating. Mowing the lawn. The house looks like one of those homes on TV where nice builders come round and clear it all up in a day, and the owners come home and cry because they've had a tough time of it, but also because someone did everything and it didn't cost a penny. It cost us, though, and my wife and I did all of the work and no bugger helped.

Summer holidays suck.

The actual holiday was camping in the Peak District. It rained, then it was hot, then it rained. Like my moods. I like the rain, I hate the heat, because I'm contrary. And it's called the Peak District. Lots of hills. Up a hill, down a hill. I didn't like it. I like wood. I don't get stone.

I did do some work, but only ticking over stuff - emails, short stories, arranging contracts and narrators for audiobooks. Not entirely wasted...just not what I like doing.

Molly King will be reading 'The Dead Boy', Lee David Foreman will be reading 'RAIN', and Chris Barnes will be reading 'A Stranger's Grave'. I'll upload samples of each when I figure out how to do it...

In short, I did all the things I needed to do that I wouldn't have done unless lightning struck. Will it help progress my writing 'career'? Maybe. Probably not. But it's like jobs you put off - they play on your mind until you do them. Now I have less playing on my mind. I'm clear to finish off a big editing job (all the Rythe books). Clear to write again when that's done, too, which I really like the sound of.

I haven't progressed in writing (the measure of this, for me, is earnings. I think). But that lightning forced a line through a lot of old stuff hanging over me, and paved the way for some kind of fresh start. While I knew I needed that for a long time, being forced into it was probably the neatest and best way for it to happen.

Summer holidays still suck. I thought getting hit by lightning sucked, too, at first. Turned out it was just what I needed.

Anyway, that's my homework done. Back to school.

Love you.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Bad Apples 3

Released: Sept 6th 2016

A teaser for this, Bad Apples 3. I'm proud to be part of this, with a group of writers I like an awful lot. It's nice to be asked. 

Here's a snippet of my story, 'October's End':

Harvey cleared his throat. He didn't want to speak, but it was a ritual they had every year.
            'It's Halloween tomorrow, grandmother.'
            'Is it, dear?'
            'Yes. I was thinking I might go out.'
            'Trick or treating, dear? Aren't you a little old for that?'
            I wasn't always old for that, he thought. But this was one of the many things he would never say. Not any longer.
            'I would like to. To see the leaves fall. Play with my...friends.'
            They're all dead now. Can you play with dead friends?
            'Oh, Harvey. But it is Halloween. I'm so very old. When the children come, you'll need to answer the door for me. I might have a fall myself.'
            Every year, grandmother had a reason. Perhaps for the first ten years Harvey argued, but he truthfully did not remember how long ago that was. Now, he was a far meeker boy. One with grey wisps of hair and thin, fragile bones.
            'Yes, grandmother,' he said.
            There might be a reason the house was called October's End, but he knew it never did, and never would, and names and houses and old ladies all lied...

That's your lot. I remember Halloween. Not the day, or trick or treating, but the spirit of it. I remember Creep Show, and Elvira, but mostly that vibe - horror that made you smile. I think that's why I wrote this. I hope you like it, and the rest of these slices of horror. 

Love you,
The Shed.