Vampires, Caesar and Fairytales

The infamous book pile grew considerably over Christmas, although not as much as it might have. I’ve been resisting temptation  wherever possible. It’s a struggle.

I dipped into the world of E-Books to pick up Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint. Mr  de Lint is a cult figure in contemporary fantasy but his books are almost impossible to find in the UK.  His work is very close to mainstream literature, with elements of magic and fantasy breaking through and tend to feature young, counter cultural character types which is why I was interested in reading some, as my own stories feature characters of this kind. I was greatly enjoying reading Forests of the Heart until the f@$king awful Microsoft E-Reader expired its trial period and I’m not paying Bill Gates any more money for such ‘premium features’ as being able to show pages two at a time! I will pick up a copy in paperback on Amazon and continue when it arrives.

One of my all time favourite novels is Drachenfels by Jack Yeovil, better known as British novelist Kim Newman. Newman as Yeovil wrote a batch of novels for Games Workshop when it first launched its Black Library publishing imprint under the leadership of David Pringle, the then editor of Interzone. Pringle brought in some talented young writers who produced great novels exploring the Warhammer worlds on which Games Workshop has made its fortune. Drachenfels was my favourite of these, along with the Konrad trilogy by David Ferring. The Warhammer world has a wonderful grittiness that comes from the collision of epic fantasy traditions with a particular kind of British gothicism imported via authors like Newman. Drachenfels captures this brilliantly, and the story of playwright Detlief Sierck’s encounter with the enchanter Drachenfels is one of the greatest works of gothic fantasy I’ve ever read. I was overjoyed then to find an omnibus edition of Drachenfels along with three other Jack Yeovil novels starring the vampire Genevieve Dieudonne, one of Drachenfels most intriguing characters. This was a bit like finding Godfathers 4- 6 on DVD so I’ve been working my way through the omnibus with excitement and glee.

The Works decided to make this a very happy Xmas for me by getting in a brand new stock of schlocky paperbacks to keep me entertained. I’m physically incapable of walking past a discount bookstore  so I’m a regular visitor to The Works. Having picked the graphic novel selection clean in November, the Christmas period brough a new batch of SF and Fantasy novels for a staggering 49p each! I really tried very hard to restrain myself but ended up leaving with four new books – Abarat by Clive Barker (who I met at FantasyCon but have never read), Bad Dirt by Annie Proulx (not SF but interesting none the less) and Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Hobb in particular comes highly recommended by George R.R. Martin so has been on my must read list for some time. The fourth book is Emperor: Gates of Rome by Conn Igulden, which I’m reading at the moment. Its very good and I can understand why it sold so well, although it has the biggest print of any paperback I’ve ever read so although it looks like a big book is actually quite short.

I’ve also been continuing my travels in online short fiction. Following my review of Cabinet des Fees I spent some time reading the online edition including a story by Catherynne M Valente, a writer I recently discovered I was published alongside in the now dead Muse Apprentice Guild way back in 2003. Serendipity magazine put out its fourth issue featuring my story Circe’s, as well as The Snow Globe by Jeff Haas, a fellow commentor at the Asimov’s forum. This just goes to show what a small online writing world we live in.

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The Gap

I am tapping this out on my new Ipod Touch which is the closest thing to a portable computer I have ever encountered. Aren’t Xmas presents great? The keyboard is a little fiddley so please excuse the inevitable spelling mistake.

I’ve always had something against the gap between Xmas and new year. Who knows why? Maybe its the disrupted routine. Maybe its the expectation of something about to happen. Like the gap in a dramatic scene where the action changes in a direction the audience never expected. The esteemed Robert McKee claims that all drama flows from the gap. Its the space the writers mind lives in, the void where dreams and nightmares live. Maybe I should like this time more.

I’ve written a story every Xmas for the last few years. I wonder what this year will bring.

Muse Me

A week since Egypt and I have failed to post my magnum opus covering our travels there. It is sitting half written in my drafts folder. Maybe I will finish it one day soon when I have a spare number of moments.

First, a brief update. I am full steam ahead on the Writing Industries Conference 2008. If you are debating buying a ticket then stop. Just buy one. It will be worth the expenditure I promise. I completed my review of Cabinet des Fees this week. It should be up on The Fix next week. ‘Rings’ has returned some positive comment and an expression of interest from two markets. I need to think about a re-write for the last two scenes. Hopefuly I can find one or two free evenings this week to make that happen. And next year is National Year of Reading, which I am now revving up for on behalf of Leicester Libraries. Watch this space for more.

Muses.  They have been much on my mind in recent weeks. There is a short essay by Ray Bradbury called ‘How to Keep and Feed a Muse.’ I am yet to read it (if anybody happens to have a copy please shout) but the title alone has generated quite a bit of thought. I don’t imagine a muse as a person, female or otherwise. (There is a wonderful issue of Sandman where a writer captures one of the greek muses and keeps her prisoner in his house, which gives him great artistic success although he later pays the price.) I understand the muse as that first moment of imagination and excitement that spurs you to write a story. Writing is amazing when the muse is strong. When the muse is gone it is a terrible slog. I’ve been playing around with ways to keep a muse well fed. There have been some positive results but I’m still looking for good muse care tips. Any thoughts from you literary folks about how to keep a muse happy and contented?