Friday 31 October 2014

Samhain Cover Reveal

Pleased to reveal the cover for Rosy Hours - a Halloween reveal for a Valentine's release, very fitting for this dark story of love, lust and betrayal. The photograph of the girl was taken by the extremely talented Iranian photographer Babak Fatholahi. You can read about the process of writing Rosy Hours on this blog. Thanks to all at Ghostwoods Books for making this possible.


UPDATE: My publisher did a live author chat with Cthulhu Lives authors John ReppionGreg StolzeE. Dane Anderson, Peter Tupper and Iain Lowson on Halloween night. At the end they did the cover reveal for Rosy Hours. You can head to 1:15:40 to catch that bit and hear my ego being mightily massaged. You can also find more info about the book on Ghostwoods' website.

Thursday 30 October 2014


How utterly awesome is this?

Black edged paper. 

That's not actually the reason I bought this book, just a bonus. A while ago I was planning a story with a character called Mortlock. No particular reason I thought of that name, but it was unusual and I wondered where I had gotten it from, so I did a Google search to see whether it had a meaning and whether or not anyone else had used it.

Jon Mayhew beat me to it. 

Josie is a knife thrower in a magician's stage act. 
Alfie is an undertaker's assistant.
They are both orphans and they have never met, but they are about to be given a clue to the secret of their shared past.
A past which has come to seek them out.
And while they flee for their lives, they must unravel the burning mysteries surrounding the legacy that threatens to consume them.

Curious to know what somebody else's Mortlock was like, I put it on my TBR list. The strange thing about our local Nakumatt is that every time I go in there I see a book I've been meaning to read. What with The Pinhoe Egg and now this, it's as though this Kenyan supermarket chain is inside my head, going through abandoned manuscripts and half-forgotten titles and then manifesting them on the shelf each time I go to pick up my groceries. 

This is perhaps the most grizzly YA novel I've read in quite some time. Gothic to a tee. 

She screwed her eyes tight shut as the cabinet toppled over with a bone-jarring crash. The false back of the cabinet splintered off, exposing Josie. She could see Ernie lashing out at the flapping ghul. A deep gash lined his scalp and blood streamed down his face, blinding him. His swinging fists could have laid any opponent low in a street brawl but the ghul bobbed and weaved in and out of the blows with ease. Ernie panted heavily, wiping the blood from his forehead. But the pause gave the crow its chance, and it darted forward, skewering Ernie with its long sabre of a beak. The big man's eyes bulged and he whimpered as the ghul pulled away. A disgusting squelch accompanied the strings of bloody gut that came away in the ghul's glistening beak. Silence fell as the foul bird jerked the gory load down its gullet, Then Enie's blood-chilling scream shook the theatre as the ghul fell upon him again, lashing with talons, ripping and tearing with its beak. Blood spattered the walls and mirrors and speckled Josie's face.

It's the sort of book I would have loved as a kid (and kids do, just look at the success of Horrible Histories), but I wonder at any adult who has the courage to read that out loud at bedtime. Still, I'm glad the option is out there.

It was a good read, and Mortlock himself didn't put in much of an appearance, but it's too unusual a name and too bold a title for me to use in the future. Plus, I doubt I'd have anything as cool as black-edged pages.

Monday 20 October 2014

Shell We Cook?

Oh, this just cracked me up. New recipie from my friend Ruairí:

Step One: place four eggs plus water in saucepan. 
Step Two: bring to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer. 

Step Three: close kitchen door and forget all about it for four hours or so.
Step Four: re-enter kitchen looking for a beer...............

Sunday 19 October 2014

Congratulations Ghostwoods!

Congratulations to my publisher on their recent Kickstarter campaign which raised over £11,000 towards marketing and publishing costs. Find them online, on Twitter and Facebook. Special thumbs-up of brilliance to Salome Jones who's worked so hard to make this happen.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Monday 13 October 2014

Extract II

(Figure in the Mist by Saucydarkmatter)

Following on from the very beginning, here's another extract from what I'm currently writing. Rough and unedited. Drafting the outline. Although I'm not going to blog this the way that I did Rosy Hours, I've decided to hook all related posts with the Swan Song tab, so you can follow along if you like.

I watched for a long time, her reflection shattered against the surface of my world, convinced that she would grow tired and return to her bed.

At first she would come with her maid. They would cower behind a fallen log until L--, having prostrated himself at my feet until stiff and exhausted, would crawl back to his horse and ride for Sidhe Fionnachaidh. Then they would emerge, these two women, their sandals sinking in the sand as they crept to the spot where his figure still impressed itself upon the shore.

“Hello,” they whispered at first. “Is anybody there?” Then their questions turned to pleas: “Please come out, we know you’re there,” and finally to anger: “Show yourself!” as they hurled pebbles into the sea.

I am a man of infinite patience. When their frustration no longer amused me, I left. Perhaps they stood there all night, skimming flint until the dawn reflected in their eyes. Perhaps they simply shouted until they were hoarse, then fled for home to sooth their throats with honey and warm milk. It was not for their sake that I came to shore, and for their sake I had no reason to stay.

Almost a year after she first came, the girl stopped coming. For the first time, after L-- left, I realised that I was alone in the shallow waters of the bay. I breathed in the silence and waited, but she did not come. Not that high tide, nor the next.

On the third, she returned. This time only she, without her maid.

L-- choked and wailed and clawed at the sand as had become his custom. A ritual which did no service to A---. Instead of helping him to remember his wife, it had become a ritual, without which he felt he could not remember her, yet in performing befell the worst kind of insult to the dead: that their loss outweighs the value of their life.

I presented him with my boat, Wave Sweeper, and allowed them their time to speak, as I had promised him I would the day I sailed her safely to the shores of Tír na nÓg. Had I known then that the salt of her words would forever keep open his wound, I would never have uttered such an oath.

Whilst I stood and watched, I became aware of a presence in the dark. It burned with curiosity and fear in such a way it had never done before. When L-- finally took his tiresome leave, I cloaked myself in mist and waited.

“I know you are there,” she said, approaching. “You have always been there, and yet you refuse to speak. Well then, if you shall not come to me, I must then come to you.”

I watched as my sister undressed on the shore, her pale skin shimmering beneath the moon, dimpled with cold, small breasts curtained by golden hair, blue eyes burning like the winter wind.

As the water encircled her ankles, she paused. As it rose to her thighs, she shivered, and as it gripped her belly she gasped.

I did not move.

I already knew that it was not her time, yet she betrayed herself well enough. At the point where the water reached her nose, when the next step would most certainly plunge her beneath the surface, she paused to take a breath. No person intent on taking their own life ever breathes in before that final step.

Tired of the show, I flicked my finger and the current swept the sand from beneath her. She disappeared, then reappeared a moment later, thrashing towards the shore.

After coughing up saltwater and shivering in a posture much like that of our father, she rose unsteadily and began to pull on her clothes. Once dressed, she half turned as though to look for me, but instead turned back and started walking.

“Wait,” I said, stepping forward. Our eyes met, hers wide as the western ocean, mine black as the bottomless depths. “You must be cold.”

She nodded, and I set the sand aflame so that she might sit and warm herself.

“My brother?” she asked, her voice full of wonder.

“What do you want of me?”

She frowned and stared into the blue flames for a moment. “I do not know,” she replied. “I have thought about this moment so often, yet now that we are face to face, I am lost for words.”

From the flames I made a fish leap, transforming into a bird which faded as it rose into the night’s sky. She laughed and for the first time I looked at her – truly looked. My father’s daughter, possessing none of his former strength, nor mine. Simply a fragile clay pot which any heavy stone might fracture. Until that day I would not have cared had an avalanche of rocks buried her, I might even have rolled the first down the hill myself. Yet standing there, wrapped in her thin shawl, smiling into the sky where thin tendrils of smoke fell like feathers, I felt the Fates closing in about her. Though she possessed no magic of her own, something powerful had already singled her out and I knew then that I must decide either to hate her or to love her. For the lines of battle were being drawn, laced in perfume as putrid as carrion, as seductive as sage.

This child and her siblings who sat each night at my father’s table, whilst I retreated beneath the waves to a castle they could never visit. I resented her that, even though I had stopped loving my father many lifetimes past.

“Is it true,” she asked, “that my father made love to the sea, and that is how you were born?” I stared at her until she lowered her eyes, self-consciously pulling her shawl a little tighter about herself. “Would you prefer I go?”

“Yes,” I replied.


“We belong in different worlds.”

“Yet here our worlds meet.”

She came close again, raising one hand, inviting me to press my palm against hers. For a moment, my own curiosity overwhelmed me.

“It’s warm.” – “It’s cold!” we spoke at once.

I drew back, catching the fascination in her eyes, not wishing to speak of our differences any longer.

“I must go,” I told her.

“Wait! I have a question.”

“Make it brief.”

“My father, he comes here on the high tide to speak with my mother, yet I only ever see a boat and she is never in it. Is she truly there?”

“Your mother is in the land of the Forever Young, beyond my kingdom of Tír fo Thuinn, far beyond the last wave.”

“What is life like there?”

“You will see someday.”

“Is she happy?” I met her with silence. “May I speak with her?”

“No. I have made no oath with you.”

“Have you no compassion, brother?”

“Has not your father’s fate taught you to forget the dead, sister?”

I could see that she understood me.

“I am warm enough now, I will leave you.”

As she began walking back along the path to the woods, I called out once more. “F--------, we shall meet again someday, you and I.”

Her smile was only half a smile, as though she had not heard. 

Perhaps she, too, felt the breath of the Fates through the ages.

Sunday 12 October 2014

The Pinhoe Egg

I'm a huge Howl's Moving Castle fan. I think if I could be any character in any story, I'd be Sophie. We were talking Diana Wynne Jones a while back when my friend Harri told me that I'd also like The Pinhoe Egg.

Then, a few weeks back, nearing what would have been DWJ's 80th birthday, I walked into Nakumatt and there, on the shelf, was the book

How could I not buy it?

Anyway, due to crazy amounts of day job and other fantastic reads (including The Swan Thieves and The Shadow of the Wind) it sat on my shelf for a while. Also, because it's a hardback, which is my most favourite type of book to look at, but my least favourite for reading. I'm very much a Kindle convert. I like to carry a library in my bag without fear of damaging it. Also, I find reading in bed with a hardback cumbersome. If you don't hold it right you get hand cramp or hit yourself on the nose with the cover. 

For the past week though, I've taken it everywhere with me. It's surprisingly light for a hardback, and I only hit myself on the nose once.

Cat Chant and Marianne Pinhoe have discovered something incredibly exciting, truly precious, and very strange—an egg.

This egg was not meant to be found. Chrestomanci himself, Cat's guardian and the strongest enchanter in the world, is sure to find it particularly interesting. And that's the last thing Marianne's family of secret rogue witches wants.

But the Pinhoes' secrets are falling to pieces, and powerful spells are wreaking havoc across the country-side. Marianne and Cat may be the only two who can set things right—if Marianne accepts her own powerful magic, and Cat solves the mystery behind the mystical Pinhoe Egg.

I'd never read any of the Christomanci series before, but now I know that I must. DWJ never held back on telling a truly earth-based pagan tale, which is why I think so many love her.

"A new religion came to this country," Millie said, "full of zeal and righteousness - the kind of religion where, if other people didn't believe in it, the righteous ones killed and tortured them until they did. This religion hated witches and hated the hidden folk even more. They saw all invisible folk as demons, monsters and devils, and their priests devised ways of killing them and destroying their magic that really worked."

My friend Paul, who runs The Northern Antiquarian, has often theorised that what we call today 'modern paganism' and Wicca are the broken remnants of what was once a pre-Christian shamanic tradition. Basically, the conclusion of The Pinhoe Egg says something very similar, that there came a period of bloody violence in history, after which those who were left could only pick up the pieced of what they remembered and try to sew it back together as tradition.

Very interesting stuff, and, although my heart always belongs to Howl, Christomanci's quite dashing too. Though I think all those dressing gowns might get a bit overwhelming!

Sunday 5 October 2014

JOB = Just Over Broke

Thanks to my friend Celia for sharing this one. Very talented Jamaican poet Kevaughn Ellis, telling it like it is with his poem Why?

Saturday 4 October 2014

Book Spine Poetry

Oh, this is just far too clever!

I've only just discovered Book Spine Poetry. There's a competition each year, and if you Google Image it you'll find some wonderful examples. The idea is to take three or more books and place them on top of each other so that the spines make a poem. Unfortunately, I only have three books in my entire house at the moment, and none of them form anything close to poetic. Hopefully by next year...

If you've made a poem of your own, please include a link to a picture below!

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Flying Through

Just passed 10,000 words and have that old, familiar feeling that tells me this one is going to be a novel. That's a relief, after so long wondering whether I had another in me.

Work is really taking off at the moment, and I've been snatching time to write between signing development contracts. Today has been my day off, and I woke lazily, with the specific intention of writing. I did this for about an hour, then decided to go out and get a few real-world thing achieved (such as pricing a water tank - it's ironic to be writing about gods of the sea when I have no water coming out of my taps...). Got back just as the heavens opened. Tucked up in my office writing again to the sound of the rain.

I've been approaching this story with clinical determination. Unlike Rosy Hours, I have made little attempt to remember the ancient words I'm using. Each time I get to a place or a person whose name is tricky, I simply insert a question mark and continue. At a later date, armed with a Notepad list of each, I will go through and copy/paste them in. Doesn't sound much like the romanticised ideal of losing oneself in the characters, does it?

It was getting to the point where researching the period was making me afraid to write anything at all: did they have candles, tables, cheese - anything recognisable? I realised this type of obsessive research was hindering, rather than helping, the story, so I decided just to go for it. I'm lucky in that one of my trusted beta readers is a Gaelic-speaking Irishman with a love of folklore. I'm sure he'll pull me up on anything that doesn't feel right.

I've also just ordered a set of tin whistles to be sent out from home, as my next door neighbour expressed interest in learning, and I am missing music. There was a piano for sale in Kigali the other week, for far more than I could afford. The acoustics in my tiled house are fantastic, and it seems a shame it should go to waste. 

Hopefully whistles, with a little help from The Pogues and The Peatbog Fairies, will get me into the swing of things. Re-telling an old tale is nice in a way. It's a therapeutic form of novel writing, in that you don't have to think too hard about where it's going - everybody already knows that - yet you still take time for detours and sightseeing along the way. It's the picnic of prose, enjoying the tasty bits and discarding the crusts.