Friday, 10 August 2018

Voyage... Of The Space Bastard

Gun, actor's own.
Joth Krantor, heir to the Krantor-Huang Corporation that once controlled interstellar travel, has a plan to restore his fortune. An evil plan. Join his ship, the Space Bastard, as he enlists a forgotten race of super-soldiers, dodges the lethal birds of Borthokk, and ends the mystery of the Rosetteish Stone.

You wait 30-something years for a writer's first novel, and then he brings out the second in a few months. Yes, it's a second comedy space opera adventure. It's not a direct sequel to Zip! Zap! Boing! - not by any stretch of the imagination, but it is set in the same universe, and the Starship Troupers Initiative will be crossing paths with Joth Krantor further down the line.

Voyage of the Space Bastard is currently available for pre-order, exclusively for Kindle. It's an epic mad quest, that takes readers from frozen asteroids to stone forests. I've developed characters and concepts from an old story of mine, The Frag Prince, and that short retold fairy tale is also now available as a free download on most e-reader platforms.

In this book, which was originally published as a novella in Pew Pew Volume 4, I wanted to create a sort of evil Star Trek. Joth Krantor is interested in exploration and discovery, as long as it helps him further his goals. And, wow, he has some ambitious goals. Even having finished the book, I can't decide whether I like Joth Krantor or not.

There are mysterious space phenomena, sinister spacecraft, and strange new worlds to explore.

I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Come and join the Starship Troupers Initiative!

The new book!
From 21st Century Shakespearean actor to intergalactic super spy!

Ten thousand years in the future, the Starship Troupers Initiative is the galaxy's foremost touring theatre company, bringing the greatest actors to entertain soldiers in warzones on the most lethal colony worlds. Now, new actor James Fanning must both give the performance of a lifetime, and singlehandedly turn the tide of the civil war that rages on the distant desert world of Jargroth. The show must go on... even if it kills him!

The first book in a very different science-fiction universe, where Aristotle's three unities hold more sway than Asimov's three laws of robotics.

Published: 24 May, 2018. Pre-order for just £0.99 / $0.99 here!

I finally wrote a novel.

Long-term readers may be surprised that I've never actually written a novel. I have various novelettes and novellas and lengthy short stories to my name, and I've translated various French novels. But until a few months ago, I'd never actually completed an original novel-length work. And I've been writing fiction since I was six.

But the important thing is I got there in the end, and the result is something very special. I think.

Zip! Zap! Boing! was first published towards the end of 2017 as a novella in Pew! Pew! Bite My Shiny Metal Pew! That book was a great commercial and critical success, but instead of just republishing the novella, I found myself wanting to dig a bit deeper into the world I'd created, to put in a few more jokes, and to flesh out some of the supporting characters. The novella version of my story left a lot of open questions for a sequel, but I wanted to understand more about the Starship Troupers before I sent them all off on a second adventure.

So yes, I write novels now. Do please take a look on Amazon!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Obligatory 2017 round-up...

2017. What a year it's been, right?

Like 2016, the news was largely rubbish, but it was personally and professionally pretty good for me. So I stopped watching the news. Brilliant.

I went into 2017 riding high in bestseller lists across the world thanks to an elusive Bookbub campaign for my Casanova translation, Story of my Escape. Even one year one, I've not got tired of typing that kind of sentence. In spite of the "quiet" reception of my other translated novel, Chantecoq and the Aubry Affair, I finished translating a second Chantecoq adventure, though it wouldn't come out until the very end of the year.

I was lucky enough to reprise my role as Dave in an expanded production of Naomi Westerman's play Puppy - and I got to play former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg into the bargain! Puppy sold out all shows at the Vault Festival at Waterloo, and was selected as a Time Out and Guardian pick of the week. Even our dog was featured on the poster, which might explain why he's such a little diva. I briefly wondered how I could follow all that, and then decided I obviously couldn't, and so took the rest of the year off from acting.

A short story I'd written the year before was published by Obverse Books. The Scottish Flap appeared in A Treasury of Brenda and Effie, edited by Brenda and Effie's creator, Paul Magrs. It's probably the story I'm proudest of to date, and the book was absolute top quality.

A book we'll come back to later went into pre-order during April, but to be honest, around this time I was soft-pedalling on the writing in order to support my lovely wife Melanie as she got her dissertation finished. Late nights in the university library formatting bibliographies, it all made me thoroughly nostalgic! The finished dissertation was submitted on 25 April at about 22:15, and then we dashed for an Uber to get us to our local pub to celebrate with prosecco before they could call last orders!

I seemed to spend most of May enjoying Doctor Who, adding egregious puns to Apocalypse Barnes, and working on an expanded version of the Cyberpunk novella I mentioned last year.

Similarly I had to check Facebook to see what I was doing in June, but the main thing seemed to be laughing at the UK's Conservative Party as they tried to wipe out a beleaguered Labour Party but instead lost their parliamentary majority. This is the trouble with a year in review from a writer, unless there's a new book out, each individual month tends to look a bit quiet.

My comedy zombie novella Apocalypse Barnes was finally released. Four years in the writing (though to be completely honest, I took whole year-long breaks in the middle of that), I was really pleased with readers' reaction to a book that was a complete departure for me in terms of genre. It's done incredibly well in the UK, and just well enough overseas that I'm happy the book works beyond the boundaries of SW13...

Yeah... look, a book did come out this month, a political novelty book that I published anonymously. I think I'm going to stick with the anonymity, as it's both sold a bunch and annoyed a lot of people (thereby achieving both my aims in producing it) without any extra help from me so far...

This was a month where it probably looked as though I wasn't up to much on the surface, but like an iceberg or a particularly hyperactive duck, there was a lot of activity behind the scenes. My second Chantecoq translation went into pre-order, and did a bit better than the first one, which was nice.

Every year I do this Sober for October thing in support of Macmillan Cancer Support. It took on extra poignancy this year, as an old friend of mine had passed away from cancer at the very start of the year. Pleased to report I raised a bunch of cash, and got a bunch of writing done.

Here we go with the big finish, as all the stuff that made the previous six months look a bit sparse came in to roost. November saw the publication by The Wooden Pen Press of my novella Zip Zap Boing, in the comedy space opera anthology Pew! Pew! Bite My Shiny Metal Pew! (popularly known as Pew Pew Vol. 3). My story focused on the members of the Starship Troupers Initiative, an unfortunately-acronymed theatre company touring warzones of the far future, while indulging in a spot of espionage on the side. The book went straight to the top of various SF charts around the world, and sold thousands. I'm still getting my head around the implications of this book's success for me as a writer, to be honest. And I couldn't really appreciate it back in November, because of all the stuff that was about to happen...

The very start of December saw the publication of Chantecoq and the Aubry Affair, held up from the start of the year thanks to delays getting the cover sorted. The Chantecoq books are... selective in their appeal, but this book, taken from the very end of the original series, was a bit pacier than the first, and it's seen a more receptive audience. There's a third translation in the works for next year, and I hope that interest will begin to pick up as more of the series becomes available.

Mid-December saw the second book of the month in the form of my novella Voyage of the Space Bastard, which was named after a classic AE van Vogt novel that no one else seems to remember (Voyage of the Space Beagle, for the record). My novella was published in Pew! Pew! Bad Versus Worse (Pew Pew Vol. 4), a kind of holiday-themed villains v. heroes edition. My story was written at, ah, some speed, but I'm very proud of it. High concept comedy SF of the kind I've always wanted to write, and a sequel of sorts to my SF fairy tale, The Frag Prince, which writer friends had encouraged me to look at for a while. Again, the book stormed the charts, and is continuing to entertain readers over the Christmas holidays.

AND, as if the above wasn't enough for one month, I was finally able to announce that 2018 will see the production of my first play, Matrexit, which is a finalist in Arts Richmond's New Plays Festival 2018. I'm incredibly excited at this opportunity, and I've assembled a cracking cast, led by Melanie Lawston and Naomi Westerman, to perform my 20 minute satirical SF play.

I've a nasty feeling that stuff I'll predict for 2018 includes quite a lot of things I said would happen this year, but which have been delayed for various reasons. Tell you what, I won't go and check until after I post this, and then we can all go back and look at my round-up of 2016, and wince together. Still, here goes...

There's Matrexit of course, and then I'm really conscious that I've still not produced a full-length original novel. 2018 will be my year for this. After they've finished doing the rounds in their respective Pew Pew anthologies, Zip Zap Boing and Voyage of the Space Bastard will both be expanded into short SF novels, each with a view to spawning a series. My comedy cyberpunk tale Rudy on Rails will also finally be published, probably also as a short novel. There will be a third short story collection, though my money is now on that being a compendium of Something Nice and Something Nicer, plus some new stories, rather than an entirely new collection. As a result Something Nicer will probably be retired, with Something Nice becoming a free book to introduce potential readers to my work.

On top of that, I hope we'll also see Detective Daintypaws and a Squirrel in Bohemia, which is more or less written, but is currently quite episodic and in need of tying together. There's also a fanasy novella on the cards, following a doomed attempt to write Noblebright work for an anthology this year, a third Chantecoq translation hopefully before November 2018, and maybe another instalment in either The Gentrified Dead or The Lifehack Heroes. But look, we'll see what happens.

I hope you had a great 2017, and that 2018's headlines will start to be as positive as this year's personal highlights have been for me!

Monday, 20 November 2017

My Science-Fiction Debut...

Lasers, spaceships, light opera. I'm so proud.
Since I was old enough to hold a pen, a large part of me has wanted to write science-fiction filled with spaceships, lasers, and explosions. Inspired mostly by repeats of Star Trek on BBC 2 in the mid-1980s, as well as reading Douglas Hill's Last Legionary series, replete with titles like Day of the Starwind and Deathwing Over Veeyna.
But... I've always had pretensions of producing quality work, and it became clear that my grasp of science and maths weren't up to producing the sort of SF that you could actually read without a scientist judging you. I was finally put off, honestly, by the forum fallout over my "deliberate mistake" in a charity Doctor Who anthology back when I was 21.
And now I've written a novella called Zip Zap Boing, wherein my hero hang-glides, from a laser-spewing drone fighter, between dog-fighting spaceships. It's utterly bonkers, and any forum ninjas can bugger off and thrash themselves silly watching The Martian if they're that bothered about scientific accuracy. And Wooden Pen Press have published it in, ahem, Pew! Pew! Bite My Shiny Metal Pew! My inner 8 year old who used to write Doctor Who stories in smeary blue biro in A6 notebooks from the village newsagent is nodding and saying to me, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."
I think I've written the sort of story that I always wanted to read, and more to the point that I always wanted to write. It's now available from Amazon (universal link).

Next up, I'll be writing a sequel which will be out in mid-December. And before that... a second Chantecoq book. It's been a busy year, and I didn't think I'd get to mid-November and still have two books to come out, as well as one in the pipeline for 2018 already!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Swelling wordcounts

I've never written a novel.

This is sometimes a shock even to me. I've translated novels, and I've been self-publishing those translations, along with my shorter fiction, since 2012. But I've never actually completed a novel.*

Then somewhere along the way, those short stories began to get longer. I'd long stopped submitting to the sort of magazines who insist on 2,000 - 3,000 word limits, and was writing fiction with a view to submitting to small press anthologies or, well, self-publishing, which pushed me towards 5,000 - 6,000 words.

My first novella was in 2015, scraping over the line for novella status at 17,000 words. I then spent most of 2016 buried in short story writing for collections including Summer's End and A Treasury of Brenda and Effie.

This year, I've completed three full-length novellas. Apocalypse Barnes, my comedy zombie tale, came out in July and has done very well. Zip! Zap! Boing! is my first foray into space opera, and will be out in early November, in the anthology - ahem - Pew! Pew! Bite My Shiny Metal Pew! My mother is so proud of me...

Rounding off this mid-length trilogy is Street Shamans: Rudy on Rails. No precise release date just yet, but hopefully this will be landing early in the New Year. The Street Shamans series is a cyberpunk series, with shades of urban fantasy and comedy (some are more overtly humorous than others).

While Rudy on Rails may, after editing, just scrape over the 40K mark that seems to be the bare minimum accepted length for a novel, this does rather point out an obvious next step in my career.

2018 will be the year I finally get a novel out there.

Watch this space.

*Well I have, but you're never going to see it.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Zombies on the Streets of London...

Coming Soon: Apocalypse Barnes
Can you believe at one point last year I was updating this blog twice a month?


Apocalypse Barnes is now available for pre-order from Amazon at $0.99 or £0.99, depending where you are. That's a discounted price that will increase shortly after the official publication date of 17 July.

This 30,000 word novella is a story I began writing over four years ago, when it was based on the end of a dream I'd had (I hate even the thought of writing anything inspired by dreams, and almost everything I half-remember from that fevered night's imaginings has fallen by the wayside during the creative process). Zombies roaming the streets of Barnes, that affluent suburb of South West London just over the river from Hammersmith and Chiswick.

I've not spent the last four years working on this book. It's spent whole calendar years undisturbed and gathering dust on my hard drive while I worked on things like Story Of My Escape, or Of Mice And Men And Sausages. But it's been the idea that just won't quite go away. It was enormous fun writing about the area where I live. Really looking at places I visit every week, to see where a zombie might pop up, and how they might be avoided.

But it's a balancing act as well. Barnes residents will recognise almost every location used in the novella. But it also has to make sense to readers who've never visited the area. So I made a very early resolution to resist the temptation to write friends and family into the narrative; writers who do that sort of thing not only risk damaging their personal relationships, but it also gets pretty boring to read a book full of someone else's private jokes. So apart from one or two people's quirks who were just too hilarious to resist - and zombie Roger McGough - the classic disclaimer is true. Any resemblance to persons living or dead (or in this case both) is purely coincidental...

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Andrew's Big Fat Blog Of The Year

2016 is careering towards its inevitable, and many would say, long overdue conclusion. The proverbial goose is getting decidedly podgy, and the senior citizen's headwear is inviting generous contributions. So, what the world really needs to know is what I got up to throughout the last twelve months, in one lengthy but easy to read blog post, arranged by month.

So here goes.

Who does anything much in January? I was mostly rehearsing for some stuff that we'll go into later, to the extent that I even had to give up writing for a bit. Luckily, I had something in the pipeline to make the month seem a bit more productive.

Chantecoq and the Aubry Affair is my translation of Coeur de Francaise, the first Chantecoq adventure. This book had never been translated into English before, and I self-published after a proposed venture didn't work out.

It's a rip-roaring adventure story of spies and cars and daring escapes, set just before the First World War in 1912. The sales have been... look, it's one of my "quieter" books. But I'm very proud of it.

The first of many crazy months. Midway through rehearsals for a thing in March, my director and playwright chum Naomi Westerman asked if I'd be in her brilliant play Tortoise again for a rehearsed reading (having appeared in excerpts from the play at N16 and at the Criterion Theatre towards the end of 2015). I played various male roles in the otherwise female and feminist play, and I still can't decide whether this makes me the Carol Cleveland to this play's Monty Python, or the Dave Lamb to its Goodness Gracious Me. As always, I suspect I was Ringo. Anyway, I was on stage with some brilliant actresses who've been on telly and everything, and they didn't twig that I was a lowly amateur until we let it slip at the cast party. Achievement unlocked.

A long-awaited book was also finally published. Grimm and Grimmer: Volume 4 was originally slated for August 2013, along with my updated SF fairytale, The Frag Prince - which I consider to be among the best things I've ever written. I was hopelessly awestruck to be in the same book as Sarah Pinborough, who provided the foreword. Mad props to editor Colin Fisher, for stepping in to salvage this series. Just don't ask him if the promised Volume 5 will ever actually happen.

Back to the stage in March, with Black Comedy, directed by Naomi Westerman. This charity production sold out across all six performances, and gave me the opportunity to act opposite my lovely wife Mel, who played Carol Melkett to my Brindsley Miller. Chaotic hi-jinks ensued, and we raised a whole bunch of cash for local causes.

I then got my head down and started writing stuff for a whole bunch of anthologies and charity collections. Spring 2016 was probably the most productive period for my writing that I can remember in a long time. Not all of that stuff has yet come to light, however...

As the weather began to pick up a bit, Mel and I took our adorable cocker spaniel Eccleston ever further afield. Richmond Park is a particular favourite for the fluffy nutter, but you have a very narrow window between the weather being pleasant enough to enjoy a long walk, and ten thousand picnics sprouting from the bowels of the Earth. If there's one thing our dog loves, it's charging into a picnic and stealing the cake.

When we weren't walking the dog, I was going all out on short story writing. A couple of the books I contributed to around this time were secret projects with some excellent writer friends. I'm not about to spill the beans, but the end results were so much fun that I hope one day they might see a wider release.

May, not quite officially Summer, but near enough that you can wear a t-shirt outdoors. What better month to release a Christmas-themed short story as a standalone thing on Kindle? Pantocrime: A Theatrical Christmas Adventure was originally part of Sanity Clause is Coming...: A second twisted Christmas anthology, but the rights had reverted to me, so I thought I'd stick it out there.

After quite a long period of other people designing the covers to my books, I decided to have a crack at this one, and ended up using just about every effect I could find. My finished effort is slapdash, garish and absurd. I love it.

This story, which is free on most platforms (except, oddly, Amazon UK), is a bit of a white elephant. I've never particularly liked it, and I think it will be retired quietly in the New Year. I've always thought the world of amateur dramatics has potential for great fiction, but I've revisited it in another short story which will be published in early 2017, and which I think does the job much better, and much more kindly.

There were baby coots in the pond just behind our flat in June, and I did my best to see them every day, while walking Eccleston.

June also saw the publication of Flash Fear - an anthology featuring a very silly short story I wrote way back in 2012. Stuffed with horror writers of every stripe, it was a lively and diverse little book, and it seemed to find a good audience.

The first of the year's charity anthologies. A collection of Doctor Who short stories to raise funds for Tommy Donbavand's cancer treatment. Tommy's a great writer and an all-round nice guy, and it was brilliant to see the fan community rally around and give their best work to this book, with its stunningly colourful design. My own story was Time War Cutaway, a short adventure set during the Time War and featuring Paul McGann's Doctor - essentially a reworked excerpt from my much longer fan fiction attempt to chronicle the Time War (only with more silliness than you'll see in the TV episodes...).

I'm happy to say both that the book did the business, and that Tommy is on the road to recovery, after some terrifyingly hairy moments. The book is no longer available for sale, so if you have a copy, take very good care of it. I have something of a fascination with the amounts that some of these charity books can sell for later on, but I can tell you that the numbers can get very big. If you do the eBay thing, please promise me you'll at least kick a few quid of your ill-gotten gains to a cancer charity.

It's been an amazing year for me on every level except, you know, every time I watched the news. Writing success, acting success, and great nights with good friends. And in August, after far too many years of near misses, my friends and I finally won the pub quiz in our local boozer. £100 bar tab, which we drank into oblivion about a month later.

While all this was going on, though, one of my short stories won an award! Bushimi: The Cat That Wanted To Be An Art Critic was originally written for children, in an anthology that was scrapped mid-development. I put the story in Something Nicer , my second short story collection, and it always stood out by virtue of actually being nice. Anyway, it won Best Short Story at 2016 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards. Something Nicer was also on the shortlist for Best Short Story Collection.

I'm cheating a bit here, as my first stab at the superhero genre Of Mice And Men And Sausages only went up for pre-order in September, and actually only went live a few days ago in December. But... there's a few links coming for books, so I thought I'd space things out a bit. This novelette is a superhero retelling of The Mouse, The Bird and The Sausage as told by the Brothers Grimm.

With a fabulous cover illustration from the talented Gina Allnatt, I'm excited about this book, and it's my first serious attempt to write a series - though we'll see how long Ocean Spray takes to be written.

Also in September, one of my oldest original short stories was published in a free to download collection of flash fiction. Bite-Sized Stories has had a simply terrifying number of downloads on both sides of the Atlantic.

And finally, on my first wedding anniversary, Mel and I had another outing on the professional stage together, in Naomi Westerman's short play Puppy, a full-length version of which will be playing at the Vault Festival in Feb-Mar 2017.

Well, yes, that is a colourful shirt, and I'm not at all surprised this rehearsal pic was put into black and white. The Ladykillers was my first outing with Chiswick-based am dram group St Michael's Players. I played the supporting role of Constable MacDonald, so it was one of those where I got a few solid scenes, and a lot of time "relaxing" in the dressing room. It was probably the most purely enjoyable show I've ever done, and I'm quietly chuffed that it was an absolute sell-out as well.

October was otherwise marked by panto rehearsals, and by the odd decision to go Sober for October. Mel and I raised just over £100 for Macmillan, which was nice.

The release of A Time Lord For Change was a cause for celebration - partly because it coincided with Doctor Who's 53rd birthday, but also because I wrote my two drabbles for it back in November 2014. Between me writing 200 words in the pub, and the finished book hitting Amazon, a lot happened. Celebrity contributors rocked up in their droves, so I'm now in a book with Joanne Harris, Colin Baker, Katy Manning, Jane Sherwin, Paul Magrs, Rob Shearman, and I'll stop there because every time I list the authors, I miss out someone awesome and lovely by mistake. It's that sort of book.

By this point, we were well into the pantomime rehearsals, and my writing had slowed to a crawl. This has been a bit of a frustration throughout the last few months, but plans are in place to make sure I have a lot more writing time throughout 2017!

The pantomime was Cinderella, and it ran from 6-10 December. I played Ugly Sister Grizelda, in a cast which included my wife Mel playing Dandini, the Prince's valet. We rehearsed a lot, and thank goodness we were both in the show so we could do it together.

Again, we had several sold-out shows, and the audiences were brilliant. It was my first time playing a Dame (we're not counting that time I played an Ugly Sister aged 10, we're just not), and I was going for a sort of Tim Brooke-Taylor Lady Constance voice, which I toned down throughout the week as my throat began to rebel against all the warbling and trilling and filthy chuckling.

As soon as the panto was over, though, one of my older books had a new lease of life. My Casanova translation The Story of my Escapewas promoted through Bookbub, and I sold a terrifying number of books in a single week. For a dizzying moment I was the 5th highest selling author in Canada. For a few brief days, I felt like one of the world's biggest writers. And that was pretty cool. It's all died away now, and my book is plummeting back through the ratings, but it was a crazy time and I'm convinced that some day... I'll be back. I just need to write a great deal more.

Next year, I'm still waiting on one short story to be published, in a very exciting collection indeed. I'm also going to be in one play, at the Vault Festival. Other than that, it's going to be writing all the way. I have a lot of projects to finish, and it's my New Year's Resolution that I will simply have to find the time, one way or another.

So while all sorts of dreadful things have happened in 2016, I've often been able to find the silver lining. In addition to the highlights above, I've cooked a lot of tasty curry, spent a lot of lovely time with the wonderful Mel, seen some incredible theatre and, oh yes, even taken part in a Royal Shakespeare Company workshop or two.

And finally, Summer's End, an anthology of end of the world fiction from Alternative Realities. Edited by Stewart Hotston, this was a book I wanted to be in, as soon as I saw the call for submissions. I then hated every single moment of writing my story, only to be pretty pleased with it when I finally read it back at the editing stage. When I heard that I'd been accepted, I may even have done a happy dance. This book was released just a couple of weeks ago, and has been doing incredibly well. It's a brilliant book containing many writers I admire hugely.

In conclusion
I've had a great year, and I hope next year will be bigger and better in all sorts of unexpected ways. Have a brilliant Christmas, an awesome New Year, and see you in 2017

Happy times and places