Monday, 31 March 2008

Review: Blood Money by Azam Gill

Blood Money, by Azam Gill, a Pakistani transplanted in France is one of those novels that impart an authentic flavor to the spy thriller genre. Mr. Gill was an officer in the Pakistani army, where he was both a company commander and an intelligence officer. As a member of the French Foreign Legion, "I lived and worked with people whose backgrounds included clandestine work, criminal activity, and intellectual pursuits, what Len Deighton describes as ‘a fiction writer’s dream.’" He went on to get a PhD from and teach at Grenoble University. His varied experiences inform his fiction deeply.

Gill’s story about a young Englishman who musters out of the Foreign Legion and finds himself entangled in the machinations of an international Western intelligence organization centered in France, for which he eventually agrees to undertake a dangerous mission against an ambitious jihadist overlord, is fiction. But it has the ring of authenticity. There is a beautiful and highly intelligent young lady spy, of course, and a dollop or two of steamy sex. The descriptions of carrying out his operation sound as if they were written by someone who has planned and carried out risky missions himself.

The story moves along at a rapid pace that will intrigue most readers while offering what seem to be authentic and plausible details about how intelligence organizations and espionage organizations work. The recent history coincides nicely with real history and creates a strong sense of the challenges posed by Islamist jihadism to the West. This is the kind of fiction that evokes a stronger sense of how the world really works than any number of the kind of history and foreign policy analysis books that are more often on my nightstand. Fun and informative.

Reviewed by Alan Bock

Blood Money excerpt

Azam Gill biography

Also by Azam Gill:

Friday, 28 March 2008

Developing an Internet Presence: The Public Author by Marta Stephens


Why is an internet presence important? Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a 5-circle bull’s eye.

  1. That inner circle is you. It's who you are and what you know. It also includes your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Anyone you come in contact with on a regular basis.
  2. The next circle includes potential readers within your community who you may know, but who you’re not in regular contact with or those who don’t know about you or your book. The hometown advantage is on your side though. With word of mouth endorsements from those within your inner circle, some local press about your book, and book signings or other events, you have a good chance to reach a portion of the population.
  3. The third circle from the center includes individuals you have contact with on a professional basis. These are more than likely other authors; members of author groups and organizations where you promote on a regular basis.
  4. The fourth circle includes people who have bought your book.
  5. Number five are potential readers in a global market. That’s your goal – to take your promotional campaign from your inner circle to the outer circle. The only way to get there is by having an internet presence. It will draw readers, but more importantly, the publishing world demands it. The good news is that the internet provides authors with unlimited ways to promote their books and can offer free or low cost options.

Aside from writing a heart-stopping novel, the single most important thing authors need to master is internet marketing and promotion of their book. I’ve read numerous articles that state one of the first things an agent or publisher will do is Google the author’s name. If they can’t find the author on the internet, they assume the author isn’t savvy enough to help market their book(s) or worse, won’t and thus they may move on to the next manuscript. From a publisher’s point of view, the cost of production is too high to take a chance on someone who won’t do their part.

Not everyone is born to be a salesperson. Whether on the internet or in person, how an author breaks out of his or her shyness will of course depend on their comfort level. But at some point the author will need to break out of that shell. I spoke with several authors who hate book signings because they don’t want to appear to be pushy and fear rejection. That’s understandable if you have never been in the public eye before, but this is what you’ve been working toward. Public recognition. When you and your book are on display, that’s your name on the cover and your heart and soul between the pages. Who better to sell it than you? If you love what you do it will show and your enthusiasm will spark a desire and spread like wildfire. Whether your publishing goal is to reach that small target audience within the two inner circles of your bull’s eye or to connect with a global market, you must make yourself accessible to the public in order to sell books.

In my numerous conversations with aspiring authors, I found two misconceptions:

  1. The publisher will handle all the promotion. Campaigns will vary from one publisher to another, but regardless of the size of the publishing house, the bulk of the responsibility to market the book will fall squarely on the author’s shoulders.
  2. If I launch a website, people will rush to view it and buy the book. Wrong! The website is only the beginning. One author told me that he has a site but doesn’t do anything else on the web, preferring to do speaking engagements at local bookstores, libraries, etc. The local events are not to be dismissed, but if that is an author’s sole marketing campaign, they limit their potential sales considerably.
First, let’s take a look at what you can expect from a publisher. The narrowest definition of the role of a publisher is that they make information available for public view.

A publisher will in most cases assign an editor to work with the author and provide copyediting, graphic design, and will initiate production – printing. In some cases the publisher will make the book available in print and in electronic media. They will also secure the legal rights of the author and purchase the ISBN.

Several months before a novel is released the publisher will send out advanced review copies (ARC) and will continue to submit the book for reviews throughout the contracted period of time. Most publishers will spotlight their authors on their website, they may promote their books at key events that attracted book sellers, will submit the books to writing contests, and will make them available to the public via online bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and Books-A-Million. The publisher may also sell the international rights to the book (have the book translated) and assist with film rights if it comes to that.

Let’s say you are a couple of months from launch date. The ARCs were sent and some reviews are coming in. Like it or not, you and your book are now public property. Reviewers will dissect your work and tell the world everything they love and hate about it. One reviewer will love your characters while another may feel they’re not well-developed. Don’t let their comments deter you from your goal. Use the glowing reviews in your marketing campaign. Quote them on all your written materials which you are now developing and will have ready before the launch. Printed materials should include; press releases, postcards, flyers, and bookmarks. Now is a good time to also get your mailing list of media contacts and others within your inner circle organized. Next, contact local bookstore owners for a commitment on a book signing. If they agree, ask them if they would like to have the launch party at their store!

  1. Developing an Internet Presence: An Author's Website
  2. Developing an Internet Presence: The Public Author
  3. Developing an Internet Presence: Book Trailers
  4. Developing an Internet Presence: Spread the Word
  5. Developing an Internet Presence: Virtual Book Tours
  6. Developing an Internet Presence: The Hometown Advantage
Marta Stephens, a native of Argentina but a life-long resident of the American Midwest, began her career as a fiction writer in 2003. This evolved into a life-changing passion that has led to the birth of her Sam Harper Crime Mysteries and her debut novel, Silenced Cry. She runs the popular Muder By 4 blog along with her fellow crime authors at http://murderby4.blogspot.com/. She also has several short stories and flash fictions to her credit.


Marta's debut novel, Silenced Cry, was published by BeWrite Books in 2007.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Bait Shack by Harry Hughes

Unemployed whiz kid Dale Coles struggles to save his marriage and his sanity when his previously charmed life’s turned topsy turvy by a cadre of killers and clowns.

Dale and wife Lacy – daughter of an eccentric but filthy rich Tennessee lumber magnate – unwittingly adopt into their domestic wrangle Twist, the brain-damaged orphan, and Lieutenant Revels, the beat-weary yet determined conservation officer seeking revenge for Lacy’s unscrupulous boss’s part in the mysterious extinction of rare birds on a prime piece of real estate.

And then there’s the other extinctions ... the human ones.

In the parade of offbeat characters in Hughes’ ingenious and ’90s-set street smart black comedy of crime, we meet cutthroat businessman Henry Meredith, out for what he can get, psycho hitman Connie Jablonski, out for what he can hurt, mobster Johnny Avalino, greedy to enhance the value of his beach-front property by any means, Nancy Littlecrow, the shameless and cagey Native American attorney who gives new meaning to the term ‘Indian Affairs’, Seymour L. Bram, the retired and retiring Air Force Major suffering from chronic depression and delusions of easy money, Duncan Slochbauer, the slovenly and obsessed amateur producer of grisly news videos ...

And we don’t quite meet poor Karen Kern and the faceless others who might have crossed the path of a crazed and kinky serial killer nobody seems to have noticed lurking somewhere in Hughes’ uniquely colourful dramatis personae.


Harry Hughes takes noir to a new level. Wry, classy, compelling, and utterly hysterical. Think Iain Pears crossed with Martin Amis. Dale and Lacy make an endearingly team of anti-heroes in a world showing its true colours. Magdalena Ball. The Compulsive Reader


ISBN: 978-1-905202-92-8

Coming soon from BeWrite Books

For more information about this novel keep visiting the site or send an email to us with 'Bait Shack' in the subject line for updates.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die by Howard Waldman. Out Now!


The Kingdom of Heaven has been downsized to a single city. And to save overcrowding, God has a new chosen race and set of entry qualifications.

In the modern hereafter only good Americans go to Paris when they die!

But not even a divinely ordered bureaucracy is infallible and five not-so-good Americans find themselves posthumously thrown together and trapped in a surreal limbo:

Randy 1900s marine Louis Forster;
Maggie Thompson, an over-sexed 1930s fan dancer;
neurotic 1940s New York intellectual Seymour Stein;
Helen Ricchi, the mysterious and bookish wallflower suspected of foul play after her husband's disappearance in the 1950s;
modern-day Las Vegas boor, truck driver Max Pilsudski.

And the ill-assorted desperate departed will stop at nothing in a seemingly impossible quest to return to the land of the living and repair flawed lives and fractured loves.
Heaven and an Orwellian Hell share a fragile frontier in Howard Waldman's masterfully woven novel of profound humanity and lethally-honed humor.

What the critics are saying about Howard Waldman …

The acerbic wit and sustained irony of a Woody Allen or a Kurt Vonnegut. David Gardiner. Gold Dust Magazine.

This is a man in superb control of his material, a man who knows his characters inside out and who can bring them across to us with a sense of reality that is quite beautiful. He has a wicked turn of phrase that can bring the reader from a smile to a laugh. Chris Williams. Tregolwyn Book Reviews

This book is destined for greatness and I would not be at all surprised to see the name Howard Waldman on the bestseller list. Alastair Rosie.

Read an
excerpt from Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die

Click
here for Howard Waldman's biography

Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die on BeWrite Books: paperback, eBook

Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die on Amazon: UK, US, Ca, Fr

ISBN: 978-1-904492-98-6
Pages: 364
Price: £9.50
BeWrite Books are available from: BeWrite Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Angus & Robertson and other online booksellers and to order from high street bookshops

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Low Down on High Fantasy - Part Two

Read Part One here

It was John’s fierce defense of open-minded fantasy literature that led him to test the waters with a smaller independent publisher offering more scope with its less commercial focus. And that’s how his beautifully illustrated The Far-Enough Window: A Fairy Tale For Grownups of All Ages, saw the light of day.

He said: “When I was a kid I used to be devoted to reading in bed (anywhere else as well, but Bed Woz Best), and what I loved above all were the fantasies by people like George Macdonald and Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carroll and H.G. Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson and C.S. Lewis and ... you can fill in the rest of the long list for yourself. Thing is, I suddenly realized a while back that as an adult I still liked those books – I still thought, leaving aside my sheer pleasure while reading them, that they were excellent fantasies. Furthermore, I gained enormous, almost ecstatic pleasure just from remembering that glow I felt as a kid tucked up in bed reading one of them. I put all this together among my slowly jostling brain cells and let it fester for a while.

“What I wanted to do was write a shortish novel that would encapsulate all these feelings for me: it would take the form of a children's fairy tale like Macdonald's At the Back of the North Wind (one of my all-time favorite novels) or The Princess and the Goblin, but would be for grown-ups – ‘for grown-ups of all ages’, as we put it on the cover – and have a definitely late-20th-century riff to it.

“Then along came a time when I actually had a couple of weeks to myself – a publisher had let me down badly on a signed contract – and I thought, ‘Well, here's the chance to write that novel.’ Trouble was, I knew the ‘feel’ of the book but I hadn't yet got a plot for it. I went to bed that night and, before I went to sleep, just set my mind free to wander where it wanted to. By the following morning the character Joanna had entered my mind, and from there on she took care of the plot for me. But I had only those two weeks before the next slodge of work was due to come in, so essentially I had to enter a sort of trance state for a fortnight to write the book.

“I gave it to my agent and told him it wasn't a genre fantasy and should be offered to mainstream editors ... so he offered it to all the genre-fantasy editors, who naturally turned it down flat – a couple of them, friends of mine, mentioned that they'd been puzzled it had been sent to them. I wasn't sure if I was puzzled or furious, because the agent had done exactly what I'd told him not to. As far as he was concerned, he'd offered it to half a dozen editors who all hadn't liked it, so obviously it was a lousy book.

“Once I'd moved to the States I asked my new agent to take it on, but he just said it was a lousy book and he'd never be able to sell it. Then, for various reasons too complicated to discuss here, I came across this new small press called BeWrite Books. Pity about the name, but I was mightily impressed by what they were doing – unlike so many small presses, they seemed really professional about what they were doing and planning, and the books they'd so far published looked good. I asked their editorial supremo, Neil Marr, if he'd be open to a submission; he said yes, and less than a week later he came back to me saying he adored the book and very, very much wanted to publish it. Sure enough, Neil's a mainstream editor ...

“Right from the start I'd wanted my old friend Ron Tiner to illustrate it – all the best of those children's fantasies had had nice black-and-white illustrations in them, and thus so should this one, to help sustain the effect I was after. Ron had been a sounding-board when I was initially thinking the novel over and he knew precisely what I was after with it – he had exactly the same emotions as I had about those childhood times of being in bed with a good book. Luckily Ron was free to do the illustrations, and he's done a stunning job – they're truly lovely.”

One reviewer pointed out: “There seems to be just a hint of sublimated sexuality in The Far-Enough Window. I admit that is something that can be said of quite a few of the traditional children's fantasies, but Alice in Wonderland never had anything like Ron Tiner's illustrations of Joanna lying butt-naked on the grass.”

John explained: “Only the one illustration! And it's perfectly innocent, at that. This is, after all, a novel for ‘grown-ups of all ages’. That said, I did tease Ron something rotten about always making sure he got tits into the picture somehow ... I'm not in the slightest worried about any kids who read the book being traumatized by the picture; it's always struck me that certain sections of society throw up their arms in horror at the very idea that a child might see a naked body, when any child can see a naked body by the simple means of going and looking in a mirror.

“I didn't feel any constraints at all. I knew what I wanted the book to do, and I knew what I wanted from it myself; I just sort of sat back and wrote it, guv. The whole process was utterly natural. I guess if I'd been thinking, ‘Wow, I'm doing something a bit different here’ I might have become a bit self-conscious and felt restricted in some way by the form of the novel, but as I've said I don't think any longer about fantasy in those terms: as far as I was concerned, I was simply having the time of my life writing a new fantasy novel, which was something I hadn't done in a while.”

After the success of The Far-Enough Window, BeWrite Books brought back to life two of John’s earlier SF/Fantasies – The Hundredfold Problem and the disaster novel to end all disaster novels, the spoof, Earthdoom!, with fellow science fiction author David Langford.

John Grant’s The Hundredfold Problem started life as a commissioned novel and part of the famous Judge Dredd series. It had an interesting history before being published by BeWrite Books – with stunningly sexy exclusive cover art by well known European artist, audrė.

He explained: “Way back when, the UK publisher Virgin bought the novelization rights in Judge Dredd, they expected the upcoming movie to be a smash hit. Of course, the movie was a lead balloon. Another UK publisher, Boxtree, had bought the book rights in the movie, and issued just about every tie-in you could think of – I don't know if they did 101 Judge Dredd Knitting and Macramé Tips, but I'd not be surprised. It was much like the saturation of the market by Dorling Kindersley of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace books a few years later.

“Of course, when the movie bombed all these Boxtree books flooded the remainder tables, and in so doing they crushed the humble little Virgin series, which would probably have continued doing perfectly healthily if there'd never been a movie.

“Virgin had commissioned me to write one in the series. Unable to keep my eyes open for more than a paragraph at a time while trying to read the Judge Dredd Manual they'd sent me, and always having had difficulty reading comic books (I don't know why), I hit on the stratagem of having a plot that would take Dredd right out of his usual environs and away from his usual associates, so I set virtually the whole tale inside a Dyson sphere that had been, billennia before, set around our sun's hypothetical red dwarf companion star. Then, well, I just had fun writing a romp that also, er, dabbled quite a lot in theological philosophy and other light-hearted hijinks. I think – as of course I would – that a lot of the jokes are very funny, and indeed the book as a whole. Oh, yes, and you see another aspect of the Girl-Child LoChi as well ...

“Anyway, with the demise of the series, I got the rights back in the book. Most of the series' authors – including my pal Stephen Marley, who wrote a couple of really good pieces for it – were kind of stuck, because of course they didn't hold the copyright in the Judge Dredd elements of their books. I'd always been very fond of The Hundredfold Problem, though, and I didn't like to see it lost forever. It was comparatively simple for me to remove the specifically Judge Dredd references, and – bingo! – I had a novel that was all my own.

“I didn't actually think of getting it published until Sean Wallace of Cosmos – for some reason I don't recall – expressed interest. So I flogged it to him, but then problems with Wildside caused publication to be interminably delayed. After a couple of years, Sean kindly let me have the rights back and again Neil Marr at BeWrite happily seized it.”

John soon became consultant SF/Fantasy editor with the blossoming new publisher … Consultant Editor with a mission.

He said: “The Consultant Editor bit came later. As I said, I was mightily impressed by the BeWrite Books operation from the outset, and this appraisal of them actually grew as they began publishing The Far-Enough Window. Neil asked me at some point why the big boys hadn't been fighting to get hold of the novel.

“I pointed out that this was not the only example I knew of a fine piece of fantasy that the big boys wouldn't touch with a barge-pole; I came across others from time to time during the natural course of my life, and it was frustrating to me that I couldn't do anything to help them get into print, as they so richly deserved to be. Out of that conversation emerged the notion that I should have this occasional relationship with BeWrite Books which we dignified by the title Consultant Editor.

“By odd coincidence, just a few days later a writer called Chris Thompson, to whose self-published story collection Games Dead People Play I'd given a deservedly
highly favorable review in Infinity Plus, contacted me out of the blue to say he'd written a novel which he was pretty certain nobody would like: as I'd been the only reviewer who'd seemed to understand what he was up to in Games Dead People Play, would I like to read his novel and see what I thought. Well, I took a look, and I discovered it was this utterly superb noir fantasy – a truly lovely piece of work. So that was the first book I took on for BeWrite. C.S. Thompson's A Season of Strange Dreams. I'm proud to have been associated with it.”

Since then John has brought other authors to the BeWrite Books stable with cross-genre books bigger, commercially driven houses fight shy of.

With his wild hair and bushy beard, John himself could be mistaken for a character from the pages of his own books. But any perceived similarity is unintentional to the 16-hours-a-day wordsmith who refuses to be typecast.


Carefully avoided reference to Harry Potter, he said: “I think that, finally, published fantasy may be recovering the ground it has so catastrophically lost in the past few decades to generic fantasy – a bizarre branch of the romantic novel whose published exemplars very often bear very little relation to genuine fantasy at all.

“When Tolkien created the otherworld of Middle-Earth or Lewis the otherworld of Narnia – and, of course, Macdonald before them in his tales for grown-ups like Phantastes and Lilith – that was exciting, that was imaginative, that was fantasy, because they were genuinely exercising their imaginations to reify lands that had never existed. The vast bulk of their imitators – in reality, Tolkien's imitators, because I reckon many of them haven't read the other authors – aren't doing that. Instead, they're setting otherwise pretty mundane tales in a shared quasi-medieval otherworld that has become so familiar to us it might as well be Poughkeepsie or Bermondsey.

“If I came along to you and said that I'd written a novel that was fantasy because I'd set it in Poughkeepsie you'd look at me like I was a lunatic – well, even more of a lunatic than usual, anyway! – but that's in effect what a good many writers of generic ‘fantasy’ are doing.

“Please don't take this to mean that all writers of High Fantasy are just regurgitators or new incarnations of Barbara Cartland. There are some very fine fantasists who work with High Fantasy; if I had to put my hand on my heart to name the best of them, I'd probably say Terry Pratchett, because Terry's Discworld books are – most of them – superb pieces of genuine fantasy, and would remain so even if you stripped all the jokes out of them. Myself, I prefer them with the jokes, especially since humor and fantasy are fine bedfellows – just look at how outright funny some parts of Peake's Gormenghast books are – but that's just me.

“Anyway, to get back to the point about the current success real fantasy is having in making its comeback against the floods of generic fantasy: I think it's coming about in large part because of the small presses. One of my many part-time jobs is as US Reviews Editor of Infinity Plus, and this has meant that over the past couple of years I've been reading a heck of a lot of books that almost certainly wouldn't ordinarily have come my way. This includes rafts of small press publications, and even a few self-publications, because IP has the policy of giving all books a level playing-field, regardless of the fame or obscurity of the author and the size and prominence of the publisher.

“What has really impressed me is that perhaps eighty per cent of the true fantasies I'm reading are coming from the small, even microscopic presses. Vera Nazarian's recent book
Dreams of the Compass Rose, published by Wildside, is a fine example of what I mean: it's a High Fantasy, sort of, but because of its construction, its use of language and above all its fabulous strangeness it's hard to imagine it having been published by one of the big boys.

“Naturally, some of the small press books are real stinkers (especially since few of the small presses seem ever to edit or proofread, leaving these tasks to the author), but exactly the same is true of a good proportion of the fantasy output of the big conglomerates, too. What so many of these obscure presses are doing is allowing their authors to ... well, ‘dare to dare’ is probably the best way of describing it. The result is some truly exhilarating fantasy. And it seems to be what the readers actually want, because these books sell in healthy numbers despite the fact that they're given no publicity and – shamefully – no support at all by the established book trade, notably the book stores and most especially of all the literary editors of the broadsheet newspapers.

“I think this resurgence of true fantasy is beginning, slowly at the moment but still very hopefully, to percolate upwards. I've been enormously cheered by the success of China Mieville; when I first started reading his novel The Scar – I've not yet got to Perdido Street Station – I was leaping around the room with delight, because here at last from a major publisher was a supremely intelligent piece of High Fantasy. Del Rey, who publish Mieville in the USA, may well be groundbreakers here, because I was mightily impressed by the intelligence of another High Fantasy they published last Fall, Alice Borchardt's The Dragon Queen. A pity Del Rey publishes so much other stuff, really ...

“Anyway, that's where I see the current state of the fantasy genre right now – in transition, with all the early signs that the patient is not dead but can be expected, although there's a long way to go as yet, eventually to make a full recovery.

“I hope so. I believe firmly in the importance of fantasy as one of the most central expressions of our humanness – possibly the most important. It would be really good to see that significance properly recognized once more.”


(With thanks for additional material from Lou Anders)

Interview by Alexander James

Interview first appeared in Twisted Tongue Magazine

Read an excerpt from The Far-Enough Window, Earthdoom!, The Hundredfold Problem

Click here for John Grant's biography

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Two Days in Tehran up for grabs!


BeWrite Books has again teamed up with Bibliophilia.org to offer a lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy of Michael J Hunt's latest novel, Two Days in Tehran.

This exclusive contest is open to Bibliophilia members only. But
joining Bibliophilia is free and easy to do.

If you can answer this simple question, then simp
ly sign up to Bibliophilia.org and send in your entry.

Author Michael Hunt lives in a town in the north of England made famous by three Georges – a music hall comic, a man of letters and a ukulele player.
What is the name of the town?

Two Days in Tehran Book Trailer:

Bibliophilia.org is a free online members-only writers’ workshop where critique is exchanged and a place for writers and readers of all interests and skill levels. They publish artistic and literary works on all subjects - anything that is apt to be attractive to the web visitor and that evinces a love of the arts and language.

Congratulations to Delph_Ambi, who won the first Bibliophilia/BeWrite Books competition. They will be receiving a signed copy of Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die by Howard Waldman.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

ALLAKAZZAM!

ALLAKAZZAM! is the magic word that throws open the gates to the wide, wild world of author Daniel Abelman – where slapstick and wisdom ripen on the same tree.

Abelman is our guide on a mystery tour of African and Jewish culture, apartheid, the holocaust, telepathy, police corruption, rigged boxing, exploding dogs, paedophilia, snake charming, horseradish and orthodontics ... while a lovable psychic conman tries to peddle a miraculously discovered manuscript to gullible publishers with more money than sense.

The astute reader navigates a labyrinth of highways and cul-de-sacs from the African bush to Jerusalem, via Germany, solving riddle after riddle (never sure if he, too, is falling under the trickster’s hypnotic spell), until he ultimately finds himself as though waking from a memorable dream – and all the wiser for the experience.

Abelman writes with an enchanted pen and shatters the rules of the novelist’s art by creating new and more ingenious ones of his own, pulling rabbits from hats where other authors don’t even have hats.

His childhood was spent in an African backyard swarming with grasshoppers and over-run with chickens and was interrupted when he was given a pair of black lace-up shoes and sent off to school. Since he became an ex schoolboy, he has been an ex snake-hunter; ex soldier; ex tightrope walker; ex magician; ex restaurant/bar manager; ex hypnotist and ex-peeker into things that people seldom or never see … or in some cases never imagined to exist.

Having won a stake in a card game, the multilingual Abelman flew to Europe. When he found the climate too cold he made his way to the Levant where he now lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four children.

His debut novel, ALLAKAZZAM! is accompanied in this book by three of Abelman’s haunting short stories.

The work is covered and illustrated by talented UK artist, Catherine Edmunds.


ALLAKAZZAM!
ISBN: 978-1-905202-28-7
Price: £5.99
Pages: 160
Coming Soon 2008


For more information about this novel keep visiting the site or send an email to us with 'ALLAKAZZAM' in the subject line for updates.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Low Down on High Fantasy - Part One

When it comes to fantasy and science fiction, Paul Barnett has both feet planted firmly on the ground.

And as a lifelong champion of literary quality under the pen name, John Grant, his stance against humdrum and gender-driven books has earned him a place at the top, with over sixty best sellers under his belt, both fiction and non-fiction.

Among the latter are two standard authorities in their fields: Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters and, with John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, for which he received the Hugo, Locus, Eaton, Mythopoeic Society and World Fantasy awards. He has also received a rare British Science Fiction Association Special Award and been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Award and Bram Stoker Award.

Two-time Hugo winner for his trailblazing Science Fiction/Fantasy work, his novels include Albion and The World. For younger readers he has written the twelve novels in the Legends of Lone Wolf series, tied to the gamebooks by Joe Dever, as well as retellings of Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

His most recent books are Enchanted World: The Art of Anne Sudworth, Perceptualistics: Art by Jael and Masters of Animation and his quasi-mythology Dragonhenge. And in a courageous move from giant publishers to a small independent house, John published his new fantasy, The Far-Enough Window through BeWrite Books, his Sci Fi adventure The Hundredfold Problem and re-released Earthdoom! with David Langford – who with twenty-four Hugo Awards, has the largest arsenal of these rocket trophies outside the USA and the second largest in the world.

John has since become Consultant Editor (Sci Fi and Fantasy) with BeWrite Books and has introduced other mainstream authors to the UK-based house in a bid to break the restraints of mainstream houses he believes hold back writers by demanding that they work to an established commercial formula.

John was born in Aberdeen, Scotland but has lived for many years in the New Jersey countryside with his wife, Pamela D. Scoville, owner of the Animation Art Guild. Apart from his own books, he has lost count of those he’s ghosted and edited … certainly well over a thousand.

His rise to fame came when losing his job as senior commissioning books editor at a major UK publisher back in 1980 turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

He said: “I was living in Exeter – a long way from London, which was where most of the UK publishing jobs were – and I had no money and a wife and young daughter to support. Because of the young daughter, I didn't anyway much want to move back to London; better, I thought, that she should spend her childhood away from the big city. So my only option was freelance work – either as an editor or as a writer, or, nervously backing both horses.

“At the time I'd published a couple of books under the house name I'd created especially for those, John Grant. It seemed sensible to launch my fledgling writing career using a name that already had a couple of books under its belt. Now, of course, I wish I'd not taken that decision; it causes a fair amount of confusion, and anyway ‘John Grant’ is a lousy name for a writer, because it lacks any ... hmm ... memorability. But I'm stuck with it, especially since winning awards under that name.

“Of course, the original idea was that, once I'd worked out which of the two horses was going to win the race, I'd jump onto it and regard the other as merely an ancillary ride, as it were. But I've never yet quite managed the trick. So I now have a full-time career as Paul Barnett the editor and another full-time career as John Grant the writer. It makes for a busy life, and often a complicated one; and it can make me pretty difficult to work with, too, I guess. Yet I myself still feel that my more important work is what I've done as a writer, and more specifically as a fantasy writer.”

Of his fantasy work, top US reviewer Lou Anders said: “Each story from John Grant is like a single facet of a larger jewel. Just as the surrealist Salvador Dali utilized the repetition of certain images and themes across his body of work, so Grant weaves characters, gods and images through all of his novels and stories – each part of a brilliantly conceived cosmology that rivals in richness the work of famous fantasist Michael Moorcock and HP Lovecraft.”

John broke new ground with his Legends of the Lone Wolf series with its game tie-in. But it wasn’t his first venture into the fantastic.

He said: “I'd actually made a few minor contributions. I'd edited, Aries 1 and I'd written two humorous sf/fantasy-sort-of fiction books, Sex Secrets of Ancient Atlantis and The Truth About the Flaming Ghoulies, not to mention the parody disaster novel Dave Langford and I had done together, Earthdoom! So I wasn't a complete virgin.

“However, I was a bit startled when I was asked to write this series of novels – initially four of them, in the end twelve – because this type of high, fighting fantasy wasn't the sort of fantasy I'd hitherto been much interested in. Indeed, I'll go further than that: at the time I wasn't much interested in fantasy at all, because too much of what I'd read was the kind of generic crap that still, sadly, constitutes most of what's published in the field. It seemed to me that fantasy, as a literary form, was a dead end; all the good stuff had already been done by people like C.S. Lewis and George Macdonald and Alan Garner and Lewis Carroll and Mervyn Peake and Diana Wynne Jones.

“In short, I was a bit ignorant, and hadn't realized the possibilities within fantasy. I've since become a complete convert, to the point that I will argue at great length to anyone prepared to listen that fantasy is the single most important form of literature the human species has ever invented and, as such, is one of the most important means of expression available to us.

“The novels started off as mere tie-ins, but I had the advantage of having a publisher who was completely ignorant of fantasy and completely uninterested in learning anything about it. The first half-dozen or so of the novels were marked by constant arguments, and a couple of them were butchered before publication; but thereafter the publisher got bored and more or less left me to do as I pleased. Which was great!

“What I was able to do was, with only a couple of exceptions, make each of the novels different from each other in tone, atmosphere, "feel", construction, style, you name it, so that I could get away from that awful tie-in drabness you so often see and produce novels that were actually, you know, novels. I always remind people that, if they properly want to understand what I'm up to as a fantasist, they should read The Birthplace, which was #7 in the series, plus a couple of the others, notably The Rotting Land (#12).

“There's a nice postscript to the story. I've recently been in touch with an Italian publisher who wants to reissue the whole series in four three-novels-apiece volumes, with me ‘reconstituting’ the texts the way they ought originally to have been published – and at the same time allowing me, in the earlier novels, to quietly amend some of my more egregious deficiencies as a quasi-youthful writer. It's going to be a vast amount of work, of course; but once I have the ‘real’ texts set in order for them I'll be able to hawk the books around publishers in the English-language market as well.”

John’s Albion and The World crystallize his idea of a ‘polycosmos’ and he rates The World as among his most ambitious and important works of fantasy.

He said: “The stuff I was up to in the Lone Wolf books had convinced me that there was a lot that could be done with High Fantasy, something I'd not have credited before. Also, though by this time I was being allowed quite a lot of creative freedom in the Lone Wolf books, there were some things – including ridiculously trivial things, like using the word ‘shit’ – that I wasn't allowed to do before. So Albion represented for me something of an unfurling of the wings, an exploring of the freedoms I'd discovered existed within fantasy that weren't being explored by most of the other kids in the playpark.

“Even at the time I thought that first flight wasn't a frightfully successful one, but the critics disagreed and, far more importantly, so did my publisher, who was I think appalled when I turned in the manuscript of The World to her. (The book ended up being published in the middle of December, doom time for any book, so that by the time the generally astonishingly good reviews started coming in the book was halfway to the remainder tables.) It was supposed to be a nice, cozy bit of formulaic High Fantasy, and yet here was me bringing in stuff from quantum mechanics, telling bits of the story in a vaguely Damon Runyonesque style, switching between one reality and another, smashing universes together, and so on and so on and so on.

“The structure of the book mimicked that of a black hole, with the first part as the accretion disk, the second as the plummet from the event horizon to the singularity, and the third the emergence into the fresh ‘elsewhere’; I tried to get some of that into the various writing styles I used, too. There was lots of other stuff in there as well. I'm still amazed by my ambitions in writing that book, and even more amazed that – in my entirely objective judgment, you understand – I pulled it all off. Much of the time I was writing the book it was as if I were simply sitting in front of the screen letting my fingers dart around the keyboard, as surprised as anyone else by the way the story unfolded.”

In many of his stories, John – now in his mid fifties – mixes hard science with fantasy. He said: “There seems to have grown up this notion that the boundaries of fantasy should for some unknown reason be strictly limited – you know, wizards, dragons, unicorns, elves, berserkers, virgin princesses, pigboys-who-shall-be-king. All that sort of stuff is within the remit of fantasy, as are Native American spirits in modern cities and so on, but outer space isn't. It's as if you were to tell someone: yes, it's all right for you to use your imagination, but not too much – rather like the Soviets repressed so much fantasy literature because they thought it was dangerous. That was the biggest compliment ever paid to fantasy, of course, because fantasy should be dangerous, and (in the broadest sense of the term) subversive and threatening to the status quo of the reader's mind.

“In the West, of course, we have very much the same sort of censorship of fantasy in place, only because it's a commercially motivated one (and in commercial terms misguided, in my opinion) we don't call it ‘censorship’ but instead say it's ‘market forces’, or some such.

“My very strong feeling is that fantasy should be allowed to do anything it damn well pleases, should explore every possible venue, should be as unconstrained as it wants to be. The fantasy writer's playground should be one with infinitely distant boundaries.

“So when I take my fantasy into the kinds of territories more commonly associated with science fiction, I don't feel I'm ‘mixing’ anything – all I'm doing is going into a rather unpopulated part of fantasy's natural playground. There was a fantasy story of mine called The Glad Who Sang a Mermaid In from the Probability Sea that was published in Interzone. Before offering it to Interzone I had offered it to a couple of fantasy-anthology editors over here and been told very firmly that it wasn't fantasy, it was science fiction – just because it was set in large part in between our Galaxy and the Andromeda spiral. It didn't have a mermaid in it (well, sort of didn't ...), despite the title, but it was a full-blooded fantasy nevertheless. In fact, I discovered some time after the award had gone to someone else that the story had been shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award, so clearly someone recognized what I was up to.

“Similarly, a short fantasy novel of mine called Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi (soon to be published as half of a ‘double’ book, the other half being Colin Wilson's The Tomb of the Old Ones) was widely bounced by fantasy editors on the grounds that it was ‘obviously horror’ just because I'd drawn on the werewolf archetype for a small part of the story – not even werewolves, just the idea of them!

“So I guess you could say that I'm one of those rare members of the Fantasy Liberation Front! Fortunately I'm not the only one, but it gets pretty lonely nevertheless ...”

Read Part Two here

Monday, 17 March 2008

London Book Fair 2008

It's getting closer...

April 14th - 16th 2008, Earls Court, London

The London Book Fair is the world's leading spring publishing event for the trading of rights, bookselling and book production services and brings together over 23,000 authors, agents, scouts, editors, publishers, wholesalers, booksellers and librarians from over 115 countries over its 3 day duration.

The London Book Fair is the ideal location to learn about the global publishing industry and London - an international publishing hub and cultural centre in itself.

It is a place to do business, network with peers and clients, meet new contacts, learn about latest developments and have an enjoyable experience.

To register as a visitor, and for more information on The London Book Fair


BeWrite Books will be represented at LBF by its publisher, Cait Myers, so if you’d like to arrange a meet-up, please email us. It would be great to see you.

Friday, 14 March 2008

How to Create Literary Fiction by Magdalena Ball

As a book reviewer, I get anywhere from fifty to one hundred review requests a week. Of these, I might accept five or so. While I do occasionally take nonfiction books, most of what I accept will be in the genre known as literary fiction.

But just what is literary fiction? What differentiates literary fiction from what most publishers class as commercial or genre oriented fiction, and why am I biased towards it? It’s a question I get asked regularly. Some, like author David Lubar ("A Guide to Literary Fiction," 2002) equate the label with work that is pompous, dull, plotless, and overly academic: "If you're ever in doubt about whether a story is literary, there's a simple test. Look in a mirror immediately after reading the last sentence. If your eyebrows are closer together than normal, the answer is yes."

Publishers often use this label for work which defies other genre distinctions, eg it isn’t romance, isn’t "chick-lit," isn’t science or speculative fiction, isn’t a thriller, action, or political drama. It is meant to denote a fiction which is of higher quality, richer, denser, or, as the literary fiction book club states, work which "can make us uncomfortable or can weave magic." These distinctions aren’t always clear, and there are some superb exceptions to the genre rule, such as Margaret Atwood or China Mieville, whose high quality work fits the speculative fiction genre, or Umberto Eco and Iain Pears, whose work is full of mystery and suspense. All writers feel that their work is high quality, and most write fiction with the goal of producing great work. So how can we ensure that our work is literary fiction rather than some other form? Here are five tips to guide writers who are inclined to produce literary fiction:


  1. Aim for transcendency. The one quality which seems to be present in abundance in literary fiction and much less so in other forms, is what agent and author Noah Lukeman calls “transcendency.” It isn’t easy to define, and in his exceptional book, The Plot Thickens (St Martin’s Press, 2002), Lukeman presents a number of points, such as multidimensional characters and circumstances, room for interpretation, timelessness, relatability, educational elements, self discovery, and lasting impression. I would say that transcendency equates to depth, to writing which does more than entertain its readers, and instead, changes something, however small, in the way they perceive themselves. How do you get transcendency in fiction? With a deep theme, deep and powerful characters, complex plots, and exceptional writing skills. Sound easy?

  2. Read quality literature. This is a lot easier than transcendency, though not unrelated. Since achieving literary fiction is a subtle and difficult thing, you’ve got to develop your literary senses. The best way of doing that is to read books which fit this genre. If you want to create literary fiction, chances are, you probably are already reading it. These are books by the writers we call "great." Your list of names may differ from mine, but these are the writers who win prizes like the Booker, the Pulitzer, the Commonwealth Prize, and the National Book Award to name just a few. The more great literature you read, the better able you will become at recognising the elements which make a fiction literary.

  3. Don’t get defensive! Lubar’s article is lots of fun, but literary fiction isn’t meant to be snobbish, academic, plotless, or boring in any way; just well crafted. That may be daunting if you are a writer, but it won't help your work to shrug off quality by calling it dull or unachievable.

  4. Re-write. This may be the single most important distinction between literary and other types of fiction. Work which is timeless takes time. There’s no other way to achieve literary fiction than re-writing, dozens, and maybe many more, times. It isn’t glamorous, nor is re-writing dependent on a muse or inspiration like the first draft is. It is just going over and over a work until every word is relevant and integral to the story. This process cannot occur solely in the fingers of the author. Every writer of literary fiction requires an ideal reader, a critique group, a mentor, or someone who can provide the kind of objective advice which will transform your inspiration into a stunning creation.

  5. Don't stress about it! Of course there is no point in worrying so much that you get writer's block (and if you do, get hold of Jenna's terrific book on the topic :-). If you read great books, write fiction which is true to your own creative vision, and revise (with feedback from others) until the work is as perfect as you can make it, you will produce literary fiction. That’s all there is to it. Writing a novel is about as hard as writing gets. Writing literary fiction can take years, often with little reward, at least until the book is completed (and in many instances, thankless even after publication, assuming you are published). But if you can’t stop yourself; if the desire for producing something truly beautiful outweighs utilitarianism, then you are really and truly a literary writer and your work will have transcendency. I’ll look forward to reading and reviewing it!

Magdalena Ball is author of The Art of Assessment and Quark Soup. She runs the popular Compulsive Reader website at http://www.compulsivereader.com/. Her short stories, editorials, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in many printed anthologies and journals and have won several awards.


Magdalena's debut novel, Sleep Before Evening, was published by BeWrite Books in 2007.



Thursday, 13 March 2008

Belinda Lawrence reviewed

Capable of Murder

A solid tale of greed, obsession, and murder.

“Capable of Murder” is a must read! Mr. Kavanagh has written a story I could not solve, something that has become a rarity for me. Thank you.

This tale is quite simple, really. The setting is on the outskirts of Bath, England. Belinda Lawrence is summoned, via a letter, by her reclusive great-aunt for a visit; however, ends up finding the aunt dead. Being the only living relative, Belinda inherits her aunt’s ancient cottage and dilapidated gardens. Belinda believes her aunt was murdered. Why? Because the letter summoning Belinda was mailed after her aunt’s supposed accident. That, and everyone Belinda meets seems to know more than they are willing to tell. Oh, and there’s that attempt on Belinda’s life as well.

Yes, “Capable of Murder” does seem a simple murder mystery, but it’s all in the telling and Mr. Kavanagh does a wonderful job at telling it. He has painted a clear picture of the cottage and gardens. The characters are engaging while being both straightforward and complex. The killer’s motive for murder is not the normal quest for money or power, but something more down to earth.

“Capable of Murder” is the first in the Belinda Lawrence series and I hope this will prove to be a long series as she and Mr. Kavanagh have a permanent place on my library shelves.

More!


The Embroidered Corpse

A thrilling read, The Embroidered Corpse blends together a murder mystery, a treasure hunt, and the intrigue of an archeological mystery. Author Brian Kavanagh’s rich characterization brings the story to life, and his approach to plot development keeps that life moving at break-neck speed.

The story revolves around a mysterious medieval tapestry fragment found in the attic of an old English estate. The fragment may be the missing end of the famous Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the events of the Norman invasion in 1066, the death of the English King Harold, and the crowning of William the Conqueror as King of England. The missing fragment, we find out, holds clues to secrets that people will kill to protect.

In a series of break-ins, kidnappings, and bloody murders, we find a list of fascinating suspects and intriguing questions. Is it Charles Godwin, the reputed descendent of King Harold and the self-proclaimed head of a new monastery who wants to prove his lineage as a possible heir to the throne of England? Is it Sir Charles Taylor, the eminent medieval scholar who is a leading authority on the hidden meanings of the Bayeux Tapestry? Or perhaps the violent Brother Saul, attached to the monastery but reeking with malevolence? Why was an old vicar murdered and mutilated to match the wounds of King Harold? What happened to Hazel, the suddenly-missing antique dealer? And what does all this have to do with an archeological dig at the old Holy Trinity church in Botham, dating back from the seventh century when the first monks came from Rome to bring Christianity to the pagans?

The intertwined plots come together and all gets sorted out in the satisfying conclusion to this wonderful novel. Kavanagh has created another thrilling addition to his Belinda Lawrence Mystery Series- a series I plan to continue reading.

Put this at the top of your must-read for this season.


Reviewed by Kevin Aguanno: TCM Reviews

Bloody Ham

Brian Kavanagh has done it again. In this third book of the Belinda Lawrence Cozy Mystery series, Brian brings Hazel Whitby to center stage where she assumes the position as leader in the investigative team.

Hazel Whitby, an antiques dealer, hires antique silver to a film company for use in a dinner scene in the proposed film Playing Boys. Belinda Lawrence, as Hazel's business partner, is allowed to be on the set with Hazel to watch over her silver during filming. As a result Belinda is present when one of the stars suddenly drops dead.

As a result, Belinda is asked to play stand-in to the American actress taking the place of the murdered star. She feels this position provides an opportunity for her to investigate the murder and obtain some evidence ... Belinda will never forget her brief acting career.Bloody Ham is a sequel to Capable of Murder and The Embroidered Corpse. Read them all and follow Belinda Lawrence as she plays detective in each of them. Brian Kavanagh's superb job of juggling the clues and keeping the mystery a mystery until the very end has produced another great story.
Brian Kavanagh has many years' experience in the Australian Film Industry in areas of production, direction, editing and writing. He is presently planning a fourth book in the Belinda Lawrence mystery series in which Belinda travels to Melbourne, her hometown in Australia. He is truly an author to watch.


Reviewed by Lucille P Robinson, Alternative-Read.com

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Bait Shack by Harry Hughes


An unemployed whiz kid struggles to save marriage and sanity in a dark but hilarious tale of clowns and killers.

Intrigued? For more information about this novel keep visiting the site or send an email to us with 'Bait Shack' in the subject line for updates.

ISBN: 978-1-905202-92-8

A novel for all genres: Crime / murder / psychological / humour / contemporary fiction / literary fiction / legal / corruption / native American / real estate / conservation


Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Jack of All Trades and Master of One

Internationally acclaimed novelist and poet Sam Smith could well be the guy who delivers your milk in the morning, whitewashes your garden shed or gives you change for the one-armed bandits on your next seaside holiday.

Sam Smith is a Jack of All Trades and master of one … literature.

In the market driven publishing world, even the biggest talent isn’t always rewarded with big bucks and, although critically acclaimed the world over as a novelist and poet, Sam is one of those great creators who have been forced to self-subsidise their art.

The midnight oil in his garret has been paid for from his wages as a milkman, a psychiatric nurse, a scaffolder, a social worker, a gardener, a computer operator, a sailor, a laboratory analyst, a painter and decorator and even, most recently, the change-maker in a seaside penny arcade.

For thirty years, no job was ever too mean for Sam as he paid the household bills, raised a family of three daughters … and struggled after hours with what he has always considered his ‘real’ work.

Now, with fifteen published novels to his name and almost as many poetry anthologies, as editor of two prestigious poetry journals and as a sought-after speaker and reader at literary events in tiny towns and huge cities all over the UK, Sam – even with a Booker Prize nomination and several major awards under his belt – is still willing to earn his right to be read by the sweat of his brow.

Meantime, though, royalties start to accumulate as more and more titles are added to an impressive list by this tireless and prolific author.

His novels include Sister Blister (Online Originals and now in hardback), Paths of Error (Jacobyte Books, Australia; a trilogy of three novels), We Need Madmen (SKREV Prize for Science Fiction 2004), Towards the unmaking of Heaven (Jacobyte Books, five-part SF series), the BeWrite Books titles, The End of Science Fiction, Marks, Porlock Counterpoint, The Care Vortex and Sick Ape, and his newly released historical novel, The Secret Report of Friar Otto (Boho Press). His non-fiction work, Vera and Eddy’s War is published by BeWrite Books.

Countless individual published poems by Sam Smith have been read around the world, but his sole-authored collections include: Problems and Polemics, apostrophe combe, Rooms and Dialogues (all Boho Press), Pieces (Kite Publications), John the Explorer (Gecko Press), Skin and Bones (Odyssey Poets), and To Be Like John Clare (Salzburg University Press).

He is Editor of The Journal (formerly The Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry, Associate Editor of The River King Poetry Supplement (Illinois, USA) and publisher of the small press Original Plus.

And he’s a big name on the World Wide Web … which takes some doing when you’re called Smith!

But even this impressive pedigree doesn’t mean Sam can scorn the day job quite yet, even at the age of sixty.

He said: “If you can put someone off writing, then you’ve done everyone a favour, but those of us who were born to write will not be discouraged by any of the many obstacles in our paths and we’ll do everything necessary to be able to keep body and soul together and let us carry on with the main job.

“It’s not always easy. Some of the jobs I’ve had to hold down have been exhausting, mentally and physically. But I’ve always managed to get over that. When I get down to my real work, I’ve just cleared my mind and got on with it.

“The main thing is creating and getting your written work out there where it can be read and where it will survive long after you’ve collected your last pay packet.”

And the creative juices were flowing even when Sam was tinkling along in a milk float or handing over coins for the one-armed bandits in an amusement arcade. Those he met in his work-a-day jobs inspired characters, scenes played out before his eyes formed the basis of story lines in his novels, real life prompted feelings and ideas for his poetry. “My life experience pervades each piece of work,” he said.

Even in flights of fancy like his The End of Science Fiction, set during the last week of mankind’s existence, his plots utterly suspend disbelief and his characters are so real and down-to-earth, they might just have called by to borrow a cup of sugar.

Asked about where else he mined ideas, he said from his home in Devon, England: “Anywhere, anytime. I got the idea for ‘Pieces’ whilst climbing Cader Idris. ‘Sick Ape’ came out of reading Russell Hoban's ‘Turtle Diaries’. ‘To Be Like John Clare’ and ‘Problems & Polemics’ grew out of my work as a psychiatric nurse.

“‘Sister Blister’ also came from there, but also from my fascination with the life of John Clare; along with the idea that I like of two sets of people working against one another without knowledge of one another – as in ‘Porlock Counterpoint’, which grew out of my work with self-harmers. ‘Care Vortex’ is a fictional documentary of my time working with children in so-called care.”

Sam’s books don’t conveniently fit any publisher’s neat genre pigeonholes, one reason he believes why he was left hanging wallpaper when more commercially minded authors were slapping down the deposit on their first yacht.

He said: “I don't like being slotted into a genre. For instance ‘The End of Science Fiction’ is a whodunit set at the end of the world. At least I thought it was. One reader said that it was more a philosophical treatise. Try to label that!

“The problem with not wanting to be contained by any one genre is that publishers don't know how to market the books. So much easier for them if it fits a category defined by retailers. I’m probably shooting myself in the foot insofar as the more unimaginative publishers are concerned, but I must say that I do like a story to build itself, to be true to itself; and I am loathe to betray it by making it fit a genre. A book written with genre in mind too often reads as if false.

“The business is tremendously sensitive to market forces and money is spent where it’s most likely to earn a financial return. As a small press publisher myself, I am keenly aware how effective/ineffective any attempts at promotion can be. Without a huge budget, and depending on the author’s own promotion of their work (which is still probably more effective than any small press or e-publisher can do), sales are only ever going to be, at best, in the hundreds. To get beyond the thousands requires advertising budgets beyond the funds of most ebook and small press publishers.

“So you either tailor your work to suit the major publishers’ marketing people and make a mint, or you are true to your own work and content yourself with a much smaller return … even if it means you must subsidise your writing with full time jobs.

“What drives me to break new ground with my books is the realisation that the marketing boys are always a step behind. Market research tells them what the public have been reading, not what they will be reading. So they look for another Harry Potter, not for the truly original that the public don't know they want until they see it. 'Twas ever thus.”

As huge manufacturers start to see the potential in ebooks and invest millions in the development and serious launch of dedicated one-function reading devices, Sam sees a new frontier opening up to him and other authors reluctant to squeeze themselves into moulds for the convenience and profit of industry giants.He said: “Ebook publishing, because of its low production outlay, allows publishers to take chances on those books that don't fit any category. It's the reading public who have to catch up with epublishing. And they will, but it is slow. Amazon is really helpful here in that people are getting used to ordering books online and are starting to browse online publishers and to order POD books. That will help acclimatise them.

“Ebooks, though, are waiting still on the technological breakthrough that will make access to them universal and affordable and the reading of them convenient and comfortable. This year, there seems to have been great headway made in this direction by one leading Japanese company … but we still need to see the price come down before the revolution will really be underway.

“Although they keep a pretty low profile on the possible shape of things to come, the big, mainstream traditional publishing houses obviously take ebook potential seriously. All publishing contracts now contain a clause claiming electronic rights.

“Another benefit of ebooks to the author and the reader is that, because of electronic storage and POD technology, print runs are shorter. Also no book need ever go out of print again. Already I've bought books which were out of print until adapted to POD.

“The best aspect of current movement and changes in the publishing industry, counting in all the online and small press publishers, is its diversity; and, especially with regard online publishers, the sense of an international community, all concerned with promoting what they believe is the best of their literature.

“Also, I’d like to see a more critical attitude to web publishing. Some writers seem to want to belong more to a club of writers-who've-been-rejected-and-so-let's-publish-and-praise-each-other's-work rather than seriously attempt to improve the quality of their writing.

“I think new, easier and cheaper means of broadcasting literature will have an impact; but the commonality of culture requires a mass media, of which bestsellers are a part. So there will continue to be the big players with their big budgets promoting what they hope will be bestsellers (and there is a point where a bestseller becomes a bestseller because it is a bestseller). There are no statistics yet that I have seen that regularly tell us what is this week's bestselling ebook.”

But whatever direction the industry moves in, Sam will be there. Even though currently busy with a move from Devon to pastures new in Cumberland, he has several works in progress.

He said: “I do at least four longhand rewrites of an original handwritten draft before ever I approach a keyboard, so I don’t actually even have to be plugged in to be hard at work. There’ll be something new ready for submission just as soon as I get my feet under a new garret table up north.”

And has Sam got a new day job lined up yet?

“I’m open to offers,” he said. “If needs be, there’s little I wouldn’t do from nine-to-five to be left free to carry on with my real work.”

Interview by Alexander James

Interview first appeared in Twisted Tongue Magazine

Read an excerpt from The End of Science Fiction

Click here for Sam Smith's biography

Monday, 10 March 2008

Free, signed book up for grabs!

BeWrite Books has teamed up with Bibliophilia.org to offer a lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy of Howard Waldman’s new novel, Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die.

The exclusive contest is open to Bibliophilia members only. But joining Bibliophilia is free and easy to do.

So for your chance to enter this competition and more to come, simply sign up to Bibliophilia.org and answer the question on the front page.

Bibliophilia.org is a free online members-only writers’ workshop where critique is exchanged and a place for writers and readers of all interests and skill levels. They publish artistic and literary works on all subjects - anything that is apt to be attractive to the web visitor and that evinces a love of the arts and language.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Review: Sleep Before Evening by Magdalena Ball

...the drug scenes are written with an intensity that I have rarely experienced in literature, or any other medium for that matter. The words and sentences beautifully drift through this melancholy, but never hopeless, foggy reality of drug abuse and self-searching and beauty and longing. The change and growth the protagonist goes through from the beginning to the end is nothing short of extraordinary, rendered almost impeccably, and the dialogue throughout feels as real as those dark shadows that hang out on that whiskey corner just down the street from my place, street-talking their way to the next hit, the next kiss, the next anything ... kudos to Magdalena Ball , Sleep Before Evening is a beautiful book. quite the accomplishment...

Reviewed by Tony Nesca, the author of "The Do-Nothing Boys" and "About A Girl"

I’ve never been addicted to drugs, but first-time novelist Magdalena Ball in Sleep Before Evening made me feel as if I had been so, in New York, way back in 1982. When Marianne’s grandfather dies, her innocence disappears with him and she abandons her potential academic career in an effort to find herself and re-establish some much needed stability in her life. All this happens while falling in love, learning about sex, drugs, booze and homeless life, and generally growing up far too quickly with plenty of freedom. The year 1982, a year of torment in the life of sweet Marianne. She’s brave yet she manages to reach the bottom. Will she climb back up?

The characters are the reason I love this book. Their dependence on drugs and their all too human feelings come out vividly. Miles, for instance, might look like the typical bad guy at the bar but he’s real all the way through. His feelings for Marianne and his addictions, hopes, dreams and sometimes even violence are straight-in-your-face all throughout the book.

The writing is deep and memorable making the novel a true page-turner. The words are chosen masterly; the narrative and the imagery are excellent. The book sounds like the music Marianne wants to compose. The frequent flashes from the past complement the narrative and add a certain element of mystery to the story.

The peak of the story is carefully reached, with the reader being let down and thinking it was reached quickly when in fact it was not. Indeed, not even Marianne was convinced by her earlier sudden decision to turn her life around.

Sleep Before Evening is a well-written insight into addiction and the ugly life. A seemingly good girl can be able to let go so much and be thrown in with the most ‘bad’. But if you want to know what happens to Marianne and all the other characters in Sleep Before Evening, you’ll have to read the book!

Reviewed by Maressa Zahra

Excerpt from Sleep Before Evening

Book trailer for Sleep Before Evening

Magdalena Ball biography

Listen to Magdalena Ball read an excerpt of Sleep Before Evening

Sleep Before Evening on Amazon: UK, US, Ca

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Review: The Voyages of Delticos by Peter Tomlinson

Peter Tomlinson has written a powerful, moving, and sometimes disturbing book. Disturbing in that it leads one to question ones own ideas and taken for granted beliefs as the author takes his characters on a journey of discovery during which they learn that questions can be more important than the answers.

A storm tossed, perilous journey across the ocean takes Kadrik and Bantius to the Land of the Faraway people. Kadrik is seeking the wisdom that will help him to save his own people from pestilence, famine, and the marauders who break up their homes and settlements. Delticos, a healer, shows him how to treat wounds, and teaches him about plants with healing powers to cure illness, while gently leading him to doubt the wrong thinking and myths that have taken hold amongst his own people. As well as learning how to heal the body, Kadrik also becomes aware of ways to heal the mind and soul.

Delticos sails back with them to their own land, where amidst the prevailing chaos the three men endeavour to restore calmer, happier times. As they meet with old friends and old enemies the tension builds rapidly, their exploits and journeys taking them to the Great Cave where the tablets of Zilk are concealed. The truth lies there, stronger than the falsities and myths of later scribes.

This story can be enjoyed as a tale of heroic adventures, as Kadrik travels across his land and Delticos sails to and fro across the ocean, but the underlying philosophy, summed up in the aphorisms at the end of the book, is valuable and impressive. If you have not already read the other two books in the trilogy ‘The Petronicus Legacy’ you will surely wish to repair that omission.


Reviewed by Kate Edwards
Excerpt from The Voyages of Delticos





The Voyages of Delticos on Amazon: UK, US, Ca