I haz a new book!

Well, sort of, as it’s a new version of one of my self-published e-books.

Pro Se Press have just brought out the first print edition of The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone, the prequel to Dead Men Rise Up Never. It has a lovely new cover by Adam Shaw, the artist who did the cover for Dead Men, plus an extra short story, the URLking. It’s available from Amazon UK and US. I’m waiting for my copies to arrive and will be doing a reading from it at Fiction Fix on August 6th.

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Spring Newsletter

Had a good evening at Fiction Fix last night. We had two new readers, Will Stebbings and Gary Francis-Williams. Will read from his novel, Off the Mark, a coming of age story set in the 1960s, and Gary read from The Mysterious 1 & 27, a tale of unpleasant relatives scrambling to solve clues and get their hands on a huge fortune left in the Colonel’s incomplete will. Gary said it was his first reading, but he gave an accomplished and most amusing performance. Morgan Fitzsimons treated us to the start of the tale of Betsy Butterfingers, an accident-prone witch – hopefully we’ll hear more about Betsy in the future.  Ron Graves did a spooky mood piece and Helen read some more from her unpublished SF novel, the Zarduth Inperative.

For a laugh, I did a bit from my Poltergeist: the Legacy fanfic, The Harrowing of Hell (you can find all of it here on my blog). It went down pretty well, and Gary told me he’d enjoyed it even though he didn’t usually like horror. I must admit that I’d never thought of it as horror before. These genre categories are very blurred and slippery to pin down and I’m always interested when readers find something in my work that I didn’t realise was there.

Pro Se have announced that three of my books will be coming out this year – no firm dates yet. The first will be The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone, which will be in print for the first time along with a bonus Afton & Jerome story. I’ve seen the sketches for the cover, once again by Adam Shaw, and it looks very good. The other two 2017 book will be three and four in the Anna & Zenni series, StarChild and The Beauty of our Weapons. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Dave and I are going to Eastercon for the first time, Innominate at Birmingham. I’ll be doing a reading and also appearing on a panel about Biohacking. Should be interesting!

A Message from Our Sponsors (Not)

I discovered when I sent the last post up to my blog that WordPress now places ads on my page. Apparently I can stop this by paying them $30 per year, but I think that’s too expensive, given my present level of followers – sorry. I’ve no idea what the ads are for, as I can’t see them. I move around an internet free of advertising, thanks to Adblock Plus. I highly recommend it – and it’s free.

So, if you see any ads on my page, don’t assume that I endorse the products or services advertised, unless they’re for cats, alcohol or chocolate, of course!

Brighton: There and Back Again.

So, we went to the World Fantasy Convention 2013 at the Brighton Metropole hotel last weekend. The train trip down went smoothly, although I always feel a little sad on the bit from London Bridge to East Croydon. I did that commute for about six years and so much of it has changed – all the new (and mostly ugly) buildings in London and all the extra housing crammed into every tiny space. The tower block at Guy’s Hospital where I used to work is looking rather shabby now, and is overshadowed by the sinister bulk of the Shard. Nothing stays the same, I suppose, in the name of progress.

The Hilton Metropole is a better hotel than the Royal Albion, but everywhere seemed a bit dark and gloomy, as if there weren’t enough light fittings or they were using low wattage bulbs. The bed in our room looked great, but was very hard, and the pillows were old and lumpy, which combined with the wind that howled round the building for most of the nights we stayed meant that I never got enough sleep and that all my joints ached. Breakfast was good though.

I have to say I had a few problems with the convention space. The fact that some of it wasn’t accessible by lift and that it was peppered with random flights of stairs made everything hard to get to, particularly the reading rooms, which were so distant they might have been in a different time zone. There wasn’t enough seating – none in the room used for various launches and parties. I’m not disabled, but my knees are over half a century old, my back is dodgy and I was more or less sawn in half in an op last year – I did find it hard to cope with the layout of the con. The bar was too small, and got very crowded and noisy. I didn’t bother with the convention bar, as it was awkward going through the restaurant to reach it – if I’d been eating there, I’d have been annoyed at people traipsing through – and its range of drinks was poor. What I really missed was a quiet lounge area for rest and conversation – the Royal Albion was better in that respect.

The convention programming was okay, but I did miss a lot of things I wanted to see because they ran at the same time. High points – I did get to meet Elizabeth Bear, saw some good panels and had a great time meeting up with my friend, Phillip Spencer. I went to a few readings and was disappointed that the audiences were so small – unless it was a mega-popular author, most attracted under ten people. Sadly, I didn’t get to see Charles Stross, as I missed his panel and his reading was cancelled.

I did a reading with William F Nolan and Jason V Brock (my name didn’t appear on the programme), and the audience didn’t reach double figures, which was a shame, as it was the weirdest reading I’ve ever been to. Bill read his Sam Space story, ‘The Maltese Pig’, while being heckled and prodded into telling various anecdotes by Jason, who had to suffer the same banter from Bill while he read two pieces of his own work – I think one was from the anthology Black Wings II. Jason was then nagged into singing verses from ‘My Way’ and ‘New York, New York’ as a finale. Then it was my turn – how the hell do you follow that? I read an excerpt of my story, Mountains of Ice, from the charity anthology in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Blood Type, which Bill and Jason are also in. When I finished, Bill asked me if I was going to sing too. As the title of my story comes from a folksong, Lady Franklin’s Lament, I gave them the relevant verse. Very strange reading!

As for the weather – I had no idea it was going to be so windy in Brighton that weekend. After the storm a few days before the con, the forecast had been for calmer, more settled weather. It limited how far we could go to find somewhere to eat, and on the Sunday night, we were nearly blown off our feet and sandblasted by rain and hail coming back from a nearby Chinese restaurant.

Our trip home went well, in spite of having our train cancelled due to a breakdown on the line, and Dave just about managed to carry the hundredweight of books we gained at the con!

All in all, a good convention. It would have been brilliant at a more accessible venue, with a bigger bar and a pleasant sitting area. It didn’t seem as much fun as the two Fantasycons I’ve attended – maybe worldcons are meant to be more serious? – and I did miss the quiz. Would I do a reading again? Probably not – it was fun, but the audience was too small to be worth the effort.

I did forget to mention the carpets in the Dealer’s room and some of the other halls – the design consisted of random patches of pale blue and grey-black check, topped with abstract white lines. I couldn’t make any sense of it, but I did hear it described as chalk lines drawn by a forensic team after a major massacre of Elder Gods.

World Fantasy Con 2013

I’ll be in Brighton this weekend, pretending to be a writer. I’m doing my first public reading on Saturday and I’m getting really twitchy about it. Still, it can’t be as scary as having a major op and not expecting to survive the anaesthetic, right? I got through that, so I expect I’ll manage a reading, even if I’m not very good. I’ll be reading a short extract from my story from the SF vampire anthology, Blood Type, along with two other contributors, William F Nolan and Jason V Brock.

Bit concerned about this convention. The progress reports have been somewhat unfriendly and high-handed, so I’m not expecting the event to be as much fun as the last two Fantasycons. And as for the all-woman fantasy panel, Broads with Swords – seriously? I really thought they’d re-name that one. They say that to test if something is insulting, substitute different words, so let’s try that. Pricks with Sticks? Berks with Dirks? Huns with Guns? Yep, I think we have a result, and it ain’t polite. I won’t be going to that one, not because I don’t approve of or want to support having more women on panels, but because the title is so insulting.

So, have a happy Hallowe’en, and enjoy the various firework events that will probably happen over this weekend. Catch you later.

Edited to add that Blood Type is now available as a Kindle edition from Amazon US and UK.

Bev Allen: Author

One of my oldest friends has just created a new website – find it here. She writes SF too and her book, Jabin, is wonderful.

A New Dark Age

My local council, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to start replacing its streetlights with energy-saving ones, which would seem to be a good idea. So in my neighbourhood the old concrete pillars with lantern-shaped sodium lights have been removed – they felled them like trees! – and they’ve put in the new ones. These are about three to four feet taller, thin steel poles with black plastic wedges at the top and a stubby white aerial which talks to a central control. The idea is that the lights can report when a bulb goes, and can have the on/off times varied and be dimmed to save extra energy. The new streetlights are ugly. They look like the temporary lights used at music festivals or – and given the current attitude of the government towards the population, I suspect this was deliberate – like the lights around a prison stockade.

They do what it says on the tin – they light the street, mostly, except where they’re too far apart to cover the area properly. It’s a harsh, white light and it’s directed straight down. There’s no spread of light as there was with the old yellow ones, so the footpaths, car parking areas, garages and gardens are poorly lit, and some areas are even plunged into the kind of primordial darkness that monsters creep out of.

I’m an urban child – I’ve spent most of my life living in towns. I’m finding it hard to sleep in the new darkness and I miss the comforting amber sodium light. The place just doesn’t feel safe anymore. I’m glad I’m not working and don’t have to use the bus, as I wouldn’t want to walk along the footpaths in the dark. Ours is a nice neighbourhood with little trouble, but I’m predicting that the crime rate will go up, especially burglaries and thefts from cars in the inky-black parking areas.

I don’t know why I’m whingeing about this, as the council isn’t going to change its mind and give us our old streetlights back. I’m not sure it will even save energy – the council’s electricity bill might go down, but I can see a lot more lights being installed by local house-owners. I’m even considering putting in one of those motion-detector ones, which I hate, so I can see to walk down my garden path at night.

Did you see that picture NASA took of the Earth with the golden glow of cities like a magic spider’s web across the world? Next time they take the pictures, I’ll be living in one of the dark blots.

Happy New Year

Good wishes to all of you as we enter 2013. I’m not sorry to see the back of 2012, as it had some really bad stuff in it, some of which I’m still struggling with. So it goes!

If I made New Year resolutions – I gave them up years ago! – I might decide to post more often to this blog, maybe weekly, maybe more frequently, and I might start talking more about writing stuff. It probably doesn’t matter, as only a handful of people ever come here to read it. When I first had a website, back in the last century, there were webrings and communities to join to increase traffic to your site, but I haven’t discovered anything similar with blogs.

So thanks for reading this, you happy few! Have a great year.

The Kindness of Strangers

As you know, Bob, I recently spent a week in hospital. I was in a four-bedded bay and the throughput of patients was pretty rapid, so I was thrown in with quite a few people. Most of us were post-op and all of us were in pain – at times I felt guilty that my pain relief was so effective that I wasn’t suffering as much as some of the others.

What amazed me was the level of kindness and caring that developed between the patients on the ward. Magazines and newspapers were shared, and most people talked openly and honestly about why they were there and what treatment they’d had. Those conversations helped pass the time and were filled with much laughter. The most mobile of us, a woman in a wheelchair, made numerous trips to the hospital shop and never failed to ask if anyone wanted anything before she left. She also helped one of the other patients who was having trouble working her phone, and all of us let other patients use their phones when they ran out of credit or charge. There was a very expensive bedside TV and phone set-up, and everyone who had bought some time on it and then was discharged made sure to transfer the unused time to someone else, so as not to waste it. Best of all, when you were awake and in pain in the middle of the night, a voice would come out of the darkness saying “Are you all right? Do you want me to call a nurse for you?”

In these times when the news is full of horror and terrible things, it was a surprise to find that people could be so nice, especially folks thrown together by misfortune and illness. I’ll probably never meet any of those women again, which is a shame, as I want to know how they are now. I hope that they’re all recovering well and that the outcome of their surgeries was as positive as mine.

So, to all of you, particularly Tasha, Jeanette and Janet, thanks for making my time on the ward better in so many ways.

Recovering, but slowly

I’m gradually getting over the op, still on painkillers and still pretty sore. I don’t sleep well, being forced to lie on my back, and I get up and sit at the computer in the middle of the night, just to change position. The wound’s managed to get infected on one side, so I have antibiotics to add to my daily handful of tablets.

On the up side, my consultant rang me with the preliminary histology results, which were good. I apparently had endometrial cancer at an early stage, confined to the lining and inner layer of the womb, and as that was removed, I’m probably cured. Hurrah!

Now I just need some patience to cope with being housebound for the next five weeks, and some space to relax and heal. I can’t concentrate at one thing for very long, so I’ve been reading a bit, watching TV and even doing a little writing.

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