Monday, 31 May 2010

INTERVIEW: Alex Scarrow

When you have a brother who's already an author, getting people to take you seriously for your writing is something thats always going to be a tricky.

What Alex has done however is establish himself not only in a seperate genre but with a concept thats so frighteningly realistic that the reader gets not only goose bumps but the feeling that someones walked over their grave.

Add to this not only a talent for Science Fiction but a newly established series in the Young Adult genre (Timeriders whose review can be viewed at Tatty's Treasure Chest) and you know that he's going to deliver something equally as good for readers of all ages.

Here we chat to Alex about changes, how he's adapted and what he wish he could have told himself when he was initially starting out...

Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?

Alex Scarrow: Interesting question. When last time you interviewed me, I think I'd only just released A THOUSAND SUNS and was anxious for it to make as big a splash as possible, because my concern was that it might just be the one and only decent book I had in me. I look back now and feel mightily relieved that that wasn't the case. It's not uncommon for authors to find the biggest hurdle to be Book 2; wondering if their debut novel was merely a flash in the pan.

FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?

AS: A writer of hi-concept thrillers.

FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your method's of writing?

AS: I don't think my writing has changed at all as a result of my dealings with publishers. Other than, of course, now that writing pays the bills, I'm a lot more disciplined. I write a first draft that is utterly abysmal and I would cringe at the thought of anyone slapping their eyes on. I then edit into a passable 2nd draft with feedback from my wife and my editor and a small cadre of beta readers, and then I polish to a golden sheen that fantastic 3rd draft that ends up in front of the general public.

FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?

AS: Series. Start with a series. Always. Absolutely. In summary....start with a series. It was difficult for me in that A THOUSAND SUNS, the book that got me published, really didn't have any series potential, so I was committed to writing standalone thrillers from the off. But...I was keen to get some sort of series on the go alongside the thrillers as quickly as possible, which is where TimeRiders came from. But...if I'd been smart, from the get-go, even before being a published writer, I should have led with something like TimeRiders.

FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?

AS: Nothing really....since I tend to like creating fallible protagonists. I like a 'hero' who stubs his toe during the chase, and whinges about it for the next five minutes. I like a hero who simply screws things up from time to time; who doesn't speak five languages and know seven martial arts; who can foil the bad guys and get the girl in the end. I'll go as far ast to say I despise books that cast the hero that way. I saw a film a couple of years ago that featured pretty much a perfect replica of the type of 'heroes' I usually have in my books; the movie was Children of Men and it was Clive Owen's character; a guy reluctantly trying to do the right thing, quite ineptly at times and totally out of his depth for the entire movie.

FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?

AS: So...following on from the previous question main characters are all a bit like me. Obviously slightly younger, and probably fitter, but still guys who're more used to farting around behind a desk and answering emails than trading blows with bad guys.

FT: What of lifes little addictions could you not live without and why?

AS: Coffee. I used to smoke a pack a day (or more actually) but I quite 9 years ago. I do like a glass of red wine. And I do love my food.

FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?

AS: My laptop. I tend to travel by train more than car, which presents me with perfect 1 or 2 hour slices of time to write. Bloody laptop batteries are rubbish though, aren't they?

FT: Previously you've had some problems when others have critised your work, how do you think you've changed to adapt to it or would you say that you're just the same?

AS: Really? I'm not aware I had problems with people criticizing my work. Obviously not everyone is going to like what you do. You'd be a very naive writer to expect that. Hmmm...I'm actually a little taken aback by that to try now and answer it, I guess I'm no different in my response to criticism - you get a bad review, you live with it. It really is daft to get angry if someone doesn't like what you write.

FT: On long journey's, reading is often the pleasure of choice, who's work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?

AS: I still love Nevil Shute's writing; 'On the Beach, 'Requiem for a Wren' are classics for me. Stephen King's earlier books still have some magic.

FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?

AS: I think LAST LIGHT and the soon to be published sequal, AFTERLIGHT, primarily because they're not just pieces of fiction, they're actually about an issue close to my heart; peak oil. But also because they feature characters who were inspired by members of my family. So it's very personal....and I still fill up when I read a certain chapter in each book.

FT: With everyone having thier own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of thier work, who do you think should play your principle protaganists and why?

AS: I'd really grind my teeth if having sold the film rights to one of my books it ended up starring some pretty boy like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise or Ashton Kercher. I'd far sooner have a Bob Peck, Clive Owen, Peter Postlethwaite, Martin Freeman, Kris Marshal (Love Actually, BT ads)...and on the Hollywood side, Joaquin Phoenix, and...and....nope that's it. Basically guys who look 'regular'.

FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?

AS: No ritual, I'm afraid No single cigar and a bottle of champers a la MISERY. It's usually a case of moving onto the next book to begin plotting. Or editing, or something.

FT: What was your impression of an authors lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?

AS: I think like anyone else, I thought it would be a glamorous lifestyle full of wistful musing and fab parties. is partly, but in between the cool stuff are thousands of man-hours of tapping away on a keyboard in complete isolation. Which is about as unglamorous and depressing as it can get...hence I tend to take my laptop with me out of the house and into town to work in a cafe; at least that way I feel like I'm still part of the human race and not the last man on earth.

FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?

AS: Listen closely... DO NOT ATTEMPT TO APE WHAT'S SELLING WELL RIGHT NOW. Got it? If you do, you'll be amongst a tidal wave of manuscripts all about the same ol' ****. The trump suit (even more so than good writing) is an original idea, or, atleast an original twist on an old idea. Seriously, by the time a concept has become mainstream (eg: Twilight, other 'Dark Romance' stuff) you've missed the boat.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Afterlight - Alex Scarrow


The world lies devastated after the massive oil crisis that was described in LAST LIGHT. Human society has more or less entirely broken down and millions lie dead of starvation and disease. There are only one or two beacon communities that have managed to fashion a new way of living. Jenny Sutherland runs one of these groups. Based on a series of decaying offshore oil-rigs - for safety - a few hundred people have rebuilt a semblance of normality in this otherwise dead world. But as she and her people start to explore their surroundings once again, they start to realise not every survivor has the same vision of a better future than their catastrophic past. There are people out there who would take everything they have. War is coming, and the stakes are truly massive...


Alex Scarrow’s writing is definitely the thinking man’s sci-fi. Whilst he isn’t too futuristic with his writing it hits the notes for some of the worries today in the world of tomorrow and how things go to pot as mankind descends back to the dark ages in days/months rather than years.

As usual with the author the writings crisp, the descriptiveness almost hauntingly real topped off with a dialogue that will keep you hooked as the protagonist struggles through this dark tale. A great offering from Alex and one that demonstrates that he gets better with each offering. Magic.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Legends of the Space Marines - Ed Christian Dunn


Space Marines and their evil counterparts, the Traitor Marines, epitomise the wartorn Warhammer 40,000 universe. This short story collection focuses entirely on these superhuman warriors, telling high-action tales of heroism and savagery. Combining the talents of Black Library favourite authors such as Mike Lee and Nick Kyme with hot new talent, this collection is not to be missed.


A title of short stories set within the 40K universe with something to please all readers. Add to the mix that it’s a great opportunity to try new authors and see if they’re to the readers taste and you pretty much have a gem of a title that really would be difficult to beat. Definitely a title that will make you laugh, make you cry and have you on tender hooks as you await the fate of all concerned in a Universe where the good guy’s don’t always win and evil can tempt even the most stalwart warriors proving that the difference between the foes is often only a matter of perspective away.

Friday, 28 May 2010


Hail Mighty Readers,
Here's this months round up of previously reviewed titles that have either been released in PB format or have undergone new binding/artwork. (Covers in review may differ from current incarnation.)

This month you'll find:
Death and Dishonour - Graham McNeill
Frostbitten - Kelley Armstrong
Hush, Hush - Becka Fitzpatrick
Dust of Dreams - Steven Erikson
Day of the Damned - David Gunn
The Edge of the World - Kevin J Anderson
LEVIATHAN - Scott Westerfeld

Hopefully you'll find this feature of use,


URBAN CRIME THRILLER: A Matter of Blood - Sarah Pinborough


The recession that grips the world has left it exhausted. Crime is rising in every major city. Financial institutions across the world have collapsed, and most governments are now in debt to The Bank, a company created by the world's wealthiest men. But Detective Inspector Cass Jones has enough on his plate without worrying about the world at large. His marriage is crumbling, he's haunted by the deeds of his past, and he's got the high-profile shooting of two schoolboys to solve - not to mention tracking down a serial killer who calls himself the Man of Flies. Then Cass Jones' personal world is thrown into disarray when his brother shoots his own wife and child before committing suicide - leaving Cass implicated in their deaths. And when he starts seeing silent visions of his dead brother, it's time for the suspended DI to go on the hunt himself - only to discover that all three cases are linked . . . As Jones is forced to examine his own family history, three questions keep reappearing: what disturbed his brother so badly in his final few weeks? Who are the shadowy people behind The Bank? And, most importantly, what do they want with DI Cass Jones?


This offering is a bit of an unusual one in my book. It blends a crime novel with Urban Fantasy alongside a touch of Sci-Fi and the amalgamation is something that really does work well. Rather than being more UF than Crime as is normally the case in these offerings, its predominately situated as if it were a crime offering with only a touch of Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi added. It’s pretty gripping, its characterisation is stunning but above all this is a breakthrough debut for a really talented author which goes to show that Gollancz really have their finger on the pulse. Definitely make sure that you give this one a go.

THRILLER REVIEW: Waiting for Columbus - Thomas Trofimuk


Found semi-naked in the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar, the mysterious man called Columbus appears to be just another delirious patient, until he begins to tell the 'true' story of how he famously obtained three ships from Spanish royalty. It's Nurse Consuela who listens to these fantastical tales and tries to make sense of not only why this seemingly intelligent man has been locked up, but also why she is so inappropriately involved with his story. Something terrible caused her patient's break with reality and she can only listen and wait as Columbus spins his tale to it's dramatic end. Simultaneously, Emile Germain, an Interpol officer based in France is searching for a man - presumed dangerous - missing from the scene of a crime. All paths lead to Spain, where Emile, unbeknownst to the doctors at the Sevilla Institute, is unraveling more than just one mystery...


At time’s you read a novel that just jumps out at you and remains in your memory long after the final page is turned. That is exactly what you get in this offering from author Thomas Trofimuk. Its thoughtful, its emotional but the strongest quality within this tale is the whole host of characters who just step from the pages into your imagination and refuse to leave. It’s a great tale told from multiple points of view with some well placed info-dumps that feel like its just a tip bit tossed out to help verify the truth of the tale back that up with some cracking dialogue and you know that this is a real gem of a novel. Mainly I’d recommend this to any reader looking for something different that plays on a number of themes from romance through to historical fiction as well as dabbling within the Thriller genre but if you loved The Time Travellers Wife, then make this your next purchase.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Tales from the Otherworld - Kelley Armstrong


Kelley Armstrong's gripping and imaginative short stories are brought together in a fantastic new collection. A young vampire learns the heavy price of his new existence; black witch Eve Levine meets Kristof Nast, her soul mate and her nemesis; Lucas Cortez, lawyer, sorcerer and unwilling heir to his father's Cabal, sets out on a case that will change his destiny; Paige Winterbourne discovers just how fraught a white (witch) wedding can be and Elena Michaels begins her unwitting journey to a new life ? as the only female werewolf in the world ...These brilliant, self-contained stories are a perfect introduction to the series and a wonderful addition to the existing novels. Tales From the Otherworld will delight fans and curious new readers alike.


Kelley is a not only a long time addiction of mine but I’d like to think a friend who’s helped me through hard times with her creative world-building. Here in her second charity novel, is a collection of additional short stories that have wowed the fans for a few years. Add to the mix the return of firm favourites, some tales of a prequel nature and you really get a book that fleshes out the world and characters in greater detail. A real treat for many readers and one that will establish a deeper mythos in the tales that have been cried out for and requested by a great many readers.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Iron Hunt - Majorie M Liu


During the day, Maxine's tattoos are her armour and she is invincible. At night they peel from her skin to take on forms of their own, leaving her human and vulnerable, and revealing themselves to be demons sleeping beneath her skin. But these demons are the best friends and bodyguards a woman could have. And Maxine needs bodyguards. She is the last in a line of women with power in their blood, trained to keep the world safe from malignant beings who would do us harm. But ten thousand years after its creation, the prison dimension that kept the worst of these from us is failing, and all the Wardens save Maxine are dead. She must bear the burden of her bloodline and join the last wild hunt against the enemy.


Readers of Urban Fantasy will probably be steered pretty darn well by the glowing recommendation on the cover of this title as Marjorie creates a new concept in the world of the Urban Fantasy Heroine. Yes, she has a smart mouth, yes she kicks ass but it’s the way that her uniqueness are presented that make this quite a novel idea. For what makes this character pretty darn sweet is the tattoo’s that protect her during the day and the demons that peel off and aid in her protection at night. As the last surviving Warden from an ancient bloodline it means that we have a sense of history, a sense of belonging as well as creating a total sense of being alone in the world bar the gift that she (as well as the other bloodline) receives during the previous hosts death.

Beautifully written with concepts that meld a world to a new way of thinking backed up with a heroine who readers will come to love for her weaknesses as well as her strengths, its clear that Marjorie has done not only her homework but also written in a genre that she clearly loves. Its this that embellishes the story, taking it forward and above all else creating a character that will stand for a long time in the readers memory. Great fun from a new author and one that I can’t wait to see how her writing career develops.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


Authors have been described as many things but lets just say that in order to run Clint Werner to ground is more than a full time job for any Bounty Hunter (Brunner included.) In fact many would say that he's learned from the master with a certain Grey Seer's help.

Luckily for us we managed to find the hole that he'd bolted to and grab a word with this elusive author, so much so that we wanted to give you the chance to get to know him before he disappeared again for a number of months.

Here Clint chats to us about writing for a living, his inspirations and not having creatures who sparkle in sunlight...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Clint L Werner: I’d say that statement is pretty much spot on. For as far back as I can remember I’ve enjoyed telling stories. Writing is simply the natural expression of that drive. After all, you can reach more people with the printed page than just about any other way.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

CLW: I think the moment I realised I’d like to be a writer was after reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was in grade school. The book’s style impressed my young mind immeasurably and I think that it was then I first really tried my hand at writing, even doing a sixty page Sherlock Holmes story (which in hindsight was juvenile rubbish, but in my defence I was only ten). It was much later that I encountered Robert E Howard and H P Lovecraft, the two authors who really shaped my attempts at prose into something resembling professional material.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

CLW: Short stories are an often underappreciated art form. They force a writer to be very economical in the way he tells his tale. You have to work with a more limited palate and bring out a single theme or capture a particular atmosphere with the story. Just take any of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories or Howard’s Solomon Kane tales. They are as rich and evocative as many larger works because of the way the authors managed to suggest far more than they actually told the reader in the story. From my recent experience with ‘Wolfshead’, a Brunner short story I wrote for Death and Dishonour, I think the attention to detail necessary to pull off a short story is far more exacting than the vast vistas a full novel lets you explore. It’s a case of localizing the narrative from the overweight epic to something more everyday and intimate.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

CLW: I think the best way to pitch Warhammer novels is to explain what makes the Old World such a different setting. There’s really no other fantasy world out there with the same mixture of gothic darkness and black humour as what you find with Warhammer. In many ways, it owes more to history and genuine mythology than the wand-toting uber-wizards who infest much of the stuff sitting on shelves these days. And, of course, the vampires are still monstrous creatures of the night, not maudlin twerps who sparkle in sunlight.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

CLW: It would probably depend on the book. If I was pushing Grey Seer, I’d point out the book’s wonderful title character. ‘If you read only one book about a paranoid, megalomanical ratman sorcerer this year, then you must read Grey Seer’

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

CLW: Must haves on my bookshelf would be Doyle, Lovecraft and Robert E Howard, followed by Tolkien, Sax Rohmer and Bram Stoker. Currently I snap up every reprint of Walter B. Gibson’s The Shadow as they are released, but stories written back in the 1930’s might not quite be what you mean by current. About the only current author I follow rabidly would be Larry Niven – and I’m quite anticipating this year’s release of Man-Kzin Wars XII in paperback to fill out my collection.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

CLW: Outlines. Always outlines. The more detailed the better. I also do character profiles for the main cast before I write. That isn’t to say that sometimes a character won’t try to rewrite the story while I’m working on it. Brunner and Grey Seer Thanquol are particularly guilty of trying to hijack the narrative. But with a firm outline, you can steer the story back where it needs to go.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

CLW: For relaxation I watch old movies, particularly Spaghetti Westerns and old horror and sci-fi films. The last book I read was The Sky Walker, an adventure of The Avenger written by Paul Ernst back in 1939.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

CLW: Probably watching Ghost Hunters way too much.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

CLW: Currently I have an Asian House Gecko named The Shadow (after his penchant for escapes – the pet store was thrilled when I took him off their hands). His key traits are pretty much scrambling around on the underside of his cage screen, wagging his tail when he gets mad, and sitting in the feeding dish when he wants me to buy more crickets. Some of his qualities show up in the various habits of the lizardmen in Temple of the Serpent.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

CLW: Oh, certainly Grey Seer Thanquol. It’s so fun to get inside his greedy, paranoid mind.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

CLW: Probably more than is healthy.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

CLW: I read a lot of history, so I bring anything useful from that into my writing when I can.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

CLW: Anything I read, watch or listen to (I listen to a lot of old time radio programs) is liable to spur an idea. Often I’ll be watching something and think ‘hey, if they just did this different, what would happen?’

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

CLW: Absolutely. I usually get around it by skipping past the trouble scene and coming back to it later.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

CLW: I usually write very late at night. Typically everyone else is asleep anyway, so no harm done.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

CLW: It depends on the book. When I write Brunner, I listen to Morricone’s western music scores. When I do Thulmann, I listen to soundtracks from Hammer horror films. The various Chaos novels I’ve written usually are done with Amon Amarth and other Viking Metal bands playing in the background.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

CLW: Probably the fame and fortune bit…

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

CLW: Writing would be the fuel for escape, the ability to slip out of the humdrum world and for a little while vanish into another.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

CLW: The novel I am currently working on is about Wulfrik the Wanderer, a hero of the Chaos worshipping Norscans. It is a tale of violence and treachery as Wulfrik tries to escape his curse before it is too late.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

CLW: Let’s see here: Kaijuphile, DVD Drive-In, Amazon, Coast to Coast AM, and Rogue Blades Entertainment

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

CLW: No, I can’t say I ever took any classes. I think the best instruction sheet for a writer is to read and learn from what he reads. Don’t just enjoy the story, but pick it apart, see what makes it tick, find the tools the author has used to put it together. That’s, I think, the best way to learn. Practice rather than theory.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

CLW: I just kept trying. Keep sending stuff out and keep improving your style. It’s the only way to persevere.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

CLW: The worst aspect is certainly maintaining a day job until you can write for a living. The best thing about being an author is hearing somebody who enjoyed your book. That’s a mighty proud feeling.

FANTASY REVIEW: Warhammer Fantasy: Brunner the Bounty Hunter Omnibus - CL Werner


his is the dark saga of the ruthless bounty hunter who goes by the name of Brunner. Goblins, vampires, outlaws and even dragons - they're all fair game for this dark hero's blade. Across the length and breadth of the grim Warhammer Old World, Brunner plies his trade, tracking down and killing monsters. But he also faces challenges from within his own dubious profession as a rival hunter stakes a claim to his bounty.


Everyone’s favourite Warhammer Bounty Hunter returns in this omnibus. What makes this double the fun however is that its Clint’s interpretation of the Man with No Name with no personal morals provided that the price is right on his quarry.

Its great value, its got a real antihero whom you’ll just love but above all else, the early tales are short offerings that make it a great title to dip into when you want a bit of no nonsense violence. Add to the mix that this title is fun, the tales are entertaining and absolutely no one is above this hunter’s sights backed up with a twisted sense of humour and it will not only endear the reader to this authors style but also demonstrates that a hard world breeds harder men. A real cracker.

FANTASY REVIEW: Warhammer Fantasy: Ulrika the Vampire: Bloodborn - Nathan Long


Ulrika, recently turned as a vampire, attempts to adjust to her new way of life. But when a fellow vampire is killed in Nuln, Ulrika and her mentor, Gabriella, are sent to investigate. Soon they find themselves facing danger from all sides as they attempt to solve a mystery that threatens the very existence of the Lahmian bloodline. How can they hope to destroy something with the power to kill a vampire?


One of the best things about the Warhammer universe is that there’s something for everyone within. If you want combat driven novels you’ve got them. You want historical fiction you can delve into the Time of Legends series. However one thing that’s a bit unusual within the fantasy genre is the mystery novel. Whilst a bit more common over more recent years within this offering by Nathan Long is a crime against the vampires that everyone second favourite vamp (the first being Genevive) Ulrika is brought into to solve. Who’s Ulrika? She’s the Boyar’s daughter from the Felix and Gotrek tales.

It is a cracking tale however to be honest I had a hard time getting into it from its initial opening. Partly this is due to my own personal feelings that the author didn’t have a good enough grip of her originally and partly because the connection between reader and character was also missing. Yet get past this and it really opens up. Other than this its interesting, the mystery is gripping and its not an obvious conclusion as you’d perhaps expect from a great many other offerings out there. A definite change of pace for Nathan and I hope he continues to build upon the opening here.

Monday, 24 May 2010

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Gemini Factor - Paul Kane


It's a miracle, pure and simple. The miracle of twin birth. But in the city of Norchester, being a twin also marks you out as a victim. Because someone is killing them and stealing their body parts. It's up to Inspector Roy Mason and his Sergeant, Deborah Harrison, to track down the the culprit before they can strike again.


As a fan of Paul’s futuristic Afterblight series from Abaddon, when I heard about this new offering from new publisher Screaming Dreams, I was more than happy to give it a go. What you get within this offering are characters who jump of the page, some great dialogue and a plot that’s as twisted as this authors mind can conceive which only adds to this reading experieince. Dressed up as a traditional crime novel, it’s the way in which the author has managed to blend Urban Fantasy, a touch of Sci-Fi and mixed it all up with a wicked sense of humour.

It’s a cracking title and one that I really had a blast reading. Definitely a title for people to give a go and if the other releases from this publisher are as tempting as this then they’ve got a secure future ahead. Top quality for a great price.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40k: Helsreach - Aaron Dembski-Bowden


When the world of Armageddon is attacked by orks, the Black Templars Space Marine Chapter are amongst those sent to liberate it. Chaplain Grimaldus and a band of Black Templars are charged with the defence of Hive Helsreach from the xenos invaders in one of the many battlezones. But as the orks numbers grow and the Space Marines dwindle, Grimaldus faces a desperate last stand in an Imperial temple. Determined to sell their lives dearly, will the Black Templars hold on long enough to be reinforced, or will their sacrifice ultimately be in vain.


Having been impressed with Aaron’s writing previously I was looking forward to this novel as he has a pretty nifty style of writing. Here in Helsreach you can tell that he’s improving all the time, so much so in fact, that this novel is written in the style of an old soldier. It keeps the descriptive to a minimum as most readers don’t need it embellished upon, only to get the facts and figures along with the glorious combat sequences that he’s becoming well known for.

Add to the mix a damn high body count (including God Machines) and you know that its not only going to be a bloody as well as brutal fight for the world but also that he won’t hold back leaving chapters weak in its wake. Great stuff from a rising star of the Black Library and one that will definitely win him some more 40k fans.

Friday, 21 May 2010

CRIME REVIEW: Control - John Macken


Two murders, days apart but clearly linked. Each victim has had the tips of their fingers removed with a hacksaw. The killer is sending a message and wants his next victim to know who they are - and be very afraid. But beside the gruesome nature of their deaths there is no obvious connection between the two victims. Reuben Maitland, freshly returned to GeneCrime, must investigate the case. The forensics come in, DNA is sampled, the clues begin to mount up. Then the killer strikes again. Reuben's young son, Joshua, is snatched from his pram. The murderer sends Reuben a message: 'Stop hunting me. I will kill again, a third and final victim and you must not stop me. Come after me and your son will die.' If your child was kidnapped, how far would you go to get them back?


John Macken is a good solid crime writer who brings morals, doubts as well as great plot lines to the readers. Here in his latest outing (his fourth) with Reuben Maitland as principle protagonist, the reader gets to see the softer side of the character as he has to fight his inner turmoil and think clearly in order to rescue his son. Thought provoking and at times anguish filled this offering is, in my opinion, John’s strongest offering to date and as such a must own crime novel. I will be surprised if its not nominated for a few awards as the author braves a track that whilst others have travelled within their own titles, they’ve not done it with as much gut churning anguish or concentration that is becoming Macken’s own indomitable style.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Pirate Devlin - Mark Keating


As the great powers of Europe fight over the spoils of slavery, corruption and greed, the golden age of piracy is born.

Sold by his father as a child for four guineas, captain’s servant Patrick Devlin knows how cheap a man’s life can be.

But his instinct for survival is strong, and when his master’s ship is sunk by pirates, Devlin makes his choice – to trade his servile existence for a life of dangerous liberty. As he learns to adapt to his brutal new world, he watches men who would once have been his masters fall dead at his feet. Eventually, he finds himself captain of the very ship that took down the vessel of the man he once served – Captain John Coxon – who, disgraced and dissatisfied, hungers to return to the sea and take his revenge.

And when His Majesty’s Government and the East India Company hear of the Pirate Devlin, and that he is in pursuit of a secret French cargo of gold bullion, it is Coxon they send to bring his former dog to heel.


Historical Fiction often dabbles in certain time periods although some are more popular than others. Here in this offering is a naval tale in the spirit of Pirates of the Caribbean but darker with a more antihero protagonist than the usual rogue with a heart of gold.

Well written, with cracking naval action backed up by the authors love that whilst taking certain liberties with some of the vessels is purely in keeping in the entertainment area for the modern reader. It’s a good bit of fun, its got some great dialogue but most of all the Pirate Devlin is one that will make many a reader want to sale the high sea’s with. Great entertainment backed up with a crew of rogues that the reader will love to spend time around. Now pass the rum you scurvy dog.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Thirteen Years Later - Jasper Kent


Aleksandr made a silent promise to the Lord. God would deliver him - would deliver Russia - and he would make Russia into the country that the Almighty wanted it to be. He would be delivered from the destruction that wasteth at noonday, and from the pestilence that walketh in darkness - the terror by night...1825. Russia has been at peace for a decade. Bonaparte is long dead and the threat of invasion is no more. For Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, life is calm. The French have been defeated, as have the twelve monstrous creatures he once fought alongside, and then against, all those years before. His duty is still to his tsar, Aleksandr the First, but today the enemy is merely human. However, the tsar himself knows he can never be at peace. He is well aware of the uprising fermenting within his own army, but his true fear is of something far more terrible - something that threatens to bring damnation upon him, his family and his country. Aleksandr cannot forget a promise: a promise sealed in blood...and broken a hundred years before. Now the victim of the Romanovs' betrayal has returned to demand what is his. The knowledge chills Aleksandr's very soul. And for Aleksei, it seems the vile pestilence that once threatened all he held dear has returned, thirteen years later.


Fans of Jaspers original novel will be dying to get their hands on this offering and it pretty much brings back the horrific history of the Russian Napoleonic war as the principle protagonist returns to face the events that helped shaped Russia’s history. Personally I enjoyed Jaspers writing style but it is one that is a pretty hard slog and so will turn a number of readers off as they try to adjust to this almost Dickensian style that fits into the style of telling presented within. The dialogue is pretty good, the descriptiveness pretty straight forward as if the character thought that the tale was told just to those who were familiar with the area and of course we’re introduced to new characters to help our hero in the struggle ahead.

On a negative side however you really will have to have read the original to get the full benefit from this tale as otherwise you’ll be not only out in a Siberian Cold snap but left for dead pretty damn quick and possibly even mad with confusion as to what’s happening. I suspect its only down to myself refamiliarising myself with a reread of the original that allowed me to keep the idea’s fresh in my memory as I read this novel. Remember you’ve been warned.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Kraken - China Mieville


Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a

lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?

For curator Billy Harrow it's the start of a headlong pitch into a London of warring cults, surreal magic, apostates and assassins. It might just be that the creature he's been preserving is more than a biological rarity: there are those who are sure it's a god.

A god that someone is hoping will end the world.


China is an author that you tend to either love or hate. But whichever category that you fall into, you’re always guaranteed a tale that is not only beautifully written and plotted but one that will confuse the hell out of you until the final few pages. Add a touch of Neverwhere to the great world building of a typical Mieville novel, characters that are just having a hard enough time adapting to the changes within their own little universe and it’s a title that brings quite a bit to the table. This will be one that hopefully will entertain as well as please a number of readers but personally, I’m still a tad confused after finishing the novel a few days ago.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Mind Games - Carolyn Crane



Justine Jones has a secret. A hardcore hypochondriac, she’s convinced a blood vessel is about to burst in her brain. Then, out of the blue, a startlingly handsome man named Packard peers into Justine’s soul and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. With a little of Packard’s hands-on training, Justine can weaponize her neurosis, turning it outward on Midcity’s worst criminals, and finally get the freedom from fear she’s always craved. End of problem.

Or is it? In Midcity, a dashing police chief is fighting a unique breed of outlaw with more than human powers. And while Justine’s first missions, including one against a nymphomaniac husband-killer, are thrilling successes, there is more to Packard than meets the eye. Soon, while battling her attraction to two very different men, Justine is plunging deeper into a world of wizardry, eroticism, and cosmic secrets. With Packard’s help, Justine has freed herself from her madness—only to discover a reality more frightening than anyone’s worst fears.


I’m one of these people that loves to hear of new authors prior to their release as it gives me a chance to view the title without any prejudice. What occurs within this offering by Carolyn is an Urban Fantasy that lurks within the darker side of the genre. Its beautifully written but what makes this title so engrossing is the neuroses of the principle protagonista who fights not only against her panic attacks but the feelings that grow within as the tale progresses. A great offering and one that will make a few people sit up and pay attention as its characters just keep you glued to the last page.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Succubus Shadows - Richelle Mead


Georgina Kincaid has formidable powers. Immortality, seduction, shape-shifting into any human form she desires, walking in heels that would cripple mere mortals child s play to a succubus like her.

Helping to plan her ex-boyfriend s wedding is a different story. Georgina isn t sure which is worse that he s marrying another woman or that she s having to run around trying on bridesmaid dresses. Still, there are distractions. Thanks to her roommate, her apartment s crackling with sexual tension plus there s Simone, the new succubus in town who seems intent on corrupting Georgina s soon-to-be-wed ex.

But the real danger lies in the mysterious force that s taken to visiting Georgina s thoughts. It s trying to draw her into a dark, frightening, otherworldly realm and there s going to come a point when she won t be able to resist. And when that happens, she s going to discover who she can trust, who she can t and that there are far worse places than Hell in which to spend eternity...


As a long time fan of Richelle, you always wonder what she’ll do with Georgina considering the tempest twisting romantic intentions between everyone’s favourite succubus and successful author. Some magical twists are brought to the fore in this offering with some magical revisits to Georgina’s past, as event’s are twisted by those behind this titles power play. Beautifully plotted with prose that just keep you hooked and romantic intentions that really do bring this modern Romeo and Juliet to the readers imagination. I really can’t wait for the next offering.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Successful comedy writer Mark Barrowcliffe demonstrates that once he gets his teeth into something its pretty hard for him to let go. So, after reading his debut Fantasy novel we just had to chat to him about Werewolves, Norse Saga's and life without mankind's lead...

FALCATA TIMES: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

MD LACHLAN: I wouldn’t say I was afflicted with writing, it’s just that it’s something I love to do and I’m pretty unhappy if I don’t do it. That said, I’m not the sort of writer who would write if no one was going to read it. For this reason before I got published I did feel quite unfulfilled in life. I desperately wanted to write but, without an audience, I never got the motivation. I had a very lucky break, though. An agent spotted some of my journalism and wrote to me to say I had a good writing style. She asked if I’d ever considered writing a novel. I said I’d done nothing but consider it. As soon as I got the encouragement from her I was away, no stopping me.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

MDL: When I first read PG Wodehouse when I was 8 years old. I wanted to make people laugh like he made me laugh. Most of my fiction so far has been comic. Wolfsangel, however, is a serious book. If you laugh reading it, I’ve done something wrong! Reading Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin as a kid inspired me to try to write, as did TV series like Children of the Stones. I used to come up with stories based on them in an effort to scare the wits out of people. I was less successful at that at first than at comedy.

I think you can write in imitation of a comic writer (from the age of 8 to 35 I was writing in imitation of PG Wodehouse and Wilde) and people will find you funny. If you write in imitation of a fantasy writer people find you derivative. It took me much longer to find my own voice in fantasy, to recognise cliché and avoid it. I was writing fantasy of effect – like a series of dramatic stills from a graphic novel, concentrating heavily on world building and ideas. It took me to realise that it’s essentially no different to any other genre before I came up with something I liked. Once I concentrated on character then I found my writing improved sharply.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

MDL: Not sure. VS Pritchett’s novels weren’t that successful were they? Saki only wrote one novel and I don’t think it was a big hit. Raymond Carver never wrote a novel. So I think the word I’m groping for is ‘no’

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

MDL: I’d paraphrase the review I had from Adam Roberts. It’s two novels in one – one is a recognisable fantasy adventure, with likeable characters, life threatening situations, daring escapes, twists to the plot. The other is something far stranger, in Adam’s words ‘This is not a run of the mill Fantasy text; nor, really, is it even a riff upon those worn-smooth tropes. It is something genuinely strange, eerie, evocative.' It’s got a sort of magic in it that I don’t think has been seen before in fantasy, though clearly I haven’t read everything that’s ever been written so I could be wrong. It’s a werewolf you won’t have seen before, either, much closer to the Norse original than the Hollywood version – no full moon transformations (not part of Norse myth), no silver weapons hurting it, no 20 minute transformation where he unaccountably triples in weight. My werewolf takes months to change and you know where every pound of flesh he puts on comes from. I’m not at all knocking the traditional Hollywood werewolf, I love full moon skin splitters. It’s just that I wanted to think through the figure of the werewolf from a different angle, a ‘Werewolf Begins’ sort of idea.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

MDL: The myth of the werewolf reborn.

That’s six words. Might add ‘Vikings, Norse Gods and dark, dark magic’ into the mix too.

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

MDL: Well you’ll probably have guessed by now that I’m a PG Wodehouse fan. Unparalleled comic genius. Any writer who needs the right circumstances to write – A Room of One’s Own, so to speak, should look at Wodehouse. He was taken prisoner by the Germans in WWII, dragged across half a continent and locked in a freezing Polish internment camp. The first thing he did on getting there was borrow a typewriter and sit writing in the canteen.

In terms of fantasy, Le Guin would always be on my shelf and – though you could argue about it being in the genre – The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Alan Garner really captured my imagination as a kid – anyone who’s read The Owl Service will recognise its influence on Wolfsangel. Peter Ackroyd is very good – I would argue he’s as much a fantasy writer as anything else – and, of course, JRRT would always have space. If I ever have the money I’d love to get a first edition LOTR. It’s a massively flawed novel but, there again, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has a few cracks. I know everything that’s wrong with LOTR and can’t argue with its critics, other than to say that I love it because it does what a book’s meant to – it carries you away.

Nabokov is a writer I really admire. We think we own literature in this country but those Russians can give us a run for our money, I tell you. Also a big fan of Jane Austen, which might surprise people who only know her from the TV adaptations. She’s a brilliantly comic writer who, like Wodehouse, can leave me with tears streaming down my face. Philip Larkin has a place on my shelf and in my heart - as does TS Eliot.

I will no longer sit on a bookshop doorstep as I did that for the release of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal. Rarely have I been so disappointed. By the end of it I was actually laughing out loud, which I don’t think was the author’s intention. Similarly, I used to await the latest Martin Amis with bated breath and then he went a bit rubbish. I wouldn’t sit on a doorstep for George RR Martin but I would pre-order his books. I used to snap up Patricia Cornwell's but they’re a bit like sticky toffee. You eat and you eat and you eat some more, then all of a sudden you feel a bit ill and can never face it again in your life.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your ideas develop as you write?

MDL: When I write comedy I just let the pen – or rather keyboard - take me. The first draft is my exercise in plotting. I write quickly and don’t mind discarding huge chunks if I’ve gone wrong. With fantasy, it’s a combination. I start with a gripping sentence or I ‘hear’ one of the characters speaking. Then I write flat out until I hit a tangle. At that point I will plot things out. The novel I’m writing at the moment, for instance, is half written and plotted until 2/3s distance. Just yesterday I grasped what the end would be. You have to spend a while with your characters to know what they would do in response to the problems you’ve set them. The first draft of Wolfsangel was 200,000 words long and took in the Blitz in WWII as well as the Viking part. I cut it back to 15,000 words and started again focussing solely on the Vikings because, though I had a good book, it was half an inch short of where it needed to be. To get the extra half an inch, as some readers may know, can require radical surgery.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

MDL: I’m a keen fencer and footballer, though not very good at either. I tend to be reading about four things at once – some for research, some for pleasure and some for a mixture of both. Some books I’ll read at home, some when I’m out and about and I’ll listen to some on audiobook. I find poetry very good to read when you’re doing other things as you can take it in snatches. At the moment I’m reading Lovely Bones and Sharp Teeth, for pleasure, The Medieval World View, for research, and I’m just about to listen to Gormenghast on my iPod while walking dog. Trying to summon up strength for a crack at Q, The Crimson Petal and the White and Ash but may intersperse with some shorter, less daunting books.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

MDL: I read RPG rule sets for games I’ll never play. Even my wife doesn’t know that, although she did surprise me to find me stroking my copy of White Dwarf Number 1. I collect RPGs from the 1970s.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

MDL: I have a dog, Reg. He is fictionalised in my third novel Lucky Dog. It’s a magic realist comedy about a man whose dog starts talking to him. It’s based on conversations I used to have with my dog.

Dog: ‘Come on, put on your lead, we’re going out.’

Me: ‘This isn’t a lead, it’s a tie.

Dog: ‘Every time you put it on you go somewhere you don’t want to. That’s what I call a lead.’

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

MDL: They were all fun to write because all of them surprised me, which is what you want as a writer. If I had to pick one, I’d say the Celt slave girl Saitada. She came from nowhere – I realised I’d forgotten to work out how a Viking warrior was going to feed two newborn babies on a four week voyage to his homeland. So I put their mother into the story. She turned out to be a major character, not only in Wolfsangel but for the entire series. It’s terrific when something like that happens, you see someone developing on the screen in front of you.

FT: How similar to your principal protagonist are you?

MDL: It’s difficult to pick the main protagonist in this book. I thought it was the werewolf but there are two others who could vie for the role. Not very, I think is the answer, if you take it as the werewolf. This is my sixth book, though my first fantasy one, so I think I’ve got past the thinly disguised autobiographical novel. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

MDL: Fencing helps me with the fight scenes certainly. It made me realise that, no matter how good you are, anyone can hit anyone once if they’re lucky. I’ve seen a beginner take a point off the British Number 1. Only one point, mind, but if you’re waving a piece of sharp steel in someone’s general direction there’s always a chance you’ll hit them with it. I also used do a bit of boxing and other martial arts, so I know that the most important thing about a physical contest is controlling your fear. You can be the most technically accomplished fighter on earth but if you can’t harness your fear then you’re done for. Half of Mike Tyson’s opponents beat themselves because they were so intimidated.
Obviously my early interest in fantasy, RPGs and the occult gave me a big boost when it came to writing fantasy. Wargaming certainly helped with battle scenes too.

FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

MDL: I don’t know. I write and they appear. This novel just popped out of me. I was sitting at the computer intending to write a modern comedy when I started writing about a Viking werewolf. The creative process is a strange thing and, when it’s working well, it bypasses the conscious mind. It sounds pretentious but I do think of myself as the first reader of my work. I see it appear on the computer screen but, when it’s flowing, I’m not aware of having any big influence on what comes out. I’ve been fascinated by Norse culture and magic since I was very young. Suddenly that mental file, which had lain in dust for years, opened and a werewolf jumped out.

FT: Do you ever encounter writer’s block and if so how do you overcome it?

MDL: It depends what you mean. I never get the inability to write, no more than I’m ever struck by the inability to talk. I do get the inability to write anything good from time to time though. The way I overcome it is to write it anyway. You can always press delete if you don’t like it in the morning. Sometimes – see my soul-rending 185,000 word cut above – you have to write a lot of mediocre or ‘almost there’ stuff to get to where you’re going. I’d advise people not to attach themselves too much to their writing. Look on it as a job of work. Some days you work well, others badly. Don’t beat yourself up over it or cling to something just because it took you a lot of effort. It hurt for me to bin 185,000 words but I felt a lot better once I’d made the decision to do it and got writing again. I looked on it as 185,000 words of background and I wrote Wolfsangel (130,000 words) in three months. It was so quick because I’d spent all that time with the ghost of the novel haunting the mediocre one I was writing.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

MDL: Having children forced regular hours on me. I still like working very late and – more occasionally – very early but kids mean you better do it while they’re at nursery.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

MDL: I’m a lyrics nut so, if I play music, I end up listening to it. I never have music on as background noise no matter what I’m doing – apart from driving. I love music but I’m someone who sits down and listens to it, giving it my full attention. However, there’s a track that I think very apt to my novel – Thee Full Pack, by Psychic TV from Dreams Less Sweet. The lyrics are a bit pretentious but, if you can forgive that, it’s brilliant. Very werewolfy. The lyric ‘He is the father of fear…..’ could even apply to my conception of the Norse God Odin. Also, what I’m writing influences what I listen to rather than the other way around. I’m playing Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love on repeat at the moment. ‘When I was a child, running in the night, afraid of what might be, hiding in the dark, hiding in the street - and of what was following me…’

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

MDL: It would impress women. It doesn’t.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

MDL: The sweat of the subconscious. Does that require explanation? I mean, it presumes there is a subconscious in the Freudian sense. I think there is, though don’t ask me for proof.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

MDL: It’s set about 80 years after Wolfsangel, still in the Viking age. I think that’s all I want to say at the moment, as I prefer to write it than talk about it!

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

MDL: Viking Answer Lady – very good on all things Norse, BBC News, Wonderlands, Facebook and Bible Gateway, as there are a few monks hopping about in my next novel.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

MDL: No, I didn’t take any. I read a lot from a very early age, though. I also trained and worked as a journalist, which is invaluable experience for a fiction writer. I’m teaching a few courses now.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

MDL: My agent’s comment on the first submission I gave to her was ‘I’m struggling to think of one redeeming feature.’ I got over that by stopping trying to be Kafka and writing about my life as it was, rather than a romantic vision of myself as a doomed poet. (Interestingly, Kafka thought he was writing humour, which says something about him). I knew I could do it so I looked on her first criticism as just a setback. I listened to what she said and acted on it. After that I received very little negative criticism until my second book. Then I thought about it and decided it was merited so I made up my mind to do better next time, which I did. My third novel, Lucky Dog, is my favourite book, after Wolfsangel. With criticism, you should decide if it’s justified. If it is justified, make sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice. And, like the best football strikers, don’t let a miss worry you. If you made a mess of one book, you just have to make sure you bag the next one.

I think I’m an unusual case in that I was very self confident when I started. I’m less self confident now, not in my writing but because I know that writing a good book is only part of what it takes to be successful. A good book will be taken on by an agent, no question. If you’re good enough it’s not a matter of luck, success to that point is inevitable. It’s also very likely that, if the book is good enough, it will be bought by a publisher. Sometimes a good book might fail here – if you’ve written in a genre that’s suddenly fallen out of favour, for instance, or the industry might be going through a bad time and playing it very safe.

Once the book is sold to a publisher you rely on a whole bunch of people to get you a readership. That’s the bit where stuff can start going wrong. You can be unlucky, your book gets accidentally launched against a big competitor, you can pick the wrong title or your publishers can pick the wrong cover, the PR department might have bigger fish to fry that month, a book buyer for a major chain might dislike your writing, there might not be a big budget to buy you position in the bookshops, a critic might not ‘get’ what you’re doing or – and it definitely happens – read the first page, not like it and slag you off on that basis - all sorts of stuff.

Lucky Dog got great reviews (apart from one national newspaper whose reviewer clearly hadn’t got past page 4. Bitter. Me?) but for some reason didn’t sell that well. I still have no idea why.

All this makes you feel insecure. I’ve got no idea how you deal with that. I think you don’t, you just live with it.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

MDL: The best aspect, for me, is doing something I love and getting paid for it. The worst aspect is that there are ups and downs to any artistic career. Even if you’re riding high you know that you’re only one bad book away from financial disaster. That’s fun when you’re single, less so when you have kids!

FANTASY REVIEW: Wolfsangel - MD Lachlan


The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory. But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Ensuring that his faithful warriors, witness to what has happened, die during the raid Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall. And he places his destiny in their hands. And so begins a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki - the eternal trickster - spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history, and over into our lives. This is the myth of the werewolf as it has never been told before and marks the beginning of an extraordinary new fantasy series from Gollancz.


A fantasy debut from Gollancz that really is a cracker. If you love historical fiction but want more of a fantasy edge tied up with Nordic mythology/magic then this is the book for you. With solid characterisation, wonderful dilemmas and an adventure to sail the whale road it is definitely the tale to keep many a fan happy.

Add to the mix descent dialogue, an emotional growing curve for the characters sprinkled with the chance to give some good old flighting alongside bloody realistic combat and its one that will stay in the readers memory for quite some time. So pick up your shield, grab your seax and charge down to the shops for this little gem is just waiting to be raided.

Monday, 17 May 2010

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: For the Win - Cory Doctorow


A provocative and exhilarating tale of teen rebellion against global corporations from the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother -- a call to arms for a new generation. Not far in the future! In the twenty-first century, it's not just capital that's globalized: labour is too. Workers in special economic zones are trapped in lives of poverty with no trade unions to represent their rights. But a group of teenagers from across the world are set to fight this injustice using the most surprising of tools - their online video games. In Industrial South China Matthew and his friends labour day and night as gold-farmers, amassing virtual wealth that's sold on to rich Western players, while in the slums of Mumbai 'General Robotwallah' Mala marshalls her team of online thugs on behalf of the local gang-boss, who in turn works for the game-owners. They're all being exploited, as their friend Wei-Dong, all the way over in LA, knows, but can do little about. Until they begin to realize that their similarities outweigh their differences, and agree to work together to claim their rights to fair working conditions. Under the noses of the ruling elites in China and the rest of Asia, they fight their bosses, the owners of the games and rich speculators, outsmarting them all with their unbeatable gaming skills. But soon the battle will spill over from the virtual world to the real one, leaving Mala, Matthew and even Wei-Dong fighting not just for their rights, but for their lives!


Having discovered Cory for myself last year, I was pretty happy when the latest offering from Harper Collin’s landed. What unfurls is a disturbing look into a future that is only slightly ahead of our own forcing the reader to face the responsibility of where a number of our goods arrive from with the title asking which side of the fence are you one.

It’s beautifully written, its got solid characterisation but it’s the question’s that will not only make the reader look closer into their own spending habits that will really stay long after the final page is turned along with the satisfaction of the underdogs “sticking it to the man.” Great stuff in my opinion.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Orphaned Worlds - Michael Cobley


Darien is no longer a lost outpost of humanity, but the prize in an intergalactic power struggle. Hegemony forces have a stranglehold over the planet and crack troops patrol its hotspots while Earth watches, passive, rendered impotent by galactic politics. But its Darien ambassador will soon become a player in a greater conflict. There is more at stake than a turf war on a newly discovered world. An ancient Uvovo temple hides access to a hyperspace prison, housing the greatest threat sentient life has ever known. Millennia ago, malignant intelligences were caged there following an apocalyptic war. And their servants work on their release. However, Darien's guardians have not been idle, gathering resistance on the planet's forest moon. Knowledge has been lost since great races battled in eons past, and now time is short. The galaxy will depend on the Uvovo reclaiming their past - and humanity must look to its future. For a new war is coming.


To be honest I wasn’t that enamoured with Michael’s Seeds of Earth offering so was pretty apprehensive about what was to unfurl within this title. Whilst this title can concentrate more on the overall story arc (as most of the world building was done in the previous) it is a title that loses its way as the author seems to keep piling more and more on top of everything else that’s happening in a mishmash sort of way. Whilst this could be seen as a strength as it keeps the reader exploring it’s a bit off putting as at times it feels that the author seems to lose focus as there’s so many separate story threads woven throughout. A shame to be honest but it is a definite improvement for my money on the previous and with luck the third part will clearly demonstrate the readers continued faith in this author.

Friday, 14 May 2010


Author of the Oathsworn series (published by Harper Collins), Robert Low, long time friend of Falcata Times took time out of his busy schedule to write a guest blog about not only his upcoming project but a bit about that rarely discovered beast, scottish history...

As anyone knows who regularly reads my blogs, I have just published the fourth in a series of books about a band of Norse known as the Oathsworn. After four books, I have decided to fade out on these wolves of the sea in favour of a new series, a trilogy on a subject close to my heart – the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Right there is where you hit the first granite stumbling block in researching this period. The Viking Age, I had thought, was a tough fishing exercise, a trawl through sparse accounts to hook out a nugget or two of possible fact and, since I like to keep things authentic, enough hard info for me to make reasonable suppositions regarding the unknown in their life and times.

The problem with coming up a few hundred years in time, to where the Dark was giving way to a little enlightenment, is not the pawkiness of sources, but exactly the opposite; history is crawling with accounts of the great and the good and their part in Scotland’s struggle for freedom. You can’t move for tripping over yet another addition to the legend that is Bruce or Wallace. Any punter in a pub will tell you about Bannockburn, where ‘proud Edward was sent home to think again’.

The biggest problem is figuring out not what they reveal, but what they hide.
In my travels round the world, I once went to Myanmar – Burma as was. The country, when it is allowed to be, is essential Buddhist, has lots of shrines and specialises in taking wafer-thin gold leaf and placing it, damp, on a statue of the Buddha so that, after a time, the original is lost and becomes no more than a shapeless, pioiusly worshipped shining lump of sparkling gold.

The Scottish Wars are like that. Bruce and Wallace are especially like that, so that the men they once were are somewhere under the shapeless preciousness created as legend. The period in history has likewise been gloss-painted almost out of all recognition, so that it is perfectly acceptable for most folk to imagine that the Scottish army painted their faces with saltires and lifted their kilts to show bare bums to the hated English - Not Guilty, Yer Honour, coz I am exercising my patriotic right. I saw it oan Braveheart, yer honour, which is for why I did it at the footie/rugby match. I rest ma case, Yer Honour.

The Scottish Wars of Independence, for a start, were not fought to free a nation from the yoke of the English. The harsh fact is that they were originally fought as a civil war between the Norman families brought in to revitalise the country by David I and also between the same Norman families and the Celtic hierarchy they were ousting from favour. Under Bruce, who murdered his rival – a Scot with a better claim to the throne than himself – the rival families of Badenoch, Balliol and Comyn were all but ethnically cleansed in the respite given to the new king Robert The Bruce by the lethargy of Edward II.

Nothing epitomises the problem more than the legends of Wallace and Bruce. You know the one – Wallace, the Scottish Joan of Arc with a beard like a badger’s arse and a sword not only monstrous but two hundred years too early. An obscure peasant gifted with clarity of vision and a sense of mission who, although serving a confused and undeserving king (John Balliol), gave his nation a sense of its destiny and a belief in itself.

Blind Harry is partly responsible for this, though it has to be said that The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace is only comprehensible in the tranbslation from broad Scots into something approaching intelligible. He may have been, as Burns claimed, a Scottish Homer, but Harry claimed his work was based on a book by Father John Blair, Wallace's boyhood friend and personal chaplain. This book has not been seen in modern times and may never have existed; the poet's attribution of his story to a written text may have been a literary device - many contemporary critics believe that Acts and Deeds is based on oral traditions of Scotland.

In other words, Blind Harry was a typical minstrel of his day, (1440 – 1492) giving his audience exactly what he thought they wanted to hear because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t get paid. Nowadays we call them tabloid hacks.

Even by then, Wallace's reputation must have been legendary. Over the centuries, a powerful myth has been created around his person, fostered by diverse writers and even by Hollywood. There have been several periods throughout Scottish history when the interest in William Wallace intensified enormously, resulting in an increase of literary publications on the freedom fighter. Unsurprisingly, these appeared whenever the Scots were hacked off with the English rule and brought the old animosity between England and Scotland to new life.

Even today, these tensions cause many writers to revive memories of Wallace and his ideals by projecting the medieval story into their own time. Thus, more and more bits and pieces were added to the myth whose message seems to have had tremendous effects on the Scots so that, if the likes of Alex Salmond wants to boost the Nats will for more devolved government, all he has to do is say ‘Braveheart’ and he has hijacked Willie to stand at his shoulder.

The truth is harder to find as a result. Wallace was no peasant, for all Mel Gibson would like, in his American-inspired way, to evoke the poor good guys against the rich bad guys. Nor was he a knight, as is claimed by many anxious to promote him to the nobility of the day – though it is possible he was knighted later, when he had co-led the Scots to a victory at Stirling Bridge. Nor, despite the many claims for it, was he born in Elderlie, Renfrewshire, though the inhabitants there - in the true spirit of Wallace – refuse to give in. Blind Harry was cavalier with spelling and a better claim was always Ellerslie in Ayrshire - the re-discovery of Wallace’s seal in 1999 identifies him as son of Alan (not Malcolm) Wallace and Alan is known as ‘a crown tenant in Ayrshire’.
Nor was Wallace the democratic revolutionary or freedom fighter of modern mythology. Nor was he a native Celtic hero rebelling against the Norman invader.

So what do we know for sure? Precious little, in the end. I know as much about Harald Hadrada from two hundred years previous as I do about William Wallace. It is possible that he was, like many second sons of minor nobility, in training for the priesthood, but was already in trouble with the law before the whole business of kingship and rebellion began. It is interesting to speculate that, if Alexander, King of Scots, had not tumbled off a cliff and provoked the entire succession row, Wallace may well have ended up as a footnote in history detailing the extent of his band of outlaws and brigands in southern Scotland.
It is certain that, with Andrew Moray, he led the Scots to victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297. Moray, who had begun a rebellion in the north and joined forces with Wallace, was arguably a more acceptable face for it than Wallace, since Moray was a an altogether brighter knight and lord. He might well have been the one with the military experience, too since without him – he was wounded and died at Stirling Bridge – Wallace lost the return match the next year at Falkirk.

More certain still is the relentless, driving stubbornness that would not persuade Wallace to give in when everyone else had – or give up supporting the cause of the disgraced and fled King John Balliol long after it was clear that no-one, not even Balliol, wanted his bum on the throne. In the end, inevitably, Wallace was betrayed, almost with a sense of relief it seems to me, from a country heartily sick of the depredations of war.

The legend of Bruce is just as monstrous and shrouding and his own chroniclers just as devisive – the best, in my opinion, is the one written circa 1355 by Sir Thomas Gray, held prisoner in the latest round of the Scottish Wars. Called the Scalacronica, it was written more as a history of his father, also called Thomas, who fought against Bruce in the campaigns around Bannockburn in 1314. Precisely because it details the life of his dad – whom he is not about to portray as anything less than heroic – you have to read it through that prism, but it is the nearest to a contemporary, unbiased account as we will get.
The rest of the legend, spider in the cave and all, has made Bruce into The Hero King, so that even the blessed Nigel Tranter could find excuses in his famous trilogy of books, for Bruce’s capitulations, coat-turning and politicking.

The truth, as I have found it, is much more interesting. Bruce was a man imbued with a frightening sense of his own destiny to rule. A man prepared to lie, cheat, steal and murder in order to achieve it. A man who could sacrifice all his brothers but one to the cause, his sister to a cage on a castle wall and his wife to years of confinement. A man who, for all that, knew the worth of what he sought and what he was doing it for.

Nor was he the beloved leader, followed by a rich panoply of brave knights prepared to die for him. The famed Black James Douglas, who eventually carried his heart and died on crusade with it, almost turned his own coat and betrayed him in the dark days after the battle of Methven. Seton, who became the staunchest of Bruce supporters, was an equally staunch Plantagenet ally right up until the very eve of Bannockburn. Patrick, Earl of Dunbar, did not go over to Bruce until Edward II came scampering back through his castle, fleeing Bannockburn. The Earl of Ross was the one who captured all Bruce’s women – sisters wife and two of his brothers – as they tried to make their was through the north of Scotland to safety.

Even Bannockburn, that battle which any Scot can tell you about in detail, is veiled. Strip away what is supposition and hearsay, leave what is fact and you know only that two kings, one of Scots, the other English, came together in a field near Stirling with an unknown amount of men on either side and fought a battle. The English lost.

Mind you, when all is said and done that last fact, for a Scot in a pub, is enough for him not to worry overly about the rest.