New Year post (belated)

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warriorprincess

I’d like to say that this first post of the new year is late because I have only just finished partying. That would, however, be a lie. It is late because I have just been so busy doing other things.

No, that is also a lie.

I have simply not been sure what to write.

Which is odd for me because I am not usually that bad at thinking of things to write about. The main reason this blog gets neglected is usually because of one of the other two things mentioned above. OK, I admit, mostly the second one – I get too busy with other things, my days of constant partying are I feel in the past :). However, the nature of 2016 has been such that I am overall not sure what to think about it and I do not feel I am alone in this.

It was the year of celebrity deaths. A year in which when we thought George Michael might be the last of the shocks*, it hits us with the sad passing of Carrie Fisher and then William Christopher (of M.A.S.H fame). Though, it is worth pointing out that the Wikipedia page on celebrity deaths does have Robert Taussat (French historian and author) listed last for December 2016. However, I am not sure if this means he was the last one to go or if the list is in no real order.

D.A Lascelles, Alex Campbell, NinfaHayes and Dianna Hardy

The Urban settings panel at Sandbach

On the subject of Carrie Fisher, I did spend a lot of time browsing through this site of tributes by artists. I was first of all amused by the fact it is actually a hell of a lot more than 10 tributes (last I looked it was over 100) and also by the many different views artists have of her. There are ones here that play on her famous quote (“No matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”  which was her response to George Lucas’s quite sexist remark about there being no underwear in space because of some nonsense about pressure), ones that show her love for her dog and ones that show her as she was before she died – i.e. not just focussing on her as she was in her best known role. I am not linking or showing any of the art here as I wish to respect the copyright of the artists but I do encourage you to go check out that page and wallow in all the bittersweet.

This was also the year of politics gone wrong with Brexit and Trump throwing the UK, US and a chunk of the rest of the world in to shock. We are now facing a year in which we have to deal with the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. There are naturally concerns about the rise of the right in both cases and I am not sure that those who voted for either will actually get what they were expecting to get.

On a more personal note, this was a mixed year for me. In terms of my real world job I lost one not very secure position that I was hoping to make more permanent by December but very quickly gained one that is, while technically less secure, still seems to have more promise of permanence in the near future. So, overall not too bad, if a little uncertain on the career front.D A Lascelles Gods of the Deep Kindle Fantasy Swashbuckling

In terms of creative stuff, I have been really ramping up the photography in the past year and feel I am improving massively in both taking photos and editing them. This has been partly down to some epic mentorship from Ste Manns of Quattrofoto on the ins and outs of photoshop and partly down to the efforts of the JW Creative network – a group of photographers, models and make up artists who collaborate on some crazy projects. They have given me the chance to practise shooting with experienced models and photographers in an open and friendly environment where I can get helpful advice and support. I have posted one of my favourite shots from these gatherings here and you can see the rest on my Flickr account…

Finally, in terms of writing this has been a good year. I completed Gods of the Deep (finally… its only taken 6 years from conception to birth…) and attended a number of events including EasterCon, the Manchester Author signing and the Sandbach author signing. All of these I considered successful events in terms of my personal goals and I am looking forward to more of the same next year. Not only that, but I have had at least two people tell me how much they enjoyed reading Gods of the Deep which was a real boost to my ego.

I guess the one downside to my creative year was not doing what I promised to do and revamp this website… I’ll get round to that soon, I promise…

So, I am not usually one for resolutions but I am going to make myself a promise for the coming year. That is to do more creative things – try to advance at least one creative project, even if only by a little, each day. Whether it is take a photo, edit a photo, write more of a story or edit more of a story. At the moment, in terms of writing projects, I am currently skating on the edge of the void that is about to become ‘The Silver Tower’ – a SF tale set in Manchester which is looking like it may well be aimed at a YA audience. I’ll keep you all posted on that and hopefully this one won’t take six years to write…

*In what is possibly the most ironic timing of all time – the artist famous for ‘Last Christmas’ dies on Christmas day… even in death the man had a talent.

[Review] A crack in everything by Ruth Frances Long


I interviewed Ruth a short while ago when her latest book (The Darkness Within) was released. Having talked to her and heard of her tales of alternate Dublin (or Dubh Linn) I decided to check out the first book in that series – A Crack in Everything.

Isabel (Izzy) Gregory is just an ordinary teenager growing up in Dublin.  When she decides to check out some unusual Angel graffiti, she accidentally ends up in Dubh Linn, the dark underside of the city inhabited by the fey, and is catapulted into an adventure that leads to her finding out that she is in fact not as ordinary as she first believed. Before too long, she is accompanying a Sidhe Warrior called Jinx, originally sent to kill her, on a quest to find a grail she can use to heal her ailing father and figure out what is going on with the strange voice in her head.

With this book it is very easy to make comparisons to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The concept of a shadow city, inhabited by strange creatures, is definitely reminiscent of that concept and you can easily see comparisons between Dubh Linn and London Below. However, Long’s interpretation of the reflection of her home city is darker and grittier than Gaiman’s  more whimsical approach. Her hidden city is populated with night clubs and grungy musicians. Where Gaiman’s London Below inhabitants are playful in their malice, Long’s Dubh Linn residents give the impression of serious danger in their dealings. You feel that the characters are at serious risk of death throughout their adventures. As Izzy explores the politics of the fey, we get a whistlestop tour of a gorgeous feast of Dublin and Dubh Linn sights, demonstrating ably that if you want to write a story about the fey Ireland is where you need to be writing it.

Five get literary in Sandbach

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So, last weekend I was at the Sandbach Author Signing event (SASE). I may have mentioned this event a few times over the last few months, most recently here, because I was incredibly excited by it. Turns out I was excited for good reasons.

#SASE Sandbach Author Signing event at Sandbach town hall

Sandbach town hall (c) Nellie Simpson

SASE was the first event of its kind in the Sandbach area, though it followed a pattern similar to many other events (like the Manchester signing of August this year). A group of authors getting together in a location and a bunch of readers wandering around the tables looking to buy books and get them signed.

I travelled to Sandbach from Manchester in the company of Ninfa Hayes and Alex Campbell, two members of the Tea Society and Vampire Month posters. We weren’t the only members there either, there was also Dianna Hardy and Elizabeth Morgan (who was also the organiser of the event). We were only missing Alex James, Miriam Khan and Russell Smith but we did have leaflets from all of them so they did not miss out too much. We set up our tables in the lovely, modern interior of the Sandbach town hall (nicely contrasted with the older exterior of the building) and awaited the arrival of the public.

D.A Lascelles, Alex Campbell, NinfaHayes and Dianna Hardy

The Urban settings panel  (c) Nellie ZSimpson

There were also some panels throughout the day on a number of topics ranging from Women in Fantasy to Fangs and Fur (vampires and werewolves in fiction). I was asked to moderate two of these – ‘Fangs and Fur’ and one on settings in Urban fantasy. Turnout for these was low (a handful of people) but the audience was keen and the discussions were wide ranging and interesting. From talking to another blogger, it seems that panels are not a common thing in her experience of signing events so this idea is both a way of distinguishing this event from others and also something new that the attendees may not have been too sure of. Personally I feel Alex Campbell’s reminiscences of  the tales of Northumberland to be worth the entry fee to the event by itself. Catherine Green and Lucy Felthouse joined myself, Ninfa and Dianna for the discussion on Vampires and Werewolves and we tackled the age long issue of why vampire fiction never seems to die. In the urban fantasy location panel we explored the idea of the location as a character (something I touch on in Gods of the Deep), how some stories are location dependent while others are not and what locations in our stories were influenced by places in our real lives. There may have been some discussion about trying to set a Batman story in the countryside but I have no idea who came up with that mad idea. As moderator I also posed the question about overuse of location – are certain locations (London, Chicago, New York etc.) overused in contemporary fantasy fiction and should other sites be given a chance to shine. There were excellent arguments from both sides there, with an overall conclusion that the common sites are used for recognition purposes – more people know about London than they may know about Newcastle – and so are likely to remain popular. However, there is scope for stories set in other locations, especially ones with their own myths and legends – Alex Campbell’s use of the Northumberland Lambton worm story being a case in point.

Throughout the day there were visits by some journalists and the event made it into theSandbach Chronicle authors hold masterclass local papers (Sandbach Chronicle headline: Authors Hold Masterclass) and Elizabeth was interviewed by Stewart Green for Sandbach Soundbites. Click the link to listen to the interview in full. This all suggested that there was quite a bit of media buzz about this event which is the first of its kind in the town.

It is to be hoped that Sandbach will return bigger and better next year with more people risking attending the panels and getting involved in discussions. I know the organisers have big plans for next year and any success of this new event would be well deserved.

The photographs in this article were taken by Nellie Simpson.

D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires) and Gods of the Deep. He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on http://www.dalascelles.co.uk but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaLascelles

Twitter: @areteus

Buy Lurking Miscellany (paperback)

Buy Lurking Miscellany (Kindle)

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Buy Gods of the Deep (Paperback)

Judy Bagshaw

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 Sometimes Facebook can be a right bitch and hit you so hard in the feels with something so innocent as a birthday reminder. Judy009cropped

This morning it decided to tell me that it was Judy Bagshaw’s birthday. The feels came because Judy died in 2015, leaving behind a writing legacy that includes me and a hell of a lot of other people who are trying to follow her. She wrote romance stories that included female protagonists that were not ‘standard size’, positive stories in which their size was not part of the plot nor the subject of comic relief. From her I learned a number of things – how to stay positive in the face of adversity from your own self esteem, how to edit effectively and how to approach publishers. It is thanks in part to her (with Skyla Dawn Cameron taking credit too) that I got published in the first place.

OppositeAttraction_AuthorCopy_revised I never met her in person, though I always wanted to, but she was my mentor, a cheerleader and a self confessed fan of my work. She owned one of the ten ‘limited editions’ of Lurking Miscellany that came out of the first print run with the error on the cover. I would have sent her it for free (she helped edit parts of it) but she not only insisted on paying for it, she insisted on me signing it and sending it to her despite the fact she could have got it cheaper by Amazon. She even told me to add the international postage cost to the invoice (which I didn’t… I owed her at least that much).

That Facebook reminder this morning woke all these feelings in me again so I just had to share. I urge you to do her the honour of looking up one of her books and buying it. I feel it is the best way to celebrate her birthday.

News (but not weather)

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 So, it has been a while since I did any updates. Apologies for that, it has been a busy month or so. So, here are a few things to keep you updated.D A Lascelles Gods of the Deep Kindle Fantasy Swashbuckling

First of all, those of you in the North West of UK are welcome to come along to the Sandbach Author Signing event tomorrow (5th November) at Sandbach town hall. It promises to be lots of fun and will include not only signings but panels too. I am talking on two of them – Fur and Fangs (all about vampires and werewolves) and Urban settings, the magic within city landscapes. Both look to be interesting discussions. There are other activities on the day too but to find out what they are you will have to come along. Tickets are very cheap – only £5 on the door. It is also worth pointing out that a lot of the UK based Vampire Month alumni will be there including Elizabeth Morgan, Dianna Hardy, AJ Campbell and Ninfa Hayes.

Secondly, if you cannot get to the above event, you can get copies of Gods of the Deep or any of my other books from Amazon. I have an online order form for signed copies too which you can find here – Online order form. You can arrange to pick up your book at one of the events listed (and this list will get updated periodically as I confirm events) or you can contact me via this page or my email address to arrange alternative arrangements such as postage.

Thirdly, this blog may be undergoing a change of appearance sometime soon. This has now become my main site so I am going to be using it more and more as such. This means a bit of a rejig and maybe a change in image and I will be putting things like my bio and book info onto the home page and relegate the blog to another page. Look out for those changes as they happen over the next month or so.

Finally, things are heating up in other areas of bloggage. The blog I am an occasional contributor too – News from the Spirit world –  is going to be getting more from me. In fact for the last week or so, my latest story has been the front page. There is also a secret project ongoing in the background of the blogosphere which I will talk more about when it hits.

So, that puts us up to date in terms of what is happening for me at the moment. Hope to catch you all soon.

[Review] Unhappily ever after by Lucinda E Clarke


Touted as ‘a Fairy Tale for grown ups’, this book explores what happens after the ‘happily ever after’ that ends all fairy tales. Here we meet Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White several hundred years* after they all married their respective princes and see the effects that long marriage can have on even the most ardent love story.61nwkh6jnpl__sx330_bo1204203200_

Played for laughs, we therefore see these characters at their worst as they prepare for the annual Charmingdon ball hosted by Prince Charming and Cinderella and various plots and stratagems ensue to allow various Royals and others to achieve their goals. Of course, in modern day fairy tale land, nothing is ever going to stay as it once was as quaint old fashioned ideals come against the influence of the modern world – TVs, cars, casinos all feature – and especially the forces of feminism, BDSM and an attempted Communist revolution.

This is a strange book, one which I suspect may well be a bit Marmite. Some may love it, others hate it. I found the humour to be too broad for my tastes, lacking subtlety. There are moments of true comedy and some wonderful ideas which are reminiscent of Tom Sharpe or even Pratchett but most of the humour is layered on too thick with Carry on style nods and winks that make it too blatant. I also feel that, while the didactic ‘once upon a time’ style prose is appropriate for the material, it is not the best style for a modern tale – being too ‘telling’ rather than showing in places. Once Clarke gets away from the ‘here is what is happening’ sections of prose and into actual character interaction it reads a lot better.

Overall, a not bad book but one in which I feel some of the potential was lost. The strengths are in the very modern Princesses (the Princes, such as they are as part of the plot is not enough of them, are as bland as they always are) who are wonderful but also underused. I would have liked to have seen more of them and a bit more of them expressing the feminism that they sort of hint at in their interactions with their parents. Plus I was totally expecting two of the female characters to end up paired off which unfortunately never happened.

Buy the book on Amazon

 

*Because people in the land of Fairy tales live several centuries. At least the rich do.

[Review] Raven Song by I.A Ashcroft

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Raven Song by I.A AshcroftThis is a surprising book. Not because it is well written (it is) and not just because it has an engaging plot that keeps you reading and wishing for more but rather because it is such an unusual concept.

Or, rather, it successfully mashes together two well worn concepts and makes out of them something new which is very close to originality.

From the title and a brief read of the blurb my brain instantly tagged this as ‘urban fantasy’ or ‘fantasy’. There is talk of an Order of Mages and similar and the idea of ravens being linked to magic and spirituality. I therefore had expectations for something similar to Ilona Andrew’s writing with maybe some riffs from the Harry Dresden books in there for good measure. Tropey but fun. So, to be thrown into a cyberpunk style near future world that also happened to have magic in it was a surprise and a pleasant one at that. Of course on a second read of the blurb it became more obvious so maybe I should have read that more clearly in the first place.

The story follows two characters. Jackson is a orphan in the 2200’s who has grown up to be the CEO of his adopted father’s delivery company (that also dabbles in some illegal smuggling) in a world that is ravaged by nuclear war and the populace living in cities that are shielded from the radiation. He has a mysterious past, is haunted by shadows and visions of ravens, and is being treated by the Order of Mages for these uncontrolled outbursts of magic.

Our other character, Anna, was a physicist working at a Las Vegas based US Military base in the 21st century. How she comes to be in suspended animation in a box that Jackson is tasked to recover by the Coalition government from the radioactive wastes and why she has the ability to emit radioactive energy when stressed is what kicks us off on our rollercoaster of a plotline.

This is an engaging read with many fascinating characters and ideas expressed in a very easy to read prose. The plot progresses at a fast pace, while giving sufficient time to take in the details of the world building – a balance that is sometimes difficult to achieve.

Overall, an excellent novel that is well worth reading if you want something different to the usual tropes.

Buy here – Raven Song by I.A Ashcroft

Website for I.A Ashcroft

 

[Review] A Change of Heart by Mark Benjamin

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A change of heart by Mark BenjaminA Change of Heart is set in a standard Urban fantasy milieu where vampires rule in the shadows and humans are largely unaware of their existence apart from a few who are in the know – either because they serve the vampires or are actively trying to destroy them.

The central tale of this novel follows the story of Gabriel, a geeky university student who gets caught up in the hidden supernatural world when he is bitten by Lucas, a vampire Royal. You follow the changes that  occur to him as he transforms  – improved strength and speed, better night sight and all the other benefits of immortal blood, including a psychic link to a ‘dark beauty’ who is actually Lucas’s sister, also a powerful vampire. How he copes with this and how it affects his day to day life makes an interesting story, albeit one rather tropetastic with themes that have already been explored to death in other settings, including Peter Parker in Spider-Man (with the compulsory ‘weedy hero beats up the bullies’ scene in there for good measure). This thread is entertaining despite being heavy on the cliché – basic geek wish fulfilment stuff – and would make the basis of a strong novel by itself.

However, that strong story is  somewhat swamped in the rest of the novel which is overambitious in its attempt to encompass the entirety of the world building. There are chapters and chapters in which many PoV characters weigh in, most of them with very little to actually contribute. Each of the main vampire characters, many more minor vampires, some of the human servants of the vampires, each of Gabriel’s friends, several of the modernised Knightly order of Vampire hunters and many other characters all get a shot in the spotlight and most of them waste it without actually progressing any of the plot. Some of these sections are very short – a paragraph or two – and if those chapters had been removed I do not think anyone would have noticed. At most, this needed four characters in the spotlight (Gabriel, his mortal love interest, the ‘dark beauty’ and the leader of the vampires) and could have done very well with only Gabriel’s point of view – allowing the reader to explore the mystery of the new world he has fallen into. A whole novel could have covered the transformation of Gabriel, the effect this has on his life and relationships and ended with him and his friends meeting the Knights (something that occurs about half way through the book) and leading into a second book where more of the politics of vampire society and the nature of the knights is revealed. Pared down like that, cutting out the extraneous fluff and pumping up the scenes with Gabriel, this could have been a great YA urban fantasy novel with a lot of potential for sequels.

I guess the issue here is the author is trying to portray a complicated political situation with conspiracies and secrets and is making the mistake of thinking that the reader needs to see all that immediately. As a writer myself I know the temptation is there when faced with this and I think the solution is to strictly limit point of view – the reader sees what the character sees and therefore may well be oblivious to the plots in the background but will see evidence of it in other character actions. It is a hard trick to pull off well (and I am by no means an expert at it myself).

Overall, a good story that manages to entertain marred by an over ambitious plot that needed a subtler approach to manage well.