Dramatis Personae

Many novels, particularly the lengthier multi-volumes in the fantasy field, are packed with characters, some major, some minor, others appearing so intermittently that they can be easily forgotten. Many readers will remember a full cast list with no problem; or they simply go with the flow and, especially with a well-written story that has an engaging narrative, hardly ever need to check the list of characters, or dramatis personae . Nevertheless, having something that can be referred to when you’re unsure just who is who can be invaluable. Think Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones and you can see what I mean. Or you may be reading mainstream or crime or any other genre: the arguments for the dramatis personae may still apply.

You can read the full essay over on the Penkhull Press website. Don’t forget when you do: these are guidelines, not rules.

 

On maps

I recently posted a blog on the new Penkhull Press website about maps and their value when writing your novels.

I have read many stories in which the protagonist moves across vast landscapes, through difficult terrains, in unrealistic times, with the minimum of effort. Is it really possible for someone, for example, to track dozens of miles through unfamiliar, dense jungle, lumbered with a backpack, in a few short hours, even at night (unless s/he is a superman/woman, of course)? This contraction of activity/time is a common fault in some fantasy and SF adventures I’ve read.

The essay is meant as general guidelines (rather than rules or a code). You can read the whole piece here.

 

Something Remains

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At the 2013 World Fantasy Convention, held in Brighton, Joel Lane’s Where Furnaces Burn won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Due to personal problems Joel wasn’t able to collect the award in person. I had intended to visit Joel soon after, meet up for one of our irregular balti meals with mutual friends Dave Sutton, James Brogden, John Howard, Mike Chinn and Stan Nicholls, and to toast Joel for the win. Sadly, that visit to Birmingham didn’t materialise in time – for not long after the convention Joel passed away in his sleep. His death left a huge cavity in my life.

Last year, after months of sorting out the detritus of his life (in other words, clearing his house in preparation for its sale) Pauline Morgan mentioned the wealth of notes Joel had left behind. The notes were penned in his immaculate handwriting on all manner of pieces of paper; some were bullet points, some long detailed pages – all preliminary to unwritten stories and poems. It occurred to us that these notes should not be lost, that they should form the basis of a book of stories completed by Joel’s friends and colleagues. Pauline and I read through dozens and dozens and dozens of notes, finally honing them down to a score or two.

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The BFS and Dark Horizons

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A long time ago, before I started The Alchemy Press, I did a lot of editing and production work for the British Fantasy Society — including the magazines Chills (aka Winter Chills) and Dark Horizons. I’ve started to list these here. Back then we didn’t have the luxury of home computers with DTP programs. Magazine production involved manual (or electric) typewriters, Letraset, scissors, glue and a lot of paper. It was “fun”!

Today’s small press publishers do not know how easy they have it.

 

Editorial services

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I am the editor/publisher of the award-winning Alchemy Press (check out the website to see our range of books). The press has won the British Fantasy Society (BFS) Award for Best Small/Independent Press, Best Collection (twice) and has been short-listed over the years in various categories. I also won the BFS Special Award for services to the society.

Everything written needs a good editor and often the writer is not the ideal person to do this — they are too close to the work. That is why writers require good editors.

If you aim to self-publish, either via POD or as an eBook, the layout is vital. It’s the difference between something that appears professional or amateurish.

With writer/editor Jan Edwards, we are now offering editorial and publishing services. If you have a story that needs editing for sense and/or copy-editing, or if you have a book that requires formatting for publication (eBook or print) get in touch now to discuss the project.

For further information click here.