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.



An Alchemy book launch


It can’t be difficult, surely, to organise a book launch (as part of the recent FantasyCon weekend). After all, I have organised and co-organised the British Fantasy Convention itself – several times – plus many one-off events. Ah, as with all best-laid plans, it didn’t quite go according to – well – plan.

My first worry was: did I have enough copies of the books to be launched? It turned out, yes I did. It’s better to bring home unsold copies then it is to run out.

Number 2: Would I have enough wine? I counted the number of authors who said they’d come along to the event and the anticipated audience based on pre-convention interest. Thus a couple of weeks beforehand I doubled the wine order. Weirdly, considering this was a fantasy, horror and science fiction convention (those who have attended these things in the past know that attendees drink like fish), relatively few people were in fact drinking the wine (and for hotel wine it wasn’t too bad). I brought home a few unopened bottles of the red and white stuff. Never fear – it will be drunk.

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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


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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Be Afraid…

Fear Sept 2016

Be afraid? No, definitely not. But do get Fear — the magazine from 20-odd years ago is making a comeback, one again under the editorship of that all-round nice guy John Gilbert.  Do try to support this publication especially as it will focus on horror (and fantasy and science fiction) in literature as well as just movies.

The relaunch issue — due to appear in September — features that master of fear Ramsey Campbell. The cover photo is one I took a few years ago an Alt Lit event in Derby (the annual event is now called Edge Lit).


BFS publications “free”


I’ve been sorting out boxes of BFS publications and found several duplicates. If you want any contact me – all you need to do is pay postage. Note: with issue 5 Winter Chills dropped “winter” and became the more appropriately named Chills.

  • Birthday – Mark Morris (1992)
  • BFS Journal (2011)
  • Bodoman of Sor – Norma N Johns (1977)
  • Chills 5 (1991)
  • Chills 6 (1992)
  • Chills 7 (1993)
  • Chills 8 (1994)
  • Chills 9 (1996)
  • Dark Horizons 37 (1998)
  • Dark Horizons 38 (1999)
  • Dark Horizons 50 (2007)
  • Dark Horizons 51 (2007)
  • Dark Horizons 52 (2008)
  • Dark Horizons 54 (2009)
  • Dark Horizons 55 (2009)
  • FantasyCon Green Man Banquet – Robert Holdstock poem (2009)
  • FantasyCon XX Reporter – D F Lewis story (1996)
  • FantasyCon Souvenir Book (2007)
  • FantasyCon Souvenir Book (2009)
  • FantasyCon Souvenir Book (2012)
  • FantasyCon Souvenir Book (2015)
  • Longbore the Inexhaustible – Adrian Cole (1978)
  • Long Memories – Peter Cannon (1997)
  • Silver Rhapsody (1996)
  • Spiral Garden, The – Louise Cooper (2000)
  • Winter Chills 1 (1987)
  • Winter Chills 2 (1987)
  • Winter Chills 3 (1989)
  • Winter Chills 4 (1990)

I also came across half-a-dozen copies of the first Alchemy Press book, The Paladin Mandates by Mike Chinn. As for the above, all you need to pay is the postage.