Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Current Literary Activity

My new novel is called The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies. It will be published in April 2015 in Britain (probably at the same time in Australia/New Zealand) and May in the USA/Canada.

The book is set in Ancient Athens in 421 BC, and features the adventures of Luxos the Poet, aspiring young artist, as he strives to make the Athenians recognise the greatness of his poetic talent. It also features Aristophanes, who in 421 BC was about to present his comedy 'Peace' at the Dionysia. Peace was on many Athenians mind at that time, as they had been fighting the Spartans for most of the past decade. I'll write some more about this book before it's published, but meanwhile here is the British cover.

(Also on the horizon is another Thraxas ebook, Thraxas and the Oracle, but I don't quite know when that will be ready.)



Monday, December 30, 2013

An Extract from The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf

An Extract from 'The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf.'

   “Well, we found Kalix,” said Daniel. “And now we’re trapped on top of a crate. Any suggestions?”
   “She just needs to calm down,” said Moonglow. “I’ll talk to her.”
   Moonglow, standing on top of the large crate, leaned forward and caught Kalix’s eye. “Kalix, it’s us, Daniel and Moonglow. There’s no need to be upset, we’re here to help.”
   Kalix immediately made another furious attack on the crate, howling and snarling. Moonglow took a hasty step back.
   “That went well,” said Daniel. “Maybe you should offer her a cup of tea.”
   “There’s no need to be sarcastic. I’m sure the tea will come in useful. At least I tried to think of something helpful.”
  “So did I,” said Daniel. He was wearing a rather oversized coat. From his deep pockets he took a small music player and then, surprisingly, two small speakers. “You see? I came prepared too. I knew Kalix was probably going to be in some savage, bestial state.”
   “How could you know that?”
   “Since meeting Kalix I’ve learned to expect the worst.” Daniel plugged the small speakers into his music player. “I think this will calm her down.”
   Moonglow was immediately alarmed. “If you start playing some horrible doom metal Kalix will probably eat the crate.”
   “My doom-metal collection is not horrible,” responded Daniel. “You just don’t understand it. But anyway, that’s not what I’m going to play. You know” - he turned to look at Moonglow - “it sometimes strikes me you don’t give me enough credit for my intelligence. I knew the day would come when Kalix went completely crazy, and I’ve prepared for it.”
   Daniel pressed the play button. A gentle sound emerged from the speakers, an acoustic guitar played quite softly and two female voices.
   “What’s this?” asked Moonglow.
   “Marine Girls. I chose it scientifically as the best music to calm our angry werewolf.”
   Moonglow looked doubtful. “You chose it scientifically? How?”
   “When I was making CDs for Kalix, I noticed she usually likes music with female singers. And she likes things from the seventies and eighties. Probably the result of growing up with only the Runaways to comfort her. This is the most soothing music that fits the bill.”
   Moonglow was still skeptical and half expected the music to drive Kalix into an even worse frenzy. She looked down at the wolf, which was still prowling. But Kalix had stopped howling and was no longer trying to bite the crate.
   “I think it’s working,” said Daniel. At the sound of his voice, Kalix started howling again. With a look between them, Daniel and Moonglow agreed to be silent for a while. Kalix quieted down again. The music played out gently through the warehouse. Kalix stopped howling. She walked around in a circle a few times. As the first song ended and the next began, she lay down and began licking her paws.
   “I think it’s working,” Moonglow whispered in Daniel’s ear. She’d been standing rigidly in alarm since arriving on top of the crate, but now relaxed a little. Moving carefully so as not to disturb Kalix, she sat down. Daniel did the same. They sat and watched as the shaggy-coated wolf stretched out on the ground and yawned. Kalix’s wolf-mouth was huge, and her teeth were extremely long and sharp, but when she stopped yawning she looked quite peaceful.
   For a long interval there was no movement in the warehouse, and no sound save for the gentle songs of Marine Girls. Kalix lay motionless on the ground, occasionally twitching her tail.
   “She’s so beautiful as a wolf,” whispered Moonglow.
   Daniel made a face. Kalix was beautiful as a wolf, but she was also abnormally powerful. It didn’t take long for her to forget she was human and lose her intellect. It was mainly because of this that she very rarely made the full change. Few of the MacRinnalchs did, preferring to spend their nights as werewolves, the half-human half-wolf state that came to them quite naturally. As werewolves, their intelligence didn’t desert them.
   “So, do you think we’ll be here all night?”
   Moonglow shrugged. Unless Kalix made the change back to her werewolf form, it seemed likely. Though the day had been warm, the temperature had dropped and it was chilly in the warehouse. Daniel gallantly took off his large coat and draped it over both of their shoulders.
   “Do you want some tea?” asked Moonglow, still taking care to keep her voice down.
   Daniel nodded. Moonglow carefully drew her flask from her bag and some paper cups. She filled one for each of them, and they sat in silence, listening to the music and gazing down at the slumbering wolf.
   “Of all the strange situations we’ve been in since we met Kalix,” whispered Daniel, “this is probably the strangest. Trapped on top of a crate, drinking tea and listening to the Marine Girls.”
   Despite the strangeness of the situation, Daniel didn’t really mind the position he was in, next to Moonglow, snuggled up under his coat. Moonglow giggled.
   “What’s funny?”
   “This. Our situation.”
   “I suppose so,” said Daniel.
   Suddenly, Kalix woke. She lifted her snout and started sniffing the air. Then she stood up and looked up at them.
   “Is she about to go crazy again?” said Daniel.
   “I don’t think so. Look, she’s wagging her tail.”
   Kalix was indeed wagging her tail. Though still staring upward at them, her eyes were no longer blazing.
   “She’s scented the tea. I think she wants some.”
   “Are you sure?” said Daniel.
   “Kalix likes tea. Her family used to drink a lot at the castle.”
   They wondered how to get the tea to Kalix. Neither was keen to leave the safety of the crate just yet. Daniel and Moonglow did love Kalix, but they’d also seen her kill a hunter. Daniel fumbled in one of his many pockets. He produced a length of string, and tied it around one of Moonglow’s paper cups. Moonglow filled the cup. Daniel leaned over the crate and started lowering the paper cup.
   “Nice wolf,” he said. “Here’s a nice cup of tea. Don’t go crazy.”
   Daniel lowered the tea gently to the ground. Kalix sniffed at it for a few moments, then stuck her long tongue in the cup. The cup quickly spilled over but Kalix didn’t seem to mind, and lapped the tea up from the floor. When she’d finished she lay down again, and once more there was peace in the warehouse, broken only by the gentle music. Daniel and Moonglow leaned on each other for warmth and support, while down below Kalix nodded off to sleep, apparently pacified.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Some Readings

Forbidden Planet   18th October  6-7PM
Brixton East          19th October  Between  6 & 8PM

I've hardly done any readings in the past few years, because I'm idle, and also I don't like to travel. However the publication of The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf has produced a small burst of activity. Last weekend I read at the Brixton Come Together Festival, and I have two more coming up.

First, on Friday 18th October, I'll be doing a brief reading and then signing books at Forbidden Planet, London megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, at 6PM. Details of that here. You can buy books there and I'll sign them, or you can bring along any books you have that you'd like signed.

I did ask people on Facebook which day would be best, and the common opinion was that Saturday would be. However, arranging the Saturday date on offer would have required me to take quick, decisive action, rather than lying on the couch staring into space for 48 hours while I thought about it. So I'm doing Friday.

The very next day, Saturday 19th, I'm reading in Brixton. I'm part of a Poltroon Literary Salon event, who have a slot at 'chArt - a group exhibition that investigates the relationship between music and visual arts, organised by Bad Behaviour, a not for profit project set up in South London.'

This is at Brixton East, Saturday 19th October, between 6PM and 8PM, I'll be reading for around 15 minutes, and there will be other authors reading too.

Last week's event at the Brixton Come Together Festival went well, though it felt a little odd to be reading out of doors. Hazardous, really. I was expecting dogs to attack me at any moment. Fortunately that didn't happen, but it was probably a lucky escape. That reading was part of the Brixton Bookjam segment, and I think I'm reading again at Brixton BookJam in December.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf

My new novel, The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf, was published in Britain today by Piatkus. This is the third in the series of books about Kalix, coming after Lonely Werewolf Girl, and Curse of the Wolf Girl.

In The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf, Kalix has an eighteenth birthday party, attempts some self help for her many personality problems, struggles to control her substance abuse, is employed by her werewolf sister as a model, attends a debutantes ball, and finds herself in brutal conflict with the werewolf hunters. Here's a little more about the book on Piatkus's website.

Friday, August 02, 2013

New Werewolf Book, Lonely Werewolf Girl Promotion


I am gearing up for the publication of The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf on the 29th August. By which I mean doing nothing at all, really. But the book will come out anyway, even if I have been spending all my time playing Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 on my Playstation. Good games, I enjoyed them both.

In a pre-publication promotion, Lonely Werewolf Girl is on sale at Amazon Kindle this month for just £1.49. So, if you need to read the first book about Kalix MacRinnalch and learn quite why she is such a troubled young werewolf, and why her werewolf clan is generally not that impressed with her, that's a good opportunity.

I've been trying to produce a small promotional interview with myself for the launch of the new book but, for various reasons have failed so far. Next attempt may be more successful. Or may not be, given my total incompetence at almost everything.

Simulation Bleed, my free web serial, is progressing well. I update this on Mondays. At this moment, the main characters are in the middle of an X-Ray Spex gig in a small pub in Putney. Where, by co-incidence, I was myself, quite a long time ago.

Having finished Mass Effect, I have no good Playstation games to play. And I don't have any really good anime to watch either. I've been watching Samurai Champloo, which was produced by the same people who made the really excellent Cowboy Bebop. It's fairly enjoyable, but not up to the same standard as Cowboy Bebop.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Won a Haiku Competition. Yes, That's What I Said.

I can remember winning two things in my life. First, the junior crossword in the Sunday Post when I was a child, for which I think the prize was a ten-shilling postal order. Second, the World Fantasy Award for Thraxas

Adding to this list, I'm now winner of Pankhearst Haiku Noir competition. Well, one of their five winners.

Pankhearst recently published Cars and Girls, four femnoir stories. Observant readers may remember that I mentioned this book enthusiastically only a few weeks ago. Remembering this, they may wonder, is there some literary corruption here? Have they just given him a prize because he reviewed their book, and will now probably mention it again?

Well, I wouldn't have minded that, because any scam is worthwhile to get your book some publicity. However, the judging was both blind and fair, as described by the judge herself, Kate Garrett, in her post about the competition, where you can read all five winning haikus.

So there you have it. Millar, casually turning his hand to another art form, walks away with a prize. It's another fine effort.

Haikus seem to fit well with noir. Though not to Japanese poetry purists, I expect. Here is my Haiku Noir -

Cold Japanese Beer
drips over her stilettos.
She's quick to reload.

Which I still like, although, as with everything I've ever written, disappointment and loathing will no doubt set in soon enough.

I appreciated the postal order from the Sunday Post as a child, although the Sunday Post, despite being something of a Scottish institution, was then, as I assume it is now, a dreadful newspaper.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Thraxas Final Triumph


With the publication of Thraxas Under Siege, I have now completed my Thraxas project. All nine Thraxas books are now available from ebook stores. I strongly recommend you buy some Thraxas.

This turned out to be a bigger project than I'd anticipated. I'm fatigued. I am now lying on the couch, staring into space in celebration. For the next few days - weeks - months, possibly - I intend to do nothing except play on my Playstation, starting with Mass Effect 2, which, fortunately enough, just arrived in the mail.


Thraxas at - Amazon Kindle (UK), Amazon Kindle (US), Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Sony

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Cars and Girls / Aristophanes


I've been reading Cars and Girls, four femnoir stories, the first book published by Pankhearst Independent Writers Collective. I do like the book, and was almost moved to review it, until I remembered that reviewing books takes effort and dedication which I just don't have. The authors involved in Cars and Girls are Zoë Spencer, Tee Tyson, Madeline Harvey and Evangeline Jennings, and as Evangeline Jennings is a Facebook friend of mine, it seemed easier to just ask her if she'd like to write something about it. 

'Evangeline, I liked your story, but as I have no journalistic skill at all, and am really too lazy and incompetent to make anything up, would you like to say something about your book? Without droning on too much, obviously.'

To which she replied - 

'Cars & Girls is a punk rock book. We learned a couple of chords and set out to change the world.

I can think of two analogies. The first doesn't work when you get deep into the detail but in many ways our book is akin to the old Fast Product "sampler" First Year Plan which featured the early work from the Mekons, Gang of Four, and Human League among others. The better fit is probably the Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP. Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley working together to produce something flawed but beautiful and everlasting. I hope.

I forget when I had the idea for Cars & Girls or where it came from, but I'm a huge fan of noir and pulp fiction and the intention was always to take those forms, push their boundaries, and subvert them. My own story Crown Victoria is probably the most overtly subversive - I don't think that's a spoiler - but the whole thing is what Courtney Love would describe as a "big, raw-boned bunch of fucking sex". If we asked her. Which we haven't.'

--

While I enjoyed Cars and Girls, I can't take too much modern literature, and have subsequently been lying on the couch, re-reading Aristophanes, greatest of the Athenian comic playwrights, and long time favourite. I wonder if Aristophanes was reviewed at the time? I don't think so. I don't think there were Athenian theatre reviewers. Though i suppose there could have been. Maybe some people scribbled down their thoughts and pinned them up in the Agora.

...Aristophanes really lays into Hyperbolus, just like he used to lay into Kleon, before Kleon went and got himself killed in action...

I like it that Hyperbolus, the angry Athenian orator and politician from the fifth century BC, survives to this day in the form of the word Hyperbole. No one could have guessed that would happen at the time. Cloud Cuckoo Land, a phrase still used today, comes from Aristophanes, and you wouldn't have thought that would survive for two and a half thousand years either.

I also like it that even though Aristophanes' plays are full of comic slapstick and fantastic elements, such as giant flying dung beetles, and visits to the underworld, they still give the best picture available of normal daily life in ancient Athens. A much better picture than you'd get from the great tragedians, for instance. If you were only to read Aristophanes, and suddenly be transported back to Classical Athens, you would at least have some idea of what to expect.

I've only seen Aristophanes plays twice on stage. Once at the Young Vic, and once somewhere else I can't remember. I didn't like either production. They weren't nearly funny enough, or obscene enough. which Aristophanes really should be.