Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Extract From My Recent book

An extract from my recent book,
The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies

It didn't take long for rehearsals to go wrong. Aristophanes was telling his lead actor, Philippus, that he'd rewritten the opening speech – largely due to Philippus’s inability to deliver the original properly – when his assistant Hermogenes bustled up, looking worried.
‘Aristophanes! There's a problem with our penises!’
‘They're too floppy!’
Aristophanes took a step backwards. So did Philippus.
‘Speak for yourself,’ said Aristophanes.
‘I've never had any problem,’ said Philippus.
‘I mean our onstage phalluses! Look!’
He pointed to the small rehearsal stage, where the chorus was assembling, some already wearing their masks, some still carrying them. Each was wearing a simple rehearsal robe but they all had on the standard comedy phallus, an obligatory accessory for the Athenian comic chorus. Some hung down about twelve inches, others eighteen.
‘What's wrong?’
‘The big ones won't erect properly!’
Aristophanes hurried over to the chorus. They already had problems with just about every aspect of the production. The last thing they needed was a phallus malfunction.
‘Let me see.’
The actors in the chorus pulled the internal drawstrings that made their penises go erect. It was a classic move in comedy. All playwrights used it. A good Athenian comedy needed huge penises going up and down at regular intervals.
Aristophanes frowned. The twelve-inch phalluses were standing up fairly well, but the eighteen-inch models were drooping hopelessly. It made for a sorry sight. There were times when a droopy phallus was the right thing for your comedy, but they had to be able to stand up when required. Everyone knew that.
‘What's the matter?’ Aristophanes was irate. ‘Who made these?’
‘Normal prop workshop. But they say they can't get the correct materials. The war …’
Aristophanes clenched his fist. ‘Damn these Spartans. And damn these politicians who won't make peace. Now they're ruining my chorus's phalluses.’
‘Well,’ said Philippus, ‘the smaller ones’re not too bad, they’re standing up all right.’
Aristophanes waved this away. The smaller penis was only twelve inches long.
‘I can't send my chorus out with only twelve inches dangling in front of them. The audience will jeer them off the stage. I'd be ridiculed. Did you see the size of Eupolis's last year? When his chorus turned round they almost decapitated the front row. Look, Hermogenes, these just won't do. Tell Leon in the prop department we need them bigger and better. And harder.’
‘We don't have any money for materials. The props department is already scavenging around for scraps.’
Aristophanes could feel his fists clenching tighter. His production had been starved of money from the outset, thanks to the Dionysian drama committee giving him the producer from Hades.
‘Dammit! A soon as Antimachus was assigned to us, I knew there'd be trouble. He hates me. Eupolis gets Simonides as his producer, and Simonides is rich. My rivals are awash with money and I'm struggling with inferior phalluses!’
By now he was shaking with anger. ‘If I don't win first prize for comedy this year there's going to be trouble. Tell our so-called our prop designer—’
Aristophanes was interrupted by a tug on his tunic. As he turned round his face fell.
‘Luxos? Who let you in here?’
‘Hello, Aristophanes. Would you like to hear my new poem?’
Aristophanes sighed. Luxos was nineteen, the son of an oarsman. He wanted to be a poet. Zeus only knew why.
‘I don't have time right now, Luxos.’
‘But it's my new poem about the Battle of Salamis!’
‘What would you know about Salamis?’
‘My grandfather fought there.’
‘Did you consider following him into the navy?’
Luxos looked a little downcast. He was a pretty young boy, but he wasn't athletic.
‘They said I was too weak to pull an oar. Won't you listen to my poem?’
‘I'm too busy.’
‘But I want to be a lyric poet.’
‘Where's your lyre?’
Luxos looked embarrassed. ‘It's … being repaired.’
Aristophanes glared at Luxos. It wasn't the first time the putative young poet had interrupted his work. Aristophanes would have thrown him out of the theatre if they hadn't both been members of the Pandionis tribe. That did bring certain obligations. You were meant to be civil to fellow members, and help them out if possible. However, while Aristophanes did occasionally farm out some lyric writing to his staff, neither he nor anyone else was ever going to trust Luxos to write poetry for them, with his effeminately long, tousled hair, his obvious poverty, and his lack of training. He was wasting his time.
Luxos sensed his thoughts. ‘No one will give me a chance. Just because I'm the son of an oarsman …’
‘Face it, Luxos, few great Athenian writers have come from families of rowers. You weren't even educated.’
‘I educated myself! How about giving me the poetry spot before your play starts?’
Before the comedies were presented at the festival, it was customary for one of Athens’ great lyric poets to entertain the crowd with a few well-chosen pieces, to get them in the mood. As with everything connected with the festival, it was an honour to be selected.
‘Luxos, before my actors walk onstage, the crowd will be entertained by one of Athens’ great poets. Does that include you?’
‘Only in your own mind.’
‘But I could do it if I got the chance.’
‘Come back in a few years when you've made your reputation and I'll consider it.’
‘It's not fair,’ said Luxos.
‘We've been at war for ten years. Nothing's fair any more.’

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Simulation Bleed

After a long holiday, Mixt, Nakishdan and Rainith return to action in Simulation Bleed, my online serial. It was a longer holiday than I anticipated, but now they're back, ready for action. Rainith the Red, last seen falling from the sky after being defeated in combat, is temporarily putting to one side her ambition of attending the first Sex Pistols gig in 1975. She's returning to the present, to hunt down the Elf who defeated her, and kill him at the first opportunity. Rainith is generally an angry fairy, and her mood has now become a lot worse. Nakishdan, meanwhile, is recovering from his own wounds, resting on his new kawaii pillows in Mixt's London mansion.

Simulation Bleed is on my website here, in a new mobile-friendly layout. I posted two new chapters, 133 and 134, on the 28th September.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

I've had some good reviews for my new book, The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies. Here are a few of them - 

This is the cover of the American edition, now available in the USA and Canada.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies

My new book, the Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies, is published in Britain today, April 2nd, by Piatkus. It's available from bookshops, and from Kindle and iBooks. This edition should also be available in Australia. The book will be published in the USA and Canada next month.

The book is set in ancient Athens, and features Luxos the Poet, the plays of Aristophanes, an Amazon and a nymph. Here is a good review from Scotland on Sunday.

The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies, cover

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Thraxas and the Oracle

Thraxas and the Oracle has now been released. This ebook is the tenth in the Thraxas series. I've managed this one rather quicker than the last. It should be available at all ebook-sellers. (As with all the Thraxas novels now, this is an ebook only.)

Thraxas and Makri are heading back to Turai. Thraxas finds himself in the unusual position of having some responsibility, being made a captain in the army. He doesn't mind the responsibility, though it does interfere with his continual desire for beer, which is frustrating for him. Makri is keen to go into battle, but she suffers the misfortune of meeting her old Elvish lover, something she finds quite unsettling.

You can buy it here -

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.