Friday, March 29, 2013

Q&A: Peter Crowther

Today under the spotlight: PETER CROWTHER, whose story "Gandalph Cohen and the Land at the End of the Working Day" appears in The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what you like to write?

My real weakness in reading is horror and ghost stories and the kind of SF stories that are filled with awe and wonder ... such as Bradbury, for example. Stephen King is the main man for me simply because of his characterisation. Sure, the stories are good -- well, there's an occasional so-so one but, with the sheer quality of his writing, you can pretty much forgive him anything -- but it's the depth of detail in his backgrounds as well as his foregrounds that puts the guy above anyone else writing today. And just to set my stall fully out, I've read several thousand books ... with faves being the late Robert B Parker, early Updike, Richard Ford, all the classic SF and horror books (and I do mean all), stuff like Wodehouse, early pulps (Prather, Thompson, Goodis and so on), Fitzgerald and on and on and on. What do I like to write? Pretty much the same as what I like to read. I wrote a story called “Tomorrow Eyes” simply because I really wanted to write something Runyonesque, a story called “The Incredible Multiplicity of PhaedraLament” because I wanted to emulate Clarke's White Hart, and so on. So I guess it's the attraction of speaking in a specific voice that attracts me.

What inspired you to write “Gandalph Cohen and the Land at the End of the Working Day”?

I loved Spider Robinson's tales set in Callaghan's Crosstime Saloon and I've long fancied having my own barroom for the telling of tall tales. “Gandalph Cohen” was the first of them; there are three more, each of them following the same formula ... Jack Fedogan playing jazz on the bar's PA system, the regulars sitting around a table chewing the fat or telling jokes, and a stranger coming into the bar with a “story” to tell or re-enact. There's a nice story concerning these stories and Dave Brubeck ... but I don't want to bore you so I'll tell it another time. Catch me at a convention and ask me about it sometime.

If the TARDIS could drop you off to any one site in its heyday, where would you go?

I've always wanted to go back to the late 1950s and go knock on the door of our old house (I was born in 1949, 4 July). I love the idea of my mom or dad opening the door and asking if they could help me while, behind them, this wide-eyed nosy kid stands watching me from behind them, an open book or comic hanging from his hand. And I'd like to go to a US city of that period, with a wad of dollars in my pocket so that I could buy copies of great comic books for just a dime apiece. I wrote a story along these lines called “The Doorway in Stephenson's Store” -- if you read it then please do bear in mind that it was written and published some five years before Stephen King unveiled 11.22.63.

What appeals to you most about ancient sites/landscapes?

Just seeing the way things used to be. Rightly or wrongly, I am fascinated by (and attracted to) the past. Can't get enough of it.

What do you have coming out next?

Just a few stories here and there, and then my long-threatened mainstream novel Thanksgiving ... currently standing at 110,000 words and waiting for the final spurt…

[Peter Crowther is the recipient of numerous awards for writing, editing, and as publisher of the hugely successful PS Publishing (which includes Stanza Press, the Drugstore Indian mass market paperbacks, PS Visual Entertainment and PS Art Books). As well as being widely translated, his short stories have been adapted for TV on both sides of the Atlantic, and collected in The Longest Single Note, Lonesome Roads, Songs of Leaving, Cold Comforts, The Spaces Between the Lines, The Land at the End of the Working Day and the upcoming Jewels in the Dust. He is the co-author (with James Lovegrove) of Escardy Gap and The Hand That Feeds, and has also written the Forever Twilight SF/horror cycle. He lives and works with his wife and business partner Nicky Crowther on England’s Yorkshire coast.]

Photo (c) Peter Coleborn

Astrologica Update

Allen Ashley, editor of our forthcoming anthology Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac reports:

“I have had a late upsurge in submissions but I have also corresponded with a few authors who have requested an extension. So, in the spirit of fair play, I am extending the closing date for submissions for everybody to midnight Sunday 14 April 2013.

In other news, you will have noticed that we have now settled on the anthology title as Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac. And, to answer another query that regularly comes up, I am essentially looking for one story per star sign. Leo is already taken, for definite.”

Submission guidelines here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Q&A: Bryn Fortey

Today under the spotlight is BRYN FORTEY, answering questions set by the editors of The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what you like to write?

OAP. Widower. GSOH. Friendship, maybe more – oh no, sorry, that's the Two's Company
ad I'm trying to put together.

Writing-wise: it used to be short stories, then I wrote a lot of poetry, now I'm back to short stories. Sort of horror, SF, weird, oddball. I like crossovers and work that's difficult to categorize.

What inspired you to write “Ithica or Bust”?

David A Sutton told me about the Ancient Wonder anthology only weeks before the deadline. Being so long out of the loop I had no real idea of what was required but wanted to have a go, so updated a bit of Greek mythology into science fiction space opera, throwing in as many references as I could squeeze onto the page. It was very untypical of my more usual output but I had great fun putting it together.

If the TARDIS could drop you off to any one site in its heyday, where would you go?

I would get the TARDIS to drop me off at Cheltenham Race Course one day next week so I could jot down all the winners and come back to make a fortune from the bookies.

What appeals to you most about ancient sites/landscapes?

My problem here is that at my age I remember most ancient sites and landscapes when they were new.

What do you have coming out next?

Two stories in Shadow Publishing's reprint anthology Horror! Under the Tombstone, and two stories accepted by the American audio magazine Tales to Terrify, but I have not been told yet when they are due to be used.

[Bryn Fortey appeared in various anthologies during the 1970s, including: New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural and New Writings in SF. He was also published in various Fontana anthologies edited by Mary Danby. Bryn’s beat-styled poetry magazine Outlaw was Best UK Small Press Magazine of 2004 in the Purple Patch Awards. In the same year he won the Undercurrent Aber Valley Short Story Competition with “The Dying Game”. In 2009 his “A Taxi Driver on Mars” was first in the Data Dump Awards for SF poetry in the UK. Bryn hales from South Wales.]

Photograph (c) Peter Coleborn

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Astrologica Update

Allen Ashley, editor of our forthcoming anthology Astrologica: Tales of the Zodiac, reports:

“Thank you for all the wonderful submissions so far. Just a quick update on what I am still looking for. Which is: I would like to receive more submissions around the following star signs – Taurus, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn. Also, a couple more for Cancer and Virgo would be helpful. Length 3000 to 8000 words. As many submissions have been in the 3000 to 5000 range, I am quite keen to receive stories towards the upper limit. So, folks, just two weeks to go. Submissions to me at: editorastrologica @

Q&A: Aliette de Bodard

Today's victim is Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders contributor, ALIETTE DE BODARD.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write?

I'm a writer, engineer and over-enthusiastic cook who loves to write character-driven stories in strange and familiar worlds (and to put fish sauce in everything, including stories!). I've written SF, historical fantasy and creepy horror – bit of an eclectic person, really.

What inspired you to write “Ys”?

“Ys” is inspired by a very famous Briton legend I read when I was younger; the image of a sunken city beneath the waves has always remained with me, as well as the idea that on clear days, you can hear the bells of the submerged churches ringing through the streets. Dahut/Ahes, the princess who doomed Ys, was thrown from her father's horse after he discovered she had been the one to open the gates to the sea; and from there on it wasn't much of a stretch to imagine both city and princess would still be around in modern-day France.

If the TARDIS could drop you off to any one site in its heyday, where would you go?

Hmm, it's a tie, but I think I'd pick either Hue or My Son – they're wonderful Vietnamese sites that you can only visit a small part of, due to all the bombs that got dropped on them during the Vietnamese/American war. I've always wondered what it would be like to walk there before destruction struck.

What appeals to you most about ancient sites/landscapes?

The sense of history; and wondering how people might have lived, and how different they might have been. Also, they're usually very beautiful!

What do you have coming out next?

I have a limited-edition novella, On a Red Station, Drifting, which is out from Immersion Press (and nominated for a Nebula at the moment); and a couple stories forthcoming in various markets. I'm also attempting to wrestle an urban fantasy set in Paris into proper shape.

[Aliette de Bodard lives and writes in Paris, France, in a flat with more computers than warm bodies, and two Lovecraftian plants in the process of taking over the living room, one tentacle at a time. In her spare time, she writes speculative fiction: her Aztec-noir fantasy Obsidian and Blood is published by Angry Robot, and she has been a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and has won the British Science Fiction Association Award.]

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ancient Wonders reviewed

The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber.

Reviewed by Rod MacDonald

Being an old alchemist myself who took some time to get over the phlogiston theory, I was intrigued to see what was going on at The Alchemy Press. If you have not encountered them before, I would check out the website. This isn’t a weird and wonderful collection of 1960s hippies with crystals, wind chimes and astrology charts. Nothing like that here! Rather, it’s a site where you’ll find lots of interesting collections of stories and articles which have as a basis our past, our culture and the more mysterious aspects of our lives. I was actually quite impressed!

This particular collection contains 14 stories which have as their basis our history, sometimes with archaeological connections and stone circles with Celtic beginnings. You’ll be travelling back to ancient Rome, New York and even an Ithaca in space. However, the main link between all the stories is the quality of the writing which is very good. In selecting the works, the editors must have looked to readability as a major facet. They are all certainly very readable.

To give an example, “If Street” by James Brogden is all about a couple of childhood friends living near the site of a Roman settlement in Britain. As boys who investigated everything, they were intrigued by an old Roman road. One of the characters disappeared, to come back many years later. He had been living in the past as a Roman soldier fighting against invaders.

Bryn Forley’s “Ithaca Or Bust” is a parody of the legend of Troy, only the characters are vastly different. Taking place in a stellar empire, the beings have two heads, four arms and legs and are about five metres tall. Much of the conversation is between the two heads, one logical and thoughtful with the other forthright and adventurous. It makes for interesting reading.

It would be difficult to pick out a favourite story from out of the 14 available due to the fact that they are distinctly different despite having a common theme as their basis. Alchemy Press seem to have a large number of anthologies and according to their website, they are actively looking for new writers. This may represent a good opportunity for aspiring and established writers. I’m not sure what terms and conditions apply, so it would be best to make enquiries first. They do, however, have a comprehensive list of writing requirements.

This volume was produced in hardcopy a few months ago and now it’s available in Kindle and other formats. Being available from Amazon, it should probably sell reasonably well. It’s a sort of book you could carry about and dip into at any time and if you like this type of fiction, it represents a good purchase and one to recommend.

Originally published on SFCrowsnest website, February 2013. Reprinted by permission.

For more information on Ancient Wonders click here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Q&A: Misha Herwin

Today, Ancient Wonders' contributor MISHA HERWIN answers searching questions.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what you like to write?

I am compulsive writer who’s been writing ever since I could hold a pen. Rather to my surprise I’ve ended up living in Stoke with an ever patient husband and a moaning cat, who is convinced we don’t feed her enough.  I write books and short stories for adults and kids and my work usually has a supernatural and fantasy element to it. 

What inspired you to write “The Satan Stones”?

“The Satan Stones” was inspired by the Devil’s Ring and Finger, a pair of Neolithic standing stones near where I used to live in Shropshire. They have very powerful hold on my imagination and also appear in my latest novel, House of Shadows.

If the TARDIS could drop you off to any one site in its heyday, where would you go?

If I could leap into the TARDIS I’d definitely find my way back to the Devil’s Ring and Finger because I would love to know what really went on there.

What appeals to you most about ancient sites/landscapes?

The appeal of ancient sites and landscapes is their atmosphere of mystery and magic.

What do you have coming out next?

At the moment House of Shadows is with my agent and I’m working on a YA novel about a dystopian future where wars will be fought over water rather than oil. Juggler of Shapes, my second book in the Dragonfire Trilogy, is now out as an e book. 

[Misha Herwin has been writing for many years. At twelve she wrote and staged her first play in a theatre made from a cardboard box. Since then her plays for teenagers have been performed in schools by the Stagefright Theatre Company and at the Canadian High Commission in Jamaica. She has published the Dragonfire Trilogy for kids and her stories can be found in a number of anthologies and magazines including Hens, Bitch Lit and Ghostly Reflections. “The Dragon Who Came to School” was broadcast by ABC Tales.]