That Thorny Question of Ethics: Part 2

ALLiEthicalAuthor_Badge-largeA little while ago, author Jane Steen wrote about the much-neglected question of author ethics. Events since then have proved that this vexed issue is one we all need to think about. From one author who published an account (in a national broadsheet, no less) of how she stalked an unimpressed reviewer, to another who allegedly physically assaulted a lady who wrote a lukewarm review of his book, badly behaved authors have been in the news, confirming readers’ worst fears and indirectly tarnishing the reputation of all authors. Continue reading

The Great Slush Pile of History

s740130477402308962_p7_i1_w640Recently I read The Black Douglas by Victorian novelist S.R. Crockett, whose works have recently been republished by Ayton Publishing. Being introduced to Crockett was an interesting and enlightening experience. Here we have an author who was, in his lifetime, as popular as Dickens. Just over a century later, he’s largely forgotten (though he might be about to make a comeback, thanks to Cally Phillips and Ayton Publishing). Crockett seems to be one of the victims of changing literary tastes, a writer whose standing in his lifetime has not been reflected in the years following his death. Continue reading

Horror Clichés: Part Two

halloween-webAs regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been busy moving house of late, which is why I’ve been so quiet recently. But my favourite festival, Hallowe’en, is upon us, and so I decided to pull myself away from my cardboard boxes for just long enough to write a celebratory blog post. I toyed with the idea of writing a serious critical evaluation of the works of Poe or Lovecraft, but rejected it for two reasons: firstly, it would take too long, and secondly, moving house has scrambled my brains and it will be months before I can do, think or write anything even remotely clever again. Continue reading

There’s Such a Lot of World to See…


Off with the Raggle-Taggle Gypsies-O…

I’ve never been a particularly materialistic person. When I was a child, I dreamed of running away with the Raggle-Taggle Gypsies, like in the old ballad. Not for me a suburban semi and a stack of debts. Oh no! I was going to live in a caravan, travel wherever I wanted, and cook over a camp fire. Later – and not long after I came to the disappointing realisation that most modern gypsies don’t in fact live in old-fashioned wagons and wear gold hoop earrings – that dream was transmuted into a burning desire to travel the world with no more than I could stuff into a backpack.

I achieved neither ambition, sadly, but I think they’ve nevertheless left their mark on my personality. I am, by nature, pretty nomadic. Every few years I get itchy feet and find myself yearning for a change of scenery. Continue reading

It’s not real, but it’s definitely true

dreams-mirrorLast month, Authors Electric’s Bill Kirton wrote this very interesting post. He was talking specifically about the fantasy genre, but he made a point that I think is relevant to all fiction:

“We carry all these race memories, dreams, imaginings; we can release people and things from their restricted functions. Maybe fantasy is simply a means of relaxing our grip on experience, a way to deny chronology and inevitability. Maybe it’s just a less uptight reality.”

Continue reading

A Brutal War seen through a Young Woman’s Eyes: Ellen’s People by Dennis Hamley

A1zllPmfbbL._SL1500_“It’s dark now. The church clock has long struck midnight. Betty and Madge, twins and my younger sisters, went to sleep the moment I blew their candle out, but I can’t sleep and I’m wondering if I ever will again.”

Thus begins Ellen’s People, the first novel in Dennis Hamley’s Ellen Trilogy. Ellen Wilkins, a young woman living in rural England on the eve of World War I, has just witnessed a recruitment drive in her village. She has also witnessed some of the less attractive behaviour associated with such campaigns: jingoism, hatred of “the Hun”, and fury against those who openly prefer peace to war. To Ellen, this is more than a purely abstract concern: her beloved brother Jack has enlisted, and she worries about what might happen to him. “I don’t know much about wars,” Ellen admits, “except soldiers and sailors get killed and Jack might get killed with them.” Continue reading