Archive for August, 2012

From Dean Giles

The TournamentMy new short story (~45 pages), “The Tournament,” is available FREE for a limited time this month. To take advantage, download it onto your Kindle from Amazon US or UK today and tomorrow (Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th August)

The future is no place for weaklings.

Only true warriors can police Earth-Government, warriors who can kill without hesitation, but Klay, genetically enhanced and constantly ridiculed because he is different, doesn’t possess the killer instinct, so when he’s called upon for his final trials in combat, he will fail the test and die. However, Master has given him the skills for battle. Klay just needs a little motivation, which comes in the slender form of fellow student Zasha. With her life in danger, he will do anything to save her, even kill for her… if only it were that easy.

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008TUDD98

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008TUDD98

Essex Lion huntThe nation’s gripped today with the hunt for the ‘Essex Lion’. I have my own views (and fascinations) with stories about creatures alien to the UK on the loose. But for now, I’m just enjoying the ride…

Apparently Essex folk have been asked to remain indoors while the hunt (left – pic courtesy of the Daily Mail) for the big pussy (sorry) continues. I for one hope that this is it/ isn’t it debate continues en mass for at least the next few days, as rumours abound on the internet, as pics of footprints are scoured over, as the lion sleeps tonight. Because it’s great, free PR for my book, Paint this town Red, ain’t it? Eh?

But also because, frankly, I love a great story like this. Mass hysteria. Hoaxery. Men forming impromptu hunting parties. It’s got it all, hasn’t it? Well, if you’re not sure, just take a look at the witness’s reaction to seeing the beast in the Daily (Heil) Mail article above.

LionAnd here’s my own views on creatures alien to the UK from an interview I recently did with the Ginger Nuts of Horror:

When did your fascination with creatures alien to the UK begin?

I’m an animal lover, first and foremost. Always had been. When I was little, I either wanted to be – and usually this depended on what day you asked me what answer you’d get – a zoo keeper, a Manchester United goalkeeper, or a writer. Generally, I shun beachy kinds of holidays – for the most part – and save up to go on safari adventures instead. And I’ve been on the big cat trail a few times now. In Kenya and Senegal, and then in India on the search for tigers. This tends to make me sound more adventurous than I really am, but I don’t really care. Writing’s all about reinventing things!

Anyway, I’d been quite keen on writing a Creature Feature for a while. I touched on it in my novel When Elephants Walk Through the Gorbals – a dark crime-thriller which won quite a decent award but which for some reason hasn’t been picked up for publication – but I wanted to go deeper. Bring the creature to the fore with this one.

As to the alien to the UK aspect of this question, I’ll take you back to the guest blog I wrote for GNOH a few weeks back. Paint this town Red is inspired by what I imagine are very common small-town rumours which I experienced in my small town – I’ll leave it unnamed, to preserve the air of mystery – when I was growing up. When I was about fifteen or sixteen, there was talk of a large feline – perhaps a lynx – which was stalking the nearby hills, picking off livestock. There were plenty of sightings, most of which were discredited, but some couldn’t simply be explained away by Mrs. Goggins’ black moggie being on the prowl.

One night, bunch of mates and I engineered a large and rather over-complicated lie which meant that each of our parents believed we were staying at one of the others’ houses. Instead we decided to go camping up in the hills surrounding the town. We got our hands on a few cans of underage liquor, stolen from unsuspecting dads and the like, and we packed up our sleeping bags and our tents and we set out to find the Black Panther, as it was becoming commonly known.

One of my mates in particular had done quite a lot of research into the panther and, as darkness crept in and we failed to get our fire going, he told us all he knew about the panther. The thing which really got the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end was what he said about how the panther breathed. He claimed you could hear it, a rasping, throaty sound, before it came for you.

Anyway, we passed the evening telling stories and jokes and drinking up our pilfered booze, and in the end we turned in for the night. I woke up freezing cold in the wee small hours, already alert. And it was then that I heard the exact same breathing which my mate had described hours earlier, coming from outside the tent. I’d love to have said that I ran out, camera in hand, and got the snap which scooped the local paper. But I didn’t. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, and prayed that if it was really the panther, it would go for one of my mates first instead of me.

The next morning, nobody else claimed to have heard the panther, and indeed, one of my mates was being mocked for snoring, so the rasping, throaty sound could have been him. Or then again, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe we really did have a close encounter with the black panther. Maybe we came this close.

I wanted to recreate the peculiar atmosphere which surrounded our town when these rumours were floating about. That weird sense of being hunted and of wanting to hunt it at the same time. That weird sense of belief and disbelief at the same time. And I also wanted to explore what would happen to such rumours in the internet age, when anybody can post a picture of a large footprint on Facebook, or Twitter, and can suddenly make a myth real, by word of mouth.

But I also wanted to go further. Creatures in fiction are often loci for metaphors (I’ve already mentioned the one I’ve suggested in the text; the alcoholism strand). Or they’re given anthropomorphic traits. We try and understand them through our own eyes and experiences. I wanted to create a true alien creature whose motives are forever clouded. But also one onto whom the townspeople (and the author. Me!) project their own experiences and fears.

 

A lot of people claim that they can’t exist as we don’t have any good photographic or video evidence.   What’s your take on this?

I’m not sure. I want to believe. Because I want there to be elements of the mysterious and the fantastic which colour our world. I want there to be more than petrol strikes and Saturday night TV ‘talent’ shows and Conservative governments. But then, I don’t think I’m not the only one thinks that. I’ve been up to Loch Ness a few times and, without fail, I’ll be staring at the water for a while and suddenly I’ll see something move and I’ll reach for the camera and then… It’s gone. And I’ll think, that’ll have been a log, or a wave, or a… A… dinosaur? Having been on safari in India on the search for tigers, just as an example, I know that animals in the wild won’t play ball. They won’t just sit there posing waiting for you to get your camera or mobile phone ready. They sniff out humans and hide. Natural response. They don’t want to be seen. I haven’t got much evidence of the fact I saw a tiger in the wild in India. But I did. I promise you I did.

 

But surely some of them must be the locals trying to drum up tourist for their village?

Bullseye. And surely some suspicion must be cast my way too. Isn’t it a coincidence that almost on the day my novel was released, there was a spate of new sightings of the fabled Calderdale Cat Beast? Meaning that when I called up some of the local papers in Yorkshire, editors were far more willing to run press releases about my book because they tied in with the news… Can you picture me creating fake footprints down by the river in Hebden Bridge? Or dressing up in fur and running across fields in pursuit of rabbits? Or savaging some of the local farm animals? All in the name of marketing, my friend, all in the name of marketing… Seriously though, the idea of locals making up these stories, crying wolf so to speak, forms one of the plot strands in Paint this town Red.

 

Which myths about these creatures are your favourite?

It would have to be the Daddy of them all, the Beast of Bodmin Moor. The whole story has a Hound of the Baskervilles feel to it. Only, featuring a big cat, of course. After countless ‘sightings’, and rumours, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food conducted an official investigation in 1995, and found that there was “no verifiable evidence” of an exotic feline on the loose and Feline Fine. But it’s the twist to the tale that I love the most. Not a week after the report was published, a little lad found a fairly whopping cat skull at the side of a stream. Not even hidden. Myths suddenly morphed into reality, red in tooth and claw. If this wasn’t verifiable evidence, then what was?

(The footnote to this story is more prosaic: the skull was analysed by the Natural History Museum and although it did prove that the skull did belong to a leopard, it also proved that the leopard couldn’t have died in the UK. Apparently it contained eggs laid by a species of cockroach which could not have been found on these shores and there were marks on the skull which suggested the skin had been scraped off it with a knife. But what if these were the plants, not the skull…)

 

 

 

SharkwayssHARKWAYS cOVER

by A.J. Kirby
eBook ISBN: 9781615727728

Release Date: 1 September

More information

Genre: Horror
Sub Genre: Monster
Novella of 53271 words
Sex rating: 1
Violence rating: 3

Edited by Isaac Milner
Cover Artwork by Dawné Dominique
Print ISBN: 9781615727735

About the book:
Bill Minto is a world-weary property developer. His marriage is on the rocks. His health is failing. His cut-cornered projects constantly threaten to come back and haunt him. So when a mysterious caller offers him the job of a lifetime – all he must do is excavate the hidden tunnels under a country house—he jumps at the chance. But it soon becomes clear Bill is not alone in the tunnels. A past he’d long believed hidden lurches after him in the darkness, smelling blood. And guilt.

Excerpt:
Bill peered into the gloom, tried to pick out the scurrying things. He imagined them going for his fingers first. Eating them away so there was nothing holding him up any more, and then just swarming over him in the water, feasting.

He tried splashing at the water with his free hand. Heard water slapping back off the rock. Felt it raining down on top of his hard hat. Felt it trickling down his cheeks too, though that may well be something else.

He saw movement.

It came vertically on the rock face, moving slowly down the incline. He only saw it because of the light emanating from its core. The creature looked like an animated Egyptian artefact. It shone gold, royal blue, racing green. At times, the creature’s shell was transparent. Bill saw all of its inner workings: the pumping heart, the roiling stomach, panting lungs. At other times, the shell hardened, glistened like diamonds.

He thought it might be put off by the water, but it wasn’t. It skittered with a new purpose, heading straight for his fingers, which whitely gripped the rock.

Bill couldn’t find the strength to flick the bug away. He feared that if he touched it, it could shock him. But as it crawled onto his left hand, he shivered. Hell, the bug was smaller than his hand, not much wider than his ring-finger, but he didn’t dare bash it flat. It started to scramble over the mark where his watch had once taken up residence on his wrist, onto his arm. His eyes widened. The tiny hairs on his arm stood to petrified attention.

The bug continued to creep over him. Bill itched to flick it away but he knew he couldn’t use his right hand, couldn’t let go of his precarious hold on the rock. His left hand, the one the bug already crawled over, was frozen. For a beat, he thought about trying to edge his chin down, somehow knock the thing off him with a twist of his neck but he quickly dismissed the idea. The thought of that thing anywhere near his face was too much to bear.

Olympics over, what do we do now?

Summer (what summer?) over, what’s next?

Baddiel and SkinnerHow about this? How about we set up a fantasy football league for UK authors and then duke it out for a season to see who’s the bestest footy fan in the world ever (TM)? We all like to think we know the mostest about football, but how about we prove it by competing in a league-type situation (Jeff) and at the end of the day it’ll be the team which scores the most (fantasy) points what wins the title?

How about that, eh?

If you’re interested in joining the UK Authors Fantasy Football League full details are below. My team is called MAGPIETRAP and I have gone whole hog and kit and caboodle monty and have even designed a bleeding kit. Go on, you know you want to…

How to play/join:

–    If you’ve never played before, visit fantasy.premierleague.com and register your team. Pick a squad of 15 players from any of the Premier League clubs, with a budget of £100m to spend.
–  Once registered, simply click on the Leagues tab, click “Join a League” and chose “Private League”.
–    Input the following code 1132034-271269 to enter the Construction News fantasy football league 2012/13!
–    The season starts on 18 August 2012 and all teams must be registered and entered into leagues by 11:30am on Saturday
And then banter like you’ve never bantered before. Trash talk like you’re motherflippin Mohammed Ali. And see if you can take me down.

PTTR Red Ad

Not the BookerThis past week, I’ve felt like some unholy cross between a charity case and an IT helpdesk. I’ve refreshed my computer screen more times than is healthy, and, at one point on Thursday, my web-mail account stopped sending emails as it suspected me of being a spambot. I’ve begged, borrowed, stolen. I’ve pleaded. I’ve called in favours.

And all in aid of one thing. The Guardian’s Not the Booker prize. Which is a book award which does exactly what it says on the tin. It is not the Booker prize. It accepts nominations of books which are a little out there. Genre stuff. Stuff from independent presses. Stuff from so far out in leftfield that it might as well be in a different ballpark.

Since Paint this town Red was nominated, and then longlisted on Friday 3rd August, I’ve been canvassing desperately for votes, casting my net far and wide. It’s been a bunfight. I’ve had numerous emails from the publishers of other books on the list asking me to vote for them. I’ve had hour-long phone conversations with my readers which have largely consisted of me saying ‘can you tell me what’s on your screen now?’ and them saying ‘a picture of a coffee cup with the Guardian written on it.

It’s a Jungle out There

JungleThe Guardian itself has likened the chaos of the voting week to a jungle. “The Lord of Chaos laughs. The trees shake and drop ripe fruit on our heads. Birds scream and swoop. We shield our eyes, but they peck at the fingers. There are, we are told, technical problems. The Lord of Chaos laughs again. Snakes writhe beneath us, twist around our ankles. There are yet more insects. They thicken the air, crawl up our legs, infest our undergarments. We are told that there are other people, far away voting on Facebook, and they must be counted. We count them. Then learn they have also posted on the site. And we trudge on, exhausted, through the shadows. But some have been left behind, we learn. They need more time. More time among the briars and thorns and oozing swamps.”

And that really is what it felt like for me, as an author of one of the books too. It felt as though I’ve been stalking through the Amazon (not the bit the size of Wales which is deforested every three seconds, and not the bookseller extraordinaire either) cutting a path with a goddamn scythe (which I really wanted to use for something else.)

At the point the Guardian reopened the voting on Friday  10th August, I thought I’d won. I’d done a rough count of the votes. In total there were 72 books on the long list, and Paint this town Red got 40 (out of a total of 426 overall votes, which means I got pretty much 10%, which is pretty good in my book…) But then, all of a sudden, the voting reopened, and caught all of us unawares. Already exhausted, I had to steel myself for another 24 hours of begging.

This nightmare extra leg could have been a disaster for my Wild Wolf colleague Simon Swift, who’d made the shortlist when voting closed, only to see his book trumped at the last, as the final day’s voting saw The Casablanca Case caught and then overtaken by two other books. Thankfully, The Guardian saw fit to give Simon a place on the shortlist anyway. The newspaper played fair and increased the shortlist to seven books*. Phew!

And my book’s made the list too. In second place. Which is obviously brilliant!

In the end, this is how the voting looked:
Pig Iron by Ben Myers – with 62 votes
Paint This Town Red by AJ Kirby – with 50 votes
The Notable Brain Of Maximilian Ponder by JW Ironmonger – with 49 votes
Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May – with 47 votes
Tales From The Mall by Ewan Morrison – with 46 votes
The Revelations by Alex Preston – with 46 votes
The Casablanca Case by Simon Swift – with 35 votes

So now onto the review from the Guardian, which has me bricking it in case I get a bad review. I keep telling myself there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but when you’re reading a bad review of your own painstaking work in the newspaper you love, one of the world’s best papers in fact, then that becomes harder to accept.

Mind you, there is one thing I can cling to. Those 50 votes (and 53 lovely reviews) by people far and wide. Votes for me came in from Australia, the US, Leeds, Manchester, New Mills, Newcastle, London… It truly has been a humbling experience. And I’d like to thank each and every one of you who voted for me. You are all stars!

You can read all of my reviews here.

Art of Vento cover“I’ll never forget the first thing he said to me, the way he curled all his thorny knowledge into that one barbed comment stopped me in my tracks.”

Welcome to The Art of Ventriloquism: a baker’s dozen of short, sharp, shocking crime fictions from the bloodied pen of the author AJ Kirby. The rap-sheet of crimes contained within this volume are varied: from white collar to red-collared, grizzly murder. The style ranges from the hard-boiled to the comic, and all the stops between.

The crimes in The Art of Ventriloquism take place in restaurants, opera houses, space stations, prisons, old folks’ homes, on farms, in the back of limousines, and on the salesroom floor. They’re modern morality stories, and here Kirby has become a ventriloquist, channeling the voices of the dispossessed, the victims, those who live on the margins of society… Darkly amusing and ironic – reminiscent of Roald Dahl – these tales will amuse and delight in equal measure.

The book was released today, and is available from all good online purchasing outlets, including Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Also, check out the book’s website here: http://crimefictions.webs.com/ for further information.

Praise for some of the stories:

Jodie Foster & the art of ventriloquism

George Polley, Author: “It’s chilling; reminds me of a short story by Ray Bradbury that was so chilling that I still remember it as if I’d just put it down. A fine piece of writing.”

Too Many Cooks

Judge of the ‘An Ink’ writing contest: “This is a fine story, written in what might be called “the grand manner”. As opposed to certain modern writers whose sentences are clipped and snappy, this author often conveys his meaning in lengthy, convoluted sentences. But they flow, and they work.”

The Ninth Circle

Stephen Hunt, SF Crow’s Nest: “an intriguing story… which brings to mind the film Event Horizon. This tale becomes progressively darker, obscure and depressing until its culmination in a terrible event.”