26 February 2013

Ancient Wonders: William Meikle

Next in the Ancient Wonders author interview series: William Meikle!

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

I'm a Scottish writer. Around 1991 I started to submit stories to the UK small press mags. It's been a slow but steady progression from there. I now have over twenty five professional short story sales and have fifteen novels published in genre presses.

I've been asked many times why I write what I do. I choose to write mainly at the pulpy end of the market, populating my stories with monsters, myths, men who like a drink and a smoke, and more monsters. People who like this sort of thing like it.

I write to escape.

I grew up on a West of Scotland council estate and I spent a lot of time alone or at my grandparent's house.

My granddad was housebound, and a voracious reader. I got the habit from him, and through him I discovered the Pan Books of Horror and Lovecraft, but I also discovered westerns, science fiction, war novels and the likes of Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, Alistair MacLean, Dennis Wheatley, Nigel Tranter, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov. When you mix all that together with DC Comics, Tarzan, Gerry Anderson and Dr Who then, later on, Hammer and Universal movies on the BBC, you can see how the pulp became embedded in my psyche.

I think you have to have grown up with pulp to get it. A lot of writers have been told that pulp equals bad plotting and that you must have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid. They've also been told that pulp equals bad writing, and they believe it. Whereas I remember the joy I got from early Moorcock, from Spillane and further back, A Merritt and H Rider Haggard. I'd love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermain, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.

I write to escape. I haven't managed it yet, but I'm working on it

What inspired you to write “The Cauldron of Camulos”?

I've tried my hand at several works of fantasy over the years, and they almost always come out the same way – pulpy, with swords, sorcery, monsters and bloody battles to the fore. It's the way I roll.

I may start with good intentions, of writing high fantasy with political intrigue and courtly goings on but, as in the Watchers series, Berserker and the Augustus Seton stories, my inner barbarian muscles to the fore, says Bugger this for a lark, and starts hacking.

The blame for my enthusiasm can be laid squarely at several doors. There's Conan, of course, and Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon and the whole pantheon of Eternal Champions; there's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Solomon Kane, Jon Shannow, the princes of Amber and the shades of a thousand more from the likes of Poul Anderson, A Merritt, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H Rider Haggard, Karl Edward Wagner and many others

So, there's that, and a long standing fascination with Arthur going way back to my childhood and reading The Sword in the Stone, Elidor and a big book of medieval romances with exciting colourful prints of knights and damsels and dragons.

In "The Cauldron" I wanted to strip away the medieval and go back to the Celtic and Saxon versions of the legends, although I suspect Arthur and the Grail as archetypes go back even further than that.

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

I'd love to see Orkney, during the mound-building, menhirs-raising years. I'd love to see Maes Howe and the Ring of Brodgar going up and discover why they were built as they were. Or Carnac in Brittany. I'd love to revisit it while it was getting put up.

What appeals to you most about ancient sites/landscapes?

I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains. I also love what is widely known as “weird shit”. I’ve spent far too much time surfing and reading Fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff especially fascinates me, and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction.

But there’s just something about the misty landscapes and old places that speaks straight to my soul. Bloody Celts … we get all sentimental at the least wee thing.

What do you have coming out next?

Next up is a weird Sherlock Holmes collection, The Quality of Mercy and Other Stories from a new imprint, Dark Renaissance. It's in deluxe limited edition hardcover and trade paperback editions, with a dozen illustrations by Wayne Miller who has previously done a lot of work on my covers for Dark Regions Press.

"When I first set out to document the casebook of my good friend Sherlock Holmes, there were some cases I approached with a certain degree of trepidation. Holmes has a public face as a man of strict rationality, a stickler for method and observation. But Holmes himself has always been open to more extreme possibilities."

In these pages you'll find, among other things, a Jade pendant that bestows great power, a fiddle that holds the key to an ancient secret, a lost overcoat that wants to return to its owner, and an encounter with an old foe that imperils the whole of Great Britain. All of them are cases that Holmes and Watson must solve, even if they have to open themselves to extreme possibilities to do so.

[William Meikle is a Scottish writer with fifteen novels published and over 250 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work has appeared in a number of anthologies; recent short stories were sold to Nature Futures, Penumbra and Daily Science Fiction. He now lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland, Canada, with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company. In the winters he gets warm vicariously through the lives of others in cyberspace.]

The Alchemy Book of Ancient Wonders is available in paperback and ebook formats from multiple retailers - see the anthology page here for linky links!

22 February 2013

Ancient Wonders: Adrian Tchaikovsky

To celebrate the release of the ebook editions of Ancient Wonders, we gently harassed our faaaaaabulous authors for a little behind the scenes action...

First up to the chopping block - Adrian Tchaikovsky

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

I’m a writer of epic fantasy, with eight books out in my series Shadows of the Apt and the ninth coming out this August. I’m also a lawyer (civil litigation) and my interests include LARP, RPGs (games, not grenades), sword techniques and zoology, but I had been working towards becoming a published author for a long time.

My current series is set to run to ten books, charting a conflict between the insect-kinden that takes them into their equivalent of the 20th century, and a world war. I’m currently working on a number of future projects in different settings.

What inspired you to write “Bones”?

“Bones” is set in the same world as the Shadows of the Apt series, and draws on a chance reference a character makes in The Sea Watch to an archaeological site where the deep past of the insect-kinden’s world appears to have been uncovered. This sparked a lot of speculation amongst readers, so I decided that the site deserved a story of its own. When the call for the Ancient Wonders anthology came along it seemed the perfect opportunity to write it.

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

With deep apologies to the whole of human history, I think that I would need to tool up and go see the truth behind the fossils. The choice isn’t Ancient Rome or da Vinci’s studio, for me, it’s Cretaceous or Carboniferous, or scuba diving through the Burgess Shale fauna.

What appeals to you most about ancient sites/landscapes?

There is nothing more evocative than an ancient landscape, civilisation or relic that still retains its mystery. All too often that turns out to be something of a false promise, but when confronted by something like the Antikythera mechanism, or the as-yet unopened tomb of Qin Shi Huang, it’s a window onto a past that remains as mysterious and elusive as myth.

What do you have coming out next? 

The last two volumes of Shadows of the Apt should be out this year and next, after which I have a stand-alone fantasy, Guns of the Dawn, which takes place in a sort of alternate 1800-style of setting, concerning a bitter war between two formerly close nations. My personal tagline is “Jane Austen meets Bernard Cornwell by way of Ursula le Guin.”

[Adrian Tchaikovsky was born in Lincolnshire, studied and trained in Reading and now lives in Leeds. He is known for the Shadows of the Apt fantasy series starting with Empire in Black and Gold, and currently up to book eight, The Air War. His hobbies include stage-fighting, and tabletop, live and online role-playing.]

Author photo (c) Peter Coleborn

The Alchemy Book of Ancient Wonders is available in paperback and ebook formats from multiple retailers - see the anthology page here for linky links!

08 February 2013

Seeing the Sites: Introduction

As you might be able to tell from Ancient Wonders, I’ve got a bit of a thing for ancient sites for a wide variety of reasons. From a historical perspective you’ve got all the mystery about who built them and why, what they did with them and what other people did later, and how exactly do you go about lugging bloody great bluestones all the way from the Welsh mountains or cutting so many weirdly shaped blocks and getting them to fit perfectly in a wall? And let’s face it, the finished product, regardless of intent and construction technology, are still very impressive things to see.

But beyond the sensible historical stuff, there’s something about ancient sites that gets the imagination running rampant. When I was a teenager I tended to view them from a burgeoning New Agey Pagan perspective, drinking in the wonder of a living landscape that promised potential magic, though I never could get my head around that whole worship thing - but then, any kind of organised religion makes me twitchy, regardless of whether it’s contained in a church or spread out among stones in a field somewhere.

Then there are the wilder possibilities, the gateways to other realms, the lost cities waiting to rise, legends that could easily manifest from the physical markers left, and those ones, I think, hold an appeal for me that is easily as strong as the archaeological attractions.

In his Age of Misrule series, Mark Chadbourn wrote (among many other things) about a ley-line superhighway, marked by stone monuments, and that was such a perfect concept that somewhere, somewhen, it has to have been true. There are barrow entrances that are so obviously entrances to the underworld or other worlds that it’s a wonder that the National Trust don’t post warning signs up; and any temple that’s managed to stay relatively intact has absolutely got to have at least one secret chamber with the associated booby traps, treasure and guardian beasties.

Which brings me nicely to the Seeing the Sites series – where I’ll be posting about the sites I’ve got a particular fondness for (both real and legendary) and occasionally roping in others to add their two-penneth. So stay tuned for the first post in the series - West Kennet Long Barrow.

Ancient Wonders goes ebook!

Oh yes my fine and funky people, Ancient Wonders is now officially up on the Kindle.  Available from Amazon UK here for the bargain price of £3.28 (and a variety of prices from the other Amazons) but if you'd prefer an epub format, email Peter Coleborn via  alchemypress[at]gmail.com and he'll sell you it directly (and if you ask nice, he can probably sort you out with a DRM free mobi copy if you object to the Amazon locked version.)  Paperback editions are still available for those that prefer their stories dead-tree, so either way, you, gallant reader, have nothing but win!

And if you've forgotten what loveliness awaits behind that glorious piece of Dominic Harman artwork, then check it out:

A fabulous introduction by Kari Sperring
Adrian Tchaikovsky – Bones
James Brogden – If Street
Shannon Connor Winward - Passage
Pauline E. Dungate – One Man’s Folly
Anne Nicholls - Dragonsbridge
Peter Crowther – Gandalph Cohen and the Land at the End of the Working Day
Misha Herwin – The Satan Stones
Lynn M. Cochrane – Ringfenced
Bryn Fortey – Ithica or Bust
Adrian Cole – The Sound of Distant Gunfire
William Meikle – The Cauldron of Camulos
John Howard – Time and the City
Selina Lock – The Great and Powerful
Aliette de Bodard - Ys

01 February 2013

Kickstart your peerback

Out in the world there are two funding deadlines coming up for awesome projects that just absolutely, positively have to meet their goals so if you haven't donated to them yet, you might want to take a wander over and do that!

Project #1
The World SF Travel Fund
Set up by a group of international genre professionals and fans in 2011, the aim of the Fund is to enable two international people involved in SF/fantasy/horror to get over to a major genre event.  The WSFTF is looking for funding to cover two years worth of travel and while next years travel candidates have yet to be chosen, this year the lucky candidates are Csilla Kleinheincz and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.  ::happydance::  (Must try not to fangirl RL-R at WFC this year...)

The excellent thing about this project is that it opens up genre events to people that wouldn't be able to get to them otherwise, which can only be a good thing.   And there's ebooks as funding rewards, which is always nice too!

More info and the Peerbacker page can be found here!

Project #2
Glitter & Madness
Seriously, did you need any more than that? Glitter! And! Madness!
Coming from Apex Publications, G&M is "a fiction anthology filled with Roller Derby, nightclubs, glam aliens, (literal) party monsters, drugs, sex, glitter, debauchery, etc." and to be launched at the San Antonio Worldcon in August 2013, possibly with a glow-in-the-dark roller skating party! 

Not only will G&M features work from Alan DeNiro, Amal El-Mohtar, Daryl Gregory, Damien Walters Grintalis, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Jennifer Pelland, Tim Pratt, Cat Rambo, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Diana Rowland, Sofia Samatar, David J. Schwartz, and William Shunn, but! It will also include a standalone InCryptid novella from Seanan McGuire.  (Sold!)  And! There will be an open reading period for submissions as well!

Does this, or does this not, sound like a purely fabulous anthology!  And the donation rewards are pretty funky too, ranging from ebooks & print books, to assorted Apex & G&M merchandise, editorial critiques, lunch with the editors, tuckerisations... 

Check it all out on their kickstarter page here.