Archive for July, 2011

DVD Review – It Aint Twishite

July 18, 2011 - 11:45 pm No Comments

Prowl

Director:  Patrik Syversen

Format: DVD/Virgin Filmflex

Running Time:  81 minutes

Reviewer:  Theresa Derwin

More 30 Days of Night than Twi-shite, Prowl is a modern take on the vampire legend that isn’t actually half bad.  Produced by After Dark films, it starts with the obligatory group of teens who head off on a road trip and, shock horror, break down on a deserted road.  Stupidly (have they not watched a horror film?!), the group accept a lift in the back of a meat truck from driver Bernard, who looks like a driver straight out of Deliverance; hardly a positive start to the day.

Said Deliverance Driver Bernard promptly delivers the six succulent teenagers into the hands of head vamp Veronica who runs a training ground for fledgling, revenant vamps in an abandoned abattoir. 

The vampires are wonderfully brutal ripping out throats and tossing about body parts with abandon.  Visually, they have much in common with the European vamps in 30 Days of Night, and apart from the odd over shaky cam shot, the film is beautifully directed, the script is solid and performances are strong.  Bruce Payne s Bernard gives a nice performance in particular, as does Courtney Hope as heroine Amber. In fact, the female protagonists are notably characters any actress could really get her teeth into (ahem).

 

 

 

 

 

 

To finish off the film there is a rather nice, if somewhat expected twist, but taking all of the above into account, it really is an enjoyable vampire romp with a generous amount of gore. Worth catching.        

Meet . . . Vincent Holland-Keen

July 18, 2011 - 11:20 pm 1 Comment

Meet Vincent Holland-Keen

I recently met Vincent at Alt.Fiction and chatted to him about his debut novel.

The Office of Lost and Found (reviewed at Review – Cheap as Chips Debut), came out from Anarchy Books 1st July and is already getting rave reviews. Here’s what he had to say . . .

Vincent:

First of all, thank-you for interviewing me – this will be my first as a published writer and so you’ll have to excuse me if I get flustered and confused and end up giving answers from the life of Dirk Benedict instead.

If I don’t get flustered and confused, then I’ll apologise now to all those people who were arrived here looking for an interview with the star behind Face from the A-Team and Starbuck from Battle Star Galactica (original series).

Theresa:

My pleasure! First of all, how much work was involved from start to publication in getting The Office of Lost and Found to the place it’s at now?

Right, I thought I’d just go with very long and very rambling as a starter.

I’m fairly sure the answer is lots. Lots and lots. But unlike some of my other books, it wasn’t a case of starting on page one and then writing for a year or so until it’s done. The process was messy and jumbled and only sort of started back in 2005, when I came up with the idea for a series of half hour TV shows centred around a supernatural detective agency. I wrote a pilot and a summary for how the series would continue and sent this off to the BBC’s ‘Writer’s Room’ initiative. They duly sent it back.

And that was that. My biggest failing as a writer is that I am incapable of persevering with submissions. It only takes a couple of rejections before I merrily shelve an idea and move onto the next and sometimes I can’t even muster the enthusiasm to submit to anywhere in the first place. It’s rubbish, I know. I do get told off for it!

But of course that wasn’t that. A friend called Sandra Ruttan suggested I submit a short story to her magazine, Spinetingler. I may have said I didn’t write short stories. She probably said I should try. I undoubtedly moaned and whined a bit until I realised I had this TV show pilot lying around. So, I adapted the script to prose, it got past the magazine’s scrutineers and eventually appeared in the ‘Winter 2006’ issue.

And that was that. Except… I liked this idea. I liked the characters. I thought I could finish off that six-episode TV series. So I wrote episode two, again as a script initially, before converting it to prose. Episodes three and four were re-purposed from short films scripts I’d optimistically planned to make once upon a time (once upon a time being 2002 and 2004 respectively). A two-part special rounded off the ‘series’ simply because episode five ended up being twice as long as it was supposed to be.

That brings us up to mid-2007 and that really was that for the next two years. I wrote a few other short stories, even though I don’t write short stories. I produced two drafts of a completely separate novel – ‘An Alternative History of Balesley Green’. I started a radio serial called ‘Heroes and Hobgoblins and Household Appliances’. And while this may give you the impression that I spent much of those three years writing, don’t be fooled. I spent most of those years avoiding writing. I may dwell amongst the writerly dregs when it comes to submissions, but I’m right up there with the best when it comes to procrastination.

Then, at the end of FantasyCon 2009, a kindly old editor asked if I had anything that I could submit to his publishing house. Balesley Green was in the midst of a second draft at that point and wasn’t a strong genre novel in any case, so the best I had to offer was the first five episodes/chapters of ‘The Office of Lost and Found’.

Four months later, the editor called back to say it might be something they’d be interested in publishing provided it was expanded to a full-length novel. In short order I wrote back with an outline for another five chapters along with an idea for ‘interludes’ between chapters to help strengthen the continuity between what might otherwise seem standalone stories. That went down well, so I finally resumed work on the book.

For me, this is the blood and guts of writing; not the typing, but dreaming up ideas and spinning these into scenes.

A regular chapter in ‘…Lost and Found’ roughly translates to half an hour of television or eight thousand words of prose. The planning for one of these chapters took about a month of head-scratching, hair-pulling and gazing thoughtfully off into the distance like a model in a mail-order catalogue only (Theresa: Check out Vincent’s profile pic if you doubt him!) without the cashmere sweater.

For me, this is the blood and guts of writing; not the typing, but dreaming up ideas and spinning these into scenes. I’d guess that the final book you read is 99% identical to the story I originally planned, with the remaining 1% sections I cut out during copy-editing.

The first draft of ‘The Office of Lost and Found’ was finished in August, 2010. It turned out not to be quite right for the aforementioned publisher, so once again that was that. It went back in a drawer, figuratively speaking, and I started looking at releasing Balesley Green myself as an e-book.

By this point you may have gathered that my experience of getting published is both a shining example of how you can break lots of rules and still make it, but also an utterly terrible example, because I can’t imagine this particular path to publication will ever work for anyone else. This is best illustrated by what happened next: I bought a graphics tablet and re-kindled my childhood passion for drawing. I posted some of my practice pictures on my blog and these prompted the infamous Andy Remic to send me an email, asking if I’d be interested in providing some cover art for his new Anarchy Books venture.

I said yes.

He said good and then asked if I’d also be interested in contributing a short story to an upcoming anthology he was producing called ‘Vivisepulture’.

Me: Sure, why not? Though you’ve got some big names in this anthology and you haven’t actually read any of my fiction.

Andy: I’ve read your blog, it’ll be fine.

Me: Look, I’ll send you this book I’ve written. The first chapter is relatively self-contained, like a short story, so that should give you an idea if my work is up to snuff.

Apparently it was, because he came back asking if he could publish the whole thing.

Given that publishing usually moves at a fairly glacial pace, everything since then has moved remarkably fast. I spent two more months copy-editing the first draft, improving the English and hacking out superfluous words. While I barely touched the flow of the story, about 40% of the prose was revised. That became the master draft that subsequently went out for review.

All told, I probably spent about eighteen months working seriously on ‘The Office of Lost and Found’, even though some of the ideas that went into it were originally born almost ten years ago.

Theresa:

 How does it feel to have a first novel coming out?

Vincent:

I get the odd, fleeting sense of excitement or disbelief, but most of the time I’ve been caught up with other things, whether that’s working at the day job, messing around with new artwork or helping promote the book. Oh, and wasting time on the internet too, I do a lot of that. I should really stop and savour the moment more often. In fact, I shall do so now…

Ommmmm.

There. Moment savoured. It does taste rather nice, though less like chicken than you might expect.

Theresa:

We met at Alt.fiction and you said that you have attended Conventions before. How important are such forums to the writing industry and the fans?

I’m not sure if I’m qualified to answer that, but I shall give it a try anyway. Conventions are clearly a great opportunity for fans to learn more about the people who produce the books and any performance industry always needs to connect with its fans, but I’m aware conventions can be quite an insular world. The vast majority of readers will never attend one and it’s hard to say whether the sales they generate always justify the expense.

But conventions aren’t about sales, they’re about meeting people. I can illustrate how valuable that is with a long and rambling story.

Once upon a time, there was the internet. From this primordial ooze evolved the blog. Around the Cretaceous period, I found myself reading one that regularly linked to the witterings of a highly-skilled writer of low moral turpitude called John Rickards. When a friend at work was looking for a book to read on holiday, I emailed John, suggesting that he pitch his novel. He replied, saying he would glue my friend’s furniture to the ceiling if he didn’t buy his book.

Anyway, in a roundabout fashion, this led to John suggesting I pop along to the Harrogate Crime-Writing Festival (even though I don’t actually read much crime). We met up, had fun and japes, and for the first time my eyes were opened to the fact that writers were really real. I grew up in a world where people became teachers or policemen or middle managers. Writing books was like acting in movies or becoming a rock star – a fantastical career reserved for folk from myth and legend.

I also learned that writers drink. A lot. And despite most being regular people like you and me, the odd one or two are born of myth and legend and do a mean James Mason impression.

I’ve been back to Harrogate every year since then and each time have attended progressively fewer and fewer of the panels, partly because the same subjects get covered over and over again (just like any convention), but mainly because it’s about catching up with friends and making new ones. For example, it was at Harrogate that Sandra Ruttan suggested I submit to Spinetingler.

Okay, we’re probably in the Jurassic period by now. The internet has invented Twitter and so Twitter had to invent Sarah Pinborough. I followed her, for my sins (though mostly to read about hers), spotted her at Harrogate during her first year attending and, out of the blue, introduced myself. To her credit, she came out of the experience only partially traumatised.

Some time later, she suggested I come along to FantasyCon that year and that was the FantasyCon where the kindly old editor asked to see a sample of my writing (okay, so maybe Lee Harris isn’t that kindly). This led me to attend World Horror the following year, where I met both Andy Remic (future publisher) and Adele Wearing (future overlord at Un:Bound).

The moral of this story? Whether reader, writer, publisher or publicist, conventions are your best bet for meeting people and it’s people that make the world go round. Along with gravity. Though it’s mainly gravity.

Theresa:

So what’s next for you on your creative schedule?

Vincent:

I’d like to do a proper movie-style trailer for The Office of Lost and Found, just because I love making films and trailers are cool. I’ve still got to do that short story for Vivisepulture, but book-wise, I currently have seven ideas I’d like to write, but if the response to Lost and Found is good (and the signs are promising so far), my next project might be the second in the trilogy…

Theresa:

 Thanks for taking the time answering my questions and good luck with the book.

Review – Cheap as Chips Debut

July 18, 2011 - 10:51 pm 1 Comment

The Office of Lost and Found

Author:  Vincent Holland-Keen    

Publisher: Anarchy Books (anarchy.com)

Price:  £2.86 (E-book)

Page count:  671pp

Reviewer:  Theresa Derwin

One day Thomas Locke wakes up in a darkened room with no memory of who he is and what he does.  But at least he has a job. He is reliably informed by persons unknown that he is Thomas Locke – and finds things. Locke works for The Office of Lost and Found as a detective, tracking down all manner of lost items, including the soul of Leonard now reincarnated as a toaster.  Veronica Drysdale, his latest but unwanted Customer is looking for her husband; the one she recently tried to kill to no avail.

Locke has a partner, a partner, Lafarge, who can lose pretty much anything.  Things that his Customers don’t want found ever again.  Hunting for a butterfly that inadvertently started a hurricane, Locke isn’t off to a great start when he finds a butterfly with an alibi.  With shades of Dirk Gently, Locke manages to solve all number of cases quite often by fate or coincidence, call it what you will.  As his search for Drysdale continues, Locke finds himself working side by side with Veronica, who becomes embroiled in his agency.

The Office of Lost and Found is pretty much passages of random madness that is interconnected and somehow works.  There are some fantastic ideas here and though the narrative is a little fast paced at times leaving the reader breathless, and the novel runs a little long at 671 pages, each of the adventures or story strands latches onto the next one creating a larger story arc throughout the novel. 

With its twisting strands, this novel is a little like a China Mieville novel (written with simpler language) combined with Terry Pratchett’s world building.

Through a myriad of characters interacting together, Holland-Keen nails the different ‘voices’, particularly the voice of numerous children, which he handles wonderfully.  From Emily, to Billy and the other school children, each of the children retains his/her own distinctive personality.

The passages in each chapter are very short, sharp bursts of narrative, which can be a little confusing at times until all aspects of this adventure link, leading up to a crescendo of a finale.  Overall, the novel is a real achievement and shows the author’s future potential, as well as being fun and entertaining. Definitely worth investing in.

If you want to know more about this writer’s latest projects take a look at his website Blogger: User Profile: Vincent or his FB Page

Check out my interview with author Vincent Holland-Keen.

 

 

Review – A Magnificent Restoration

July 12, 2011 - 2:59 am No Comments

The World House 2: Restoration

Author:  Guy Adams          

Publisher: Angry Robot Books

Price:  £7.99 (Paperback)

Page count:  431pp

Reviewer:  Theresa Derwin

Before reading this book I’ll reiterate what I said in my review of the first book The World House; don’t attempt to read this first without having read its precursor. The experience of this book is far richer having read the first book, pieces of the puzzle which unravelled in its pages finally slotting together like an insane Rubik’s cube, completing the puzzle.

Let’s start at the beginning . . .

“There is a box. Inside that box is a door . . . Beyond that door is the House, a terrible House, an impossible House”.

The House in which a number of main characters spent the first book trapped. At the beginning of Restoration, which picks up where the first book left off, Ashe, Alan, Miles, Carruthers, Sophie et all are on a mission to save their own world from ‘The Stranger’ or ‘The Prisoner’; a vicious creature intent on freedom and the destruction of the world at any expense. Taking the lead on the journeys between different worlds through different doorways, Ashe retains the heart of a traveller as he jumps between these myriad universes, revelling in the sounds, sights and smells that await him as he attempts to set right previous wrongs. Sections of the first book are relived through different sets of eyes and odd occurrences from the first novel now make perfect sense, all knots being tied together. 

Adams has created a visual feast in this novel. Like a turn of the century carnival with bearded ladies, snake charmers and mysterious psychics, this novel is full of weird and wonderful events, scares and laughs, fear and fun.  From The Grumpy Controller who guides the characters through their mission, to The Stranger himself, the protagonists are alive on the page and the reader has a vested interest in what happens.

The humour, the fear, suspense and love; it is all in here and as superb, if not better than the first book, Restoration simply a magnificent, must have read.      

If you want to know more aboutAdams’ latest projects take a look at his website or FB Page.

World Book Night 2012

July 11, 2011 - 11:41 pm No Comments

I just went on to register fave books on World Book Night http://www.worldbooknight.org/​your-books/the-wbn-top-100-boo​ks.
What appears to be a complement below is kind of an indication of why the fanzine Andromeda’s Offspring is starting, quote;
“Principles of Angels, Jaine Fenn, Orion Publishing Co, A fast and furious debut from a stunning new SF talent: a woman playing in a man’s world – and showing them how it’s done”.

Join me in voting for your favourite books on WBN. It takes 3 minutes or so to register. You need to vote by 31st Aug 2011 to make a difference.  I have voted for The Female man by Joana Russ. Join me and add SF & Women’s SF to the world map of literature