The Writer’s Blog Tour

28 Apr

The Writer’s Blog Tour is a set of four ‘chain questions’ passed from writer to writer. Everyone who receives the sacred baton (it is sacred, I checked) chooses another three or so writers in turn. A few weeks back, Mike Carey asked if I’d like to take part – Mike’s answers, and links to several other writers in the chain, are on his blog here. My own answers are below, followed by the writers I’ve asked. Please do check out their answers in about a week’s time (these things usually happen on Mondays, for reasons which are undoubtedly also sacred).

What am I working on?

I’m in the final stages of my first TV drama commission, a hugely enjoyable experience, and I feel I’ve learnt a lot from it. It’s some time away from transmission, so I’ve started a treatment and pilot episode for a new spec TV script – a drama series for a family audience, drawing on British mythology.

I’m also writing the first draft of my next novel. It sort-of leads on from Sleepless Knights, but is also the start of something new. It’s the story of the men and women left out of Camelot, and what happens when they get the chance to create a legend of their own. It’s inspired by the Taliesin and Merlin myths, and lots of fragments of Celtic tales about monsters, bards and magic. And Tenby. There’s lots of Tenby in it.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I don’t feel even remotely qualified to talk about any genre as a whole! On a practical level, I’ve always enjoyed writing in different mediums, rather than working in one particular area. Some of this has been out of choice – it keeps things fresh, and helps to develop new skills. And some of it is out of necessity, and guided by where the work is coming from. I started in radio and moved into theatre, and now combine theatre with TV scripts and books.

Why do I write what I do?

Whatever I’m working on, I’m trying to recreate the effect that inspiring works of fiction have on me – and to convey that enthusiasm in my own way. I love stories with elements of enchantment, that bring a sense of wonder and mystery to the world, or to a way of seeing the world. I like characters that give you unusual and different ways in to stories. And I love mixing tones and genres. Things that make you laugh and cry, that take stories in unexpected directions, and keep you wondering what’s going to happen next.

How does my writing process work?

I usually start with a fragment of an idea – part of a character, or a ‘what if’. When something starts to take shape, I’ll draw on lots of research and inspiration, as wide a range of sources as possible – from life, history, books, TV, comics, paintings, poems – anything that strikes a chord. Characters and story emerge more fully out of this, and when they do I’ll start working on the structure.

I normally don’t start on a full draft until I have a loose structure in place, and I try to keep bigger story questions at the heart of every stage of this – whose story it is, what do they want, how can that create conflict and move things on. At a certain point, if I’m on the right track, it becomes a really enjoyable mix of creative, imaginative flow and mechanical plot-based tinkering.

After the relief of getting a first draft done, ideally I put it aside for a bit, before pulling it apart as much as it needs, for as many drafts as it takes. Good and trusted feedback is invaluable in the drafting process, and my work always feels better for it.


Next week the baton goes to…

Sarah Dollard is a TV screenwriter. Her writing credits include Being Human (UK), upcoming BBC1 Cold War spy drama The Game, and untold episodes of the Australian soap opera Neighbours. A former script editor, she has also worked on Merlin and Primeval. You can find her on twitter here, and she fangirls on tumblr here, where you’ll also find her Blog Tour answers next week.


Peter Bell is a writer, reader and sometime reviewer of fantastic fiction, with a passion for sci-fi, fantasy and horror. He divides his time between his day job (which pays), fiction writing (which doesn’t pay anywhere near as much) and family life (which pays in a whole lot of non-financial ways).

His short fiction has been published by Morrigan Books and Pseudopod (you can listen to his dark fantasy tale, The Trinket here) and he’s currently putting the finishing touches to his first novel; a horror mystery called An Unwanted Miracle.

Peter’s blog is here.

…plus a third and final Blog Tourist, to be announced shortly!






Launch! Party! Prizes!

6 Aug

It’s here! Sleepless Knights has arrived, fighting fit and champing at the bit to meet readers.


A huge thank you to all those who came along to the Launch Party on Saturday in Cardiff. Wine was drunk, sweets and cake were eaten (to see more work by cake-maker extraordinaire Leah Humphreys, head here) You really helped to make not just the book’s launch, but also my first ever nerve-tinged public reading, a complete blast from start to finish.


In other round-up news, we’ve had new quotes in from the brilliant Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who & Being Human) and a starred review in Library Journal. You can read them in full, and order the book direct from Atomic Fez, right here, where you can also still check out the first chapter for free! And blogger Jenni Nock has kindly reviewed Sleepless Knights over on Juniper’s Jungle, where you’ll also find a wide selection of reviews, snippets and eloquent enthusiasm on the world of books and beyond.


And now without further ado, time to announce the…


Congratulations to Mary de Bruyn, who made the closest guess to my own knight-naming, based on the cover, which were:

1. Lancelot

2. Gawain

3. Pellinore

4. Lucas

5. Perceval

6. Arthur

7. Kay

Your Questing Kit will shortly be galumphing its way through the Canadian postal channels, with the signed Advance Reading Copy hot on its heels.

And, speaking of signed ARCs (which sounds like one of the terrors of the Fire Swamp, but I digress)…


Thanks to everyone who joined in with the Sleepless Knights #dioramafriday on twitter (check out the hashtag to see them in full). The entries were a pun-tastic and imaginative delight, and in the end I chose two winners. A signed ARC apiece go firstly to @Indigo_Blues_ who won points for background detail, knight & dragon, plus the creation of a mini version of the book! Check it out here

And the second winner is Zoe, aka @SaidHanrahan, for her selection of minifig-based knight escapades, such as this little beauty. Top diorama’ing skills, both!

Name The Knights Competition

16 Jul

To celebrate the launch of Sleepless Knights on 5th August, Atomic Fez have put together a prize-packed Questing Kit, for the winner of our Name the Knights Competition! A goody bag-full of Arthurian delights can be yours, featuring variations of Jimmy Broxton’s Sleepless Knights artwork – including: a T shirt and Hoodie in your choice of colour & design, a badge set, a mug, and a signed Advance Reading Copy of the book. Plus a tote bag of your choice to put it all in – perfect for ease of access for any questing knight in the field. To be in with a chance of being the envy of Camelot, just follow these steps…

Download and read chapter one for free, here. Day One of Sleepless Knights introduces the main characters, as Sir Lucas the Butler attempts to round them all up for their annual get-together, while the clock ticks, tempers fray, and chaos escalates…

Next, jot down your own cover art Who’s Who, using the following character names:

Lucas, Kay, Pellinore, Perceval, Gawain, Lancelot, Arthur.

To (hopefully) avoid any confusion, we’ve given each figure on the cover a brief description, corresponding to the numbers in the picture, below.


So all you have to do is complete the following…

  1. Knight behind long shield is…
  2. Background knight, clutching kebab is…
  3. Knight with moustache is…
  4. Central knight with white face & sword is…
  5. Background knight, with stabbed roast chicken is…
  6. Knight in full armour is…
  7. Knight peeking out in front of starred shield is…

Once you’ve done that, email your seven named knights to by Friday 2nd August.

The person guessing (or closest to guessing) the author’s own knight-identification, wins the coveted Questing Kit, instant promotion to the Round Table, and the eternal fellowship of Camelot.

In the happy event of two or more correct guesses, Atomic Fez proprietor Ian Alexander Martin will randomly select the winner from those entries.

Let the naming begin!

Launch Knight

3 Jul

Plenty of news to round-up, ahead of the release of Sleepless Knights on 5th August, including…


Previews and advance quotes have started to come in, from such brilliant writers as Muriel Gray, Mike Carey, Christopher Fowler and Darren Craske. You can find them in full here, alongside a review from US book trade journal Publishers Weekly.

The Publishers Weekly review is especially exciting for generating interest in the book in America. They not only featured Jimmy Broxton’s belting cover art on their table-of-contents page, but also starred the book as Recommended, an accolade given to around one in ten titles. Which is a nice excuse to…


The Sleepless Knights Launch Knight will be at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff on Saturday 3rd August, upstairs in the Mediapoint room from 6 til 8, then from 8 til late in the bar. The book will be on sale, the author will be doing a reading, and there will be cake.

As well as being the launch for Sleepless Knights, other Atomic Fez books will be available, plus titles from the Welsh horror, SF & fantasy publisher Pendragon Press (no relation). The event is unticketed, but do let us know if you’re planning on coming so we can plan accordingly (i.e. more cake).


Within the next week or so, you’ll be able to download the first chapter of Sleepless Knights – entitled Day One – from the Atomic Fez website for free!

What are King Arthur and six of his finest knights up to, living and walking among us? Whose catastrophic actions threaten to reveal their existence to the modern world? And what is Sir Lucas the butler’s method for separating the ham sandwiches with mustard, from those without?* Frankly, a summer devoid of the answers to these questions is unthinkable, so keep your eyes on twitter and the Atomic Fez news page. Not least as reading Chapter One will give you all you’ll need to enter the launch competition, which we’ll be announcing next time.

NEXT TIME: The Sleepless Knights Name The Knight Competition!

* “Now THAT’S an inciting incident!” – Robert McKee**

** (mightnotactuallyberobertmckee)

Sleepless Knights Cover!

15 Apr

With Sleepless Knights now on pre-sale from Atomic Fez, and with just a few months until release, it’s a pleasure to reveal the cover – the work of designer, artist and all-round splendid fellow Jimmy Broxton!


Click on image for bigger version of Broxton brilliance

The initial brief in an email to Jimmy was for a tone that mixes “the domestic with the fantastic. ‘Gleeful anachronism’ might be a good way to describe it… But there’s also a poignant tone to the book – these characters are far from home and have all seen better days.” In addition to the comedic elements to the book, the story of Sir Lucas is an unlikely hero’s journey that tests him to his limits and beyond, and I was keen to avoid anything too overly wacky.

Jimmy responded with an initial sketch which he described as “a representation of authentic brass rubbings coming alive, cavorting, boozing, eating kebabs/fried chicken and generally acting up as described… it’s comedic, but not a cartoon as such… a darker, more satirical feel.”

The finished version not only met that initial brief, but far exceeded my expectations. I’m hugely proud to have such a striking and original piece of design as the cover to Sleepless Knights.

Sleepless Knights cover news

27 Sep

Hello there! After a lengthy hiatus, it’s high time I dusted off the blogwebs. Not least because there’s exciting Sleepless Knights news a-brewing…

With 2013 and publication steadily approaching, it feels like the perfect time to announce that the book’s cover is being designed by the supremely talented artist, illustrator and designer Jimmy Broxton! At this point I’d like to say a huge thank you to writer Paul Cornell, who introduced me to Jimmy in 2011, as well as putting us back in touch earlier this year.

Jimmy’s work has appeared in both DC Comics and Vertigo titles, notably collaborating with Paul on Batman spin-off Knight & Squire, and the West Wing-meets-X-Files Saucer Country – as well as gracing the pages of Mike Carey & Peter Gross’ The Unwritten. Atomic Fez publisher Ian Alexander Martin and I both felt that Jimmy was the ideal fit for Sleepless Knights, and were thrilled to bits when he took on the job.

Without giving anything away until the cover is completed (and without trying your patience by chuntering on about something without actually showing it!), I really feel Jimmy has captured the tone and spirit of the story in a bold and striking piece of design. For more on all that, head to the Atomic Fez announcement here (and do stop to browse their other titles while you’re there!)

I can’t wait until the cover is finished, and we hope to unveil it at some point in the new year.

The Sweeper Of Day Dreams

20 May

The following is my submission for ENO’s ‘Mini Operas’ competition. More info, and the original story by Neil Gaiman which inspired it, can be found here.


He sat in a dark booth,

The one at the back.

Nursing a coffee

Tepid and black.

I should’ve asked him to leave

Hours ago

But something about him intrigued me. So

I walked over.

The old man smiled

And almost looked glad,

Though his bloodshot eyes

Were incredibly sad.

He opened his mouth.

I recoiled at the reek.

Through teeth like cracked butterscotch,

He started to speak.

“I’m the sweeper of dreams.

Or I used to be,

Before the land of the living

Took over me.

Each dawn I’d clear up

Your nocturnal delights,

The fancies and fallacies,

The fears and the frights.

The darkness was mine,

The dream world my stage,

Swept clean for next time,

A fresh blank page.

But every day,

As the shift-end was nearing

I’d hear the same sounds

At the edge of my hearing.

Like a flapping of wings,

Or a banner unfurled:

The endless flutter

Of the waking world.

I ignored it at first

With the tasks in hand,

Phantasmagorical admin

Of the sleeping land.

Then one day my feet

Found themselves on the line

Of the hair’s breadth border

Between your world and mine.

I pushed back the curtain.

Just one little peek.

Then back home for breakfast

And what passed for my sleep…

There. On the ground.

Something shiny and new.

A fragment of day dream!

Well, what could I do?

I swept it up fast.

No time to waste.

Grey gulls were circling,

Diving in haste.

Small scraps at first.

Crumbs of regret.

Glittering like scales

In the mesh of a net.

The birds led me further,

Deeper and darker.

I followed their cry,

Without map or marker

To the gap between worlds.

The elastic white border.

Not Somewhere.

Just Other.

Beyond reason.

Past order.

I came to a park,

Sat down on a bench

And there, without warning,

Was struck by a stench.

I should have turned back.

Something was wrong.

But the sirens of wreckage

Struck up their song.

I walked in a daze

To the top of a hill

And saw spread below me,

A land of land fill.

The detritus of destiny.

Dreams bent and broken.

All the leftovers

Of things left unspoken.

Ifs buts and maybes

Put out by the bin-full,

Hopeless hopes

And desires branded sinful.

Single parents,

Their lives put on hold,

Shocked by the reflection

Of the suddenly old.

The lover’s virginity

Held back in thrall

For a god cavorting

All along through it all.

The mocked milling millions

Singing out loud,

Hoping ’gainst hope

To stand out from the crowd,

Seeking the spotlight

With stars in their eyes,

Dreams screaming like banshees

As they shudder and die.

Motorway systems

Of roads left untaken,

An ordinance map

Of the sadly mistaken.

A land green and pleasant

With hope’s fresh decay

And beyond it,

Wide seas of nostalgic dismay!

The work of a lifetime –

A whole new nation!

Rank riches

To one of my chosen vocation.

No wonder you long

To dream every night,

When your days are defined

By such desperate blight!

I gazed on it all

With a wild surmise

My heart all a-tremble

And tears in my eyes.

How could I go back

After all I had seen,

To my world of night visions

Devoid of their sheen?”

He finished his coffee

And pushed back his chair,

Fixing my eyes

With a hungry stare.

Like a shark

Tasting blood and sensing its prey,

A beast

Sizing up the next dish of the day.

“And what about you?

Why do you work here?”

“I trained as an actress.

Graduated last year.”

He grinned as he picked up

His broom from the floor.

“I’ll be back,” he said.

And walked out the door.

Knights! Camera! Action!

3 Feb

I’m delighted to officially announce that my debut novel Sleepless Knights will be published next year by Atomic Fez! Atomic Fez are based in Canada and specialise in eclectic, genre busting fiction. For more on their remit and fine fictional wares, have a browse here.

Sleepless Knights is the story of Sir Lucas, butler to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Lucas is the man who stage-managed every epic legend behind the scenes. Mild mannered and soft-spoken he may be, but there’s steel beneath that silk. Lucas wouldn’t just get your back in a fight – he’d kill the demon whilst pressing your jacket with one hand, and sharpening your sword with the other. He’s the one who made sure each quest happened in the right place at the right time, and that everyone involved had comfortable accommodation for the weekend. What’s more, 1,500 years after the golden age of Camelot, he’s still doing it – here in modern Britain, right under our noses. When the knights’ existence is revealed to the world, Lucas faces a quest like no other, and a confrontation with his own unique and peculiar destiny.

It’s still a good twelve months before the book will be released in paperback and e-book formats. Which leads me neatly on to the main point of this blog. The months between now and then will undoubtedly fly by, and I’d love to build up interest about the book ahead of its release, finding and engaging with readers who might enjoy it, and generally spreading the word about Sleepless Knights. But, on the other hand, the last thing I want to do is bombard people with information about something they won’t be able to read until next spring.

So, my idea between now and then is to write a series of bi-monthly blog posts on different subjects relating to the book. Anything, from elements of the writing process and the story itself (minus spoilers, natch) to the influences that shaped it, and books read subsequently that chime with what I tried to achieve in the story. I’m also aware that the internet is packed to the rafters with advice on writing, an awful lot of it very useful stuff which I would only be repeating. If possible I’d like to use this as a chance to ‘write about writing’ in a different way, too. Sort of like the ‘PS’ sections you get in certain paperbacks, crossed with DVD extras, crossed with a rambling conversation in a pub with a man who’s spent far too much time reading Arthurian novels and writing ‘Yes! THIS!’ in the margin. (in HB pencil, you understand, and lightly at that.)

So please do let me know any thoughts you may have on the form these Sleepless Bytes blogs should take  (including whether or not I should call them Sleepless Bytes in the first place…)

Beside The Fantasy-side

20 Oct

Back during those hazy, lazy crazy days of early October, Laura and I went to FantasyCon in Brighton – the annual shin-dig of the British Fantasy Society. Earlier this year we’d enjoyed the SFX Magazine Weekender, but whenever I’d mentioned this to seasoned Convention-goers, their responses had been united by one thing. “That’s all well and good,” they’d said, “but for the real deal, get yourself to FantasyCon.”

And so we did, arriving on the Friday just in time for a drink. One of the many pleasant things about the weekend was the chance to meet fellow writers whose work I admire, and we started as we meant to go on in the company of writer Mike Carey, creator of the brilliant Vertigo comic series The Unwritten.

Saturday morning was spent basking in the glow of imminent environmental meltdown, and meeting writer and splendid fellow Jason Arnopp for lunch on Brighton’s seafront. But this was no time to be stuck out doors in the fresh air, and so I headed back inside for the first of the afternoon’s panels, where the venue seemed to be staging its own tribute to Convention guest of honour Brian Aldiss, by recreating the atmospheric conditions of his novel Hothouse. Thankfully, New Voices In Genre Publishing provided an interesting discussion, a welcome opportunity to eavesdrop on a group of writers chatting about their influences and craft.

To the reading room next, where Robert Shearman presented a short story from his latest collection. Shearman is blessed with winning delivery style for his own material, and his reading fell somewhere between Hay On Wye and The Glee Club. Mike Carey followed, with the audience hanging on every word of two vivid excerpts from The Steel Seraglio – an Arabian Nights-style adventure written with his wife and daughter, due in the spring of next year.

Back down to the hothouse, for a panel on comics (‘Indies vs Majors’), where the recent controversy over DC comics’ portrayal of certain female characters and lack of female creators came up. One questioner said she’d boycotted the entire range of New 52 titles, due to her understandable frustrations with these issues. I felt this was a shame, as amongst other things, it means she’s missing out on the development of Madam Xanadu, a strong and complex character in the pages of Demon Knights, Resurrection Man and Justice League Dark. But then, none of those titles are written by women, so, touché.

The last panel, How To Deal With Editors and Agents, provided a neat parallel to the earlier writers talk, especially the industry view on the rapidly-growing world of e-publishing. It was reassuring to hear so many professional voices speaking out for writers being fairly paid for their work, in a world where books are now just a mouse click away. The day was rounded off in the bar, where it was a pleasure to chat with Paul Cornell, writer of the aforementioned Demon Knights, Angry Robot editor Lee Harris, and DC Comics colourist (and Iron Man enthusiast) Rosemary Cheetham.

A Sunday saunter around the book dealer’s room resulted in a chance meeting with Andrew Hook, whose novella Ponthe Oldenguine I’d recently enjoyed (it’s pronounced “Ponth e, rhymes with see, Oldenguine as in Old En Guine, rhymes with twine”, to quote the book, a time-slip yarn that reads a bit like the ghost of Spike Milligan rummaging through the BBC archives with Paul Auster.) And back in the bar, before the afternoon awards ceremony kicked off, I finally got to thank author Tim Lebbon for his generous advice over the years on various Literary Matters (of which more soon, readers).

The British Fantasy Awards rounded off the weekend, and this year’s ceremony stirred up no small amount of controversy. For a neat overview of the whole affair, check out this blog post from publisher Ian Alexander Martin, including links to relevant sources.

From the perspective of a newcomer to both the society and the convention, all I really feel qualified to say is that I hope the current debate inspires more people to get involved and to help shape its future. At a time when fantastical fiction arguably enjoys its highest ever profile, and is firmly entrenched in the mainstream, there’s never been a better time to join an organisation that champions the genre all its forms.

Check out the British Fantasy Society website for more information on the organisation and how to join.

The Vampires Of Penzance

2 Sep

I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Supernatural

With apologies to W.S. Gilbert and frankly everyone else.



I am the very model of a modern supernatural,

I’ve problems recognisable although my soul is damnable,

And though I murder innocents, by methods reprehensible,

I’m no less empathetic and completely understandable.



And though he murders innocents, by methods reprehensible,

He’s no less empathetic and completely understandable.



My drinking of your blood is really rather allegorical,

I howl at the full moon, but it’s for reasons categorical,

And if it hurts when I bite you it really is symbolical,

The pain is representative and wholly metaphorical.



And if it hurts when he bites you it really is symbolical,

The pain is representative and wholly metaphorical.



I know my horror heritage and how to dodge a sharpened stake,

Come at me with a cross, you will regret it pal and no mistake,

But when it comes to emo angst and whether I’m team Ed or Jake,

I’d rather have a cup of tea served with a slice of homemade cake.



But when it comes to emo angst and whether he’s team Ed or Jake,

He’d rather have a cup of tea served with a slice of homemade cake.



My fellow spooks and ghouls are found throughout polite society,

And generally we try to show refined respectability,

Although we sometimes break our vow and eat our neighbours for our tea,

It is a special treat we only give ourselves occasionally.



Although they sometimes break their vow and eat their neighbours for their tea,

It is a special treat they only give themselves occasionally.



Yes I’m a paid up member of the modern urban monster race,

But recently I’ve realised there’s lots of us about the place,

It’s hard to leave the house these days without a zombie giving chase,

I’m off to find some alien life on holiday in outer space.



It’s hard to leave the house these days without a zombie giving chase,

He’s off to find some alien life on holiday in outer space.