TIBE Follow-up: Ebooks! (Part 2)

In the previous blog (https://taipeiwritersgroup.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/tibe-follow-up-ebooks-part-1/), I listed all of the ebook links for the Taipei Writers’ Group anthologies that were on sale at the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE). Here, I’ll complete our itinerary with similar links for all those books by individual authors. I should also add that, in a few cases, the authors in question have other books available on Amazon and elsewhere – I encourage you to explore their other titles.

An Insular World is a dystopian novel by Emily Brooks. The story follows Cayan, a young woman who learns the truth about the Great Republic she lives in, and is forced to make difficult choices about what to do about it, and how much danger she is willing to put herself, her family, and her friends in.

 

British writer J.J. Green had two books on sale. The first, Carrie Hatchett, Space Adventurer, collates the first three books in the Carrie Hatchett series. These are science fiction stories told in a humorous style, as low-achieveing daydreamer Carrie takes on the job of Transgalactic Intercultural Community Crisis Liaison Officer and ends up having to confront strange alien races that threaten the whole galaxy. Other books in the series are available.

 

J.J. Green’s second book is also a collection. The Galathea Chronicles: Shadows of the Void brings together the first three books in this series. These science fiction stories have a much more sinister feel to them, as Chief Security Officer Jas Harrington confronts hostile aliens called Shadows that appear as perfect copies of their victims. More titles by J.J. Green can also be found on Amazon.

 

Piper’s Prelude is the first book in The Delron Chronicles, a new fantasy series by L.L. Phelps. Piper, princess of Rabean, is searching for a book that holds the truth about her kingdom and the wizards that help to rule it. Even her gryphon protectress may not be able to keep her safe if the wizards learn about Piper’s search before she can find what she seeks. Look out for The Oath, the second book in this series, when it comes out later this year.

 

Bradley Verdell had seven (!) books on sale at TIBE. As six of them are part of the same series, I’ll introduce the first of these, Chadwick Yates and the Cannibal Shrine. This book, incorporating elements of steampunk, fantasy, and the lost-world narratives of the Victorian era, introduces adventurer-ambassador Chadwick Yates and his companion-in-arms, Commander Thurston Sharp. Their adventures on the dark continent of Tanzia begin here, and can be found on Amazon.

 

Verdell’s other book, The Fourth Warlock, is inspired by The Three Musketeers. It stars Jane, a young woman with the heart of a hero, in a tale of intrigue, demons, and desperate battles with swords and guns. The book is the first in a new fantasy series by Verdell, and will appear soon on Amazon, having been released as an exclusive print version for TIBE.

Brian Q. Webb is the author of _Shift, a hard sci-fi thriller. Science reporter Pei Xiao and photographer Roy Bryant find themselves in the midst of a conspiracy involving espionage and dangerous other dimensions. The story is full of mystery and action, as well as humour and genuine emotion.

 

Mark Will’s Of Letters and a Man: A is poetry on a grand scale, the first canto of a 26-part epic. The Poet/Anti-Poet invokes Cadmus the Phoenician, and speaks of his desire to narrate his life in a work called I Am The Book I Write. The book is also available on audible.com, with professional voice actor Guy Bethell doing full justice to the power and depth of the poetry.

https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Man/dp/B01N9B3JON/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1487107239&sr=1-3&keywords=cadmus+and+harmony

 

TIBE Follow-up: Ebooks! (Part 1)

Hi everyone! A number of people who came to visit us at the Taiwan International Book Exhibition (TIBE) over the last week asked about the ebook versions of the books we were selling. For the benefit of those who love reading but are forced by spacial constraints to limit the numbers of physical books they own, here is a run-down of all the writers’ group anthologies we were selling:

Writers’ Group Anthologies

Taiwan Tales was published in 2014, and is a multi-genre anthology of short stories from eight authors. All the stories are about Taiwan, but from different perspectives, including elements of fantasy, science-fiction, personal experiences, and more.

 

Night Market, published in July 2015, is a multi-genre anthology of short stories by ten different authors. All of the stories involve night markets and are mostly set in Taiwan. The stories are historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, ghost stories, and more.

 

Peak Heat, published in January 2016, is an anthology of dystopian short stories by nine different authors. Inspired by J.J. Green’s story “The Collector” in Taiwan Tales, the stories examine the Earth after global warming has gotten out of control. Each tale takes place in a different part of the world and focuses on how people’s lives were affected by the disaster.

 

Twisted Fairy Tales, published in September 2016, is an anthology of short stories by nine authors. The stories are twisted (dark / humorous / dirty) retellings of classic fairy tales from around the world, along with some original stories.

 

In a follow-up blog, I’ll cover the ebooks written by individual authors from the group, including all those that appeared at TIBE.

Dabbling in Doyle

Some time in spring last year, I had a crack at writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. It was for a submissions call shared by Jenny Green from our writing group, and I decided to have a crack at it. So, I wrote the story. It didn’t get picked up, but six months down the line,  Jenny shared another submissions call for Holmes stories, so I sent it off again, and this time it made the cut. Rather than – all right, as well as – promote it (link at the end of this post), I’d like to share my thoughts on the process.

Why Sherlock Holmes? It’s one thing to write a detective story, or a murder mystery, but quite another to do it in the style of one of the biggest names in the genre, using one – or rather two – of the best-loved characters in fiction. I’d never really thought about writing either a murder mystery or a Holmes story, but it seemed like too good a chance to pass up. The fan in me won out.

I’ve seen, heard, and read a lot of different versions of Holmes. I like the classic Basil Rathbone movies, though I deplore the way that Watson is dumbed down (this is not a shot at Nigel Bruce, mind). I enjoy the Jeremy Brett TV series, and even get a kick out of the Guy Richie movies. I was a huge fan of Sherlock, though less impressed with the third series. I’ve watched a few episodes of Elementary, and I’ve read the whole canon of Doyle’s stories. Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk is excellent. But my first memory of Holmes & Watson and my most enduring connection to them, is the BBC’s radio dramatisation of the whole canon, and the only adaptation where the same actors (Clive Merrison and Michael Williams) play Holmes and Watson for every one of Doyle’s stories. More on that later.

The challenges of writing a pastiche are obvious. How can I match the style? How can I walk the line between following the conventions and creating a rehash of clichés? How do I keep it a pastiche rather than a parody? I’m not 100% convinced that I’ve done any of these things, but I’m pretty pleased with how it ended up.

On the other hand, a pastiche has several advantages. I don’t have to develop the characters, build a whole world, explain why and how Holmes is so clever, drop in any backstory, or anything like that. The work is done for me. I can just ignore it all and stick to the story – or in this case, the case.

This is where things got fun. The original submission call was for “The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” so I had to write the Great Detective with a difference. However, I wasn’t interested in having him meet Dracula, solve an extraterrestrial murder, or even be cryogenically frozen and appear in the future. I wanted to write a story that actually fit with the “known” facts of the canon. I don’t want to give away my solution for how I chose to do that.

That was the first step. Second was the crime. This was actually a lot harder to figure out, as I had to basically work backwards from the crime scene – in this case, my murder victim – and trying to leave clues and evidence as I went. Then stir the pot with a few false leads. The word limit of 7,000 was a help in this. In most of the short Holmes cases, you’re never in the dark for too long. There’s a case, some evidence gathering, and a solution. Doyle’s novels stretch out the middle stage (and, in two of the four stories, include many chapters of unrelated ‘romance’), but his short stories are tight. This worked to my advantage. My favourite Holmes cases are locked-room style ones with plenty of physical evidence for deductions, so that set me off on the path.

(Another convention I love is when Holmes looks over a client, observing and deducting. I actually wrote a whole scene of this, but sadly had to cut it due to length constraints, which is a shame)

So I had Idea One: The Paranormal Element, and Idea Two: The Crime. Crossing them was not really a problem, as the Idea One actually bookends Idea Two, creating two “mysteries” as it were, which I could deal with separately. But I knew there was something else I had to really get right, something more than plotting a decent crime or giving it a weird and wonderful twist.

Holmes and Watson.

For me, the stories have never been “Holmes” stories – they’re Holmes and Watson stories. Without the relationship, or without the right balance, it’s not quite the same. This is where those BBC dramatisations come in. Actually hearing the characters speak to one another really formed my opinion of them as a duo. Holmes may sometimes belittle Watson, run roughshod over him, and frequently deliberately mislead him, but he has a way of showing Watson just how much he means to him. Watson can be observant, and attempts deductions of his own. He often makes mistakes, but these are actually helpful. “It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light,” is how Holmes puts it. In the BBC versions, the warmth, and the occasional sparks that fly, between the two friends is readily apparent. Trying to show this was even more important to me than making an interesting murder mystery.

I can’t say how well I succeeded, only to repeat that I’m pretty happy with it. My hope lies in Machiavelli:

“A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it.”

If nothing else, I think I had more fun writing this story than almost anything else I’ve written.

The story “The Adventure of the Etheric Projection” was published in the Sherlock Holmes Special Issue of Jersey Devil Press’s online magazine. Here’s the link for a free pdf download:

http://www.jerseydevilpress.com/?p=7011

Book Review: Ghost Stories of an Atiquary

A couple of weeks back, I was invited to review a piece of horror writing by a member of a Facebook Group of Writers I’m part of. Carla Sarett is an author who is featuring a set of horror story reviews on her blog throughout October. I’d just finished two sets of classic horror stories by M.R. James, so I decided to review those.

The link to her blog, which contains an edited version of my review is here:

http://carlasarett.blogspot.tw

Check it out, Carla has some other cool reviews and interesting posts about writing there as well.

I also thought I’d give the unabridged version here as well:

Review – M.R. James – Ghost Stories of an Antiquary / More Ghost Stories

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Stories-Antiquary-Montague-Rhodes-ebook/dp/B0082T46NS/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444378683&sr=1-4

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Stories-Antiquary-Part-More-ebook/dp/B0082UEA9W/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444378683&sr=1-8

I recently read two collections of short stories by M.R. (Montague Rhodes) James. I knew the name, and I’d already had some experience of his stories – more on which later. I came across them as free kindle downloads on Amazon when I was scouring its pages for free books. In total, the two downloads came to 15 short stories, all set in and around the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, though often referencing much older periods of history, and principally in England or western Europe.

The stories vary, with subjects ranging from haunted places or persons, devil-worship, witch trials, and mysterious items of arcane origin. One odd one, “Martin’s Close,” even records the incidents of a centuries-old trial. The stories seldom provide any explanation as to why the various incidents, tragedies, and horrors have come about, though some, such as “The Ash-Tree,” and “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral” present enough facts for clearer conclusions to be drawn. There are some classical references in there, plus passages of French and Latin that is usually (but not quite always) translated, so you might have to google a few things.

The stories are always enjoyable, and some genuinely creepy. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have read them back to back, as this tended to dilute the effect of each. It would have been better to dip into them whenever I felt like some classic horror.

For classic horror is what it is. There are no gruesome visuals of blood and gore, no monsters stalking victims through old houses or dark forests. The tales are sinister and disturbing rather than overtly frightening. The characters are often scholars, churchmen, or other well-to-do types, and the stories are generally set as recountings of incidents rather than incident as they happen. If a reader is suitably suggestible, they should experience a few odd dreams after some of these.

I would say my main reflection is that these stories should be told, not read. James had a tradition of reading these stories aloud to his friends and students at King’s College, Cambridge, particularly on Christmas Eve. I expect hearing them was far more spine-chilling than reading the words on a page. In fact, this was how I was introduced to James, as the BBC turned adapted a few of the stories so they could be read aloud and accompanied by visuals – not filmed segments, as much as short still images or brief blurs. The fact that these were read by Sir Christopher Lee certainly sold me on how James’s stories should be presented. I’ve since heard others by different actors, and I know there are many other radio and audiobook versions out there.

That would be my final piece of advice. Get the books by all means, and if you like classic creepy ghost stories, you’ll enjoy them. But get decent audiobook versions and you’ll find them much more powerful and evocative, as these will really bring out all the spookiness and atmosphere that M.R. James intended.