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Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman will be published on February 3, 2015 by William Morrow

 

Synopsis:


Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.


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It has been way too long since Margaret Atwood published a collection of short fiction. If I'm not mistaken “Stone Mattress: Nine Tales” is first such collection since 2006 when she published "Moral Disorder". As I'm someone who cherishes her short stories even more than I do her novels this was a long wait. Truth be told I did manage to read few of the stories collected here before when they were originally published but having them presented together is a completely different proposition. The thing is that even though these nine stories were written over a relatively long span of time they complement each other perfectly. Each of them, in its own particular way, explores the volatile nature of relationship and the consequences of it going wrong or, very occasionally, right.
 
"Alphinland", one of the stories which together with "Revenant" which is about poet Gavin Putnam and "Dark Lady" about twins compromises a triptych of loosely thematically connected stories about people who knew each other, revolves around a widowed fantasy writer Constance who's still coming to terms with the loss of her husband. Suddenly she hears a voice of her deceased husband Ewan everywhere and it slowly leads her through life. Creating a escape hatch in her literary creation Constance copes in her own way. "The Freeze-Dried Groom" is about a man who buys a storage space on auction only to get more than he's bargained for while "Lusus Naturae" recounts a tale of woman whose genetic abnormality cause her to be mistaken for a vampire. Incidentally if you enjoy "The Freeze-Dried Groom", Atwood has invited her readers to write a companion story and give their own take on what actually happened. Rather interesting literary experiment which runs until October 31st. Centerpiece of the collection, "Stone Mattress" is about 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite, arctic cruise and a crime done to its main protagonist many years ago while ominous closing tale "Torching the Dusties" is about an older woman suffering from Charles Bonnet syndrome who is struggling accept the nature of her condition and the bizarre events that surround her while a group on younger nasties are preparing to burn old people's home where she's living down.


 
In "Stone Mattress: Nine Tales" Atwood's literary flame seems to burn brighter than ever before. After the tremendous success of her MaddAddam trilogy I would have excepted her to slow down a bit but in these stories Atwood is better, sharper and more playful than ever. Not to forget, she's at times very very twisted. And while other authors are content with reaping the rewards of their previous work, over 50 books later Atwood keeps on successfully reinventing herself. A wonderful collection which will be enjoyed both by her constant readers and those new to her work.


Review copy provided by Bloomsbury.
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The Rising Tide

The Rising Tide is set during the Napoleonic wars when Britain, already facing the prospect of defeat on the field of battle, must deal with the question of its continuing involvement in the slave trade. The two are entwined when the dead body of a man – an associate of William Pitt - is found floating in the Thames. The investigation is handed to Tom Pascoe, a River Surveyor (Inspector) with the newly formed Thames Marine Police based at Wapping. Early inquiries suggest the victim was mistaken for someone far more important to the life of the country. Suspicion falls on the French. In a race against time, Tom – still grieving over the death of the woman he loved and rapidly sinking into an alcoholic hell – must find the killer before he reaches his real target.

It does not take Tom long to discover that his principle witness is a runaway slave whose owner is determined to recapture and return him to the West Indies before he can give evidence. To Tom’s consternation, he discovers that the law seems to support the slave owner. The trial of the alleged murderer hangs in the balance

Choosing the subject

The Rising Tide is the third book in the Tom Pascoe series – with the fourth, Cuckold Point, due out in April 2015. All of them deal with the major issues facing the nation at the end of the 18th Century, including the Irish question, slavery and the war, and all required a great deal of research. So why that period? Why those subjects? And why the river police?

The last of those questions is, perhaps, the easiest one to answer. For over 30 years I served with the Metropolitan Police and, for part of that time, I was on the river, boarding ships coming up the Thames, searching the many barges that used to ply the lower reaches to the Pool of London and beyond and, of course, dealing with dead bodies. It was a life quite outside most people’s knowledge or experience and one I felt able to write about. It might seem obvious to say so, but it is crucial for the writer to know what he is writing about. If he doesn’t, the reader will know.

Why the 18th Century

As to the period I chose to write on, that, too, is fairly easy question to answer. The 15,000 men who worked in the Port of London in 1798 knew nothing of the law. Most of them were not paid for their labours and were expected to steal to make ends meet. With the introduction of a marine police in July of that year all that was about to change. The first professional police in the UK, pre-dating the Peelers by 31 years, was a hugely significant moment for the river workers and for the merchants whose property was being stolen in vast quantities. A stunned workforce that had long regarded the sugar, tea, coal, timber, silks etc on board ships as their perquisites (perks) were now to be arrested and sentenced for something they had always regarded as legitimate behaviour.

At the same time, I wanted to set my stories against a wider canvas, to paint a picture about the conditions in which people at the bottom of the social heap, lived, and the controlling influences at work. For example, the Irish Rebellion in the summer of 1798 (covered in The Watermen) resulted in an influx of Irish workers in London, many of whom ended up in the Port. Their arrival drove down the living conditions of Londoners by undercutting the rates of pay, often to nothing, and led to considerable trouble on the streets of London.

T he war against France (and Spain and The Netherlands) was another significant influence on the lives of people in London. It meant, amongst many other things, an influx of secret agents into the country whose aim was to disrupt the war effort in whatever way they could. This included attacks on our shipping and thus our ability to continue our trade with the rest of the world.

Researching

Getting accurate information in support of the stories is not only a hugely enjoyable process, it’s absolutely essential. Most of my research involved studying original documents in museums all over London. But there were also frequent interviews and telephone calls to experts in the various disciplines I was interested in. These included coin dealers, master tailors, museum curators, army officers, sea captains, academics and lawyers, all of whom gave of their time freely and generously.

Writing the book

But having chosen the subject and done the research, every writer has to start the writing process. For me, it means going to my studio at about 8.30 each morning and staying there – except for lunch and short breaks for tea/coffee – until 6/6.30 p.m. It takes me a while to settle down and I’ll spend some time dealing with emails, bills and domestic stuff before getting down to the day job. I’ve learned, over time, to avoid editing what I wrote the day before and try, instead, to concentrate on the next phase of the book. I used to prepare a careful synopsis but I found my characters tended to have their own ideas about what they wanted to do, so I’ve now given up on planning ahead. That said, I think it’s essential to know, in advance, where the story is to begin and where it will end. Other than that, I tend to hang loose.

The initial draft is almost certainly going to be rubbish and will need some serious pruning and editing before submission. A piece of advice I was once given was this. ‘Always be prepared to throw away your favourite sentence.’ I have to constantly remind myself of that sentence when deciding whether or not to delete a line or two, and sometimes a whole page, from what I’ve laboriously written. Another tip I was given was to prepare a time line of the story. It is for no one but the writer to see and, in my case, is something I do when the first draft is finished. It stops me hanging someone on page 53 and walking the streets on page 74. Or again, sending my hero out at dawn only to arrive at the scene of the murder in the middle of the night. Ditto for days of the week, distances travelled, hours of the day etc etc. It’s not possible to get from one end of London to the other in ten minutes.

Where I write

You can, of course, write where you like but if you can, look for your very own space. I am fortunate that I have an ‘office’ where I’m not disturbed or – more importantly – distracted by the presence of the kettle or the cornflakes packet. It is an old Victorian water pumping station in my garden, left over from the days when the only water supply to the house was from a well. It contains everything I need from a computer screen and telephone to a small library of reference books. Yup, you will eventually need a few books about your chosen subject. And if you are unsure about which books to get, look at the bibliography of a serious book on your subject, and pick out a few titles. You can normally buy used copies on line through www.abebooks.co.uk (or .com in America).

Getting published

This is the toughest hurdle of all. My best advice is to write and polish your book to the best of your ability and then keep submitting it. BUT . . . do some work on it between submissions. There is always a reason why your book is being rejected. Usually it’s because the agent or publisher doesn’t ‘love’ it. That, I think, is shorthand for saying that the story is not sufficiently gripping to retain the reader’s interest. There’s nothing personal in the rejection. The publisher will be investing a large sum of money in your book and needs to be convinced he/she is going to recoup that cost. It’s a business decision. A book I found useful and which you may, too, is ‘From Pitch to Publication’ by Carol Blake.

The route for a submitted manuscript is generally through an agent. If I tell you there is something called the Slush Pile in every publishers office to which all direct submissions are added, you’ll get some idea of what chance you have of being read if you take the direct route.

Good luck!


Patrick Easter
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Riding the Serpent's Back by Keith Brooke, Deep Future by Eric Brown and The Iron Wire by Garry Kilworth are available now from Infinity Plus


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It's good that the winter is finally coming around because reading "Waiting For Doggo" during summertime wouldn't be the same. Mark B. Mills' novel is one of those furry creatures that makes you all fuzzy and warm inside so bad weather is essential for complete enjoyment. It simply wants to make you curl up in your bed under a blanket.

Story opens as Dan is left by Clare, his long term girlfriend. They've been together for four years and all he has to show for it is a "Dear John" letter and Doggo, a mutt she rescued from London's Battersea Dog and Cat Home. After a spectacular run of bad luck, Dan is simply not interested in owning a dog. Even his job is in tatters. He's planning to get rid of him as soon as possible because it is the last thing he need right now. It'll just remind him of Clara, and not in a good way. To make things worse, Doggo is not particularly easy to like. He is damn ugly, nearly hairless and, well, strange. But despite the looks and initial impression, he's clever in a way that only dog can be. And he's full of strange kinks which only add to his personality. Take for example his unhealthy obsession with Jennifer Aniston. It quickly turns out that there's something endearing about him and Dan's defenses are slowly broken down. Slowly he changes his tune and this unlikely duo strike a friendship. Eventually he even realises that Clara leaving him was a blessing in disguise.

So what's the thing that makes Doggo so special? Well, I think it's because the whole book is in fact a carefully hidden celebration of our inner ugliness. "Waiting For Doggo" invites readers to scratch under the surface and see what lies behind the facade. It is also a swan song for all your weird habits and those strange ideas that make you who you are. If there's one thing that's bad about "Waiting for Doggo" is that it's simply too short. This slim volume can be read in just a couple of hours of casual reading and then it's over. All in all, this way a lovely read. Grab yourself a cuppa, curl up under a warm blanker and prepare to meet Doggo.


Review copy provided by Headline.
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Originally from Belfast, I write a series of books based upon my private investigator, Karl Kane, a rough-and-ready sort of protagonist who manages to create more trouble than he solves. Forever out of money, and up to his neck in bills, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t at least some parts of me reflected in him! Karl was based on my late father, a man with a big heart who always sided with the underdog. Throw in Jim Rockford from the Rockford Files, and you get the idea.

Although most of my crime books are based in Belfast—with the exception of my memoir, On The Brinks—my latest novel (Black’s Creek) is based in America, and had been floating about in my head for almost ten years.

I lived in America for over a decade, residing in upstate New York’s where the story of Black’s Creek takes place (name of town and characters changed for legal reasons). The idea for the story first germinated in my mind when watching the seminal movie, Stand By Me, based on a story by Stephen King, and finally came to fruition after reading Robert R. McCammon’s classic, Boy’s Life. Finally with ‘some time’ on my hands, the project finally got the spark it needed while I was spending a few years in a not-so-friendly American penitentiary. But that, as they say, is another story for another time...

Conceived loosely from true events, Black’s Creek tells the harrowing story of Joey Maxwell’s suicide, a young lad barely out of his teens, who handcuffs himself to a submerged car-wreck in Jackson’s Lake, on the outskirts of town. The lake has other dark secrets, but they have yet to be uncovered.

Like any small town, rumours start circulating at incredible speed about what terrible events could have pushed Joey to such a tragic act. Everyone has an opinion, but his three pals, Brent, Charley and narrator of the story, Tommy, believe they know the true reason: the sexual attack on Joey the previous summer in the local forest. They also believe they know the person behind the attack: local loner and creepy movie-projectionist, Norman Armstrong; or as the kids in town refer to him, Not Normal.

When Tommy’s father, Sheriff Henderson, fails to win a conviction against Armstrong in court, the three pals decide to take the law into their own hands, with devastating consequences, not only for themselves, but the entire town.  

In Black’s Creek, not everything is as it seems, especially the people living there. A moral question-mark looms saliently over the townsfolk: when the law fails, is it ever okay to do sometimes evil to defeat a bigger evil? And are you complicit in that evil if you turn a blind eye to it?

Most of the story is gleaned from a friend of mine, who just happened to be a local sheriff in upstate New York. Of course, I used quite a bit of my writer’s imagination to keep the story as edgy and lawful as possible, shifting names and characters’ traits, when and where needed.

Unusual suspects ink the pages, with a cast of, hopefully, memorable characters. From the friends seeking justice as the Three Musketeers, to the haggard and decent sheriff; to the mysterious girl, Devlin, the hallucinogenic and troubled artist who alone holds the murky key to recent and past murders in the town. And her mother, the lady who likes to cut throats for a living to save herself from dying.

Black’s Creek, was not an easy journey, despite being a labour of love. Numerous excuses along the way of completion halted production, many times. Sometimes other projects got threw at me. A couple of stage plays, anthologies, screen writing, and of course the ‘bread and butter’ of my writing, Karl Kane. I think I sent my publisher’s heart rate up a good couple of notches in the process, but like to think he is now pleasantly pleased by the outcome. There is talk of a rise in my royalties, but mostly that is noted in my head, and not in his check book.

The story eventually became cathartic for me, as perhaps knowingly or unknowingly, I was trying to banish some sort of demon or other from my own past. Not so much an entire skeleton in the closet, but more a bone in the drawer.

Enjoy. Hopefully...


Sam Millar
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Georges Perec is probably best known to general public for his "A Void" (La disparition), 300 page-long literary experiment (or lipogrammatic novel if you want to give it its full classification) written entirely without using the letter e. Personally I would have struggled finishing a sentence without using it but Perec somehow even managed to do it over the course of an entire novel and squeeze in a proper plot as well. Admittedly it was a tough reading at times but I've always admired his persistence and sheer ambition. However, apart from from "A Void", Perec was no stranger to other, even more outlandish, experiments. "Life: A User's Manual" is, for example, compromised out of 99 moments, all taking part at the same time in parallel. What we thought was Perec's debut novel, "Things: A Story of the Sixties & A Man Asleep" was originally published in 1965 but in 2012, 30 years after his death, his proper debut novel, "Le Condottière", was suddenly published out of the blue. In November Maclehouse will publish English translation by David Bellos, an award winning translator of his works and all around Perec scholar, under the title "Portrait of a Man".

So what exactly is "Portrait of a Man"? Well, the easiest way is to explain it if you considered it to be his novel zero. The story goes that Perec worked on it from 1957 to 1960 under a tentative title "Gaspard is Not Dead". The plot revolved around an art forger named Gaspard Winckler who is trying to re-create Antonella da Messina's “The Warlord”. It is a painting that can be seen on the cover art and Winckler is not satisfied with a mere forgery. He wants to improve on it. The copy is commissioned by Anatole Madera who is suddenly killed by Winckler. As murders occurs, Perec continues to explore the motivation behind it in relation to art and life in general. He asks what is it that really makes an original and can the original be surpassed? In short all the elements that later made Perec such an accomplished writers are here. Admittedly, this is obviously just a beginning of an illustrious career so his moments of brilliance only come in small glimpses but it's definitely well worth reading it if you've enjoyed his other works.

"Portrait of a Man" became lost after Perec, unable to find a publisher for it, set it aside. He famously proclaimed:

"I’ll go back to it in ten years when it’ll turn into a masterpiece, or else I’ll wait in my grave until one of my faithful exegetes comes across it in an old trunk.".

In this case faithful exegetes turned out to be David Bellos who discovered a manuscript while going through papers of Perec's friend Alain Guérin. And I'm really happy he did. "Portrait of a Man" is not perfect but it is definitely a vital document chronicling early beginnings of one of greatest literary experimenters. As he did during his life, Perec will definitely continue dividing opinions in his death. As such "Portrait of a Man" is a very important for history of literature. Similarly to his other works, it is dense, sometimes frustratingly so, but keeping at it pays back handsomely. 


Review copy provided by MacLehose Press.
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The story behind The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is also the story of how I became a published author.

The book began its life as a short story. The spark of the story was, and this is the usual case with me, one of those "What if" questions. In this case, the "What if" question was: What if you were a high school student who had gotten into college, and didn't want to go? What if someone else went in your place? First of all, I thought that it could never happen nowadays. Too many Facebook pages, and cellphones, and digital histories. But when I went to college—back in the 1980s—kids just showed up and matriculated, and no one knew anything about anyone. It was a completely fresh start. And I thought that it could be done, that two seniors in high school could switch identities so that one could go to college, and one wouldn't have to.

If I were a different type of writer, this might have turned into a love story (well, it kind of is), or a comedy, or a piece of literary fiction about the temporal nature of identity, but I turned it into a thriller. I was partly inspired by the movie Brick, written and directed by Rian Johnson, in which a noir sensibility is fused with a story of high school students. I wanted my novella to feel like pulp fiction, but with college freshman in 1986. I wrote it relatively fast and it turned out to be about fifteen thousand words, which not long enough to even consider padding into a book, and too long for most short story markets. I knew, however, that the ezine Mysterical-E accepted novella-length stories, so I sent it there. To my eternal gratitude, and surprise, Joe DeMarco published it.

About a year after it was published, I received an email from Nat Sobel, an agent at Sobel Weber Associates. He had read "The Girl" because it had been nominated for a Spinetingler Award. Nat told me how much he liked it and asked me if I had an agent. After googling Nat and discovering that he was an actual, successful New York agent, I told him that I'd love to work with him. He was really excited about the possibility of turning "The Girl" into a novel. I told him that I'd thought about it, but I didn't think there was enough "story" there. Nat agreed, but wondered what would happen if my two characters, George and Liana, met again twenty years later. I gave it some thought, and came up with an idea, and that was how the novel version was born.

It took me about a year and a half to write the book, bouncing ideas back and forth with Nat, and it was hard-going. But by late summer of 2012, there was a manuscript in place that Nat was considering bringing with him to The Frankfurt Book Fair. I was thrilled, but I was also cautious. I had been trying to get published for over ten years and had gotten very used to disappointment.

That September, my wife Charlene and I went to Bermuda for a week. Just before leaving, Nat told me to check my email while I was there because he might have some news for me. We had rented an apartment in St. Georges, and internet was spotty, but one afternoon I got an email asking me to call Nat right away. When I called him, he told me that I had a two-book deal with William Morrow. It took me a while but finally I believed him. That night we celebrated (Dark 'n Stormy's were involved), and Charlene and I felt like we had suddenly entered an alternate reality. We hadn't taken a trip in two years for financial reasons, and suddenly we were on this beautiful island, and celebrating a book deal. It didn't feel like our real lives.


Peter Swanson
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