will hill

The Nice List

My WordPress dashboard is snowing. That can only mean one thing: it must be nearly Christmas.

Look, I can’t help it – and if you think that’s a bad way of judging the start of the holiday season, you should meet Other Half. He declares it to be officially Christmas when one of his online forums puts up the twinkly fairy lights gif around the border of the page. So, you know…

Anyway. Christmas is rolling towards us like a tinsel-strewn juggernaut, and this means it’s prime festive shopping season. Ever helpful, I’ve come up with a couple of suggestions for gifts for those really difficult people to buy for. I warn you: these are, largely, Things What My Friends Have Made – but you shouldn’t let their questionable judgement in hanging around with me put you off. Everything on this list is awesome, and would make an amazing present – and frankly, if you can’t plug your mates’ stuff on your blog, then where can you do it?

So, without further ado, I present (see what I did there?)…

THE NICE LIST

(for the sake of simplicity, the majority of these links are Amazon physical ones. Feel free to sub in the physical / ebook retailer of your choice….)

 – For action junkies:

SHIFT – Kim Curran

DEPARTMENT 19: THE RISING – Will Hill

Scott Tyler and Jamie Carpenter are, between them, as average as your average teenage boy gets. Except they aren’t… because as you soon discover if you pick up either of these two books, Scott has the power to change any decision he’s ever made and Jamie’s a vampire hunter with a secret government department. Gory, gripping and action-packed, these books are brilliantly paced and plotted. And if you can’t choose between them… why not pick both?

 

 – For Doomsday Preppers:

THE TESTIMONY – James Smythe

Let me tell you a story about this book (in which a blast of static is heard by almost everyone on the planet, followed by a voice. Is it God? Is it aliens? Is it a mass hallucination..?). I took this on holiday with me earlier this year, and it was the last book I read before heading home. I was sitting in the airport at the Seychelles, which is a tiny little thing, at around midnight, waiting for my flight to be called and reading the last couple of chapters of THE TESTIMONY. There were one or two people already in the departure hall, but we were the last flight out for the night so it was pretty quiet.

And then someone, somewhere, leaned on a button and switched on the PA. There was a burst of deafening white noise… and nothing else.

Not that it mattered, because by that time I had dropped my book and hidden under the departure lounge seating.

That’s how good this book is.

It’s complicated, twisty… and utterly terrifying.

 

 – For Western fans & short story addicts: 

A TOWN CALLED PANDEMONIUM – Jurassic Press

I’ve been involved in the Pandemonium project (one of my stories appeared in the apocalypse-themed anthology, now out of print) but this one’s a different animal altogether. A shared-world, weird Western anthology with some of my favourite writers involved, it will transport you to a town with secrets, tragedies and horrors. So what are you waiting for? Saddle up…

 

For urban explorers:

THE CITY’S SON – Tom Pollock

Urban explorers know that cities have a life of their own – and London is no exception. But you’ve never imagined it quite like this. Tom Pollock gives you a version of London where street lights come to life, where the ghosts of trains ride the rails and where the building sites scarring the surface of the city lay the foundations for something sinister…

One part urban fantasy, one part New Weird, one part utterly itself, read this and you’ll never look at the city in the same way again.

 

 – For art buffs:

Vincent Chong prints

Nominated for a World Fantasy Award last year, Vincent Chong has produced book covers for Stephen King, Joe Hill and China Mieville among others, as well as illustrating collector’s editions of some incredible novels (I have a copy of THE CLUB DUMAS, which is one of my favourite books and is probably the most expensive copy of a novel I’ve ever bought!). I have a bunch of his prints, including one (predictably, I guess) of a fallen angel, and they’re beautiful.  Also, I have this as my desktop right now, because I love it.

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So there you go. Yes, they’re all my friends – and I’m utterly unapologetic about recommending their work, because every single one of them is immensely talented. You won’t go wrong with any of them.

 

Pledge & Turn

… and, of course, “Prestige.”

(Thank god for that. Leaving it out makes me feel like I want to sneeze.)

And the prestige is, of course, MAGIC: AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE ESOTERIC & ARCANE

Watch closely…

Pretty, isn’t she? And it’s not just the cover that’s pretty: the interior design is also gorgeous, making this one of the nicest-looking anthologies I’ve seen. And I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. Promise.

MAGIC is released this week, with a special launch event at Foyles in Charing Cross Road, London, featuring Audrey Niffenegger, Sophia McDougall and Dan Abnett in conversation with editor Jon Oliver. It’s a free event, but it’s not a bad idea to reserve a space via the Foyles Events site.

If you were at FantasyCon in Brighton this year and swung by the reading room on the Friday evening, you may well have heard either me or Will Hill reading our stories from the book. The theme was, unsurprisingly, “magic” but the brief was specifically for something new; something that looked away from traditional witches and wizards… and judging by the finished anthology, every single contributor took that to heart.

My story, “Bottom Line” is about a man who works in a magic shop; a man who would do well to avoid magic altogether… not that it stops him.

I can still remember the look on his face when I asked for a job. He was sitting at the counter, stringing cards onto wire for the window display. He put the wire down, and he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Donnie. Of all the places in the world, with your history, why in God’s name would you want to work in a magic shop?”

He had a point. You don’t send an alcoholic to work in a distillery, do you? But that’s just it. There’s magic and there’s magic. There’s tricks and illusions and sleight of hand… and there’s what I do. What I did.

“Bottom Line” is a story about addiction and regret and – maybe – redemption. I’m very proud of it, and it was one of those stories I was sad to leave. I liked Donnie, and I hope you do too.

It’s a pleasure and an honour to be included in this anthology: the line-up is beyond intimidating (if you’re me, anyway) and includes Audrey Niffenegger, Will Hill, Rob Shearman, Alison Littlewood, Sophia McDougall and Sarah Lotz as well as many other people. And muggins here.

You can order online (Amazon UK & US) or pick up a copy at Foyles on Wednesday evening. As well as the official participants of the event, several other contributors will be there to sign copies if you’d like your book scribbled on! There will be ebooks, too, the links for which I’ll add once I’ve dragged them out of the lower recesses of the internet.

If you’re in London this week, come along and help us launch this fantastic book; come and say hi. And if you can’t make it, not to worry: with a line-up like that, there’s bound to be something in this anthology which will enchant you…

 

Postcards from the Edge

My friend Will Hill went off on a big American road trip last year, and while this still leaves me gnawing my knuckles in envy, he’s written an amazing blog post on one part of his trip, over on his blog: his visit to (or as close to it as he could get!) Area 51.

So if you’ve ever wondered just what Dreamland really looks like, head over and have a read…

Signal Boost: Summer of Steampunk & D19 Fantasy Casting

Two things of note for you: first, Abaddon Books are up to something.

They’re running a fortnight-long Summer of Steampunk event over on Facebook, all in honour of their long-running Pax Britannia series…

Break out your top hats and holster your Tesla Mark Seven blunderbuss, the Summer of Steampunk from Abaddon Books is here!

To mark a major new direction for the world’s longest-running series of steampunk novels, Pax Britannia, Abaddon is running two weeks of steampunk shenanigans at the new dedicated Pax Britannia Facebook page.

From free eBooks and competition giveaways to debate and word from our authors about what makes steampunk so much fun, join us for two weeks of celebration of this most charming, exciting and ever-growing line of books.

The event will culminate in a major announcement about a surprising new book which throws away the rulebook of how genre publishing works.

A must for any fan of steampunk or pulp adventure action, Pax Britannia is set in a radically different version of the late 20th Century where the age of the Victorians never ended and Queen Victoria remains alive thanks to steampunk technology.

From Jonathan Green’s swashbuckling agent of the Empire, Ulysses Quicksilver, to Al Ewing’s ultra-violent El Sombra, Pax Britannia takes steampunk adventure to a new level.

Jonathan Oliver, editor-in-chief of Abaddon Books, said:
“Pax Britannia is one of the longest running steampunk adventures in publishing, and our Summer of Steampunk will bring a host of goodies bound to appeal to new and old readers of the series alike.”

Whatever it is, it’s bound to be interesting.

Cool Thing Number Two is also on Facebook: the Department 19 Fantasy Casting competition. Very simply, go to the page and leave a comment explaining who should play your favourite D19 character, and why. There’s some amazing prizes, and everyone likes the “If it was a movie…” game.

So what are you waiting for? Off you go….

The Lost-Word Saloon

Where do the words go?

No, really. Where?

Granted, it’s a slightly metaphysical question. Blame Will Hill, author of the genuinely glorious Department 19 (what do you mean, you’ve not read it? What’s wrong with you? It’s got vampires in it – proper ones; scary ones – and guns. Why haven’t you read it?) who mentioned on Twitter that he’s just cut 45,000 words from a draft of the sequel.

And this got me to thinking: just where do those words go? You see, once, they were part of a story. They belonged to something… and suddenly, they don’t belong any longer. Back in ye olden days, when writers actually had to write things out (as opposed to being blessed with the golden “delete” key), words had to be crossed out. Maybe… maybe, you’d lose a complete page or two, and tear it up. But otherwise, edits remained part of that first, original text. Just ones with a line through (or, in the case of Tim Powers manuscripts, as I recall, sometimes rendered utterly illegible). The point is, they’re still there. Somehow.

But now everyone works virtually, and even what is held up as a “first draft” it isn’t usually a first draft in the truest sense of the word: already, an author will have been through it, deleting and adding and subtly shifting… and the hungry backspace key devours its victims without a second thought.

So where do they go to, these once-words? Do they sit in some kind of cosmic waiting room, hoping to be called by another writer? Do the words culled by literary authors sit at a different table to those cut from genre books? Do the edits from academic textbooks complain about the noise, and the YA offcuts have to see if they can persuade a couple of deletions from a biography to buy their drinks?

And – more importantly – where will they go next?