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Excerpt – Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz by Stephen MacLean

Posted October 7, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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More than ninety years after those words about Tenterfield were written, the first man ever to dance with New York’s famed Rockettes found himself once again in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This time he was crouched inside a giant champagne glass prop waiting for the orchestra down beat to start his dinner show. The solo performance awaiting him would doubtless be demanding, but the man himself was intrepid, the man was a tank. But it was also true that the 1980s for Peter Allen had started in triumph then ended in calamity, testing him personally to the limit. He had buried in the past few years more friends, colleagues and lovers than he likely had the heart to dwell on. He had also seen his dream of a Peter Allen Broadway musical soar into a fantasy of goodwill and imminent triumph, then splatter into the reality of scornful reviews and a sniping, vengeful press. The worm had turned and now the song and dance man’s most valuable resource, his energy, was beginning to ebb. The uninvited visitor illness was quietly creeping up on him.

The performer nonetheless had his vast experience and pronounced native cunning to fall back on. Once Peter’s show was humming along he would pad it out by talking and telling gags instead of singing. He would tell the audience the same story he had always told them, the story of his childhood, ‘Out in the bush, chasing kangaroos, eating koala bears for lunch.’ This was Peter Allen’s image, his show-business insurance and it made simple commonsense to maintain it. ‘Never interfere with the legend, never correct it,’ his former mother-in-law Judy Garland had decreed, and the bush boulevardier was not about to. Not that he expected to be genuinely understood, not in his racket. Truth was far too complex a matter for legend and Peter Allen had too many incongruous and opposing qualities to be understood; it was one of his strengths that this gregarious, guarded, self-contained man had never expected to be understood. So Peter Allen would joke his way around the Broadway flop and tell them about the folksy Australian town he came from, Tenterfield.

The fact that Peter had never actually stayed on in Tenterfield would not be mentioned because it would only confuse the issue. Peter Allen, real name Peter Woolnough, had in fact grown up in Armidale. But Armidale had been almost (but not quite) sophisticated for an Australian country town, and what was the value of that to legend? Best to talk about this little kid dancing in the never-never land of the Tenterfield bush, hoofing and tapping and queening it up while his grandfather made saddles; destiny’s tot rejecting the family business because he ‘didn’t want to work in leather,’ as he put it. As for the other town, Armidale, it just wasn’t funny, and didn’t sound right in a lyric. More to the point, though, Armidale was cursed by memory and blighted by personal ruin. So Peter Allen was the boy from Tenterfield and that was that for the purpose of myth.

In reality it was Dick who had grown up in Tenterfield, Peter’s father Richard Woolnough. Dick Woolnough would eventually be buried there too, in an unmarked grave, in the Presbyterian section of Tenterfield cemetery. But Dick Woolnough in the interim had taken himself to the larger town of Armidale which was a few hours south from Tenterfield along the New England Highway. Tenterfield had the looks but Armidale had the one quality that transcends all others: luck. Tenterfield was static, Armidale up-and-coming. These were the early days of World War Two and the young man hoping to better himself soon met and married a local Armidale girl, Marion Davidson. Marion Davidson was lively and, compared to Tenterfield, so was the town Dick chose to settle in.

With its population of nine thousand and growing, Armidale had its hoity-toity side and was the self-proclaimed ‘City of Arts and Cathedrals’. Australia’s fortunes at the time were tied to the land, so it was a fortunate thing that Armidale itself was ringed with land that yielded money — conservative, agricultural, animal-slaughtering money. The surrounding area had been settled by the station-owning class, many of whom lived in high rural style with full English silver tea services and private chapels for their own exclusive devotional worship. These were tough people who could now indulge in the luxury of gentility and self-improvement. The township of Armidale had subsequently flowered as a growing centre for higher education. Colleges, boarding schools and halls of hallowed learning had slowly but surely sprung up for the express purpose of turning rough colonial boys and girls into models of Anglo refinement.

All this brought business to the town, and there followed pubs, stores, boarding houses and aspects of what would later come to be known as the service industry. This burgeoning package also came with an inevitably rigid class system, fused to an outward show of good old Aussie egalitarianism.

Within this structure, Peter Woolnough when he arrived would be the product of the service industry working class. He would come with a powerfully instilled work ethic then swiftly develop an almost religious sense of vocation. Such was not the case with his father, who had very different leanings. Arriving in Armidale, Dick Woolnough found himself prosaic enough work selling and delivering groceries for Lamberts, a local retail outlet. The work was manageable but would quickly prove mind-numbing and the young man from Tenterfield would ultimately withdraw into his own shadow. Delivering foodstuffs year after year to wives with ice chests which melted with alacrity during the long hot summers would help turn the man into something similar to a phantom. As a consequence, few of these bushtown Beryls would remember with any real clarity the character, identity or personality quirks of Richard Woolnough. On the surface of things he was pleasing enough to the eye, a chap who liked his beer and cigarettes and had an index finger turning yellow from nicotine. He was also a man who liked dogs, appreciated their simple canine loyalty. Dick Woolnough lived inside himself but, in the early days, before the brooding darkened, he also had a taste for social dancing and a knack for playing the banjo.

Marion Woolnough nee Davidson was known as ‘Bubby’ to her family and friends. If Dick Woolnough was a ‘quiet chap’ as the locals referred to him, Marion herself came with a good deal more sparkle. She was the eldest of four sisters given to candidly quirky humour and the urge to laugh. Marion also had a talent for Scots dancing. She could do the intricate sword dances and the highland fling, for the outward markings of Marion’s character were derived from the more upbeat and celebratory aspects of the otherwise dour Scots soul. When it came to dancing, Marion and her sister Jean were something near to local champions in the heavily tartan town of Armidale, good enough to hold classes and pass on the dance steps they had mastered. When the Scots people of Armidale celebrated their special New Year it was often Marion who led off the twirling hogmanay dance, but at the same time surely no-one could seem more indelibly Australian than Marion Davidson.

Marion’s voice had the sound of the Queensland border to it, a lazy-sounding country drawl which came without the nasal aspect of the antipodes. Hers was the voice of Aussie fatalism and native wit, knowing and resigned, scorched by the sun and cork-tipped cigarettes which still came in tins. Marion didn’t say yes, she said ‘Yairs’, and her affirmative could bestow the flattery of endorsement or the sting of scepticism, depending on the tone. ‘Yairs,’ Marion would say, seeming to agree with life and the order of things, but the dull-minded were advised to beware, for Marion had the instincts of the unassuming rebel, the mordant iconoclast. Marion was bolder than she looked. Bright and wry, she delighted in making outrageous statements with a deadpan expression. Marion had a gimlet eye for truth and a dry, roaring laugh. Human pretensions and human disasters were favoured targets, for what could be funnier than either? Especially here in the City of Arts and Cathedrals? Both areas of observation provided the essence of humour, and humour was insurance against boredom. So was music, especially the cat-house piano of Fats Waller and the racing vibrato of Al Jolson, both of them personal favourites of Marion’s.

The stately centre of Armidale possessed temples to the Lord out of proportion to its population, praying space galore, but the township also played host to a lively, institutionalised gambling culture. Armidale had its own race track, and a profusion of pubs devoted to beer and bets; there was a porter at Tattersall’s Hotel, a weedy little guy who was said to have made himself a tidy fortune running wagers for visiting drinkers. As to Dick Woolnough, the man himself was something of a sucker for the horses. Life on the grocery route did not match Dick’s imagination and he had a penchant for attempting to gamble his way out of introversion and boredom.


Peter Allen: The Boy from Oz is OUT NOW!

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David Rollin’s writing process

Posted October 6, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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I often get asked what my writing process is. The fact is, writing a novel is a pretty romantic notion for a lot of people. But is it? Most people envisage that they’ll be sitting in their study, soothing music playing, and otherwise undisturbed while the creative juices flow. Hmm…my reality is that I write at a desk in my bedroom, facing a brick wall. I used to listen to music, but for some reason I don’t any more. I used to do that so I could block out the real world and concentrate instead on the world playing out behind my eyes. I don’t need to do that anymore. I can hold reality ay bay at will. I write sitting in departure lounges, or on planes, or in the back of taxis. I can write anywhere. Sometimes I have to because there’s not enough time for that desk in my bedroom.

For years I wrote 2000 words a day and I was religious about it. Sometimes that writing would start at 6 am and finish at 8 or 9 pm – whenever that 2000 words was on the hard drive. Some days I could peel off 2000 words a few hours. Sometimes the words come fast, and sometimes you have to lever them out with a crowbar. These days, there’s so much else I have to do that I’m happy if I just advance the story. Even a couple of hundred words, if that’s all I can manage.

When I’m in the middle of a manuscript, I go over and over the dialogue in my head until it sounds about right. Sounds cool, right? But often this happens at 4 in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. Or when I’m trying to exercise. Or when I’m watching my daughter play soccer. Or driving. Or at a restaurant with friends. In fact, sometimes I wish the voices in my head would just fuck off and leave me in peace. My wife will often say, “Hey, where are you?” because I won’t be in the here and now, I’ll be in someone else’s skin, in some other place, and, recently, in some other time. It’s relentless.

I also don’t always know exactly where the story will go, though I’m reasonably clear on where it will end up. I write a kind of an outline and this includes several key scenes I can see clearly. The outline is important – if it works, I know the book will work. This is my “spine” or “railway tracks” – I’ve heard a number of writers call this different things, but it’s all the same. If I don’t have something like this – even a paragraph – I know I might lose the plot.

You want to know one of my most favourite sounds? It’s the clatter of fingers on the keyboard of a computer. What a beautiful sound – all those words and thoughts being created. It’s like a rush of new life.

Is writing a novel romantic? Maybe it is, I don’t know. What I do know is that no one else will write it for me. If the words get written that’s me. If the words don’t get written that’s also me. So instead of going to the pub, I write. Instead of going to watch a game of rugby, I write. I’ve missed quiet a lot over the years. And maybe lost a friend or two also. But in their place I now have 10 novels and each one has been its own adventure. I went to Siberia to research The Zero Option. And the Thai-Burma border for A Knife Edge. For Standoff, I went to Colombia, Panama and Texas and hung out with The Texas Rangers and watched drug couriers come across the Rio Grande at night. I’ve also met some great people, though admittedly some of these have been conjured in my own brain.

And when you write the novel, you live with these people in your thoughts for the duration. That’s not always a good thing, believe me, because a novel has to be convincing. If you can’t convince yourself that the characters and the situation (or plot) is real, you can forget about convincing your readers. So when I’m deep in the story, the lines of what’s real and what’s in my imagination can get a little blurry. My family is used to it now, but the outcome is that I’m thought of (I believe) as being either vague and dreamy. There’s no room left in my head for names or faces or places that aren’t in my current book. It’s weird, I guess, but that’s how it rolls for me.


Field of Mars: The Complete edition is out on the 8th of October! Grab your copy now!


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Face to Face with Rasputin: by Sophie Masson

Posted September 30, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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The long shadow of one of Russia’s most fascinating and enigmatic characters, Rasputin, hovers over Trinity: The False Prince, in several ways—which I won’t reveal for fear of spoilers! But I will tell you about a spooky visit I made to the scene of Rasputin’s murder, in St Petersburg: the basement room in the canal-side palace once owned by Prince Yusupov, the chief of the plotters against Rasputin.


It’s in one of the grand gilded living rooms of the palace that you get the first glimpse of the horrible events of December 30, 1916. A group of rather creepy waxworks representing some of the conspirators is huddled around an old phonograph. ‘Waiting for Rasputin,’ the guide says, ‘they listened to the same record over and over.’ They were nervous. Rasputin was a favourite of the Tsar and his family and they could not be sure how he would react over his death.’ But it wasn’t here this room that Rasputin was lured to his death; oh no, though the prince, pretending friendship, had invited Rasputin to come and take tea at the palace, he had no intention of letting this ‘dirty peasant’ set foot in the fine rooms of the palace. No, Rasputin was to come to the basement. The conspirators only waited upstairs so as to be on the spot after Yusupov had done the deed and they could get the body out of the house.

Wax figures Rasputin & Yusupov

The basement room is even more chilling. There’s not much furniture, apart from a table, a couple of chairs, and a tall Orthodox cross in a niche. There are more creepy waxworks—the tall, bearded, long-haired figure of Rasputin sitting at a table with food and drink in front of him; the elegant figure of Prince Yusupov staring glassily at the lowly intruder. Though Yusupov and his ilk despised Rasputin as a vile commoner, they were not immune to his reputation as a sorcerer, and fear was also present in the room that night. The guide tells us the famous story—of how Yusupov, plying his guest-victim with poisoned food and wine, grew desperate as none of it seemed to have an effect; how Rasputin, feeling perhaps the weight of hatred and fear in the place, got up and went to the cross, and falling on his knees, began to pray; how Yusupov chose that moment to stab him in the back; how Rasputin fell, and the prince, thinking he’d finished him off, rushed off to fetch his friends so they could drag the body out; and how, returning to the basement room, they found Rasputin gone, and a trail of blood leading outside, by the canal where they cornered their victim and shot him several times, but to make sure he was dead, threw him into the water.

The cross

I’ve read the story many times; but there is something deeply disturbing in hearing it again here, in the place where it happened. And when we go into a nearby annex and are shown the autopsy photos of Rasputin’s body–‘It was clear from the autopsy he had died from drowning, not shooting or stabbing or poisoning,’ says the guide—I feel overcome by horror at what was done here. It was a vile scheme, a cowardly plot—and a vicious own goal which far from ‘saving’ the Tsar from bad counsel, actually helped to precipitate the cataclysmic events which would lead to the destruction of the monarchy and the triumph of the Bolsheviks.

There’s a weird coda to the story of Rasputin. When the Bolsheviks took power, one of their first acts was to dig up the body and destroy it—such was the power, even after death, of the legend of the man. But as the body was put on a bonfire to destroy it, suddenly, driven no doubt by chemical reactions, it sat up, causing panic. Though the body was eventually burned and the ashes scattered in an undisclosed location, it was yet another piece in the puzzle that was Rasputin—a puzzle that fascinates people to this day.


Trinity: The False Prince is released on the 8th of October.

You can grab a copy of Trinity: The Koldun Code now!

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Cover reveal: Nations Divided by Steve P. Vincent

Posted September 23, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Peace has been decades in the making, but chaos is just the press of a button away.

Jack Emery is happier than he has been in a long time. Nobody has shot at him or tried to blow him up for years, and he’s learned to love the job he thought he’d hate: Special Advisor to the President of the United States.

But nothing can prepare Jack for the work to come. As America continues to heal from self-inflicted wounds, an ambitious President McGhinnist draws closer to achieving the impossible: peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

As the countdown to peace reaches zero, a desperate group of hardline Israelis invoke the Samson Option, a secret protocol that will eradicate the peace agreement and pave the way for the destruction of America and the Middle East.

Jack has learned the hard way that when a crisis knocks, you don’t always get the chance to ignore it.

Perfect for readers of Vince Flynn, Steve Berry and Tom Clancy.

Nations Divided: Jack Emery 3 will be released on the 10th of December. Pre-order your copy now!

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Excerpt: Hammer of God by Greig Beck

Posted September 21, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Soran, Northern Iraq, late afternoon.

Arki Bapir and Mohammed Faraj watched as the huge man lumbered down the road toward them. He was headed toward the city center. A thick shawl covered his head and body, but still could not hide his powerful frame.

Strapped to the man’s back was a huge pack – oil drum size, and covered in an ancient script. And even though it looked to be of considerable weight, the man came on steadily, bowed forward for balance, but not staggering or straining.

“What is he carrying?” Mohammed asked his friend.

Arki shrugged. “Not sure, but it looks heavy. Maybe dumbbells?” He turned and grinned.

Mohammed snorted. “Well, let’s find out if he is selling something worth buying… or taking.” He turned the car around and pulled up beside the man, slowing. He nudged Arki. “Go on, ask him.”

Arki wound down the window, letting in a blast of hot dry air that mingled with the warm humidity in the car. “Hey, hey, my brother, what is it you bring us today?”

The pair waited for the man to respond. Mohammad coasted to stay alongside him, but the man continued to lumber forward, his face lost in the long folds of his shawl.

“Is he deaf?” Arki asked as he half-turned toward Mohammed. “He doesn’t know who we are.”

“Or maybe just rude?” Mohammed replied. “Shoot him in the leg.”

“Perhaps he’s stupid.” Arki leaned out the window. “Hey you.”

Mohammed’s eyes narrowed. “Be careful, he is big.” He dragged his aging AK-47 up onto his lap.

The lumbering giant was approaching the center of the city now, wooden single story dwellings giving way to multi-level concrete and glass blocks.

“Hey, brother, no need to be rude … oops.” Arki pulled back into the car.

The man stopped, seemed to orient himself. He shrugged out of the pack and it made a resounding thump as it hit the ground. He straightened to his full height of around seven feet, making the men in the car gasp.

“He truly is a giant. Let’s leave him be.” Arki shrunk back into his seat. “We are supposed to be gone by now anyway.” He watched as the huge man reached forward to pull open the backpack.

Mohammed squinted. “I think it’s some sort of machine in there.”

The man drew his hood back, and momentarily looked skyward as though praying or listening to something. His face was now revealed, its patchwork surface scarred and waxen. There was more of the ancient writing, but this time it was carved or branded into his very flesh, along with the zippering of deep stitches.

Mohammed recoiled. “Ach, mother of horrors, what happened to him?”

The giant man’s dead eyes never flickered as he reached into the pack and pressed a single button.

The pair of fighters from Mosul never knew what happened at the moment they were vaporized. The twenty-kiloton nuclear device detonated at ground level. The hypocenter of the explosion reached ten thousand Kelvin and was hotter than the sun. In the first few seconds it melted a crater down a hundred feet, and, within a mile, buildings, streets, trees, and men, women and children were all fused into a black, glass-like slag.

The thermal compression wave then traveled on at around seven hundred miles per hour, crushing everything before it – a heat and pressure tsunami straight from hell.

Before the blast, the city of Soran had a population of 125,000 inhabitants. By sundown, the remaining eight thousand souls, who were unlucky enough to survive, would then die slowly from burns, or from radiation poisoning, as their cells simply disintegrated within their own bodies.

Soran, the ancient city that had stood for nearly two thousand years, had ceased to exist, and the now toxic land would ensure it never existed again.


The winds blew the radioactive dust and debris back over the western desert, where it would settle over the dry plains. In the mountains to the northeast, Leyla ba Hadid, a girl of just ten, sat and watched as the mushroom cloud rose thousands of feet into the sky.

Her home was gone; everything was gone. Her father had said there would be trouble as soon as the bad men from Mosul had arrived. But even he could not have foreseen this. She sat and hugged her knees tight, her face wet and the skin on her neck peeling and raw.

Her father had told her to run and hide as the bad men maimed and killed, and then finally rounded up hundreds of men, women, and families, and bundled them all into trucks, along with her father, still in his favorite blue shirt. No one fought back – they just let themselves be taken and driven away. Leyla had followed, staying on the mountain slopes. She had cursed their ill fortune. But that changed in a heartbeat. Now, she realized she had been one of the lucky ones.

Soran was now ash and smoke. God had reached down a finger and touched the city, and taken it from them. The back of Leyla’s neck still stung from the heat flash and she wrapped her shawl there to dry its sticky rawness. Her eyes were sore, but it was pure chance that she’d been looking away from the blast and hadn’t lost her sight.

Leyla rocked back and forth, wondering how she would tell people of this moment. What would she say of Soran? Of all the poor souls who stayed; of her friends, neighbors, and when it came to it one day, what would she tell her children?

Leyla knew immediately how she would remember this moment. She would say to them:

I was ten when my world vanished in the flames. When the bad men came and beat us, we didn’t fight back. When they raped and killed us, we stood silent. And when they finally smashed God’s house and took us as slaves, we still did nothing. We were weak and maybe that’s why we were punished. God turned our world to ash.

She rocked faster, feeling tears on her cheeks. Father always said that when things were darkest, when evil was everywhere, then the angels would come – and they would strike like the hammer of God.

She lowered her head. I pray they come soon.


You can grab your copy of Hammer of God here.

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The Last Quarrel – book tour!

Posted September 18, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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To celebrate the release of The Last Quarrel in print, Duncan Lay will be touring around NSW, the ACT and Victoria in October, hitting up some book conventions as well as book stores.

If you come along to one of those days then you could take part in a fun Twitter/Facebook giveaway that could see you win a book pack or maybe enjoy a discount for the eBook to go with your print edition …


(This is Duncan, he’ll be the man near the table with the sharpie.)

Here’s where you can catch Duncan:

Thurs Oct 1:

Dymocks Canberra: 11am

Dymocks Tuggeranong: 2pm

Friday Oct 2:

Dymocks Belconnen 10am

Hooked On Books Batemans Bay 2.30pm

Saturday Oct 3:

Shoalhaven Superheroes convention (booksales for DeanSwift ABC Books Nowra)

Tuesday Oct 6

Galaxy Books 11am

Wed Oct 7

Dymocks George Street store: 12pm

Thurs Oct 8:

11am: Dymocks Penrith

5pm: Dymocks Macquarie Centre

Friday Oct 9:

11am: Dymocks Burwood

2.30pm: Dymocks Chatswood

Sat Oct 10:

Dymocks Tuggerah 1pm

Sun Oct 11:

Dymocks Rouse Hill 11am

Wed Oct 14:

Dymocks Collins St Melbourne: 11am

Dymocks Victoria Gardens: 2pm

Thurs Oct 15:

Dymocks Knox: 10am

Dymocks Glen Waverley 1pm

Dymocks Southland: 5pm

Fri Oct 16:

Dymocks Eastland 10am

Dymocks Doncaster 1pm

Sat Oct 17:

Dymocks Parramatta

Sun Oct 18:

Sydney Book Expo at Olympic Park

Thursday October 22:

Event night at Berkelouw Hornsby: 6pm

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It’s the End of the World As We Know It (The best post-apocalyptic literature)

Posted September 14, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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There’s something undeniably fascinating about a good end of the world, post-apocalyptic story. It’s a great lens to view humanity through, and it often shows us the good and bad of our own society. The only problem with this kind of dystopian fiction is that there is currently so much of it! Everywhere you turn someone is trying to get you to read or watch the latest version of The Hunger Games. Here are seven great examples of post-apocalyptic stories. They might not be the best, and they certainly aren’t the only ones, but they’re all entertaining, beautiful, and engrossing stories about what happens after the world ends.


Mad Max: Fury Road

This movie surprised a lot of people this summer with its amazing characters, stunts, and storytelling. Much of this post-apocalyptic world is shown–but not explained– to great effect. If you want a gorgeous movie set after a mysterious disaster has changed the face of society, this is the one for you.


Station Eleven,204,203,200_.jpg

Station Eleven recently won the Arthur C. Clarke award, and I’m not sure I’ve ever agreed with an award quite so much. This was the most exciting, moving, thought-provoking book I read last year. The story-line jumps back and forth between the beginning of the plague and the present day, 14 years after illness killed most of the world’s population. Of special interest to fans of audio is the audio-book version read by Kirsten Potter.


Parasitology Trilogy Everything by Mira Grant

EVERYONE SHOULD READ THESE BOOKS! I’ve been tearing through Mira Grant’s back catalogue as I eagerly await the November 24 release of the last book in the Parasitology trilogy. In all of her books, Grant does a superb job of combining the hustle of blogging, politics, and mad science with the fear and intensity of a zombie (or zombie like) apocalypse. Start with the Newsflesh trilogy (since it is complete) and then read the Parasitology Trilogy. Trust me dear reader, I wouldn’t steer you wrong!  


East of West

East of West is a science fiction/western comic set in a future dystopian United States where the Civil War never ended, it only got more complicated. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse show up, and you can imagine the extra chaos that brings to everything. There’s a lot going on in this comic that I don’t want to spoil, but if you’re into alternate history, Firefly, or anything else on this list, you’re probably going to love East of West.


Good Omens

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Writing together. I shouldn’t have to say any more to sell you on this book. Two of the greatest writers of the last few decades came together in 1990 to bring us a hilarious look at the end of the world, and all the people (including angels and demons) involved.


Maddaddam trilogy

Margaret Atwood is undeniably one of the best writers of the last few decades. She’s brought us so many great stories, but the Maddaddam Trilogy might be her best work yet. The books take us through the turmoil of civilization after a mad scientist plays god and creates a designer disease. Fascinating, horrifying, moving, and at times funny, this is a must read for anyone interested in post-apocalyptic stories.


Adventure Time

You’re seeing this on the list, and maybe you’re a little confused. Why am I including a children’s cartoon in a list of great stories about the end of the world? On the surface Adventure Time is a weird show for kids about a boy and his magical dog going on adventures together. If you look a little deeper, however, Adventure Time is clearly set on a half ruined Earth after a disastrous “Mushroom War” wrecked havoc on the world and mutated life forms into all kinds of strange creatures. Check out the Adventure Time wiki for a full list of references to the mysterious events that ended the world and created Ooo. 


What’s your favorite post-apocalyptic story and why? Tell us in the comments below!



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Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Buy Dad this Father’s Day!

Posted September 4, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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You can buy this card (and some other awesome geeky cards!) from


This weekend is Father’s Day, and you might be wondering what to buy your dad. A tie? A new hammer? Why don’t you get your dad the best gift of all and share your passion for science fiction and fantasy?


If your dad loves VINTAGE CARS….

Buy him Christine by Stephen King. It’s an oldie but a goodie about a possessed car that kills a bunch of people. What’s not to love? Bonus! There’s even a movie you can watch together after he reads the book!



Buy him World War Z by Max Brooks. This is an amazing book set up as an “oral history of the zombie war.” Brooks takes us to surviving groups of humans all over the world, and we see the social and political complications the zombies caused.


There’s a movie for this one too, but if you like your dad you probably want to skip it.


If your dad loves  SURVIVALISM…

Buy him The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. (Maybe your dad is into politics AND survivalism and you can get him two books! What a good offspring you would be!) The Zombie Survival Guide is an amazing parody of a more traditional survival guide. It has tips, advice, and history lessons about how to deal with the dead rising.


If your dad loves THE OUTDOORS….

Buy him The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. In this great science fiction series people learn how to visit infinite parallel Earths. Most metals can’t pass between the worlds, so people who settle on alternate Earths start out from scratch like old fashioned pioneers. Bonus: If he likes it, there are three more you can buy him!


If your dad loves SPORTS…,204,203,200_.jpg

Buy him Future Sports edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. This is a great sci-fi short story collection all about, you guessed it, sports. It features stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Andrew Weiner, and Kim Stanley Robinson (among others.)


If your dad loves CHESS…

Buy him The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. While the most obvious choice might be Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, this is a more recent book where chess becomes a major plot point. It’s wonderful and your dad will love it.


If your dad loves MUSIC…

Buy him Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. The main character is a space-ship who collects songs from all across the galaxy. Snippets of the fictional songs are weaved throughout the book and feel like an important, natural part of the world Leckie has created.


If your dad loves IRISH HISTORY….

Buy him The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay. Lay pulls from Irish history and folklore in his engrossing episodic fantasy series, now available in print! Check out more about the links to history here: Gaelland – The World of the Last Quarrel. 


And if your Dad already a geek? AWESOME! See if you can find a signed copy of his favorite book at your local bookshop, ebay, or


Are you getting anything really awesome for your father this year? Tell us in the comments below!


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Cover Reveal – Field of Mars: Complete Edition by David Rollins

Posted August 28, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Marcus Licinius Crassus’s lust for gold and glory was legendary. What became of his army is myth.

In Crassus the tyrant, Rufinius the soldier, Appias the historian, Mena the hag and Lucia the Golden Whore, David Rollins brings to life a mystery that has plagued historians for centuries. The only constant in this world is Mars, the god of war, and who he will favour is anyone’s guess.

Desperate to write himself into the pages of history, proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus marched 40,000 Roman legionaries into the heart of the Parthian empire. More than 10,000 were never seen or heard from again.

In a story that spans empires and generations, this vanished army’s fate is finally unveiled. From the streets of Rome to the deserts of ancient Iran, around the globe into the heart of an empire vaster than anything Rome ever imagined, a young Alexandrian soldier is borne on the tides of the age of empires from soldier of Rome to slave of Babylon to commander of armies.

Perfect for fans of Robert Harris and Conn Iggulden, this sweeping historical thriller takes the reader on an epic journey across ancient empires and into the unknown stories of myth and legend.

Field of Mars: Complete Edition will be released on the 8th of October – pre-order your copy now!

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5 Pitches for the Next Gritty Hollywood Remake

Posted August 7, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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These days, Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of rebooting our favorite books into gritty dystopian movies and television shows. The latest beloved classic to suffer this fate is Little Women. The loving sisters are going to be uncovering conspiracies and trying not to kill each other in Philadelphia, while we watch and wonder how on Earth someone thought this was a good idea.

Let’s take a look at how we could remake five other childhood favorites into ridiculous television drama or made for t.v. movies.


The Secret Garden
Is it so hard to imagine this + opium smuggling?


After her parents are murdered, sixteen-year old Mary Lennox is sent to live with her reclusive uncle. She’s miserable until she discovers a mysterious locked garden…with an attractive boy inside! Mary breaks into the garden and is shocked to discover that eighteen year old Dickon is running her uncle’s opium smuggling operation out of…The Secret Garden. We’ll kill cousin Colin off early, throw in a dash of star-crossed lovers from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and BAM! You’ve got a hit.


Charlotte’s Web

A pig, a spider, a revolution.


Wilbur the pig is shunned by the other barnyard animals, until Charlotte the spider takes an interest in him. She is the leader behind a group of animals who want to revolt against humans and take their lives into their own hands. Charlotte comes with with a scheme to spell words in her webs, manipulating the humans to think that Wilbur is chosen by God and should not be slaughtered after the fair. She begins convincing them that he should be set free, along with all the other farm animals, but is tragically killed in childbirth before her plan can come to fruition. Almost all of her children flee as soon as they hatch, but three remain behind to carry on her fight to free the animals.


Anne of Green Gables

That smile has never been innocent…


Anne’s parents are killed by rival wizards when she is a baby, leaving her to float from foster home to orphanage and back again. When she is in her early teens, she is accidentally sent to the Cuthberts on Prince Edward Island. Furious that she isn’t a boy, they threaten to send her back. Anne casts a spell that makes them, and the entire town, adore her. The wizards who killed her parents find Anne, and she must battle them while maintaining her spell on the town. Scenes of note include the wizards changing the raspberry cordial into currant wine in order to discredit Anne; Wizards trying to kill Anne, but instead killing Matthew; and Anne becoming a powerful enough witch to teach at the Prince Edward Island equivalent to Hogwarts.


A Little Princess

Wouldn’t this just be 100x better if it was in space?


Young Sara Crewe is taken by her father to one of the best boarding schools on the moon in 2075. Knowing her father is a rich explorer who has been doubling his fortune every five years on Mars, they treat her like a little princess. A few years later, the school receives word that Captain Crewe’s whole team was lost on Mars during a dust storm, and he was most certainly dead. The school, especially the headmistress, begin treating Sara like a servant. She regularly has to go outside in a spacesuit to collect rocks and clean dust off the solar panels (because space). Meanwhile, a mysterious man moves in next door to the school. He slowly recovers his memory, and realizes that he was the lead scientist on Captain Crewe’s mission, and that’s why he has a research monkey living with him. The monkey escapes (in a tiny monkey spacesuit) and Sara finds him while cleaning solar panels. When returning the monkey to the mysterious stranger, they learn of their connection.

Bonus sequel: The mysterious stranger and Sara go back to Mars to try and recover Captain Crewe’s body. Once there, they find that the whole crew has become zombies. Space zombies.


Little House on the Prairie

If there’s one thing the Little House books need, it’s more grit!


A few decades after most of the world was wiped out by nuclear bombs, the Ingalls family struggles to survive in the desolate wasteland that was once America. If we change the tone of the narrator from unending optimism to resignation, we can even keep most of the major plot points the same! Everyone gets malaria, sister Mary goes blind, locusts eat all the crops, nuclear winter strands the family in their log cabin, and there are so many chores to be done. Think of the possibilities for costumes! Special effects! Dramatic acting! There is no way this wouldn’t be a hit.


Whether you love them or hate them, we want to hear your thoughts on the gritty reboot trend. Do you have any hope at all for the new Little Women series?

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Come and write about books! Paid bloggers wanted at Momentum!

Posted July 10, 2015 by Patrick Lenton

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Momentum is the digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia. Established in February 2012, we publish high quality ebooks globally. Our website and blog is the hub of our operation, and we’d like to include as many diverse voices as possible. Our blog currently hosts opinions from Momentum employees, authors and other contributors, and now we’d like you to have the chance to have your say about the world of books, writing and reading on the Momentum blog.

We are looking for THREE BLOGGERS who are interested in books, specifically with an interest in genre fiction (predominantly thrillers, romance, science fiction/fantasy, new adult and horror). We are looking for two bloggers for the Momentum blog, and a romance and erotic romance specific blogger for our Moonlight imprint blog. Obsessive readers in these genres are encouraged.

What we want from you:

– 4-8 blog posts a month, with a minimum word count of 300 words each.

– Each week the Momentum marketing team will take pitches from the bloggers about topics of their choice and sometimes ask for specific material for the blog (posts about particular books, movies, TV as well as genre-specific content and trending events).

– Preference will be given to a blogger with a relevant social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, etc).

– Genre bloggers step to the front of the line. If you love romance, science fiction, fantasy and thrillers show us your passion for your genre(s).

What we are offering in return:

– An audience of readers and writers

– $25 per post (minimum of 4 and maximum of 8 posts per month)

– free Momentum ebooks

To apply, send a sample blog post on the topic EBOOKS VS PRINT BOOKS, as well as a covering letter and brief resume to by July 20th 2015 with the subject line ‘Momentum Blogger’. Be sure to include your name, city, country of residence and occupation. We welcome applicants from all over the world, but the posts must be in English.

Your sample blog post should be the type of thing you’d be posting on a regular basis (not a hokey introductory post). And of course, if we select you as our resident blogger then you will be compensated accordingly if you decide to use your sample blog post as your first post.

If you have any questions, feel free to email or ask in the comments below.

Terms & Conditions

  • The winning applicant will be subject to a trial period of one month.
  • Posts will be vetted by staff before going live.
  • Posts will remain the copyright of the author, however, Momentum will retain an exclusive right to first posting for a period of no less than six months.
  • The successful blogger will invoice Momentum monthly for posts within the previous four week period.
  • The successful blogger’s contract can be terminated with two week’s notice.
  • Momentum welcomes international bloggers. However, we do not accept responsibility for additional bank fees or transfer costs for international invoice payments.
  • These conditions are subject to change.
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The Best Way to Arrange Your Books is…

Posted April 23, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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Last week I came to a point in my life where I thought I had too many books. I’m talking physical books here. Thankfully no one can see how stuffed my ereader is and its fullness doesn’t affect how easy it is to walk around my house, unlike the paperback pile-up. Then I realised I was being ridiculous. There is no such thing as too many books, just not enough bookshelves. That’s more easily rectified than parting with my tomes.

Having bought my wall-sized shelving monolith, the issue was how to arrange my books. I have a good deal of book arranging experience from my time in libraries. The Dewey system is a clear option for the non-fiction, but that did feel a little too much like work.  My home is not a library. Yet.Dewey

It would be sensible to have the fiction alphabetically by author, but that just created a multi-coloured wall that was rather hard on the eyes. Also, it felt a lot like work.

It briefly crossed my mind to have it thematically, organised by similarities and genre, but that seemed too much like pigeon-holing works that deserved more.


More photogenic than my actual shelves.

So I went with the only solution that made sense to me. I organised them by colour. And, my goodness, is it beautiful.

It’s a rainbow of absolute joy, and very easy on the eyes, so simple to see what’s where. I also learnt that I have a lot of white and cream books, very few greens and a lot of mauve and purple. I wonder if that shows a genre preference or a shopping prejudice?

It was lovely to do and involved minimal admin and no cataloguing whatsoever.  It was the ideal librarian’s day off.

How do you arrange your books?

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How to be a Hero by Duncan Lay

Posted April 20, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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What does being a hero really mean? With Anzac Day almost upon us, and football season in full swing, it’s a word that is being used all the time in media reports – aptly in the first case, pointlessly in the second. But who would want to be a hero? And would it be what you hoped, if you were one? It’s one of the many questions that I try to consider in The Last Quarrel.

Fallon is a man who longs to be a hero, to do something memorable. His wife, Bridgit, just wants the quiet life. The last thing she wants is to be a hero. But when a ghost ship sails into their quiet village and turns their lives upside down, when their worst nightmares come to life, how do they react? Who will be the real hero? Who will deal best with the responsibility thrust upon them? The one who dreamed of being heroic, who trained every day for that chance, or the one who wanted nothing to do with it? They approach the task from different directions. One is used to protecting the village, the other used to protecting their child. I wanted to explore their reactions, and see how they dealt with the most extreme circumstances, as their world crumbles around them and everything threatens to be destroyed by true darkness.

My guilty pleasure is the reality TV show Survivor. Even after all these years, each season beings its fascinating human drama, as people have to use their strength, their wits, their brains and their charm to win. Sometimes the most unlikely characters come through – and that’s what I love about it. The struggle to keep going, when you are tired, when you are hungry and when seemingly everyone is against you – I find it fascinating to see which ones crack and which ones rise to the challenge. Men and women often tend to approach this fight for survival in different ways, as well. This was another aspect I wanted to look at. And when I say that, I do mean the characters are the ones leading the way. I like to get them to the point where I know how they will react to any given situation. Then I turn them loose on the story and if they want to take in a slightly different direction, then I go with it. That is the fun of writing!

So who does deal best with adversity? Well, I’m afraid the question isn’t completely answered in book 1 of the trilogy – but you’ll certainly have a better idea after you finish The Last Quarrel!


The Last Quarrel: Complete Edition is released on the 23rd of April – pre-order now!

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One Man is Attempting to Read a Book From Every Bookcase in a Library

Posted April 7, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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Pet care, military history, even the reference shelf: this guy is going to read a book from each of them. Robert Sedgwick wants to expand his reading, and to promote his local library. He decided the best way to do this was to read a book from each bookcase in the library – there are 133 bookcases, by his count – and blog about it here. He has over 20,000 books to choose from.

As with any self-imposed Herculean challenge, one must set oneself some rules:

Firstly, he defined a bookcase:

‘For my purposes a bookcase is a set of parallel horizontal shelves with vertical sides. As soon as you cross a vertical line it’s another bookcase. Tables of books laid flat I will treat as one bookcase.’

book shelf

Then a book:

‘I will only read English prose/poetry books, so things like telephone directories and dictionaries which are not meant for reading I won’t consider as books, likewise audio cds and recordings of people reading books are not for this project. If there are no valid books on a bookshelf then I will ignore that shelf.

If possible I will not read any book or author I have read before and I will select books at least 150 pages long. I’ll only break this rule if there is no other choice on the bookshelf.

My intention is to stick to the adult library and not to select books from the children’s section.’

He also states that if he is utterly loathing the chosen book he reserves the right to abandon it and choose a different title from the same bookcase. Very wise.


He started at the beginning of the year so is already 19 shelves into the challenge. He began at the front door and is working his way around the library in an anti-clockwise direction, gradually spiralling into the centre. He’s been through true crime, thrillers, young adult and book of the week. You can take a virtual tour of his chosen library here  to get a sense of what he has in store.

As a person who works in libraries I have two things to say about this:

1. Everyone should look around sections in the library they don’t often visit – there are hidden gems and Dewey-decimal quirks that mean you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Ask the people working there for recommendations – we know where the buried treasure is (and we’ve read half of it)!
2. Also, keep going back to your favourite sections because libraries are constantly getting new books, either brand new or circulated from around the county. They don’t all go on the ‘new titles’ section to make sure you go to the shelves and see the older stuff too. We want you to take out a new book and an old favourite!


Much to applause to Robert for promoting libraries and reading like a champion. Follow him @1stofftheshelf and follow his library @DorkingLibrary.


What do you think of Robert’s idea? Could you do it? Is there a section you’d never consider taking a book from? Comments please!

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Cover reveal(s) – The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay

Posted February 3, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Gaelland is a nation gripped by fear.

In the country, fishing boats return with their crews mysteriously vanished, while farms are left empty, their owners gone into the night, meals still on the table. In the cities, children disappear from the streets or even out of their own beds. The King tells his people that it is the work of selkies – mythical creatures who can turn from seals into men and back again – and witches. But no matter how many women he burns at the stake, the children are still being taken. Fallon is a man who has always dreamed of being a hero. His wife Bridgit just wants to live in peace and quiet, and to escape the tragedies that have filled her life. His greatest wish and her worst nightmare are about to collide. When an empty ship sails into their village, he begins to follow the trail towards the truth behind the evil stalking their land. But it is a journey that will take them both into a dark, dark place and nobody can tell them where it might end …

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The Last Quarrel Episode One is now for sale. All other episodes are available for pre-order.


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Checking Wardrobes for Narnia: Why Fantasy Should be Ordinary

Posted January 23, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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This week I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s very special. One of its best qualities is the blend of ordinariness with the fantastical. This is epitomised by the eponymous ocean, which looks like a duck pond. It struck me that all the best means of travel through space, time, and various other dimensions, are ordinary. Or at least they look it. That’s the joy of it: bringing the magic into the real world, making it feel like you just have to find the right wardrobe…the_ocean_at_the_end_of_the_lane

Narnia is a good place to start. The wardrobe is, of course, the most iconic means of reaching Aslan’s realm, but you can also get there via train platforms, with magical rings given to you by a sinister uncle, or through a picture in your aunt and uncle’s spare bedroom.wardrobe

Fireplaces work well too. Not to take you to a different world, but to travel around Harry Potter’s version of our own. The traveller also needs to be in possession of Floo powder and to speak the name of the place they want to go to. Apparently, it’s also important to keep your elbows in. I think I might start telling children that Santa Claus is Dumbledore’s brother, travelling by Floo.harry

The TARDIS may be iconic these days, but the UK used to be covered in police boxes, so it was a subtle way to travel. The interiors of the boxes used to be used as mini police stations, so you could, quite easily, plop it down anywhere and step out without anyone batting an eyelid.police_box_inline1

Powered by the fire, the innocuous wooden door of Howl’s Moving Castle has a dial to turn, depending on where you’d like to step out. This works no matter where the castle is. The flower meadow, which Howl is showing Sophie for the first time below, is my happy place.meadow

In Yonderland, the funniest TV series in existence, the pantry functions as a portal. Debbie is a suburban English mum, and a bit bored, until and elf appears from her cupboard, insisting that she is The Chosen One and must save Yonderland. Though they’ve lost the scroll that says how she’s supposed to do it. Each episode, they venture through her pantry to a magical realm, ensuring she’s home in time to pick up the kids. Watch a clip.

Fiction is also full of swirling wormholes, rips in time and high tech teleporters. They’re cool too. But I think there’s something truly excellent in using the ordinary as the basis for the extraordinary. The more closely it resembles our world, the easier it is to believe in magic.


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Review a book – live FOREVER!

Posted January 21, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Do you get a thrill when you see a character with the same name as you? And then dream that you are them and make everyone refer to you only by their rank/kitsch nickname? And only really find people of the opposite sex attractive if they share the name of your fictional counterparts SO? …no? huh.

Well, in any case, it would be super awesome if a character was actually named after you, right? Right. Lucky for you then, that our author Duncan Lay is currently holding a review competition where the prize is exactly this! Details below.


The Last Quarrrel Episode 1 is out on January 22, with each of the four subsequent episodes released a fortnight after the first. And Duncan has almost finished the first draft of book two of the series, The Bloody Quarrel. There are five characters who are currently nameless in this book.

Now, he could go online and grab some random names for them – or you could have your name given to one of them. All you have to do is review one or more episodes of The Last Quarrel on one of the many sites available – or review it on all of them!

Send Duncan the link, either through his website or via the email address on his blog and let us know which of the following characters you might be interested in having named after yourself.

NOTE: We’re not looking for the most suck-worthy review but instead the more intelligent ones. So, if you like the idea of playing a pivotal part in the next book in the series, get reading, get reviewing and let Duncan know!

Characters in need of an awesome name:

1) Secret agent of the crown (female/male)
2) A Boluk-bashi (captain) of the Kotterman army (male)
3) A Courbaci (Colonel) of the Kottermna army (male)
4) A harbour lookout (male/female)
5) An angry mother (female)

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Cover Reveal – Blood Oath: The Janna Chronicles Book 1 by Felicity Pulman

Posted January 20, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Love, revenge, secrets – and murder – in a medieval kingdom at war.

A young woman, left alone and destitute after the mysterious death of her mother, plants a sprig of rosemary on her grave and vows, somehow, to bring the murderer to justice. But who can Janna trust with the truth? Even the villein Godric, who wants to marry her, and Hugh, the dashing nobleman, have secrets that threaten her heart and her safety.

In a country torn apart by the vicious civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, Janna needs all her wits and courage to stay alive as she comes closer to those who are determined to silence her forever.

Blood Oath is available for pre-order now, and will be released on the 22nd of January.


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Could Infinite Monkeys Actually Create the Works of Shakespeare?

Posted January 16, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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You’ve heard that enough monkeys with enough typewriters would eventually create the complete works of Shakespeare? Well some people with access to monkeys got a grant, and a computer. Then Hamlet happened. Sorry, that’s not true. Here’s what really occurred:

They put the computer in the monkey enclosure to see what literary masterpiece they might type. It turns out that monkeys really like the letter ‘S’.  The six Sulawesi crested macaques, called Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan, typed little else on the five pages they produced. They also mostly destroyed the machine and used it ‘as a lavatory’. Monkeys, we expected more of you.

monkeyTo look at it from one aspect, the point is not actually to discover if monkeys can do it, but to find out if randomly punched keys, ad infinitum, will create Shakespeare. In fact the origin of the phrase held no mention of monkeys. It’s probably a variation of Aristotle’s example of a book whose text was formed by letters randomly scattered on the ground. Eighteenth and Nineteenth century French mathematicians often discussed the idea of a book which was created by a random splurge of letters from a printing press. It was one of these French number-chiefs, Émile Borel, who brought monkeys into it: he said they could eventually come up with every tome in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

tumblr_ni64vnpRaX1u80812o1_400So real life monkeys are no good – they will just pee over everything – and the capacity for monkey concentration is kind of not the point, but how about hypothetical virtual monkeys? A computer generation was set up, in which virtual monkeys typed at random. Each day they created an eighteen or nineteen character string of real words that happen in Shakespeare.

Pretty early on a twenty-one character string, recognisably from Love’s Labour’s Lost appeared:

KING. Let fame, that [wtIA”yh!…

Which looks remarkably like:

KING. Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live regist’red upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death.

The record was this from Henry IV, Part 2:

RUMOUR: Open your ears; [9r’5j5…

Which matches the first part of:

RUMOUR: Open your ears; for which of you will not stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?

tumblr_n6b65jkMKT1qd8w33o1_500On average, one character was added to the string each year, so truly infinite (virtual) monkeys, with infinite time and/or greater speed might just pull it off.

Shakespeare’s fab, but we’ve already got Shakespeare. What use is monkey plagiarism? If I had infinite monkeys, I think I’d try and coax them into writing something new. I would like to see infinite monkeys trying to get an agent, securing a publishing deal, and eventually collecting the Booker Prize and making their awards speech. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen, so for the moment I’ll stick to reading books written by humans. Reality, you disappoint me sometimes.


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Book Bingo – The Reading Game You Need to Play

Posted January 9, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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A new year comes with it pressure to make resolutions, and in the reading world, it’s usually, “How many books are you going to read this year?” Personally, I’d rather not set a numerical goal: What if I choose to read Ulysses, then War and Peace? Or one unending tome? I’d rather not race through it to arbitrarily win against myself. I think all reading time is time well spent. Many book bloggers do the number thing beautifully-, for example – but personally, I’d be terrible at keeping to a target. I’m sure I can’t be the only one.


That’s not to say I don’t like a challenge.

When not writing, editing, or generally spending time on the interweb, I work for the library service. I’d like to introduce you to the brilliant game that we’re all playing in the libraries at the moment. It’s called ‘Book Bingo’.

Here are the rules:

1. You pick a line of six squares. The line can be vertical, horizontal or diagonal.
2. For each square, match the description with a book of your choice.
3. Read the six books (not necessarily in row order). Tick them off as you go.
4. Glory in your reading achievements.

Book Bingo Surrey Libraries

This is the Surrey Libraries version of the Book Bingo card. If you happen to be reading this in Surrey, England, I strongly suggest you find yourself a participating local branch. If you’re not, do it just for fun with the shelves of your local bookshops, library, charity shops and the contents of your ereader (perhaps with a few shiny new Momentum titles). You just need to read six books, of your own choosing, in your own sweet time. That’s my kind of challenge.

peanutslibrarycardBook Bingo could inspire you to discover books that you’d never think to try. It’s also a bit of an intellectual challenge: While covering at a charming village library we tried to come up with books set in schools that were suitable for adults (and weren’t Harry Potter). Another brilliant attribute of Book Bingo, and specifically this card, is that it encourages you to ask for recommendations (especially from people who work in libraries – they know their books!). In my opinion, this is the absolute best way to discover new favourites. It also encourages you to chat to other book lovers, which is always a life-affirming treat.

While I’m on the subject, enjoy the sneak peek of my bookshelves in the above picture. I unreservedly recommend 100 Facts About Pandas.

Join me in a game of Book Bingo! Do you want to play? Tweet me @EveProofreads.

UPDATE: We loved this idea at Momentum so goddamn much that we made our own game! If you want to play Momentum Book Bingo share your results with us on Facebook and Twitter! 


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‘But What’s My Motivation?’ Maleficent and Creating Believable Backstory

Posted January 8, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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The following post contains spoilers about Maleficent. It’s a pretty good film, though, so if you haven’t seen it go and watch it now, then come back and resume. We’ll wait here. Everybody done yet? Great. Then I’ll begin.

The Stanislavski method of acting encourages the player to ask that now-familiar question, ‘what’s my motivation?’ in order to understand just what the character is thinking and feeling, and how they should react. As you write each scene of a story or novel, each piece of dialogue, imagine your character is asking you the same thing. Actions without motivation seem random and pointless. Readers don’t love that.

evilThe most common thing that some authors do is make evil characters evil just because they’re evil. This is rather uninspiring, and I don’t think it’s very realistic. The 1959 Disney Sleeping Beauty seems to be premised upon the most extraordinary overreaction to not being invited to a party. Maleficent, when not invited to the christening, crashes it, (like Kanye West at someone else’s acceptance speech) and curses the baby. Who even wants to go to a christening? They’re full of mumbling priests, screaming damp babies and inferior snacks.

angAside from Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones, the best thing about Maleficent is that it redresses this lack of motivation rather well by creating a proper back story. King Stefan, whom maleficent had once loved, cut off her wings while she was unconscious. This massively cruel dismemberment warrants her extreme reaction. His motivation was ambition; hers is revenge.


There are multiple factors that motivate human behaviour. Here’s a list of things to consider in terms of your characters:

Relationships: All significant relationships should be considered, including their family and friends, and romantic relationships. Have these been loving and successful or has some damage been caused?
Fear: Everyone’s afraid of something. What’s your character’s fear? It doesn’t have to be a literal phobia of spiders or some such; perhaps they’re afraid of failure, or of being found out.
Cultural influences: Think about the society they grew up in.
Needs and wants: Are they acting to meet their basic needs for money, food and shelter, or trying to fulfil a more abstract need for approval or a childhood dream?
Obligation: Who are they accountable to?
Past experiences: This can include past wrongs, causing a desire for revenge (or justice), or circumstances that have led to their current situation.
Beliefs and worldview: Whether philosophical or religious, everyone has a way of seeing the world and of understanding human nature. What do they think of others? What do they think the meaning of life is?

Let’s apply these concepts to Maleficent.

Maleficent’s key relationship was with the young Stefan, who let her down badly, leaving her believing that there is no such thing as true love. She rarely shows fear, but seems afraid that she cannot reverse the curse when she tries to, and that it might come true. Before this, she is afraid of becoming attached to the child and tries to keep a distance. Her cultural influences come from the peaceful kingdom she grew up in. It’s essentially an anarcho-communalist state where all the magical creatures work together and there is no one leader. This explains how loathsome and extraordinary she finds Stefan’s ambition and the neighbouring state’s warring ways. What she needs and wants changes throughout the story. She wants peace, to begin with, then revenge, then redemption. She initially has a strong obligation to the people of her land, to protect them from invaders. Later this protective instinct is transferred to Aurora. jolThe key past experience of her relationship with Stefan and his attack clearly influence her actions, but we’re told a few other things about her past too. For example, we learn that her parents died, which perhaps informs her instinct to care for Aurora: a child who is functionally parentless. We’ve also seen the importance of flying to her and how much her wings mattered. Losing them and becoming earthbound figuratively and literally changed her perspective. Maleficent believes that there is no such thing as true love, that she cannot function without wings (hence the adoption of the bird-friend), and she believes in some sort of justice, though the form that this should take varies. She was hurt, badly, physically and psychologically, so she went to the dark place, but over time, she was brought back. However fantastical the story, that arc feels real to me.


It may not be the most complex of films, or even the best of motivations, but it’s unarguably stronger than ‘I really wanted to come to a christening but no one asked me’ or even ‘I do things just because I’m a villain and therefore arbitrarily ruthless’. Well-developed characters often have multiple motivations and authentic reasons for their actions. Humans can be fallible, impulsive and changeable. Characters should be too.


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Cover Reveal – Avenger (Intrepid 3) by Chris Allen

Posted January 6, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Alex Morgan is back and he isn’t playing by the rules.

Policeman, soldier and spy for INTREPID, black ops agent Alex Morgan is hunting the Night Witch—the head of a shadowy criminal empire spanning the four corners of the globe and connected to Chinese triads, corrupt cops, and the Russian mafia.

When Morgan’s sent to China to shadow INTREPID’s newest agent, Elizabeth Reigns, he soon discovers she’s been sold out and the triads are after their pound of flesh.

With Reigns in his corner, Morgan must find a way through a complex labyrinth of scattered connections and corporate takeovers to find the real Night Witch, and crush an empire built on trading in human life. But there’s only one problem. To achieve his objective Morgan must confront an enemy he thought was already dead and buried. Will Morgan have what it takes to survive?

Avenger is available for pre-order now, and will be released on the 22nd of January.

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The Best Christmas Films Based on Books

Posted December 24, 2014 by Eve Merrier

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The film isn’t as good as the book: that’s what we bibliophile purists are supposed to say, and sometimes it’s true. But it’s Christmas; and, here in merry England, when we’ve eaten too much, the crackers have been cracked, and the Queen’s speech is over, there’s little else to do except settle in and watch some proper Christmas telly. Some of the best are based on books.

KermitThere are many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, though none so entertaining and close to its source material as the Muppet version. Dickens was a committed Christmas revivalist. Because of him it is legally obligated to snow in London on Christmas day. This blog post has collated every filmed version of A Christmas Carol they could find. Particularly novel is the 1901 silent film: the earliest adaptation in existence, made just 30 years after the death of Mr Dickens.

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Polar Express is based on the book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. He’s the genius who wrote Jumanji. In the book, the train doesn’t stop or slow down on its way to the North Pole, and apparently the kids get nougat to eat, instead of just drinking hot chocolate. There’s a delightfully pedantic website called that nicely summarises the differences for us.

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Die Hard begins at a Christmas party on Christmas Eve, his wife’s name is Holly, and John McClane brings us the gift of fighting terrorists who want to ruin Christmas parties with their nonsense. Ergo Christmas film.

johnIt’s based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. Also worth a mention is the Community Die Hard Christmas spoof, which is many levels of special.

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We cannot talk about Christmas films without mentioning Raymond Briggs for both The Snowman and Father Christmas. Briggs himself is not a fan of Christmas and feels The Snowman has been hijacked by sentimentalists. The Snowman melts (sorry – spoiler!) to teach children about mortality. The visit to Santa isn’t in the book, and I’m not sure Bowie’s in it either.


Briggs said, “I thought, ‘It’s a bit corny and twee, dragging in Christmas’, as The Snowman had nothing to do with that, but it worked extremely well.” It did indeed.


What are your favourite Christmas films?

Merry Christmas to you all and have a jolly time, as Dickens put it, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

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Cover Reveal! Greig Beck’s Book of the Dead

Posted November 21, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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When a massive sinkhole opens up and swallows a retired couple from Iowa it seems like a freak occurrence. But it’s not the only one. Similar sinkholes are opening all over the world, even on the sea floor. And they’re getting bigger.

People living near the pits begin reporting strange phenomena—vibrations, sulfurous odors, and odd sounds in the stygian depths. Then the pets begin to go missing.

 When people start disappearing as well, the government is forced to act. Professor Matt Kearns and a team of experts are sent in by the military to explore one of the sinkholes, and they discover far more than they bargained for.

 From the war zones of the Syrian Desert to the fabled Library of Alexandria, and then to Hades itself, join Professor Matt Kearns as he attempts to unravel an age-old prophecy. The answers Matt seeks are hidden in the fabled Al Azif—known as the Book of the Dead—and he must find it, even if it kills him. Because time is running out, not just for Matt Kearns, but for all life on Earth.

Book of the Dead comes out on December 11 in all good ebook retailers!

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