Friday, August 30, 2013

Dramarama averted ... Back your work the fuck up.

The worst thing that can ever happen to an author who's stressing over a WiP happened to me today. Be it a quirk of the way the servers are set up at my office, or just a wobbly file format from me having worked over multiple computers with one document (yes I knew I was taking a chance but it's always worked up until now) ... But I lost the Jackal MS (cue the sound of whiny violins). I got a snarky little message from MS Word which told me it was unable to save the file due to an internal problem and then... Blegh. Nothing.

Here, have a picture of Ash,
he'll save the day... 
Everything kinda grinds to a halt at that point, and a nasty ringing starts in your ears as your heart gives a last few spastic contractions. And you mutter Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck under your breath while you wonder if there's a Control + Z button for your fucking life.

At that point your colleagues start looking at you funny, and you consider ripping off all your clothing and go running screaming down St George's Mall as if all the demons of hell were after you. It's preferable to *this*.

No point sending that error report to Microsoft.
It's not like they care. I checked my Gmail. Yep, I'd last backed up on Sunday, which meant I'd have lost about 5k words that I started since Monday. I wanted to weep. That's three hours of my life I'm not getting back. WHAT IF I WROTE DEATHLESS PROSE AND IT'S ALL GONE NOW???

Microsoft Word is not the best word processing software, but it's pretty much industry standard. Hence the reason why I use it. I've had my friends tempt me with LibreOffice but because I'm an old dog, I'm resistant to new tricks. No. You can't scratch my tummy and I won't roll over and play dead either.

I've also come to know (and loathe) all the different quirks my various versions of MS Word have. On my old Dell running Windows XP, Word would sometimes crash when I'd selected text for italics and the programme decided to run an auto-save. Argh.

On my Macbook I run MS Word 2008. It often crashes for no discernible reason. Also, it doesn't like it when I have multiple .doc files open. Then it freezes one of them so I have to close the programme and open it again. Argh. More lost work if I hadn't saved.

Here at work, where I often use my lunch hour for my personal writing time, we don't even have *real* computers. We run on thin clients, which means my "harddrive" is scattered in percentages across several servers. Several servers which are 1 200 or so kilometres away in Joburg. Which translates to the occasional gremlins deciding "Oh, dear, we can't save this file, whoops. Let's just corrupt this file already."

LUCKILY for me, I have friends who could help out. Icy was able to open the file on her side and resave into .rtf format. Brian said he could open the file. I only lost about 200 words because I am a compulsive saver. (thank fuck for that, princess) Barry kindly suggested that I should really start using Google Drive and Docs.

So, yeah, I'm going to give that a shot now. No more emailing the document to myself at the end of every week. What I will do is save versions once a week into DropBox so that I've got backup in a different spot.

Moral of the story: BACK UP YOUR WORK. Redundancy is the key. Can you imagine if I'd written this (so far) 63k-word novel without this backup? I'd be slitting my wrists with a blunt spoon round about now. Don't be afraid to embrace new technology. Today's little dramarama has reinforced an important lesson. And don't think that you won't have your moments. We all have them.

The awesome news is that I'm headed into the last third of Jackal, my post-Z little saga involving rangers embattled with an elusive enemy. This has been a very weird book to write. That is all. And not a single vampire in sight.

P.S. And my scary new editor, David Niall Wilson, of Crossroad Press, keeps Tweeting me with his progress on first-round edits for Dawn's Bright Talons. I'm afraid. I'm very, very afraid. But in a good way.

P.P.S. I'd really like to give a little love to my Books of Khepera 1# and 2#. If you've read either of them, do go and find the new editions on Goodreads and leave a review. If you're interested in checking out my earliest writing (which is kinda cute and crunchy in a darkly occultish way) then go show Jamie some love and feed your preferred reading device some love this weekend.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini #review

Author: Christopher Paolini
Title: Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle #3)
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf, 2008

Ooookay. Paolini's going to string along the die-hards who're OCD about reading an entire series, and the same issues that dogged book two are present in book three. Not a helluva lot happens in Brisingr until right at the end. Lots of random battles, a new sword is forged, lots of details about the ongoing war. We find out some Top Secret Stuff about dragons that, predictably, comes into play and reveals a glimmer of hope.

Some of the writing is extremely clunky. Mine twitchy little editor's red
pen itched and itched for me to have a chance to do its thing.

But yeah... So I read this for the same reason that I'd probably read an exhaustive bit of fanfiction. Because this is still pretty much the plot of Star Wars smooshed with Lord of the Rings and Dragonriders of Pern. The writing is average. The characters and dialogue are passable.

My main gripe is the pacing... Lots of slogging to get to the exciting battle sequences at the end.

But what gives this story it's fourth star is the imagination. I like the world-building. I like the concepts Paolini plays with. They're not new, but they're fun, and I enjoyed this novel despite the obvious flaws. Deathless prose this is not. This is not the present era's answer to Tolkien, but I'm still motivated to find out how the heck Paolini's going to wrap up all the threads.

Personally, I think Eragon is an insufferable little Marty Stu, but I like Saphira, so I'll put up with his wangsting about who his daddy is.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Brian Katcher and Everyone Dies at the End

And yet more good news from my publisher...

Dark Continents Publishing is pleased and excited to announce that author Brian Katcher has been offered and has accepted a contract to publish his Young Adult/Mystery novel Everyone Dies in the End

Everyone Dies in the End tells the story of driven high school student, Sherman Andrews. At 17 Sherman is accepted into the Missouri Scholars Academy, a summer college program for the academically oriented students in the state. In Sherman’s case, he has a 10 year program to become a reporter and leave behind the stagnant life he has been living with his low-brow, plumber father and his absent mother. 

While conducting project research for the program, Sherman encounters photos and news stories from 1935 detailing the murder or disappearance of four men. Sherman quickly realizes he has poked his nose into something people want to keep quiet when he survives a determined assassination attempt. 

At this point Sherman has to decide to continue and take the next step in being the reporter he dreams of being, or back out and play it safe. The only people who can help him now are Charlie, the cute, chubby student librarian at the Historical Society, and Denton, the wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, who just happens to currently be confined to a psychiatric hospital. 

“I completely fell in love with this book as soon as I looked at the files,” said David Youngquist, President of Dark Continents Publishing. “I knew I wanted this book before I even finished reading it, so I had to jump on it before someone else snapped it up.” 

Everyone Dies in the End will be released in 2014 and will be the flagship book of Dark Continents Publishing’s new Young Adult line of novels. It will join Katcher’s previous books published by Delacorte: Playing with Matches, which won the 2010-2011 North Carolina Young Adult Book Award and was listed on the American Library Association’s 2009 list of Best Books for Young Adults as well as Almost Perfect which was the Winner of the 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award. It was also listed by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 2010.  

Youngquist and Katcher met in 2011 at Archon, an industry event which encompasses all genres of writing and film near St. Louis, MO. One of DCP’s editors sat in on a panel in which Katcher was the speaker. She then introduced the two after the panel ended. They hit it off, and as they talked, Katcher said he would send in a manuscript during DCP’s open submission period. From this promise, comes a new step for Dark Continents Publishing, and a chance for Katcher fans to get their hands on a great new book by their favorite author. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Liz Strange Erased

So, yeah, basically me and Liz Strange are, erm ... Dare I say it ... (Liz will you ever forgive me?) We're in for some strange days. And I'm really looking forward to working with you again. It's been a while, lady. So, with the official words below from my publisher...

Dark Continents Publishing is pleased and excited to announce Kingston, Ontario, author Liz Strange has joined the family. Liz’s book, Erased, will be released by DCP in 2014.

Erased is a work of Military Science Fiction, and will be the lead book for DCP moving into that genre. It opens in a seedy bar on a grungy planet when Captain Grey Singer wakes up and finds herself sitting alone with no memory of how she got where she is, or much memory of anything. As she follows the leads to answers, she finds herself the focus of a brutal assassination attempt. An attempt which she defeats with honed combat skills that surprise even her. She quickly realizes that in order to survive, the ability to distinguish between enemy and ally is her only chance.

As she uncovers more of her past, she comes to learn she was an officer serving under the Collective in a program codenamed “Control;” a program to create the perfect soldier through physical conditioning and neurological manipulation. Failures of this program are “Erased.” For reasons unknown, Singer realizes she has been subjected to the procedure.

Determined to discover who she is, Singer joins forces with the Sedition Movement in order to overthrow the Collective. As she reclaims her past, however, she finds that what she discovers could be far worse than the truth.

“I was totally blown away by this book,” said David Youngquist, president of Dark Continents Publishing, “the action is intense, the writing sucks you right into the time and place, and I love strong female leads. This is an impressive book.”

With Erased, Liz adds another chapter to her list of genre fiction, which runs the gamut of everything from fantasy and horror, to mystery thriller. She has won a number of awards for her work, and continues to grow in her story telling skills. For more about Liz, go to: 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Opposites attract in ‘glittering’ tale ... #review #interview

Tales involving mismatched couples are bound to result in hilarious results, and in Glitterland author Alexis Hall introduces readers to Ash and Darian, whose worlds are so far apart it’s sheer coincidence they ever met.

Hall elaborates: “I’m aware it’s a bit of a cliché, but, the truth is, I’ve always been a fan of opposites-attract stories. I think I’m generally into people who aren’t very much like me (which is probably a good thing, to be honest). I think there’s something quite romantic about two superficially different people finding common ground. I also like the idea that the essential, well, peopleness of people can cut through socially and culturally created barriers.

“I wasn’t deliberately setting out to write the two most apparently incompatible people ever or anything, but it just sort of panned out that way when I started thinking about who Darian was going to be, and who would make a suitable partner for him.

“Basically, Glitterland started with Darian and, once I realised I wanted to write about that sort of character, it was important to me that he could be taken seriously as a romantic lead and, for that matter, a human being. Which is why he ended up paired with someone so sharp and serious. Ash lives in a world that people like Darian are assumed to neither understand nor appreciate, and I sorted of wanted to challenge that.

“Once I knew who Ash and Darian were, and how let them have their voices, the story sort of told itself. I had a bit of trouble with the ending because my instinct was to make it much more downbeat, and compromisey than it actually wound up being. But my wonderful editor, Sarah Frantz, felt very strongly that it was too heavily skewed in favour of Ash, and denied Darian his desire for a declaration of love and a happy ending. And she was completely right. I much prefer the ending as it currently stands. I think one of the interesting things (interesting in the slightly euphemistic sense of difficult) about writing in first-person narration is you get completely sucked into the mindset of one person and, obviously, a romance is, almost by definition, about two (or more) people finding a space together.”

Part of the joy in seeing the contrasts in Ash and Darian comes across in their dialogue. Ash is quite “proper” – he speaks the Queen’s English rather beautifully – while Darian’s dialogue is unrestrained and heavily rooted in his regional dialect.  Hall says: “I honestly wasn’t sure how it was going to come across to readers until people started actually, well, reading it. I think mileage is probably going to vary considerably on this. Representing regional accents is really complex and I wouldn’t claim to do it with any kind of authority. But, given the first person narration and the pervasiveness of Ash’s perspective, it was really important to me that Darian have his own voice. I think one thing I really tried to bear in mind with Darian’s accent was that I was using dialect to represent sound rather than social class, if that makes any sense.”

As for giving his characters the breath of authenticity, Hall adds: “I watched a lot of The Only Way is Essex – which is a kind of British reality TV show set in Essex. I’m not sure that really counts as research because I’ve always quite enjoyed it. Similarly, the character of Darian was quite strongly inspired by an X-factor UK contestant called Rylan Clark, and so obviously I watched a lot of his interviews and appearances. Embarrassingly, I did rather more research on Essex than I did on bipolar depression, which makes me sound like I’ve got my priorities completely wrong, but, for various reasons, I’ve always been quite aware of mental health issues so my base-line level of knowledge was a lot higher.”

And as for who Alexis Hall, author, is, Hall adds: “I’m quite a private person so I tend not to talk about myself very much. I’ve only been Alexis Hall, author for about a year. I’m vaguely in the vicinity of thirty, I live in the south east of England, I have a full-time job that actually pays the bills, and I write books in my spare time, basically because I enjoy it. I’m kinda nerdy, so I read a lot, and play a lot of video games, and study 17th-century smallsword fencing.”

As for what we can expect next, literature-wise, Hall concludes: “I’m quite a flighty person so I tend to have several projects on the go at once. Truthfully, I’m nervous about works in progress just in case I talk loudly and publicly about something then my publisher decides they don’t want it.

“That said, I do have another book coming out with Riptide in December. It’s called Iron & Velvet, and it’s the first in an f/f paranormal detective series. I’ve always been quite into that sort of urban fantasy about arsekicking heroines surrounded by hot, supernatural creatures who all want to do her, and I thought it would adapt well to a queer framework. Basically, the idea was to take the genre convention that all your major power players want to get into the heroine’s pants and, well, be less heteronormative with it. So, yeah, it’s very different to Glitterland. It’s a high-energy romp with vampires, and werewolves, wizards and zombie nuns.”

And now, for my official review:
Title: Glitterland 
Author: Alexis Hall
Publisher: Riptide Publishing, 2013

When the Riptide review coordinator told me the editors were gushing about Glitterland, my curiosity was immediately piqued. So I requested a copy, even though this is not my usual genre. My verdict: I’m so glad I took a chance on this novel, because I was not disappointed. In fact, if I have to award any author the prize for “Best Dialogue Between Characters for 2013” it’s Alexis Hall.

Because Glitterland has it all – it’s sometimes cringe-worthy, occasionally snarky and often laugh-out-loud funny. Considering that there’s loads of dialogue written in what must possibly be the most horrendous Essex dialect, this is no mean feat, babes.

We meet Ash Winters, a reclusive manic depressive author whose love life is reduced to the occasional anonymous one-night stand with complete strangers. He doesn’t feel he deserves anything more than that and, in fact, he’s convinced himself he cannot handle anything more than that. With a botched suicide behind him, as well as stints in and out of mental institutions, he’s a bit of a basket case – to put it mildly. The only thing he has going for him is his career as a well-known writer of pulpy crime novels.

The absolute last thing he expects is to get romantically entangled with his rather fabulous “glitter pirate” as he calls Darian – one of his anonymous conquests that finds a way into his heart. Ash and Darian couldn’t be more contrasting as characters. Where Ash is reserved and somewhat aloof, Darian is a flamboyant model whose naïveté and genuine niceness wedges open a crack in Ash’s shell.

Through his contact with Darian, Ash learns to overcome his crippling depression, let his hair down and live again. This journey is, however, filled with bumps; Hall spins this tale masterfully, though at times I’d have liked to have kicked Ash hard. Darian’s honesty is, however beautiful. On the outside, he might seem like a facile creature, but he has a way of looking at the world that often allows him to make insightful observations.

Perhaps what makes this story for me is the way Hall effortlessly brings the characters to life in such a way that if we were to meet them on the street, we’d recognise them instantly (and it’s not just the way they talk). At times playful, and others quite poignant, Glitterland maintains a careful balance between its moods with a joyfully exuberant pace. And hell, I was sorry to turn the last page on this story.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eldest by Christopher Paolini #review

Title: Eldest
Author: Christopher Paolini
Publisher: Knopf Books, 2007

Okay, it's been quite a while since I read Eragon, so when Inheritance landed on my desk I reckoned I needed to brush up on the back list before I dove into book four. After all, I love dragons, love epic
fantasy. Now I do recall a lot of book reviewers and bloggers going on about how this saga is basically Star Wars with dragons, and a serious nod to Tolkien. And yes... they're right.

The elements Paolini blends so far as I can see in book two are very much Luke Skywalker goes to Dagobah to train with Master Yoda. And Eragon spends *most* of this novel either travelling or training... or pining after Arya. Perhaps the more exciting story arc is that of his cousin Roran, who shows a surprising transformation and leads the entire Carvahall in revolt against the Empire.

And Roran is the one who shows the most dramatic changes, turning from the dull farmer to the unlikely hero who ends up (unsurprisingly) playing a pivotal role near the end. There was only one plot point that really bothered me and that was related to why the Ra'zac didn't succeed in taking him when they had that chance. That part felt a bit contrived.

The main point that bothered me about this novel was the pacing. The first 75% is SLOW. Very, very slow. Sure, there's a lot of fascinating backstory *if* indulging in copious amounts of history a la Silmarillion is your thing. I was sufficiently invested to deal with it, but yeah... Things only started getting exciting when battle was imminent.

Eragon as a character is a bit flat. He's the archetypical hero who's impatient, stubborn and allows his emotions to get the better of him. I suspect Arya will still be his Achilles tendon later in the saga, but she's definitely a massive chink in his armour.

My verdict... The story isn't perfect, but for die-hard fantasy fans it's probably going to be sweetcakes. I admit I enjoyed it despite itself. Paolini takes existing tropes and he puts his own spin on
them. This isn't a *great* novel but it's a fun novel, perfect for a holiday read or to while away the time while commuting, like I did.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem with Daniel I Russell

I admit it, it's the cover that got me. So I had to get Daniel I Russell over here to talk about his latest release, Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem published by Crystal Lake Publishing. Welcome, Daniel!

The cover art image creeps me the hell out. Tell me more.

I picked the title of the book from one of the longer stories within, and while that piece is one of my older tales and quite self-indulgent (combining my favourite movie genres of haunted houses, clowns and toys), the title I felt that the title summed up the collection well.

The short story itself, Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem, appeared in a German anthology called Wicked, and each story had its own illustration by the artist Christian Krank. I loved the image as soon as I saw it. Has such antiquity and sinister tones!

When the publisher Joe Mynhardt first mentioned the cover art, this picture immediately sprang to mind. After some friendly negotiation we obtained the rights from Christian and away we went! Have to also give a dip of the big clownish bowler to Ben Baldwin who produced the layout and did a superb job with the creepy old theme. A lot of author collections have had an arty minimalist vibe of late, which I wanted to avoid. My book is like a trip through a creaky old funhouse and I wanted readers to get that from the cover.

Doing a retrospective of stories can be quite daunting, especially if your writing style has shifted over the years (which I assume it has). By what criteria did you pick the stories that eventually went into the anthology? Did you have any themes in mind? That being said, if you look over your body of work, what sort of development do you see in your writing? 

I go into detail over this in my notes, that the stories themselves are like snapshots of life at the time of writing: the places, the people, the thoughts. I wanted a complete, definitive collection of my first (of hopefully many) decades in horror fiction. This just wasn’t feasible. With so many stories to publish, the book would have been an epic volume. I think we looked into it, and the page count would have reflected such a high cover price that we decided early on that this was a no go, and cuts had to be made.

We looked at word counts and had a vague idea of how many had to be chopped. Joe and I discussed what we thought were the weakest stories and then requested the same from the beta readers. Everyone had different opinions!

Eventually we cut some of the more traditional horror subgenres. Penanggalan! was cut, a vampire story that lost us some 10k words, and a werewolf story and a Lovecraftian tale followed. We still weren’t happy with the length, but after some formatting wizardry, Joe managed to get it under 500 pages. Just!

I definitely see the development, as I’m a very different person now as I was at twenty-three. The need to shock and disturb is still there, but I’m slowing down a bit with the execution and utilising less of the red stuff. More events happen now of the page at times with more heart-wrenching results (for example, in the story Devolution). I also have a drive to write in varying styles and don’t shy away from some heavy research sessions before starting a story.

If you had to pick three of the anthology stories to discuss, which would they be, and why have you picked them? 

I thought about this question and wondered which stories would show my development as a writer, or which of the tales has had the most success before being compiled. Then I thought nah, I’ll just go with my favourites!

The Love Revolution was written under a very tight deadline, and is one of those pieces that you think is rushed crap when you get the words down but then it grows on you. I also have a bit of a dig at the new wave of popular romance books and chick lit, which is always fun, and combine it with some of the most obscene images I’ve ever created. I had serious reservations when I submitted this, but thankfully the editor loved it. Sick puppy.

Seeing the Light is what many may consider a traditional zombie story. While I enjoy zombies, there has certainly been a danger of industry saturation of late, made obviously apparent with publishers requesting horror…but not zombies. I always try to do something different with traditional genres, and Seeing the Light is no different. A surprisingly feel good zombie tale.

Finally, the closing story, God May Pity All Weak Hearts. As I mentioned above, I don’t shy away from research any more. This story was way, way out of my comfort zone. Written as a series of diary entries at the turn of the twentieth century, my usual no-nonsense approach wouldn’t have floated. I did extensive reading of work from the time, to the extent of reading letters written by the real life protagonist to capture his voice. I’m usually too hard on myself when I judge my work, but I’m proud of this story.

What sort of feedback have you received from reviewers/readers so far? 

Joe has prepared a blog post with a collection of the early reviews here.

Readers and reviewers have thus far enjoyed the collection. When the likes of Paul Kane and Hellnote’s Matthew Tait are giving you the nod of approval, you know you haven’t released a stinker! Hopefully soon the readers that bought on release day will be sharing their thoughts…

What are you working on now? 

Quite a few pokers in the fire at the moment, which is unlike me. I like to finish one thing before moving onto the next. There’s a few short stories on the go being written for specific anthologies, and a new novel at halfway. I have a fourth child on the way, so I’m aiming to get a few projects off the desk before the big day!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Buried Pyramid by Jane Lindskold #review

Title: The Buried Pyramid
Author: Jane Lindskold
Publisher: Tor, 2004

For those of us into all things Egyptian with the kind of swashbuckling humour evident in the Indiana Jones films, The Buried Pyramid will offer a fun romp filled with a large cast of endearing characters.

Sir Neville Hawthorne has unfinished business in the Red Land – many years ago he accompanied a mission to find the mysterious buried pyramid of the pharaoh Neferankhotep which almost ended in disaster. Not to be outdone, he plans to return to Egypt, and this time he’s not alone.

Accompanying Neville are his niece, the plucky, sharpshooting Jenny, recently imported from the Wild West; and the rather bookish Stephen, who has a penchant for solving riddles. They meet up with an old buddy of Neville’s, Eddie, who’ll act as their guide
as they embark on their epic mission to find the lost pharaoh’s final resting place.

But they’re not going to have it easy. Neferankhotep’s pyramid is guarded by a mysterious sect, and there are others who wish to plunder the fabled treasures, who’re hot on the party’s heels.

Overall, I both liked and disliked this book by equal measure. I’ll start with what bothered me – the characterisation. Characters were either good or bad, and clearly so, and I felt almost as if Lindskold adhered too tightly to tropes, for instance Jenny being a liberated woman in that era or Lady Cheshire’s somewhat overbearing evil seductress persona. It was as if the characters were caricatures of themselves.

But I could look past that, because the narrative flowed, and I enjoyed Lindskold’s unfolding world.

With regard to story arcs, I did feel as if none of the characters actually learnt anything or developed in themselves – it felt almost like the type of action one would find in a roleplaying game rather than a novel. Certain plot devices, like Mozelle the kitten, were so obvious I could see them coming from a mile away once certain events were set in motion – but then I know my ancient Egyptian mythology better than most, so lost the element of surprise.

What I did like, was the sheer sense of fun and involvement in the story – the very same I know and love when I immerse myself in an Indiana Jones film. And yes, I could so see this turned into a film. Lindskold is adept at bringing her setting to life. While the characters might be a bit two-dimensional, they are vivid, and some of the dialogue is indeed entertaining. So while there is nothing earth-shattering about the plot, this is still a fun read which should appeal to those who love Egypt and are looking for a light-hearted story.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In the flat field... Alannah Murphy on Bauhaus

There are a handful of bands I never get tired of listening to, and one of them is Bauhaus. I've always said that vocalist Peter Murphy has a rubber voice, and there's something to be said for this post-punk band from the UK. Some of their songs have been the anthems of my young adulthood, be it A Passion of Lovers or the dreamy All We Ever Wanted Was Everything. Often I turn up the Bauhaus when I'm writing, and I often find that the word-images inform my creativity.

So of course, one Bauhaus fan to another, I've enjoyed getting to know writer and musician Alannah Murphy, who understands the magic behind the music, and I'm more than happy to hand over my blog to her today. Welcome, Alannah...

* * * *

Before I tell you about my favourite band, and why they have been a great influence in my writing, I want to thank the lovely Nerine Dorman, for giving me this opportunity to discuss my favourite dark boys of all time… Bauhaus.

These four young men from Northampton* transformed rock music, giving it a darker edge. Their music was also a great influence on the Gothic Rock movement, though the band itself, only got tagged with the Goth label later on.

To any Bauhaus fans that read this, of course, I am aware the band reunited more than once, since their initial break up in 1983, and even went on to release another album (Go Away White) in 2008. However, I have chosen to discuss their initial years only, for it was during that time that their musical legacy was born.

Musically, Bauhaus were much more than Goth, even if that gothic influence is what they are remembered for. Their musical influences were eclectic to say the least. There’s the Dub-influenced Bela Lugosi’s Dead, a track that also dared to go beyond the standard three minute single in length, and still became a cult classic. The raw energy of Punk, can be heard in songs like Dark Entries and In the Flat Field. There’s also the Reggae tinges heard in She’s in Parties, and the funky dance beat of Kick in the Eye, whose performance on the BBC, caught the eye of director Tony Scott, who later on, featured the band in his iconic night club start of his film version of Whitley Strieber’s The Hunger, with Murphy in full pomp singing Bela Lugosi’s Dead, whilst Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie choose their next victims.

Another striking feature in the music and imagery that made Bauhaus such a memorable band, were the twisted religious influences, found in songs like the eternally creepy Stigmata Martyr. This made the band even more attractive to someone like me, who’d had Catholicism shoved down my throat as a child. Both Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash have spoken of that Catholic upbringing, so I am not surprised it showed up as an influence in the band’s imagery and lyrics.

The band’s musical vision, put them ahead of their time. Songs like Terror Couple Kill Colonel and Sanity Assassin recorded over 30 years ago, still sound current now. Sadly, true mainstream success eluded them during their brief four year career. Maybe they were too unique and diverse to be suited for mass adoration from the mainstream, who prefers their music bland and insipid. One look at the current top ten, in either America or the UK will show that this is still the case.

In spite of having a loyal cult following, Bauhaus were also dismissed by the music press, who attacked them, calling them Bowie clones, but the boys took it all in stride and purposely released their own version of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, ironically, the single cracked the Top 40 reaching number fifteen on the UK Singles Chart.

Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins, were all talented musicians, but for me, it was frontman Peter Murphy, with his striking presence and powerful voice, that made the band into something special. A fact made more staggering considering Bauhaus was Murphy’s first musical experience. Maybe it was that lack of experience that made him so uninhibited, with a commanding presence that stopped you on your tracks.

* Peter Murphy was born near Northampton, in the town of Wellingborough.

Of course, Bauhaus was still a group effort. Bassist David J composed many of the tracks. Daniel Ash's unique guitar style gave songs like Bela Lugosi's Dead that otherworldly unique feel, and Kevin Haskins provided the band with a solid musical backbone with his steady drumming.

The band's legendary performance at the Old Vic, filmed in 1982, for their Shadow of Light/Archive DVD compilation was a catalyst for me as a writer. I was spellbound by Peter's powerful stage presence. He's a whirlwind on stage, visceral, raw. The DVD compilation is aptly titled, for shadow and light define his slim but toned physique. At times, he appears possessed by an inner force that gives him otherworldly power. It was easy to believe, this was no ordinary human, and that was the creative spark that started it all for me, inspiring me to write about my own main character, who is a rock musician, living in London in 1982. This creative gift and inspiration, is one of the main reasons Bauhaus will always have a special place in my heart, a hidden alcove, in the night…

Alannah Murphy, is a former rock musician turned writer, currently working on a rock'n'roll novel set in London. Follow her blog at

Monday, August 5, 2013

Outcast by Adrienne Kress #review

Title: Outcast
Author: Adrienne Kress
Publisher: Diversion Books, 2013

First off, Adrienne Kress has taken a trope that’s been done to death in YA fiction and recast it in a way that’s both fresh and quirky. This is not [yawn] *yet* another angel book.

Riley, who lives in a typical small town in the American South is your average teen girl. She does okay at school and has all the regular issues you’d expect. Except that the small town where she lives isn’t exactly normal. Once a year, on the same day, “angels” come down to take a select few young people. What makes it worse is that there’s a pastor at the head of a new church dedicated to these angels who’s convinced the townsfolk that it’s not just okay that this is happening, but that it’s an honour for them to be chosen.

But Riley’s having none of this. During the previous “angelic” raid, her best friend Chris was taken, and Riley’s not quite over his disappearance. So, naturally, when an angel pitches up in her parents’ yard, ostensibly to take her too, she’s more than just a little bit peeved. As it turns out she’s pretty handy with a shotgun too, and she shoots the angel in the face.

From there on in, things get interesting. When Riley goes to investigate, she finds no dead angel on the lawn but a young, hot and rather naked guy who’s still alive and unharmed. She does the most sensible thing (of course) by trussing him up and holding him hostage in the garden shed. The mysterious young man – aptly named Gabe – has no recollection of any angelic doings. In fact, he claims to be a local. The only problem is, he remembers the town as it was during the 1950s. Between the two of them they have a year until the next angelic visitation to unravel the mystery of the so-called angels and why they’ve been snatching people.

Overall, Kress keeps the story going with a healthy balance between typical teen angst of budding romances and the bigger picture. At times I did feel that Riley lost sight of her goals and gets lost in everyday issues, but Kress brings in little nudges to progress the plot where necessary. Characters are well-realised, the dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny, and Kress delivers on a satisfying tale despite the amount of down time. Riley, in particular, stands out as a strong female protagonist in a genre riddled with vapid heroines; Outcast has none of the fatal pitfalls that mar other well-known stories in this genre. The dead-tree version of this might be a bit on the pricy side, but definitely consider this for your Kindle or preferred electronic reading device.