Always nice to hear Nicely’s theme song:
Published September 18th by Monkey House
Always nice to hear Nicely’s theme song:
Published September 18th by Monkey House
Delighted to announce the cover for the new #1 Kindle Bestelling ‘Detective Strongoak’ adventure: ‘Dwarf Girls don’t Dance’. Published by Monkey Business, an imprint of Grey House in the Woods – coming soon.
“You never hear much about Dwarf women, do you? That’s because they are trouble. Real trouble.”
When Master Detective Nicely Strongoak first encounters the drop-dead gorgeous dwarfess ‘Diamond’, a fully paid up member of the Citadel Guild of Amorous Dancers and Associated Divesters, he should have known better than to leave his business card. Especially when subsequent business turns out to involve murder and the man reputed to be the Citadel’s Dark Crime Lord.
He certainly shouldn’t have gone to help Diamond beat a murder rap. Not when it involved heading back to the old Dwarf Kingdom of Skragsrealm, and the memories of a much younger Nicely and his encounter with the Nine Idlers – a group of men, elves, gnomes, dwarves and even a Warrior Princess. Oh, and the one brutal killing he had never managed to solve. Yet his alliance with the strangely attractive gobliness Detective Analyst Grundrund leads Nicely on a trail full of enchanters and lost love that might solve not just one, but three murders. That’s if the rewilded wolves and mud dragons don’t get him first.
Being asked to appear at a Literary Festival, especially a local one, is always a great honour. At the behest of my inspired interviewer Isabel Lloyd I delivered a ‘Magnificent 7’ of the fictional characters I love who have also inspired my writing. Here are some more words about these fabulous characters, who have meant so much to me.
There has to be some Tolkien of course. If it wasn’t for Tolkien I would never have wondered what did happen in Middle Earth when everything moved on a few thousand years, and they had an industrial revolution, and race relations and such like became important, and they even needed a dwarf detective in the first place.
But why Samwise, after all isn’t Frodo the main character of LOTR? Or maybe Aragorn, the proper heroic type? No, actually it’s Sam who is the protagonist of the book, because a protagonist is defined by change. Frodo and Aragorn are certainly heroes – but they don’t really change. Sam, bless him, goes off on his adventuring dreaming of the heroes of old, and to his amazement becomes one of those heroes.
He is the everyman and we need everymen and everywomen:
“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”
Raymond Chandler introduced the mostly science fiction and fantasy reading me to a whole new world, that of crime. Some say Dashiell Hammett did crime better, but Chandler did it with more class. The world-weary knight in tarnished armour, treading those ‘mean streets’ was the main inspiration for my own dwarf detective Nicely Strongoak walking his ‘mean cobbled street’. Chandler also taught me that books weren’t just about storytelling – my main passion until then – but about the language to. And what language!
‘She had the kind of figure that would make a Bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window’.
I also loved the things I didn’t even recognise: ‘Chesterfields’ and ‘Davenports’ and the ephemera of a bygone age – which it was by then for me.
And if the past is a foreign country – why not make a few things up and put them in your books too! I know I did.
Douglas Adams – who I singularly failed to meet one day in the 1980s, but I got a nice pen from Apple – was a hero. His radio series of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe’ was a huge inspiration and was responsible for the first version of Nicely being written for audio. Bit of a mistake that, looking back, as it took me twenty five years to get it into novel form as the Radio 4 producer suggested to me. Arthur Dent appeals to that part of all of us that never feels like it is completely in control of events. Even detectives are never completely in control, which is why they get hit a lot.
‘This must be Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays.’
And so we come to Terry Pratchett’s DEATH. This is not Terry Pratchett’s personal death – which sadly came far too early, but his character DEATH. Finding a favourite character from Terry Pratchett was actually quite difficult. He’s not really about the characters for me, although there are many great ones, like Rincewind, Nanny Ogg and The Luggage, but he’s more about attitude – a way of looking at things. I was pretty upset when Mr Pratchett made it into print before I did – by the odd twenty five years or so – because he did so well what I originally set out to do. He deconstructed fantasy ideas and used them to address many of the foibles of – well, ‘life the universe and everything’. Thanks to Mr Pratchett I had to tighten my focus and make sure that my books became proper crime books too. There had always been a murder or two and a mystery, but now that was really something to be solved. Nicely grew up a bit and became more of his own dwarf. DEATH stands out, because he TALKS IN CAPITALS and because he is really quite a decent chap. You wouldn’t mind having a drink with DEATH, as long as his bitter didn’t go everywhere.
Two death quotes:
“And what would humans be without love?”
“RARE, said Death.”
and given the subject matter, this one:
HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
Howard the Duck
Iron Man is really so much scrap, Superman couldn’t have a sex life, Batman can’t talk properly, which makes Howard the Duck the greatest comic book ever, and one of the great film turkeys too. Certainly the worse crime against cinema committed by George Lucas.
Howard the Duck is a cynical, tough-talking, cigar champing duck, who ends up in a world of hairless apes. It wasn’t just the fish out of water aspect that appealed to me, but also that he was able to satirise and basically ‘take the piss’ out of all the Marvel comic book heroes, as well as other cultural norms, while still going along with their fun and games. An attitude I approve of and exploited in my 2005 play: ‘What do you do on the Night after you’ve Saved the Universe?’ This was a play that basically featured super-heroes sitting round and eating pizza. Had great fun with ‘C Thru Girl’ and ‘Minuscule Man’.
The great affection felt for Howard in the comic book community can be seen by the fact that he has a cameo in both ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films.
“Hey, if I had some place to go I certainly wouldn’t be in Cleveland” – insert your least loved location.
A detective and a wizard – isn’t that a little close to comfort, Terry?
No actually – Jim Bishop’s modern day Chicago based PI shows how much fun you can have with the tropes and ideas of fantasy in a modern setting – yet be very different. This was a great relief to me when I was trying to get ‘Nicely’ published. A very different cauldron of spells.
For a start, being a wizard, Jim actually uses magic. Nicely Strongoak isn’t too sure about magic. He prefers his racing green, ’57 Dragonette convertible steam wagon, the model with the air trims and the longer foils, and a shooter instead of a staff. Nicely wears good hats. Harry doesn’t wear a hat – whatever the covers may show!
The late Philip Kerr’s WWII German detective Bernie Gunther is one of the great creations. He narrowly beat another German, Gunther Grass’s ‘Oskar Matzerath’ to my list. Like Oskar, Bernie Gunther holds up a powerful light to shine on the atrocities of WWII and the circumstances that make an essentially decent policeman do what he has to, and makes us wonder what we might do in similar circumstances.
And in Berlin of the war period Kerr also provides another world with its own furniture and slang as interesting and varied as any fantasy world can be.
“When you get a cat to catch the mice in your kitchen, you can’t expect it to ignore the rats in the cellar.”
“Looking round the room I found there were so many false eyelashes flapping at me that I was beginning to feel a draught.”
Please note: I could have cheated for the sake of political correctness and included references to private investigators ‘Kinsey Malone’, and ‘VI Paretsky’ – who I love – or female action heroes like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor – but they are mostly film and this was for a literary festival after all. And I haven’t mentioned ‘intertextuality’ at all! At the end of the day it’s all about what influenced my writing the most and these are the main people, outside of Roxy Music, David Bowie, August Darnell and Bugs Bunny.
That’s all folks!
* With thanks to Jane Triton and The Robertsbridge Arts Partnership and, of course, my intrepid interviewer, the writer and journalist, Isabel Lloyd.
Ten Reasons why I Love Books … and one extra
1) Easy travel without buying a ticket
2) Legal voyeurism
3) You can fall in love but behave outrageous and see other people too
4) A novel of the proper length enables you to support your head when lying on the floor to straighten your spine
5) Turning pages is good exercise for turning pages
6) You don’t need to share a book and you don’t get told off for it
7) You can meet such nice people
8) You don’t have to put up with the company of people you don’t like (for long)
9) Words in books help you to understand more about the world
10) I’ve never been stood up by a book
In the days before streaming, MP3s and such like – when proper music came in vinyl that they called ‘long players’, there was something called ‘Difficult Second Album Syndrome’.
An album was another name for a LP (long player), being a number of audio recordings issued as a collection, which after vinyl’s heyday was then also used for both tape cassettes and CD collections – gosh, it’s like a history lesson!
And the ‘difficult second album’ was what they called the follow-up LP a band or singer had to bring out pretty quickly after the initial success of their debut. Usually with the record label pushing them hard! The problem referenced the fact that recording artistes had, apparently, often used up all their best ideas on that impressive first record.
Now, novels having been around a lot longer than LPs (did any classical music composers have ‘that difficult second symphony syndrome’?) you would think more would have been written about ‘Second Novel Syndrome’. Of course it must exist, after all Margaret Mitchell never managed another book after ‘Gone with the Wind’. J D Salinger rather dried up after ‘Catcher in the Rye’. Maybe it’s more success related than the actual writing?
What then can be done to get over this problem? And did I ever suffer from ‘Difficult Second Novel Syndrome’ when writing ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’ (KELS)? This being the second adventure of the ‘#1 Kindle Bestselling’ Master Detective Nicely Strongoak. (Not exactly ‘Gone With The Wind’ or ‘Catcher in the Rye’ fame I know!)
The answer is no. And not because I’d already published ‘The Resolution Show’ with David Alter in between, because chronologically that was actually written a lot later.
The explanation, and the way to get round ‘Difficult Second Novel Syndrome’, is to start the second novel before you finish the first! Well, that’s what I did with KELS.
What’s this all about then? Simply put, when writing Nicely’s first adventure ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ I found that there was a lot of material being generated that just didn’t fit in that first book. It was either connected to events, or characters, which just didn’t belong in ‘A Dead Elf’. They were too good to waste though and I put them elsewhere (in my fester box) and gradually KELS began to take shape there.
Bottom line, I had half of this book finished before I had completed Nicely’s first adventure. This meant I had none of that ‘blank page’ problem when it came to writing KELS for real. There were a lot of other problems of course, but not to do with the actual writing.
And, guess what?
While I was getting the rest of KELS together the elements of Book 3 of Nicely’s adventures were taking shape. Now, on ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’ publication day, I am delighted to announce that the first draft of Book 3 is also complete. It’s called …
Sorry, you’ll have to wait for that treat, but in putting that book together the basis for Book 4 began to take shape as well. But that, as they say, is another story.
Here’s a book trailer for “The King of Elfland’s Little Sister”
Feel free to hum along!
It seems only fair to now give you the full effect of the glorious cover for the new Detective Strongoak adventure: The King of Elfland’s Little Sister.
It’s already receiving very positive feedback I’m delighted to say and I should have the publication date very soon.
Continue reading The King of Elfland’s Little Sister – the whole cover!
We have had a quite a few questions about the excellent cover for ‘The Resurrection Show’ The talented, award-winning, illustrator Tom Morgan-Jones of Inkymess.com is responsible – and we are a delighted two-hearted Dalter T Newman.
We chose Tom because his superb, energetic style of penmanship beautifully complemented the buzzing energy of ‘The Resurrection Show’. You can almost smell the ink drying!
Tom has illustrated numerous books including over 70 for children. Recently he has also written and illustrated his first book: THE RED DREAD and, of course, we hope it does tremendously well, although we can’t say we really approve of him being allowed on the keyboard.
Hands up who would like to see a really cool cover? Well thank you everybody, especially you at the back, smiling and paying attention too!
Who would like to see a really cool cover to a really cool new book?
Well, isn’t it just your lucky day!
So, what’s this all about then? And who is Dalter T Newman? Last question first: Dalter T Newman is a strange composite human being with two hearts, one belonging to composer, songwriter and cardiologist David Alter, and the other belonging to myself – who just happens to be a former researcher into heart function.
What are the chances of that then?
This story had its origins in a fantastic collection of songs written by David, and performed by an excellent band he put together, dealing with big subjects like religion, humanism and intolerance.
Which is when I came in.
I had a brief to help develop this into a fully interactive, all singing and dancing (maybe), stage show, which just might make a nod in a satirical, funny Pythonesque direction. This we did, and we’re rather proud of it and looking to find the show – ‘The Resurrection Show’ of course – a fantastic home. If you’re interested in that, do contact us through this blog.
In the meantime though ‘The Resurrection Show’ kept growing and practically forced itself to appear in a novel form – literally, in the form of a novel. A novel full of god-bots, prayer clones, singing ecologists, a confused New Puritan, and the resurrected Messiah. Oh and all set in 2099 too!
So here it is: ‘The Resurrection Show’ and both hearts of Dalter T Newman are bursting with pride. Continue reading The Resurrection Show
I never really thought about writing for children. I don’t necessarily think you do. All of my stories – the ones in my thoughts, my notes and my daydreams were very adult.
No, not that sort of adult!
I mean they were complex, very ideas-based, plot heavy SF novels or knowing, reference-rich fantasy mash-ups. They weren’t children’s books!
And then there was one. It came unexpected and unlooked for and it really was a joy to write. I loved it. The book is called WHEELWORLD and I now need to find it a home, but I will persevere. WHEELWORLD isn’t actually what I’m writing about here today though.
It was just that writing WHEELWORLD put me in a completely different mindset about exactly what writing for children involves and what it is all about. And I enjoyed doing it.
Since then I have written a five-part children’s animation series about two little princesses, a selection of fun verses for a book of lovely child-friendly illustrations and had a commission for a glorious tale about a young boy and his elephant called ‘The Duke of Delhi’.
That’s what I do want to write about. ‘The Duke of Delhi’, it may surprise you to learn, is set in my own East Sussex countryside, in an entirely imaginary Topley Castle Indian Wild Life Park. A young Anglo-Indian boy, Safin, has to live with his maternal grandfather at Topley Castle and his life there is changed around when a baby, Indian white elephant, rescued from an animal trafficker, also comes to live.
A boy and his elephant, and a group of likeable school friends, what more could you want in a children’s book? Some fun black and white illustrations from the pen of illustrator Les Garrett, just like many classic children’s book of old, of course.
The result is what will hopefully be the first in a series of books featuring the lovable ‘Duke of Delhi’ and his chum Safin. Available in both paperback and ebook, everybody involved hopes children everywhere will fall in love with this first book: ‘The White Elephant’.