March 2021 book blog

Ah yes, Rotherweird. I spent half of March reading Lost Acre. I admit it, I struggled. I’ve been wondering what went wrong, for me, with the Rotherweird trilogy, because it all started off so promisingly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s staying on the shelves because I want to re-read it again in a few years to see if it’s an easier read when I don’t wait a year or two between book 1 and book 2. I love the concept of Rotherweird, as a town. It’s got Gormanghast written all over it, and I bloody well love Gormanghast. I love the idea of secret places where those in the know can move between dimensions. I love the idea of the mixing place, and of the near immortal mixed. The villain and his plots are genuinely horrifying, and the idea of taking over a life by shapeshifting is great. There are lots and lots of intriguing characters. And I think that was my problem, the ‘lots and lots’. There were just too many irons in the fire and too many fires, and I really shouldn’t have left that gap between Book 1 and Book 2, because I lost the momentum and my grasp of the story. I’ll try again in a few years, because I do think it’s worth another go.

So, on to one of my book token impulse buys, ‘We Have Always Lived In The Castle’ by Shirley Jackson. I read it in 24 hours, and finished it with a feeling of elation at how great the story was, and mounting fury that NOBODY has ever told me to read it. Nobody. You utter bastards. There needs to be a foundation somewhere that gives copies to everyone on their fifteenth birthday.

The rest of March’s reading was filled out a little by the urge to read the pile of magazines that had piled up over the months, so I was only reading Becky Chambers ‘Record Of A Spaceborn Few’ for a few minutes every night, and it took a while to hit that spot two thirds of the way through where I just could not put it down. If you’ve not yet read any of the Wayfarers series, and you like SF, then I respectfully suggest that you save some pennies or make an order at the library, and treat yourself. The books are all set loosely in the same time period, with a human diaspora scraping a living in a multi-species galactic culture that has only recently voted to admit us as members. If you like guns and battles it’s probably not for you, but if you’re interested in exploring ideas of what it means to be a person and how a fractured race with little to offer can survive in a largely indifferent galaxy, then Wayfarers is for you.

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February 2021 book blog

And so, on to February, when I finished Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Echoes of the Fall’ trilogy by binge reading ‘The Hyena and The Hawk’. This series pushed all my buttons, strong female characters, children estranged from their parents, shape shifters, and a band of unlikely friends. Reading it was like eating a three tier box of my favourite chocolates. I suppose that ‘Shadows of the Apt’ is now on my 2021 Christmas list.

Moving from ‘Echoes of the Fall’ to a re-read of Joanna Russ might seem like an odd move, but it was February, it was lockdown, and I was missing friends and family. Tchaikovsky’s books were distracting, but Joanna Russ books are old friends, and if I can’t have a cuppa with a human friend, then at least I can curl up with couple of paperbacks that I bought when I was young … either from Grassroots in Manchester, or News From Nowhere in Liverpool, I can’t exactly remember, but I do remember the thrill of discovering the Women’s Press Science Fiction imprint. Both books were published by The Women’s Press in the mid 1980s, but weren’t new to me, I’d read them in previous editions from my local library. Reading them again was both comforting and disturbing, in that whilst it’s nice to remember my younger self reading the same books, nothing has really changed since they were written, and the fight goes on. I think ‘Picnic on Paradise’ is a brilliant short novel.

From the nineteen sixties to the twenty twenties, from Russ to Fahey, and there’s joy to be had in knowing that the torch is still burning. Fahey’s collection of body horror stories, ‘I Spit Myself Out’ addresses several of my own obsessions … twins, interfaces, and loss.

Looking back on February, I really did indulge myself, I didn’t try anything new, I had a wonderful time reading a great fantasy trilogy, two old friends, and a fantastic new collection of short stories from my anthology sister Tracy Fahey.

Then, right at the end of the month, I returned to Rotherweird …

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January 2021 book blog

Goodreads is a useful way of logging what I’ve been reading, but I thought I’d start a more personal reading blog here. I’ll start with January just gone, and aim to catch up with the rest of the year soon.

January is my favourite month of the year for reading. I have a December birthday, so by the end of December I usually have a fairly hefty pile of new books, and a nice armoury of book tokens to deal with any sequel emergencies. This year I started out with a fair number of sequels, some stand alone novels by new to me authors, a trilogy that I’m really looking forward to, a couple of collections of short stories, a nice haul of chapbooks, and a poetry collection. Where to start?

The book that ticked over from 2020 was Wyntertide, the second book in Andrew Caldecott’s Rotheweird trilogy. It had been on the shelves for at least a year, but it’s a complex tale with many characters, and I wanted to delay reading it until I had the third book ready to read. Christmas brought me Lost Acre, the third book, so I settled down with Wyntertide. As I thought, the complexity of the plot and the wide cast of characters made for slow going at first, but eventually I got back into the spirit of the story and was ready to plunge straight into Lost Acre and finish the trilogy.

But hang on. My lovely husband, knowing how much I’d enjoyed Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Children of Time’ and ‘Children of Ruin’, had bought me a quite beautiful paperback by the same author. ‘The Tiger and The Wolf’ has a gorgeous cover that tempted me away from ‘Lost Acre’. It also has a first chapter that had me so rapt that I broke away only to order the second and third book in the series, spending some of my lovely book tokens. Luckily for me, most books arrive quite quickly these days, and I pretty much just got to the end of ‘The Tiger and The Wolf’, and plunged straight into the sequel, ‘The Bear and The Serpent.’ I’ve realised now that there’s an entire series that I should, perhaps, have read first, but the Echoes of the Fall series does stand alone perfectly well.

So, just three books in January, but to be fair I was spending quite a lot of time getting my own first book, (Fight for the Future), ready for publication. I was also dipping into Rosie Garland’s poetry collection ‘What Girls Do In The Dark’. I’d been reading it, on and off, since the start of November, and I’ve probably read each poem three or four times, and I’ve kept the book close at hand in case I need to dip into it again. The collection is life affirming and magical, and I love it to bits.

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There’s a racket out there and a bracket in here
And I’m not quite sure what I mean
Is it anyone for tennis?
Is it anyone for edits?
Is it something not quite out of a dream?
There’s a bracket out there and a racket in here
And I think there’s a scam going on
Is it bad for your wealth?
Is it holding up a shelf?
Is it what I should be hiding from?
There’s a bracket round me and a racket round me
And the noise won’t stop when I scream
Does it define what I am?
Is it banging on a a pan?
Tell me please should I change my routine?

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This apple has a rotten spot

I think I should complain

I’ll write to Asda, double quick.

Oh hell, here comes the rain.

My washing was so nearly dry,

And now it’s all wet through

The weather forecast told a lie

A quick complaint is due.

My laptop’s ready for the job

I’m going to tut-tut

I’ve got the kettle on the hob

Oh no! A power cut!

I’ll sit down here and use a pen

At least I can still write

To Asda first, and only then …

… Wow, that lighning’s bright!

The fire brigade are on their way

At least that’s what they said

I’ll sit here tight and come what may

I will not lose my head.

I’ve made a list, it’s nice and long

Of all the silly twits

Who always get everything wrong

So nothing ever fits.

There’s something banging at the door

I think it has a horn

I just cannot take any more

Really? Demon Spawn?

Dear Sir or Madam, from these lips

Of mine please hear my plea …

This noisy, wet apocalypse

Is really not for me.

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Fight for the Future out now.

My first novel, Fight for the Future, is now available as a paperback or for Kindle here.

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Fight For The Future

Many, many years ago, I started getting spectral visits from a young red headed woman. She wouldn’t tell me her name at first, but she did tell me that she was a shapeshifter, and that she had a story for me. That story is the story of the Ransomed Hearts, and is the subject of my next novel. Once she was sure that I’d got the message, she left me alone, and I wrote lots of stories about her family and their adventures. One of the stories was set several decades in the past, and at first all I knew was that it started with two scruffy looking lads climbing down from an old fashioned bus in a village in the north of England. That story became ‘Fight For The Future’ and is my first independently published novel. It’s been a long time coming, and for that, I apologise. It was pretty much finished a few years ago, but it took me a while to pluck up the courage to send it to be critiqued, and then edited.
I don’t expect wild success, as the whole series is hard to categorise. It will have to find its own audience. It’s about shapeshifters, but not the paranormal. It’s about centuries long feuds, terror and murder, but it’s also about love and laughter and family.
I’m hoping to finalise the publication of ‘Fight For The Future’ very soon, and in the meantime I’m licking the second book into some sort of shape before I dare to start sending it around for reading and editing. The third book is written, and has a title too, but we’ll save that for later eh?
I’ll let you all know when you can buy the first book, and I hope that some of you, at least, enjoy it.

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Revolutions 2 / Sole Defender

I loved ‘Revolutions’, the Manchester speculative fiction anthology, so I was chuffed to bits when my story ‘Sole Defender’ was accepted for ‘Revolutions 2’.

All the stories are based in Manchester.

You can get a copy here.

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Nothing / State of You

My short story ‘State Of You’ was published by Hic Dragones in their anthology ‘Nothing’.

I’m proud to be the anthology sister of Daisy Black, Kim Bannerman, Hannah Kate, Nancy Schumann, Valentine George, Ackley Lewis, Amanda Steel, Anthony Cowin, C V Leedham, David Turnbull, Rue Karney, Patrick Lacey, Sarah Peploe, Matthew Jessop, Tim Major, Sally Davies, Melanie Stott, Sara L. Uckelman, and Tony Rabig.

You can get a copy of the anthology directly from Hic Dragones

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PC Caleb

(A sequel to ‘Crushed’)

I need your help, to get me out of this place. It’s all been a big, horrendous mistake. Could you please get up a petition or something? I’d start one myself, but I’m not allowed any sharp objects. They’ve given me web access, and I can see the screen on the wall, but the keyboard is glued down. I’ve not got access to any Caleb Khan or Wandering Thoughts sites, but I’m sending this out to everyone I know, in the hope that someone will post it to where people can help me.

I told you about the therapy, and the letter from Caleb, but when I gave that ‘True Confessions’ interview, the restraining order hadn’t started yet. I’m no longer allowed to be in the same building as him, it seems. I don’t understand why, we were getting along so well! And I know he loves me really, he’s just in denial!

Anyway, you probably heard the story all wrong, I was completely innocent, and any one of you would have done the same thing in my position. I’ll explain what happened.

It was a couple of weeks ago, when the Wandering Thoughts were doing the photo shoot for the special charity acoustic limited edition re-release of the Thought Again album … you know, the one with the bunnies on the cover? I couldn’t actually go in the building, but I was hanging around outside … not breaking any orders, you understand? I wasn’t going to actually SPEAK to Caleb, I just wanted a quiet word with Rob or Seth from the band, to see if he was coping OK without me. I worry about him, you see. It was the same day as the protest demo in London, so things were quite busy.

I was sitting on the outside steps, watching the world go by, when I heard Caleb storming downstairs. He was standing in the lobby, shouting up the stairs

‘If you lot think I’ll have my photograph taken looking like THIS, you can think again. And tell that PR girl to give me my own clothes back. All of them! And next time Rob, I want the sexiest outfit!’

I moved into the shadows and stared, and stared. Caleb was looking divine, commanding, and utterly arresting in a 1970’s police constable outfit. His buttons were very shiny indeed, and his helmet was gorgeous. But he looked quite cross. I could see his band mates Rob and Seth standing on a landing, leaning over the stairs, but couldn’t figure out what they were wearing. Rob had been growing his hair again, and it was beautifully long. He had a lot of facial hair as well.

Caleb stormed outside, muttering something about ‘fresh air’. He didn’t see me in the shadows, and he stepped into the street, breathing deeply and swearing to himself. He was so pre-occupied with his thoughts that he didn’t see the group of protesters running towards him. One of them, a spotty fifteen year old boy, saw him though.

‘PIG’ the boy shouted, taking aim with an empty Newcastle Brown bottle and throwing it at Caleb. My poor darling fell to the floor like a sack of spuds, and I rushed to his side, once again protecting him from the fates that so want to take him away from me. The protesters were going to start kicking him, but one look at me, and they decided to run away instead. Under his helmet, Caleb had a very nasty bruise starting. As he started to regain consciousness, I helped him to his feet, and guided him to a quiet side street. OK, it’s true, that’s where I was parked, but my main intention was to get him out of the busy main road so that he could recover quietly. He looked very ill, yet still utterly gorgeous, his blue eyes clouded with pain and confusion.

‘Do I know you?’ he said, before he looked down at himself. ‘Why am I wearing this uniform?’

I was only trying to help. ‘What’s the last thing you remember?’ I asked. ‘Er, A levels?’ he said, looking more distressed by the minute. ‘Please don’t tell me I’ve joined the Force?’

I was so upset by his confusion that I couldn’t speak. Is it my fault that he took my silence as assent? He gave me a long look. ‘So, you saved me?’ he asked. ‘I owe you my thanks.’ He was still looking very ill, so I led him to my car, and helped him into the front seat. He still looked nervous, and very uncomfortable, and the sight of a group of teenagers crossing the street made him shudder. Let me make this very clear. HE asked ME to lock the doors. He was worried that the protesters would try to get into the car.

He was touching the fabric of his uniform, caressing his thighs, and checking out his reflection in the passenger side mirror. He was driving me wild, and he must have seen the look on my face, because he smiled at me, and asked me what I did for a living. I told him the truth, that I was an actress. He was quite impressed, let me tell you, and started to flirt with me. I SWEAR I was going to tell him that he wasn’t really a PC, but events overtook us, and before I knew what was happening, we were in a sweaty clinch in the back seat. Now that proves it doesn’t it? He’s really very attracted to me, but in total denial about it. There’s not much room for a tall chap in those things, and just as things were getting interesting, my poor darling banged his head AGAIN. Would you believe it?

Two bangs on the head in quick succession must have completely unhinged him, because he took one look at me and started to scream. He was struggling to get his uniform back on at the same time as he tried to force the locked doors open. That’s how he got so bruised, I swear it. I wasn’t restraining him in the slightest. Then he saw his friends, at the top of the street. His frantic signalling through the rear window got their attention, and they started to run towards the car. Rob was hampered a little by his long robes and the halo that had slipped down to almost cover his eyes, but he was the picture of a perfect little Messiah. Seth was wearing a tight leather outfit, with day-glo orange go-faster stripes starting at his thighs and going up his hips. They got to the car very quickly, just as I managed to disentangle myself from my panicking hero, and climb back to the front of the car to unlock the doors. Rob pulled the passenger side door open, and helped Caleb out. My poor darling was shaking terribly. Seth dragged me out, and pushed me against the car, using his body to pin me against it.

‘YOU again!’ he said. ‘What have you done to him?’ He sounded so protective, and I wanted to explain that I felt just as protective and caring about Caleb as he did, but I didn’t get chance to tell him. The real police arrived within a minute, and took me away. They didn’t believe my story, and have actually accused me of lying in wait for Caleb, knocking him on the head, and dragging him to my car to have my wicked way with him! It’s ridiculous, and if Caleb could remember those precious minutes we had together, he’d have me out of this place straight away. But memory loss is a funny thing, and he probably has no memory at all of the time he thought he was a PC, and I was his saviour.

So, all of you out there. I hope you believe me, and I’m sure you’ll agree that if you’d been in my position, you’d have done exactly as I did. So, get your signatures on that petition, and GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE.

Yours hopefully,

Amy Joyce

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