Monday, 30 December 2013

Friday, 27 December 2013

2013 in the rearview mirror

It's nearly over, folks! 2013, that is. So, as every year, I take a look back at what has gone before and award the outstanding features my official seal of approval  ... which I should call the "Ashy" or something - an accolade that will, once earned, echo throughout all time even unto the ears of the gods themselves.
Or not.

Best Picture:

Hannah Mermaid swims with a manta ray

Best Movie:

I watched 27 movies this year - fewer than previous years, for no particular reason. Here are my top five, in rough order of how much I enjoyed them, not artistic merit or anything:

Movie I disliked most this year? Oz the Great and Terrible, which should have its title shortened by the excision of the third and fourth words, for the sake of accuracy.

Best Comedy Act:

I've become a big fan of Richard Herring, who does a tour each year consisting of a monologue on some single subject of universal human importance - Moustaches, Love, Religion, Death ... in early 2013 he was talking about Cocks and he was great.

Best TV:

Doctor Who was a late contender for this Ashy ... but I'm awarding it to subtitled French creepshow Les Revenants.

"Twin Peaks" but with undead.

Best Eyecandy:

It's so hard to choose...

But I've totally got a thing about this pic because, in my head, that guy's a character in my forthcoming Cover Him With Darkness novel. So, him.

Best Music:

Aw jeez, I am getting old. I've started listening to what might be described as Big Band music - well, its latest incarnation anyway. In fact the only album I bought this year was by Ivy Levan.

(warning: video is sorta disturbing and includes unladylike language, so NSFW)

Wisest Words:

These. Unfortunately.

And so, 2013, farewell!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Xmas everyone!

Wishing you all a joyous and peaceful holiday season!
And if there is any meaning to Christmas, it is encapsulated for me in this song, from one of my favourite movies of all time :-)

Friday, 20 December 2013

I'm torn between two guys

Two dwarves to be precise.
Kili? Or Thorin?


Or Kili?

Oh, the agony of indecision!
Legolas? Nah, he's the one I'd have fancied when I was eighteen. Grown out of that!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Sticky books

There's a meme going round on Facebook at the moment where people list the ten books that have "stuck with them" - not necessarily their favourite books, or the ones they think are best written, but the ones that stuck in their heads and changed the way they saw the world.

So here's my list. I refuse to whittle it down to just ten though.

Seven Sticky Books from my Childhood:

  • The Hobbit, by J R R Tolkien - A primer in the concept that "friends don't always stick together, and good guys don't always survive." Anyone who describes this book as lighthearted fun for kids just hasn't read to the end.
  • The Silver Chair by C S Lewis - Out of all the Narnia books, this was my favourite. The landscapes seemed very real to me, and I liked the ballsy female lead Jill. It was also about this point that I realised that I just didn't like Aslan.
  • The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper - second book of the series of the same name, this novel was written when Cooper was living in America, out of an intense nostalgia for the England she'd left behind. As well as a tale of Ancient Dark Forces and a magical child coming into his power, it is also   an extraordinary mystical/mythical evocation of the British (middle-class) Christmas.
  • The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner - Another fantasy series rooted in the British landcape. Garner's books were the direct inspiration behind my novel Wildwood.
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K LeGuin - the middle book of the Earthsea trilogy (as it was then), this is almost - but not quite - a romance. The direct inspiration behind my novel Divine Torment.
  • Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout - a rather brutal American tale of outcast teenage boys who make it their mission to save a bunch of buffalo from the cull. I think this was pivotal in solidifying my pro-animal-rights attitude.
  • Slave of the Huns by Geza Gardonyi - sounds like a romance title , but is actually a historical with an Unrequited Lurv plot-driver. Fantastic scenes of battle, including prep and ghastly aftermath. 

  Six from my Teenaged Years:

  • The Lord of the Rings, by J R R Tolkien - of course. I actually started the first volume when I was 10, but it kept me company throughout my teens.
  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake - this fantasy novel is the nearest thing to something "literary" on this list. What I learned from it was the importance of world-building.
  • The Ghost Stories of M R James - read in an upstairs alcove in my local library, one at a time ... looking repeatedly over my shoulder in terror. This book made me start writing supernatural horror stories. See the MRJ in my story Cold Hands, Warm Heart.
  • At the Mountains of Madness by H P Lovecraft - read at 18, the start of a literary love-affair that has lasted all my life. Above all others, the Lovecraftian fantasy worldview has an ability to infect real life with a sense of pleasurable awe and dread and paranoia.  
  • Till We Have Faces by C S Lewis - A re-telling of the Cupid and Psyche myth in harsh bronze-age terms. Totally unlike anything else he wrote, with a fabulous female narrator, it influenced my own writing enormously - you can see it clearly in my story The Red Thread.
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter - oh my goodness, how much of my work depends on my seventeen-year-old-self's discovery of this incredible, lyrical collection of fairy stories?! See it very obviously in ... Gold, On Snow.

Five that stuck with me as an Adult:

  • Avalon Nights by Sophie Danson - This is the book that started me writing erotica!
  • Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore - one of the very few writers I read for the joy of his prose, regardless of  the subject matter. This linked-story collection spanning only a few square miles but thousands of years (most of them pretty grim) is just haunting. The "mosaic novel" is a structure I adopted for Red Grow the Roses.
  • Angels of Darkness by Gav Thorpe - This is a left-fielder. It's actually a Warhammer 40,000 novel tie-in, and I have zero interest in that sub-genre. I only picked the book up to have something to read in the loo before going to bed. By 2 a.m, as I finished the last lines, I was almost physically shaken. I have no idea whether it would stand re-reading in the cold light of day; all I know is that in the middle of the night the bleak conclusion hit me like a ton of bricks. I want to write an ending that powerful! Just, not for a romance...!
  • Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis -  a fantasy time-travel tale about the Black Death. I wept buckets.
  • Into Thin Air by John Krakauer - yes, I know it's not fiction. The true account of a particularly lethal week on Everest. I'm not a mountaineer and I have no desire to be one. But this book is about human nature at the absolute edge of survival. Extreme tenacity, courage, stupidity, selfishness, altruism, individuality, self-sacrifice - all the moral questions are here. Jaw-dropping.

So yeah, nothing "literary" or Grown Up. And many a bit on the dark side.
I'm fine with that :-)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Eyecandy Monday

I tried to Google this pensive-looking gentleman, Francis Cura.
Oddly, I ended up with a whole load of pictures of the Pope.
The Curia is, of course, the Vatican civil service...

If you want more of the Italian model, you might prefer to start here - Lily Harlem was lucky enough to get him as the cover model for her new book!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Friday, 13 December 2013


One of the compensations for the long cold nights of winter is the reappearance of the constellation Orion in the skies. It's an easy pattern to recognise, and I confess that every year I'm bizarrely pleased to see him back again, like an old friend popping up after months away.

The Greek legends about Orion are muddled (they can't even agree on how he died, scorpion sting or arrow to the head), but like all good Greek heroes he was a rapey psychopath. He was definitely a huntsman though.

Orion the Hunter. There he is, we're taught, with his belt and his sword and his shield ...

Uh. Hold on. Sword and shield? Aren't they sort of weird (not to mention highly ineffective) weapons for a hunter?

And then when you start looking into the iconography of Orion, you realise how inconsistent it is. The accessories change. Sword and shield:

Club and dead lion:

Club and bow:

Club and cloak:

He isn't even always facing the same way!

But my real argument is with the dangly thing under his belt. It's clear to the naked eye - the Orion Nebula is pretty bright and there are a bunch of stars and star-clusters lined up straight - but I DON'T THINK IT'S A SWORD. I think originally it would have been seen as, quite obviously, his dick. 'Cos otherwise it's a pretty small sword...

The campaign to Bring Back Orion's Willy starts here!


No it doesn't - it looks like XKCD beat me to it!

(thanks, Ro!)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Cover reveal!

Things have been busy in the background. E-mails between Cleis and me have been flying back and forth. Art meetings have taken place.

And here it is, officially! - give or take some detailing, this is the cover for my next novel publication:

Now, if you read my post on the style of covers I like best, you're going to be thinking "You can see faces! I bet she's disappointed."

No, I'm not. I'm actually relieved. The Cleis house style may not be in line with my particular taste, but this is pretty good in my opinion! I like the font, the colour scheme, and the models. As an author, not a marketing expert, I'm lucky to get any input at all - and believe me, I had input. Thank you, Cleis, for listening!

Now the bad news ... The publication date is set at October 2014.
And I'm soooo bad at waiting!

Sunday, 8 December 2013


I so like this song!
The video's a bit nasty sadly, so here's the lyric version.

Friday, 6 December 2013

When I was 46...

This is me, two weeks ago :-)

It was my 47th birthday this week, so in order to keep a record of (and hopefully a brake on) my slide into senescence, here is is my annual post on Fings Wot I Have Done For the First Time Ever.

When I was forty-six, for the first time

  • I bought a  Xmas-scented room-freshener (Dude, not a good start!)
  • And a Kardashian Kollection dress (!) ... which I reluctantly gave away, because my boobs weren't big enough to fill it.
  • I ate at a Yo Sushi with the awesome little conveyor belt thingy!! Woooo!

There were four of us, I swear

  • I read all four Gospels and the Book of Genesis all the way through. No, I never did that as a Christian. Most Christians don't.
This is serious anthropological research, I'll have you know
  • I missed a plane.
  • I started a course of IPL. It hasn't worked yet.
  • I bought a Kindle, and discovered just how much truly shit self-published stuff there is out there :-0
  • I took my parents on holiday abroad (and we got on well!).
  • I visited three new countries: Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia. All of which are beautiful and fascinating and deserve many future return visits.
Woot! This is an ACTUAL PROP from Game of Thrones - They use false walls and doors to close off streets during filming. Taken in Split, Croatia.
  • I swam with the fishies in the Red Sea - and didn't, despite my dire predictions, get eaten by a shark.
  • We finished our nine-year-long Dragonlance Dungeons & Dragons campaign ...and started on campaigns in 4th Edition D&D and Deadlands. (Huzzah, more rules-systems to learn...)
  • I fell in love with a BLUE WIG, and wore a bodystocking in semi-public. Twice, in fact. Different bodystockings too, but the same wig. Is lycra addictive?

  • I wrote Cover Him With Darkness, the novel, and finished These Fierce Enchantments, a third short story collection. Both should be published in 2014.
  • I heard the, ahem, "backward masking" on Stairway to Heaven.
  • I switched to heavy-duty facecreams for Older Skin. (Boooo!)
  • I went sea-kayaking (Yaaaaaay!)

  • I drank a pumpkin spiced latte, and a Long Island iced tea. I ate white truffles.
  • I started wearing eyeliner every day, even in private.

On that showing I reckon I'm only halfway dead so far, give or take :-) Not many publications this year though - books are like buses: none get printed for ages and then they all come out at once. Maybe I should stop arsing around on kayaks and get stuck into some writing?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Okay, a round-up of what's going on in World of Ashbless:

  • I have seen the final cover art (give or take) for Cover Him With Darkness. And it's okay! (If you knew how hard I fought for "okay" and how goddamn picky and awkward I am, you'd be able to tell how pleased I sound typing this). I will reveal it ... next week!
  • Regarding publication dates for that novel, I haven't been given anything official, but I have to get my marketing questionaire filled in and back to Cleis by March 1st, so I'm guessing April or May 2014.
  • I have been asked to write a horror story (under my other name) for an anthology to be launched at FantasyCon UK next year. Yay! Time to flex the old Grim & Grisly muscles again...
  •  Today I signed a contract for a short story to be written for a Sweetmeats anthology on the theme of "Drenched" - out next year. My story will be called Melusine.
  • An extract from Jump or Fall, one of my fave kinky stories, is to be used (subject to publisher approval) in a non-fiction BDSM project of Shanna Germain's. I think it's still a bit sekrit so I will say no more for the moment...
  • Assuming a break before another angel novel, my next project will be writing a contemporary shortish D/s which will go to Ellora's Cave. I've had this story outline for years and I want to do it... plus I have contractual obligations to fulfil ...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Eyecandy Monday

Bump goes the hip on the car door ... and I'm back - two flights, several boat rides, and one (thankfully very minor) car accident later.

I have a list of Urgent Things to Do that's 17 items long ... and it doesn't even get as far as "buy food for the house," "shop for Xmas," or "laundry!"

One at a time; that's the way to do it.
Eyecandy for you guys first though ;-)