Thursday, 28 August 2008

Review: from the field book by Carol Thistlethwaite

I never knew how little I know about birds till I read this book of poems. The poetry dances with movement, the movements of birds, light, airy, full of flights and dips, insights like flashes of wings and tail feathers. There are a few humans mixed in, but not enough to spoil this wonderful play of wildness and nature. Dip into it, drown in it, fly with it, 'from the field book' is a delight of avian (and alien) culture.
Carol Fenlon

It's full of sharp imagery and observation and a treat whether you are an ornithologist or a poet.
Graham Rippon

These poems are skilfully crafted and immensely satisfying to read and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
Dee McMahon

Walk through these poems and you will find yourself on shores, in woodland and marshes, amongst mudflats, rocks and creeks. These places are evoked with as sure a touch as the vital and often ebullient descriptions of the birds, who are the heroes and heroines of this collection.

Carol, a long time member of the RSPB, knows and loves the Avian world in a way many of us could not begin to understand, but through her eyes we gain a deeper awareness of the morals and mores of the feathered community. We are lulled as we listen…
…to each tern gently rustle down,
on the islet of sleep, where plover already rest
with feather over beak,
then startled awake by redshank…
Quick stepper of the mud,
run, run, stab,
run, run, stab,
to life's rapid beat,
We are taken on a journey of discovery to a greater knowledge of birds, we grasp their essence, their infinite variations, their ways of moving and flying, there is an intensity and urgency in many of the lines that is almost painful, as in 'Kestrel,'…
Hunger hunting
eyes cut the marsh,
focussed like a scimitar,
razored as the air.
I think these poems will inspire any reader to look more closely at what is happening on our shores, in the countryside, in our gardens, all around us, by the way these delicate, often elegant, and sometimes aggressive creatures, come to life on the pages.
Kate Edwards

Carol Thistlethwaite's love of ornithology inspired this collection. Her acute observation and knowledge honed and shaped the contents to make each poem as individual as each bird.
Les Merton

From the beginning, these poems get to the essence of human perception, but which enter - as much as is humanly possible - the consciousness of birds which are their focus. The delicacy of line and line-break enacts this, though sometimes it's the work of diction. Intense observation precedes translation into the most memorable of literary language.
Robert Sheppard


Author biography

Thursday, 14 August 2008

What’s so Funny ’Bout Fiction by Magdalena Ball

Another day, another literary scandal. First (Well maybe not first. See this list here) there was Helen Darville’s faked history behind her Miles Franklin winning novel The Hand that Signed the Paper, then there was James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, novelist JT LeRoy, who finally admitted to being Laura Albert, Nasdijj, the Navajo memoirist who turned out to be porn author Timothy Patrick Barrus, Misha Defonseca, who turned out to be Monique De Wael, author of pretend memoir Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, and then Margaret "Peggy" Seltzer, who has admitted that Margaret Jones is a pseudonym and that her memoir Love and Consequences was also faked.

So what’s with all these faked memoirs and identities? Does the fault lie with the publishers for not fact checking? Some would have it so. Does it lie with the authors for duping their publishers, their agents, and of course the angry public who feel cheated of a real life story when all they got was fiction? What’s so funny 'bout fiction anyway? A good story is a good story, whether it really happened or whether it was pulled together by someone who imagined it. Frey’s book for example may not be damn good history, but it surely it is still the same damn good fiction that Oprah cried over. Perhaps even the bigger truths of the work
those characters and situations that we find verisimilitude in--remain the same. Writing a novel is no easier than writing a memoir – it takes an awful lot of work, talent, research, and inner searching to produce a full length book that takes the reader somewhere that he or she can recognise as real regardless of genre. The books have to be truthful in one way or another or they won’t touch the reader.

Perhaps novelists are faking ‘memoirs’ rather than writing ‘novels’ because of the public’s insatiable hunger for ‘what really happened’ and the flow on effect this has with publishers, who are much more willing to take on memoirs than new fiction. My own novel Sleep Before Evening, is entirely fiction, but you can’t write a novel without putting an awful lot of yourself into it. There are plenty of moments that really happened, and the novel is full of the truth, because that is the whole point of fiction – to show something real and meaningful in a narrative construct. We don’t live in a linear, narrative type of universe. Our lives are bombarded with a range of sensory perceptions, memories, diffuse narrative threads and anticipations. Both memoirist and novelist take these things and use art to create something structurally accessible that others can understand, but there’s always construct, selection, re-invention. There’s always artfulness. Even relating a recent memory involves that kind of construction. I’m not condoning the literary hoax; nor am I suggesting that these hoaxes don’t matter – of course it’s wrong to go on the record as being someone you aren’t – particularly when you are dealing with sensitive issues or race, experience or influence where you might steer someone wrong because of your pretence or create inappropriate propaganda because of your bias.

But I am suggesting that the kind of reverence that the public places on “what really happened”
the obsession we seem to have with “reality TV” and gritty revelation talk shows might be misplaced. James Frey was a successful author long before he faked his memoirs, but it was only the attention from Oprah and the ensuing scandal that made him a literary superstar, or super villain if you prefer – I’m not sure there’s that much difference from a sales point of view. But should I really care whether James Frey really went to jail for 1 day or 10? Should I begin investigating because there’s a small discrepancy in the dates in Ismeal Beah’s latest memoir, A Long Way Gone? The key issue here is whether these are good books or not. If we buy them because they’re shocking, or amazing stories (“hey madge, you won’t believe what this kid got up to”) that don’t ring true, and are full of ridiculous rubbish we are happy to believe (“he swore in his memoir that aliens took him to Mars and I believed him”) then we might deserve to be lied to. If the memoir is beautifully written, and full of rich, vivid detail which touches something very real in the reader, then maybe it remains good fiction even if it isn’t good fact. The truth is about something deeper and more powerful than simply the bald facts.

In Jill Lepore’s excellent piece in the New Yorker, “Just the Facts, Ma’am”, she makes this point wonderfully, exploring the relationship between historical writing and fiction: “For Fielding, there are two kinds of historical writing: history based in fact (whose truth is founded in documentary evidence), and history based in fiction (whose truth is founded in human nature).” There are many different kinds of truth, but the memoir, real or faked, certainly doesn’t have a greater claim to it than fiction does.

Magdalena Ball is author of The Art of Assessment and Quark Soup. She runs the popular Compulsive Reader website. Her short stories, editorials, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in many printed anthologies and journals and have won several awards.

Magdalena's debut novel, Sleep Before Evening, was published by BeWrite Books in 2007.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Azam Gill - The Warrior Bard

Azam Gill is a writer and a warrior. And his thrillers are based on first-hand experience of front line fighting, covert commando operations, under-cover intelligence work … and on a seemingly incongruous lifetime’s love-story with literature, study and teaching.

Now a French citizen, Gill was born in Pakistan, the son of a renowned jurist father and a talented play
wright mother. He is fluent in several languages, but it is in English that he writes his novels. He was educated in English schools and colleges run by British and Americans and he gained his BA from Forman Christian College of the Punjab University in English literature and Political Science.

Accepted as a ‘gentleman cadet’ at the Pakistan Military Academy, he passed out among the top 10% of his graduation year and was commissioned to a light infantry battalion of the Punjab Regiment in Kashmir. He also won his paratrooper’s wings. In Kashmir, one of the world’s flash-points, Gill and his troops lived in underground earthen bunkers, crossing snake- and rain-filled crawl trenches and minefields as part of daily routine. The Kashmir border is known for a war of attritio
n involving intensive patrolling, fire fights, artillery duels ... and a chilling casualty rate.

He served as Intelligence Officer, Company Commander and Regimental Adjutant and was also in charge of the crossing of spies through his sector.

“It was all vital experience for the kind of novels I wanted to produce. I earned the right to become a thrille
r writer the hard way … I suppose you could say I wouldn’t ask my lead character do anything I couldn’t do myself.”

Gill received a Master’s in English Language and Literature from the Punjab University and published a pamphlet, Jail Reforms, and a book, Army Reforms. Although Jail Reforms was on the syllabus of the Prisons Training Academy, both books were seized and burnt by the authorities.

“I was angered by what I saw around me and the best weapon available to me was the pen,” he told Twisted Tongue. “The trouble was, the enemy was more heavily armed.”

One of his former instructors was the late President Zia ul Haq’s private secretary. He called Gill to Islamabad and warned him that he should immediately leave the country before his imminent arrest for angering the authorities by his writing.

Harassed, seeking protection and a new life, Gill decided to take the advice – he followed in the footstep
s of beggars and princes who have served in the ranks of the tough French Foreign Légion.

After basic training, he was posted to the 1er Régiment Etranger de Cavalérie and became the first Légionnaire to gain a PhD, which he received from Grenoble University.

At the end of his Légion contract, which added a wealth of experience to his writer’s arsenal, Gill worked as a language teacher and became a lecturer at Grenoble University’s Polytechnic. He was then
seconded to the French Navy, where he taught English.

He never laid down the pen during this busy period and wrote a monthly column on Geopolitics for The National Educator, a Californian monthly paper. His political articles were published in non-fiction book form under the title Winds of Change: Geopolitics and the World Order, available at

But he told Twisted Tongue: “I needed to express myself to a wider readership than I could reach with my more academic work, so I turned my hand to fiction … and it worked!

“Rather than stating hard facts and opinions, I learned to make them apply to characters that came to life on the page. Readers could relate to the people I created and hear what I had to say by following them through gripping stories of love and hate and triumph and disaster. Fiction is a wonderful medium.”

His first novel, Blood Money, was published by UK-based BeWrite Books and was closely followed by Flight to Pakistan, also by BeWrite Books.

He said: “I was motivated by the horror of Islamic terrorism and its covert funding in the west. All I needed was a hero and a gripping plot, so I created a character who was a battle-hardened Foreign Legionnaire and drew on a lifetime of experience to bring the scenes to life.

“Some of the seemingly wildest people, places and situations in my books are one hundred percent real. I’ve met them, I’ve been there and I’ve done it!

“I wanted the book to be absolutely realistic, so I also put in a lot of extra research – and it turned up other facts much stranger than fiction.

“I was working full time when I wrote the novels, but I set myself word-targets to meet and the pages seem
ed to fill themselves. BeWrite Books saw potential in the first manuscript, Blood Money, and I worked closely with one of their editors, Neil Marr, for three or four months, pruning, rewriting and even adding passages until the book was ready to go.

“My second BeWrite Books novel, Flight to Pakistan, came more easily because I’d by then had a grounding in fiction. Again, though, there was the guidance of another seasoned BB editor, Hugh McCracken, to see the work through to publication.

“Much of the editing process involves curbing my enthusiasm for providing lavish detail. It’s the teacher in me.

“The editing process itself is an experience no writer should miss. The BeWrite Books team is pretty spread out with its professional editors and admin and technical staff in France, Germany, Canada and the US, so everything was handled by email and telephone. It’s a tremendously streamlined and efficient way to work.

“When I took my family to meet some of them at a get-together in the French Alps – it was between the two books – I found that they were just as passionate about my work as I am myself. Neil Marr was there, Cait Myers, the publisher, and Neil’s son, Alex, who handles the technical side of things. We talked books, politics, religion, French cheeses and what have you until the sun came up again.”

Gill now has two other novels in the pipeline and has no plans to ever stop writing in spite of a heavy day job schedule and hobbies that include cooking, swimming and French Savate Boxing.

In his forties, he lives in France with his wife and three young children. He said: “We have a lively family life, but the children are wonderful – they know when I’m at work writing and leave me in peace.”

Gill – informally, he prefers his French-sounding surname to his first name, Azam – is one of several new names in fiction to find the answer to the closed-door policy of major publishing houses in a handful of editorially driven independent small publishing houses whose main sales outlet is the Internet.

He said: “Even the small presses are swamped with submissions. But at least they’re open to as proposal from an author who isn’t exactly a household name. And the entire process is thoroughly professional.”

Interview by Alexander James

Interview first appeared in Twisted Tongue Magazine

Read an excerpt from Blood Money, Flight to Pakistan

Click here for Azam Gill's biography

Monday, 11 August 2008

Silenced Cry at New York Book Festival

Congratulations to Marta Stephens.

Her debut novel, Silenced Cry, has been awarded an Honourable Mention at the 2008 New York Book Festival.

Friday, 8 August 2008

25 for 25 - Free Books!

We are offering an exclusive opportunity for people to get their hands on 25 pre-publication eBook copies of Harry Hughes' debut novel The Bait Shack.

The book itself isn't out until late October, so this is a chance to read this book before anyone else. All we ask is that you promise us a review of 25 words. Why 25 words? Well 25 copies for 25 words! We'll then chose a winner at random from those we receive and the winner will get a signed copy of the paperback at the end of October.

We'll use the reviews in promotion and publicity with your name on prominent display, including posting it on Blippr, the new site for reviews of 160 characters or less.

So for your chance to receive this pre-publication eBook (pdf) before everyone else, send us an email and we'll send the eBook to the first 25 people who email us here. And then you send us your review before October 10th 2008.

Here's the book's info:

Unemployed whiz kid Dale Cooles struggles to save his marriage and his sanity when his previously charmed life’s turned topsy turvy by a cadre of killers and clowns.

Dale and wife Lacy – daughter of an eccentric but filthy rich Tennessee lumber magnate – unwittingly adopt into their domestic wrangle Twist, the brain-damaged orphan, and Lieutenant Revels, the beat-weary yet determined conservation officer seeking revenge for Lacy’s unscrupulous boss’s part in the mysterious extinction of rare birds on a prime piece of real estate.

And then there are the other extinctions ... the human ones.

In the parade of offbeat characters in Hughes’ ingenious and ’90s-set street smart black comedy of crime, we meet cutthroat businessman Henry Meredith, out for what he can get, psycho hitman Connie Jablonski, out for what he can hurt, mobster Johnny Avalino, greedy to enhance the value of his beach-front property by any means, Nancy Littlecrow, the shameless and cagey Native American attorney who gives new meaning to the term ‘Indian Affairs’, Seymour L. Bram, the retired and retiring Air Force Major suffering from chronic depression and delusions of easy money, Duncan Slochbauer, the slovenly and obsessed amateur producer of grisly news videos ...

And we don’t quite meet poor Karen Kern and the faceless others who might have crossed the path of a crazed and kinky serial killer nobody seems to have noticed lurking somewhere in Hughes’ uniquely colourful dramatis personae.

ISBN: 978-1-905202-92-8 (paperback) 978-1-905202-93-5 (eBook)
Price: £7.99. $15.99 (US), $16.99 (Ca), €10.99
Page count: 264
Release date: October 2008
Author’s blog:

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Review: ALLAKAZZAM! by Daniel Abelman

I was predisposed to like ALLAKAZZAM!, though I didn't know that when I started reading it: Daniel Abelman's debut novel is a trickster tale, and I've always loved this kind of story. Every culture has tricksters: in some Native American stories, he is known as Kokopelli or as the coyote; in Zora Neale Hurston's collection, it is the slave named John who outwits his white master, God and Satan. Whatever name he is known by, the trickster inspires audiences to jealousy as they wish they could be so clever.

A short way into Abelman's book, I erroneously figured out that this is one such tale - I say "erroneously" because I thought I knew who the trickster was as well as the tricks he was playing, but I'd forgotten that the coyote is a shapeshifter; true to the best of trickster tales Abelman's coyote changes form again and again. Every time I think I have figured it out, I turn a corner and discover that there are many more dimensions to this story than I'd considered or even imagined - trickster to the nth power! And yet it all makes sense; a cohesive narrative unfolds without annoying contradictions to unveil the true trickster, the master, Abelman himself. I should have known - well, isn't that what authors do? They play a grand trick to induct the reader into imagined worlds of imaginary people. So Abelman goes about in his novel to guide (without malice!) the reader through worlds. No, not just one world: many, many worlds. The world of a white man's Africa and that of a black man's Africa, the rich man's and the ordinary man's worlds, the world of people's justice and payback, the school, the office, the airport … Abelman coaxes the reader through these spaces and places so they become more than just scenes. They are pieces of a life - not the characters' lives, but Abelman's life.

I don't think I'm giving away too much in saying as much, because Abelman himself is up front about his designs, if only I had paid attention:
"In an Afrika rampant with real spirits and rife with bogus erroneous notions, skeptical disregard of superstition does not diminish its coiled up potency in any way whatsoever. Be tolerant of what others believe and don't poke at idiosyncrasies. Scoff if you will, but when I recommended to TapTap that he should win the fight using magic, he eagerly and immediately adopted my suggestion […] What, then, could be a more natural thing to accept for boys who half believed they were the sons of the Tokolosh. In Afrika, half belief is enough." (pp. 17-18).
Abelman could well have been talking about the reader (opening the book is proof that the reader already half believes the story) and talking to the reader to ask the reader to suspend skepticism at the same time that Abelman promises not to mock the reader for believing in magic. Truly, by the midpoint of the novel, Abelman has the reader believing in magic, psychic powers, secret societies, religious artifacts with supernatural powers, and - most incredible of all - characters who weave their knowing with their doing and with others' ignorance to play tricks on all.

Rather than tread Abelman's maze with disengaged skepticism, I found myself drawn in deeper and deeper with each story. Within the frame story I discovered another, and within that story there were more besides. I loved the polyvocal aspect of ALLAKAZZAM!: there is more than one narrator and one main character, though the ultimate narrator, Abelman himself, is disguised out in the open and appears in his own novel in different forms.

The book consists of a novella (ALLAKAZZAM! proper) and three short stories featuring some of the same characters as I came to know through the main story. Edmunds' illustrations throughout the novel are very talented and add to Abelman's imagery by embracing the same mix of real and extra-real that imbues Abelman's prose. The strong, cream-colored paper shows off those illustrations to good effect. Likewise, the format of the book reflects its multivocality: the font switches to signal changes in narrator and effects like italicization mark quoted text or words spoken in another language.

Abelman drops another clue from the start with his title, ALLAKAZZAM!. It won't take any reader long to perceive the power of words in this novel. They can be words of magic like the title, to be shouted with finesse and panache, or they can expose secrets, as when a teacher is called by his true name: Pedophile. They can just as easily mask secrets. Abelman uses several very different languages (Xhosa, Hebrew, Lithuanian Yiddish, Afrikaans, and English), and various dialects (e.g. the German-Jewish accented English), and offers translations of non-English phrases in parentheses, but the reader should beware of taking any translation at face value from a master trickster. There are stories within the story inside those "translations." Words have the power to transform.

I especially appreciated Abelman's expressiveness. There were so many times I laughed out loud because his language was absurd, or poetic, or witty beyond reckoning, for example:
"…Why, oh why, did he have to use red thread when he replaced my white shirt buttons with black ones? Why?

My favorite cotton button-up shirt, which suffered from brilliant bleach radiation […] was now bleeding to death through its buttonholes." (p. 21)
Abelman's language is wholly accessible, and his unique expressiveness is a result of the unique characters, not obscure language. Still, I couldn't read this novel all in one sitting; I had to digest it in chunks because there are too many things happening on too many levels. Similarly, I grew accustomed to looking for extra-linguistic meanings behind the surface, so when Herr Doktor Herloff Wizzner, one of the story's characters and holocaust survivor, repeatedly tells one of the narrators: "Ja, ve had boys like you in zhe camps." (p. 59), I wondered if Herr Doktor saw something in the boy that I had yet to discover. Abelman prefaces one of the final stories with an explanation of how he related stories to his parents after dinner; the succeeding story is one such tale, a story about which Abelman says "I still weep when I read it." (p. 144) At the same time his mother retorts time and again "What unadulterated rubbish!" (p. 149), his father stops grinning.

Is the story true? The yes or no answer depends on how you define "story."


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Book signing at the Indiana State Fair

A chance to meet local author, Marta Stephens, at the Indiana State Fair.

Marta will be selling and signing copies of her debut novel, Silenced Cry.

Silenced Cry received an Honourable Mention at the 2008 New York Book Awards, so don’t miss your opportunity to buy a copy of the book and meet the author.

The table is located just inside the main door of the Home and Family Arts Building on the grounds.

The Indiana State Fair
Home and Family Arts Building
August 9, 2008
9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Review: Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die by Howard Waldman

Although the saying is ascribed to a number of writers, most sources cite the phrase “good Americans go to Paris when they die” to Oscar Wilde’s Woman of no Importance. For many Americans, particularly the well heeled, Paris might well be considered a kind of heaven, for others, the full irony and uncertainty of the notion of a “good American” might play out. So what if the saying were true? What if really good, that is, well behaved and nice, Americans ended up in a kind of Parisian heaven? What if a few bad ones got there too, by administrative mistake, and were held in a kind of purgatorial camp until a decision could be made on whether they were really good enough to be set free? It’s an odd premise for a book, and few authors would be able to make it work. Howard Waldman manages it. Taking his cue from Beckett and Sartre, Waldman creates a novel that is blatantly absurd, and yet somehow, it not only manages to be entertaining, funny and rich, but also pithy.

There were times, early on, when I thought Good Americans would be a painful novel to read – a kind of indefinite wait, like Waiting for Godot with no resolution – the ultimate existentialist hell, but it isn’t like that at all. The five stranded characters grow into their circumstances, changing and progressing towards resolution. Among the women, there is the practical, always nice Helen, who survives by attempting to lose herself in whatever book she can find, and a deliberate stoicism, and the beautiful Margaret, both tempted and tortured by her returned youth. The men are Seymour the intellectual, Max the truck driver who has never even been to Paris (the ultimate crime), and Louis, the handsome, ascetic Marine. Trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare at the Préfecture de Police, the characters wait to see if death is permanent or if they will be allowed out into the endless springtime of their prime so they can change their bad decisions. Strange and comical as it might seem, Waldman manages to tease out the philosophical implications and complexities amidst the humour, so we end up with a read that is lighthearted and pleasurable on one level – will these characters escape, and where, exactly, are they – heaven, hell, or some kind of purgatory between? While on another level, there are all sorts of subtleties around how we get psychologically stuck in a place; about how we determine good and bad; about the arbitrary power of Bureaucracy over our lives, and even about what constitutes a life worth living/reward and above all, the intensity of nostalgia:
Outside of sleeping and wandering in the maze of corridors, the Five spend most of their time in the Common Room side by side in front of the window. Even in periods of acute intergroup tension, the physical proximity involved doesn’t bother them…Some of the longed-for faces are decades apart. So the spectators are decades apart.
The window is like a TV screen featuring three different channels for selective vision with no need to zap. Anyhow they can’t zap. They’re permanently tuned into Channel 1900 or Channel 1937 or Channel 1951 dpending on their Paris sojourn date. It’s like armchair time-travel. (104)
There is also suspense, as the characters work their way through the crumbling prefect, trying to find escape, developing relationships with one another, and playing off their individual terror against nostalgia, and a growing sense of the collective nature of their fate. The omniscient present tense of the book creates a simultaneous tension and ironic distance, so the reader is both drawn into the progression of events, the gathering of clues, and the discoveries and disappointments of the Five, at the same time as they begin to develop suspicions in a state of suspended belief. Good Americans Go to Paris When They Die maintains its consistency as a surreal fantasy, while never losing the realistic grounding in the fate of its characters. Taken metaphorically, the reader can relate to these people and the painful journey they take. The novel draws on everyman’s worst fears, at the same time as it pokes holes in our beliefs. However surreal the story becomes, and however slapstick the humour at the crumbling Préfecture, the novel never strays too far from the believable progression of its characterisation. There is serious pathos in the fate of Gentille, the cleaner, and serious terror in the demands of the Prefect. The setting too is rich with Waldman’s Paris, and the clever way the novel vacillates between the “real” world that the characters sometimes inhabit, and the misty dream world of memory, desire, and imagination:

One dark day a wet gale blows the treees to skeletons. The leaves lie plastered on the walks and tombs. The day after, All Saints’ Day, the rush-hour press of mourners bearing potted briars and chrysanthemums aggregates his sense of isolation and he retires to old graves no one visits.(326)
There’s a spare loveliness to Waldman’s prose, infused as it is with loneliness, humour, and a deep sense of irony in the cyclical prison of our nostalgia for the past. Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die manages a delicate, and all too rare, balancing act between entertainment and introspection.

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Art of a Three Second Pitch that can Make a Best-Seller - Part Two

Read Part One here.

The high-octane terrorist thriller, Deep Ice, centred on a world held to ransom, was published by BeWrite Books in 2003. His Young Adult novel, Joko, also from BB, tells the story of a runaway teenager and his Big Foot friend coming to terms with their individual versions of civilisation. It was released in 2006 and was shortlisted this summer for the international Dream Realm Award. A sequel is already in the pipeline, as is a new SF trilogy.

Karl said: “The muse wrote Deep Ice. I just sat there and enjoyed the process. Some scenes were total surprises. I write stream-of-consciousness and can’t use an outline to save my life. Indeed, I started with a mere idea.

“That idea came in the late 70s reading a National Geographic article about the Ross Ice Shelf – if it collapsed it would raise the world’s oceans and instantly flood some of the greatest and most heavily populated cities on earth.

“It was written very quickly and sometimes as I read over it I don’t remember writing it at all, and it seems like someone else’s prose. My wife assures me I did, however. But I must say, it is indeed a strange thing to have the Muse take hold. That was the biggest surprise during
my first few writing experiences.

Joko is an examination of man’s place with nature. Both characters – the runaway boy and his hunted Big Foot friend – become strangers in an alien world … or different worlds alien to each of them. All my work contains that Stranger in a Strange Land element.

“I also have a science fiction trilogy that I am just finishing. Each book is a different type of tale. SF is my
chosen field but I wanted to do traditional works first to prove my writing skills before I attempted SF prose.

“My current work, the stand-alone in a series called The Diver Trilogy, is Farthest Reef and takes a maiden voyage to an extra-solar gas giant to see if another reef of life exists on those gas giants as it ‘does’ in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – the place called Jupiter’s Reef. The story is sweeping and chock full of alien worlds.”

But, perhaps, Karl’s most ambitious and unique work is the Galactic Geographic Annual 3003 – a thick and glossy coffee table book in magazine format to grace the living room of a home that still has coffee tables and coffee table books … a thousand years from now.

Karl explains: “In 1976 I said to a friend, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if publishing used its skills to uncompromisingly produce a book that appeared to be from the future? Wouldn’t that make a great thing to have on your coffee table?’

“Thirty years later I finally got it done. By that time I had the computer and I was able to do it all. My publishers, Chrysalis, received twenty-six match-print spreads and 9 CD ROMs that they handed directly to production. The only other hands on it were Paul Barnett’s who did a brilliant editing job. I am very proud to be able to say, when people ask me ‘who did all this art?’ to just raise my hand and smile. It is a marriage of all my skills. Artist, designer, illustrator.

“The point of the book is to utterly suspend disbelief. Many artists and authors have tried that, but when they have their names HUGE on the cover it immediately destroys the illusion. SF publishing, I think, has missed that obvious truth so these types of books didn’t work before.

“Having myself behind the curtain and headlining only Galactic Geographic on the cover completes the illusion that it’s a news-stand periodical, a kind of National Geographic, from the year 3003 … but it does confuse those who think genre; the Library of Congress had a lot of trouble trying to place it in a convenient slot.

“It’s an art book, it’s a graphic novel, an artifact from the future, and everyone who sees it says, ‘What a cool idea. Why didn’t somebody do this before?’ I like to point out the 3003 date and say, ‘they’ve not even done it yet.’

Below the title, there’s a list of ‘topical’ articles to be found inside: The Passing of the Airwhales, Diving in Methane, Music of Other Worlds, The Rope Makers of Betel 2B, Harvest on InsandorAt Home With the Tsailerol. Inside, there’s breathtaking illustration … and ads for off-world tours, extraterrestrial zoos and 31st Century must-haves. And this is just Earth Edition!

But the seemingly unrelated ‘news’ articles weave themselves into a coherent story of space exploration, adventure and contact with three intelligent races, a ripping yarn that reads more like fact than fiction when you enter Karl’s world of 31st Century reportage with its utterly believable, textbook-like detail and its list of intergalactic journalistic contributors and editors.

Jan Pagh-Kofoed is named as Inter-species Editor, perhaps a distant descendent of Janet Kofoed, Karl’s 21st Century wife. If so, she’d have the background.

Mrs Janet Kofoed is the daughter of a NASA engineer, lived near Cape Canaveral and witnessed first hand the beginning of the US space program, through to the moon landings.

She had completed most of a PhD in psychology when she abandoned academia for art and is now a successful jewelry designer and maker whose work bears a strikingly futuristic resemblance to Karl’s.

Janet said: “Although our respective work medium is very different, Karl and I often help each other. He has done several jewelry designs for me, and I proof and rough-edit his writing. We both find it valuable to have someone we can show things to whose judgment we respect and who we can trust to see both the good and the not so good.

“Karl is one of the most universally curious people I’ve ever known, interested in almost everything. That’s a trait I share, and we delight in bouncing ideas off each other. We’re equally capable of keen insight and analysis and delightful flights of fancy. We’re seldom bored.”

“Amen to that!” says Karl. “Without Janet my Galactic Geographic or my other two books would exist.”