Monday, August 18, 2008

Retro Remakes comp

For the games programmers amongst you ...

Retro Remakes is the home of those old 8- and 16-bit games you used to love, translated to modern machinery. If the words Lunar Jetman, Uridium & Quazatron mean anything to you, then you'll know what I'm on about.

Anyway, they're having a competition for the best remake of Sep-Dec 2008, and I've donated a set of signed Hal Spacejock novels (1-4) as one of their prizes. If' you have a half-finished conversion you've been meaning to tidy up, maybe this is your chan

(Thanks to Shane Hockings for suggesting this in the first place.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Interview with Kat Richardson

Kat Richardson is the author of the Greywalker parnormal detective series. UNDERGROUND, the third book in the series, was released August 5--it's her first hardbound book and she's very excited about it. You can learn more about Kat and her books by visiting her website ( or blogs ( or

1) Why this book? What made you want to write this story?

I had a couple of things I wanted to do: I wanted to write a "monsters in the sewer" adventure and I wanted to expand a little on the character of Quinton, Harper's mysterious tech-geek friend in the Greywalker series. So I combined the two interests into one book and this was the result.

2) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

Oh, it's definitely changed over time. My tastes change, and there are always new writers coming on the scene who surprise and excite me. I love classic writers of excellent English, like Shakespeare, Austen, and Kenneth Graham as well as their contemporary colleagues like Patricial McKillip who make language a joy. I also really admire groundbreakers like William Gibson, Richard K. Morgan, and Ken Bruen. I'm a total fangirl of quirky writers like Cherie Priest--and she only lives a few miles away!--Liz Williams, Jasper Fford, and Victor Gischler. I've let a lot of writers drop off my reading list for lack of time, not lack of interest.

3) Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?

I like the "what if" that underlies SFF. It's a challenge not only to style, craft, and story but to raw imagination. It's the quintessence of invention and curiosity that drives humans to strive. If it were not for "what if" would Gallileo have invented a telescope to look at the stars? And you see where that led.

4) What do you find most interesting about Harper Blaine? her various adversaries? Why these characters?

I lover Harper's toughness. I don't just mean that she carries a gun and talks like Sam Spade; it's her sheer drive to keep going in the face of any and every adversity that makes her intriguing. She had a nice, settled life that she's worked hard to build and when it was suddenly upended, she hated it, but she rolled with it and keeps on going. She's learning more in each subsequent book about her abilities, but also about herself and what really drives her and what ultimately satisfies her. Her adversaries change in each book but in the end there is always the problem of making peace with herself and living with her challenges.

I have to say that my favorite of her adversaries is yet to be fully revealed. I'm working up to it in a future book. Suffice to say, he has a plan and it is Not Good. But writing about it should be tremendous fun.

As to why these guys... Well, they just seemed like the right group to complicate Harper's life.

5) You're a writer. What else are you? What are your interests? Hobbies?

I'm a former magazine and technical editor, so I'm kind of an English and History geek, but I'm also fond of sailing, computer games, swing dancing, ferrets, target shooting, and motorcycles. I used to work at a renaissance faire as a dancer and actor. I've read the Sunday funnies for a radio service for the blind. I work on the Northwest regional board of the Mystery Writers of America, and before I got into journalism in college, I majored in vocal music. I'm also a bit of a science geek: I love to read physics books and biology, I used to write technical course material about diamonds for the Gemological Institute of America, I hand-code my own website (which explains the very plain design), and I poke my nose into all kinds of tech-y subjects whenever I have the time.

6) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you need to know in order to write it that you didn't know before? Do you have some special preparation you do general to writing?

UNDERGROUND required quite a bit of reading as well as interviewing. I spent a lot of time in my library reading about local Indian tribes and legends, local history, local architecture, and then I tracked down the historian for Seattle's underground tour and picked his brains, too. Research is one of the things I love about writing--I always find some weird detail I hadn't thought of that can be useful. I've found information on crimes, earthquakes, people--even buildings--that have turned out to be fascinating and useful. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 made it into GREYWALKER, POLTERGEIST utilized information and locations from Washington's most notorious mass murder, and the collapse of a building in Pioneer Square in 1897 became an important clue in UNDERGROUND.

7) I see a lot of information about the homeless in this book. Is that something that really interests you? Or is it more driven by the needs of the story?

It was more story-driven, but I have to admit that after doing the research, my awareness of the homeless, and the situations that surround them, has gone way up. Some really have given up on getting out of their situation--it can be really bleak and crushing--but most are trying very hard to re-enter the mainstream, to get jobs and homes and stop living on the street. There are some surprising grass-roots organizations out here--like Peace for the Streets, Women in Black, and the Coalition for the Homeless--trying to help these people get off the street and back to living lives that aren't haunted by a constant state of fear and hopelessness and raise the awareness of people like me.

8) So, if you were Harper Blaine and someone introduced you to a zombie, as happens UNDERGROUND, what would you do?

Me? I'd freak right out. I am so much not Harper Blaine. Babbling... yeah... that would be my most likely response.

9) What are you writing now?

I'm working on Greywalker #4 which has just been retitled VANISHED. It's a continuation of the arc that started in GREYWALKER and it will wrap up a lot of questions as well as posing some new ones to be answered in Book 5.

I'm also working on an SF Police thriller novel I'd like to finish and sell and I'm noodling with a bunch of other ideas. But that's pretty much the way all writers are--noodling constantly.

10) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you be surprise?

It was a bit of a surprise. I'd always wanted to be a singer or a dancer or maybe an ice skater--very girly. But when I was heading for college, I realized I'd been writing all my life--my first short story was written for a class when I was eight--and I thought that was a huge clue that maybe I should just do that, instead of being a music teacher.

11) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

I do and I don't. I start with ideas either under a deadline or something that has just jumped to the front of my brain and won't shut up. Then I try writing it out for a while. Eventually I get stuck and have to fall back and outline. After that I can usually go ahead, although I've been known to write up to four outlines of 35 pages or more each before I can comfortably finish a novel so it's a bit more complicated than "I just write." I write my novels with a Mystery structure where timing and placement of clues is vital, so what I'm really doing when I outline is working out ahead of time a lot of the issues that would normally come up in revision. That doesn't mean I don't revise, but it's not usually too heavy. With shorts or novellas, I tend to just jump in with an idea and thrash around, revise a couple of times, and then finish it up and ship it. I don't have much of a routine per se, I just get up, clear off the housework and paperwork, mess around until I feel like I've wasted enough time for one day, and then write until I can't stand any more, or I've reached a good stopping point. And I write pretty much every weekday and do things like this interview on weekends.

12) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite? How does the environment you write in affect your production? Your process?

I don't have much space, living on a sailboat. I just plop myself down on the dinette bench, pop open my laptop and work. I like being at home where I can blast music, look after our geriatric ferrets, or pace around and talk out the dialog aloud, so I'm not really comfortable in coffee shops or libraries. I do occasionally have "playdates" with Richelle Mead and other SFF writers in the area whom we've started calling "Team Seattle" where we sit in her living room and work because we're too embarrassed to let the other one see us not working.

13) Is there anything you especially like to work on in a book? Anything you hate?

I hate writing sex scenes, which is why I never do them. There's one in UNDERGROUND and it was the worst thing I ever had to do. Ugh! I'd rather write an action sequence, or even revise, than do that again! What I love is making the past come alive, letting the setting and the ghosts flow out--that's just too much fun!

14) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

Right now, only the Greywalker series: GREYWALKER, POLTERGIEST, and now UNDERGROUND, but I have a werewolf Christmas short story coming out in an anthology in October called WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE that was edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner. A Harper Blaine novella will be out in January 2009 in the collection MEAN STREETS and I'm really looking forward to that, since the collection is just four of us from Penguin's fantasy noir side: Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, and Thomas Sniegoski.

15) Do you see fiction as having a purpose? Generally? How about your own work?

My work is mostly entertainment, but I hope that readers do occasionally see the depth of history in it, and the way in which human beings shape their worlds by what they believe--good or bad--as much as by what they do. That's a bit of a recurring theme in the books, along with the idea that you can control and shape your own life, no matter what gets thrown at you.

In general I think fiction should sneak ideas into our heads--not bludgeon us. It pretends to be entertaining, but it should tickle our minds to thought, if possible.

I'm excited that the UNDERGROUND is out in hardcover and I hope it does the series proud. It's been an interesting book to research and write and I'm looking forward to seeing it "in the wild" at last. It's a Roc book, so it's available from major booksellers all over the US, Canada, and the UK and you can get one online--I'll even sign it if you ask--from one of my favorite independent booksellers: Seattle Mystery Bookshop, or find an independent bookseller near you, or order from Barnes & Nobel.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Interview with Gregory Frost

Gregory Frost is the author of, most recently, LORD TOPHET, the sequel to the acclaimed fantasy novel, SHADOWBRIDGE (both from Del Rey Books). Shadowbridge is a world dreamed into being, as its creation story--included in the first volume--makes clear. It's an accretion of our myths, legends, folk and fairy tales but they've all altered in the translation somewhat, and taken on lives of their own. Everything in Shadowbridge thus sounds familiar and alien at the same time.

1) What was your inspiration for writing these books?

The answer is, there's no single inspiration. The idea of this world of bridges was one I kicked around for years. I talked it over with other authors, like Michael Swanwick who threatened to steal it if I didn't do something with it (nothing like that sort of terror to push you into action). One inspiration might be Gormenghast. Another is surely M. John Harrison's Virconium stories. And Hadawy's translation of The 1001 Nights. The Trelawney translation of The Ocean of the Streams of Story by Somadeva. But you won't find any direct reference to these things. Samuel R. Delany has a concept he calls "received language" and to a degree, I think that's what happens with all of us--we absorb, we receive, and bits and pieces accrete, and this thing emerges. It's original, it's us, but it's also all this stuff we've read, seen, heard, thought about. This is one reason why as a writer you absolutely must read beyond your narrow genre or you're going to be boring.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

Roger Zelazny, Philip K. Dick, Fritz Leiber, Walter M. Miller, Mikhail Bulgakov, Homer, T.C. Boyle, Donald Westlake, Jack Williamson, Kelly Link, Shirley Jackson, Ian Fleming, John Irving, Alexandre Dumas, Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte, Rafael Sabatini, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Chandler, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortazar...I don't know if this is anything like a definitive list, but it comprises the names of writers whose work I treasure and can come back to time and again and be rewarded.

3) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

I think, as a kid, it was the 'gosh-wow' factor. Fiction that took me away from where I was, and at the same time sort of wryly commented on where I was. I loved its strangeness, its otherness. Really, I wallowed in reading it. I never thought I would be writing it.

4) How did you come to make Leodora your protagonist?

When Mr. Swanwick threatened to run off with my world, I immediately went out and wrote a story called "How Meersh the Bedeviler Lost His Toes." I created the "Coyote" figure for all of Shadowbridge, and in the frame of that tale created a storyteller named Bardsham (which is a Shakespeare joke of sorts--the faux bard). Bardsham was based on a real shadow-puppeteer I'd met. But when I came to the prospect of a novel, I didn't want to write about him. At some point, I arrived at this vision of a girl, Leodora, standing on top of a bridge support tower, high above the city, and looking at her world. What I said about about things coming together out of all the material you read, things you see...I don't know where she came from, where that moment came from. The view from Arc de Triomphe, or from a railroad bridge I'd climbed as a kid, or looking down from the Palatine Hill in Rome? I have no idea. Maybe it's all those things at once. But it pushed the book in a direction, and the rest unfolded from there.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

I've been an avid cyclist for (shudders to admit it) 38 years. This is the first summer, in fact, in all that time, I haven't been on a bike (I had a serious leg injury last fall and I'm still working that off). I studied aikido for ten years, under the tutelage of sf/fantasy author Judith Berman. Used to sing in three garage bands (not at the same time of course). And I tremble to admit it, but I like to read research.

6) What sort of research did you do to write the Shadowbridge books?
What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

Frankly, every book requires a different amount of and sometimes entirely different kinds of research. I got hooked on that element back in the 1980s, researching for TAIN and REMSCELA, which comprise the retelling of the Tain Bo Cuailnge and subsequent events in the life of the Irish hero Cu Chulainn. A lot of sociological research into bronze-age Celts went into those books. Research into Druids, and into mythology. Shadowbridge has been more of the same, but now it's not just one branch of mythology, it's all of them shoved in a blender and pureed. But my first novel, LYREC...I did no research at all. That book came, whole-cloth, out of my head. I heard Jeffrey Ford say the same thing about The Physiognomy, too--to my amazement. He just invented that world and ran with it. Didn't do a lick of research, and those three books are just sodding brilliant.

7) How much of you goes into the characters? How much is Leodora like you?

They're all me, aren't they? Villains, heroes, heroines, lovers and fiends. She isn't "like" me. How could she be? She's herself. I think that writing fictional characters is akin to acting. You adopt the role of the character and try to inhabit it while that person's on stage. Then you try to become the next character, and so on. To a degree you have to know these people before you pick up the pen and write (sorry, I still use a fountain pen so that's my metaphor). You have to know what motivates. You have to know at the very least what they want. Even if they want nothing at all--wanting nothing is a state of being. It tells you something about the character and how she'll react. It sounds horribly pretentious, but it's not. It's ridiculously basic. Creating characters is understanding on some intuitive level what they want right now.

8) What are you writing now?

A supernatural mystery (no, there are no frickin' vampires in it, so stop asking now). Contemporary, and set on the Main Line outside Philadelphia. As far from Shadowbridge as one could get...which is no doubt why I have no career at all. I just can't stay in one place long enough to concoct a series.

9) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

I thought I wanted to be a comic book illustrator. I wrote and drew comics all through junior high and high school. Showed them to nobody, really. But I'm not one of those who says "Oh, yeah, I popped out of the womb knowing I was going to be a writer." Great, man. Love ya. Not me, I had no damned idea at all.

10) Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?

I think it's hard-wired into me. The first book I can remember ever choosing on my own from the library was a retelling of The Odyssey. I grew up on Captain Midnight and Superman and The Twilight Zone and Commander Cody. And comic books. I was utterly fantasy oriented, and story ideas when they come are invariably fantastic or horrific. I don't think in terms of "people paralyzed by angst at recognizing the human condition." Sorry, just not my cup of hemlock.

11) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

That would depend on where I am in the book and whether or not I know what the next part looks like. First drafts are hard, and crappy and fragmented. Revisions just seem to last forever. Different parts of the brain and different processes, and so different lengths of time. But I now write far more often in coffee shops than I would ever have thought possible.

12) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

Before this was FITCHER'S BRIDES, a reworking of the Bluebeard line of fairy tales. The serial-killing husband. Dark, nasty, and great fun to write. There's a collection of short stories out from Golden Gryphon Press called ATTACK OF THE JAZZ GIANTS & OTHER STORIES--I've been publishing short fiction since 1981. I mentioned already the early novels. There's also a science fiction novel, THE PURE COLD LIGHT, that was a Nebula nominee back in the mid-'90s.

The Shadowbridge books are available pretty much everywhere, but I recommend purchasing them through simply because I support independent booksellers.

If you want to order Shadowbridge, go to
If you want to order Lord Tophet, go to
If you're interested in Attack of the Jazz Giants go to
If you're interested in Fitcher's Brides, go to

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Signed copy of Hal 4 up for grabs

For your chance to win a signed copy of Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch, as well as some rather good prizes*, visit

* Did you see what I did there? ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Interview with Jackie Kessler

HOTTER THAN HELL is the third book in the Hell on Earth series (August 2008). Don't be fooled by the "paranormal romance" tag on the spine; this book is, perhaps, a love story, but it's much more urban fantasy than a romance. For one thing, there's no traditional happily ever after. For another...well, no, that'll do it. Unlike the first two books in the series, HOT stars the incubus Daunuan (pronounced "Don Juan," sort of).

Jackie Kessler is the author of the Hell on Earth series, published by Kensington/Zebra Books. She's also written numerous short stories and is the coauthor of the upcoming BLACK & WHITE, a dystopian superhero novel to be published by Bantam Spectra in 2009. Jackie lives in Upstate New York with her Loving Husband, two Precious Little Tax Deductions, two geriatric cats, and 8,000 comic books. She's not really a succubus, and despite all the rumors, you'll never catch her stripping on stage. For more about Jackie, please visit her website. And remember: love your inner demon.

1) What was your inspiration for writing HOTTER THAN HELL?

I knew that I wanted Daun to have his own story. After the events in HELL'S BELLES and THE ROAD TO HELL, I had a good idea what it would be. Heh, heh, heh. Daun's still pissed off at me.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?
Now: Neil Gaiman, Chris Moore, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, George RR Martin.
Then: Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, JRR Tolkien

3) What is it about fantasy that attracts you?
There's something about the nature of Good and Evil that fascinates me. Maybe it's because the two are so close to each other. Maybe it's because the dark side has cookies. But man, it's that burning drive to fight against the forces of darkness--or, from the other end, to blot out the light of the world--that is compelling. Give me the dynamic villains, the tortured heroes.

4) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?
Fun? Fun? What is this "fun" of which you speak? Hmm. I enjoy reading, long walks on the beach, the sunset, kissing in the rain...Wait, is this getting too personal? Okay, then: good music, good friends, good wine. Me = happy.

5) What sort of research did you do to write HOTTER THAN HELL?
Among other things, I did a lot of research on Mozart--who plays an important role in the story. Fascinating man.

6) What are you writing now?
The fourth book in the Hell on Earth series, HELL BOUND. The protagonist/POV is back to Jesse, the former succubus.

7) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?
I used to want to be a comic book artist. Then I wanted to write comic books. Then, once I was in college and started taking creative writing courses, I realized that I wanted to write books. Or, really, book: I had this one idea, and it was going to be my Great American Novel. So, er, 20 years later, that book still isn't published (although a version of it is currently on submission, eek). But I have three novels and one novella published, with three more novels and one novella to come in the next year. Life is good.

8) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?
Usually, I get the bulk of my writing done first thing in the morning, before the day job, or after the Tax Deductions are in bed for the night. When I'm on a deadline, a pot of coffee is my best friend, and I'm lucky to be in bed before 1 am.

9) Where do you write?
My home office. I can (and do) write on the train, when I'm traveling from Upstate New York to NYC. But I prefer to be at my desk, on my computer, with the Internet right here to distract me. Wait, no, not that last part. Er, next question...

10) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there.
The first two books in the Hell on Earth series focus on the former demon Jezebel. The first book, HELL'S BELLES, is the story of why Jezebel runs away from Hell, as well as her adventures hiding on Earth as a mortal stripper and falling in love, while avoiding the demonic bounty hunters on her trail. (Sex, strippers, demons -- what's not to like?) The second book, THE ROAD TO HELL, continues the story: now Jezebel (known as the human Jesse Harris) needs to return to Hell to save the lives of those she loves. (If she'd known love was this tough, she would have remained a demon of lust.)

Daun loves his job: seduce a lot of mortals, bring their souls to Hell, party at the best interdimensional pub this side of the Astral Plane. But when the King of Lust makes him an offer he can't refuse, Daun has to give up all the tricks of his trade to properly befriend—and bed—Virginia Reed, a woman who's meant for Heaven. If he can get her to love him for the incubus he really is, and if he can avoid the rogue demons that are hell-bent on destroying him for reasons unknown, Daun will become the First Principal of Lust, second in line to the King. But Daun learns that love is more than a four-letter word, and that maybe, just maybe, demons really do have feelings after all...

You can buy HOTTER THAN HELL at, and all good bookstores.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre mini-con

The Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre SF Group is planning a mini-con for 21 September. The group's first mini-con, held in 2006, was an outstanding success, with several score people attending. The panels, readings and inexpensive lunch all contributed to the day’s success, and this year's effort pormises to be even better.

Confirmed panelists include Adrian Bedford, Janet Blagg (my editor), Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Hal Colebatch, Stephen Dedman, Russell Farr, Simon Haynes (me!), Elaine Kemp, Alisa Krasnostein, Martin Livings, Dave Luckett, Ian Nichols, John Parker and Tehani Wessely.

The one-day mini-con, which starts at 10.00am, will be held at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre, Old York Road, Greenmount, Perth. Gold coin admission, lunch available.

(From Horrorscope:

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, August 01, 2008


Not sure whether anyone else does this, but if I drop something my instinctive reaction is to try and cushion the fall with my foot. I've saved many a mug, glass and bowl like this, but there is a downside. A few years back I managed to save an old 5 1/4" floppy drive with my bare foot, which then needed stitches. The cost of the medical treatment worked out to be three times the value of the disk drive, and I would have been well ahead had I just let the thing smash into the floor instead.

(My wife does something similar, only SHE managed to save a carving knife with HER foot, and I think that weaned her off the practice. The kitchen looked like a scene from Saw VI - Utensils Fight Back.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)