derek des anges

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noises from my head and projects from my mighty fists

It’s Here! It’s Queer! It’s all smoke and mirrors, I fear!

Step right this way, step inside, and see the greatest show ever to amaze your senses and baffle your mind. Watch! As a budding friendship is slowly but completely transformed before your very eyes! Marvel! At how stupid four very intelligent young people can actually be when confronted with life’s mysteries! Gasp! With indignation at the skullduggery and bad manners brought in the pursuits of love, fame, wealth, and let’s be honest, a lot more wealth. Blush! At some of the language! Laugh! Primarily at some of those waistcoats! Tremble! At the revelation of worlds beyond worlds and compacts most rare and Faustian!

Buy! This! Book!

Buy it:

On Amazon Kindle (US | UK), on Lulu (print | eBook), on iBooks, on Nook, on Kobo…

What’s it about? What’s it about? You’ve heard all this and you still need to know more? Allow me:

The year is 1900. An Earl, an engineer, a suburban philosopher, and an enigma meet at University and make a pact to learn the art of conjuring.

But nothing among the friends is quite as it seems, and soon the happy four are plunged into worlds of political activism, crime, despair, sordid trysts, and a Faustian compact which seems set to threaten their very lives, one by one…

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Circling closer

The time has come for another book to be released into the wild, to flourish where it can, like a weed, and hopefully sow fertile seeds in the imagination. Or at least take up some prime real estate on someone’s bookshelf, which is of course identical to becoming an important part of their inner life.

The year is 1900. An Earl, an 
engineer, a suburban philosopher, 
and an enigma meet at University
and make a pact to learn the art
of conjuring…

Consider yourself warned: the rabbit is out of the hat and the cat is out of the bag.

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New Book Cover: The Breaking of M

I enjoyed making the cover for Saint Grimbald’s Men so much that I decided to take another of Ms Reilly’s photographs and make a similar one for The Breaking of MAs the latter is also an eBook only, it’s easier to change covers on a whim. Do you think this one is better? Or was the old one more suitable to the story?

new breaking of m cover

No change to the actual book itself, although I took the opportunity to make the listing on Amazon a little clearer about the book’s content (because I do read my reviews, and when people are commenting that they got a different book to the one they expected, even when they downloaded it on one of the free offer days, I listen).

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Book Release: Saint Grimbald’s Men

After the fashion of Hannah Matchmaker’s New Skates, I’m letting this little story go on the Kindle for a pittance. At some point when I’ve amassed enough of these little stories I’ll put them together in a print collection, like I did with Tiny Fictions, so if you’re all about the dead tree format (and I don’t blame you, there is great satisfaction in being able to throw a book you don’t like across the room, and deleting something from your Kindle just isn’t the same!) don’t worry, it will eventually come to pass in a throwable, self-fillable format as well.

Unlike Hannah Matchmaker’s New Skates, this is also available as a PDF, without fussing about with Amazon’s interface (and profit margin); just pop me an email at [myname] at gmail dot com and ask about Paypal (it’ll be the same price as it’s listed on Amazon).

A grim tale.

A grim tale.

Unlike the roller derby story, this is very much not a sweet tale about overcoming the odds and learning to believe in yourself; instead it’s about the terrible consequences of repression, as expressed by body horror in a monastery. Or at least, I decided it was about the terrible consequences of repression: it’s actually about two monks who fall in love.

The Kindle edition is available from here ( .com instead of .co.uk if you’re not in the UK, obviously) , for a cover price of $0.99 USD or whatever that is in your local currency (in mine it usually works out at about 77p). For a sample of some of my fiction that you don’t have to pay for (besides the free previews on Lulu etc), there’s this.

And if you enjoyed the cover photograph, it is the work of one J. Reilly, and you can find more of her photography here.

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Hot Maud-on-Maud Action

One of the side-effects of Having an Aspergers and mainlining every single one of the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters has been an increased interest in the period of history they’re set in, The Anarchy. It’s a bit of a misleading name, since there’s no uprising and the chaotic nature of life within the struggle for power seems to be ascribed to them long after by Victorian historians.

Ellis Peters goes into some (whimsical) depth about the personality and characteristics of the battling monarchs, casting Stephen of Blois as a good man but indecisive king prone to abandoning his projects if they did not give up fruit almost immediately (in which Stephen and I have an embarrassing amount in common), and the Empress Maud/Matilda as a great general but too given to arrogance and alienating her allies by not knowing when to forgive them. Stephen gets the accolade of being “extremely wealthy, well-mannered, modest and liked by his peers” on Wikipedia, which is probably about as reliable as the novels: Maud receives “less popular with contemporary chroniclers than Stephen; in many ways she took after her father, being prepared to loudly demand compliance of her court, when necessary issuing threats and generally appearing arrogant”. The third party in this scuffle – after Stephen was taken captive in Lincoln in 1141 – was Stephen’s wife, Queen Matilda also known as Maud. So far little has been said of her in the books, beyond an aside of the effect that the Queen is a more ruthless leader or at least better general than her imprisoned husband. Obviously this is Ellis Peters’ character’s opinion, and the actual character of monarchs from nearly 900 years ago must remain to some extent a mystery, but it was enough to pique my interest in the two Mauds.

The coronation of King Stephen

Women characters in Ellis Peters’ Cadfael books tend to hold a surprisingly good position: constrained by a lack of legally recognised social power, they still manage to assert themselves in every other area of their lives, often possessing as much drive, deviousness, or physical stamina as their male counterparts. They come in a full and fruitful variety of personalities, each of them with their own motive, however venal or misguided, and even the meekest and most withdrawn of them can be roused to action. The question of why Brother Cadfael was not Sister Magdalen (who has a certain amount of influence in the books even as it is) can only be answered with “because she wouldn’t have been able to range as freely”: I feel sure that Ellis Peters could just as well have had a detective heroine.

The Empress was betrothed to the Holy Roman Emperor before she turned ten, and was crowned Queen of the Romans while only eight or nine: continuing her eventful early life, she was married at twelve, and had already done a measure of her growing up in a foreign court with none of her father’s family in attendance. One could perhaps forgive her from developing a somewhat abrasive personality in order to protect herself, and perhaps parallels can be drawn with the equally ambitious and married-in-early-life Margaret Beaufort (Countess of Richmond and Derby), who gave the world Henry Tudor (and later acted as regent for Henry VIII). Certainly the Empress was determined to win as much as humanly possible for both herself and her son, who succeeded from Stephen under the terms of the Treaty of Winchester. Unfortunately while this tendency to behave in a haughty and imperious manner may have been a useful survival tactic at first, it seems to have become entrenched and later proved detrimental, driving away potential allies: this attitude may have gone down better during her time as regent to her first husband, Henry V (the Holy Roman Emperor) in Italy, or she may just have been growing impatient with being denied the throne she perceived as rightfully hers, having been named as her father’s successor.

It should be noted here that Stephen was not exactly an exemplar of biddability, and both seized the crown from an absent woman to whom he had previously sworn allegiance, and imprisoned Archbishop Theobald towards the end of the civil war, for refusing to anoint his son Eustace as king while Stephen was still living (this was the practice in France, where Eustace already held land, but Pope Celestine II had banned its adoption in England).

The Queen, on the other hand, seems to have had a better turn at diplomacy (negotiating the exchange of prisoners Robert of Gloucester – the Empress’s half-brother and supposedly her most effective military figure – and the King), and a less enormously turbulent early life. The two Mauds were of roughly the same age, but while the Empress excelled in gathering the power-hungry under her banner, the Queen managed to rally the turncoat friends of Stephen – the war produced an unflattering number of about-faces from many, including Stephen’s own brother Henry – and with William of Ypres turned the tide of the war while Stephen was still imprisoned. One gets the impression that while the Empress was the more imposing figure, she was too unyielding to be able to manage the progression of her campaign as effectively as the Queen might.

The Queen Consort, Matilda (Maud) of Boulogne

Although history and the demands of power struggles in Europe pitted these women briefly against each other, I do not mean to hold them up as adversaries and play a puerile game of “who was better”. Far from it: I have something entirely more puerile in mind. Having read a little about both of these capable, ambitious, interesting, and clearly very intelligent women (although the Empress clearly needs to work on her humility), I’m quite keen on the idea of, as the title of this post even more puerilely suggests, some kind of historical romance alternate universe story in which the vagrancies of the civil war bring them into contact first as opponents and then as lovers. It could be quite a moving and plausible invention in the hands of anyone who does slightly more research than, say, Terry Deary.

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Kindle Books Summary

Kindle Direct Publishing have done a thing with their payment systems that conceivably leads to me actually getting the money I’ve earned from them, so I thought now might be as good a time as any to talk everyone through the works of mine that are available via the Kindle store (most of the publications, in fact).

As Delilah Des Anges

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The Other Daughter is a revenge tragedy with comedic elements. It’s set in a fictional Midwest town in the United States and begins with a female soldier returning from a (fictional) second US war against Korea – in this case North Korea. It involves magic, bloodshed, and a heroine whose motivation is highly questionable and whose moral compass has been somewhat distorted both my the events she’s come to avenge herself over and by the events which have led her back home. I wrote the mainstay of this book in 2006 and I think it’s probably the darkest of my novels. And it’s $1.99 on the Kindle Store. [Price given in dollars because that’s the constant: the link goes to the UK store, but the US store has it too, as do the German, French, Italian, etc.]. I made a more fulsome post about this one when I launched it.

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Protect Me From What I Want, written in 2010, uses the 2008 Haut de la Garenne case on Jersey as a jumping-off point for a first-person reported narrative which is less about police work than it is about the detective in question failing to notice that he’s having a breakdown. I’d wanted to write this story for a while, in part because there are thorny questions of morality involved: what makes something unacceptable and something else acceptable? Since writing this there has been the catastrofuck that is the unfolding Jimmy Savile case (if you’re not from the UK and haven’t heard about this I don’t advise Googling as it was pretty grim), the central questions of consent and morality have become retroactively even more complicated. It’s also $1.99 on the Kindle Store, and despite the subject matter is probably a little less dark than The Other Daughter.

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How Not To Write By Someone Who Doesn’t is the most popular thing I have put on the Kindle Store under my own name. I’d like to say that it’s because it’s a vital and accessible work dealing with the realities of writing but I’m pretty sure the fact that it’s cheap and reasonably no-nonsense probably has more to do with it. It’s a selection of essays and exercises filtering everything I was taught at university while studying creative writing and everything I’ve learnt since into some bossy directions on, mostly, sitting the fuck down and writing. If that’s the kind of writing advice you think you or someone in your life needs, do get it, because I’m fantastic at motivating people to work by, uh, yelling at them until they do. Also it’s cheap: $0.99 USD on the Kindle Store, and the Kindle version has a couple of pieces which aren’t in the print version so you’re getting more bang for less buck.

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Year of the Ghost: Collect Poems 2011 is as it says on the cover, a year’s worth of poetry. It covers a lot of topics, and a lot of death, because 2011 was a year of prominent deaths and upheavals, which means it’s less something you’d want to read for light and uplifting amusement (although there are some uplifting poems within), and more something for expressing bigger emotions. I posted at greater length about this when it was launched last year. It’s available only for eReaders (as an ePub and for the Kindle), and on the Kindle Store cost the princely sum of $1.55 USD.

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Hannah Matchmaker’s New Skates, a short fable on on the importance of achieving things under your own steam without taking any shortcuts, is also about rollerderby, which means it is at least nine times more awesome than it would otherwise be. More here. This little tidbit of fiction is also a Kindle exclusive, which means if you’re an Amazon prime member and don’t fancy paying $0.99 like everyone else, you can borrow it for free.

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Pass the Parcel, set in alternate London and dealing with a complex and interlocking selection of lives linked by the passage of a small blue statue, took about eight years from first idea to final draft, maybe slightly longer. It’s a labour of love and of tendinitis, filled with enough different and striking characters that you’re almost certain to find one you like, and failing that if you don’t fall in love with this version of London I have failed in my mission. Print costs for something this long are exorbitant, so by buying it for the Kindle at $1.99 you are saving a lot of money.

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Tiny Fictions 2011 is the combined might of four miniature books of short stories, which despite the title have come from across the reaches of writerly time and not just 2011 (the original instalments were all published in 2011, hence the title). There is an infinite of variety of genres, characters, endings, and matter in these stories, from romance to crime to horror to fairytales to fantasy to lurid dreamscapes: some of the stories are so short you can devour them in a minute or two, and some are long enough to last a whole train journey. This galaxy of variable stars costs $1.99 on the Kindle Store and enriches your life.

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Know Your Words, the first book I published, is an anthology of poetry by three writers. Myself, House to Astonish‘s very own Al Kennedy, and Bostonian burlesque queen and performance poet Amy. We have different, complementary styles: Al’s is conversational, friendly, and often upbeat, riven with good humour; Amy’s is incisive, personal, and cutting, drawing comparisons with Denise Duhamel; mine is rambling and broad, taking in a number of styles and subjects, including SCIENCE. This sweet collection is also only $1.99 on the Kindle Store.

As Melissa Snowdon

Why a separate name for these books? Branding, pure and simple. Don’t screw your face up in disgust: it’s just a convenient way of putting the fluffy romance/erotica books in a different category to the more serious work. If you see Melissa Snowdon on the cover you know you’re getting something different to what you’re getting if you pick up a Delilah Des Anges book. They’re generally a lot less heavy on the plot and a lot more heavy on the gentlemen having sexy funtimes with other gentlemen, for one, and can usually be relied upon for a happy ending.

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The Breaking of M is a first-person meandering erotica/romance novel set in the 1600s and spanning the world from Venice to Mexico in the age of colonialism. It follows some of the fortunes of inveterate liar, former pirate and current spy, dandy, and hedonistic bisexual Matimeo Calvisia: Matimeo meets his match in arrogant, bossy and youthful Padre Vito Alessandro Bonifatigo, and finds himself at the mercy of an altogether more frightening prospect in the New World. This story contains lashings of BDSM and ridiculous happenstance, and is best suited for scratching very specific itches. A Kindle exclusive, it’s $1.99 or free if you’re an Amazon Prime member: there’s a slightly longer post about it here.

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The Curious Case of the Firecrotch: This is why we don’t write our memoirs while drunk, Wil is a cheesy, tongue-in cheek tribute to and pastiche of both the traditional noir detective and 70s trash pulp gay erotica. It’s also my first collaboration with a deeply irreverent friend, who is writing under the name Dionysia Hill because she doesn’t take this “writing” business very seriously (a salutatory lesson for us all). It’s the story of perpetually broke and perpetually drunk private eye Wil Kemp and his reluctantly-taken caseload, trying to pay his rent, avoid being shot for poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong, and find the missing boyfriend of a cute redhead that he’d rather be sleeping with himself. Ms Hill’s contribution to this work is that it’s snappy, sharp, and has a genuinely heart-warming ending. Also, at a wallet-bendingly low price of $0.99 USD it’s probably a worthwhile investment: more details on the launch post.

If you don’t have a Kindle

Never fear: the majority of these are available in print too. In fact there are a few titles (For the Love of a CityKissing Carrion #1, and Shots in the Dark) which are only available in print/PDF format.

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New Book Release: The Breaking Of M – A Kindle Exclusive

The Breaking of M

A 16th century romance

Matimeo Calvisia, spy and rake, finds himself in 16th-century Venice and faced with an apparently insurmountable challenge: the widely-read but narrowly-lived Padre Vito Bonifatigo is calling his credentials into question. The prickings of Matimeo’s pride lead him through a moral maze and dog him all the way across the Atlantic, but sooner or later something has to give…

Available from the Amazon Kindle Store only, this ridiculous tale of swash, buckle, and a lot of kissing should keep you entertained for a good many commutes. It has intrigue! Romance! And men wearing dresses! Bandits! Pirates! Spies! And someone who is hilarious inept at riding a horse!

This no doubt staggering work of literature can be on your Kindle/Kindle-app-supporting-device for the princely sum of $1.99 USD, which Amazon informs me is currently about £1.30, a price at which most Londoners would be hard-pressed to find much else, including a cup of tea.

You may notice that the author name on this book is “Melissa Snowdon” rather than “Delilah Des Anges”; it’s still me, I’m just engaging in what I’m informed is called brand management. Basically, since The Breaking of M is a rather different tone and genre to the rest of my books, it’s sensible to have it under a nom-de-plume and not confuse strangers too much with the sudden change in tempo.

That aside: please buy my book! Read my book! Recommend it to your friends! If you want to, obviously.

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