IT’S HERE! Architects of the Flesh is available for sale!

Do you like your socialism angry, your body horror Lamarckian, your alternate histories brutal and convoluted and your protagonists greyer than a London sky?

You’d better, because that’s what’s on offer, just in time for Christmas if you hurry!

(Unless you’re buying an ebook version, which case you can pretty much just buy it on Christmas day and hide in a corner devouring the misery, vengeance, and weirdness without listening to your family!)

If you don’t do Christmas, this book also serves brilliant as a Generic Winter Experience.

There is basically no reason not to buy, on Kindle (all regions, link goes to UK), iBooks, Nook, Barnes & Noble online, or in print and ebook at Lulu.com. You can also request it at many major bookshops!

the book cover for Architect of the Flesh shows the title, author attribution, and an image of a sketched medusa head on one piece of paper being menaced by a diagram of a surgeon's knife on another piece of paper: the background is Charles Booth's London Poverty Map

FOCUS ON FICTION: Heavy

I’ve been doing one of these a day (ish) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel again today, because I’m out of individual shorts, and with this I’m also out of self-published material altogether! Everything else is either in anthologies or still being edited or is poetry etc. What a ride it’s been!

If you’ve read and enjoyed my (or anyone else’s) work, here’s an article on why it’s important for you to say so in public: beware of monsters: why you should review books you love.

HEAVY

What if not only everything you knew about yourself was wrong, but everything everyone else knew about you was wrong too?

Pig is in hell.

He’s been in hell for the twenty years since half a continent was atomised; since his own ignominious and contentious escape from a fate that never came; when a face from his past comes offering alleviation, he inadvertently drags behind him a young revolutionary, an extracted spy, and an admin assistant way out of her depth on an unexplained mission that will take them across the world, and which may well solve nothing at all…

“I’m always pleased to see Derek Des Anges writing, with his acute understanding of the horror we do to each other and the tactics we take to survive it.” – Kieron Gillen (Wicked + Divine, Darth Vader)

Within the last couple of days, a friend informed me that “I think I really am going to have to by a copy of this for [their 90-year-old Godmother], she was very taken with the idea when I described it to her,” which I think goes to show that you’re never going to predict quite who will go for what book, no matter how certain you are of something’s niche appeal.

Its genesis was longer ago that I realised. In fact, when I say “I usually take a year to plan and write a book and then another year to edit it, because I hate editing”, I’m being disingenuous. Books overlap. Ideas for one come up, get toyed with, doodled over, put back down, a book about something previous comes out; the new idea ferments disgracefully in the back of my mind and resurfaces later, gets played with again, reshaped, and eventually dragged to the front of the conceptual queue God knows how many years down the line, often radically changed.

So it was with Heavy. I wrote what was to become a version of the first few stories as a short exploration of what might happen to the boys of Lord of the Flies (a book I have loved with fascinated horror since my adolescence) sometime between 2007 and 2008, when I was working on Pass the Parcel.

I think I thought that was the end of it. But the opening line: Pig is in hell, kept echoing around my head. I knew enough about PTSD, and began to learn enough about gaslighting – a central theme in this book – to understand that I hadn’t finished what I’d wanted to say when I wrote that short. Also, the world that had grown up in 5,000 words of speculation nearly a decade before I wrote Heavy had the potential for scope and range beyond the small glimpses I’d given of it.

I’ve been writing multiple-PoV fiction in earnest since Pass the Parcel. Prior to that there might be the odd glimpse into one character’s thinking but overall I was wedded to a specific genre convention (for example, detective fiction may or may not do this as much as others) that “one character’s perspective is all you need”. It works for Lolita, after all. This is the first time I think that the wider potential of a multiple-PoV story saw realisation in my work, where structure and major themes echoed each other.

It’s also the first time I’ve written about faith, and loss of faith, and the importance of faith to characters. I’m an atheist: always have been, always will be, unless something dramatic happens. But I have friends of faith, and friends for whom the abrupt divorce from faith under less than favourable circumstances didn’t create a happy or happily antagonistic atheist as it does in some cases, but rather someone with a profound sense of loss and sorrow – grief, really – at being closed off from something so inherent to themselves and so important to them. And, well. I like a challenge. Part of me wants to write about things I am very familiar with – and that part has had lots to work with in Heavy – but part of me thinks that’s lazy. And so that part got to write some very unfamiliar experiences indeed.

What else? There’s a cat, who doesn’t die (I am informed that every time I include a named animal in these books I have to clarify that they don’t die, because otherwise Nasty Shocks Happen); there’s an honest-to-gods car chase although perhaps not in a very cinematic fashion; there’s spycraft, adventure, derring-do, giant mecha suits, a stealth plane, an undercover mission–

–And it is nothing like what that list makes it sound like. At least, not to all of the characters involved. That’s the thing about stories; everyone in one is living a different one.

If any of these focus on fiction posts have left you curious about the works mentioned, be aware that the title of each book links to the original launch post, where links to the Lulu and Amazon pages for each can be found. Alternately, append “/books.html” to my main blog URL for a brief outline of all my publications so far and links to their Amazon pages. 

If you’ve read and enjoyed any of them, please tell your friends! Tell the internet! Tell your mum and your boss! If you didn’t enjoy them tell people too, and say why, because I guarantee that what you didn’t enjoy, someone else will love, and it’s cool to give people a chance to find that out for themselves.

The author is currently laboriously researching for this year’s draft, and editing another draft novel, which I promise I will talk about very soon. There is also an exciting, writing-based, art-based long-term project slowly taking shape, and I promise when there’s more on that I will return to this blog and shower everyone with details.

FOCUS ON FICTION: The Next Big One

[I paused these for a while because I didn’t want to drive traffic towards Amazon during a worker strike].

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel again today, because I’m out of individual shorts.

THE NEXT BIG ONE

With the number of UK cases hitting a hundred, it’s clear that KBV is a problem which isn’t going away. Downing Street have released the following statement: “The total number of KBV cases in the UK is still comparatively small, and we are confident that the disease can be contained. NHS leaflets advising on lifestyle and behaviour changes which can help protect against infection will be available soon. We ask the public to remain calm and to continue to behave responsibly about their health in all areas.

Vocational journalism student Ben Martin is the last person who ought to be investigating a major viral outbreak. He doesn’t know a single damn thing about biology; he pays his rent by DJing for hipsters. He’s nervous, easily-discouraged, and not over his ex.

But it’s him who ends up with the assignment, and it’s him who ends up facing down the truth: there is more to this than meets the eye.

The Next Big One is definitely a watershed novel for me. It was the first book I wrote where I actively looked at what I was writing in the planning stage and said, “Does this character really need to be [white/cisgender/male/able-bodied] in order for the plot to work”, and when they didn’t need to be, I changed something about them. It was such a simple alteration, and yet somehow it brought so much more depth and affection for the characters, so much more realism to my experience of writing them.

Drawing on life helped, too. Many of the locations are subs for places that I’d been to, or vague nods to people that I’d met, rather than just being a kind of Londish place which disappears into vagueness. It helped, too, that I’d been getting out more, in the intervening years, as my mental health continued on its slow upwards trend (unlike the protagonist of the book, the poor sod); the more you see of life, the more qualified you are to write about it.

Research, too, helped. While I set out to look into what was possible and plausible with disease design in mind, I picked up a lot of peripheral knowledge as I tried to get to grips with virology and epidemiology from a starting point of being so scientifically illiterate that I’m still not sure I understand what mitochondria are, never mind things like apoptosis.

It grew from frustration with how public health issues are reported; it grew from my general distrust of the ethics of large corporations; it grew from my overall fascination with the brutality of sickness and the fragility of the human body balanced against the surprising strength and resilience of human bonds. But the characters, once the groundwork was done, more-or-less wrote themselves.

What I set out was to write an epidemic thriller, but it’s not pacy enough. It’s not suspenseful enough. And it’s far, far too much about the people, and very little about the disease. That’s the thing about the way I write, I’ve come to understand: I am interested in how people work and how they stop working, and I am interested in the effect of squeezing one part of their life on all the other parts of their life. Larger mechanisms of society and the universe, while operating in their own casual frameworks, do kind of narratively exist for the purpose of making the protagonist’s life harder. Sorry about that, protagonists.

While it’s not exactly a dramatic story of the world battling a deadly evil together, I still hope it’s exciting. The smaller dramas within it kept me entertained while I was writing them, at least.

FOCUS ON FICTION: The Breaking of M

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A Melissa Snowdon novel today.

THE BREAKING OF M

The Breaking of M by [Snowdon, Melissa]

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…

This factually inaccurate tire fire gay sex Venetian Orgy Piracy Colonialism – I hesitate to say “romp” but it probably is one – started as a series of jokes. It features two priests (TWO), an ex-pirate spy conman, and more drama and sodomy than you can shake a stick at. There’s also bad horse-riding and torture because, IDK, that’s how I rolled when I wrote this. That’s still how I roll now. For added fun, know that the three main characters are to be imagined as a largely unknown male model, and Lee Pace and Ezra Miller, both of whom have since come out as queer. Evidently, I am very psychic.

Notable not least because this, being an m/m (m/m/m) romance novel, has attracted more angry reviews than anything else I’ve published, although The Next Big One did get a brilliantly cross review about it being “a philosophical book” (what a great praise by faint blame situation?) – but also had an oil-painted fanart of the protagonist. So, swings and roundabouts, really.

I didn’t plot this. I usually do, but this time I just let Mat kind of do whatever he wanted and then whenever it seemed like his actions should have consequences, they did, and he had to deal with them. It’s the G W Dahlquist route of “throw things at your characters and force them to keep dealing with the problems until there are no more problems left”, and while I wouldn’t recommend it for every genre this seemed to bear it fairly well. It definitely works best with a journey format.

Despite having a headcast for it, I’ve always pictured it more as an animated feature. I think it’s because it’s so ludicrous, so lush in its colours, and so ridiculously cartoonish in all of its emotional strokes. I think it’s a fun time, at any rate – and like all Melissa Snowdon books it has a guaranteed happy ending.

 

FOCUS ON FICTION: Il Pompinaro’s Apprentice and the Witchcraft of Instant Paint

FOCUS ON FICTION

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A Melissa Snowdon Short Story today!

IL POMPINARO’S APPRENTICE AND THE WITCHCRAFT OF INSTANT PAINT

Il Pompinaro's Apprentice and the Witchcraft of Instant Paint by [Snowdon, Melissa]

Inspired by a contemporary art world scuffle, this erotica/romance short story tells the tale of a Florentine painter and his young apprentice and lover who fall out over a special type of paint…

If you haven’t seen the art world scuffle in question, you’ve missed out on a treat. In brief summary: A very very famous British artist bought the UK rights to using Vantablack, a method of making things as black as humanly possible, and banned anyone else from using it for art. A little-known (at the time) pigment-maker thought this was unfair and childish, and made a pigment of a different hue which was THE MOST HUE OF THIS HUE EVER AND EVERYONE CAN HAVE IT *EXCEPT* THIS ARTIST. Said artist responded with their middle finger covered in the exact product; an extremely silly social media war broke out and everyone got a brief break from the horror of the real world watching two men exchange conceptual fisticuffs over paint.

Why is there a story about this set in Renaissance Florence?

I’m a jerk, basically; also, my art historian friend made me do it.

And I’d just been reading a very fun and good history book which was partially set in Renaissance Florence, and if there is one thing artists of the Italian peninsula in general during that period did a LOT, it was have pointless and incredibly temperamental feuds about almost everything, complete with public hate notices and rumour-spreading and, if even a fraction of the rumours are to be believed, a lot of sodomy.

The name of the titular artist is, of course, a reference to the artist responsible for the cover work, Il Sodoma. A nickname which I am sure is… relatively easy to understand regardless of your grasp of various Italian dialects. As to Il Pompinaro, well… have fun with Google or make a new Italian friend; if you already speak Italian don’t spoil this for everyone else.

I think I’d describe this one as “enjoyable” both to read and to write. There’s a certain kind of joy from writing pastiche in poetry and… I suppose this constitutes satire, in prose. It’s a little like playing or watching a game: every time you successfully hit a beat in the real life inspiration in the fictionalised version, you score a point (or take a shot of booze, given the kind of games I’m used to playing). It’s even more fun when you’re simultaneously trying to match a real-life set of events against a specific imaginary set.

FOCUS ON FICTION: The Circle

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

THE CIRCLE

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…

This book has the unique distinction of being the only full-length novel I have ever written that was inspired, cultivated, and dedicated to one person in particular. Although other people have encouraged the development of this story and certainly helped to shape it, of all the books I’ve written it’s the one with the clearest single genesis: a typo.

Back in 2007 or 2008 I was in the habit of texting little stories to my friends on my ancient, cheap mobile phone as I tried desperately to alleviate the boredom of a very monotonous and emotionally taxing job. In one of them, for reasons unknown, the precursor to autocorrect took a relatively well-known name and turned it into a bizarre one without me noticing. My friend, on receiving the message, remarked that it sounded like a stage magic act.

Amused, I started to send her snippets of the presumed adventures of the magician and his deeply sarcastic assistant. A little later, I recalled a trailer I’d seen for a film that looked as if it was going to be about one thing, and turned out to be something rather different instead. Annoyed, I set out to write the story I thought I’d been going to get: a Faustian compact with a particular spin on it.

This is also a story about stories. It is a story about lies, deceptions, and illusions, because it is a story about stage magic, and you absolutely cannot talk about conjuring without talking about lying. It’s a criticism of the pre-war conditions of the British Empire; the biggest lie of all, but I wouldn’t call it “worthy”. It’s a love story about people who hate each other, both in the framing and in the narrative itself. It’s a story about toxic masculinity, toxic class issues, and about how, deep down, everyone is kind of a dick; it’s just a question of how much of a dick they are on the surface, too.

I have enormous affection for all of the characters in this novel – perhaps moreso than any other I’ve written, because in this I couldn’t come up with any clearcut villains, only different shades and flavours of people just doing their best – or worst – to make themselves happy. I think in that regard it’s the most realistic.

The moral of the story is that not everyone gets what they deserve; but I hope at least that the person who got a whole book written for her isn’t too desperately annoyed that it took me so long to do it.

FOCUS ON FICTION: Pantsgiving

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

Continuing the Melissa Snowdon theme from yesterday, but this time a short story and a much more recent offering:

PANTSGIVING

Pantsgiving by [Snowdon, Melissa]

David Winthorpe meets Simon Beckett off his flight home with a special gift in mind. Things don’t entirely go to plan, but that’s okay. Short gay erotic fiction from the author of The Breaking of M, and Tame.

As I’m not American, Thanksgiving isn’t a festival I celebrate; as someone with a lot of American friends I’m usually well-aware of when it’s taking place, so I can scrounge some of the offensively large dinners the US immigrants in my city like to cook up. And I love any excuse for a party, or a gift-giving, so I wrote this, for a very dear American, at her behest.

The characters began as nothing very much; they come from nowhere, and they go nowhere from here, but in the course of writing and planning this story, David and Simon have developed a whole life outside these pages, a whole background full of other events and a whole, often precarious, future proceeding on from them. I find it’s often impossible to write anything about a character’s present without finding out things about their past, which inform the choices they’ll make.

The characters began as nothing very much; they come from nowhere, and they go nowhere from here, but in the course of writing and planning this story, David and Simon have developed a whole life outside these pages, a whole background full of other events and a whole, often precarious, future proceeding on from them. I find it’s often impossible to write anything about a character’s present without finding out things about their past, which inform the choices they’ll make.

It’s just two awkward, awkward people in a relationship they probably shouldn’t be in, failing their way through the awkward, awkward situation of seeing each other again after an extended period of absence, right at a point at which they’re still not sure what that means for either of them.

FOCUS ON FICTION: The Curious Case of the Firecrotch

HAPPY MIDSUMMER!

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novella today, and the first featured story from my romance & erotica alter-ego, Melissa Snowdon.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE FIRECROTCH

Wilberforce Kemp is a private detective. He’s not especially good at it, and he has a drink-chugging demon to keep fed, but he’s a private detective all the same and that means when a beautiful red-head comes into his decaying office and pays him to dig up a missing boyfriend, it’s his job to find the guy… even if he kinda wants the red-head all to himself. In a case that will bring him elbow-to-elbow with all the low-lives he’s been drinking to avoid, Wil Kemp is up to his neck in trouble all over again.

This pastiche of the hard-boiled detective trope brings romance and sarcasm a-plenty.

Sometimes you just have to write trash.

If Saint Grimbald’s Men was self-indulgent, this is a case of mutual self-indulgence run riot. It’s cheesy. It’s convoluted. It’s silly. There are bad jokes. There’s a perma-drunk narrator, a beautiful bitchy boy or several, a sketchy detective plot, and a bathetic ending. In short, all the things that myself and my pseudonymous co-author Dionysia Hill (she picked the name, I’m not responsible) absolutely and unequivocally adore. Although in my case I’d probably like to be able to claim to have more elevated tastes, this is the equivalent of having a good, long, luxurious scratch – a frivolity after a hard day of intellectual exercises and historical research.

It’s also got, as noted in the original promotion, “a higher ratio of sex scenes than I usually include”, although since I branched out into writing (truly) pseudonymous gay porn shorts that’s less true than it was.

I want you all to imagine this as a series of postcards: of a hot and rainy city peppered with interesting tiles and grubby cafes, scooters, criminals, and cats. Of a very beautiful boy and a man who probably would be beautiful if he’d figured out how to shave and stay sober: think Philip Marlowe but cast by a modelling agency. Imagine a series of bad mistakes, confusin phonecalls, and a mystery that wouldn’t even be one if all the characters in the story had a lick of sense. Unfortunately, lifelike to a T, none of them have a braincell to share between them.

I also want you to imagine two authors – one of them a very intelligent woman with multiple academic qualifications and the other one me, who has definitely managed to tie his shoelaces the first time at least twice now – cackling over their respective keyboards and shouting marginal instructions at each other as the novella slowly takes shape.

This is co-writing. It might not be Gaiman and Pratchett; I don’t think Hill and Snowdon are quite in the same wheelhouse. It might not be insightful, or highbrow, or morally uplifting, but it’s definitely a story, and there’s probably a dick in it. Both private and otherwise.

Focus On Fiction: The Other Daughter

FOCUS ON FICTION:
I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available. If anyone’s read any of them and wants to add their impressions or things they think...

I’m going to be doing one of these a day (hopefully) to give people a bit more background & insight about the stories I’ve got out/available, to help anyone make a decision about what they want to read next, or just to give background if you’re already familiar with the story.

A novel today:

THE OTHER DAUGHTER

Polly Mazlowczy has returned from a fictitious conflict in North Korea a changed woman. Just how changed, her strange and insular family and the people of an isolated Midwestern town are about to discover. The Other Daughter is a revenge tragedy of the old school given a modern twist.

With this book I’ve definitely been a victim of my inability to stick to one genre; it is technically a revenge fantasy, yes – based on a play which certainly falls into that category – but it’s also a fantasy novel, and a family saga.

I began with the house. Polly, the protagonist, came into shape in relationship to that stifling, oppressive, semi-haunted building and its horrible secrets. Her supernatural entourage (and her brilliant, rude, amoral girlfriend) came soon after. As the first of my published works to actually see completion – although it wasn’t the first published – I think The Other Daughter represents an interesting snapshot of an earlier stage in the development of my personal style and approach to writing.

It’s dense, and visceral, thick with minute descriptions which I think add to the oppressive atmosphere the whole narrative carries with it, and the sense of an impending storm. I think, too, a lot of my literary influences are closer to the surface than they are in other work, meaning it’s an interesting read in terms of analysis as well as enjoyment – and surprisingly also probably some of the freshest, most interesting characterisation I’ve done. I could stand to revisit this for my own development!

The Other Daughter, a story about secrets, lies, and coming back to the place that made you in order to see that process through no matter the cost, carried with it some very clear mental images, and a while back I commissioned B. L. Becotte to draw one of them:

image

Originally I described this as:

“It features ass-kicking lesbians, creepy ghost monsters, horrific mutilation, and a plot stolen from inspired by Shakespeare. Clearly the stuff of powerful cinematic legend or, more accurately, just me having a good time with writing something rather than making an enormous fuss about the moral and social implications of the text.”

While that’s true to a degree, there’s definitely some examination of the monstrous feminine and the damage women can do to each other in here that I just took for granted when I was writing it.

[PUBLISHING]

If you enjoyed yesterday’s short story (which is nothing like this one but is also written by me), or have perhaps bought Owl Hollow Press’s Pick Your Poison anthology and enjoyed my contribution to it (also on the theme of oceanic health!), you might be interested to know that you can now buy environmental horror story In The Trenches on Amazon Kindle sites globally.

Deep sea exploration engineer Euan navigates the various tensions aboard a vessel which houses both those interested in the future of the oceans’ wildlife and those only interested in profiting from it, and on dipping below the waves discovers that they’re not the only ones with an interest in the contents of the abyss.

Kindle (UK) | Kindle (US)

EDIT: This story is now also available on Lulu.com, and via iBooks, Kobo, and Nook.


The author has recently been recovering from surgery and has been unable to keep up with his usual level of work, so pity money is very much appreciated:

TIP JAR