NEVERLAND - Here Be Monsters!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Looking forward to 2017...

2016 is all but done and dusted, which means we can start to look forward to what's coming up in 2017...

SHARKPUNK 2
A second anthology of killer shark stories, featuring a host of genre talent, as well as new up and coming writers. The Kickstarter to fund this will be launching early in the year.

Robin of Sherwood
Kip Carpenter's definitive re-imagining of the Robin Hood mythos from the 1980s is set to return in 2017, featuring both Robins, in a 4 disc box set. You can pre-order yours, and help make these brand-new audio dramas a reality, here.

The Wicked Wizard of Oz
A brand-new gamebook inspired by L Frank Baum's literary classic, that puts a dark, dieselpunk spin on things. It is also 750 sections long, making it my longest gamebook to date! This is set to be launched at the UK Games Expo in June.

Pax Britannia
Ulysses Quicksilver returns in a brand-new Pax Britannia short story, to be published in the Clockwork Cairo anthology, coming in 2017 from Twopenny Books.

Fighting Fantasy
First of all we have the new Freeway Fighter comic, by Andi Ewington, coming from Titan Comics, and then on Saturday 2 September we have Fighting Fantasy Fest 2, not to mention a rumoured new adventure gamebook from Ian Livingstone himself! There are even plans to produce YOU ARE THE HERO Part 2, to help mark the 35th anniversary.

And that's just the stuff I can talk about...

See you in 2017!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Explained: Z is for Zagmuk

The Mesopotamian holiday of Zagmuk lasted for twelve days and featured the symbolic sacrifice of the king (replaced by a convenient convict) which compensated for the sins of the people. Sound familiar?


Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Charitable Endeavours

Today, seeing as how it is Christmas Eve and the season of giving, Barnaby Eaton-Jones announced the total raised for charity by the Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse Indiegogo campaign. And that total is...

£18,000!

That's £9,000 each for The Sherwood Forest Trust and The British Red Cross, Richard 'Kip' Carpenter's two favourite charities.

Congratulations to all involved, and a special thank you to everyone who purchased my novelisation of the script perk.

Don't forget, you can pre-order the brand-new four-disc box-set coming in 2017 here, at the Spiteful Puppet website!


Christmas Explained: Y is for Yule Cat

Don't complain when you get given socks and a home-knitted sweater again this Christmas - the gift-giver might just be saving your life!

In Iceland, the Yule Cat - or Jólakötturinn - is a carnivorous monster that will devour you if you do not make it an offering. But it’s not just any offering; you must specifically put out new clothing - a wool sweater, socks, anything - for the cat to have in the cold winter.

The clothing is put out because you are supposed to show off the new clothes you got for Christmas. And be warned, the demon cat will know if the clothing is old!

The emphasis on the legend is to ensure that everyone has presents at Christmas, encouraging Icelanders to work hard prior to the festive period, so that they can afford to purchase their loved ones new gifts. And if you do not receive new clothes, you can’t offer anything to the Yule Cat, and you will most assuredly be eaten.


You will find a host of other such unusual, and downright disturbing, Christmas traditions described inside Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Gamebook Friday: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain


It's some time since I worked with Neil Rennison to re-imagine Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's classic Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, so it is very satisfying to actually have a moment to sit down and play the game, and discover screens like this...


Or this...


The game looks great! Russ Nicholson's original artwork has been given a touch of colour...


And the whole experience of exploring Firetop Mountain is now enjoyed in three dimensions...


Even the combat system has been given an overhaul...


If you've yet to experience the wonders of Tin Man Games' adaptation of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, you can pick up a copy here (with the game coming to iOS platforms next year).



Christmas Explained: X is for Xmas

Every year more than 400 million people celebrate Christmas around the globe, which makes it one of the biggest religious and commercial festivities in the world. But have you ever wondered why Christmas is so often shortened to Xmas?

In fact, the practice dates back further than you might suspect, ans has nothing to do with devaluing the Christian festival, as many people believe. In reality, both Christ and Christmas have been abbreviated for at least 1,000 years. The word Christ appears in Medieval documents as both 'XP' and 'Xt' and can even be found in this form in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle from 1021. By why were those particular letters used?

To find out more you'll have to pick up my book Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Steampunk Thursday: New Pax Britannia Reviews!

Even though the first Pax Britannia novel was published almost ten years ago, some people are still coming to the series for the first time. And when it's someone who enjoys the stories they devour the lot pretty quickly, thanks to the wonder of eBooks.

One such reader is Bob Marlowe who has recently posted reviews of all the Pax Britannia books - Al Ewing's as well as mine - and here's what he has to say about them.

Unnatural History
"A readable style which flows along nicely with enjoyable characters... Very enjoyable evocation of a pulp style and there are plenty more to come. A recommended read."

Leviathan Rising
"Here we have a cocktail of Agatha Christie, Titanic, The Poseidon Adventure, the X-Files and dear old Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and with Green's enjoyable pulpy style, it's a good read."

Human Nature
"The story itself is quite simple but well structured (things in the prologue that seem irrelevant are revisited later) and the good pulpy style of Green makes for a well paced roller coaster."

Evolution Expects
"As ever, a cocktail of monsters, steam punk and nods to well know characters & stories etc. including this time a Bond like board meeting scene, a character named Brundle after the 1987 version of The Fly and a bit of Talons of Weng Chiang amongst others... This series shows no signs of letting up, both novel and novella are a well-paced read, guaranteed to liven up any journey to work."

Blood Royal
"The writing is of the usual high standard with a monster infested St Paul's Cathedral especially well described... I love this series -and am sad I've less than halfway to go to the end."

Dark Side
"I had the feeling Jonathan Green had as much fun writing this as I had reading it. There's the usual tributes to films, book et al that he's enjoyed , the First men in the Moon and Voyage dans la Lune and every chapter takes its name from a film e.g. The First Men in the Moon, Sphere... These stories will never be on the Booker Prize shortlist but the Booker winners I've read were never this much fun!"

Anno Frankenstein
"Naturally this is a blockbuster mix that we have come to expect of monsters and set pieces and does not disappoint, Green handling all the ingredients with his usual skill."

Time's Arrow
"The influences here are Edgar Allen Poe's Murder in the Rue Morgue, The Island of Dr Moreau and The Phantom of the Opera, characters names including Moreau and Leroux. The new characters work well and the story races along at Green's usual pace."

If you're yet to sample the delights of the Pax Britannia steampunk universe, you can buy the books and eBooks here.

Christmas Explained: W is for Wassail

The word 'wassail' comes from the Old English 'waes hael' meaning 'be healthy', but came to denote the practice of travelling from house to house, demanding food and drink in return for a few verses of whatever carol the singers could remember at the time.

Did you know...?
The expression 'to drink a toast' originates with the custom of wassailing?

You will find many other such tasty morsels of information in my book Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts.

A Wassail Bowl, full to the brim!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Explained: V is for Vikings and Victorians

Two different groups of people, separated by hunderds of years, that have both had a huge impact on the way we celebrate Christmas today.

To find out more, read Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts!


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Explained: U is for Unbelievable Value

Unbelievably, this year Christmas dinner could cost you as little as £21.46 for a family of eight, which works out as £2.68 a head!

To find out more, follow this link, and to find out more about the history of the traditional Christmas dinner, order yourself a copy of Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas Shopping!

While you're consider what to get a loved one this Christmas, or even what to add to your own Christmas wish list, you might want to consider the following titles. Simply click on the book cover to find out more.







Christmas Explained: T is for Turkey with all the Trimmings

Surveys show that on average we will eat our way through as many as 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone which, according to the British Dietetic Association, may be a result of overindulging on second helpings, snacks and alcohol.

Whilst we are likely to put on an average 5lbs (2kg) in weight over the Christmas period, the Christmas meal is not the main culprit. In fact, the traditional turkey roast can be very good for us.

The problem is that over Christmas we can eat roughly three to four times more food than we actually need. Meaning that we can end up in the New Year weighing a lot more than we did. It also means we are storing up problems for the future. After all the extra calories have to go somewhere. These extra calories will be laid down as fat, and it’s those extra few pounds that can do you harm in the long term.

So what does the average Christmas Dinner mean for our bodies? Here are the nutritional facts:

CHRISTMAS DINNER

Christmas DinnerCaloriesFat
Roast turkey(90g)149 kcal4g
Roast potatoes(85g)127 kcal4g
Stuffing(100g)231 kcal15g
Bread sauce(45g)42 kcal1g
Roast parsnips(90g)102 kcal6g
Boiled carrots14 kcal0g
Brussel Sprouts32 kcal1g
Gravy(50g)17 kcal1g
Cranberry sauce(30g)45 kcal0g
Pork sausage(20g)62 kcal5g
Bacon(40g)135 kcal11g
TOTAL956 kcal48g

CHRISTMAS DINNER EXTRAS

Christmas Dinner ExtrasCaloriesFat
1 slice of Christmas cake(70g)249 kcal8g
1 portion of chocolate log (30g)101 kcal3g
1 portion of cheese and biscuits394 kcal27g
1 portion of mixed nuts (40g)243 kcal22g
1 portion Christmas pudding (100g), custard and brandy butter587 kcal22g
1 mince pie and double cream368 kcal25g
1 glass of mulled wine245 kcal0g



Of course there are plenty of ways of ensuring you don't overindulge over Christmas - but what would be the fun in that?

* * * *

You will find many other such tasty morsels of information in my book Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts.

Thought for the Day

"Read as much as you can."

~ J K Rowling

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Review of the Year - 2016

On New Year's Eve last year I posted a review of 2015. I'm a little earlier this year, seeing as nothing major is going to happen writing-wise between Christmas and New Year, so here's my review of 2016.

Last year I had an unprecedented nine books published. This year there were only four books, and one video game that I worked on, that saw the light of day. The first of those was a re-issue, but the second was a brand-new Doctor Who gamebook, Night of the Kraken!


Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu - funded via Kickstarter - was a concept I thought couldn't fail, and yet it has yet to really find a committed readership, which is a shame.

Of course the number of projects published this year doesn't reflect the work I've done this year that is yet to see print, such as The Wicked Wizard of Oz or a brand new Pax Britannia short story.


And there were other things that happened this year that have made a big impact on my writing/career.

For one thing, I took on the mantle of Warlock for www.FightingFantasy.com and have started planning Fighting Fantasy Fest 2 which is taking place on Saturday 2nd September 2017, to mark the 35th anniversary of the publication of the very first Fighting Fantasy gamebook, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.


I was also editor on the new Freeway Fighter comic that is coming out from Titan Comics next year.



I was invited to write the novelisation of Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse at the end of 2015 and met some of my childhood heroes (or at least their 20th century counterparts) in 2016.

With some of the cast of the audio drama Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse. (I'm the one second from the left, dressed like an estate agent.)

And there were two more projects that I worked on that won't see the light of day until 2017.

Talking of 2017, I have a few projects in the pipeline already, including SHARKPUNK 2 - a second anthology of killer shark stories - and a new novel, which I am outlining at the moment. I also hope to start work on YOU ARE THE HERO Part 2, also to mark Fighting Fantasy's 35th anniversary. And then there are yet more projects that either I can't talk about yet or which may still come to nothing, or both!

I attended fewer conventions than ever before this year - although I did attend the European premiere of Fantastic Beast And Where To Find Them - mostly because they clashed with other commitments.

Among the many celebrity deaths this year, sadly 2016 will also be remembered as the year that Joe Dever, creator of the Lone Wolf gamebook series, passed away.

Joe Dever - 1956-2106

One of the biggest things for me writing-wise in 2016, in terms of its importance to me and also, hopefully, bringing my work to a new readership was the Robin of Sherwood gig, so I think 2016 will be listed in my autobiography as The Year of Robin of Sherwood.

But what will 2017 be remembered as?

We will just have to wait and see...

Christmas Explained: S is for Snowballs

You might think that snowball fights are a relatively modern invention, but snowball fights have been taking place ever since there was snow and people to mould it into balls to throw at each other.

A Medieval snowball fight.

Talk of snowball fights may make you wonder when the first snowman was built. Well, you can find out more about the history of the snowman* in Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts.

But, in the meantime, meet Angus.


He was built in the western Maine town of Bethel ten years ago, and when this photo was taken he was the tallest snowman in the world.

Angus, King of the Mountain, stood 113 feet, 7 inches tall. He weighed 9,000,000 lbs, was made up of 200,000 cubic feet of snow, had 4 ft. wreathes for eyes, his carrot nose was made from 6 ft. of chicken wire & muslin, 6 automobile tires formed his mouth, with another 3 skidder tires for his buttons, he had a 20 ft. fleece hat, a 120 ft. fleece scarf and two 10 ft. trees for arms.


The photo above was taken on 19 February 1999. Angus didn't melt until 10 June 1999.

There are plenty more facts like this to be found in What is Myrrh Anyway? and Christmas Miscellany, both of which can be bought by clicking the appropriate link in the left-hand sidebar.


* Yes, seriously.

Shakespeare Sunday: New review of Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu

Another pleasing review of Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu was posted on Amazon this week.

"I rarely support book kickstarters as I usually prefer just buying the book once it's available, however this seemed like a fun idea so I backed it. And I'm glad I did... The design is taken from play manuscripts of the time and adds a sense of visual aesthetic to the read. It also helps ground the stories it contains... While the variance in quality can be expected in an anthology like this, it's strength also stems from that variety. The range of stories from Shakespeare is impressive, as is how they were handled. There's some lovely craft here. So I liked this a lot, it was a fun concept, that delivered on its premise. Highly recommended."

You can pick up your own copy of Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu here. And, once you've read it, why not post your own review?

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Christmas Explained: R is for Radio

Before the Age of the Television, people used to listen to the Queen's Speech on the radio. And thanks to my Christmas book, I have made a number of radio appearances around Christmas time.

Last year I was on BBC Wilshire, as I had been the previous year, and I was actually on air on Christmas Day 2008, along with Dom Joly and Danny Wallace.

However, the highlight of my Christmas radio appearances probably has to be when I sang on Radio 1. Yes, really...



I'm second to 'sing', and yes, this really did get a brief airing on Radio 1 around Christmas 2007. So there you go.



Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas Explained: Q is for the Queen's Speech

The Queen’s Speech is as much a part of Christmas as over-eating and spending far too much money on presents. And yet it is also one of the more recently-developed popular Christmas traditions.



The practice of the monarch making a speech to the nation was begun in 1932, when the then king George V, father of our own monarch, broadcast a Christmas message to the British people over the radio.


Recently I was fortunate enough to be at Broadcasting House, where the original microphones used by George V (and that you can see in the image above) are on display. And here they are...




Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas Explained: P is for Presents

Ask most children - in fact, ask most people - what they look forward to most about Christmas and the venal lot will probably say, "Presents!"*

The Twelve Days of Christmas is one of the most popular Christmas carols, telling of a zealous suitor’s extravagant Christmas gifts to his sweetheart. The familiar words of the carol were published in London, around the year 1780, in a collection of children’s rhymes called Mirth without Mischief. It was included in this context as a memory game with accompanying forfeits for the forgetful.


The Twelve Days of Christmas is the source of much amusement among mathematicians in that it provides the basis for a suitably festive mathematical brainteaser, that of ‘How many gifts does the young lady, who narrates the carol, receive?’

Looking at the lyrics closely it soon becomes apparent that on day two his sweetheart receives two turtle doves and another partridge. On the third day of Christmas she gets the French hens, another pair of turtle doves and yet another partridge, pear tree, the works. And so it goes on...

There is actually a mathematical formula you can use to work out the total number of gifts given by the extravagant ‘my true love’ celebrated in The Twelve Days of Christmas on any one day of the twelve days. Where N is a particular day out of the twelve, the total number of gifts given on that day = N(N+1)(N+2)/6.


So, rather than receiving a total of 78 gifts over the twelve days, the narrator of the carol actually receives 364 individual items, one for each day of a traditional year, minus Christmas Day.

You can find out more about why we give presents each Christmas inside Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts, which would itself make the perfect present for your loved ones this Christmas.



* And if they don't, then they probably deserve a present for being so virtuous!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas Explained: O is for Outstanding!

On 14 December 1911, the first expedition to reach the geographic South Pole, led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, arrived at the pole, exactly 105 years ago today!

Amundsen's party arrived five weeks ahead of a British party led by Robert Falcon Scott as part of the Terra Nova Expedition. Amundsen and his team returned safely to their base, but later learned that Scott and his four companions had died on their return journey.

To find out more about snow and ice and its festive associations, read Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts, available now, appropriately enough, from Snowbooks.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas Explained: N is for Nutcracker

At Christmas time it is not uncommon for many families to attend the only ballet the will see all year. The name of that ballet? The Nutcracker. But how did a ballet about a mechanical device for cracking nuts become such a popular festive tradition?

The story itself is quite old, older than the one we see portrayed on stage, which is actually an adaptation by the French author Alexandre Dumas, possibly better known for such titles as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Nutcracker was actually Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's final and least satisfying ballet, after he took on the project with a marked lack of enthusiasm. It is ironic then that it would be The Nutcracker that was to become one of the most beloved Christmas traditions.

The Nutcracker premiered in Tchaikovsky's native Russia in 1892. It wasn't until 1944 that an American ballet company decided to perform the entire ballet. That year, the San Francisco Ballet took on the task, from then on performing the ballet as an annual tradition.

But it was really George Balanchine who really set The Nutcracker on the path to popular fame. In 1954 he choreographed the ballet for a New York company, and not a year has passed since when the ballet hasn't been performed in New York City.


You will find many other such tasty morsels of information in my book Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts.