The Ghosts of Christmas

The Ghosts of Christmas cover As I said back in October, my short story, Tell Me You Love Me is going to be included in the forthcoming anthology, Doctor Who Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas.

The Big Finish page for the book now includes an image, as well as a free PDF of one story from the collection – Faithful Friends, Part 1, by the book’s editors, Cavan Scott and Mark Wright.

It’s sad, though: my story features William Hartnell’s Doctor and the original TARDIS crew. Characters that were created at least in part by, and wouldn’t be remembered today without the inimitable talents of, the late Verity Lambert, who died on Thursday.

Thank you, Verity, for creating such a remarkable series, and for letting the likes of me play in the sandbox from time to time.

Why write?

It may be a tough question to answer, but [I love Neil Gaiman’s attempt](http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2007/10/why-write.html):

> The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.

I wouldn’t dare try and compare myself to Gaiman — I doubt I’ll ever achieve anything like one thousandth of his talents. I’m _really_ looking forward to **Stardust**, my excitement only being tempered by the thought that the film can’t possibly compare to the novel (what film ever does?). That said, I do know what he means. _Tell Me You Love Me_ will be my first published fiction work and a short story, but there were times writing it where I just got swept up and everything came out at speed. It’s happened before with the [fanfic short stories](http://matthewman.net/category/fiction/fanfic/short-stories/) I’ve written before; the pleasure increases slightly when you know you’re being paid for it, though.

Looking back at the proof PDF which I was sent last week, those points in the story still stand out as the best bits for me. It’s the portions where I had to include exposition, to write and rewrite and rewrite again to make sure that there was sufficient explanation, that stutter and falter. In contrast, I really love the opening few pages, which are largely unchanged from the very first draft. And reading it back, months now after I first wrote them, I can really detect the influence of Gaiman’s writing style upon my own. Hopefully, as I carry on writing that will develop into my own writing style, rather than an inferior copy of somebody else’s.

I was so scared, too, that as a first time writer, my work would stick out from that of the experienced writers with whom I’m contributing to _[The Ghosts of Christmas](http://matthewman.net/2007/10/02/coming-soon-the-ghosts-of-christmas/)_. But I’ve read the whole draft of the book several times now, and am beginning to feel less like the fraud I thought I may be when I was first offered the commission.

Next up, I have to decide if I’m going to have time to devote to [NaNoWriMo](http://www.nanowrimo.org/) this year. Other pressures last year meant that I just had no spare time to devote to writing, and I’m hoping that I can spend November 2007 writing 50,000 words of a first draft.

Coming soon: The Ghosts of Christmas

I’ve mentioned bits and pieces about getting a short story published, without going into further detail. Now, though, my publisher has announced full details, so I can officially go public. My story, Tell Me You Love Me, is going to be published in Big Finish’s forthcoming short story anthology, Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas.

I’ve been so excited about this, ever since Cavan and Mark first asked me to pitch. From that point on, really, I’ve had to keep pinching myself to believe that it was actually happening.

Thanks to Mark and Cavan, who gave me some great notes back from my early drafts, I’m really quite happy with the way the story has come out. Since handing it over and getting the final draft signed off, I’ve looked back at it and wondered if I could have done various bits better (I’m sure the answer will be ‘yes’ on all fronts). I suspect, though, that I’d never be completely happy with it.

The Ghosts of Christmas will be published in December.

Diary of a C-List Celeb

At work, I’m currently working on rebuilding a [directory of Light Entertainment](http://www.showcall.co.uk/) into something that’s more useable and less admin-intensive. As such, I’m dealing with content that includes tribute bands, lookalikes, magicians and other acts that keep the smaller venues around the UK with someone to put on their stages.

As such, reading [Diary of a C-List Celeb](http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/055381625X/thislitheunoffig) ought to be a bit of a busman’s holiday — but it’s a highly enjoyable one. The tale of a two-bit actor who dreams of leaving the Grimsby panto world behind for a life of celebrity — which, these days, involves breaking into television — _Diary_ is the debut work of Paul Hendy, himself a minor TV celeb.

It’s an enjoyable romp, although it hardly breaks new ground. [Basket Case](http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/034068061X/thislitheunoffig) by Douglas Chirnside and [This is Your Life](http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0552998494/thislitheunoffig) by John O’Farrell are two stand-outs among a highly variable crowd. It’s rare, though, to find a book that can place itself in a highly familiar environment with such a consistent wit that sustains until the end of the book, and this is where Hendy succeeds. You’ll guess every supposed ‘twist’ pretty early on, but you’ll hardly care.

A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon

Originally published on Gay.com UK

A group of university archaeologists are camped out in a Californian forest. One of the team, of Native American descent, is convinced the place is haunted – and the weird nighttime sounds that are spooking them all out are slowly convincing the rest of them.

It sounds more like the setup for an episode of Scooby Doo than a murder mystery, but the latest novel from Gay Men’s Press enters areas that Hanna-Barbera’s ‘Mystery Machine crew’ would never dare approach.

In A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon, bookseller-turned-crime writer Adrien English escapes out to the Pine Shadow Ranch, bequeathed to him by his beloved grandmother, in the hope of overcoming his writer’s block and to sort out in his head his frustrating relationship with the S/M-obsessed LAPD detective that he met in Lanyon’s first book, Fatal Shadows.

Continue reading A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon

The Ropemaker’s Daughter, by Virginia Smith

Originally written for Gay.com UK

We’ve all told little white lies on a first date. First impressions matter, we’re always being told, so it pays to come across as interesting as possible. A little hint of thrill in one’s job here, a dark secret in a slightly-murky-but-not-threateningly-so past there. After all, if the relationship doesn’t go anywhere it’s not going to matter, and if it does, well, your new partner will look over such indiscretions. Right?

Wrong — at least, for the heroine of The Ropemaker’s Daughter, an amazing first novel by Virginia Smith. Rebecca is a habitual liar, concocting elaborate past histories with which to enthral men, safe in the knowledge that they’re not going to get to know her and so will never find out the truth — that she’s little more than a Southampton librarian. This is all well and fine, until she meets someone who’s an even better liar than she is. He claims he’s Adam, Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend who she dumped a year earlier, but she knows differently for two reasons. Firstly, he looks nothing like her ex — but more significantly, the real Adam had thrown himself off a cliff ten months earlier.

Rebecca enlists the help of Paige, a woman who also knows the fake ‘Adam’, to find out just who he is and why he’s tormenting her by posing as her late ex. As they do so, Rebecca finds out more about herself – including an increasing attraction to Paige.

Lovers of Barbara Vine will adore Smith’s plotting. The story propels itself along, with no twist ever feeling forced or unnatural. While the same can’t necessarily be said of some of the characters. Paige’s backstory, for example, is peppered with unusual and unbelievable cardboard cutouts. These, however, don’t detract from the sense of dramatic urgency.

The ending possibly suffers from being a little easy to guess, but with all great mystery novels it’s how you get there that matters, and ‘The Ropemaker’s Daughter’ takes you on a fantastic ride.

The Sacrifice, by Gordon Linton

Originally written for [Gay.com UK](http://uk.gay.com)

Anybody who’s grown up gay in a small village will know how important it can suddenly become when you meet someone like you; someone who shares your secret. Greg Chaley, the hero of new novel The Sacrifice, finds out when he meets Kit, in his school choir.

Two years older than he is, the androgynous older boy is immediately aware that Greg is different; not because he’s gay, but because, like himself, he has supernatural abilities. At first, Greg is sceptical. It is only after wishing a dreadful fate on his homophobic music teacher, who subsequently suffers a horrific car crash, that he begins to believe that Kit may have a point and that he really is not like other men.

Gordon Linton’s debut as a novelist follows the path of Greg’s dalliance with black arts through school and on into university. Whenever dark magic is used in fiction, there’s often a strong link with sex (Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s lesbian couple of Tara and Willow, concocting powerful spells together in their bedroom, being just one recent example). It’s the same case here: as Greg’s powers begin to grow, he meets and falls in love with the handsome Phillipe, only to find that their passionate lovemaking is channelling his powers into performing acts of criminal – and fatal – evil.

If the whole premise sounds hokey, it’s redeemed by the absolute seriousness with which it’s taken within the framework of the novel itself. When the plot dips into pure melodrama, the fact that the reader’s own scepticism is echoed by Greg’s own thoughts helps to propel the story onwards.

As the story is moves on to its inevitable climax, Linton for the most part manages to keep on the right side of the line that divides the fantastic from the faintly ridiculous. One of the least believable elements, though, is the manner in which the villain of the piece is despatched. While the method is just about plausible within the framework of the book, the fact that it needs to be explained a few pages later on is maybe a sign that its execution is weaker than it should be.

All in all, The Sacrifice is a satisfying, if at times undemanding, read.