BRIDESMAID REVISITED

The 2013 Aurealis Awards were announced this weekend. Marching Dead was shortlisted in the Best Horror Novel, but lost out to Fairytales for Wylde Girls by Allyse Near.

A full list of winners has been posted at the Aurealis Awards website. Congratulations to the winners in all categories: with several hundred novels, stories, anthologies, collections and graphic works published each year it’s a big mountain to climb.

LYING LIKE CARDS: A MARIUS DOS HELLESPONT FIX

To note the Aurealis Award nomination for The Marching Dead, here’s a little bonus for those of you who knew him before he went electric.

Lying Like Cards: A Marius dos Hellespont fix is a vignette I wrote to mark the publication of The Marching Dead. It concerns the game of Kingdom, which I invented for the novels and which nobody has had the decency to licence and make me a rich man by producing limited edition gold-plated versions thereof. Or even a DOS game. The story takes place just before the opening of The Corpse-Rat King, so if you want to get the full benefit of the narrative, buy my goddamn books already. It’s appeared at the Angry Robot website and some delightfully hand-made booklet versions were given to people who attended the book launch, but it appears here for the first time.

Enjoy.

Lying Like Cards: A Marius dos Hellespont Fix

An hour ago there had been six at the table. Now there were two. Marius don Hellespont, late of His Automancer’s Court of Taslingham, even later of the cells beneath the court, took a moment to glance down at his cards before casually flicking over a stack of riner coins so they splashed across the green paper tablecloth.
“Whatever that adds up to,” he said, deliberately yawning. The fat Tallian across from him pursed his lips.
“That is bad etiquette, sir.”
“In this fine place?” Marius waved a hand at the shabby, peeling wallpaper, the warped floorboards, and the boarded up windows that surrounded them. “Where are my manners?” He nodded at the coins. “Whatever that adds up to. See it or raise, tubby.”
The fat man waited enough that Marius knew he was beaten. The game of Kingdom was a complex one, if you paid attention to the cards, and it became more difficult the fewer players were at the table. Ostensibly, the object was to build the hand most closely resembling the current ruling class: Royal family, if you were in Scorby, Council of Elders in Zerpha, Automancer’s Cabal in Taslingham, and so on. If you were paying attention to the cards. Only the most trusting of beginners did that.
Real players, and Marius was a real player, knew that the object of the game was much simpler: to take your opponent’s money. The cards were immaterial. What counted was keeping your opponent off-balance– learning their tells, their psychological weaknesses, and then exploiting them. Like all truly great sports, Kingdom was won by the one who best played the man. The Tallian hesitated the tiniest smidgeon, and Marius had him.
“Gods damn it.” The fat man blew out his cheeks, aiming to recover lost bravado. “Gods damn.” He made a show of counting the coins, then counting them again. Marius very deliberately did not leer like a greedy baby snatcher. “All right,” his victim said. “All right.” He riffled his stack, came to the decision Marius knew he was coming to all along. “All in.” He moved his pile into the centre of the table.
Marius didn’t count them. He had no need. He knew he had the bet covered. He paused just long enough to make him sweat, then casually smiled and laid his cards face down before him. “Call.”
A queen, a prince, a knight, three nobles, a peasant. Pretty close. Good enough to win most hands. The fat man stared at them for several seconds, then raised his gaze to Marius.
“One peasant.” He snapped the card onto the table. “Three nobles.” Snap. “One knight.” Snap. “One prince.” He held up the last card, turned it so that it faced Marius. “One King.” He laid it down with a grin, slid it into place with the others. “My hand, I think.”
He reached out to draw in Marius’ coins. To their right, a door crashed open.
“What the fuck?” Both players reared back from the table as if stung. A soldier was standing in the doorway.
“The King!” he roared. “The King has been killed!”
“What?”
“Assassins from the house of Belchester! The King is dead!” He flung himself back out the door. The room erupted in a mad scramble to follow him: off duty guardsmen and civil militiamen hurling themselves towards distant guardhouses, to swords tucked over lintels, to scythes and halberds and sharpening wheels in front yards. As the room emptied, Marius raised a sympathetic eyebrow at his stunned opponent, and began scooping coins into his pockets.
“Tough timing,” he said, and rose before the fat Tallian could recover himself enough to object. “Still, the cards never lie.”

# # #

Marius sat in a booth at the back of ‘The Hauled Keel’ and watched his young apprentice Gerd weave through the crowd, two tankards of Krehmlager in his beefy fists, plonking down opposite his master and passing one over. Marius raised it in salute, and took a long swallow.
“You hid the armour?” he asked, once he’d recovered his breath. Gerd took a sip, and choked.
“In a barrel on Pudding Alley.”
“Good. Good.” Marius removed a short stack of coins from a pocket and slid it over. “Your share.” Gerd accepted it without counting. Trusting lad. Stupid boy. Marius felt the weight of all the winnings secreted around his body, and took another swallow to help ignore a sudden pang of conscience. From outside came shouts, and a clattering so loud that even the seasoned drinkers within the pub were silent for a moment.
“What’s that?” Gerd stood, and turned towards the window. Marius tilted his head.
“Soldiers,” he said after a moment. “Forming up in front of Traitor’s Gate.”
“Isn’t that the…”
“Road to Belchester?” Marius nodded. Gerd slowly sat down.
“You don’t think..?”
Marius took a long draught of his lager, shook his head, and signalled a passing girl for another while he recovered the feeling in his face. Krehmlager was traditionally strong. The Hauled Keel’s brewing room deserved its own hospital. “No,” he said, finally, flipping a coin through suddenly-clumsy fingers. “And even if there’s a little skirmish or something, nothing will come out of it but opportunity.”
The new pints arrived. He picked his up and gestured to Gerd to do the same. “Drink up,” he said. “We’ve got to get our stuff and be ready to follow them.” He smiled, thinking of the riches to be had on the battlefield to come. “I’m going to teach you how to be a corpse-rat.”


PRETTIES FOR YOU

Things have been quiet on the writing front in recent days as the day job has taken over my life. Two weeks ago we had the lovely Kaaron Warren over for the weekend as part of an art exhibition based upon her book ‘Through Splintered Walls’, and this last week has been eaten by the annual Castaways Sculpture Awards, which we stage on the beach every year and is bigger than a Justin Beiber-shaped rash. I normally keep the day job of these pages, but I might sneak some photos on here once I’ve got a few moments to do so, because frankly, they’re cool.

In the meantime, there’s a teensy bit of Battanalia still going on to keep you entertained. I’ve been interviewed over at Shelf Inflicted (great name!), and discuss my favourite dirty joke and how often an aspiring writer should have sex, along with a whole bunch of other fun things.

And my favourite type of package– mysterious– arrived in the mail the other day, containing these beauties:

Marching Dead audiobooks from Brilliance Audio. 9 discs, 10 3/4 hours of reading time, narrated by audiobook veteran Michael Page: I’ve had them on in the car and a fine job he does, too. They’re available now through any number of audiobook outlets.

Full updatery soon.

WORD FROM THE WEST

A nice surprise in yesterday’s West Australian newspaper: a mention of The Marching Dead in the writing WA Recommends… column. That’s the peak writing body in the state, recommending my novel in the largest daily newspaper in the state. Which, anyway you cut it, is pretty nice.

And let’s be honest, what are the odds, normally, of a dark fantasy horror comedy novel with ninja skeleton nun sex getting a good write-up in a conservative mouthpiece like a daily paper, eh?

So I’m well chuffed. And for those of you who may not have picked up yesterday’s paper, I have an ego and a photocopier, so here it is, in wondrous photocopyrama:

MARCHING ADO ABOUT SOMETHING

It’s a hectic time at Dayjob, so I’ve been a touch remiss in keeping the Battersblog up to date (takes blog down from shelf, blows dust off). Writing’s been on the back burner, and I’ve managed pretty much only graphic novels when it comes to reading time, too.

There will be a few Goodreads reviews popping up here today.

Thankfully, while I’ve been busy doing what I need to do to keep the roof above us, others in the interwebbersphere have been helping to keep the word of Marius, er, alive. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the fun and frivolity, including a couple of guest posts that have emerged from the murk:

  • My Shelf Confessions has discovered The Corpse-Rat King, noting its comedy and outrageous circumstances and admitting to looking forward to seeing more of his (Marius’) misadventures. They also requested a guest blog from Marius himself, and my never-gonna-be-a hero duly obliged: These Are the Rules is the result, a missive from the mouth of the Thinking Man’s Corpse to you.
  • Fantasy Mag Black Gate have also discovered my first novel, and finds it an intriguing mix of humour, madcap characters and stylish prose. I could never get into this market as a short story writer, but there’s always a back door, people…
  • A Fantastical Librarian saw enough in The Corpse-Rat King to come back for more, and deems Marching Dead to be a fabulous final to this duology and concludes that my first series can be chalked up as a success. I still have my fingers crossed for a book 3, so hopefully it won’t spoil the record if it happens.
  • And The Bookshelf Gargoyle has chosen Marching Dead for a Read-It-If… review, advising you to give it a crack if you enjoy a bit of jollity and good fun in your fantasy tales. What they think actually constitutes good clean fun gave me a bit of a giggle 🙂
  • And to round things off, Upcoming4.me requested a guest blog on the story behind Marching Dead: the what, the how, and most importantly, the why. You can read my response here.

There you go. That should keep you reading for a minute or two.

AND LO, THE BOOK SHE WAS LAUNCHED

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Stefen’s Books this last Saturday to help launch Marching Dead. A fabulous time was had, with a smattering of readings, a plethora of signings– including my first ever autograph in invisible ink (ask Carol Ryles)– and as always, when catching up with friends and colleagues, brilliant conversation. Books were sold, a simply amazing window display was sighted, and all in all I came away feeling like a special and pampered little writer boy, the better for being able to do it all in front of Lyn (who was too sick to come to the Corpse-Rat King launch) and my kids for the first time.

My thanks to Stefen Brazulaitis for hosting the event, and to everyone who came along and picked up a book or two.

So, to let you know what you missed out on if you didn’t make it it, here are some photies:

Author boy, with books. Oh, do say mine is the prettiest, teacher!

I may be slightly biased, but I say this is the most amazing window display ever.

A pile of corpses, all stacked up.



If a joke’s funny once: a pile of dead, all stacked up.


Jovial author boy.



With the family, mugging it up. Our ‘Ian Dury & the Blockheads’ moment.




With the inimitable and indomitable Stefen.


Signing with the aid of the Junior Helper Squad

I promise to owe the bearer….

Milling crowd mills.

I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I can make jokes about it all day…

Enjoying the reading. I hope.


Friends and mentors, Stephen Dedman and Dave Luckett, power-chat, while Sally Beasley looks on indulgently because she knows who really has all the power.



The photographer gets all artistic about it…


And if I thought the occasion couldn’t get any better, these little darlings arrived on my doorstep while I was at work yesterday. Admittedly, most of them will go out to awards panels and the like, but even so, it all looks damned pretty to me 🙂

LAUNCH DAY T MINUS A DAY AND A BIT

And it’s precision like that which is the reason why I don’t work for NASA.

A couple of little moments of cool to share with you this morning, with the Marching Dead launch coming up tomorrow.

Firstly, a photo to warm the cockles of your heart. Here they are, 25 copies of the exclusive, launch-only, signed and numbered Lying Like Cards: A Marius dos Hellespont Fix booklets, all signed and numbered and lined up and ready to reward the first 25 people to buy a copy of The Corpse-Rat King or Marching Dead (or both. Both is good) and present them for signing at Stefen’s Books tomorrow.

And if you need more incentive, listen to Kate of Mind, who calls me “…one messed up dude. Delightfully so,” and reward me ‘all the stars’.
According to How it Works daily.com, there are currently between 1 sextillion and 1 septillion stars in the Universe. Either way, that’s a bloody positive review out of five 🙂

So, if you need another reminder, here’s the where and the when of it:

Marching Dead Launch

Stefen’s Books
8 Shafto Lane
2pm
Saturday 6 April

I’ve got my booklets, I’ve got my multi-coloured signing pens, I’ve got my reading pages marked out, I’ve got my nervous anticipation…… I’ll see you there.