The Literary Fantasy Bundle

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Keith Brooke writes:

When I first started talking with the fine people at StoryBundle about the possibility of putting together a bundle of books from writers associated with infinity plus we ran through a number of possible themes, but the one we kept returning to was Literary Fantasy. An elusive concept, perhaps – what marks ‘literary’ fantasy out from, simply, good fantasy, for starters? – but one that seemed to encompass the kind of books we wanted to offer: fantastical fiction with a sense of the magical and spiritual, written with a literary sensibility, by which we mean fiction with a love of language and an awareness of its place in the literary canon. As you’ll see from the books we’ve gathered together, that definition is deliberately elastic, inclusive rather than exclusive, yet still clear enough to form a coherence to the set as a whole.

One of the first titles that came to mind for me was Stephen Palmer’s Hairy London, a quite extraordinary picaresque romp across an Edwardian London transformed by an overnight growth of… hair. In the streets, across the rooftops and bridges, submerging the parks. Everywhere. This is literary fantasy crammed full with alternate-historical and cultural references, but also one that never loses sight of the need to entertain.

About as unlike Hairy London as it’s possible to get and still feature here, Kit Reed’s Little Sisters of the Apocalypse is a novel that treads the indistinct boundaries between fantasy, science fiction and realism, as befits an author who describes her work as ‘transgenred’. A hard-hitting and impassioned story of a colony of women whose men have gone away to war and the role a gang of biker nuns plays in confronting the women’s deepest fears.

The appearance of Little Sisters of the Apocalypse in this bundle marks its first – and so far exclusive – appearance in ebook format. John Grant’s The Far-Enough Window is another title making its first ebook appearance, exclusive to this bundle: a classic fairytale that both delights the reader and cleverly challenges the form, from a Hugo- and World Fantasy Award-winning author. The Ragthorn, by Garry Kilworth and the late Robert Holdstock won the World Fantasy Award back in 1992 but, inexplicably, until now has never been published in standalone form – another exclusive first edition for this bundle.

It seems invidious to single out particular titles here from a bundle that manages to be so diverse in theme and approach, so all that remains is to urge you to explore what’s on offer before choosing the price you want to pay for either the core bundle or the entire set. From classic fairytale, ghosts and a deal with the Devil, through strange alternative pasts and presents to those biker nuns, there’s a bit of everything. Call it literary fantasy, or simply good fantasy, or give up labels altogether and simply read on.

Keith Brooke is author of fourteen novels, six collections and over 70 short stories; he has also edited several anthologies and an academic book on science fiction. His work has been shortlisted for the Philip K Dick and Seiun awards, among others, and optioned for film. For ten years from 1997 he ran the web-based genre fiction showcase infinity plus (, featuring the work of around 100 top genre authors, including Michael Moorcock, Stephen Baxter, Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe, Vonda McIntyre and Jack Vance. Infinity plus relaunched in 2010 as an independent publishing imprint producing print and ebooks.

As always, StoryBundle lets you name your own price to get a whole bunch of epic and excellent titles. A purchase of $3 gets you the basic set of five books:

Spotted Lily by Anna Tambour

A Writer’s Life by Eric Brown

Lord of Stone by Keith Brooke

The Far-Enough Window by John Grant

In Springdale Town by Robert Freeman Wexler

Even better, if you pay $12 or higher, you unlock four more titles, which incldue:

The Ragthorn by Garry Kilworth and Robert Holdstock

Facade by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Hairy London by Stephen Palmer

Little Sisters of the Apocalypse by Kit Reed

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.

Pay what you want (minimum $3): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.

Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.

Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. We’re currently featuring Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now.

Receive extra books: If you beat our bonus price, you’re getting nine total books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for and

For more information, visit our website at, Tweet us at @storybundle, Like us on Facebook, and Plus us on Google Plus. For press inquiries, please email



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Jani and the Great Pursuit… and Novel News

Jani and the Great Pursuit will now be published by Solaris in March 2016, not later this year as originally planned.

On the crime novel front, Severn House have just commissioned the third Langham and Dupré mystery entitled Murder At the Loch (Well, I am now living in Scotland). It will appear at some point in 2016.

Here’s a bit about it…

During the bitterly cold December of 1955 Donald Langham is asked by his friend, private detective Ralph Ryland, if he’d care to assist him on a case. Ryland has been contacted by their old commanding officer, Major Cartwright, who has reasons to believe that his life is under threat – indeed, someone has already tried to kill him. Cartwright owns a castle on a loch in Scotland, and has asked Ryland to come up and stay, although he has said little about the actual attempt on his life. Langham has fond memories of serving under Cartwright in Madagascar and India and is concerned by the Major’s predicament.

Donald discusses the request with his fiancée Maria Dupré, who, though reluctant for him to be away, acknowledges his concern for Cartwright and urges him to go. She cannot accompany him as she must hold the fort at the literary agency until her boss, Charles Elder, is released from jail in a few days’ time.

Langham accompanies Ryland by train to Inverness, then they hire a car for the last leg of the journey. When they arrive at the snow-bound castle, they find an interesting situation.

Major Cartwright is attempting to raise the wreck of a German plane which crashed into the loch in 1944. That summer he had assembled a team of engineers who constructed a pontoon on the loch, along with gantries and lifting equipment. However, recent bad weather has put a halt to the progress of the salvage, and Cartwright had dismissed all but one of the engineers.

But soon after Langham and Ryland arrive, one of the guests is dead…

Murder At the Loch combines the elements of a classic murder mystery whodunit with a tale of wartime intrigue, espionage and skulduggery, as it turns out that the crashed Nazi plane was carrying a cargo that various parties, with vested interests, would rather not have brought to light.

* * *

On the short story front, two short tales, “Reductio ad Absurdum” and “Running the Asylum” are out now at “Beyond the Heliopause”, written with Keith Brooke, will appear later this year in Lightspeed. “Emotion Mobiles and Sally” is due out from Postscripts at some point, and “The Ice Garden” will appear in the anthology Improbable Botany edited by Gary Dalkin, probably next year.



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All Thanks to Agatha…

This piece first appeared in The Mystery Reader’s Journal, September 2014.

I read my first book at the age of fifteen. I was bored one summer, and when I complained of nothing to do my mother thrust a tattered paperback into my hands: Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table. That book changed my life.

I’d left school at fourteen when and I emigrated with my parents to Australia; to say that I was not academic would be an understatement. I had no interest in books, reading, or affairs of the mind. I was preoccupied in one thing: football.

However, Agatha Christie changed all that. From the first page I was hooked. I was drawn into the story, the mystery, of Christie’s complex, complicated whodunit. I finished the novel and immediately started reading it again from page one. For the first time in my life I’d been dragged into the mind of another person, privy to the thoughts and feelings of invented characters. Over the course of the next few months I devoured everything Christie had written. Soon after that, I decided to try my hand at writing a crime novel, and succeeded in producing three or four pages before setting them aside.

And then I discovered science fiction, initially the works of Robert Silverberg and H. G. Wells. I took up the pen again and began a series of very bad SF short stories – and then some very poor novels. This productivity, however, resulted fifteen years later in the publication of my first collection, The Time-Lapsed Man, and a year later my first novel, Meridian Days.

Thirty years after first reading Christie, and some fifty books later, I had the idea for a crime novel, and it felt like a homecoming, a return to my literary roots.

Murder by the Book, my first mystery novel, is set in London in 1955 and features the thriller writer Donald Langham and his sidekick literary agent Marie Dupré. Together they solve a series of murders wreaking havoc on the London literary scene. One by one, writers and editors are falling victim to a vicious killer, and Langham is next on the list…

One of the attractions of writing a mystery set in this milieu was that I could utilise my knowledge of the crime writing scene at the time, the incestuous world of writers, editors and agents all plying their trade in the booming market of ’50s London. Another attraction was that, after writing science fiction novels set in the future, I found that I had a greater literary freedom. I didn’t have to build the world from the ground up, or to describe things in as much detail. Readers would know of the world I was writing about because they lived in it from day to day.

I also found it liberating from a technical point of view: I had much more freedom to use metaphor and simile, literary devices which are often hard to use in SF. Have you ever wondered why you don’t come across many similes in SF literature? It’s because when a writer likens something to something else, the object he or she likens it to must be familiar to the reader. If that object is familiar, of this world and of this time, then the hapless writer immediately undercuts the sense of futurity he or she is attempting to maintain: “A spaceship like a cigar-case entered orbit around Saturn…” is a crass example.

I noticed that I had more leeway in the crime novel to invent eccentric characters, which don’t often appear in SF, for reasons that were not at first obvious to me. It’s allied to the above example of not undercutting the reader’s sense of futurity. Eccentric characters are only eccentric in relation to their environment, and as SF futures might be described as ‘eccentric’ in themselves, it makes the SF writer’s job of writing eccentric characters which are eccentric in relation to their settings very hard. These characters can only be ‘odd’ in relation to the setting the reader knows best – ergo, the here and now… which immediately undercuts that sense of futurity the writer is trying to maintain.

Of course, there are difficulties inherent in writing about the London of 1955, namely the research involved in getting the period detail right. I found that one way to go about this was to read newspapers of the time, and of course the Internet was an invaluable help. But, best of all, I gleaned vital information from novels set in the period. I read books set in the capital in the mid-fifties, the works of Graham Greene, Rupert Croft-Cooke and Robin Maugham being particularly helpful. Not only did they deal in the day to day ‘business’ of life at the time, but their rendition of how people spoke at the time came in useful.

My second crime novel, Murder at the Chase, published in 2014, is another mystery involving crime writers – in this case the impossible disappearance of a writer from his locked study, and the possible involvement of the satanist Vivian Stafford. It uses the usual tropes found in classic whodunits: the country house, a locked room conundrum, vicars and tea parties, as well as a murder or two – but, I like to think, concentrates on the characters and their motivations, and on the developing romance between Donald and Maria.

As to the future: I have further ideas for more Langham and Dupré mysteries, set in London and beyond, featuring the literary crowd of the time, skulduggery and even the occasional murder…






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The Unbearably Patronising BBC History of Science Fiction…

I know I shouldn’t have been disappointed by the BBC documentary about science fiction, Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction, presented by Dominic Sandbrook and broadcast recently on BBC2 here in Britain. I should have realised that it would be a glib overview of the genre for those millions of viewers whose knowledge of SF goes no further than Star Trek, Star Wars, and Dr Who; I should have known that it would be skewed towards the visual, concentrating on film and television. But I was disappointed by the programme: how it told me nothing I didn’t already know; how it was padded with clips from movies and TV programmes I’d seen a hundred times before. I was also disappointed by the talking heads they inserted between these clips. We’ve had a few big name SF authors saying their bit, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson and Kim Stanley Robinson… but they’re not on for long, and not allowed to say much of relevance before the hapless viewer is subjected to another out-of-context film clip. Then there are the other talking heads, John Landis and John Carpenter among others, who contribute nothing to the discussion and do so at tedious length. And – god help us – we’re even treated to the views of an actor who was inside a robot in a Star Wars film.

But why am I complaining? What did I expect from a programme about SF aired at 9.45 on a Saturday night?

Well, I had hoped for something along the lines of Alan Yentob’s excellent Imagine series mainly about writers and artists, which isn’t afraid to let its subjects speak, and which doesn’t patronise its viewers with a plethora of film clips.

But then we’re talking about SF here, aren’t we, which the BBC has always regarded as little more than throwaway entertainment for children.



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I finished the second draft of Jani and the Great Pursuit last week. It came out at 104,500 words, which gives me a bit of leeway for cutting when I go through the ms again with a red pen before Christmas. Jani and the Greater Game was 96,500 words long, so if needs be I can cut around eight thousand words. It’s amazing what I will end up cutting, everything from minor things like ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ and ‘he nodded’, etc, to bigger things like paragraphs of description. At the moment, I don’t think I’ll be cutting entire scenes – but I’ve said that before at this stage and, in the cold light of day, come to realise that what I thought were vital episodes were only so much dead wood that could be excised to the betterment of the story. We’ll see.

And then? I have the third Telemass novella, Reunion on Alpha Reticuli II, to rewrite and submit to PS Publishing, hopefully before Christmas, and a short story that needs work. As for what I’ll be doing next year… At the moment, I don’t know (other than writing the fourth Telemass novella, as yet untitled). I do know what I’d like to work on: the third Langham and Dupré crime novel and the third Jani book, but neither has been commissioned yet (it all depends on the sales figures of the previous books in the series), so things are still up in the air, work-wise.

But before then it’s the Christmas holiday, which we’re spending with family down in Haworth, Yorkshire, a world away from work, the dog, and work on packing up here (Tyninghame, Dunbar) for the move twelve miles south to the village of Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, which should be happening towards the end of January.



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The New Book

I began the second Jani novel, Jani and the Great Pursuit, last week, and it’s going well. I’m around thirty thousand words into the story from Jani’s point of view (I’ll write from two other character’s viewpoints later, before returning to Jani for the finale). I hope to get a good second draft in the bag before Christmas. After that, I’ll send the ms to a few good friends for their criticism, rewrite the novel in February, and with luck hit the March the 10th deadline.

Anyway, that’s the reason I haven’t been keeping the website up-to-date with these pieces – I have very little time, between working on the book, walking the hound three times a day, and fetching my daughter from school… quite apart from cooking and cleaning the house. (Which sounds as if my wife does nothing; let me state, before she verbally clobbers me, that she has a full-time job as a university lecturer, and her workload makes mine look miniscule).

Right, Uther the red and white setter is demanding his afternoon constitutional… so I’d better obey.


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I’ve written several pieces about my work for Here’s the publisher’s blurb about the third collected volume of these writings by various hands:

Story Behind the Book: Volume 3 collects nearly 40 non-fiction essays from some of the most exciting authors working today. Offering an unique insight into the creative and publishing process, these essays reveal all the beauty, effort and frustration that inevitable comes hand in hand with the urge to write, edit or illustrate.

All proceeds will be donated to Epilepsy Action.


Story behind The Demi-Monde by Rod Rees
Story behind Salvage by Eric Brown
Story behind The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill
Story behind The Ballad of Halo Jones by Ian Gibson
Story behind Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey
Story behind The Shoal Sequence by Gary Gibson
Story behind The Fabulous Beast by Garry Kilworth
Story behind Celestial Inventories by Steve Rasnic Tem
Story behind Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Story behind The Summer Isles by Ian R. MacLeod
Story behind The Bride Price by Cat Sparks
Story behind Falling Over by James Everington
Story behind Age of Godpunk by James Lovegrove
Story behind Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson
Story behind Plastic by Christopher Fowler
Story behind Chalk by Pat Cadigan
Story behind Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff
Story behind The Mona Lisa Sacrifice by Peter Roman
Story behind Dust by Hugh Howey
Story behind Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye by Paul Tremblay
Story behind Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
Story behind Dragon Queen by Stephen Deas
Story behind Saxon’s Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion
Story behind Ironskin by Tina Connolly
Story behind Dust by Joan Frances Turner
Story behind A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington
Story behind Allegiance by Beth Bernobich
Story behind Trickster by Jeff Somers
Story behind Seven Forges” by James A. Moore
Story behind Phoenicia’s Worlds by Ben Jeapes
Story behind The Revelations of Zang by John R. Fultz
Story behind Bullettime by Nick Mamatas
Story behind Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch
Story behind Clean Burn by Karen Sandler
Story behind Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
Story behind Marrow by Robert Reed
Story behind The Scourge and The Scourge Nostrum by Roberto Calas
Story behind Greenbeard by Richard James Bentley
Story behind The Bird Saviors by William J. Cobb

The cover image is of a fluorescent micrograph of acridine orange and propidium iodide double-stained human non-small cell lung cancer cells (H460).

The links are:


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