Some of you may not know this, but March 21st 2017 is a very important date.
I’m going to sound like an egomaniac by explaining another bout of absence, not just here but in other places on the web. I always think it sounds a bit weird when an unknown blogger apologises for not blogging, as if the internet has been holding its breath, but I can see where these people are coming from.
I promised to give y’all a sneak Halloween preview and I think this little episode sums up the dark and light and frivolity of The One Rule of Magic. The novel is out now, a Halloween release, and expect to see a couple of reviews in the future from a couple of stout yeomen who agreed to put aside some time for it. (If you want to review it after reading this, let me know; there’s a free voucher code for Smashwords to the swift footed amongst you.)
In this section, Frieda Schoenhofer, believed by her parents to be dead, is in Prague where she has met Tomas Druba, a ventriloquist who adds the voices to puppets created by his wife Natasha. With time to kill, Frieda finds herself in the puppet theatre and decides to use her magic for a bit of nocturnal entertainment…
You may remember I said something about a newsletter, collecting emails and all that dodgy sounding nonsense. Well, who wants a poxy newsletter, all black and white with Arial font and wingdings and clip art, when you can have a f*** off full colour magazine.
Yes, magazine. Content for the first issue is pretty much sorted, but there might be a few last minute tweeks – as is the nature of high end coffee table magazine publishing, you understand.
People will still have to subscribe to it, but it’s free, it mixes the real world with my my own bent perception of it, and should be worth every penny you’re not being asked to pay for it.
When it’s published it’ll be available as a PDF to download or an online Issuu magazine with that colossal turning page special effect! (Which means you’ll need an online coffee table to put it on when your friends come round for drinks.)
Details on how to sign up will come later, but for now, there it is. The Alien Noise ‘newsletter.’ Subject to alterations. I had to bully myself to get it done.
The keen eyed among you may have noticed a certain erratic quality to this blog. It ebbs and flows like a confused tide, sometimes engulfing the land with a quick succession of articles; sometimes it goes all Southport and retreats to the sea, leaving people wondering if they’ll ever see anything again.
I’m writing this in the Calf’s Head, a pub in the Lancashire village of Worston. I’m waiting for a cappucino to cool down and I’m absolutely filthy. I’ve been jetwashing the flagstones of a stately home all day and there’s a lot of damp blowback from a diesel powered jetwash.
You wait ages for a grown-up novel about black magic and two appear at once. Because of logistical issues too complicated to discuss here both Who Among Us… and The One Rule of Magic have been published simultaneously.
Who Among Us… is available now, The One Rule of Magic available for pre-order up to it’s release on Halloween.
In a few weeks time I’ll be self-publishing another entry in the TotenUniverse. The One Rule of Magic is the first book in what I call the Reflections strand of novels following the new life of Bamberg witch Frieda Schoenhofer.
Frieda was first encountered in Who Among Us… (still doing the rounds with literary agents) and I thought she deserved her own series. And thanks to Au4 in Canada for the inspiration to get started on this novel.
No one knows the true barycentre of the TotenUniverse. The band are only part of a wider growing European conspiracy. You can now explore further details of this conspiracy and Alien Noise Corporation’s future plans and releases.
Click the image to see the TotenUniverse in detail. As universes go the image is quite large, and best viewed in landscape mode…
And you can learn more about the future plans for Alien Noise and the different story lines and strands here:
In the third Toten Herzen story Raven has lost her mate, Rob Wallet, and suffered a second setback when Susan Bekker does the dirty on her promise to turn Raven into a vampire. After a brief meeting with an Interpol investigator Raven lets off steam in a phone call to a friend back in Britain.
Raven is questioned by Interpol investigator Pierre Dremba…
“Why are you called Raven if you have blue hair?”
“Because the only bird I know with blue hair or blue feathers is a peacock, and I’d sound a bit stupid calling meself Peacock, wouldn’t I.”
“I suppose so. . . .”
“Rob told me about blue tits, but that’s even worse.”
A 1st draft abridged extract from the third Toten Herzen novel There Will Be Blood v.2 (The novel will be published at the end of Toten Herzen’s Malandanti world tour, some time in 2016.)
Every time the main lights strafed the crowd Dee found a single member of the audience to focus on. In the sea of heads, the infinite pixellation of Rock in Rio, be it a man held aloft or a woman perched on a pair of shoulders, one individual received Dee’s exclusive attention.
I feel terrible. I feel as if I have instigated a great wrong. When I wrote Toten Herzen Malandanti and Who Among Us… I portrayed witches and Satanists as violent criminals, hell bent on selfish pursuits and ‘removing’ anyone who got in their way. But the thing is, they’re not really like that.
My excuse is that there are bad apples in every religious barrel, and there’s no reason why witches and Satanists are any different and can’t be portrayed in literature as criminals and wrongdoers.
I’ll open a call centre. Let’s face it, part of being a successful author is maintaining a relationship with your fans and if you have so many fans a simple newsletter just won’t do.
Contingency plans to cope with overwhelming success are necessary and the Alien Noise Corporation customer service will be second to none. The ANC Customer Care Charter will look something like this:
unless you’re looking for an explanation…
Three images produced to illustrate the three principle players in the novel Who Among Us. . . Software is Photoshop and if there was time I’d post a tutorial, but I haven’t got time so unfortunately I won’t!
“. . . . I didn’t do this.”
“Well who did?”
“Someone above the law.”
Frieda’s confrontation with Kriminalkommissar Tollmann happens outside Bamberg Cathedral with the body of Theo Wenders still nailed to the north door. The conversation and Frieda’s deflective answers illustrate her natural indifference, her untouchability.
Official statement from Alien Noise Corporation.
Rotterdam, March 9th
Toten Herzen will not be performing at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Austria. Reports that the band would be representing Azerbaijan are incorrect and malicious.
Susan Bekker, speaking from Sao Paulo where the band are on world tour, described the rumours as vicious and vindictive. “The whole rumour thing has got out of hand and we think we know where it’s coming from.”
A new regular feature in which Toten Herzen’s number one fangirl Raven (real name [REDACTED]) mouths off about everything and anything.
I hate my life. It was supposed to be exciting. I followed Toten Herzen across Rotterdam at three in the morning and it came to this. Boredom. Terminal boredom. And then Rob Wallet comes along with this crap idea to review books and they’re all boring!
‘It’ll keep you occupied when the band are on tour.’ Well, sorry Rob, but it doesn’t keep me occupied. I could be brewing tea, that would keep me occupied, so what?
Allegedly based on real events, Who Among Us. . . is the first part of the story behind the collapse and aftermath of a 400 year old network of covens operating in Europe since their origins in Wurzburg and Bamberg in the 1600s –
Disowned by her family and deranged by anger, Jennifer Enzo views the world as a demonic garden, a film script and a list of names to be assassinated. But when she finds her own name on the list she is forced out of her insular world to counter a sinister threat to her life.
The final book of the Totenseries and all answers provided to explain Rob Wallet’s Toten phenomenon.
Finally, the answers to the mystery, for many the greatest hoax of the 21st century, revealed. Rob Wallet’s identity; Susan Bekker’s Big Lie; what really happened to Peter Miles; the fate of Raven; the significance of Elaine Daley’s tattoo and the true nature of the Malandanti.
The question so often asked, who are Toten Herzen, may finally be answered.
No publication date yet.
Events take a dark twist in the fourth book of the Totenseries.
Builders break through the wall of a basement in a London house and discover the remains of four people: three women and a man. The link to Toten Herzen emerges when the house turns out to have belonged to the owner of the band’s original record label in the 1970s.
Could the bodies be those of the original members of Toten Herzen?
No publication date yet.
The third outing in the Totenseries. And a major surprise in store.
Finally out of the studio the band are ready to go on the road, prepare for the world premiere of the film and sort out Rob Wallet. They think they have the world eating out of their pale white hands until . . .
A Russian svengali has big plans for his own band: There Will Be Blood. More shocking, more outrageous, more depraved than Toten Herzen. The wedding party circuit beckons as the band look set to become a pastiche of themselves.
In the south of France, an ostracised Rob Wallet teams up with three ex-pat English ghostbusters. And are they delighted when their equipment lights up every time Wallet goes with them on a mission?
Throw into the mix a serious Interpol investigation into the band’s links to a string of historical murders (the list goes on and on), only Raven’s interference can save them. But then she discovers something unusual about Rob Wallet, discovery that forces him into doing the ultimate deal with her.
There Will Be Blood is a sordid tale of deception and identity in the long tradition of Toten Herzen’s dark paranormal humour. The Gwando Awards will never recover.
Publication date 2016
TOTEN HERZEN MALANDANTI
(Alien Noise Corporation)
The second book of the Totenseries, following on from the turmoil of We Are Toten Herzen.
After the disastrous events in the previous novel ‘We Are Toten Herzen,’ the band are forced to count the costs and the repercussions of their comeback tour. The focus turns to the safety of the recording studio and their first album in forty years. Things can’t get any worse.
But this is Toten Herzen, the dead rock band: murdered in 1977, discovered alive in 2013. Guitarist Susan Bekker wants to sing, antagonising lead singer Dee Vincent whose catastrophic interview in Hullaballoo magazine leads to a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Rob Wallet, the band’s publicist, flirts with insanity when he isn’t flirting with Lena, the seductive former terrorist and leader of a network of covens known as the Malandanti.
The story sets down amongst the isolated mountains of the English Lake District, with excursions to post-communist St. Petersburg and Bamberg in Germany, scene of the 17th century witch trials. Along the way the band are assaulted by an ever growing list of mysteries. Why has a Russian voice coach arrived uninvited at three in the morning? Why are the Malandanti searching for a book owned by Dee Vincent? What is Susan Bekker’s Big Lie? And is the valley pictured in a 14th century painting the source and home of the first European vampires?
Blue hair, black magic, talking sheep, murderous bushes, necromancy, alchemy and leather-clad litigation. It’s all captured on film by a deafening Dutch director in Chris Harrison’s paranormal dark comedy Toten Herzen Malandanti. Book two in the authorised account of the band’s astonishing and some would say unbelievable comeback.
Available from the following
Barnes and Noble (Nook) – click here
Smashwords (all eformats) – click here
Amazon (click your country)
Scribd (epub – note Scribd is a subscription service) – click here
Oyster (epub – note Oyster is a subscription service) – click here
WE ARE TOTEN HERZEN
(Alien Noise Corporation)
The first book of the Totenseries and where the whole unbelievable saga kicks off.
Between 1973 and 1976 Toten Herzen sold over eight million albums and toured the arenas of Europe and the US. In 1977 all four members of the band were murdered by crazed fan Lenny Harper. Harper was only charged with wasting police time and the bodies disappeared.
Thirty five years later, British music journalist Rob Wallet’s investigation into the incidents of 1977 led him to discover the band still alive in a remote village in southern Germany.
He persuaded them to make a comeback.
The paranormal dark comedy We Are Toten Herzen is the authorised story of one music journalist’s ambition to bring Toten Herzen back from the dead. From an isolated Dutch farmhouse to the teeming chaos of New York, via Suffolk and the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, fact and fiction blur as the ’70s most notorious rock band plan their return, outwitting the modern music industry and settling old scores in the only way they know how.
But is Wallet’s story a hoax or strange reality? As he uncovers more of the band’s past new questions begin to emerge. Was lead guitarist Susan Bekker hospitalised in 1974 with Rabies? Was the band’s first manager Micky Redwall killed by his own dogs in 1977? What happened to an original ‘fifth member’ of the band Peter Miles? And after all this time why haven’t Susan Bekker, singer Dee Vincent, bassist Elaine Daley and drummer Rene van Voors grown old? Find out in the only official account of Toten Herzen’s long awaited reappearance.
Available in ebook format from the following.
Barnes and Noble (Nook) – click here
Smashwords (all eformats) – click here
Amazon (click your country)
Scribd (epub – note: Scribd is a subscription service) – click here
Toten Herzen’s lead guitarist and arguably the most famous Rotterdam resident you’ve never heard of talks of small gobby singers, Jimi Hendrix, dog bites and growing very very old in the business of rock music.
Will this interview lead to massive recrimination and legal action?
So it’s going to be one of those interviews, is it? Like Ginger Baker?
I’m still a little bit surprised ANC put me forward to do this interview. I mean, who the hell are you?
What do you mean? It’s me. I wrote the Toten Herzen novels. You authorised me to write the official fictionalised versions of the band’s comeback.
And we’re supposed to be pleased about that? You’ve portrayed me as a scheming, conniving backstabbing megalomaniac. In the first book you had me driving people mad on a plane, stabbing someone in the eye and eating chicken. I don’t like chicken. I hate chicken.
In the second novel you had the gall to suggest I can’t sing. . . . What was the phrase you wrote: ‘she opened her mouth and woke up all the bats in the trees.’ I can sing. I choose not to. And then I’m supposed to have this obsession with finding someone called Peter Miles who may or may not have been murdered by the band in 1974. What drugs are you on?
I’m supposed to be interviewing you! It’s all entertainment, isn’t it?
It’s a pack of lies. It’s not like that at all.
So you and Dee [Dee Vincent, lead singer] really do get on?
Of course we do. We all know she talks a lot. We know she nearly cost us $120 million slandering Rose Pursey. We know she’s volatile and upset George Michael by saying he looks like Keith Floyd. . . .
You mean Keith Allen?
Whatever. She can be hard work, but she’s not Keith Moon. She is stable. Not the demonic headcase you created in the books.
I thought it would be dramatic to have that tension between guitarist and lead vocalist.
You say it’s common, but it only really happened between Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore. One swallow doesn’t make a flock, or whatever they make.
Whatever you say. But there’s also the antagonism between George Lynch and Don Dokken.
Yeah. Go on. Name one more.
Okay, point taken.
The point I’m making is that you misrepresented the band, painting us as a bunch of monsters.
You are a bunch of monsters. You’ve made no secret of the fact about what you all are. No one believes all that hogwash about catching rabies from a dog bite in 1974.
No, and they won’t now after all the witchcraft and vampire shit you threw us into. It’s all show business, it’s theatre. Every band has a hook. They have to stand out somehow. But you made us look like the Adams Family. You even said so in the first novel, when that marketing team said something like ‘we should get rid of the Munsters look.’ Elaine laughed out loud when she read that.
I didn’t think Elaine [Elaine Daley, bass player] ever laughed.
Not in your world, not in the books you wrote.
So what you’re telling me is that you are a straightforward normal guitarist from Rotterdam, Dee Vincent is a level headed lead singer from Lincoln, and Elaine Daley is a barrel of laughs?
All right. I apologise. I laid it on a bit thick, but I was asked to write books that would sell and it’s not easy when no one wants to read about vampires.
They won’t want to read anything after all this. Why didn’t you make us werewolves or something that’s not out of fashion?
You’re not werewolves! The whole Toten Herzen myth in the 1970s was about you lot being vampires. Are you denying your own history? Do you want me to do a Stalin and airbrush all that away?
No, I’m saying you should have written something a bit closer to the truth. Our comeback was a difficult choice to make. Rob Wallet had a convincing argument why we should do it.
It was Rob Wallet’s idea to write the books.
You shouldn’t listen to him.
He’s the band’s publicist!
Only until we find a better one. For now he’s the best we’ve got. And that’s another thing. You make it sound like we hate him. In the scene in the first novel when he’s talking to the A&R guy from Berlin and mentions a wayward golf swing . . . That never happened.
It’s called fiction.
And Dee didn’t turn on him. I didn’t impale myself on the end of a Flying V or deliberately deafen a record producer. Sony turned down the band because they knew we insisted on releasing our albums on vinyl only.
And a bloody daft idea that would be.
So you’re an expert on music marketing now, are you? You should stick to blogging. How many followers have you got?
Tens of thousands.
It’s fiction. It’s what I do. You are in denial.
I am trying to promote my band and you have done a lot of damage to the Toten Herzen brand. For example, during the comeback concerts last year no one burned down a restaurant at the Allianz Halle. Lie number one. Lie number two: no one got stuck on a flag pole in Hungary. Lie number three: a papier mache horse was not thrown off the roof of the East Midlands Arena. The entire opening chapter of the second novel was a string of lies. And Tom Scavinio has not quit as our manager. He’s very angry about that. And what you said about his wife, well, words fail me.
It’s a novel.
That’s no excuse. The third one isn’t going to be like the first two. We’ll have a veto over what goes into it.
It’ll be a very boring novel. Rock band goes on tour to promote new album, blah blah blah.
It’ll be better than rock band chased by corrupt network of European covens. I looked up the name Malandanti. They weren’t even witches. They were evil spirits.
They said you didn’t understand the concept of fiction.
The band’s management. Alien Noise Corporation. They also said you were paranoid.
No they didn’t. Did they? Who said that?
You obviously haven’t read the second novel-
Has anybody read the second novel-
In the second novel Malandanti is the name of the police investigation into the covens, not the name of the covens. It’s in the chapter where Raven discovers the investigation on Weerdshit.org, the conspiracy theory website.
You think people are going to notice little details like that?
Probably not in the 21st Century. But you see how easy it is for you, you Susan Bekker, to misunderstand the books and what I’m saying about you?
I don’t have to be a simpleton to know when someone portrays me as an idiot. More of a lieutenant than a general, you said. I should punch your lights out for that.
Tell me about Jimi Hendrix. You saw him live in Rotterdam in 1967. How did you feel when he died?
I thought it was a waste. He was already a giant, so where he was heading we can only guess. But it was like having a migraine when part of your vision disappears. I used to walk around and there was this big hole in my vision where Jimi used to be.
You said he was the biggest influence on your life, so I got that bit right.
Yes, the factual bits were correct, and yes I did sing Hey Joe in front of the class at my old school. You see, you can do it when you try.
But that whole nostalgia reminiscent thing only gets you so far. The scene where you lead Rob Wallet around the places you visited as you were growing up, was okay, but it wasn’t dramatic enough on its own.
You don’t think meeting Micky Redwall was dramatic, Redwall ripping off the other two After Sunset members wasn’t dramatic, playing in front of nine people at the Grimsby Welfare Club in 1972 wasn’t dramatic. It’s those human stories, struggling to make a success, they’re more dramatic than finding a lost vampire village in southern Germany. If you wrote a book about Toten Herzen’s origins that would be more interesting than one where we go round throwing people off mountain tops.
I thought that was quite a nice touch.
And you say I’m a monster.
Actually no. In the first novel you open up to Rob Wallet and say exactly the opposite.
When was that?
In the scene following the press conference when everyone thinks you’re all imposters. You sit next to Rob Wallet and say it’s all Micky Redwall’s fault for creating the band’s monster image.
Yeah. I remember that bit. However, I don’t cry. I never cry.
I don’t think you cried in that scene.
Good thing too. I never cry. And while we’re on the subject, why do you keep portraying Rob Wallet as having a crush on me? He doesn’t have a crush on me. He doesn’t secretly wish my boyfriend would ‘hurry up and die.’
That’s the third novel!
Oh, so it is going to be another pile of made up bullshit?
No. In the third novel you get sick of him, the band kicks him out and he misses you.
He misses me. In the second novel he’s supposed to be having a fling with Elaine. What happened to that story arc?
Who says anything happens to it. I haven’t written the damn thing yet.
The chapter where she attacks him. I have never seen anyone wet themselves laughing, but I thought Elaine was getting close when she read that chapter. She calls it the Portinscale Event, like the Tunguska Event. As if she would jump Rob Wallet.
But it leads to Rob Wallet’s release, doesn’t it. The big issue that’s tormented him from childhood. Joining up with Elaine resolves that issue.
Now, credit where it’s due, I did like the way that thread of the novel worked out. And that’s why I get so bothered about the rest of it. If you can write a story thread like Rob Wallet’s journey to find his lost valley why couldn’t you tell the rest of the story in the same way?
Because then it becomes literary fiction and at the moment there’s only one person on Earth who reads literary fiction.
Point taken. But even so, you could have made the paranormal hocus pocus secondary to the human issues in the novel.
Like what? If Susan Bekker wrote Toten Herzen Malandanti how would it be different?
I’d keep the Rob Wallet story thread. I’d do more with the story line about Raven’s stifling relationship with her old fashioned parents. I’d play around more with Dmitri Neved’s life collapsing as his wife’s life expands and improves.
I thought I did all that.
No, you had Raven throwing up when she travelled with Rob Wallet and you portrayed Lena, Neved’s wife as a maniac who murders people using witchcraft. Subtle as a flying mallet.
You’re not exactly selling the book.
It deserves to be banned. It should be suppressed. You did the world a favour pulling it from Amazon. Who ever bought a book from Smashwords? I don’t know anyone.
It’s hard being a writer in the modern age. There are so many self-published books.
Well, that’s your problem, not mine. At least not many people will read about me being a dopey-eyed moron with a legend fixation.
You must have the same problems in the music industry. Toten Herzen coming back after thirty-five years. To what? No more record sales, streaming music where you earn two pence for three million downloads. Will Toten Herzen give their music away with the next iPhone?
We haven’t sunk to that level yet. It’s bad enough being in your sixties in the music industry, let alone a rock band who does things the traditional way. Luckily we don’t need the money.
You don’t look like you’re in your sixties.
Don’t go there.
Why not? It’s at the heart of Toten Herzen. Sixty year old rock band who look like they’re still twenty years old.
Doctor Photoshop. As Todd Moonaj said in the first novel, plastic surgery my merry ass. The only doctor these lot have seen is Doctor Photoshop.
You’re sitting in front of me and you don’t look like your over sixty years old.
I eat all my greens.
But no chicken.
Or Chinese, or Italian, or snacks or sandwiches, no grazing, no fast food. . . . I summed it up pretty well in that chapter with Dexter the intern.
Credit where it’s due, as I said. But we would never scare an intern like that.
You’d just bite him and be done with it.
How long do Toten Herzen plan to be around?
That’s a very loaded question. A very ominous question. That’s a bit like walking up to someone and saying ‘you don’t know me, but. . . .’
I’m contracted to write five books.
Oh, God help us.
The third one is planned and ready. The fourth has a basic premise.
And what delights can we expect in the fourth novel? Dare I ask?
The discovery of four bodies in the basement of a house. A house that used to be lived in by the owner of Toten Herzen’s record label in the 1980s.
I am definitely leaving.
Can we continue this interview later?
Why don’t you do what you always do and just make something up.
That’s below the belt.
You keep telling lies about us it won’t be the area below the belt you should worry about.
For the record Susan Bekker has just poked me on the jugular vein and left the building. That woman is hard work!
Contrary to what Susan Bekker says Chris Harrison is the official authorised Toten Herzen biographer, and people do occasionally buy ebooks from Smashwords. ‘Oh, but I’ve only got a Kindle and only ever buy books off Amazon.’ Well, tough shit, in that case you’ll have to make do without!
TOTEN HERZEN MALANDANTI
Available from these places: (Links open in a new window.)
WE ARE TOTEN HERZEN
Available from these places: (Links open in a new window.)
The title of her first novel is repulsive, but then it is a horror story. YA author Dolores Beagle is all set to enter the dog eat dog world of self-publishing with her first novel Tapeworm.
– Do you follow the advice you read on the internet?
There’s really only one bit of advice that matters. Fans. If you don’t have fans how do you expect to sell your books. In fact, there are three bits of advice. Fans, fans and fans. You gotta have fans.
You know, some people actually set out with the intention of writing a boring book. Don’t do it. Make your book as interesting as you can otherwise all those fans, you’re gonna lose them.
Make your dialogue zing. In real life people talk stupid, so don’t let your characters talk like real people. Make it zing, folks.
“Mickey.” John and Mickey high fived.
“You going to the party?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for anything, dude,” said John.
“I’m hoping Cindy’ll be there. She’s cool,” said Mickey.
“You mean she’s hot?”
“Hey, you’re not hitting on my girl are you?” said Mickey raising his fist.
“She’s not your girl, you don’t even know her except for her name.”
Mickey jabbed a paw at John’s chin. He dropped like a sack of jalapenos.
There are other bits of advice too. Get interviewed on the radio is one, but why stop there. Dream big. Get interviewed on national television. They’re always looking for guests. If you don’t ask you don’t get.
– You describe your first novel Tapeworm as a mix-up. What do you mean by that?
Don’t be afraid to mix and mash your genres. My own novel Tapeworm mixes YA with slasher horror and romance. Hey, teens who like gory horror fall in love. They want something to read. You never fell in love when you were sixteen? People told me I was nuts to write a teenage romance horror, but who dares wins. (Which reminds me, never write cliches in your novel. That’s another no no.)
– What’s the writing process for you? How do you go from idea to finished book?
An idea usually comes to me in the form of a ‘what if’ question. I brainstorm. Some of the what ifs get tossed quite early on: like ‘what if that guy’s shoes ate him?’ (Actually I nearly ran with that one. I was going to call it Sneakers, but then I thought, well how does the same pair of shoes eat people with different sized feet?)
The what if question leads to characters, and again some people seem to think they can write about boring characters. Are any of your friends boring? No, of course not. You don’t hang out with boring people, why would you want to read about them.
I spend about a month on a first version or draft. Then go over it and throw in some curveballs and twists and surprises, then rewrite it. For Tapeworm I used a friend of mine to edit the novel. She’s a retired editor, so if you can’t afford to pay for a full time editor search online for retired editors and use one of those. Yes, I’m lucky to know people, but that’s how networking comes in. Put yourself about, folks. Meet the right people. Take an interest in them and they’ll be interested in you.
– Are you nervous about the reviews your first novel might receive?
Reviews are important, but apparently there’s a lot of confusion over what is a good review and what is a bad review. The current trend is that good reviews are bad. No one believes them when they read them. So what you actually need are a ton of bad reviews. One star, two star reviews are what give people confidence because they know these are genuine reviews and not written by your dog, uncle Tom Cobbley and that guy who works in Burger King who keeps giving you the eye.
Good writing is another bit of advice that people often overlook. Look at all these websites telling authors how to write a bestselling book and hardly any of them tell you to write well. I’ve seen other sites say avoid adverbs, semi-colons, question marks, full stops. Some of that works, but remember sometimes you need a full stop Your sentences will usually work better and be easier to read.
See what I did there, I left out the full stop and it looked like all one sentence. Rules are sometimes there to be broken. Be confident. Break the rules now and again.
Oh, and before I forget, on the subject of reviews. There are a ton of websites that help authors get reviews for their work. Find these websites, make a list and then – and here’s the trick – most authors submit their books and walk away, but it’s better if you are part of the team that runs the website. Join that team, folks. You heard it here first!
– What do you read for pleasure and what do you read for inspiration?
I get a bit worked up when I see authors instructed to read read read. Well if you read read read you won’t have time to write write write, will you? You have to write. Read when you’re in the bath or when you can’t write, like when you’re driving. (Obviously don’t read when you’re driving though, unless it’s a road map.) I don’t write when I have time. I make time to write. Sometimes, that means the kids go hungry, but you won’t find any obese kids in my house, so that’s two problems solved.
I read Patricia Cornwell and Dan Brown, occasionally Stephen King, but I’m too busy writing to read.
– Are you ready for all the marketing and promotion? What will your approach be to this perennially sticky problem?
Marketing and promoting your novel is surrounded by confusion. A lot of wailing and holloring comes out of authors’ mouths on this subject, but it isn’t rocket science, folks. Sure you can pay top dollar to some fancy pants ad agency in New York, but all they’re going to do is tell people what your book is about and where to buy it. That’s all there is.
What’s it about? Well, it’s about blah blah blah.
Where to buy it? Amazon.
If you want to be really thorough you can say how much it costs, but so long as it’s under three dollars people aren’t interested. If you give it away free then tell yourself how are you going to make money that way? It’s a no brainer. I see so many authors who want to earn a living from writing and they’re giving their work away. Why? Does Ford give its cars away? Course not.
People buy books like they buy tomatoes: they pick ’em up, give ’em a squeeze, see if the skin’s blemished and have a sniff. Treat your book like a tomato. The squeeze is the cover, make the cover fresh. The blemished skin is the writing; the slightest flaw and that shopper will put the tomato back in the rack. The sniff is the story, the extract that might be the blurb or the sample. If the sample stinks the story stinks. Back it goes in the rack. Your book is a tomato. Make it red and fresh and blemish free. Make people want to eat it.
– You’re not on social media yet. Do you plan to utilise the web?
Social media is a hot topic, everyone uses it, so use it. Doesn’t matter which one, use them all. I personally haven’t started yet, but I’ll be on Facebook to tell my friends and family, on Twitter to tell everyone else. I’m not camera shy so I’ll be on Youtube too. Don’t be shy, don’t be a shrinking violet. You have a big mouth, you wouldn’t be storytelling otherwise, so put your face where your mouth is and look people in the eye. Imagine if someone came up to you in the street and said ‘hey, Dol, what’s your book about and where can I buy it?’ Imagine what your response would be and film that response. Do it! Do it now.
– Give your book a plug. What’s Tapeworm about?
Tapeworm is about an infection that spreads through a college campus one semester. John wants to make out with Cindy, but they’re from different sides of the tracks. When Cindy falls ill with the mysterious Tapeworm she turns into a ghoul. John’s love for Cindy comes under pressure, can he still love the girl who has become a ghoul, will a cure be found? Of course, this is pretty straightforward so John has to fight the ghouls and this is when he meets Patricia, who isn’t a ghoul, but has wanted to make out with John for two years. Will she distract him from saving Cindy? It’s a tale of loyalty, redemption, temptation, strength of character and never giving up in the face of an apparently unbeatable threat. And the book is easy to summarise in one sentence: Zombie Flesh Eaters meets Romeo and Juliet. How simple is that?
The book cover is clever too. The font looks like a tapeworm and you have these college kids, but one is asleep and sort of looks dead. Above them are jungle type leaves where the tapeworm came from originally and then an illustration of a tapeworm is superimposed, but it covers one of the kids, so suggests he might be a carrrier, or the kid who’s asleep might be the carrier, or the kid reading the book. There’s no way of knowing who might be the next victim. The cover is loaded with questions and suggestion.
– Will there be life after Tapeworm?
I’m already working on my second novel, another YA horror romance. (Hey, maybe I should trademark the genre!) The second novel has the working title Bone Marrow. It’s set in the same college as Tapeworm and will follow the lives of the students picking up the pieces following the events in the first novel. It’s important to keep your titles short and snappy, memorable. Think about it, which story title do you remember? The Unbearable Lightness of Being or Tapeworm.
Don’t make it hard for yourself. Life’s too short to make it hard.
Thanks to Dolores Beagle for taking time out from her writing, writing, writing. No doubt, we’ll be hearing more about Tapeworm when it’s released. For now, here’s that horrific book cover. (You know what I mean!)
The location where we’ve arranged to meet Dee Vincent, lead singer with reborn shock rockers Toten Herzen, is the sort of back street photographic studio you see in hip fashion shoots, all desaturated and grainy. The time is around eight p.m., the place is open, but Vincent herself is keeping us waiting. Eventually we hear footsteps and she shows up. In the darkness it’s quite an entrance, like the ghost who haunts the building has stumbled across us.
She’s taller than we imagined her to be, but still small, quite fragile looking, which is preposterous if her reputation is anything to go by. (Volcanic temper according to some who worked with her in the Seventies.) She’s also younger than she looks in the publicity photos and fan sightings that have proliferated since Toten’s comeback concerts hit the road. We’re forbidden to talk about that. And she’s more black and white than we were expecting. As she sits down, without introduction, her skin is like bleached parchment in contrast to the cannel-coloured bob she calls a hairstyle. The look is disturbing and she notices my alarm immediately.
“Someone in Germany thought I had a kidney condition. I said you turn yellow don’t you, but he said I wasn’t yellow because the condition was so advanced. He offered to treat me at a private clinic near Cologne, but you have to tell these people to back off. It’s usually a trick of the light. I’m quite orange in normal sunlight.”
I can guess she wouldn’t be orange in sunlight for long if she’s anything like Terence Pearl. I ask her what was the fallout from that?
She pouts. “Stranger things have happened at sea.” The casual dismissal of a man burning to death in broad daylight is just part of what makes Dee Vincent difficult to warm to. There are a number of investigations ongoing surrounding Toten Herzen, what stage are they at?
“Fuck knows. I’m not interested. Occasionally Rob [Wallet, the band’s publicist] gets asked about Lenny Harper getting his head chopped off, but nothing’s come of that. The police wanted to know what we knew about people like __________ and ____________ and ______________, but as we said, we know them, we know what happened to them, along with the rest of the country. What else. . . ?”
New York, I remind her.
“Oh, fuck that lot. That kid in Boston must have been really popular at school after he hit the headlines. __________ wanted me out of the band. I’m still here, she’s in an asylum. Life’s a bitch, but so am I when you piss me off.”
Is this rock bravado, a game to raise the hackles of the Mail and stir up the old conflict with the Mirror? I can almost see which way this interview is going to go. A casual stream of offensive provocations delivered with a knowing glint in the eye. But Vincent is having none of it.
“I’ve done one interview in each country we’ve been to and I get asked the same questions everywhere. Some slight regional variations depending on local sensitivities and interests. The Germans phrase everything within a European context, the Dutch try not to sound as if they’re trying to sound hip, the Swiss are desperate for you to like their country, and the Hungarians can’t say anything except how great the historical sights are and have you been here and have you been there.”
“Age and sex. The British media just want to undress you and they wonder who gave an old trollop the right to have a decent pair of breasts. You might be the exception, but even now you’re trying to look through my tee-shirt.”
I’m not, but even the simple accusation makes me blush. Dee Vincent has a way of looking at you that makes you want to confess to things you haven’t done. She sits on the edge of the settee and leans forward on her knees, gesticulating, pulling her fringe away from her eyes, playing with the rings on her waxy white fingers. Then she’ll inadvertently flash a smile and two ridiculously long canine teeth are there ready to introduce themselves.
How does she react to the accusations that the band are not the original Toten Herzen?
“The same way I react to all the accusations. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about them. I’m not a scientist so I’m not going to speculate on how or why anything is the way it is, it’s up to people to draw their own conclusions and don’t go too far.”
Go too far?
“Or we’ll get upset.” She sticks her tongue out like a lizard and it’s the first slight indication that she might not be the full shilling. When she talks she’s distracted, when she looks at you it is intense but brief, the distance between her eyes and eyebrows is non-existent and gives her a permanent scowl. She has a habit of flaring her nostrils and there’s a perceptible low end grumble in her throat, just audible, the sort of sound a dog would make if it smoked.
What did she think when she found out about Tom Scavinio, the band’s manager, commissioning a second health report? She jumps up.
“Let me tell you about Tom Scavinio. [REDACTED]”
For a moment she was leaning into my face and almost poked a hole in my cheek with her fingernail. Being close to her is like being next to the chilled cabinets in the supermarket. A cushion of cold air surrounds her, literally cold air. A walking draft. Her disappointment at Tom Scavinio’s walking out on the band is obvious. She falls back down onto the settee and I wonder how to link that to the subject of the new album. Will his absence have an effect on the new album?
“No. He’s not a songwriter, he’s an organiser. We’ll muddle through.”
If there was a chance he’d return to managing the band haven’t you just blown it?
“He knows us, he knows me, he knows we don’t always mean what we say. Our barks worse than our bite. Metaphorically speaking.”
Not literally, obviously, and she knows I’m thinking that. A grin flashes across her face and she starts on me again. She crosses the space between us and puts one knee on my thigh and starts talking to her hands. “I won’t bore you with any of our history because it’s well documented. Rob pretty much told the world everything about us, which is why we occasionally lock him in a steel cage to keep him out of harm’s way. But when I think about it, when I look back on how we were when we first started we were like babies, utterly totally dependent on Micky Redwall to do everything. We practically let him wipe our arses for us, but at the same time we sort of expected it because we were the rock stars, we were the band, the band didn’t do everything themselves, that’s why you had managers and publicists and roadies and stylists and photographers and drivers and security. All we had to do was get on stage and perform or get into the recording studio and record. And it gets to the point where you start to atrophy or turn into vegetables. And like a drunk trying to come off the booze or the spendthrift trying to cut up the credit cards you wonder how the fuck you’re going to cope? When the life support machine is switched off how are you going to breathe? How will I walk unaided? How will I go on the toilet, someone else always wipes my arse for me, which hand do I use? Do I use my hands, I’ve never done it before. . . .”
The weight of her leaning on me is staggering. I want to cry out in pain, but I don’t think she’s aware of it. She’s motoring on and on and her leg is trapping my leg and my eyes are watering. It feels like it’s either going to break or be cut in two. I put my hand on her waist in the hope that she’ll move.
“Anyway,” she says, releasing me. She stands up, legs apart, still gesticulating. “The point I’m getting at is that you think you’ll sink, but you don’t. You find a way and you survive, you find someone else if you’re that desperate, but I think Susan doesn’t need someone else. Not now. Maybe last year when Rob Fucking Useless Wallet let us down, but Scavinio did his bit, thank you very much, but we know how to record an album. We’ve done it five times before. Well, four and a half. You okay? Did I crush your leg then. Sorry, I don’t know my own strength.”
She hops onto the settee and in one movement twists and sits crossed legged ready to meditate. What can she tell us about the album.
“Well, we haven’t started yet. There are no songs written, there’s no title and we haven’t booked a recording studio. Rob thinks we should pitch it somewhere between Nightwish and Dschinghis Khan. Between symphonic metal and schlager. That’s all I can say. That’s all I know.”
It’s true Toten Herzen are coming back into a jungle of rock and metal sounds with endless genres subdividing into ever smaller sub genres. But if you were to draw the band’s ‘rock family tree’ it would be a surprisingly small family consisting of eight members, nine if you include Peter Miles. No convoluted pedigrees here. Two bands, Cat’s Cradle from Lincoln and After Sunset from Rotterdam being dissected, the fat trimmed and the rest put back together in Ipswich. Do people still mistake them for a German Band?
“I don’t think anyone has ever mistaken us for a German band. The stories always made a point of describing us as Anglo-Dutch, like Shell, but when Anglo-Dutch is usually in the same sentence as vampires, necrophiliacs, murderers, troublemakers, horse killers, people tend to overlook what nationality we are. The name Toten Herzen was never a rod for our backs, until now.”
“It’s the signature. It’s what people do in our name. Toten Herzen is like the starting gun in the one hundred metre idiot race. It’s become shorthand for do what you will and fuck the whole of the law. If we changed our name to, I don’t know, Mumford and Sons, people would think we were a fucking removal firm and leave us alone. Then we wouldn’t have all the mad shit following us from town to town.”
But these people love you, you’re the reason for their existence aren’t you?
Vincent sounds exasperated by the suggestion. “That’s all fucking well and good if they paid for their own damage, but they impale themselves on flagpoles and then send us the bill.” She leans forward again and talks to me as if she’s talking to a studio camera. “Look, a message to all our fans reading this. Stop torching every town and city you visit. It is a curious form of flattery, I’ll grant you. You might call it passionate. It’s an exclusive club and sometimes you lie awake and think yeah, Toten Herzen fans are the fucking biggest on earth, no one takes them on. All these rap fans going to gigs with their little guns and running off after they shoot someone. In Hungary, police stopped a mobile home with two anti-tank guns and a thousand rounds of ammunition inside it. They were part-timers in the Hungarian army. I mean, who were they planning to shoot with that lot?”
What I find strange, I tell her, is that the music itself isn’t particularly aggressive. It has psychedelic influences, prog rock influences, but steers well clear of thrash or death metal. So where is the trouble coming from. Vincent pouts again.
“Us I suppose. Or the things written about us. Which is old hat and starting to sound repetitive. When we made the comeback last year it didn’t take long for all the headlines to start sounding very very boring. Even we were bored reading them. We stopped after a few months. I haven’t read a newspaper since December. Terrible what they did to that Ceaucescu fella wasn’t it?”
Has the band taken any influences from the current generation of rock bands and metal bands?
“No. In a word. It’s all a bit samey at the moment. [REDACTED]”
As she rants it occurs to me that she’s on her own here. No PA, no entourage, no people. She’s turned up for this interview with Hullaballoo magazine totally exposed, unbriefed, unaccompanied. How, why does she do that?
“It’s part of the game isn’t it. The higher you go the more stable you need to feel and having a load of floozies and cronies and hangers-on and ingratiates gives you the reassurance that you’re not gonna plummet over the edge. But then it becomes that self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it? You are important, all the statistics say you’re important, everyone around you says you’re important. Before you know it you’re buying ten thousand dollar shoe laces and no one’s trying to stop you. Everybody is terrified of losing their seat on the gravy train, everyone justifying their existence, justifying why they’re needed. You only have to look at them, like _______, that fucking nonce from _____. They almost had to shut Heathrow when he flew into Britain because he brought half of fucking _____ with him. Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that many people round him and he’s a living god, for Christ’s sake. And then you’ve got all the spoiled bitches with their hang ups and idiosyncrasies. . . .”
I settle back for this and hope she doesn’t at some point sit on me again.
“What I find peculiar is that every one of them, every last one of them comes from a poor fucking background. The old so-poor-we-had-one-bed-between-ninety-of-us. And the amount of bling they carry round with them now shows they never left the fucking neighbourhood. They’re identikit morons: ____________, __________, _____________, __________. They give off this whiff of self-empowerment and don’t have the brains to see they’re nobodies when they’ve got their clothes on. Products of their own sexual misadventures.” She giggles for a moment, forgetting I’m here. “I mean, look at [REDACTED]. I heard [REDACTED]”
It’s hard to comprehend Vincent’s antipathy towards these artists. No stranger to poverty herself, she grew up in the same terraced street in Lincoln as Elaine Daley in the 1950s and 60s. Her father was an agricultural worker and her mother worked in a baker’s shop a few streets away. An only child, Vincent has all the energy and self-awareness of someone who was the only focus of her parents’ attention. So, why is she so antagonistic towards other artists who rose to the top like her?
“Do you want a slap in the face? Firstly, I don’t tell the world what a fucking horrible life I had and how I evolved out of some kind of slime to become a human being. I don’t lie about how many people I’ve fucked to get that record contract. I don’t strip down to my fucking skeleton to sell my records. I don’t demand, I don’t attack people with shoes, I don’t pretend to know nothing about the world, I don’t have weird pets and I don’t collude with corporations in the guise of fan reach. People say I’m a vampire, but I’d be fucking embarrassed to be a shameless bloodsucker like __________ or __________. And the men, well, they’re just fucking animals. They should be put down. Fucking rapists the lot of them.”
So far I’ve counted three examples of libel, the rubbishing of a large part of the heavy metal community and the wholesale accusation of rape against all male solo artists. Is there anyone else she wants to slander?
“Slander? I’m only telling it like it is. But then your legal team will probably go through this interview with a big red pen and say ‘can’t have that,’ ‘can’t have that,’ ‘rephrase that’.” She steps towards me again. Dan the photographer hasn’t taken a shot yet. In fact, his camera is still switched off. Dee Vincent has climbed on top of me, literally kneeling on top of my legs and is staring straight into my face. She’s breathing heavily, the familiar cushion of cold air is making me shiver uncomfortably and she keeps looking at my neck. “You see, part of the problem is the media. You are the messengers when the fingers point at you, ‘not us, we didn’t say nuthin, we just the messenger.’ But then when you think you can get away with it you paint the picture you want to paint. You create the freaks, you create the weirdos, when the freaks and weirdos are not freakish enough, not weird enough, you always put that little eeny weeny spin on it, don’t you.”
Her eyes are huge and blood red. She has a tiny scar, no longer than a centimetre above, her right cheek. She places a fingernail on it and opens it up, drawing a red line down her face to her jaw. The blood oozes out in a sickening viscous trail. I feel sick. I want to be sick. God knows what would happen if I was sick all over her now.
“When you have strange behaviour you love it. When it’s not strange enough you make it up. And all the time you cunts are playing the game. You tag along with us, the artists, the centres of attention and you invite yourselves along because you’re no good at doing what we do, but you want to be part of it. Rob Wallet was the same. A leech who thought he could rescue his career by tagging along. __________ was another one thinking he was ever so cool and down with it because he slagged everyone off. But you don’t have an air of superiority because you’re not superior. You never were, you never will be.” Her tongue is long enough to snake around the side of her face and lick the blood that’s pouring out of the elongated scar. “And . . . it . . . pisses . . . me . . . off. It fucking pisses me off that we have to suck your dicks to get our message across, we have to go through your filters and your portals and we don’t get heard unless we’re extreme and then you end up with this spiral where nothing is too extreme.”
She holds her tongue out and lets the blood cascade over the tip, staining my tee shirt. “I nearly killed a reporter from Melody Maker in 1975. Do you know why?” I shake my head. “Because he didn’t believe me when I told him I don’t sleep around. I don’t fuck the groupies or the road crew. What are you a fucking nun, he said.” She pauses and looks at the stain on my tee-shirt. For a moment I wonder if she’s regretting what she’s done, but then she looks at me again, looks into my eyes as if I’m in here somewhere looking back out. “Nothing’s changed. No one has the imagination to change. The girls are still stripping off, the men are still fucking the girls and you cunts are still giggling from the sidelines. What a joke. What a joke.”
She climbs off me. Before she turned away I’m sure the scar was gone, the running blood gone, the blazing red eyes back to normal, if they ever were normal. She walks away from us and is consumed by the darkness of the studio. Dan has no photographs, but I think he’s relieved he didn’t have to give her instructions or suggest positions, expressions, poses. She went back to the darkness she stepped out of. Dee Vincent’s world is very very dark.
And then she came back. . . .
(Hullaballoo Magazine, copyright Gillard Publishing, 2014)
Chris Harrison is my last guest (appropriately enough) in this second round of The Author Hot Seat. On the face of it, Chris’s books sound…weird. Funnily enough though, I can immediately think of at least one person who would enjoy them. Are you listening Jane Risden? Read what Chris has to say and see if you end up as intrigued as I am.
J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.
C: The story is called Toten Herzen Malandanti. Toten Herzen are a rock band murdered in 1977, but thirty five years later a down-at-heel music journalist called Rob Wallet investigates the murders and discovers the band are still alive.
He persuades them to make a comeback and in TH Malandanti they’re in the studio to record their comeback album. The first since 1976.
The conceit of the Toten…
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Isn’t it typical? You think you’ve come up with a good idea and then someone beats you to it and gets all the kudos. For several months now I’ve been writing the second Toten Herzen novel and thought I had found an opportunity for a spin off series and then I read this article in the Guardian.
In short, Sally Green has written a novel about witchcraft called Half Bad. It’s her first novel and that is great news for her. I’m not going to dismiss her achievement. But what it means now is that when I eventually get round to writing my novel based on witchcraft the bandwagon will no doubt be packed, standing room only. The television channels will be stuffed with witchcraft series, each one hoovering up every conceivable storyline and plot twist.
So, the purpose of this short post is to plant a flag here and now to say my idea was swirling around between July and November 2013 and is not in any way influenced by the new fad for witchcraft novels.