Dear Mister Fantasy

Similarities abound, I love comparisons, how about the joy of reading and the joy of listening to music?

Helped in this example of some brilliant music (Dear Mr Fantasy performed by Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood) by the overlap of the word fantasy – my favourite reading and writing genre (possibly my favourite word).

And what about the lyrics (below) – it’s a short story in its own right…

Dear Mister Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy

You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that you break out in tears
Please don’t be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn’t have known you all these years

Written by Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock.

I’ve just read The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock.Jewel in the Skull For some reason it was on my mind and I searched through my old books, finding the version with this cover. Copyrighted 1967 the price on the back was £0.30 I probably last read it in the 70s…

I read it in a few days, not a challenging read and fairly short. It is heroic fantasy if you want to assign a genre, and that makes it a little surprising that the characters were not really developed, although their motivations were clear and I could identify with them.

The plot was not complex but it was an engaging tale. It was a little odd that the problem caused by the ‘jewel in the skull’ which the blurb makes a lot of, was resolved so quickly it was a let-down.

But these are very minor criticisms, overall I loved the book, it was an easy but entertaining read. Nostalgia helped me enjoy it although I don’t think that was a huge influence, I actually enjoyed reading this because it was an unpretentious, engaging and fast moving tale. I enjoyed the future damaged Europe and the sorcerer-scientist approach. I liked the evil Granbretan, the beast-orders of soldiers with their identifying mask/helms. And ornithopters fighting giant flamingos! Imaginative and entertaining. And of course, this is only the first in the series…

Legend Award for best fantasy novel

thornsCongratulations (a little belatedly) to Mark Lawrence for winning the Legend Award for best fantasy novel for Emperor of Thorns. Gemmell Legend

I really enjoyed the Broken Empire trilogy, grim though it is!

David Gemmell is of course a legend and the snaga trophy is fantastic, look at the pics on Mark’s blog.

It’s great to see old and new fantasy authors linked in this way, both promoting fantasy stories!


Can music compliment a book like wine does food?

Food-Wine-ArtWe are often told which wine best complements food. Dry white suits fish, a full bodied red beautifully compliments a steak or a strong stilton cheese. In fact there are a surplus of experts on the subject out there, happy to enlighten us whether we want them to or not.

Not entirely dissimilar, I find that reading can be enhanced with the right music.

I once missed most of the world cup though it was on the TV in front of me. Shots went wide of goal posts, offside rulings frustrated fans, players dived melodramatically. But all the while I was engrossed in Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series whilst playing Neil Young’s Decade double album on headphones. I was in another world and I still feel nostalgic about it now.

Today (world cup time again) it was a re-reading of an old classic by Michael Moorcock with my rock collection on random. But guess what came up and transformed a good read into a great atmospheric one? Cortez, Cortez, by Neil Young. Wonderful, in the setting of a hot evening in the garden, the scent of Philadelphus wafting occasionally over me, the beer having a nice relaxing effect… Bliss. Then I went in and watched England play. And lose. Ho hum.

So for me epic fantasy and guitar-based rock is like Aberdeen Angus and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

For others it may be a romantic tale with soothing classical music, or a crime novel with a stirring orchestral piece. Barry White for erotic stories?

Maybe readers of literary fiction prefer total silence? I have to say that would be dull, just like contemporary fiction with contemporary pop music, but hey, that may be just me…

James Barclay – Dawnthief

Dawnthief coverHow have I missed this author until recently? I’m only just reading Dawnthief by James Barclay for the first time after a recommendation and then finding the book on my own bookshelf.

I may have started it many years ago and been distracted, or not sufficiently hooked at the start. It is a tricky beginning, at first it feels a little like a text from a role-playing computer game with its barbarians, elves etc. Then I really began to engage with the characters and enjoy the story. Barclay is great at splitting the action, building the tension and suspense.

Fairly early in I was shocked [spoiler ahead] when main characters started to die. The band of mercenaries called the Raven are central (this is part one of the Chronicles of the Raven), they are not numerous, and then half of them die, just after we met them and with lots of pages to go. Brutal like George RR Martin (but without his serious complexity). Even young children we had been introduced to had to go. Oh and later one incongruous sex scene…  All this may be slightly off-putting for some, but the story had hooked me and I needed to know what happened – one sign of a good book to me.

The magic is perhaps conventional, different schools of mages with their named spells etc, but it is cleverly balanced and controlled, enriching rather than dominating the action. Did I mention dimensional rifts and dragons? A light touch with these, promising more in subsequent books presumably.

The dialogue is also realistic, some good banter making the characters come across as down-to earth and likeable (mostly).

To summarise, the characters sucked me in, the action and tension kept me coming back and I became immersed in the world, its people and its troubles. Recommended to anyone who enjoys medieval fantasy, and anyone who thinks they don’t  – but wants to broaden their reading…


Tom Bombadil – the terrible secret?

I’m a life-long Tolkien fan, but not one that bemoans the adaptations for the films – different perspectives can be stimulating.JRR Tolkien

So  Oldest and Fatherless: The Terrible Secret of Tom Bombadil  was really interesting – thanks to my son for drawing my attention to it.

I don’t agree with the interpretation of Tom Bombadil as an evil force and don’t think Tolkien intended this either (nor does the writer). I saw Bombadil as a wild force, completely unconcerned with other people, and to be honest I didn’t really miss him in the films. But fantasy is about ‘what-ifs?’ and this post develops one of the great ‘what-ifs?’ of all time (Lord of the Rings) along a new direction (for me at least). It’s intriguing to consider this speculation and the comments it generated. And though I’m not convinced, it is a clever and very convincing argument.

Imagine what it would be like to discuss this with Tolkien himself over a pint of beer whilst sitting in front of a log fire…

New free samples added


CoverI have updated the free samples of Wildmind available – here,  or use the menus at the top of the page.

The Prologue was already posted.

Now the Complete Chapter 1 is available on this site to read.

Meet Commander Varik Tojen as he directs the defence of Castle Hurriden.

Is that a wolfhound?

I have also added the complete Chapter 2.

Back in Espondre, the capital city, we meet Mal Respler, an unhappy and timid bureaucrat. Not yet touched by the invasion, he has no idea about the personal and world-changing events coming his way….

The full story is available for only

£1.75 Amazon UK

$2.99 Amazon US