Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Bodmin Accord, Part 2

Bloody werewolves.
If there was any creature that Gwaine really, deeply hated, it was the werewolf. Mindless, bestial, savage like nothing else. They were machines of slaughter, which was why the Templar Rules clearly stated that any werewolf hunt should include a full lance per werewolf. Three knights per Hairy Scary.
So of course Arthur wanted them to take out an entire werewolf pack. Gwaine shook the mud off his boot, but it did no good. The field was just one huge quagmire and his legs were black with mud up to his knees. He swore and ploughed on.
Bloody Arthur.
The man wouldn’t listen to reason. Ever. Hadn’t he trained him? Hadn’t he brought Arthur into the Templars? He’d given the man purpose, pulled him, literally, out of the gutter. Now there were times when Arthur looked at him, well, it made Gwaine think he was something stuck to the Master’s boot.
The gutter. He’d found Arthur, in the gutter, under Waterloo Bridge. With the drunks, tramps, illegal immigrants. Snoring in his stinking old army sleeping bag, lying on a bed made of cardboard boxes.
He’d been kicked out of the Royal Marines after some bad business in Bosnia, and had spent six months in a psychiatric hospital. From there, out onto the streets.
Ghul attacks were up. He should have been suspicious, even then, that something was brewing. But that was all hindsight. No-one, not Lot, not Elaine, no-one could have predicted what was to follow. The Nights of Iron. The near-extinction of the Knights Templar.
A ghul had brought him to Arthur. The Unholy blood-drinker was feeding amongst the flotsam and jetsam that lived under the arches. It made sense. You drink from a kid, someone would investigate. You drink from some smelly tramp, even kill them, who’s interested? No-one.
Easy pickings.
Unless you pick a psychotic ex-Royal Marine with bad blood and an even badder head. The ghul had just sunk his needle-sharp fangs into Arthur’s neck and woken him. Strong as the ghul was, even he was taken aback by Arthur’s ferocity. Gwaine had been trailing the ghul, hoping to find its sleeping place and kill it during the day, but it had delayed, looking for a snack. A big mistake. A big fat fatal one.
Arthur had grabbed its hair and held it down with one hand while he pummelled its face with a half-brick. The concrete walls had echoed with the high-pitched screech of the Fang-face and Arthur didn’t stop until the only thing left was a smear of blood, brains and bone. Then he’d crawled into a corner and wept.
When he’d stopped sobbing, Gwaine spoke to him. Told him that other monsters were out there, tonight, doing what this creature had tried to do. He’d asked Arthur if he believed in God. He’d asked Arthur if he wanted to help fight against theses monsters, these Unholy. Arthur had only asked one question.
Gwaine smiled as he pushed himself through the deep, sticky mud. He’d given him the only answer a Templar could give.
Deus vult.
Okay, Arthur was still deeply disturbed and unstable, but now his rage and anger at the world had direction, focus. Gwaine had been pleased. It was simple. Just point Arthur in the right direction as send him on his way. The details were irrelevant, but his successes were legendary. The guy was just born to slaughter. With guns, swords, knives, his bare hands. Uncouth, lacking technique, just simple and direct.
Then he met Jamila. God, what an evil day that was!
She’d been a doctor working at the psychiatric hospital where he’d been a patient. She specialised in Post-traumatic stress disorder and while he hadn’t been her patient, she remembered him. They talked. They swapped numbers.
They fell in love.
The day they married Arthur should have been kicked out. Simple as that. No Templar was allowed to marry. Relationships were an unnecessary distraction. You needed to have one focus, one love. The Order. Nothing else. God had given the Templars a holy duty and it was not to get married, happy and lazy.
The less said about the kid, the better. Uriens was insane to let Arthur stay when they discovered he was about to become a dad. Insane.
Then Jamila died. The ghuls killed her and Gwaine got the old Arthur back. No, he got something better. Or worse. His hate was like a laser beam: pure, narrow and devastatingly intense.
With Uriens one of the first killed, Gwaine was finally in charge. Or should have been. The Nights of Iron were mad times. Death-dealing times. Truth be told, they all thought they were going to die. Knights were being picked off, the ghuls attacked in hordes. Gwaine tried to organise some defences, he’d even contemplated going for help. He tried to think things through. Like a proper Master. Conserve their strength and try and understand what was going on.
But total chaos reigned. The other Templars realised if they were going down, they were going down fighting. They took Arthur’s lead: Total war.
Sacred slaughter.
They killed and died and it was a close run thing. Out of the forty knights that had served under Uriens, less than ten survived. Gwaine’s strategy had failed. War was madness and it needed a man like Arthur to wage it.
The stones came into sight and they stopped. Torches flared around them and figures approached, cautiously.
Yes, times were mad. A man married to a Muslim led the Knights Templar. Hope rested on the shoulders of children. Here they were, fighting for a boy that all sense dictated should die.
Gwaine peered amongst the gathered figures, darkly robed in long winter coats or rough builders’ jackets. They looked like gypsies. Then he caught sight of him. Small, skinny and huddled against a rock, his hands tied together like a lamb ready for the butcher’s yard. The social services report said he was ten, but he looked younger, skinny with malnourished, sunken cheeks. His hair was silvery-white and crudely cut, half-covering his shining too-big blue eyes.
Gwaine scowled. They were risking their lives for this boy. Their eyes met and a chill crept up Gwaine’s spine. If he was a powerful as Elaine suspected, better they kill him quickly, here and now. Leave him to the wolves.
The boy called Kay.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Research (yes, really, not a holiday at all)

Back from Moscow, and it was pretty cool. Amazing city and I'll feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.
I went because a large part of The Dark Goddess is set in Moscow and I needed to get a touch of gritty authenticity into the story. Devil's Kiss was easy, set in my home town of London. But having now set that presidence, the next book had to have the same street-level appeal.
Can't get that out of a guide book.
Where to begin? Monolithic. Noisy. Epic. Marble train stations. Fire dancers. Drunks. Vast cityscapes. Illegal car racing. Very very cool.
I've visited a house where, apparently, satanists congregate. It was down a dark art-lined passageway and a black cat slept peacefully on a bronze bench. Saw the amazing Faberge eggs at the Armoury and minute portraits of the tragic Romanov children painted on petals. The seven sisters dedicated to a tyrant and war hero.
I've so much to go on, it'll take a bit of time to filter through and focus on the details I need, rather than throw everything into the book willy-nilly.
THE BODMIN ACCORD. This is a trio of chapters that relate to Devil's Kiss and The Dark Goddess. The full piece will be up on the website shortly. Here's the opening.

The Bodmin Accord-Part One
“We’re lost, Art.”
“Bloody hell...”
The flashlight came on and bobbed up and down as they ploughed across the muddy farm track. Percy kept his eyes on the few yards of rain-smeared earth and his hands tight around the steering wheel of Arthur’s old Jaguar.
“I told you we should have taken the jeep,” he muttered.
“Just...shut up, Percy,” said Arthur.
The underbelly of the car groaned as it scrapped over a semi-buried rock. Percy winced as he heard the exhaust rattle and break loose. Then it began clanging loudly, filling the interior with a dull metallic din.
Arthur snapped the ordnance survey map over and flattened it over the dashboard. The white beam of the torch splashed across the contours and narrow yellow lines of pathways and Percy caught a glance of Arthur’s old Royal Marines compass. The green cover was chipped and the lid held together with glue and tape. He’d told Art to get a new one but Art wouldn’t listen and there was no point arguing.
No one argued with Arthur SanGreal.
“Stop here,” said Arthur.
Percy slammed down on the brake. He hoisted up the handbrake and sighed. He’d pushed the car-seat back as far as it would go but he’d still driven the entire journey from London with his knees up by his ears. He’d kept his head as low as possible but with all the potholes and trenches around here he’s spent the last hour banging his head against the ceiling. He unfolded himself out of the driver’s seat and groaned loudly as he stretched. He tilted his head hard sideways, pulling at his thick neck muscles until something cracked.
“Jesus, that’s better,” he said.
“Don’t blaspheme, Percy.” Arthur surveyed the dark moors with his binoculars. “Wake him up. We’re here.”
Percy hammered the rear passenger door.
“Oi! Gwaine!”
There was shuffling from within and the door opened. Gwaine peered out, rubbing his rough hands across his face.
“We there yet?” He didn’t look impressed. “I need a piss.” He yawned and walked over to the opposite side of the car. There was a sharp snap of a zip and then the patter of urine on earth.
Percy buttoned up his jacket and pulled down his wool hat. The last time he’d been out here was his Escape and Evasion training with the commandoes. He’d hated it then, too. The moors lay dull and desolate under the brooding cloudy skies. The moon was well hidden, leaving only a faint halo of shimmering cold white beyond the few cracks in the cloud cover. Stinging icy drizzle swept across the rolling landscape, whipped up and over the low hills and dull valleys. He’d met Arthur here. They’d both applied to join the Royal Marines and earned their berets together. He glanced over at Arthur. He’d been a different man then. Hard, practical, but a laugh, someone who enjoyed life no matter how bad it got. He missed the old Arthur and maybe, deep down, he hoped that man was there somewhere.
“What’s on your mind?” said Arthur, not lowering his binoculars.
“Better days, Art.”

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Russia, Harry Potter, and me.

Just back from Simon Mayo's FiveLive radio show where I talked a bit about Harry Potter and what he means to me. Also there was Julia Eccleshare from the Guardian and Boyd Hilton from Heat.
The converstaion was interesting but, with time being short, didn't really get into any nitty-gritty stuff. So I'll do that here.
1. How great a hero is Harry Potter in the pantheon of children's characters? Okay, he has to be near the top, but I do prefer Bilbo Baggins. Scout from To Kill a Mocking Bird is also one of the best, though there's some debate if it's a kid's book or not (I think it is).
Harry's the perfect fairy tale character. All children (and many adults too) have the fantasy they're secretly princes and princesses, destinied for greatness. Their imaginations free them from their daily existence and the special destiny is a powerful fairy tale archetype, Cinderella. Rags to riches. That sort of thing. Harry starts off frail, weak, forced to do all the cooking and cleaning for his step-family, dresses in rags. Cinderella through and through. But it's the power of the Invite (Hogwarts or the Ball) that start his journey out of the Ordinary and into the Special World. Rowlings has been accused of being derivative, but I think every writer or creator is derivative. True orginals are extraordinarily rare and I can't think of one particularly, maybe Piccasso? Biblo's small, frail, pout upon and (unlike Harry) gets dragged into an adventure way bigger than him. His archetype is the Quest story, rather than rages to riches. Also, he has a clearer character growth and the setting is seamless, while Rowlings' style, especailly in Philosopher's Stone, is VERY Roald Dahl (though in a good way, but acts as a slight distraction since the Dahlesque flurishes are pretty strong). Scout's the truest children's character out of them all, because she is utterly ordinary and perfectly written. Lee totally gets back into what being eight was and felt like, probably better than any other writer.
Russia- I'm off tomorrow and will report back. Have a long list of places to visit. Very excited with this.
Short Stories in the Templar World- This is a project I've been working on. Now Devil's Kiss is out it feels a long wait until The Dark Goddess. So I'm preparing a series of short stories dealing with the Tempalrs, past and present, than will fill in events I refer to in DK, and include hints to what's coming up in book 2. The first one's almost done and is called THE BODMIN ACCORD. It's about the deal the Templars ahve with the local werewolves. Since Book 2 is wall to wall carpets of the hairy blighters It'll clue you in to the sort of people Billi will be dealing with in The Dark Goddess. Pretty dangerous people.
It'll go up in a week or two.

Thursday, 2 July 2009


This is going to appear on my website shortly (no, not the photo, very nice that it is) but a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. However, some are very common and I'll just go through the motions on those, but some may not be, and those will be the interesting ones...
So, rather than me just list out what I'm usually asked (and have probably answered somewhere already) I would like you to send me YOUR QUESTIONS. I'll see if I can intergrate them seemlessly into my FAQ page. To get the ball rolling I'll start with a few that have come up in the last few months:
1. Angelina Jolie or Megan Fox? Well, it'll have to be our Angie. C'mon, just look at her, for heavens sake! It did cross my mind that if I put myself up for adoption there would be a small chance that I might get picked and be calling her 'Mama'. The rest of this answer's not suitable for children but, let's put it this way, I know which side of the bottle v. breast-feeding arguement I'd come down on.
2. Angelina Joile or Christian Bale? Christian, for reasons too confusing to explain. But being Batman certainly helps.
3. What's the hairiest part of your body? My back. Then my chest, then my ears.
4. Favourite author? Okay, right now (and has been for the last few years) Philip Reeve and his Mortal Engines series. OMG, they are BRILLIANT. However, it was reading Northern Lights that made me want to be a writer.
5. Favourite book? Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. I have a signed card from him above the pc. The prefect dark fairy tale and a major inspiration to The Dark Goddess.
6. Did you always want to be a writer? No, I wanted to be a ninja. Actually, I STILL want to be a ninja. Given the choice, I think it's the profession most people would pick.
7. I'm looking at applying low-carbon technology to my existing house. What would you recommend? Solar hot water panels are probably the most straightforward to retro-fit. The payback on photovoltaics is horrendous so probably not best suited for domestic jobs. Some boiler manufacturers do dual coil boilers, which will save you space, but they are expensive. Do make sure you have them on roughly south-facing roofs!
Okay, now you take it away...