Archive for November, 2013

A Fifty Year Affair with Dr Who…

Today I celebrate a fifty year love affair…and like all long term relationships, this one has been an emotional rollercoaster and reflection brings back bittersweet memories. I was eight and my brother was five when my mother plonked us down in front of our wobbly and unreliable telly …black and white only of course. The first eerie notes of the now familiar theme tune, the curious special effects and we were both hooked. Dr Who had entered our lives. He was our companion throughout our childhood, inspiring my brother to new heights of inspiration to torment me…the ‘cyberman’ hiding in the wardrobe, the imaginative use of my mother’s fur coat to be a Yeti. Life’s triumphs and turmoils, grief, loss and joy have continued on over next fifty years but the Dr has remained a constant. Like all relationships, there have been gaps… I turned away from the program during the Sylvester McCoy years, renewed my affair with the tragically underused Paul McGann.

Of course there have been favourite incarnations of the Time Lord, everyone has their Doctor. As a youngster, it was the adventures and monsters that drew me to the programme, William Hartnell’s Dr was too cold, too brisk for me. Patrick Troughton was ideal, eccentric, curious and with that missing warmth, the stories vivid, scary and great fun and he had the best of all companions, the courageous, ever loyal Jamie McCrimmon…played by the wonderful Frazer Hines. Tom Baker will always be the quintessential Dr…he had the quirky charm and sense of humour and played the alien in human guise to perfection.

And what aliens shared the screen with the Dr….from the improbably scary Daleks…oversized pepperpots with baubles yet they were utterly terrifying. My own personal nemesis…the Cybermen…and rather lame ones like the Wyrnn grub. a man crawling along the ground wrapped in green painted bubble wrap, conquering the Universe..very, very slowly.
Giant maggots, clockwork robots, stone angels, one-eyed beings with permanent bad hair days…fifty years of hiding behind the nearest cushion.

My favourite Doctors have been Patrick Troughton, Paul McGann, Chris Ecclestone and Matt Smith with David Tennant totally claiming my heart with his enthusiastic, impish , energetic Dr…allons y indeed !

Tonight I will revel in the 50th anniversary episode, along with so many wonderful friends who share my passion for a program that has endured, with such a precarious beginning and so many detractors. Just don’t expect me to watch the Christmas special…..I’m not ready to say good bye to Matt Smith yet !

….David Tennant

In 2013, I was deeply honoured to be the first author signed up by Telos Moonrise, a new fiction imprint of Telos Publishing, a much respected and award winning publisher. In autumn, they launched my collection of Victorian and steampunk spooky short stories, Absinthe and Arsenic.

To the inevitable sneery cynics, this had nothing to do with my friendship with two of the people involved with Telos….they are a long established and highly professional company that will only publish work of the highest quality, friendship alone would not guarantee me a place on their team of authors.

I have always thought of myself as a novelist and not having the special skills to write short stories but I found myself writing nothing but short horror and steampunk stories throughout the year for commissions and discovered I love writing them. Oddly, the title, Absinthe and Arsenic came first before I had written a word of the collection.
I know this sounds a bit up myself and apologies for that, but I am truly proud of this collection and hope readers will enjoy the book as much as I did writing it.

Here is a review by author Neil Baker on the splendid website, Hellnotes

absinthe and arsenic cover

UK-based Raven Dane has had many short stories and poems published in horror and fantasy anthologies and is the author of several novels, including the critically acclaimed Legacy of the Dark Kind series and her award-winning series of steampunk/occult novels featuring Cyrus Darian, the third of which she is currently writing.

Absinthe & Arsenic is a collection of (mostly) ghost stories chosen or specially written for the anthology by Raven Dane. She has selected works ranging from one of the earliest in her writing career (The Attic Nursery) through to very recent short stories, including an excerpt from her award-winning novel Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron.

All of the stories in Dane’s outstanding collection are rooted in the late 19th century, and it is evident that she is an enthusiastic student of the era. The terminology and speech patterns she utilizes, along with descriptive passages that swirl like fog from the pages, create wholly believable settings dripping with atmosphere into which she threads effectively chilling ghost stories.

The collection begins with a terrifically bleak pseudo-zombie uprising in The 10.15 to Lealholm and then settles down into traditional Victorian ghost stories that could have been ripped from the spines of the penny dreadfuls of the time, such is their authenticity and Dane’s skillful prose. There are no weak entries in this collection, but my personal favorites were In Insomnium Veritas, Worse Things Happen at Sea, A Taste of Almonds, Ghostlight and Heart of Brass – each of the tales being unique despite their shared timeframe.

Although ghost stories are usually things of an intimate, whispered nature, I found the two tales that book-ended the collection, The 10.15 to Lealholm and Heart of Brass, to read like film synopses, the former feeling like a 60’s Hammer period piece and the latter like an early Del Toro film by way of Poe, which made the reading of them even more enjoyable.

This accomplished collection of short stories from Raven Dane would be an excellent introduction to readers who have yet to discover her work.

David reading Absinthe

me and sis


Leeds Steampunk eventI am so behind in reporting events this year….so much as happened in a blur.

There was a fun signing session at Forbidden Planet, London with fellow Telos Publishing authors, Sam Stone and Stephen James Walker…and a delightful gathering of friends and new readers who turned up to support us.

I had a wonderful time at the new must attend event The Nine Worlds Geekfest as a guest author with Jonathan Green, Stephen Hunt and Toby Frost at the Steampunk Central section of this excellent new Con. Held at two Heathrow adjacent big international hotels, it was packed with enthusiastic attendees, author and media guests and was so well organised, it was hard to believe it was the first ever event.

And of course,there was the ever awesome Weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln, Europe’s award winning, biggest steampunk convivial. There were two launches for Telos authors, my collection of Victorian spooky stories Absinthe and Arsenic and the every dashing Kit Cox’s Dr Tripps Kaiju Cocktail…an a strange and truly awesome novella I thoroughly recommend. I know there were over 2000 magnificently
attired steampunks in Lincoln, I know the wonderful organisers and volunteers put on another truly memorable event. Sadly , a personal tragedy unfolding back home that I could do nothing about, meant it was all a teary-eyed blur to me. Thank goodness for all the photographs taken at the long weekend, otherwise I might of thought it was all a vivid, multihued and fantastical dream.

Somehow I even managed to get to Leeds for the day (thank you British Rail) for a charming steampunk event in their fabulous central library and art gallery. What a building…Victorian civic pride immortalised in stone and glass plus beautiful rebuilt Victorian tea room full of deliciousness.

I am busy going with the inspirational flow of a new novel at the moment, the first time in over a year, so apologies for these brief reports…. take my word…they were all really good, impeccably organised and fun events and can thoroughly recommend them!

Photos…. David J Howe of Telos Publishing reads from Absinthe and Arsenic, also with Sam Stone and Kit Cox.
Me in my Dragon Hat at the Weekend at the Asylum
My sister Claira and me at a terrible café while waiting for the Forbidden Planet signing..they took so long serving us, we legged it !
The stylish poster for the Leeds Steampunk event