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Books

Peaceful Quiet Lives: Themes

There can be no doubt that my latest novel, Peaceful Quiet Lives, has been informed by the ongoing so-called culture wars in America. These culture wars, whether social, political, or religious have been a simmering division in America as far back as I can remember, and in one sense, are nothing remarkable in a western democracy.

However, in recent years, these divisions have become a lot more exacerbated. I’ve also noticed a militant tendency in the language and behaviour of extremists on both sides that is remarkably similar. This militancy, fuelled by social media, television news, and opportunistic politicians, has stirred up some serious unpleasantness. One need only look at the aftermath of the recent US election for evidence.

Let me be absolutely clear: Peaceful Quiet Lives is not a political statement of any kind. It came to me in a strange download in early 2018, whilst writing my (as yet unreleased) Dark Ages set romantic fantasy tale Ravenseed. After getting this download, I wrote Peaceful Quiet Lives purely because I thought it was a good story. I had no political agenda at all.

The central idea – regarding opposite extreme authoritarian states being two sides of the same militant coin – I thought would make an intriguing backdrop for a doomed romance. But I also wanted the novel to be a satire of the worst fears of both sides in the US culture wars. The first half of the novel plays on fears that the US could turn into a religious theocracy. The second half sends up fears that the US is headed for a “woke” dystopia. The novel isn’t so much intended as a warning against both scenarios, neither is it an attempt to lash out in despair at the current problems in America, but rather it is an exercise in absurdity. I hope the tragic lunacy of such a future is inherent within the text, and that as a result, perhaps the fears of both sides will be eased, just a little.

Despite such grandiose ambitions, I hope people enjoy the novel as simply a damn good read.

By the way, the title derives from a couple of New Testament verses; one urging people to live a quiet life and mind our own business (in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4), and another passage urging prayer for those in authority, that we might live peaceful and quiet lives (in 1 Timothy chapter 2). The title is ironic on a number of levels, since events in lives of Sam and Eve are neither peaceful nor quiet.

Here is the blurb from the back of Peaceful Quiet Lives:

Two Nations Under God. Can their love survive in either nation?

Life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are a distant dream for Sam and Eve. Their forbidden love falls foul of laws in both nations born from the ashes of the Second American Civil War.

A satire of political and religious fears, Peaceful Quiet Lives is a thought-provoking and powerful dystopian future shock.

Peaceful Quiet Lives is available as a download or paperback from Amazon. Order your copy here (in the UK) or here (in the US). It is also available from Smashwords here.

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Books Films

I’m on Medium

I’m now posting regularly on Medium, so head over there to “clap”, follow, comment, and generally make supportive noises, if you feel so inclined. I will post both film and book articles that are exclusive to that platform, but I’m starting with a couple of film pieces (written for Medium publication Cinemania). Here are links:

Stop Saying Home Cinema Systems Are As Good As Real Cinemas

The Real Reason Some Star Wars Fans Hated The Last Jedi

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Books

Peaceful Quiet Lives: Initial Reviews

Reviews have started to come in for my latest novel Peaceful Quiet Lives. So far, all are positive five-star raves, but what most surprised me is how different facets of the novel are standing out to different people, depending on the personality, temperament, and background of the reader.

For example, one reviewer on Amazon called it “political science fiction on a very high level”, citing “parallels between the societies in the book, and the current political climate, where you are labelled as a traitor for having a deferring opinion”. He goes on to call the book “deadly serious”, saying it sends shivers down his spine.

By contrast, one reviewer on Goodreads said the novel had “several laugh out loud moments”, calling it “thought-provoking, disturbing, and at times hilarious”. He goes on to label the novel “an awesome thought experiment concerning what extremes of left and right ideology could lead to, should freedom of speech disintegrate in our post-modern era”.

Another five-star review on Amazon commented: “Who doesn’t love a great love story?”, focussing on the romantic plight of protagonists Sam and Eve, who are chewed up by the political machinery of the narrative.

Why not give Peaceful Quiet Lives a read yourself, and discover how you respond to it? Here’s the blurb from the back of the book to whet your appetite:

Two Nations Under God. Can their love survive in either nation?

Life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are a distant dream for Sam and Eve. Their forbidden love falls foul of laws in both nations born from the ashes of the Second American Civil War.

A satire of political and religious fears, Peaceful Quiet Lives is a thought-provoking and powerful dystopian future shock.

Peaceful Quiet Lives is available as a download or paperback from Amazon. Order your copy here (in the UK) or here (in the US). It can also be ordered from Smashwords here.

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Books

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2020 ended with something of a bang for me, with the release of my dystopian future shock novel Peaceful Quiet Lives. I’m going to continue posting articles about that novel as readers continue to respond to it, so that’s the first thing to expect from yours truly this year.

I’m also submitting my fantasy novel Ravenseed to mainstream publishers this month. The first draft of this Dark Ages set tale of love, lust, betrayal, and vengeance was written in early 2018. I have since polished it to the point where I am happy to submit it for scrutiny. Who knows? Perhaps by the end of the year it will have been released. I hope so, as I’m very proud of this novel.

My gothic mystery horror/thriller novels Spectre of Springwell Forest, The Irresistible Summons, and Phantom Audition are also going to be re-released very soon, with brand new covers. Keep an eye out for those, as the new covers are fabulous.

In addition, I’m planning on writing a sequel to my as yet unreleased fantasy/horror novel for children, The Faerie Gate (which I wrote back in 2014). I originally planned this sequel as an entirely separate story, but as I began to plan the narrative, I realised it fitted perfectly into the same universe as The Faerie Gate. The new novel will be a standalone tale, but much larger, and more epic. It might even end up being more than one volume. In fact, in size and scope, it could end up being to The Faerie Gate what The Lord of the Rings is to The Hobbit. In view of such potential lengthiness, I’m not sure I’ll finish writing the first draft this year, but I certainly plan to get as far as possible into the story.

All of which means, my long-planned science fiction anthology will probably remain on hold for the foreseeable future. I’ve written one novella and one short story from the various outlines I had planned, but due to other writing commitments and the inability to bend time and space, I’ve still failed to make any progress since 2019. I’ll get there one of these days.

I’ll continue to update the blog on a regular basis, with various articles and the usual film reviews. I’m also hoping to record a new series of The Tangent Tree, so watch this space for news of that as well.

As to whether I’ll release anything else, I’m uncertain at this point, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. After all, last year I said I was going to take it easier, and I ended up releasing Peaceful Quiet Lives. Perhaps this year will prove just as busy.

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Books

Download Children of the Folded Valley and The Thistlewood Curse FREE

Two of my novels are available from Smashwords FREE to download (in various formats) until the 1st of January. Click on the links below to get your FREE copies of The Thistlewood Curse (a supernatural mystery thriller), and Children of the Folded Valley (by far my most popular novel to date). As an added bonus, both also feature the first three chapters of my most recent novel, Peaceful Quiet Lives.

Children of the Folded Valley: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/459663

The Thistlewood Curse: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1059037

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Books Films

2020 In Review

Doubtless many 2020 year-end reflections will include interminable references to a certain popular plague on world tour. I will spare you such misery, and instead focus only on what happened in my writing world this year.

New Novel: Peaceful Quiet Lives

Firstly, and most excitingly, my dystopian future shock novel Peaceful Quiet Lives was released. Intended as a satire of the political and religious fears of both sides of the so-called US culture wars, the novel follows illegal lovers Sam and Eve, who fall foul of laws in both nations that rose from the ashes of the Second American Civil War.

Written in 2018, I had planned to hold on to Peaceful Quiet Lives for a while, and eventually submit it to publishers. However, current events in America persuaded me an earlier release would prove timely. So far, the response has been largely positive, which is very gratifying.

Work in Progress: The White Nest (working title)

I wrote a new gothic mystery novel this year, which I’m calling The White Nest as a working title (the real title is a secret for now). This book represents something of a culmination in my gothic mystery horror/thriller oeuvre, as it is also a coming of age drama drawing on highly personal baggage. It proved cathartic to write, despite jabbing a lot of raw nerves concerning subjects like regret, parental fears, and lost siblings. In fact, this novel is every bit as personal as Children of the Folded Valley. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I intend to look over the first draft next year (having given myself sufficient distance from the manuscript to be more objective) and we’ll see where we go from there.

New Short Story: Hole in the Wall (working title)

In addition to the above novel, I found time to pen a new ghostly horror tale, the details of which remain secret for now. I’m not sure when this short story will see the light of day, but I’m rather pleased with it. I’ll probably release a short story collection some time soon, as I have quite a pile of unreleased sinister shorts and novellas building up.

On The Blog

As ever, I’ve contributed several blog posts, mostly relating to books or cinema (as well as the ongoing film reviews). I do enjoy tackling a variety of topics, and like to provoke thought and discussion, so here are a few of my favourites that you might have missed.

Why We Need Dystopian Fiction

Are Horror Fans Desensitised?

The Pillars of the Earth: Brilliant Books and Bad Sex

What Makes A Great Fantasy Story

Ten Great Literary Protagonists I Relate To

Ten Great Literary Villains

My Journey of Faith and The Exorcist

On The Tangent Tree

The fourth series of The Tangent Tree, the film podcast I co-host with Samantha Stephen, hit a series of delays this year, but we did release the third series. Here are a couple of my favourite episodes. Well technically three episodes, but one of these is a two-parter.

Musicals Make The Medicine Go Down – Samantha and I wax lyrical about our favourite musicals. Part two here.

Will Media Be The Death Of Us?Samantha and I delve into the debate around violence in film.

In closing, I want to say a huge thank you to all my readers. Thank you for supporting me by buying (and reviewing) my books this year. I hope you enjoyed them. I will be revealing my plans for 2021 on New Year’s Day, so watch this space.

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Books

Peaceful Quiet Lives: The First 400 Words

My latest novel, Peaceful Quiet Lives, is out now.

Here’s the first 400ish words, as a taster.

The morality inspectors are late.

  I glance at my watch. 7:37am. They were supposed to be here seven minutes ago. Typically a morality inspection of a premises the size of my apartment takes a good twenty minutes, not allowing for nervous small talk, or, if you know the inspectors well, salacious tales of impounded illegal political materials, banned books, films, drugs, alcohol, pornography, and so forth.

  Morality inspectors are usually punctual to a fault, but if they don’t turn up soon, I’ll have to re-book my bi-annual inspection, or I’ll end up missing the train and be late for work.

  I peer at the cloudy skies above the city. My apartment lies within a tall grey high-rise building, on the ninth floor, and I have a good view to the south. The streets are already busy, filled with rushing commuters getting on buses, entering metro stations, or driving their vehicles. The crowds are bad enough as it is in the morning, but they’ll be even worse if I end up leaving later due to tardy morality inspectors.

  Tardy. That’s a word I never used back in England before the Catastrophe. I’ve picked up many words living the last twenty years in the New Puritan American Republic. Other words I’ve had to stop using. Not unless I want an on-the-spot fine for contravening the Profanity Act.

  A knock at the door indicates the morality inspectors have finally arrived. 7:39am. A full nine minutes late. Shaking my head and tutting, I open the door to find Inspector Chuck Willis red faced and quite flustered, alongside two younger men in their early twenties.

  ‘I’m so sorry Sam,’ Chuck says. ‘I know we’re running late. Contraband incident in the apartment we inspected before yours. Do you still want to do this now? Or do you want to reschedule?’

  ‘No, best to get it over with,’ I say, indicating for Chuck to come in.

  Chuck and the two younger men enter my apartment. They are dressed in the austere manner of all morality inspectors, as though attending a funeral: black trousers, ties, shoes, and jackets, embossed with a lapel depicting a black crucifix on a white background surrounded by the black outline of a five pointed star; the NPAR flag. The only difference is like all government officials, they are required to carry handguns.

Intrigued? Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.

Two Nations Under God. Can their love survive in either nation?

Life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are a distant dream for Sam and Eve. Their forbidden love falls foul of laws in both nations born from the ashes of the Second American Civil War.

A satire of political and religious fears, Peaceful Quiet Lives is a thought-provoking and powerful dystopian future shock.

Peaceful Quiet Lives is available as a download or paperback from Amazon. Order your copy here (in the UK) or here (in the US). Alternatively, it can be ordered from Smashwords here.

Categories
Books

NEW NOVEL OUT NOW: Peaceful Quiet Lives

My latest novel, Peaceful Quiet Lives, has been released. Not “dropped”, as one often hears these days, but “released”. “Dropped” just sounds careless and irresponsible, and presumably could lead to breakages.

Anyway, I have released this novel as a surprise, with no real build up, even though I have been dropping hints in posts like this one, and announcing it indirectly by interviewing one of the supporting characters, who ends up threatening me (see my post earlier this week).

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

Two Nations Under God. Can their love survive in either nation?

Life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are a distant dream for Sam and Eve. Their forbidden love falls foul of laws in both nations born from the ashes of the Second American Civil War.

A satire of political and religious fears, Peaceful Quiet Lives is a thought-provoking and powerful dystopian future shock.

Because Peaceful Quiet Lives sits outside my usual genre writing of mainly gothic mysteries and children’s adventure novels, I decided to self-publish the novel rather than approach publishers. I’ve not released anything in 2020, so I wanted to surprise my readers with something new. On top of that, it seemed timely, given current events in the US.

I’ll be talking more about the novel on the blog in the coming weeks.

Peaceful Quiet Lives is available as a download or paperback from Amazon. Order your copy here (in the UK) or here (in the US).

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Books

EXCLUSIVE: Christy Hendrick on NPAR Prison Break Massacre

I recently got an exclusive interview with Badger News Incorporated Head of Fundraising Christy Hendrick. Christy worked with Sam Wright at Badger News Inc for some years, prior to his arrest for Enlightenment Sympathy, incarceration, and eventual escape. I was particularly interested to get her take on the recent prison break massacre which also involved his illegal lover, Eve Young.

I understand the fugitives Sam Wright and Eve Young have now crossed the border into the Democratically Enlightened American Republic. Do you think they’re gone for good?

Perhaps, but at this stage, it’s just a rumour. They could still be out there. The police and security services don’t really know what happened to Sam and Eve. But if they did escape the justice of the New Puritan American Republic, that’s too bad, as their escape resulted in the deaths of seven prison officers.

Did you know Eve Young?

Sam worked with me for several years, but I didn’t meet Eve. Sam didn’t ever mention her. The first I heard about her was when news of their arrest reached the Badger News Inc offices.

Do you really think Sam and Eve were capable of the killings for which they were accused?

There is security camera footage showing what they did, and it was calculated, brutal, and bloody. So regardless of any personal feelings I might have had about them beforehand, it seems clear they were capable of the killings.

What do you say to rumours the security camera footage was faked?

This footage hasn’t been faked. Experts have been over it and confirmed the authenticity. I know a certain section of the public enjoy conspiracy theories, but in this case the dead bodies speak for themselves. Seven prison officers died in the escape of Sam Wright and Eve Young. The blood of those brave men is on their hands.

If Sam and Eve have escaped to the Democratically Enlightened American Republic, as now seems apparent, do you think they will be welcomed in that nation?

Well, attitudes there are very different. In fact, I’d say attitudes in the DEAR are degenerate and depraved. So perhaps Sam and Eve will fit right in, given their illegal sexual activities, as well as the murders they committed.

We hear a lot about how degenerate the DEAR is on NPAR television, but surely it can’t be all bad? Surely reality is more nuanced?

The truth is the truth. There are no nuances of goodness to be found in the social, political, and religious make-up of the DEAR.

As Sam’s former colleague and boss, it must have been quite a blow to you personally, discovering Sam murdered several people, especially after the favourable coverage Badger News gave him during his trial.

It was a huge shock to me, and indeed everyone Sam knew at Badger. But let me also be clear: Badger News Incorporated was never biased. Our coverage was entirely objective. We simply reported public opinion at that time, when Sam and Eve were tried for Enlightenment Sympathy. Since the prison break massacre, public opinion understandably turned against Sam and Eve, and we reported that objectively too.

I’d also like to point out that Sam worked in a different department to me. I was never his boss. My father was his boss.

I was told Sam answered to both you and your father.

Sam did assist me at times, but officially he answered to my father.

We approached your father several times for an interview, but he doesn’t wish to comment. Can you explain his reluctance?

What are you insinuating?

I just find it unusual that Doug Hendrick, the CEO of Badger, has consistently refused to be interviewed regarding the fate of Sam Wright, considering Sam was, for years, a very popular political commentator in all your media outlets.

All of this has taken quite a toll on my Dad, and I would ask that you respect his privacy at this time. He and Sam were very close indeed, and he is grieving a terrible loss and betrayal. They saw eye to eye on almost everything, so when Sam was charged with Enlightenment Sympathy, this was very upsetting to Dad. As for the massacre, well that simply destroyed him. I’ve never seen my father so unhappy, and I am deeply grieved at the pain Sam has caused him.

I have been told, confidentially, that Sam Wright and your father did not see eye to eye at all. I’ve heard they clashed many times – for example, over an internal investigation into former Badger employee Matthew Ingram.

Who is your source on this?

Let’s just say an anonymous informer.

I see. What did this “anonymous informer” claim?

The informer claims Matthew Ingram was framed, because he uncovered financial irregularities relating to yourself and your father. Of course, if this isn’t true, you can put the record straight.

Be careful Simon. You wouldn’t want to end up on trial for Enlightenment Sympathy yourself.

No, of course not. Thank you very much for your time Christy. I think we’ll leave it there.

For more information on this news story, keep an eye out for my new novel Peaceful Quiet Lives, released on the 4th of December. It can be pre-ordered here.

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Books

Why We Need Dystopian Fiction

Some literature seeks to highlight current social problems to bring about change. The most effective examples include works by Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist, for instance, highlighted the appalling conditions of workhouses, and the problem of nineteenth century UK poverty in general, amid a gripping and dramatic narrative. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift sought to expose contemporary injustice and hypocrisy through fantastical satire. However, dystopian fiction occupies an altogether different role in the literary landscape. Dystopian fiction seeks not to affect change, but to warn against change for the worse, as a check and balance.

The best dystopian narratives have etched themselves so powerfully into the popular consciousness that they have become a kind of shorthand argument that prevails against foolish or dangerous ideology. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is the ultimate example. Someone says they think more snooping and surveillance is a good idea, and the notion can be rebutted as “Orwellian” or “Big Brother”. It might be suggested by proponents of both political wings that certain books should be banned or censored. Again, one can cite Orwell, with reference to censorship and “newspeak”, robbing people of narratives (and indeed the words) to express themselves. The legacy of Nineteen Eighty-Four has helped protect western society from the worst excesses of authoritarianism.

Other dystopian tales have exerted a similar power. Margaret Atwell’s The Handmaid’s Tale has long been adopted by feminist groups as a warning against gender-based oppression in a potential religious autocracy; a danger that seems particularly feared in the United States. Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange jabs other raw nerves, with warnings about encroaching state control over individuals, particularly with reference to the brainwashing of young Alex. Then there’s Franz Kafka’s The Trial, which warns against frightening, impenetrable legal bureaucracy. Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games warns against a return to Roman Empire style bread and circuses dictatorship, whilst at the same time inviting allegorical comparisons between the west and exploited developing nations. Speaking of The Hunger Games, dystopian fiction recently has had particular resonance in the young adult market, with The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, and various other titles.

I still think Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World features one of the scariest warnings in literature, as it resembles the modern west in alarming ways. The novel depicts a world where entertainment, pleasure, distraction, and trivia are deliberately deployed to distract the masses. However, for me, one of the most frightening prospects in dystopian fiction remains Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which features a world where all books are banned.

Given current problems in the world, I’m not surprised at the enduring popularity of dystopian stories. This is a good thing. We now need future shock dystopian fiction more urgently than ever. People everywhere – and politicians in particular – need to read these books, think, carefully consider where we are headed, and avoid these appalling futures at all costs.