Distant Worlds – Welcomes Jude Houghton!

This is the fifth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, check out their titles to still grab a great bargain before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our fifth author interview…the epically talented and enigmatic…

Jude Houghton

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Jude, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

In this order:

  1. Coffee (preferably Nespresso machine with lots of capsules, no mess, no fuss)
  2. A vegetable patch.
  3. A comfortable fleece jacket which doubles as a three person tent with handy bathroom extension. (Okay, a bit of artistic license taken with that particular “device”).
  4. Music, audio books and a kindle reader courtesy of a solar powered iPhone*. (One is bound to come out sooner or later. You have to assume the planet has a big bad sun though…)
  5. A sort of crystal thing that provides a light in dark places when all other lights go out.

*Because the iphone’s light will go out once I’ve accidentally dropped it into the puddles of primordial soup a few times. Inevitable I’m afraid.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

The above. Assuming of course there are no other life forms on the ship. In which case they would be number 4 or 5 in the queue.What? No. Kidding. What I meant is: The above. Assuming there is not another ship, carefully stored within the ship, that can be wheeled out just before the whole thing goes poof…Does it have one of those? I can’t remember seeing any on Star Trek, but then again, I kind of didn’t watch it after Deep Space Nine. I mean what was that…?

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

“Dtay Tola! Dtay wonna wanga? Dtay wonna wan go.” Sorry random Bib Fortuna quote. You know, the guy with the pallor and weird snaky neck extension. Well that’s how aliens speak. But anyway… I’d smile sweetly, but keep the blaster cocked and ready. Yes, blaster. I did say I was going to salvage a blaster right? Well, it’s in the second ship actually, in the glove compartment, just by the warp speed lever.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Well…I don’t often read books twice (too many good books, too little time) so the ones that would be with me would likely be the fantasy/sci-fi on my ever growing To-Be-Read list.

However, in this specific case, I would take a couple of trusted books for insurance, just in case the new ones turned out to be stinkers. So Dune, which also seems to be a Grimbold “must have” favourite novel and…is Shakespeare, fantasy? Can we sneak in his complete works? I mean A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The Winter’s Tale? They’re pretty out there. The Tempest is the definition of early fantasy fiction… so yeh, I’m having it. Kill all the lawyers.

So… (he turns quickly to the TBR list, crosses off everything that is not fantasy and sci-fi) the next items queued on the phone and in paperback are:

Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky – it’s been 12 months in the TBR pile. It’s time has finally come!

Sophie Tallis, White Mountain – I realise that is a tad convenient, but I’m telling you the books in the queue right now! So there. Beauty is truth.

Kate Coe, Green Sky and Sparks – Another Indy I’m looking forward to.

Ernest Kline, Armada – Okay so the reviews have been terrible but I liked Ready Player One. If it turns out to be a stinker then… well… I’ll go back to re-reading Dune.

That’s six isn’t it? Well, I don’t know if I’m allowed the Complete Works. If I am, alas poor Ernest, I knew him, Horatio.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Why pick a song, when you can have a whole album? (very true!) So:

Nirvana, Nevermind – A cliché but…oh never mind.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – Good for listening to in the baking sun if it is like the desert planet of Dune!

Massive Attack, Blue Lines – Because I believe in the one love.

Debussy, Nocturnes – More Alien than thou.

Ella Fitzgerald, Greatest Hits – For the alien moonlit nights, the whisky drinking nights, and for the times the rain comes down on the fleece-like man-tent.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Vodka. Sorry, is that even a serious question?

Random comet question: Gandalf or Dumbledore?

One defeats Balrogs, the other has a sorting hat… hmmm… tough one…

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Aghhhhhh! You’re going to eat my brain…. Aghhhhh! Unless…

Autonomy.

It’s about two strangers, born on opposite sides of the world, on the same day in 2035. It’s about Balmoral Murraine, the maimed daughter of a struggling Battery worker, and Pasco Eborgersen, the pampered son of a Sector 1 Elite. It’s about the discovery of a truth so potent, that it will rip mankind apart. And it’s about a world lived through the intermediary of iNet, of the devotions of the Faith and the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, and about the single commodity that has become more plentiful than any other. Man.

Welcome to your future.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

If I am alone; reading, writing, kicking a few of the softer alien rocks around. Maybe set up a couple of goals, and practice finishing with my left foot.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

  1. Family. – Everything else is way, way, way behind. No, I mean WAY behind. There you go.
  2. Friends. Another yawning gap.
  3. The green and blue hues peculiar to earth.
  4. The feel of the wind as it whips up from the sea.
  5. The dog.

I know what you’re thinking. The dog should be MUCH higher. But I don’t want her getting a big head. She’s insufferable as it is.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Okay, this list is in reverse order. Just to mix it up.

  1. Is one allowed to say Facebook? Yes? Oh good. You are a one.
  2. Bugs that whine in your ear and then bite you!
  3. Cars of all types, especially when not moving.
  4. Money and what it does to people.
  5. Wars of religion.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Turn back time and change? Historical or personal? Because there was the time I wore that… No, no…can any single thing really be changed without changing everything? Where would it end? Not with a sonic screwdriver and red-lined coat I can tell you.

So if I had a time machine, I’d just observe. What? Well that is the question.

As much as I could before time caught up with me. I’d want to see Cassivellaunus and his charioteers fend off Caesar’s Romans, Henry VIII joust at the Cloth of Gold, sit in the Globe before it burned down, walk through Victorian London with a couple of coppers in my pocket for the match makers and boot blacks (hopefully that wouldn’t change too much).

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

I have so many unanswered questions about this adventure that it is impossible to tell. The mad, bad and dangerous to know part of me says Yee Haa! The, where’s my life gone part, says um… let’s get in the ship, the other one, and go home and pick up a few things like…the family, the dog, a few open minded friends and pioneers, and don’t forget the droids.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Anything published by Grimbold Books. Seriously. I have now read: Dollywagglers, The Sea Sword Stone and In Search of Gods and Heroes and I really liked all of them. Queued I have…well all the rest. So that’s about fourteen to go. My self-imposed deadline to finish them is the end of this year. So I’m living that particular recommendation and enjoying every minute of it.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

The future is a series of nows, so don’t wait for tomorrow.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

Option 3Jude Houghton in his own words…

Jude Houghton developed a love of fantasy from a relatively early age after realising an innate talent for making stuff up could result in something other than detention. A somnambulist, insomniac, lover of letters, Jude writes late into the night, most nights, tumbling down the rabbit hole to dream of other lives. Jude currently lives in Pennsylvania with an over-enthusiastic family and absurdly entitled dog. And he sometimes talks in the third person.

Inspiration:

Everything around me, particularly the people I love, the books I read and the music I listen to.

Publisher:

Tenebris Books, part of Grimbold Books. www.tenebrisbooks.com

Amazon UK

Amazon US

cover_digital-191x300Songs of Seraphina blurb:

Some battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience. In this richly painted tale, at whose heart is the unbreakable bond of family and blood, the world of Seraphina collides with our own as three unique girls are dragged into twilight lives past, fighting for vengeance, retribution, and the survival of their exiled people.

***

Thank you, Jude. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing intergalactic transport has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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 Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

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The Epic Tragedy of Love

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Literature, history and mythology is littered with great heroes and heroines, those mystically imbued figures whose short poetic lives have enriched ours, and whose tragic and doomed love affairs have become the stuff of legend. As a child I was first aware of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet, and their struggles against a world so determined to tear them apart. Their torn loyalties of family, responsibility, duty, honour, and the forbidden love they held for each other, seemed to mirror the angst we teenagers inevitably felt. Luckily at my school, we had a rich diet of Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Anthony & Cleopatra (another doomed couple), Julius Caesar, Hamlet (unrequited & destructive love), Othello (jealous, possessive love) & Macbeth (the manipulation of love). I was fascinated by the interplay of characters, how each couple and individual reacted to the circumstances they found themselves in, the choices they made, whether destiny played a part, how love could be corrupted or could corrupt others. As a hopeless romantic, (Shh! Don’t tell anyone! I try not to admit it and refrain from reading any chick-lit, ‘slushy trash’ as I call it, hey…sci-fi/fantasy girl here!), I do see the allure of such characters and such stories and how they ultimately convey the human condition in all its absurdities, frailties, flaws and its glory.

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shal...

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, my reading lists widened and as my love of the fantasy genre and its origins took hold, I began delving into ancient mythology. The wonderful Welsh sagas of The Mabinogion (based on tales from 1190-1350) and particularly Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur (1485), is still a favourite of mine, and the eternal love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere & Launcelot. Somehow, you can still sense the searing pain of betrayal in Arthur’s heart, the conflict in the lovers and their guilt at their actions, yet their total inability to stop themselves falling in love. Of course, it is as true today as it was in 600AD, you cannot help who you fall in love with. I remember watching John Boorman’s mesmeric 1981 film Excalibur, with its incredible visuals and Carl Orff’s thunderous Carmina Burana spurring the horses on through the mists of battle. But still, through all the magic and heroism, it was the tragic love story that kept haunting me. As I’m typing this, I’m sitting looking at a beautiful print of The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (1888), based on the famous Tennyson poem and all that doomed heart ache just comes flooding back.

tristan and isolde

tristan and isolde (Photo credit: kairin)

When you think of the greatest and most tragic love stories you probably think of the ones I’ve mentioned and of Tristan & Iseult (Isolde), Paris & Helena, Orpheus and Eurydice and perhaps poor Pyramus and Thisbe. Having lived in ancient Babylonia in neighbouring homes, they fell in love with each other as they grew up. Their respective families were fervently against the match, so one night the two lovers hatched a plan. They decided to meet up under a mulberry tree in the nearby fields, and run away together. Thisbe reached the tree first, but frightened at seeing a lion approach with blood stained jaws, she ran and hid in some rocks, dropping her veil as she ran. The lion picked up the veil just as Pyramus arrived. Devastated at seeing Thisbe’s veil in the lion’s bloody mouth, Pyramus took his sword out and killed himself. When poor Thisbe eventually emerged from the rocks and saw her beloved Pyramus dead, she too took his sword and killed herself.  😦

Pyramus and Thisbe

Pyramus and Thisbe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, you have the sad tale of Heloise and Abelard, which is perhaps the most tragic love affair of all, especially as it is a story based on an actual event. Being fact rather than merely myth, makes us all marvel at the power of sacrifice and the power of love. Heloise (1101-1164) and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) had their story immortalised by British poet, Alexander Pope in 1717, who turned it into a piece of classic literature, ‘Eloisa to Abelard’. Heloise and Abelard were ridiculously in love and doomed to a tragic end in mid 12th century France. Abelard was a well-known French philosopher, considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century. Heloise, was the niece and pride of the Canon Fulbert, who wanted her to have the best education possible. Abelard became the girl’s live-in tutor, 20 years her senior. A romance blossomed between them, a romance that so enraged her disapproving uncle that he had Abelard castrated shortly after they were discovered. Distraught, the lovers entered a monastery and nunnery and wrote a set of now-famous letters to each other up until their death, though they never met again.

Abelard and his pupil, Héloïse, by Edmund Blai...

Abelard and his pupil, Héloïse, by Edmund Blair Leighton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These tragedies both real and imagined have inspired such a rich tapestry of stories. As a huge fan of fantasy, from the world’s first ever story, The Epic of Gilgamesh to Beowulf to The Lord Of The Rings, Narnia and Game Of Thrones etc., I still like my fantasy to have that tragic element, that hint of doomed love or sacrifice. In the classic tradition J.R.R.Tolkien of course, being a scholar in ancient Nordic and Celtic mythology, was able to bring many of these elements into his work, particularly in The Silmarillion.

Cover of "The Silmarillion"

Cover of The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion, I book I still adore and one which I am very lucky to have a cherished first edition of, has two tragic love stories which really wrench at the heart. The first of course, is the heroic story of Beren and Luthien, later mirrored in the love story of Aragorn and Arwen in LOTR. Here, the story of Beren and Luthien (with similarities to Orpheus and Eurydice) tells of the love between a mortal man, Beren and the most beautiful immortal elf-maiden, Luthien Tinuviel and the struggles and obstacles they face in their quest to be together. But for me, by far the more tragic love story and the one which is the antithesis to Beren’s story, was the darker tale of poor Turin Turambar. Despite being a great hero, Turin Turambar, seems forever cursed with ill fortune and the very worst of luck. He battles valiantly against evil foes, yet whatever he turns his hand to seems to go wrong. Eventually both Turin and his sister Nienor are enchanted by a mighty dragon, Glaurung. Under its enchantment, they fall in love with each other and live as man and wife. But, when Turin kills the dragon and the spell is lifted, they are driven mad by the realisation of their sins and they both commit suicide. This perhaps, is Tolkien at his darkest, but still as a reader, you cannot help feeling such sorrow and sympathy for these two sad characters.

My personal favourite though, and a story that inspired Tolkien himself, has to be the story of Sigurd and Brynhild, from the Volsunga Saga. Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) and Brynhild from the Volsunga Saga (ancient Norse mythology

Sigrdrífa gives Sigurðr a horn to drink from.

Sigrdrífa gives Sigurðr a horn to drink from. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

c.1000AD), is a bittersweet tale of romance, heroism, greed, betrayal and tragedy. The later German hero, Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied (1180 to 1210) (The Song of the Nibelungs) and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is based on Sigurd and the Volsunga Saga. Basically, urged on by Loki and Odin, Sigurd kills the dragon Fafnir and takes his treasure hoard. He bathes in the dragon’s blood to become invincible, and meets Brynhildr ‘shieldmaiden’, who in some incarnations of the story is a Valkyrie imbued with supernatural powers. They fall in love but Brynhild prophesies his doom and marriage to another. They part temporarily. Sigurd travels to the court of Gjuki, whose wife, Grimhild poisons him with an ‘Ale of Forgetfulness’ to force him to forget Brynhild so he can marry their daughter, Gudrun. Meanwhile, Gunnar, Gudrun’s brother courts Brynhild who is still waiting for her beloved Sigurd. To win Brynhild over, Gunnar devises a plan and convinces an enchanted Sigurd to help him. Unable to get near to Brynhild himself, but seeing that Sigurd can, Gunnar swaps bodies with him to seduce Brunhild and break her defences/powers, enabling him to seize his prize thereafter. Eventually, all deceptions come to light. Gunnar plots against and kills Sigurd, in some stories Brynhild then kills him, but the story ends with Sigurd and Brynhild finally reunited in death as she throws herself onto Sigurd’s blazing funeral pyre! What a way to go!English: A Christmas bonfire in Guelph, Canada.

 

The map to the human heart is a complicated route indeed, full of hidden perils, surprises and joyous heights!

Now…you may well ask, why on earth I am exploring tragic love affairs in literature, myth and history? Why the sudden interest?

Well…I’m glad to say I haven’t had a tragic experience myself, but…I am, I’m afraid, witnessing one as I write this. Yes, I’m not talking about my favourite tear inducing movie, or the howls of, “NO, GOD NO!” that I heard being cried at the TV screen from my friends who were apoplectic at the death of Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. No…I’m talking about a real life love tragedy unfolding before my eyes right now – a scene of unparalleled sadness, of unrequited love that makes all of the previous tales pale into insignificance.

Forget Romeo & Juliet, Heathcliff & Cathy, who cares about Tristan & Isolde? This is the sad sad tale of…Tolly & Mimi…

On the 1st August 2009, four years ago this very day, I was travelling back from Bridgewater having rescued two gorgeous white balls of fluff from the most hideous living conditions you can imagine. Four years later, my beautiful white wolves, brothers Korrun & Tolly, are happy and healthy and well…totally gorgeous. 349

Only one problem…Tolly is in love, deeply, passionately, unconditionally…an all consuming obsessional love and one which tragically, it is completely unrequited.

Wherever Mimi goes, Tolly follows, every move she makes he mirrors, no more than two inches from her face at all times, staring adoringly, gazing, dribbling, sighing with pensive longing when she retreats upstairs. Such desperate longing, such sadness…the poor boy just hasn’t realised that cats and dogs simply don’t…well, it’s a barrier greater than that of the Capulets and Montagues!

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A day of celebration for literature lovers and dragon hunters!

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean phrases (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a day this is?

One could almost propose the 23rd April as being the ‘Birth of a Nation’ day. After all two great leviathans of English culture fall on this day. The first of course, is our patron saint, St. George. That stalwart of Englishness (though of course he was actually Greek), a brave knight, slayer of dragons, protector of the innocent etc. The second, is William Shakespeare, as today is thought to be his birthday (23rd April 1564), coincidently, the 23rd April is also the day of his death in 1616. The birth and death of undoubtedly the greatest writer that ever lived.

English: Birth place of William Shakespeare, S...

English: Birth place of William Shakespeare, Stratford upon Avon, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow…literature, dragons, rich language, history, myth…what a potent combination!

Although those who know me, know that I’m not religious at all, and am not generally into the exploits of various saints, apostles and acolytes etc, I am, however, deeply fascinated with history, heraldry, and mythology.

Saint George's DayWe all know the wonderful stories surrounding St. George, more fiction than fact of course, but as with any great story, there are always kernels of truth. St. George has been England’s patron saint since the 14th century and his emblem, a red cross on a white background was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. However, his legend goes back far further than that. A Greek who became a Roman officer, St. George was born in Cappadocia, Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) in around AD 270 and was beheaded on the 23rd April AD 303 for his Christian views, by the Emperor Diocletian (245-313 AD), who led Rome’s persecution of Christians at that time.

As with any great figure and martyr, after his death his legend really began. Stories of defying death and fighting evil or the devil, often depicted as a dragon in those days, grew and spread throughout the old world as the new Christian faith took hold.

But for me St. Georges Day, not only represents the real arrival of Spring – swaying daffodils, tulips tentatively pushing up, snowdrops and crocus gone, the first cutting of grass, magnolia and cherry coming into bloom and buds of new life on the trees, it also represents our rich and varied history and our ties to the past.

Of course as a child, loving fantasy and loving dragons, the story of St. George had an instant appeal, although I always felt a little sorry for the dragon!

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a teenager reading the obligatory Shakespeare diet of Hamlet, Anthony & Cleopatra, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and Romeo & Juliet, I was more than a little flippant regarding his literary genius. I remember calling out from the back of the class, in my best West Yorkshire accent (don’t ask me why), “Ooooh, Willie Shake or won’t he?” to a chorus of tittering friends. Ahem…I’d love to say I’ve grown up since then, but no, not much.

But of course my respect for this English literary giant has grown enormously. The sheer breadth of his work is staggering. The rich patois of his language. The ingenuity of his plots. The magical weaving of his storytelling. The profoundly deep soul he imbues in every sonnet.

William Shakespeare has without doubt enriched all of our lives. His words have fallen into common usage, his stories have been adapted and retold a million times and in a million languages. As much as I love Chaucer and Mallory, no single figure before or since, has had as much impact on literature and life and simply who we are as a species, as William Shakespeare.

Free hugs on St.George's Day

Free hugs on St.George’s Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I’ve never been a flag waving patriot, one those people you see with St. George’s flags and crosses adorning their houses or painted on their T-shirts or faces, I do feel very lucky and proud to be English and to be part of the rich tapestry that makes up this little country, this sceptred isle.

So, today on his birthday, I bow with reverence (dizziness allowing) and say a heartfelt thank you and Happy Birthday to the creative genius that is William Shakespeare. xx

Happy St. George’s Day and Happy Birthday Willie Shake!

😀 xx

Oh, and this post is featured in The Bedlam Media Daily under their leisure section! http://paper.li/bedlam_media/1315567686#!leisure