The Malignant Dead by CL Raven is the story of Alex McRae, an Edinburgh plague doctor, and his desire and effort to cure the disease that took so many.
Like the rest of their work The Malignant Dead is a very tightly constructed story. There’s not a lot of fat in it to get choked on. This allows the story to move at a brisk pace that meant I’d find myself surprised at how many pages I’d read in a sitting. Especially as its historic fiction, which isn’t normally my cup of tea. There’s enough detail and references, like words that would have been used back then, that it pulls you into Edinburgh during that time period. It was easy to feel how dirty and dangerous the city was back then.
Something Cat and Lynx do particularly well are characters. The protagonists in this story are people I want to hang out with, and I fell in love a little with the lead female character, Katerin. They felt very real, with real motivations and concerns. Alex McRae’s love for those he holds dear is felt throughout the novel. You feel what he’s going through, whether its his frustrations with those who have the plague or his joy at being with Katerin or his friend James. There are a couple of moments which had me choking up as well. Events in the life of Alex McRae that strike him hard. It is counterbalanced by some good humour as well.
I definitely recommend The Malignant Dead.
This book involves characters from their 2017 novel, The Devils Servants. Although The Devils Servants isn’t a direct sequel I’d recommend reading The Malignant Dead and then The Devils Servants.
This last year has been a tough one. As a family we’ve had a lot of crap thrown our way this year. We’ve lost loved ones, and had issues of health pepper us amongst other difficulties life has a habit of throwing in our paths.
It has been a hard year, it’s not been harder than anyone else’s year. It’s been what it is. We’ve taken each day as it comes and in my opinion that is the best way to take life at times.
These things I won’t go into detail on. They are things that affect my family as well as myself and I don’t think it’s my place to talk in-depth about these events on my public blog.
One moment this year that hit me harder than I thought something of its nature could was the death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Although now I am really out of date with most music, I was a huge fan of Linkin Park when they first hit the scene. Their first two albums are two of my favourite albums ever, I didn’t even listen to that type of music until they came along. It’s music that speaks to me, but I didn’t realise how important it is to me until Bennington’s death this year. I mourned his death in a way that I haven’t for other public figures. I read a lot of Tom Clancy when I was in my late teens. I was a huge fan of Alan Rickman as well, and although it saddened me when they died it wasn’t like when Chester Bennington died. I immediately binge listened to the Linkin Park albums I had, and blitz their YouTube channel. It was only a month or so ago that I’ve stopped getting a lump in my throat when I hear his vocals. I realised a few weeks after his death that I felt like this because it was the first death of one of my icons. Someone who not only did I look up to and admire, but someone who spoke to me. I didn’t know the death of someone I didn’t know would hit me as hard as Chester Bennington’s death did.
I’ve had highs and lows with writing this year. A few projects I put a lot of time into have crashed and burned pretty badly. In particular I was quite demoralised by a zombie story I thought was going to be something good but it just didn’t pan out how I was expecting it too and it kind of gave me a bit of a confidence hit. I had done a lot of outlining for it, characters had been thought out and developed, but it just didn’t go right. I tried to rewrite it for NaNo, and it’s not bad. I’m happier with it now than I was initially but it’s not how I was expecting it to go. I think I can roll with how it’s changing, I just need to do some re-thinking on it.
Something I have learned is that it doesn’t matter whether I write with a pen and paper or straight into a word processor the words are the same. I wrote a first draft of a story I’ve got a lot of hope for by hand but was writing something else at the same time digitally and realised quickly that it didn’t matter how I wrote something, if I was in the mood to write it all came out the same. With this story in particular I’ve got to change a lot for the second draft. Like the zombie story I mentioned it came out different to how I envisioned it. The biggest problem is I’ve written it from only one point of view, and to tell the story I want to I need to do it from multiple POVs. I don’t think it’ll be difficult, but I want to let it sit for another month or two before I return to it. I’d like to get some more planning done for it as well.
The work with Owen is a little up in the air at the moment but I’m expecting to find out what’s happening early in the new year.
The highest points of this year for me have been getting two stories published. Both through charity anthologies from Burdizzo Books. The first one, The Final Charge was in Sparks: An Electric Anthology in October. The second was my take on The Three French Hens in this years 12 Days of Christmas 2017 Anthology. I am incredibly proud of both of these stories. They were a lot of fun to write and knowing the proceeds from both books go to good causes makes it feel even better than it does. The folks at Burdizzo Books are fantastic people as well, along with the group of writers they have around them.
It’s great to finally have my writing in print and has really fired me up and shown me that it’s not impossible. There is nothing stopping me except myself.
The last item I really want to talk about are a few of the people I’ve met this year. I attended a book launch for Sparks up in Walsall and met the head honcho and editor Matthew Cash as well as a couple of the other contributors. We later had another launch in my home town as Burdizzo Books’ other editor, Em Dehaney, is from Gravesend as well. Both launch parties were fantastic, I did a reading at both, although with the Gravesend one I was hit with a severe cold a few hours before and was incredibly unwell. I thought I was going to pass out during my reading, but it was still an amazing experience.
I also went to a few cons this year. Unfortunately DemonCon down in Maidstone has now come to an end. I was pleased to be at the last one in February, but will miss it. It’s the con were I first me Dan Abnett and his wife Nik, who are lovely people. I went to Birmingham Horror Con around that time as well, that was incredibly fun and I got to see my friends Cat and Lynx Raven again as well as Dave from From The Shadows. I also went to EGX with my buddy Stefan from Stefan’s Daily Gaming. Although I’m not a huge gamer this was a lot of fun as well. It was good seeing some great games and a lot of people who were in their element. Bristol Horror Con was my favourite of the year though. Not only did I see CL Raven and Dave (From The Shadows) again but I also went to a couple of panels. I spent a little time talking to Adam Millard and his wife in the VIP room. Seriously lovely people who were very encouraging of my own work and just fun to talk to. I also got the chance to speak to Tim Lebbon as well. Again, another awesome and encouraging person. I just hope the more of these I go to the more at ease I get speaking to all these fantastic people.
The horror community is really welcoming and seems to have a lot of heart to it. It’s definitely a place I feel at home it.
One night in particular that was both fun and tiring was an all-night ghosts hunt I went on with Boleyn Paranormal down at a True Crime Museum in Hastings. It was a lot of fun, very interesting and I met more awesome people, but I’m not doing another all-nighter. I was shattered for a few days after that. Cat and Lynx Raven were there as well, and they popped back to my home to meet my animal army before they returned to Cardiff. En Route to my house we stopped at the site of the Battle of Hastings. Although not far from my home I can’t recall ever going there and it was quite a surreal experience that I’m glad we took the time to do.
A massive highlight of the year for me was meeting Scott Sigler and AB Kovacs. I’ve been a fan of Sigler’s work for a decade now and when he announced he was coming to Europe, including the UK, it would have taken the zombie apocalypse to have stopped me from getting there. It was a great evening in a pub in London just hanging out with Scott, A and other fans of Sigler’s work (AKA the Junkies). It was good chatting to them both and seeing the love they have for the fans of the work. Both Scott and A have a lot of charisma and energy and clearly love what they do, and it was one of the highlights of the year.
With Scott Sigler
With AB Kovacs
2017 has had a lot of downs, but its had a lot of ups as well. That’s what I’m focusing on, I’m not ignoring the low points, just choosing to look at the positives. Most importantly I appreciate those important people I have in my life. My friends and family mean the world to me and I’m very grateful having them all.
I haven’t got my word counts close to hand so I can’t say what my numbers for the week are, but they aren’t great.
The last week has felt like it’s flown by; I can’t really recall much about Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday I was at a Write-In and got some good words written. Thursday I was at the cinema to see Blade Runner 2049. Friday evening most of it was getting bits and pieces done for going to Bristol Horror Con yesterday.
I’ve got a lot I’d like to get done today. Outside of writing I’ve got a chicken house to clean out, and I’d really like to swap my bookcase around with my movie library (the bookcase is closer to my TV stand), but I don’t think that’ll happen today. I do want to get a good 1000, 1500 words done today, and get stuck into the outlining for NaNo. I’ve changed my mind (again) and will be doing a second draft of my zombie piece I wrote a few months ago. I think that’s the right piece to be doing, and there will be less prep for it than one of the other options. That’ll give me more time to focus on the WIP and getting that done before NaNo starts.
I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049, but it was too long. If there was half an hour shaved off it then I think I would have enjoyed it more. I’ve never been a huge fan of the original Blade Runner but do have some moments in the film that I find really memorable. I’m not sure there’s much in Blade Runner 2049 that I’ll find iconic. The performances were good and it looked amazing. The sound didn’t work for me. I’ve also seen the storyline before, anyone who saw the Battlestar Galactica reboot has seen it. I will give a shoutout to Dave Bautista, he was really good and showed just how talented an actor he is. Mackenzie Cook was also very good. It was hard to take my eyes off of her when she was on screen. Ana de Armas as Joi was incredibly good as well. She put a lot of heart into the film.
Finally, just a quick few words on Bristol Horror Con. It was a lot of fun. Last year was good, but this one was better. It’s been expanded into a bigger hotel, and I caught a couple of panels and the readings which was so much fun. I caught up with my friends CL Raven, such awesome people. I had a chat with their friend David Davies (From The Shadows Ltd), again. He’s a great dude. I also had a chat with Adam Millard again, again another great fella. His wife is really nice as well. I got a couple of minutes chatting to Tim Lebbon as well, another really cool and nice dude. That’s something that has struck about the couple of Horror cons I’ve been to, everyone is just so nice. When I was younger, and more stupid, I’d be a little wary of people who did live their lives different from mine. But in listening to more metal and ‘alternate’ music and going to cons, and seeing people from the Horror community online I’ve realised that this community is not only amazing, but incredibly welcoming as well. I’ve been to three horror cons now, and each one I’ve felt at home at. Everyone is smiling and having a great time. Cat and Lynx Raven have said a couple of times how great this community is, and they’ve been in it a lot longer than I have. Come next year, I want to get to a few more horror cons next year.
The Devil’s Servants is a story set during the 1649 Edinburgh Witch Trials and tells the story of Nessie and how she gets wrapped up in the trials.
Now, I am a big fan of CL Raven. Not only are they great people I LOVE their writing. Their previous release, Silent Dawn, blew me away and I had high expectations for The Devil’s Servants, and I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s very easy to feel like you’re in Edinburgh while reading this. CL Raven give just enough to fuel the imagination, I felt like I was there in the graveyard, or the market. Or in Nessie’s room. Especially the Gaol. Cat and Lynx know a lot about the subject of the witch trials from this era, and that came through in the book.
Not only is it beautifully written, its gripping. I’m really not a big fan of historic fiction in any form. It’s just not something that catches my attention, The Devil’s Servants really hooked me though. The amount of times I thought I’d only read one chapter and end up reading two or three instead, I can’t even count.
With each book, Cat and Lynx Raven are getting stronger and stronger with their writing. I haven’t read all of their work, but each time I read one of their stories I see the strength there is in them. With each new release I see a new strength to their work. One of the elements I loved in Silent Dawn was the relationship between the main three characters. What I love in this book is what Nessie goes through and her whole arc. I felt a lot of her conflict throughout the story and really liked how her story wrapped up.
A quick little shout out for the cover(above image) by David V G Davies. It’s awesome!
I strongly recommend The Devil’s Servants, it’s a page turner and one that got me interested in a part of history that I’ve never really paid much attention to. Please check it out.
Yesterday my buddy Stefan and I drove to Bristol for Bristol Horror Con at the Future Inns in Bristol, and damn it was a lot of fun. It was quite a long drive from my home in Kent but I wanted to go because CL Raven were going to be there, and although I’ve know them for a couple of years we’ve never met. I like a little horror in my life as well, so I thought screw it! Let’s go! And I am so glad we did. Not only was it great to meet Cat and Lynx I met a bunch of other people who I found to be awesome and welcoming. The atmosphere was just so chilled out and relaxed, it was great just being there and soaking it all up.
We spent most of our time on the 6th floor of the hotel where all of the dealer tables where but went down to a Jazz Club below the bar for author readings, which Cat and Lynx were a part of. That, I found a lot of fun and very interesting. There was four people doing readings, including Cat and Lynx. The other two novelist were A K Benedict and Martyn Waites. Sitting and listening to all four reading excerpts or short stories was really thought provoking. Both in that once I actually get my butt into gear and get stories written, then I’ll be (hopefully) doing this sort of thing. But also in listening to writers whose work I hadn’t come across before. Obviously I’ve read a fair bit of Cat and Lynx’s work, but it was a lot of fun hearing it out loud, and they really aced the reading. Both A K Benedict and Martyn Waites are new to me but both rocked their readings and I’ll be checking their work out.
Needless to say I brought a load of books, six in all. As well as a couple of comics, a few key rings, CDs and a T-Shirt from the band Lesbian Bed Death, and a gorgeous skull paperweight. I could have brought a lot more, but managed to reign myself in.
Lesbian Bed Death was an awesome experience, I brought their first album years ago but like with all music I lost track of them and am seriously out of date. So I managed to pick up a couple of albums, including their latest and damn, it’s some good stuff!
The comics I got were Domeinion: A Threat From Within, and Dark Matter. Both are from Close2Immortality, and really caught my eye. Some very gorgeous artwork and the stories sound fantastic.
The skull paperweight I got is really cool and hopefully will be the first of a number of badass ornaments that I’ll gather over the next few years. Definitely check out the creator From The Shadows. He’s got some really sweet bits on his site.
Speaking to each of these fantastic authors was a lot of fun. All of them were very engaging and all of them seemed really nice and down to earth. It was very inspiring, speaking to people who are getting their words out into the world.
Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I can feel awkward at times, and not quite sure of myself, but at Bristol Horror Con, and DemonCon, I felt at ease in these groups of people. They’re there for the same reason I am, a love of horror and sci-fi and comics etc. My buddy Stefan, who is a big horror nut, loved it too. We’ve both pretty much deciding to go back again next year.