So, was that Game of Thrones TV thing any good?

In the final of our blogs about “Thrones” we ask the big question, was the TV series any good? 

Queen Heide and her favourite aristocratic chum, Baby.

Several author friends of ours have offered their opinions…

Steve McHugh (author of urban fantasy series, The Hellequin Chronicles and The Avalon Chronicles.)

I quite liked it for the most part. I think it suffered from doing too much too quickly. Lots of character work was removed in favour of just getting people to where they needed to be for the finale. The zombies were a lot less scary than I’d hoped they would be, and I really wanted them to be a bit more impressive as a long term villain. I did like Arya killing the Night King though, that was cool.

It was a frustrating series in a lot of ways, but I still enjoyed it for the spectacle and to see how it finished. I think the show peaked a few seasons earlier though.

Kit Power (horror, crime, and sci-fi author)

It was both. It was a spectacular achievement in terms of telling a story that was a modern day Greek Tragedy, and had all the flaws that form of storytelling suffers from; plummeting IQs at crucial moments, literal gods intervening to stop the plot falling over, and of course the terribly original message that power corrupts and all revolutionaries become tyrants, which wow, 2019, really, we’re still telling *that* story? On the other hand, it did all that about as well as anyone ever could and it was utterly brilliant on it’s own terms, so all I’m really doing is complaining that it’s not what it wasn’t. Which is isn’t, but so what?

Joel Hames (crime fiction writer and author of the Sam Williams series)

Overall, a triumph. The slow episodes worked best, some wonderful buildup in the first two and the prelude to the battle for King’s Landing. Yes, there were problems: the whole thing was rushed, the battle for King’s Landing suffered from Apocalypse Now syndrome (it would have been improved by cutting 75% of it), the battle against the Night King suffered from lighting issues and the fact that neither the viewers nor the characters seemed to know what was going on – so much so that what should have been tense and dramatic became farcical. But the big thing was the ending, which was so difficult to get right, and I think they did. No one got the King they were hoping for, and that’s fine. But what I wanted more than anything was for Arya’s adventures to continue, and they gave me that, so I’m a happy viewer.

Garrie Fletcher (author of Submerged)

I thought it was okay. It tied everything up fairly neatly and gave us a predictable twist that had all the fanboy/girls screaming in outrage – how dare you kill off our fave characters! I felt that the battle with the white walkers went on way too long, especially the build up, and that its conclusion, the death of the Night King was very flat – although I’d had it ruined by an episode of Gogglebox, so that may well have something to do with it. This mega face off between the light and the dark had been building up over the previous seven series and when it was over it felt a bit meh. For me, Cersei’s behaviour at the end was strange. She had a child that she desperately wanted to live and yet she orchestrated her own demise.

Anna Stephens (author of the Godblind trilogy – Bloodchild, is available to pre-order now)

It had moments of pure wonder and genius and shout-out glee – Arya’s leap in episode three is worthy of a song on its own. It also had moments that were less enjoyable and, as has been written exhaustively on social media, that made very little strategic sense in battlefield terms. Overall it came to possibly the only conclusion it could – though I really didn’t expect Bran to take the throne, and I was heartbroken that the Starks all split up. I think it had a decent three-act structure, with the build up to the Winterfell battle and then a secondary one to the King’s Landing battle, so in those respects it was a triumph. I’m really not sure what else they could have done, though. Put Dany on the throne? That wouldn’t last – people would rally to Jon – and she’d go mad with the power anyway. She promised to ‘break the wheel’ across the whole world, after all. Put Jon on the throne? That would have been satisfying but in a way was too obvious. There would have been detractors no matter how it worked out.

Jacey Bedford (author of the Psi-Tech series and the Rowankind series)

A triumph, I think (with a few small qualifiers). It wasn’t what I might have written, but it’s not my story, and I’ve been following all the seasons avidly. It rounded off a lot of story arcs well. Dany going from good-ish to evil was foreshadowed by the number of people she’d already flamed unnecessarily – the Tarlys and Varys for instance. Jon was the only possible candidate for having to do the dirty deed, but Tyrion also didn’t make the decision lightly. The fact that Dany immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was Jon who’d betrayed her when Tyrion went to tell her about Varys shows that she would have turned on Jon sooner or later. Sadly she was as bonkers as her dad.
Jaime and Cersei died in each other’s arms, and despite Cersei being the evil bitch queen, in the end she was simply a woman afraid of death. I’m sorry someone as potentially noble as Jaime wasted himself on someone like Cersei, but he loved her unreservedly, so being with her at the end was entirely in his nature. I think he redeemed himself as much as he ever could have. There were some good deaths. Theon Greyjoy redeemed himself in the end. Jorah Mormont went out the way he would have wanted to, and just at the right time. He would have been horrified and heartbroken if he’d seen Dany turn psycho. (I don’t think he would have been able to stop her.)
The Clegane showdown was very effective, especially since Sandor made Arya see sense at last. (I thought she gave in and changed her mind a bit too quickly, but there’s only so much you can do in six episodes.)
Sansa made a perfectly good Queen in the North. Her arc was completed satisfactorily.
Jon never wanted power. Going north was a good ending for him. Once he gets to grips with what he did to Dany I believe he’ll have a good life. Tormund won’t let him get too introspective.
And now I want to see Jon become King Beyond the Wall, because he still has a lot of unfulfilled potential, and he’s learned such a lot and can do so much good. And I want to see the spinoff series, ‘The Further Adventures of Arya Stark’.

Justin Lee Anderson (author of comedy fantasy Carpet Diem)

Massive disappointment. Whatever the reason, either because they ran out of source material or because the stars were too expensive per episode, we got about two full seasons’ worth of story crammed into six episodes. It was a rushed mess, reduced to relying on spectacle (albeit great spectacle in The Long Night) in lieu of good storytelling. Just as a *tiny* example, they established that it takes two weeks for an army to march from Winterfell to Dragonstone. Add to that the time it took to send ravens to all of the lords of the seven kingdoms inviting them to King’s Landing and we assume at least a month needs to pass between Jon killing Dany and the conclave – and they jumped it in an ad break. Utterly ridiculous. We already had problems with timings going back to the episode where Dany arrives to save Jon and his musketeers on the lake, but just vaulting wholesale over a month worth of story in the wake of what should have been the biggest twist of season 8 was shocking. And don’t get me started on the speed with which we went from Dany the saviour to Dany the dead. What was it, three episodes? To take a beloved character from hero to zero? Terrible pacing. Awful. In the end, we should have seen more grey areas, we should have seen Jon agonising about his choice for a lot more than 10 minutes, and when he did finally kill her, it should have been a shock – as it was, it was bloody obvious he had to kill her and always would, because he’s Jon. And don’t even get me started on Cersei. She spent the season drinking wine and looking out a window, then got crushed by debris. What a crappy ending. Every emotional beat that should have been as brain melting as the Mountain and The Viper (literally, in the Viper’s case) had about as much impact as slap with a wet kipper. They rushed it and screwed the pooch, and I’ll always be left with a bad taste in my mouth because of it. Probably from the kipper.

David Watkins (author of the werewolf novel Original’s Return)

I largely enjoyed series 8. The first three episodes were superb and are, perhaps, how it should have ended. Cersei was never going to match the Night King for threat, and Dany going mad was foretold so wasn’t a surprise.
In the last episode, there were things that didn’t make sense. Why was Tyrion allowed to talk to the council to decide the new king? He was in chains! Why was Jon still alive? Surely whoever found him after he’d stabbed Dany would have executed him on the spot, particularly if that had been Grey Worm? Where was Bronn in all the fighting for King’s Landing? After Daenerys died, surely the Unsullied and Dothraki would have gone on a rampage and killed everyone like Tyrion, Davos and anyone from the North. They worshipped her and would not have bowed to the laws of Westeros just because.
Whilst I didn’t especially care for the ending we got, I’m more excited about the doors that the success of Game Of Thrones has now opened. Maybe we can see a TV adaption of Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy. Now, that would be awesome!

Iain Grant (comedy writer and co-author of Exit the Dragon)

It was an absolute triumph. Could it have been better? Probably. But how often do we have a TV series come to its final conclusion after nearly a decade and go out on such a high. All the complaints we hear on social media about the final series were all about pacing and the subtlety of character arcs. But it’s easy to view the whole thing and see that this was where we were going all along. It’s a narrative which always carried two messages: one, there are no good people or bad people, only people; and two, it is the pursuit of power and ‘the throne’ which is the true villain in this series. When Drogon (seriously, lady, you need to come up with better dragon names) – When Drogon melted the iron throne, yes, it was a ham-fisted metaphor but it was absolutely right. Also, my favourite characters all got to sit on the small council and they deserve a spin-off sitcom. Oh, speaking of which…

 Exit the Dragon, the latest book from Heide Goody and Iain Grant is out now. The wizard, Newport Pagnell, and the city’s privy council have to work out how to rebuild the capital once the dragon and the dragon queen have gone. It’s totally not a parody of Game of Thrones or anything. Honest.

Pick up your copy here.

Posted in 2019, Books, Interviews

Who would you have on your small council?

Of course, we’re talking about Games of Thrones here.

Writers would make the very worst panel of advisors!

We want to look at that all-important issue of what makes a great leader – the people who are appointed to advise the leader!
We asked some of the best authors to pick a new small council for the new king of Westeros.

Iain Grant (comedy writer and co-author of Exit the Dragon)

If Davos isn’t available to be on my small council (and I wouldn’t want him as my Master of Ships anyway – he’d be much better as my chief diplomat and Master of Avuncular Wisdom.) then I would appoint Yara Greyjoy to my council. For one thing, she’s a slippery character and I’d really want to have her where I could see her. Secondly, those Iron Islanders clearly have some magical gift for ship-stuff. I’d have them chasing Arya to the New World and bringing back potatoes and tobacco and wotnot to Westeros.

Justin Lee Anderson (author of comedy fantasy Carpet Diem)

Assuming we fill the same positions as those filled by Tyrion at the end, two are easy, two are hard.
Master of Coin: Tycho Nestoris. Dude has run the Iron Bank, he can surely run a country. If Tycho won’t take the pay cut, then Tyrion, who isn’t Hand and is the last living Lannister seems like the obvious choice.
Master of ships: Yara Greyjoy. Might also help get her onside with the new king, assuming she’s still pissed off about Jon killing Dany.
Grand Maester: I suppose it has to be Ebrose, doesn’t it? Can you make an Archmaester come to King’s Landing and be the Grand Maester? He’s just finished a recent history of the kingdom and managed to completely leave out poor Tyrion, so I suppose having him on the Small Council is a good way of making sure my name makes it into the next book! Plus, who doesn’t love Jim Broadbent?
Head of the Kingsguard: This one’s tough. Brienne is the obvious choice. All the other good options are dead. Podrick’s apparently legendary skills as a ‘swordsman’ notwithstanding, he doesn’t have the experience. Jon, regardless of his banishment, is a tactical idiot, as we’ve seen in Battle of the Bastards and the Battle of Winterfell. Once you think about it, there’s really only one major character left alive that you’d maybe want, and he’s just been made lord of Storm’s End! So, for a completely out of the box choice: arise Ser Tormund Giantsbane! Small Council meetings would certainly be interesting…

Jacey Bedford (author of the Psi-Tech series and the Rowankind series)

Gendry knows the common people and he learns fast. He’s strong, but even tempered and practical. I’d put him in charge of rebuilding the city. Illyrio Mopatis was working with Varys and seemed to have similar aims. He might be worth calling up to be master of coin. Perhaps Podrick would also be a sensible choice. A female council member would be good, but not Yara Greyjoy, she’s too short-tempered. Possibly Gilly, she’s brighter than she seemed at first and she’s got a healthy helping of commonsense.

Anna Stephens (author of the Godblind trilogy – Bloodchild, is available to pre-order now)

Yara Greyjoy. Ruthless but loyal – if you can win her loyalty – as Master of Ships. The Iron Fleet was sunk, so promising her another could be enough to get her on board (pun intended). Arya Stark as Master of War. Obviously. Tormund Giantsbane in the new position of Master of Stories, because he has so many (don’t ‘Bran Stark’ me – I mean fun stories). Jon Snow as Master of Trade, because despite all this ‘he’s a beautiful idiot’ nonsense that people like to spout, I would argue he isn’t. He wasn’t a war-leader tactically, but he was a leader in many ways. He was liked and trusted personally as a man; he was loyal and honest (good for trade negotiations) and at his heart, everything he did was for others, not himself. He joined the Night’s Watch to protect the realms of men. He accepted the title of king in the north because it was pressed upon him and then he willingly gave up that title in order to gain the assistance the north needed to survive. Not many characters would have done that. You can count on him to put others ahead of himself, so trade delegations couldn’t bribe him.

David Watkins (author of the werewolf novel Original’s Return)

Gendry as Master of Laws. He would be naïve enough to be easily manipulated into making and enforcing laws that benefitted my own position as Hand.

RE McLean (author of the Multiverse Investigations books)

Arya’s horse, mainly because it’s sulking that it didn’t get the role in the final episode that it expected. And to keep it company, Ghost the dire wolf plus the indefatigable Tormund. Anyone who can survive being attacked by the Army of the Dead four times without anyone seeing how he did it clearly has a sneakiness that would be useful in the small council.

Steve McHugh (author of urban fantasy series, The Hellequin Chronicles and The Avalon Chronicles.)

Ayra Stark. Not to any particular post. Just to stand behind me and smile every time I had to have meetings with other lords and ladies. Or anyone I wanted to do something. I think that would pretty much for the job.


Good help is hard to find in Exit the Dragon, the latest book from Heide Goody and Iain Grant in which the wizard, Newport Pagnell, and the city’s privy council have to work out how to rebuild the capital once the dragon and the dragon queen have gone.

Pick up your copy here.

Posted in 2019, Books, Interviews

Who should be king or queen of Westeros, eh?

The imperious Heide Goody feels she and Baby belong on the iron throne.

Of course, we’re talking about Games of Thrones here. The final series of the immensely popular HBO series caused some viewers some deep irritation and lot of Game of Thrones fans weren’t happy with which character got to rule over Westeros at the end of the television series. In the second blog in our series, we asked a bunch of writers to tell us who they would have crowned king or queen.


Obviously, there are spoilers ahead…!


RE McLean (author of the Multiverse Investigations books)

I would have made Hodor king. His ability to repeat the same thing over and over again despite the fact that no one knows what he’s on about would eventually wear the small council down and he’d get his way every time (this is a skill I imagine Teresa May wishes she’d had).

Anna Stephens (author of the Godblind trilogy – Bloodchild, is available to pre-order now)

Hands down, the new king has to be Tyrion. Varys would have done well, but obviously he’s just a charcoal briquette now. Tyrion would genuinely have run the kingdoms brilliantly. I think he too would have ceded the North back to the Starks. But he’s clever and experienced enough to calm all the tensions, reward those who need it, and these days, jaded enough not to listen to simpering sycophants.

Jacey Bedford (author of the Psi-Tech series and the Rowankind series)

They should have crowned Gendry. Because he knows the common people and, though he has little experience of ruling, he would appoint Tyrion and Davos as joint Hands of the King. Sadly he still won’t get Arya Stark as his lady, but I’m sure that in time he’ll find a nice little princess from Dorne who will bear him many children who will be brought up sensibly, educated by Samwell and Brienne, and not spoiled rotten.

Justin Lee Anderson (author of comedy fantasy Carpet Diem)

Jon. Anyone who actually wants to be a king should be banned from being one. He’d have been the angstiest king in history, but he’d have been just and decent, like his fatheruncle. And maybe Tyrion would have rediscovered his tactical nous in time to help him make fewer stupid decisions that left him needing rescued by his sistercousins.

Iain Grant (comedy writer and co-author of Exit the Dragon)

What are monarchs for? Are they there to rule wisely or to just look pretty on a throne and make sure the other nobles don’t get any funny ideas about taking over. Gendry Baratheon (son of King Robert) and Tyrion Lannister (uncle to King Tommen) have reasonable claims to the throne. One would make a handsome king, the other would be wise. Would either of them have been accepted by the nobles of the land? No. The people want someone highborn, good with a sword and with a fine sense of justice. All hail Queen Brienne of Tarth. She’d be bloody brilliant.

Steve McHugh (author of urban fantasy series, The Hellequin Chronicles and The Avalon Chronicles.)

Jon Snow is the obvious choice seeing how it certainly seemed to have meant to be him. Tyrion is my personal choice though, just because he was meant to always be the smartest man in the room, even if the writers seemed to forget that.

Garrie Fletcher (author of Submerged)

I’d have put one of the many prostitutes that were constantly used throughout the series on the throne – Let’s see how Westeros likes being screwed by them!

And if your monarch of choice was placed upon the throne what should their first royal decrees should be? What should they do to heal and repair their ravaged kingdom?


Fresh water is a priority. They’d need it to fight disease etc. but most importantly, they all needed a good wash – especially with all that ash/snow floating around.


We have a decent historical precedent of our own in the form of the Great Fire of London. If that taught us anything, the destruction of the metropolis is an opportunity to rebuild your city as you would want it. Wide boulevards, good sewers, impressive civic buildings. It also give you a chance to put in power structures- do you want the priesthood to be swept aside? Or do you want to use them as a tool to shepherd the masses.
Also, a big fire is a great incentive to introduce people to the important business of home and contents insurance.
While you’re doing all this, it would be a good idea to keep an eye out for crafty foreigners who might try to take advantage of your weak situation and invade.


Use the surrendered enemy soldiers – Unsullied etc – to provide the manual labour to rebuild the city so the victors could see they were being punished and not just languishing in jail getting three squares while everyone else is cold and hungry. Reach out to High Garden for emergency rations and the Iron Islands for seafood. Come down hard on hoarding and theft, as these will be a big problem – thieves sent to the Wall etc (would also make that open to women as the whole ‘boys only club’ is stupid). Issue proclamations of peace throughout the kingdoms and promises to hear complaints once the initial crisis is out of the way.

Kit Power (horror, crime, and sci-fi author)

Eat the rich. I’d make a lousy Hand of the King :/ .


I suppose you have the advantage of not having to worry too much about rotting corpses in the street, since they’ve all been crispy fried. So that’s something. You also need less food, what with half the city being dead, and most of the invading forces buggering off (where *did* the inexplicably regenerating Dothraki go?). Cleaning up seems like a good idea. Rebuilding the walls, ensuring food supplies, all that kind of stuff. But in truth, considering we’ve just seen how completely shafted you are if a dragon decides to attack your city, and that we’ve seen well established magics used by the Lord of Light, while the Old Gods and the Seven appear to have done bugger all whatsoever when their worshippers were either being slaughtered by wights or toasted in the street, I think a proclamation making the Lord of Light the official religion of the country would be a pretty decent start. All hail the Lord of Light!


My first act? To abdicate and let someone else deal with it. Hand of the King, out. Peace!


Good rulers are in short supply in Exit the Dragon, the latest book from Heide Goody and Iain Grant in which the wizard, Newport Pagnell, and the city’s privy council have to work out how to rebuild the capital once the dragon and the dragon queen have gone.

Pick up your copy here.

Posted in 2019, Books, Interviews

How should you defend your city from dragons?

Of course, we’re talking about Games of Thrones here. The final series of the immensely popular HBO series caused some viewers some deep irritation and we’re here to address that. In the first of a series of blogs, we take a look at that all-important issue: how should you defend your capital city from a dragon-queen and her army?

Obviously, there are spoilers ahead…!

So, the battle for King’s Landing was less of a battle and more of a one-side massacre. We asked a bunch of writers how they would have done things differently if they’d been Queen Cersei.

Steve McHugh (author of urban fantasy series, The Hellequin Chronicles and The Avalon Chronicles.)

Firstly, I probably wouldn’t have made the dragon-riding queen angrier by murdering her friend. That seems like a bad decision. I would have also made my dragon-killing machines load quicker, and capable of turning 180 degrees. The dragon seems like he had a fairly easily time of avoiding what had before then been a serious threat.

Anna Stephens (author of the Godblind trilogy – Bloodchild, is available to pre-order now)

I wouldn’t have cut off Missandei’s head like a dork. However, if I HAD cut off Missandei’s head and thus brought down dragon-fire on my people, I wouldn’t be throwing stupid big arrows at the dragon. I’d get out my trebuchets and stark chucking wildfire at that bloody lizard. I’d also be wildfiring the enemy, with a particular emphasis on Jon as, with Missandei dead, he’s Dany’s only other weak point. If I could get her to fly down to save Jon, I’d then concentrate all my firepower on Dany and the dragon. Big nets! I’d use big nets.

Kit Power (horror, crime, and sci-fi author)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because Cersei, in common with almost every single other major player in the show, suffered a gigantic IQ plummet in the final season. It turns out her entire plan for defeating the dragon was to stare at it while doing The Eyebrow (which, sure, has served her well to this point, but come on).
And the solution is obvious; don’t defend King’s Landing. Send your army up after Jaime, and hit Winterfell as soon as the White Walkers fall. You’re taking out the enemy at their weakest, and you can even re-write the history afterwards to make yourself the saviour of Westeros. Sure, it’s a high-risk strategy, but I still think it was the way to go – and worse, I think Cersei would have thought of it.

Iain Grant (comedy writer and co-author of Exit the Dragon)

I think Cersei should have just been glad the dragon didn’t attack at night. Dragonfire coming out of the dark would have been nearly impossible to counter. As it was, she faced a nearly overwhelming aerial assault. I don’t think Qyburn could have knocked up some barrage balloons so, instead, she probably needed a smoke screen: burn piles of damp wood along all the city walls to blind the dragon.
Also, the scorpion ballista things were great but too few and too unwieldy. She should have equipped and trained every citizen in King’s Landing with the longbow. I don’t reckon that dragon would have stood much chance against Henry V’s Agincourt army!
Failing all that, she should have played the long game, abandoned the city and then killed and poisoned every sheep, cow and deer within a hundred miles and just wait for the dragons to die of fatal indigestion.

Joel Hames (crime fiction writer and author of the Sam Williams series)

Set a trap. Herd the populace into King’s Landing and then use the tunnels and catacombs beneath the city to hide the cream of my troops and my all-important self. I would sacrifice the civilians and the mercenaries to dragon fire, and when the triumphant forces arrive, and the dragon finally lands, blow the whole place up with wildfire. Sure, King’s Landing will be a ruin, but it’ll be my ruin, and that’s what counts.

Justin Lee Anderson (author of comedy fantasy Carpet Diem)

Cersei blew her chance. The time to attack was when she held Missandei, and Dany came to parlay. Drogon was grounded, her armies were knackered from the battle of Winterfell and the Northmen were weeks away from arriving on foot. She may as well have rolled over and exposed her belly at that point. The only chance Cersei really had was to bugger the rules of parlay and kill them all there and then. Have the scorpions ready to target Drogon at some subtle signal, and the archers to target Dany, who seems to think she has dragon’s hide, wandering around a battlefield in a pretty dress. They were behind the walls of King’s Landing, they had the fresh Golden Company and the rested Lannister army – if they had taken out Dany and Drogon, they were easy winners. For some reason, Cersei decided that while blowing up the entire Sept was a perfectly reasonable way to take out the High Sparrow, breaking the rules of parlay when your deadly enemy sits her nuclear weapon right in front of you is just a step too far. Also, though, she was arrogant. Clearly failing to understand physics, she believed her scorpions made her invulnerable to dragon fire. And people complained that Tyrion made stupid decisions in the final seasons!

Jacey Beford (author of the Psi-Tech series and the Rowankind series)

If I’m Cersei, and if I have a modicum of common sense, I won’t try to defend King’s Landing against a fire breathing dragon AND a superior army. I’d leave Qyburn in charge and I’d be heading for the nearest unobtrusive (but comfortable) boat with a bucket of gold, jewels and (hopefully) my best brother. I would skulk in a hidden cove until all danger of being flamed from above by Drogon has passed. I would, of course, have laid very nasty (explosive) traps as revenge for losing my hold on the Seven Kingdoms. Should Qyburn and the Golden Company prevail I will, of course, slip back into the Red Keep again as unobtrusively as I left. I have already stashed a large amount of Lannister gold with the Iron Bank of Bravos against such an eventuality.

David Watkins (author of the werewolf novel Original’s Return)

I wouldn’t try to defend the city. I’d open the gates and welcome them all in. Once inside, I’d poison Daenerys at the victory feast and conspire to make it look like one of the Starks had done it (Sansa would do). My evidence would be devious and compelling. Jon would be overcome with grief at losing his Queen and would go along with the needed execution of Sansa. That way, it would echo the first series, with Sansa’s head rolling to signify the end of the Game, like Ned’s rolling started it.

RE McLean (author of the Multiverse Investigations books)

Given that I clearly have an inexhaustible supply of wine (and the grapes to make it), I would pelt the dragon with grapes until it gets very annoyed, then soak it with wine using my secret water cannon I’ve been hiding in Fleabottom. When the dragon crashes drunkenly into the tower of the Red Keep, I would get my brother to push it out of the window.


Such sound military strategy is nowhere to be seen in Exit the Dragon, the latest book from Heide Goody and Iain Grant in which the wizard, Newport Pagnell, and the city’s privy council have to work out how to rebuild the capital once the dragon and the dragon queen have gone.

Pick up your copy here.

Posted in 2019, Books

Book Restoration: a story

Have you ever wondered what is involved in a book restoration?

I grew up with this cookery book. It holds the recipes of my childhood. I’m not so keen on liver, but you can see from the stains that we ate it a lot.

liver casserole

The book was in a very sorry state.

Badly damaged Good Housekeeping cookery book Badly damaged Good Housekeeping cookery book inside

There was hardly a single page that wasn’t damaged

Damaged page of Good Housekeeping cookery bookTorn page of Good Housekeeping cookery bookTorn page of Good Housekeeping cookery book


This is not a valuable book…unless you grew up with it, and knew that your mother won it as a school prize many years ago

Book prize plate and missing page

So I asked a book restorer to look at it.

I was very keen that it should retain its history. I didn’t want it to be pristine.

Apparently it was not a lost cause, but it did need a lot of work.

How the book looks after restoration

I picked the book up today and it is a wonderful thing to behold…

spine and front of book

Not only is it all back in one piece, it is readable and usable, while still retaining the characterful stains!

Book with characterful stains

So how did this all happen?

Techniques used

Japanese paper

Japanese paper used to mend a tearJapanese paper

This is Japanese paper and it was used here to repair a tear.

It’s such delicate stuff that in order to put paste on it, the book restorer told me that she applies the paste to a piece of glass and then dabs the paper carefully onto it

Tissue paper

tissue paper on spine edges of pagestissue paper

Many of the pages were damaged at the spine, so they have been reinforced with tissue paper

Linen spine

spine and front of book

The book has a spine! Not only that, but it’s a gorgeous linen spine.

Where did the lettering come from? We’ll come back to that…

Cloth headbands and a light trim

The book didn’t have these cloth headbands originally, but they add a lovely touch.

The pages were all very damaged at the edges, so in order to consolidate the paper and protect them in the future, the sides and the bottom have had a very small trim. The top is untrimmed, so it retains the same look as before.

New cloth applied


Can you tell that there is some new cloth applied here?

It’s been blended so skillfully.

Apparently there are two techniques used for this.

One is “bookbinder’s powder”: the dust from the top of a door! 

The other, which is used here, is acrylic paint.

paint samples

Missing pages restored

Book plate and a facing page that I don't ever remember seeing

The page on the right was completely missing.

I can’t remember ever seeing it (the book has been falling apart for a long time)

So where did it come from?

Donor book

Some of the materials like the spine and the missing pages came from another copy of the book.

It also donated some of the cloth.

This has to be removed with the greatest of care, as it’s heavily starched, and if it gets wet then it is ruined.

To remove it, the technique is to cut around the edges and gently loosen with a scalpel.

Then, using a sturdy cardboard tube as support, it’s rolled / prised away from the board.


Do I feel bad that another book had to die for this project?

No. It’s not a sought-after or valuable book, and it gave its life so that this much-treasured copy can live on.

It’s back home now, just in time to make Easter biscuits if we want to!

recipe for Easter biscuits

Posted in 2019, Books, Reflections Tagged with: ,

Submissions call for Horror Road Trip

Have you ever wanted to go and visit a place that features in a much-loved film or TV show? Perhaps you’ve deliberately sought them out. This year, after attending WorldCon in Dublin in August, I hope to be able to travel up to Northern Ireland for a few days and visit some of the castles and exterior locations used in the Game of Thrones TV series.

I’ve also accidentally found myself in film locations from time to time. In 2016, my wife and I were in Greenwich in London and, rather than marvelling at the naval museum and the art galleries, I abruptly realised that we were stood on the exact spot where the dark elf ship crashed to earth in Thor 2: The Dark World. I immediately forced my poor beloved to do her best impression of said ship so I could take a photo of her. She puts up with a lot.


But what about locations from books? I attended the Fantasycon convention in Scarborough a couple of years ago and on the day the convention ended, my family took a short trip up the coast to Whitby and the famous Whitby Abbey. I asked my youngest (twelve at the time) what spooky character Whitby Abbey was associated with. She took one look and said, “Scooby Doo?” How was she to know? She hadn’t read Dracula and didn’t know the town’s strong if fictional link to that wonderful vampire tale.

Whitby Abbey – FAMOUSLY associated with Scooby Doo.


Our country plays a part in thousands of stories and, whether they know it or not, many towns, cities, hills and secluded spots have had pivotal roles in great tales. Heide and I feel that the landscape is at its most evocative and meaningful when used in tales of horror and stories of the supernatural. That’s why we’ve started a new on-line project which we’re calling the Horror Road Trip.

We’re gathering together novels and short stories of horror and putting them on the map. Literally. Our aim is to create an interactive Google map full of pins and, at each one, we want to share an excerpt from the story and have the author tell us all a little bit about that location and what role in played in their story. Visitors to the on-line map will then only be a click away from ordering their own copy of the author’s book.

Yes, it might be a little bit late for Bram Stoker to tell us why he chose Whitby for Dracula’s landing spot on this island but we think we will soon have a fascinating map of locations that have inspired some of the best tales in dark fiction. And who knows? Maybe one day Heide and I will leap in a little campervan and go on that dark road trip, following the trail of horror stories across the United Kingdom.

Interested writers can contact us at for further details.

Posted in 2019, Writing Tagged with: , , , , ,

Blog Tours: an explanation

Last week I was at a meeting at Writing West Midlands. I was asked to explain blog tours because some of the people present weren’t familiar with them. I’m quite sure I didn’t do the subject full justice, so I thought I’d write a brief blog about the experiences that I’ve had with them.

A blog tour is a virtual tour that your book goes on, and each stop on the tour is hosted by a book blogger. When you organise a blog tour you decide how long it’s going to be, perhaps a week, and then you try to find bloggers who will mention, review, or host some content about your book on their site. They are used by independent publishers, small presses and traditional publishers.

There is usually a banner which is the equivalent of a flyer or a poster that you might see for a real-life tour. It lists all of the stops and the dates for your blog tour and has the artwork of your book cover built into it.

Blog tour banner for A Spell in the Country

Blog tour banner for “A Spell in the Country”. This blog tour took place a few months ago

It is possible to organise your own blog tour if you’re in touch with lots of book bloggers. Otherwise, you might ask a blog tour organiser to do this for you. They will normally charge you a nominal fee, and some will include the design of the banner in the price.

I’ve just booked a blog tour for an upcoming release. The book is called A Heart in the Right Place, and the blog tour will take place in January.

Book cover for A Heart in the Right Place

A Heart in the Right Place

Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources is the organiser who has filled the tour spaces for this book. We’ve also been lucky enough to enough to have a tour organised for us by Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers.

For this latest blog tour, I sent Rachel the cover and description of the book, the sort of content that we are prepared to write for people’s blogs, and the number of paperback copies that we can provide. Rachel then contacted lots of bloggers and the tour soon filled up. We have 25 bloggers taking part and 17 of them will review the book, which is wonderful.

Sometimes bloggers might like to include an extract from the book, sometimes we might write them a brief article that relates to the content of the book or the way that we went about writing it. Sometimes it’s just the review, but there is always fresh content for anyone who drops in on various blog tour stops.

So what are the benefits of having a blog tour? It’s a concentrated burst of activity on social media that features your book. The blogging community are an amazingly friendly and cooperative bunch, and they all share each other’s posts so you can be sure that lots of people will see your book over the course of the tour. It really raises the profile of your book and of course lots of people will become familiar with the cover because it will appear on social media multiple times.

Bloggers and blog tour organisers are the rock-star influencers of the online book-buying world and their impact cannot be underestimated.

In the meeting where this came up were several small poetry presses, and the question arose of whether poetry books ever went on blog tours. I asked Rachel on Twitter and she said that she’d seen Anne Cater of Random Things Through My Letterbox do blog tours for poetry books so the answer is yes.

If anyone is reading this and wonders whether they ought to try a blog tour for their book then I would urge them to give it a go. It’s generally the case that you’d organise a blog tour for a new book, but they are equally useful for a relaunch or to boost sales of an existing book.

Posted in 2018 Tagged with: , , , , ,

Baby’s Fantasycon 2018

Baby got back from Fantasycon in Chester, very happy to have mingled with old friends and new. Here is Baby’s account, as written up by Heide.


Baby and I arrived in Chester just after 3pm on Friday afternoon. Friday was our busy day, so I went to the bar to look for the other people on the Hysterical Fiction panel. I found Richard Webb and Justin Lee Anderson without too much trouble and we got to the panel room for the 4:30 panel and met Duncan P Bradshaw.

Fantasycon panel: Heide Goody, Duncan Bradshaw, Richard Webb, Justin Anderson

Hysterical Fiction panel: Heide Goody, Duncan Bradshaw, Richard Webb and Justin Lee Anderson

Richard had given us some homework, and so we each read a brief passage from a funny book and commented on it. Justin read from Good Omens, which is such a classic that you could dissect it for hours on end, but Justin pointed out some of the sentence level techniques. Duncan read from Larry by Adam Millard, commenting on the wildness (and the similarity to his own family). I read a piece from Second Coming by John Niven, which sets out the stall for the reader, so that they can anticipate all of the fun stuff that is going to happen in the rest of the novel.
There was lots of great discussion and the audience asked some really interesting questions.
Justin and I were also doing a reading soon afterwards, so I went down to the restaurant, to ask if I could borrow a high chair for Baby. I didn’t exactly lie to them, but I didn’t correct them when they wrongly assumed that I was a guest in the hotel and I planned to feed a real baby in my room.

Fantasycon reading Iain Grant, Heide Goody, Justin Lee Anderson

Iain Grant, Baby, Heide Goody, Justin Lee Anderson

The third person in our reading slot was Iain, so I was keeping tabs on how close to Chester he was, as Justin and I would read a long piece or a short piece, depending on whether he was likely to make it in time. I read a story containing a protagonist whose actions are influenced by a creepy baby doll. People sometimes want to know where writers get ideas from, but it’s very tricky to pin down where some of these things come from. I mean, who would go round with a creepy doll in real life?
As it happened, Iain made it exactly in time to do his reading, entering the room with a dramatic flourish and then reading an extract from the new Clovenhoof’s Diary.
We had a short gap to inhale some chips in the bar and then it was time to moderate the Self Publishing panel.

Fantasycon panel: Iain Grant, Steve McHugh, Heide Goody, Ritchie Valentine Smith, Rachel McLean

Self publishing panel: Iain Grant, Steve McHugh, Heide Goody, Ritchie Valentine Smith, Rachel McLean

We had an interesting range of experience on the panel. Steve McHugh had moved from self publishing to traditional publishing, Ritchie Valentine Smith and Rachel McLean are early on in their journey and Iain and I have self published since 2012. Because of this, it was a very practical panel, with lots of hints, tips and ideas about where money needs to be spent.


Iain and I ran a workshop in the morning called “Fractal Writing”. It’s a very condensed version of the plot and story workshop that we sometimes run, with the added bonus of having a tactile element to it, because all participants make a piece of garish artwork so that they can break down their plot onto the stuck-on shapes and use it as an aide-memoir or just to explore the plot in a more visual way. The redcoats were very helpful when we got to the room and there were no tables laid out, and it was soon sorted. It’s a challenge for ten people to each work on a giant piece of paper, even with plenty of table space, but everyone showed great resourcefulness in using other surfaces and the workshop was great fun.
The stationery box that we carried back down from the workshop included a pack of googly eyes, so the conversation inevitably turned to the story of the city of Savannah where officials warned against people defacing statues with googly eyes.
Imagine our surprise when we noticed that the owl next to us had a Zorro mask with googly eyes on it.

Statue of owl with Zorro mask

Owl sporting a Zorro mask

A statue in the garden had a googly eye wink going on, but Baby denied any involvement.


Statue with one googly eye

Statue with one googly eye

Next up was Iain moderating the Religion in Genre Fiction panel. This was a very popular panel, and the panellists did a great job of exploring a huge topic.

While I was paying close attention to the discussion I found a tiny dragon on the floor. It kept very still when I picked it up and posted on the Fantasycon Facebook page. I passed it to the registration desk and happily it was reunited with its handler later in the day.

Fantasycon panel Religion in Genre Fiction: Terry Grimwood, Marion Pitman, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Naomi Foyle, Tasha Suri, Iain Grant

Religion in Genre Fiction: Terry Grimwood, Marion Pitman, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Naomi Foyle, Tasha Suri, Iain Grant


Dragon found unsupervised in panel room

On my way to the Alchemy press launch I bumped into Jen Williams and Anna Smith Spark. Jen had a cuddle with Baby, which was almost certainly how she came to win the best fantasy novel in the BFS awards the next day; nothing to do with it being a great novel or anything.

Jen Williams cuddles Baby

Jen Williams cuddles Baby. Probably as great as winning best fantasy novel. Probably.

Baby dug straight into the stories once we’d bought a copy of the Alchemy Press book of Horrors and it had emerged from the spin cycle of the authors all sitting in a circle, signing books until they got dizzy.

Alchemy Press Book of Horrors

Alchemy Press Book of Horrors

Rio Youers suggested that Baby was related to Jim McLeod. He might have a point.

Baby with "Gingernuts of Horror" Jim McLeod

Baby with “Gingernuts of Horror” Jim McLeod

Baby was left behind when we went out for an actual meal, which was fabulous after just inhaling snacks in passing for previous meals. We went to Istanbul, a Turkish restaurant, and had some amazing mezze.

When we got back it was time for a late night panel. Iain, Justin Lee Anderson and Richard Webb were discussing Film Comedies in Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction.


Fantasycon panel Film Funnies: Justin Lee Anderson, Richard Webb, Iain Grant

Film Funnies: Justin Lee Anderson, Richard Webb, Iain Grant

It was a fascinating and lively discussion and I strenuously deny the cruel allegation that I fell asleep in the middle of it. I was just resting my eyes.


Sunday morning was time for a stroll amongst the bizarre statues in the hotel’s garden. More than one person stopped in the adjacent corridor to bang on the glass and indicate that I should be locked up for my own safety.

Lion and Baby Cherubs
Then it was time for the panel on Starting Out Writing Genre Fiction with Steven Poore, Rachel McLean, G V Anderson, Peter Haynes and Tasha Suri.

Fantasycon panel: Peter Haynes, GV Anderson, Rachel McLean, Steven Poore

Starting writing genre fiction panel: Peter Haynes, G V Anderson, Rachel McLean, Steven Poore (Tasha Suri turned up after I took the photo, sorry)

This was an engaging discussion about how the panellists had found their various paths into publishing, with lots of audience questions.
Baby sensed that it was almost time to go home, and was determined not to be put back in the tote bag. Joanne Harris was kind enough to agree to have a picture taken and now I think she will have to put this on the back of her next book, because the “classic pose with creepy doll” is very much in fashion amongst BFS award winners.

Joanne Harris with Baby

Joanne Harris cuddles Baby

Had we seen the last of mad creepy statues as we drove away from Chester? We thought so, until we saw this and had to stop the car to stare at it properly.

Apparently it’s part of Snugbury’s ice cream park

Giant Peter Rabbit statue

Giant Peter Rabbit statue

Posted in 2018, Events, Genre Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing conventions to get excited about

What’s the collective noun for a whole load of writers?
It’s a convention – yay!
The fun times during the year when lots of genre writers get together to exchange best practice and sing bad karaoke.
It has dawned on me recently that we have a slew of fabulous events on the horizon, so I put them into a calendar to see how busy things were going to get.
If you want to join me in getting excited about them, then firstly, feast your eyes on the picture:

Calendar showing upcoming conventions

Conventions are already crowding out the calendar for next year

My list. Not exhaustive!

There are many literary festivals and fun events that I haven’t included on here. 
That really isn’t a reflection on what I think about them and whether or not I’m going to them. 
This list is based on upcoming events that have fixed dates and that I am looking forward to.


19th – 21st October 2018
The Queen Hotel, Chester, UK

Panels, readings, workshops and most importantly of all, seeing lots of familiar faces.


24th November 2018, 10am-6pm
The Quad, Derby, UK

A one-day midlands-based genre convention. This is the Christmas version of Edge-Lit which happens in the summer.

Stokercon 2019

9th-12th May 2019
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

A horror convention, with a similar format to Fantasycon.
It’s unlikely that I will get to this, but I would really like to.
I went to Stokercon 2017 and I can’t wait to go to another!

Collectormania Birmingham

1st – 2nd June 2019
The NEC Birmingham, UK

Not a writers convention. This is a Comicon-style event.
Has “small press alley” which is where Iain and I will be selling books.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

18th -21st July 2019
Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

I’ve never been to this one, but for the last couple of years my Facebook timeline has lit up with all the fun that people are having.
There’s a very good chance that the fear of missing out will make sure that I am there in 2019

20Books Edinburgh

25th – 31st July 2019
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland
This is a conference centred around self-published marketing.
Organised by the Facebook group 20BooksTo50K®, it brings some of self-publishing’s biggest hitters to our shores.


15th – 19th August 2019
Convention Centre, Dublin, Ireland
A science fiction convention. Looks as though it will be fantastic.

Stokercon 2020

16th – 19th April 2020
Scarborough, UK

The news that Stokercon 2020 is coming to the UK is beyond thrilling!


Hoping that I’ll bump into lots of you at these events, and that I have the stamina to make it through them all!

Posted in 2018, Events Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Creepy Dolls (and how this one demanded to have stories written about it)

The Uncanny Valley

You may have come across the concept of the “uncanny valley”. This is the strangeness that humans perceive when something is very close to resembling a human, but isn’t quite right. The reason for it being described as a valley is because our acceptance of human-like forms goes up and up as things get more realistic until they reach a critical point where they horrify us. This dip in the graph is the valley.
This phenomenon is seen in waxworks, animations and robotics, and also in newer technologies that seek to immerse us into various kinds of virtual reality. Can you spot it in our virtual reality book trailer?

Creepy Dolls

It is however something that you can find much closer to home: dolls. Why do we find dolls creepy? There is something especially dreadful about a doll, which is after all intended to resemble a human baby, that is aged or damaged in some way.
Creepy dolls occupy a special place in the horror pantheon. I especially like them because they can also be funny. There was an outbreak of dolls planted into potholes in Swindon recently. 

There are companies and individuals who specialise in customising dolls to be a unique and horrific companion or ornament.


I have my own horrific companion. I acquired Baby around three years ago when Iain and I launched Beelzebelle, a book containing a baby. It seemed as though it would be a fun thing to get a baby doll and take some photographs with it. I went to the tip shop, one of my favourite places, and asked them if they had any baby dolls. They’d put this particular doll aside, with the thought of listing it on eBay because it was a reborn doll, and they can be quite costly and collectible. I can see why they might have hesitated to list this one though, because Baby has seen some trauma. Missing eyelashes on one eye, strange gouges on its face and the strangest, wildest tendrils of hair matted on top.

Face of Baby: the original creepy doll

The face of Baby

Baby is also dressed in a grubby pink romper suit, which is probably not how it left the factory.
As soon as I saw Baby I knew it was the doll for me. When I started taking pictures, it became clear that baby looks even more horrific when photographed. Baby started to come with me to writing events and family get-togethers. Baby met George RR Martin, he of Game of thrones fame, and numerous other writers.

George RR Martin with Baby

George RR Martin with Baby

F Paul Wilson with Baby

F Paul Wilson with Baby

Baby with Iain Grant

Iain Grant with Baby

It soon became clear that Baby was sticking around and became somewhat notorious on my Facebook timeline and among real life friends.

Baby tries yoga

Baby tries yoga

Baby Fiction

Would it be possible to write Baby into some stories? Baby lent itself to being a passive villain and an enabler for foolishness and stupidity and so we decided to team up Baby with some characters that we’d used in a short story we’d written as a playful tribute to PG Wodehouse.

Faithful butler James lives with his mildly idiotic master Rupert in modern day Birmingham. What would happen if we introduced Baby into the mix? It turns out that it’s a really entertaining dynamic and one that we have revisited for several more short stories. We will be releasing them shortly as two short collections: Right you are Baby! and Thank you Baby!
We can reveal the covers for these to you now, created for us by Mike Watts.

Book cover showing two men and a Baby Book cover showing two men and a Baby

Posted in 2018, Books, Writing