2012 – A Review

Posted: January 1, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

So 2012 is over. It wasn’t a bad year, here in the Hamilton household. Yes there were tears and tantrums but we’ve definitely experienced worse.

On the positive side, new friends have been made; my publication success percentage has increased; I have an editor willing to carry out her promises; I’ve had a battery inserted into my backside and wires lodged against my spine; my painkiller numbers are down (by 4 tablets per day); yet more tests have been carried out on my soldiers and now I’ve been the all clear (until next time).

On the negative side, I’ve discovered some people’s true colours; I’ve been left infuriated by the lack of manners and high number of broken promises; my short story collection got put back again; I missed by first F’con for a few years; we suffered two failed attempts at egg donation.

On the whole, good and bad balanced each other out. Yin and yang in perfect matrimony. However it would be nice if this year there were a few more positives: a healthy baby and a publishing deal would make 2013 as near as perfect as possible.

But we’ll see.

Anyway, here’s a list of my favourites over the last 12 months:

Best movies:

1. House of Tolerance (a French film about a Parisian brothel during the late 18th century / early 19th. Remarkable film making)

2. The Dark Knight Rises (some people have claimed it a let down – get a grip! At the risk of being controversial, I thought it the best of the 3. Why? Because it was less Frank Millar, more Grant Morrison, whose Batman of recent years have been little short of phenomenal. Millar’s work over recent years has been abysmal. Don’t believe me? Read All Star Batman & Robin. there is no way an artist like Jim Lee should ever be associated with such atrocious writing).

3. Sleeping Beauty (just beautiful – with an amazing performance by Emily Browning)

Best novels:

1. Silent Voices by Gary McMahon (Concrete Grove shows no sign of mellowing)

2. Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason (bleak, disturbing visions of Reykjavik)

3. Bravo Jubilee by Charlie Owen (simply hilarious)

Best graphic novels:

1. Batman & Robin – Batman Reborn; Batman Vs Robin; Batman & Robin Must Die by Grant Morrison (all 3 are masterpieces in depravity, action, dialogue, characterisation and hope)

2. Kiki De Montparnasse by Catel & Bocquet (the moving and inspirational story of Alice Prin, aka Kiki, the French model most famous for working with photographer Man Ray)

3. Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams (the newest member of the bat family is one of the most intriguing for a generation – and the artwork is simply outstanding

Best reference reads:

1. Erotic Comics volumes 1 & 2 (a history of every *important* erotic comic strip and artist over the last 100+ years)

2. X-Rated: Adventures of an Exploitation Filmmaker by Stanley Long (the autobiography of the man behind the ‘Adventures’ movies)

3. Behind the Scene at the BBFC (a fascinating look at Britain’s infamous cinema censors)

Best photography collection:

1. Suicide Girls: Beauty Redefined by Missy Suicide and Various (and when it says beauty redefined, what it actually means is beauty ignorant of standard conventions – and is all the better for it)

2. Le Petite Mort by Santillo (the confidence the women subjects exude in this collection is infectious)

3. Naked Ambition by Michael Grecco (photographs of quotes from some of America’s most famous – or infamous – porn stars. Fascinating)

Biggest pile of excrement:

1. ITV2

2. The rising cost of graphic novels

3. The Dandy going out of print

Future plans:

1. Finish writing my latest attempt towards a publishing deal

2. Reading some of those books I claim to have read but haven’t really

3. More on this blog

Obviously there are more to add to this list – in fact, to all the lists – but I figure that’s enough for now. If you’re not already bored then you soon will be if I carry on.

Here’s to 2013, people. May it bring you the joys you long for and banish the horrors you dread. Stay young. Stay healthy. Don’t hurt each other. And if you see me walking down the street, remember this: I’m a miserable sod so don’t be offended if I don’t see you (and at the same time, don’t be offended if I do see you and strike up a conversation).

Sweet dreams.

 

Ill At Ease II cover

It’s happened. I’ve something in print! Proper print. On Amazon and everything! It’s the first time in ages – for one reason or another that I am not going to go into – but the writing career has finally jump-started after the battery had gone flat.

The collection is called ILL AT EASE II. It’s made up of seven stories by seven different authors. As well as myself, there’s the amazing talent of:

Mark West – I’ve interviewed him so nip across to the INTERVIEWS section to see what he’s like – bloody marvellous is you’re wondering

Stephen Bacon – the next big thing

Val Walmsley – a genuine talent from my Conrad Williams’ Writing Group days

Neil Williams – Conrad’s cousin and proof that the talent gene runs through the Williams’ clan

Sheri White – who was also part of the writing group and at times issued forth work that had you checking your underwear to make sure there hadn’t been an accident

and

Robert Mammone – catching Steve Bacon up with that ‘big thing’ fish

My own story THE SHUTTLE is the most private, autobiographical story I believe I’ve ever written. It’s not about back pain, depression, architecture or abuse. It’s about a young couple’s desire and desperation to have a baby. You only have to look through this blog’s history to know what that means to me.

I’ve read a couple of reviews, both of which say it’s well written but the subject matter isn’t for them; that the story has two halves and that because it involves kids, then perhaps I’m trying too hard to shock. Well, there is no trying too hard to shock. In fact, there’s no desire to shock. This story is a bastardisation of my life and my nightmares. I had to get it down; get it out. Simple as that. The dreams were making me ill. Yes the story is purposely set up to have two different entities, one written in great depth; the other short, sharp and to the point. But no, this isn’t me trying too hard to shock. If I were doing that, I’d have swapped the writing styles round and put all of the description into the nightmare.

So please, go out and buy it. Find out what I mean by the story being written as two separate narratives. Discover why I believe my fellow writers are the dogs’ bollocks. Read about desperation, loss, hope, laughter, sex and despair. You’ll only regret it if you don’t because the whole book is amazing – and yes, I know I’m not one for self-praise but when you’re writing something personal it has to be brilliant in your own eyes or there’s no point in writing it.

Until next time (whenever the hell that’ll be…). Links are as follows…

Print Version (the perfect Christmas stocking filler and a snip at only £4.99):

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ill-At-Ease-Tales-Macabre/dp/1493514326/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386019749&sr=8-1&keywords=ill+at+ease+2

Kindle Version (good luck with wrapping this – but as it’s only £1.02, why bother)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ill-at-ease-Stephen-Bacon-ebook/dp/B00GQW8LE8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1386019749&sr=8-2&keywords=ill+at+ease+2

Working with the ridiculous

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

Today is a totally “I don’t believe what I’m hearing’ day. After having an argument with one my bosses who believes gay marriage is the same as incest, I just cannot be arsed anymore.

 

 

Department 19 The RisingIf I’m being honest, I can’t stand it when I see film posters in January and February saying “movie of the year”. How do they know nothing better will come along in a couple of months’ time? In June, at the start of the blockbuster season? In August, in the short season’s twilight? Or even in December? Surely they’re missing a couple of words at the start of their commendations. If they simply added “potentially the” to their reviews then an implausible opinion becomes something more credible.

Anyway, DEPARTMENT 19: THE RISING is potentially one of the best books of the year. Whilst I refuse to acknowledge it as the best I’m going to read this year – not with it being the 31st January, 2013 and my TBR pile still threatening to spill over and smother me in the night – I will say that whatever comes along and knocks this monster of a book off its pedestal has got to be very special. Very special indeed. It’s deep but it’s fast. It’s gory but it’s tender. It’s long but there’s no effort involved. You race through it like an F1 driver on a track day.

Admittedly, at 700+ pages, if this were the first book in the series I might never have read it. I’m getting a little tired of books over the 400 page mark. I’ve read a few in recent months that just haven’t been worth the effort. As stories and plots go they were okay up to a point, but once they hit the big four-zero-zero, they tumbled. At times it felt like the authors had a quota to fill. The biggest culprits in recent times were Lars Kepler with THE HYPNOTIST and Justin Cronin with THE PASSAGE. Both started off brilliantly. Magical pace; exquisite characterisation; delightful dialogue. But something happened along the way and they both slipped into a mire filled with 2-D characters, stupid action and snail-pace plotting – and as for the endings… I don’t know if they started to believe their own publicity, if writer’s block took over or if their editors had given up the ghost. Either way they could both learn a thing or two from Will Hill on how to write a long book properly.

The HypnotistThe Passage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE RISING’s narrative picks up not long after the events in the first book so if you haven’t read DEPARTMENT 19 but fancy THE RISING, then stop. Go back to the beginning. If you don’t then the majority of what takes place in THE RISING will be lost to you. Yes Will Hill does try to recap where possible but it’s never the same as experiencing the events themselves. It’s like talking to someone who went to a concert you were desperate to see and them telling you about it. The detail is missing. The experience is missing. The whole feel of the music, the crowd and the atmosphere is missing. So this isn’t a trilogy you can read out of order. It’s one to lasso yourself to at the very beginning.

As per the majority of my reviews I’ll try not to reveal spoilers. The  plot is relatively simple: Dracula has been given new life and Blacklight, the government department charged with protecting us from all things supernatural, has to stop him and his fellow vampires from achieving world domination. Told in 3rd person with our main protagonist the same as in book one, seventeen-year-old Jamie Carpenter has to deal with the responsibilities of being an officer in Blacklight whilst juggling friendships, relationships and a couple of vampires very close to his heart (somewhat ironic). Jamie is extremely believable. Full of teenage angst one minute he is brave, the next angry and the third close to tears. Yes he can be annoying at times and the way he deals with people can often have a lot to be desired, but he is a believable creation. Jamie carries the book with effortless ease – in truth, with all the things going on in his life, carrying this book is the easiest job of the lot!

So what has Will Hill done? He’s followed up his majestic debut with a book full of depth real emotion and outstanding action. It doesn’t bore and it doesn’t insult. Vampire fiction can often be insipid and downright ridiculous (you know what I’m talking about) but THE RISING is a mark above the rest. A bloody big mark.

And even if the final book in the trilogy in 400, 500, 6, 7 or 800 pages plus, I’ll be reading it.

Some reviews

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Reviews
Tags: , ,

EARTHBOUND by Richard Matheson

EARTHBOUND disappointed me.

I love Matheson. HELL HOUSE is so brilliant I cannot choose between it and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House for the best haunted house tale ever written. The praise for I AM LEGEND stretches far and wide – and whilst it is the third best vampire tale (behind Dracula and Salem’s Lot), for me the novel I had most fun with was STIR OF ECHOES. There were moments in there I actually wondered what the hell was wrong with my throat! Turns out I was so tense I had pulled the thing in on itself (not nice). Imagine how excited I was when I found this in a bookshop. I was looking forward to it.

Wish I hadn’t bothered.

An erotic ghost story should involve plenty of ghostly action and a decent amount of sex but there was barely any – and what little there was contained no warmth. The action was as cold as the derelict house into which the two protagonists holidayed (a second honeymoon to try and rekindle a failing marriage after the husband has an affair). The more I read, the more I couldn’t decide if Matheson had written the book in a rush or simply felt embarrassed by the need for sex. He does romance and the longing for a missing loved one extremely well – whether that’s because they’ve disappeared or their love has died – but I found myself wondering why the sex was so perfunctory. So robotic.

Perhaps it’s because all the characters were either annoying or reprehensible. Perhaps it’s because I found the setting difficult to conjure up in my head (on the coast during the cold season). I don’t know. I simply know this novel left me cold.

Frigging frozen actually.

 

KING RAT by China Mieville

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried China Mieville’s work. My first attempt was KRAKEN. It was easy enough to get into but every so often I would stumble on a word that would leave Samuel Johnson scratching his head. And rather than being able to skip past the word or the sentence, both seemed vital to the paragraph, page and chapter. So I moved on. But I liked what I read so made the decision to start at the very beginning.

I know the author’s work is placed on the Sci-Fi shelves but there’s a fair amount of horror in among these 400+ pages – some of it genuinely nasty. There’s a take on an underground murder that’s rather… interesting.

The big, scary words are there but they’re fewer and far between. This means you won’t need the dictionary so much and can enjoy the free-flowing style the author appears to a great practitioner of. The idea is a smart take on the Pied Piper of Hamelin and manages to make the conversion of man to rat seem genuinely believable. Scenes in which Saul discovers the truth behind his existence are compelling enough but the action scenes were a disappointment – especially the end battle which had the chance of being so much more but ended up with only one redeeming feature (no spoilers. you want to know, read it yourself and give the author his royalties). I don’t why the author chose to include a police procedure aspect to the plot because he abandons it halfway through. Whenever the detective appears in the latter half of the book it feels like a filler scene, summed up by the detective’s involvement being severed in the last chapter by an answering machine message. It felt like a square beg / round hole scenario.

On the whole, I wanted to like this book more than I did. I’ll read more Mieville but it probably won’t be for a while (it certainly won’t be in 2012 as I don’t like to read the same author twice in a year – there are simply too many new and good ones out there to enjoy). Perhaps if my expectations aren’t so high next time then I won’t be disappointed. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m blown away (there go those expectations again!).

 

 

The response to my last blog was bewildering. So much so, it’s difficult to put into words exactly how I feel (as if that’ll stop me!). For a start, I heard from people I never in my wildest dreams ever expected to pop up. People I hadn’t necessarily forgotten but simply never considered as someone willing to help. There is little more humbling for a man who has a potent disliking for the human race (and I do I really, really do) to discover there are so many folks out there with decent hearts encased in their rib cages. Whether it was because our story touched a nerve, people recongised something of us in themselves, they love Steph or – god forbid – they have a fondness for yours truly, I don’t really know or wish to guess. There are occasions when trying to be logical about things just doesn’t feel appropriate and this is one of those times. So I don’t know if they will ever read this (even with all of my advertising of this blasted blog) but I want to take a moment to personally thank a few people. In no particular order, they are:

Mark West – cheers for your good words and constant advertising of my blog on your own FB profile

Val Walmsley – thank you for your “if I were younger” comment and your continuous plugging of our plight

Georgi Billington – when you told me you wanted to do this for us I was so rocked I thought I had to be standing on an earthquake! Both Steph and I will always be grateful for someone so young even considering such a massive decision. And despite it not being possible yet, we will both be there for you should the situation change – even if it is on our behalf or not (as I know you have considered making a donation in the past)

Pat Baniowska – woman, you’re a star. I don’t understand how a 37 year-old-mother is less acceptable than a 20 year-old mother of none but rules are rules. Thank you for spreading our begging letter to your circle and your heartbeat comment – lovely! (and you’ll always be Fone to me!)

Kerry Morris-Thuriot – sorry for scaring you into thinking I wanted my ex-girlfriend to be the donor. Far from it. It was more a case of asking you to spread the news. But thank you for being so repulsed 😉

Liz McQuinn – I’ve never been called an inspiration before. Not sure it sits well on my shoulders but thank you for it.

Alun Aindow – Another man full of support for everything Steph and I are going through. Cheers, Bud.

But beyond these folks there is one special person I need to thank. One person who not only went the extra mile, but went the extra 500 miles – driving from Paderborn, Germany to our home in North Wales: Leanne Hamilton; sister-in-law; my brother’s wife and mother of my two nieces and nephew.

Back at the start of August, she drove across the countries to pay a visit to Liverpool Women’s Hospital where she partook in various tests and sat through numerous discussions, all with the intention of letting the hospital take stock of some of her eggs. It had been discussed for a while and after our plea, Leanne took it upon herself to get the ball rolling. She called the hospital, made a date and packed herself and the kids in the car. Three days later and she was back in Paderborn, shopping completed and blood removed.

While nothing in life is certain, it seems we might be inching our way towards success. Next week Leanne is back in the hospital, collecting results, exchanging information and possibly arranging a time for the collection. I don’t know if the hospital’s sudden willingness to call on Leanne’s services is because of her own eagerness or because of the publicity this situation is generating in the press at the moment we can’t be sure, but why question it? Take the good with the bad and move on.

(we saw the report on The One Show on Monday and it has to be said the woman who told reporters she wanted her own children to have a bond with the donor child carrying some of her DNA has got what we believe to be totally the wrong attitude. There should be a complete break in relations. Has to be. Otherwise, what is to stop that woman from trying to enforce her own parenting on the couple using her egg? Surely this woman is volunteering to be a donor to make herself feel good rather than helping the childless couple? Doing something as massive as donating eggs has to be a completely selfless act. If it isn’t, if the donor wants to be a ‘third parent’ to the child or insists on what should happen during its upbringing, there is always the threat of ‘if it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have any children…’)

So despite Steph and I telling her – and everyone else – how much her sacrifice means to us, it will be impossible for Leanne to truly understand because it’s impossible for us to truly convey. This isn’t like saything ‘thank you for that cup of sugar you lent me’ or ‘ta for that DVD of the two women doing that thing with their mug’ and yet the same phrase is used in all three situations. So they might only be two words which seem desperately inefficient but they hold so much and mean even more.

Normal hateful service will soon resume

WARNING: This blog will be different from my normal ramblings and is therefore suggested for mature readers only (by that I mean those who don’t titter at the thought of the male and female reproductive system).

 

This is less of a blog and more of a plea. An asking of a favour. It’s not an easy thing to ask and I do so with extreme trepidation but time and events move at an ever swifter pace and we – Steph and I – are tired of waiting for the former to run out and the latter to take over. Official channels are doing their best by us and we’re extremely grateful for how gracious we’ve been treated but their wheels move painfully slowly and if we don’t take the initiative while we can, it might be too late. So this is aimed directly at all of you ladies aged between 18 and 35, whether that be you or someone you know (or someone your someone might know etc).

 

What am I talking about? The problems with getting pregnant.

 

It’s plain and it’s simple. We’re desperate to have a baby. We want to start our own family but we can’t. After years of trying, copious amounts of tests on both of our bodies and failed IVF treatment, we have been told there is only one option left for us to have our own child: egg donation. You see, it turns out my soldiers are plentiful but lazy and, tragically, Steph has been told she isn’t able to conceive. She can carry full term but her body just will not let her mature the eggs required.

 

Admittedly we didn’t find this out until after the failed IVF treatment that almost killed Steph. Certain doctors tried to blame the failure on her lifestyle but it wasn’t until further tests were carried out that it was discovered the daily hormone injections I was told to give her were actually poisoning her liver. The fact she has recovered from a 90% failed liver to a 90+% healed and she is strong enough to go through with this after a doctor told me I should start organizing her funeral is something I am completely in awe of – and hence I’m immensely proud of her. This was the point when we were told the IVF was never going to work because certain hormones that cannot be given artificially were too low and always had been. This has been the only time we felt we had been failed by those in charge but there’s no point in using it as a stick to beat them with. We have to move on.

 

Right then. To avoid any confusion, I am not asking for all ladies to volunteer their eggs for us. That would be wrong for all parties on so many levels – especially emotionally and psychologically. But what I am asking is this: that you consider donating eggs to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital (or any other fertility hospital I suppose), saying you’re doing it to help us. This doesn’t mean we would be given your eggs specifically. In basic terms, they would be put in a pot and we would be given an anonymous egg.

 

I feel I’m not explaining myself too well, so bare with me. As I said, this isn’t an easy thing for us to do. And over editing might steal some of the emotion I need to get across.

 

The way the system has been explained to us is like this: We have been placed on an egg donation list. This was done 18 months ago. We were told we would move further up the list at a quicker rate if we were able to convince/ask/beg people to donate their eggs to the hospital on our behalf. It’s a point system, you see, and the more points you have, the shorter the waiting time, which at the moment, in the UK, is up to 6 years! We were 53rd six months ago, and we’re still 53rd today because there have been no donations of any kind in that time. Obviously the whole waiting scenario would be eradicated if the donor wished to give us the eggs directly but the emotional attachments and headfucks this could cause mean that we feel it’s better for all concerned that this is a no-no. Apparently the waiting list’s length isn’t because of the numbers on it but because of the lack of UK-donated eggs. It turns out that if we were in mainland Europe we would get an egg sorted straight away because they pay to all those willing to donate, which isn’t the case in the UK. We can go abroad for the procedure (we’ve been told by the hospital that they deal with Spain and Cypress and would act as the go-between on our behalf) and it would cost approximately £8000 whereas in the UK it’s going to cost half that much – which would mean we can afford more goes should the first attempt fail. But we would rather not go abroad. It has taken a long time for us to build up trust levels with the hospital and these would not be there anywhere else.

 

So what we’re asking is this: if you, or someone you know, or the friend of a friend of a friend, feel like you/they can help us with this, please contact us via reply or, if preferred, contact the hospital directly on our behalf. If you wish to do this, you need to speak to either Gill Hathaway or Maureen Richards at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital on 0151 702 4212 and mention our name.

 

As I’ve said, this is a really difficult thing we are asking of people. We do not expect anything. If no one replies, then no one replies. We will persevere as we always have. My brother’s wife and a friend of Steph’s have both kindly agreed to contact the hospital to discuss things and for this we are and forever will be grateful. We appreciate how big a deal it is. So there will be no animosity from us if people say no or don’t reply. Just understanding because it’s difficult to know how we would feel if being asked ourselves.

 

Cheers for your time. If you wish to discuss things in more detail, then contact me by reply and we can go talk on a one-to-one basis. If not, then enjoy your day.

 

Shaun and Steph