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ELCOME TO MY WEBSITE, which is mostly a chronicle in reverse of my adventures in publishing for those who enjoy the books I've been involved with. I've also strayed into other areas of interest, as you can see if you look around. In fact this website has become a bit of a sprawling labyrinth over the years and I'm told it's quite easy to get lost, but there is hopefully a sort of charm in that - forgotten cellars, secret passages and so on where like minded souls may find something of interest. This current page picks out key publishing events for me going back to 2001. Click
HERE if you'd like to email me about anything.
OMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO in 2017 is a second, expanded edition of the Big O book (see below) first published in late 2014. That sold pretty well considering it was self-published and we had no real distribution network; but hopes are riding much higher now it's been taken on by
Schiffer Publishing in the States.
For this edition we've reluctantly dropped one chapter on the grounds of irrelevance and added four more for the opposite reason - making it a definitely clearer narrative plus adding some brilliant new pictures. We (meaning Michel Fishel who did all the hard graft) also changed the format from predominantly black to pale backgrounds. The black did give pages a good period feel and set off the pictures nicely, but the book is actually now much easier to read. Doing a second edition also gave the chance to remove many of the glitches that slipped through first time around.
It also gave me a chance to add to my own section the first poster I had published by Big O. For complicated reasons I had lost all trace of it and only finally managed to track down a copy in Germany just a couple of weeks too late for it to be included in the first book. Very frustrating at the time - but now it's there. Another bonus of the second edition is that it should be a much more friendly price.
A FASCINATING AND COMPLETELY UNFORSEEN DEVELOPMENT in 2016 began with an email out of the blue from Philippe Schober in Germany asking if I would mind if he developed an Android version of Fidchell - my speculative reconstruction of a lost ancient Celtic board game. Go to the GAMES page for more about it.
Well, I was delighted by the idea because a computer version is something I've wanted for years. I was even more delighted when it turned out that Philippe and his team were in fact well advanced and within a few weeks had a working version available online.
One slight problem is that you need an Android device to download and play it on i.e. a mobile phone or Tablet. You can get programs that let you play Android games on Windows or Apple but I've no idea how well they work. Personally I joined the 21st century and got myself a Tablet. With that or a mobile you type Fidchell into the app store and it should pop up. Failing that you can just click HERE or on the picture right to go directly to Philippe's site and try the game free for yourself.
THE LAST PUBLISHED BOOK I worked on is what you see on the left - a lavishly illustrated account of Big O, the London poster and book publishing company that thrived internationally from the late 60s until the end of the 70s. Click on the cover left for more details. Alternatively, click
HERE for an article about the project.
for reviews. Or to hear me talking about why it is such a great idea click
The Art of Big O is a large 270 page lavishly illustrated book featuring many of the artists published by Big O - Martin Sharp, Roger Dean, Rodney Matthews, Mati Klarwein, HR Giger and others. I wrote or edited most of the text but the project was really the brainchild of Michael Fishel, another artist published by them in the 1970s, who was working on it for several years before I came on board. Much of the necessary funding was raised through Indiegogo, a crowd-sourcing website and much was saved by artists generously agreeing for their work to appear without payment. Copies of the book went on sale in December 2014. In the US it's available from Amazon.com in hardback, softback and eBook formats. You can however order the hardback directly from the publisher post free for $60 in the US or £39 in the UK ($50 and £32.50 for the softback). The postage varies for other countries.
In a way for me this is life completing a full circle because Big O were my first publishers in the early 70s, beginning with the art posters you see on the right. Click on them for enlargements.
In the UK the Winter 2014/15 edition of
magazine carried a nice article about the book. Click on the cover left for a PDF copy of the article.
All the artists we approached agreed to take part, including Roger Dean, Rodney Matthews and Jim Burns. Some are sadly no longer with us, such as Martin Sharp, Mati Klarwein, HR Giger and Bob Venosa but their estates gave the go-ahead for us to show their pictures. There are also artists whose work will be familiar even if their names aren't, like John Hurford, Terry Pastor with his David Bowie album covers and Binder, Edwards & Vaughan with their psychedelic shopfronts and cars, as seen on a Kinks album cover in the late 60s in Swinging London.
Big O was kind of an offshoot of the famous (or infamous depending on your point of view at the time)
Oz magazine founded in London in 1967 by errant Australian hippies Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and artist Martin Sharp. Peter Ledeboer, Big O's founder and leading light, was the magazine's business manager who spotted the demand for psychedelic posters and set about satisfying it. Many early posters were simply lifted from the magazine, particularly Martin Sharp's wild portrayals of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Donovan and other current rock stars. Event posters continued to sell as artworks in themselves long after the concerts they promoted were over. The posters were everywhere and both reflected and encouraged the ferment of the time, which we also aimed to capture in this book.
2012 SAW THE PUBLICATION of my vampires book in Polish by Bellona Books of Warsaw, which felt pleasantly appropriate as many of the folk tales in it come from eastern Europe. It's also available in the UK through
Amazon. As before, the original illustrations are by Bruce Pennington plus much period gothic archive material.
The original book is available from Amazon as a Kindle edition.
The year also saw the publication by Amazon of Kindle versions of this little trilogy I wrote about Vampires, Witches and Werewolves. Despite the subject matter they are quite light-hearted in tone. Scroll down this page for more details and sample pages.
On the left is a link to an online version of Voices to Visions magazine's September 2011 issue for which I gave an interview on the topic of faeries, particularly Celtic ones. You'll find the interview on page 42 but the whole magazine is worth browsing and it has some lovely art. You can also buy a hard copy of the magazine from its publishers.
The most interesting adventure of the summer of 2011 was helping out with Bruce Pennington's first ever exhibition at the Atlantis Bookshop in London. This was given a wonderful launch on 28 July 2011 and ran throughout August. Click on the poster right to see more about both Pennington in general and the exhibition itself. Penninton is a long time friend and collaborator ever since I interviewed him for a book about his work for Paper Tiger, once the leading publisher of fantasy art books. The Atlantis Bookshop near the British Museum also happens to have been my favourite bookshop in London since the 70s so this was a multiple pleasure.
MEANWHILE I KEPT MY HAND IN with fortune-telling, thanks to Cico Books with whom I did the Dragon Tarot a few years ago. The illustrator for this pack of Fallen Angel oracle cards is Sarah Perkins, using photographs by David Merewether taken at Nuneaton Cemetery.
The angels themselves are drawn from Johann Weyer's famous list of fallen angels in Pseudomonarchia Daemonum dating from the sixteenth century, though based on much earlier sources. Some of them are indeed mischievous trouble-makers and even outright evil; but most are far from being the 'demons' of popular imagination, being more like pagan deities - a mixture of both. Pretty much like people really.. Their varied characters suit them perfectly for fortune-telling in the Tarot manner
The pack and its accompanying book were published in March 2011 and have had some very positive responses. Click on the cover for more or
HERE for a review.
THE CELTIC FAERIES BOOK below was published appropriately enough on 1 November, or Samhain in the Celtic faery calendar, and we gave it a launch at the
Faery, Angel & Healing Fayre 2007 in Penzance, Cornwall that weekend. Thanks to everyone who made this happen, especially Karen Kay who organised the event, because it was a beautiful weekend with the moon shining over St Michael's Mount out at sea, and you couldn't hope to meet a lovelier crowd of faeries.
Faeries of the Celtic Lands is a book I've been wanting to write for over half my life and this chance finally came when my publisher Cameron Brown simply asked over lunch in the Chelsea Arts Club in London what I would most like to write about. Click on the cover for some sample pages.
Celtic mythology has long been one of my obsessions and although I've squeezed snippets of it into many books, the only previous chance I really had to concentrate on it was the 1999 book on Leprechauns I wrote for Wayne Anderson to illustrate. So this was a complete delight, even if it did mean that for months I was barely able to hold a sensible conversation about anything else with friends and family, let alone work colleagues. But, it still felt worthwhile because doing this book justice mattered more than anything else.
The aim of Faeries is to trace the origins of the Celtic beliefs about them back to the misty days of their first arrival in Ireland, apparently descending from the sky in flying ships and landing on the mountain tops amid a great cloud that shrouded the land for three days. According to legend they then ruled the country as gods for an age before being forced to retreat into a parallel world, or sail away westwards across the ocean like Tolkien's elves. From the earliest Irish records the tale is then taken up in the legends of the other Celtic lands - Wales, Scotland, Brittany and Cornwall.
At 224 pages the book is a fair bit longer than most I've had published, in proportion to my interest in the topic, though without anywhere near exhausting it. The idea is to give a kind of overview of the subject for those who are curious and even quite well informed about Celtic mythology, but daunted by its abundance and seeming chaos. Also to examine how the basically pagan ideas in the faerie faith nevertheless managed to survive and prosper alongside Christianity right up to about a century ago when other forces undermined the solid belief in faeries in the Celtic countryside.
For an online review click
For an interview about the book click HERE.
Copies are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or directly from the publisher HERE.
BY WAY OF CONTRAST, the follow-up published in autumn 2008 in a similar format is the book on vampires you see on the right. It wasn't quite as long in the gestation as Faeries but I wrote it on and off for about a dozen years and it was great to see it in print at last, with Bruce Pennington's original black and white drawings. In person Bruce is the sweetest and mildest person but he just happens to have a wonderfully gothic imagination and is at his best when depicting monsters and demons. To see a selection of his work visit his website
The drawings were originally commissioned by my friend Tom Casey in Dublin. After making an unexpectedly good profit on a business deal he tossed up whether to buy himself a flash new motor or commission some original art and, well, you can soon see the result. I've posted some sample pages here if you just click on the cover.
For online reviews click
For an interview about the book click
HERE (scroll down the page).
Copies are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or directly from the publisher HERE.
The idea for doing this book first came from being asked to write an introduction for a reprint of Sabine Baring-Gould's classic 1865 Book of Werewolves, because I was taken by his curiously healthy angle on an equally morbid topic.
What impressed me was the fascinated but detached angle he took on the subject. There was something so refreshingly wholesome about it that I wondered if something similar could be done with vampires. So that is what I set about doing, hanging a rosary above my desk just in case. Curiously, many of the sources I delved into were the same as I used along the way for a book about Angels.
Below is a Halloween trilogy that came out in the autumn of 2006. Plus one about unicorns that I got to do as a bonus. Each little book is just 96 pages long and about the size of a normal paperback but beautifully produced in hardback with a dust cover. Click on the covers for some sample spreads.
These books are now available as Kindle eBooks fom Amazon. Click
HERE and scroll down the page.
One of the best adventures of 2005 on the publishing front was a visit at Easter to Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell in Pennsylvania for a new book. It snowed both sides of the Atlantic which caused stress on the way to the airport both ways. Then, having neglected to carry their address with me, I was hauled off by US Immigration to the little room reserved for dodgy arrivals. Luckily I had remembered to make a note of their mobile numbers, so we were able to catch them in another part of the airport. However, despite these and other obstacles Ultimate Collection took shape marvellously and came out in the autumn.
As ever, it was a privilege to work immediately with two masters of their particular art who also happen to be wonderful people. The title also turned out to be prophetic as far as I was concerned because after ten happy years of collaboration during very turbulent times in the publishing world, it was the last book I wrote for them. Julie's sons took over the honours for their next book; and very ably too.
The other most exciting project was the Dragon Tarot that I did with Linda and Roger Garland, which also came out in the autumn. Click on the cover left to get a taste of it. It'll open in a new window that you just close to return here.
I find all forms of divination fascinating. There's no scientific reason why they should work but oddly enough most do to a surprising extent. And then, because their designers fully believed they did work, they projected all kinds of symbolic wisdom into them. Tarot is a good example. Whether or not you believe it actually works, the structure of the deck and the cards' symbolism contain all the elements needed to describe just about any human predicament. Name any situation and you could sum it up picturesquely in a spread of Tarot cards that will capture it far more dramatically than any dry verbal description.
A similar thing applies to astrology. Because long ago people took for granted that their lives were governed by the patterns of the stars, they projected their souls into the heavens and saw their reflections in the constellations and wandering stars - the celestial mirror. Again, all human predicaments can be pictured in astrological terms. Whether or not that that's a true picture of the stars' alignment at the time is a whole other question.
2004 was a pretty poor year on the publishing front, with the cancellation of our Chinese astrology series after Wayne Anderson and I had actually finished Year of the Monkey. With hindsight what we should have done was follow the success of Year of the Dragon with a larger book covering all the symbols. However, the great thing about age is that along with the years comes a certain sense of perspective. Everything goes in cycles, especially publishing. I spent the year mainly on web design.
A publishing highlight of 2003 was the launch of Year of the Goat, which had the best cover in the series in my opinion (being a Capricorn I am possibly biased), and is also available in Dutch. Best adventure of all though was a meeting at last with Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. We were trying to get a book going by transatlantic telephone as we'd managed often enough before, but this time it simply wasn't getting anywhere. So half-jokingly we suggested to our editor Colin Ziegler that Chrysalis fly me over there. Well, a fortnight later I found myself in Pennsylvania in the snow and we got to do the book face to face. On the left you see me in their garden, and I have to say that their talent as artists is only matched by their charm and hospitality as people. The book's called Fantasy Workshop and I'm very proud of my contribution to it.
Immediately on return to England I had the honour of being invited to Broadcasting House in London to participate in a BBC Radio 4 programme by Kirsty Walker called In Search of Unicorns. Click on the radio right to get the programme and see its review in the Radio Times (the radio incidentally is one my wife and I used to listen to in the kitchen until it finally packed up after about half a century's worth of service). The show was repeated on Radio 4 in the autumn of 2004, something I only discovered by accident while taxi-ing our teenage daughter somewhere on a Sunday morning.
In the autumn of 2003 I had the honour of helping judge the V&A Illustration Awards for the second time and went to the presentations and opening of the related exhibition, but you can only be a judge twice so that was the end of that little adventure, apart from being invited to the 2004 awards.
Year of the Horse came out for the Chinese New Year in February 2002, with illustrations as always by Wayne Anderson and prompted by enthusiasm for our Year of the Dragon book the year before. A larger part of this one was taken up by astrology, for obvious reasons, but where it differs from all the other books or chapters you'll find with 'Year of the Horse' in the title is that a large (and for me the most interesting) part of this book looks into the overall symbolism of the Horse in ancient Chinese culture; and therefore why it's there in the zodiac. That was the really interesting thing about this series - it offered a chance to explore China through its culture. Almost as good as - and in some ways better - than actually visiting the place, which our publisher's budget didn't quite run to. It would be lovely to check out all the interesting places that show up in these Chinese astrology books, though. If I ever get rich I have the itinerary already planned.
A high point of 2002 was being invited to judge the National Art Library Illustration Awards, more catchily rechristened the V&A Illustration Awards for the occasion. This was a special honour because the Victoria & Albert Museum in London was one of my favourite places when studying Engineering at Imperial College next door while trying to think of a way of getting into the arts. As it happens Imperial College was as good a place as any to do it, given my own particular slant on the arts, because the art schools at the time weren't doing much very useful really, as far as my interests went anyway. On the left you see me in those days with my lovely girlfriend of the time, Cathy Moynihan from Boston, Massachussets. The setting is Prince's Gardens just up the road from the V&A, where I lived in the student halls for a year.
In a way the V&A is the model for this website because it is a bit of a maze full of odd surprises. Part of the pleasure of the place is just wandering and coming across odd and fascinating things which set off all kinds of trains of imagination. It's quite easy to get lost in there and forget why you came in, which I'm told sometimes happens to visitors here.
2001 was a very productive year, seeing the publication at last of The Angel Companion illustrated with a variety of ancient to modern classic pictures. This was a real labour of love. Most of the writing was done two or three years before, but then the book fell into a kind of limbo until for some reason Pavilion's enthusiasm returned. Click on the cover for more, or on the BOOKS link at the top of the page for any of the other books mentioned here.
Despite commissioning me for the book, I don't think my editor had the faintest idea that I had already spent many years investigating the subject so had a bit of a head start, having half the source material within immediate reach. I dedicated it to my mother Caryl for many reasons (not least being the Catholic upbringing that initiated the interest) but sadly she died suddenly just before the first copy arrived. There is a certain irony in that which I hope she appreciated.
Bob Eggleton's Greetings from Earth meanwhile won us a joint Hugo for Best Related Book (i.e.non-fiction) 2001, though I never received my chrome, rocket-shaped trophy because in the climate of the times it didn't seem a great idea to try and mail it . . . And Wayne Anderson was overall winner of the 2001 National Art Library's Illustration Award for his Gnomes and Gardens illustrations. There was an exhibition of some of his and the runners-ups' illustrations at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in early 2002. You can see samples of all these books and others in my web Library, and for a video of me making a fool of myself about gnomes just click on the link below left.
If you're interested in going further back in time, there's a link below to an interview I gave in 2000 to
Paul Barnett for Paper Snarl, the e-zine he then ran in harness (more
or less) with Paper Tiger Books. It's a bit of a soft option I know, and
he said some things that are far too kind really, but if you want to catch up on my situation back at the turn of the Millennium, click on the heading below. It has the benefit of a degree of detachment, as Paul and I hardly knew each other at the time.
MAN OF MANY PARTS
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