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Archive for the ‘Gray’ Category

I don’t know. I write in different genres. I write whatever story comes to mind.
It’s a story. Does it have to have a genre?

(Yes, because otherwise potential readers won’t know whether they will like it.)

Can’t they read the free extract?

(No, they want you to guide them by putting it in a genre. Then they’ll download the extract.)

Errr … But my stories don’t really fit into genres. I wrote a detective story about auditors in outer space; and a story about Saladin and the library at Cairo dressed up as a young adults’ short story; and a dark fantasy about human relationships with the divine dressed up as gay romance.

(That’s crazy. No wonder you don’t sell many books. You confuse your would-be readers. They never know what they’re getting next.)

I can, however, give my stories away  …

(It’s a good thing that most writers aren’t like that. Most readers want to know what they’re getting.)

They’re getting crazy stories because most of the writing I do is very, very serious stuff and I need some light relief to save me from going mad.

(So your genre is ‘crazy stuff’?)

Pretty much.

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template-cover-dbfosa-with-shape2 My beta reader likes The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy. (Hoorah!) She has some comments to pass on, and when I receive them there may be some spelling corrections to put through. I’ve also noticed one surplus paragraph, which  I’ll remove (currently, two consecutive paragraphs contain the same information). I love positive feedback!

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Once upon a time, a long time ago in a country across the sea, a little girl lay on her tummy in front of the fire reading her Robin comic. She was really excited because she was going to find out what happened in the final episode of the ‘dark story’ serial, which was on the centre pages of the comic each week. The ‘dark story’ was always a fairy-tale type story with princes, princesses, evil magicians and witches, humour and horror, and good triumphing over evil in the end. It was beautifully illustrated in black and white (hcnce she and her mummy called it the ‘dark story’) and it was sometimes very scary, but very exciting.

The story of Prince Florian was the most exciting story ever, the little girl thought. Handsome young Prince Florian and his servant came riding through the dark, thorny, overgrown forest at night seeking shelter, and they found a ruined house (or was it a palace? It was so long ago, I can’t remember) with a lovely garden, and in the garden was a pillar with on top of it the bust of a lovely maiden carved in stone. Florian, of course, wanted to know who she was. Then a bent old woman appeared and told him that the young maiden was a princess held prisoner by enchantment. To find out the identity of the lovely maiden and free her from the enchantment he had to go through this door (I think!) and he would find directions.

So Florian did this, and found himself in another world. He was in the open air in the countryside, and a lovely woman named Petronilla was seated nearby under a tree. She greeted him and introduced herself, and told him that to break the enchantment he had to get to a castle — which she pointed out in the distance — and back within a certain time. She pointed to an hour glass and told him that he had to get back before the sand fell through the hour glass. If he couldn’t get back the enchantment would be fixed forever. She also gave him a pair of magic boots so that he could get to the castle quickly.

Up to this point Florian had been wearing a particularly nice pair of ankle boots, and he now swopped them for the magic boots, which I (as a five year old — or perhaps I was only three or four!) thought didn’t look nearly as nice on him.

I can’t now remember whether Petronilla kept the hour glass or gave it to Florian, but I think she kept it.

Anyway, off went Florian, and got to the castle, and had very exciting adventures there which I now can’t remember because the story kept reminding the reader about the hour glass, and of course you have already guessed that his adventures kept him so long that he wasn’t going to be able to get back before all the sand fell through the hour glass and he still had to break the enchantment and there wasn’t going to be time to do it! Hence my excitement as we reached the last episode. My mummy and I had been wondering and speculating all week over how Florian was going to stop the hour glass, to give him time to rescue the princess!

And at last we found out. He rushed back from the castle (in his magic boots), just as the last grain of sand fell, and grabbed the hour glass and turned it on its side. The sand could not fall, time was stopped and the princess was saved. Florian then breaks the enchantment (it turns out, of course, that the lovely Petronilla is behind it — but she was such a positive villain! I couldn’t dislike her) and he returns to the ruined house, which is now restored to a beautiful palace. The old woman turns out to have been the enchanted princess, and she and Florian are married. Florian’s long suffering servant gets a break at last (so far as I remember he had to stay behind in the ruined house all the time that the story was in progress) and the story ends happily.

I was sorry to leave the characters. I really felt that we had got to know Florian — young, brave, a bit naïve but determined, impetuous, making mistakes but learning from them. He wasn’t perfect but he was a good sort of hero. You will have noticed that I identified with Florian even though he was a boy: I wanted to have exciting adventures too (shades of Karlot from The Star…). But I also loved the name ‘Petronilla’ — complex and intriguing — I’ve never yet devised a character who is really worthy of it.

Years later my memories of Florian’s character fed into the character of Gray Bradley — including the ankle boots..

I wonder who wrote the ‘dark stories’ in the Robin comic? And does anyone out there still have a copy of the story of Florian? I kept the Robins with that story in for as long as I could, but in the end my mum threw them away because she saw them as clutter. I’d love to read the story again, to see how my memories of it reflect the original, and how far my childish mind developed the story.

You can read about the Robin comic here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_(magazine)
Of the regular features listed on the Wikipedia page I also remember ‘Simon and Sally’ and ‘Nutty Noddle’ and, of course, ‘Andy Pandy’, which was also on the television. There was also a ‘Superted’ character, who I thought was really exciting.

Eventually my dad decided I was ready for a more demanding comic and bought me Treasure instead (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_(magazine) ). Through such means, dear reader, those of us growing up in the pre-internet era formed our view of the world!

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Echoes of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this advert for Theakston’s Ales. It made me smile: Gray also finds familiar needs in unfamiliar places, but he is drinking pale ale, which I understand travels better than bitter. Anyway, I mention this because this weekend the latest story in the Gray series is free on Kindle. (It’s ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy’.) Just thought I’d mention it.

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From Private Eye, back cover, fortnight ending 13 October 2016

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Star blaster: cover design by the author

Tiana-riane Dfosa is a threat to everyone in Gray Bradley’s Galactic Empire because she’s an idealist without a heart; a totally reasonable, rational person who doesn’t believe in society. If she was alone she wouldn’t be a problem, but a lot of people like her ideas — particularly her belief that the Emperor is a myth, so his laws can be ignored, and only humans should rule the galaxy. How does she intend to get rid of the other intelligent races? Do you really want to know?
Gray and his friends have a good idea of what the Rationalists intend, but by the time Gray catches up with Dbfosa the damage is done and it’s already almost too late …

… I’ve just uploaded The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy to Amazon Kindle, so it will be available to download shortly.

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The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy (the next ‘Gray’ story) has gone for beta-reading. I hope I’ve caught all the spelling mistakes … Now I need a logo for the cover.

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Metro front page, Monday 5 September 2016

So once again a male Leicester MP is accused of sexual exploitation of young men and boys. In the 1970s, when as a teenager living in Leicester I first devised Kimball’s Kiss, I wasn’t consciously aware that there were such problems in the higher echelons of society. It was only much later that we all heard about the sexual abuse of children at Leicester’s state-run children’s homes in the 1970s. Greville Janner became MP for Leicester West in 1974 and held the office until 1997 (Leicester West, by the way, contains New Parks, Graham Bradley’s home). In the early 1990s he was accused of sexually abusing boys in the past — accusations going back as far as 1955 (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/13/greville-janner-posed-as-childrens-home-carer-to-abuse-boy-inquiry-told). Keith Vaz became MP for Leicester East in 1987. Now he’s been caught hiring male prostitutes, in a sting operation by the Sunday Mirror. (https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/sep/05/why-the-sunday-mirror-was-justified-in-exposing-keith-vaz)

Of course the Gray stories are set on a far away future Earth and a future galaxy, but the anger of the young men of Leicester West and East in the 1970s and later seems to have got into Kimball’s Kiss. When Gray arrives on the planet of Trer and sets out to exploit the powerful men who sexually exploit young men — which he does by emotionally enslaving one, killing another and destroying the career of a third — he is wreaking vengeance for those who suffered at the hands of real men in power, in the real world. In real life it can be much more difficult to bring exploiters to justice, but Kimball’s Kiss reflects the fury of a generation.

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