Thursday 7 November 2019

Embarrassed? You and me both...

What is it with us Brits and being embarrassed? This idea is used so much in films, books and television, isn’t it? I know, I’ve been guilty of using it as a device myself in my own stories. Are we all sufferers from the severe case of, “Err, um, scuse me?” I am, definitely. A case in point: there is a cafĂ© that I frequent which has two
unisex toilet cubicles. One of these is wider than the other and contains a washbasin. The other is narrow and you have to use the washbasin which is in the vestibule shared by both cubicles. So it is that I often find myself coming out of the larger cubicle having already washed my hands to be confronted by someone who is stood mid-ablution. Now, the rational part of my mind says, everyone who drinks and eats here knows that there is a washbasin in the larger cubicle. It’s no biggie. However, the major part of me is cringing at the supposed look of disgust from the other toilet user as I leave the vestibule, apparently not washing my hands. What should I do? Should I just use the smaller cubicle and therefore have to use the shared wash basin? Should I, if there is someone in the vestibule, wash my hands for a second time even though they are perfectly clean? Or, perhaps I should explain that my hands are germ free, clean and indeed ready for inspection? 
You see my predicament?
There seems to be the inbuilt genetic defence mechanism which compels us to do what we deem to be socially acceptable. When our actions come into conflict with this mechanism, then profound embarrassment ensues.
Perhaps it has always been there? If you look back through history, there are possible examples. The English reformation is a suitable candidate. King Henry VIII found himself in a situation which he believed to be socially unacceptable. He had married his dead brother’s wife and no children were forthcoming. Feeling that he had committed a spiritual misdemeanour which would end his lineage and cause another War of the Roses, he appealed to the Pope for an annulment. However, perhaps because he was embarrassed with the situation, Henry sent his minions in his place, rather than tend to the matter himself. Perhaps, if the monarch had not been so red-faced over the matter, then he could have sat down with his Holiness and discussed the matter face to face, come to a political agreement and hey presto, one annulment, no English Reformation.
Now, this isn’t to say that embarrassment can’t be overcome. In fact, there is a simple method that dispels all inhibitions and worries: strong liquor! A few pints or a number of shots and you don’t care that you were walking butt naked down the high street wearing a pair of fake breasts on your head late one Saturday night. But, the relief from our genetic mechanism is only short-lived, especially in this age of social media and our wanton acts will always come back to bite us on the same butt that made that group of nuns tremble when they were out ministering to the homeless one cold, wintry night.
So, perhaps there is nothing we can actually do about our inbuilt need to worry and fret? Perhaps our fear that whatever we do is the wrong thing will always be there?
Indeed, the best thing we can do is just sit back, peer over the top of a large squishy cushion at our raging insecurities and have a secret chuckle at just how daft we actually are?

In case you missed it, I recently gave my short story Needs Must a fresh outing in Kindle format. My most popular story when I read at signings, it is all about a creature named Odd Bod who lives down the bottom of a dark, dank well. Unfortunately for Odd Bod, his human food supply appears to have run out and he has to climb up out of the well to see what has happened. When he reaches the world above, he discovers that he might be the only monster in the neighbourhood...

Until next time, keep looking for what lurks in the shadows.

Thursday 5 September 2019

Interview with the amazing Carolyn Edwards

Hello and welcome to this month’s blog.
Something a little bit different this time around. A few days ago I had a chat The Casebook of Sam Spallucciand the second edition of Sam Spallucci: Ghosts From the Past. She is currently working wonders on Sam’s next outing Troubled Souls which includes cases ranging from Cherokee hauntings through to serial killers and time travel.
with the lovely Carolyn Edwards who some of you may know as one of my cover artists for my Sam Spallucci books. At the time of writing, Carolyn has produced covers for the third edition of 
I’ve known Carolyn for a number of years now and she is always a pleasure to meet up with on the convention circuit as well as a delight to work with professionally. There will be links to her sites at the end of the interview.

So, first question. Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from.
I'm from Yorkshire, originally. From a little town called Keighley, but for the last 26 years, I've been a resident of Manchester. I defected to t'other side of t'ill! I'm a professional artist, who likes to keep

fit and active. So some of my hobbies are snowboarding, rollerblading, cycling and running. Running is my current favourite. As for the arty side, I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. I went to art college, gained a degree in Illustration at a University in London, and I've been working professionally since 2000. My favourite things to paint are anything Doctor Who related, particularly pensive portraits, but I love book illustration too. I'm inspired all the time by fellow artists and creators, and love catching up with them when I can, at sci-fi & memorabilia shows.

How would you describe your style? 
Traditional, mainly portraiture. My favourite pieces of art are the ones which evoke an emotion. My favourite portraits are the ones where I've managed to capture a spark of life/personality.

So, as you said, you’ve painted a lot of Doctor Who related pictures. Have any of the good Time Lord’s actors seen your paintings of them and have there been any memorable responses to your work?
I'm fortunate to have met, and had great experiences with many actors, or heard some lovely comments passed on by people who got artwork of mine signed by them... 
Doctor Who Actors: John Barrowman wanted a copy of my portrait of him... Terry Molloy and Frazer Hines commissioned portraits from me. Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison, Peter Capaldi, Paul McGann, Tom Baker, Ingrid Oliver, Tony Curran, Pearl Mackie, Katy Manning, Arthur Darvil, Noel Clarke, Michael Sheard, Debra Watling and Lisa Bowerman have all been enthusiastic and complimentary about their portraits... Colin Baker uses one of my portraits of his Doctor on his Twitter page. David Bradley admired my portrait of his Doctor, and then kissed me on the cheek... and I've had lovely comments back from people who have taken prints of my artwork to actors for signing and they've liked them. 
My most memorable, hmm. It's hard to choose. There have been so many lovely and humbling experiences meeting the actors. I feel blessed to have had them. 
Non Doctor Who actors: Danny John-Jules, James Marsters, Caroline Munroe, Claudia Christian (Interviewer’s note: Austin feels incredibly jealous about that one...), Tom Ellis, Jon Campling, Devon Murray and Bonnie Wright were very complimentary of their mention but a few. 
I think my fondest memory was meeting Rutger Hauer, who was gracious and smiley and accepted a print of my portrait of him. He had a lovely twinkle in his eye. I'm sorry he has left us. 
Those are only the ones I can remember just now... I didn't realise I'd met so many actors!

I don’t know, rubbing shoulders with the stars...
Is there a character (from any series/genre) who you haven’t painted yet who you would love to?
Not really, though I have loads of ideas for paintings waiting to be created, such as a big, bold Doctor Strange canvas...

That would indeed be awesome!
So, obviously you’ve painted two covers for my Sam Spallucci books with one more brewing away at the moment. How does the process differ creating images for fictional characters you’ve read about, but not actually seen in the flesh?
When I'm creating a portrait, I try and 'feel' the person I'm painting, and connect with their personality, in an emotional way. That seems to help create an accurate likeness, and help people to connect with the finished artwork. When I'm creating a character, I find it helps to read as much as I can about them and pick up their characteristics from the page. I also need good picture reference. If the client has a clear idea of what they're after and can convey that, and provide photo reference, it helps a lot. 
I was very lucky in the case of Malcolm's portrait for Ghosts From the Past because I was given a clear idea of his character, and what he looked like, and also knew of an actor (Jon Campling) who I thought fit his physical description very well. Jon kindly agreed to pose for some photos for me at a show he was guesting at. I gave him a brief description of the character he was portraying, we found a prop for the snake staff, and hey presto! I don't always have such wonderful tools to work with! I'm very grateful to Jon for giving me that opportunity.

I met Jon for the first time at York Comic Con this summer. He’s a lovely chap and was blown away by the cover art.
Tell us a bit more about your running. We’re not talking a quick jog to the shops, are we.
Haha, nope!
I've been running on and off for many years, but only started taking it seriously about 8 years ago. I was recovering from a badly broken leg, and determined to get back to running 10km/6 mile distances again. I joined the Parkrun community, and then through them, a running group, who showed me that I was capable of so much more. I completed my first marathon back in February this year, and have a half marathon trail run booked in November, along with lots of other trail races and 10ks in between. I find it helps me mentally and physically to run, and I miss it when I don't. I've definitely got the bug!

I know exactly what you mean. There really is something about the mind and body connecting through exercise. I normally feel more creative when I’ve been off on a long walk or a significantly shorter run than you are used to. Do you find it helps your creative process?
Definitely. Most importantly, it lifts my mood, as I do struggle with low self-esteem and anxiety...

Well I can safely say that your artwork on my books definitely goes down a storm with my readers. When you’re not painting and running you also make quite a few appearances on the convention circuit. Which ones do you have coming up, where people can see you amazing work?
Thanks Austin, it's good to hear people like the covers I've done for you. My next shows are VWorp Con here in Manchester, this Sunday, Nor-Con in Norfolk at the end of September, then Timelash in Germany 11-13th October.

Excellent. As a final word, what advice would you give to young artists just starting out?
Draw/paint what moves you, what you enjoy the most, and keep doing it. Chat to other artists and share ideas, if that helps. Practice, practice and more practice. Look at other artists' work, be inspired, but never take or use it for yourself/publish it without permission and/or credit. Art theft is a big problem for working artists. 
Finally, enjoy the journey. Even mistakes and discarded art is a part of the learning process.

Carolyn many thanks for taking the tie to chat to us.

As promised earlier, you can find Carolyn and her amazing work at the following links:
Twitter: @Timedancer8
Instagram: carolynedwardsart8

Until next time, keep looking for what lurks in the shadows.

Monday 5 August 2019

Why Lancaster?

A question I am frequently asked is, “Why have you set
stories about a paranormal investigator in Lancaster of all places?”
When I first moved to this hidden jewel of the North West, tucked away to the side of the M6, I was but a mere university undergraduate. Living on the campus a few miles south of the city, I rarely ventured into town. However, when I did, it was normally at night time to frequent the pubs and clubs. I was soon drawn into a world the like of which I had never experienced before. Having grown up in a small market town which had undergone numerous rejuvenations, I had only ever heard of these mystical little routes between buildings known as alleysand had never actually seen them up close.
Lancaster was (and still is) full of them.
The city's heyday was in Georgian times when the majority of the hoi polloiwandered around on foot. Only the rich had access to carriages and, as a result, most of the main roads were narrow and the small footpaths that connected them were even more of a squeeze. Wandering around as a bright-eyed fresher, I could not help but be attracted to these tiny veins and arteries of my new home. As I passed one in the middle of the night, I could easily imagine what creatures might lurk down its shadowy depths and I would automatically cross to a lighter side of the high street to avoid being dragged away for some nocturnal creature's midnight snack.
Time and familiarity tend to eradicate childish fears. So it was that, in my twenties, I started to see these little footpaths as less a potential lair for the undead and more a quick shortcut home from work. They lost their edge and became just like everything else in my early working years, part of the norm. I would stroll down them without giving a thought to ghosties or beasties that might have dwelt along their cobbled paths.
Then, when I stumbled rather bemusedly into my thirties, I began to hear tell of stories regarding Lancaster's past. Tales that portrayed the city as less of a sparkling diamond, but more of a mysterious dark orb. There were ghosts that wandered the dressing rooms of the Grand Theatre. There was the screaming head that rolled down Castle Hill. 
And who, in Lancashire, has not heard about the fate of the Pendle Witches? Members of two families whose feud boiled over into allegations of Satanism and witchcraft, leading them to be incarcerated at Lancaster Castle before gruesome deaths and executions.
So it was that I started to reevaluate my sanitised view of my city and began to once more regard its shadowy alleys with a dose of caution and a certain amount of trepidation. These were footways that had known history, and not just the peaceful type where everyday folk merrily went about their business. There were murders, deaths and destruction that had bled their way into the very cobblestones upon which I walked.
So, when I get asked the aforementioned question, I tell those who enquire to come to Lancaster. Visit this place steeped in blood-stained history and walk down its alleyways at night. Then they will see how it might just be possible that there is a werewolf roaming Williamson Park, that a vampire might happen to run a local comic shop or that maybe, just maybe, the crazy woman singing on the street corner could very well be descended from the Pendle Witches.

Until next time, keep looking for what lurks in the shadows.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Back In The Old Home Town.

One of the questions that I get asked a lot about my Sam Spallucci books is, “Are all the places in the books real?” The easiest answer to this is, “Usually.” For example, most of the locations in Lancaster exist in the real world with the exception of Luneside University, which happens to be Lancaster University transported magically down onto the side of the river Lune. All the rest of the locations in Sam’s adopted home town are more or less as you find them. There is the Ashton Memorial in Williamsons’ Park, the Priory Church of St Mary, the Borough and indeed 15a Dalton Square, all of which are real locations.
But what about Sam’s originalhome town of Wellington which we first visit in Shadows of Lancaster? Does this have a basis in fact? 
Indeed it does. Wellington first came into existence when I wrote the as yet unpublished Fallen Angel. I needed a small market town with an impressive gothic church so I went with the old adage, “write about what you know.” All I reallyknew as a teenager, was my home town of Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. So I used that.
Specifically, I used my parish church of All Hallows.
All Hallows was a perfect model for All Saints in Sam’s world. A gothic beauty, it is almost virtually identical in the books as it is in real life: a towering spire, next to a thriving market, the ornate rood screen with the lifelike figure of the crucified Jesus in calm repose.
And, yes, there is the font.
Now, the font in All Hallows may not have the enigmatic inscription “Knaves Are Not Our Responsibility”, but it is a fine piece of stone craftsmanship, nonetheless. As a chorister there, I witnessed many babies getting dunked in the large stone bowl. What I can absolutely testify to is that there is nothing supernatural about it and there are no mysterious
watery noises coming from beneath it, even though Wellingborough was a spa town in Tudor and Stuart times.
Speaking of All Saints, Songbird – A Nightingale Storyis now out online and in a select few shops. It tells the tale of a young girl who rises from the poverty of Victorian England, to become Nightingale, the leader of the Children of Cain, the group of vampires in the universe of Sam Spallucci. As we follow her journey, she spends time at the church of All Saints in Wellington, where she witnesses a number of supernatural events surrounding the font and is subjected to the sadistic wrath of the parish priest before being rescued by her vampiric father, Doulos.
If you want to treat yourself to a copy, it is available to buy over on Amazonor, if you want a signed copy, feel free to drop me a line at

Until next time, keep looking for what lurks in the shadows.

Monday 3 June 2019

Steampunkery and Vampires.

So, the last week has been somewhat manic for me.
Not only have I launched a Kickstarter for my new novella Songbird: A Nightingale Story (more on that in a bit), but I had the delightful pleasure of attending this year’s A Splendid Day Out at the Platform in Morecambe.

For those of you who don’t know, Steampunk is a fantastical fusion of high Victoriana and all manner of things futuristic. If you can imagine Sherlock Holmes hanging from a Zeppelin whilst blasting off a patented Tesla ray gun, then you are in the right sort of ball park. 

A Splendid Day Out has taken over Morecambe every year now for the past six years (if memory serves me correctly) and I have been lucky enough to attend the majority of the events. It is marvellous to see the little seaside town transformed into something quite spectacular. 

As well as the traders’ market with all sorts of goodies on sale, there was tea duelling, teapot racing, clog dancing, magical shenanigans and wonderfully eccentric music to name but a few of the array of attractions.

Then there was the authors’ tent, where Yours Truly had an absolute blast. I can safely say that I have never been to an event where I have been so inundated with enquiries (and indeed sales of) my books. My fellow authors were an absolute hoot and we all had a great time chatting to members of the public and basically causing general anarchy. I feel deeply sorry for the poor chap who had to try and control us during the panel on the end of the Sunday: it was like trying to herd LSD-infused felines!

If you haven’t been to the event, then I highly recommend it. The link to the ASDO website is here.

So, if having a blast over the weekend wasn’t enough to keep me entertained, last Monday I launched the Kickstarter for my next book Songbird: A Nightingale Story.

I have to say that I felt sick to the core when I clicked on launch for the crowdfunding for my vampire Nightingale’s origins novella. I was convinced that it would be a flop and I would just sit and watch tumbleweed drift through my campaign for the next thirty days.

Well, all those nerves were well and truly squashed when the campaign zoomed past its target in just six hours!!! Needless to say, I was totally gobsmacked and my thanks goes out to everyone who has contributed so far.

There are still approximately three weeks left on the campaign and there are still plenty of goodies left to be snapped up. Primarily there is the opportunity to preorder digital and paperback copies of the book which see Nightingale rise from the poverty of Victorian England to becoming the leader of the Children of Cain, the vampires from the world of my very own Sam Spallucci. 

Not only this, but there is also the opportunity to grab yourself some limited edition artwork by the amazing Liam Shaw. I have a very limited run of A4 prints of the cover art on offer alongside signed copies of Songbird, The Case of The Belligerent Bard  and The Casebook of Sam Spallucci.

Why not hop over to Kickstarter now and have a look for yourself? You can reach it here.

Until next time, keep looking for what lurks in the shadows.

Friday 10 May 2019

A Little Taster

Hello one and all!

Something a little bit different this month. As well as my usual round up, I'm going to post a
small sample of my work here just in case anyone is unfamiliar with it. It will be from The Casebook of Sam Spallucci, the very first book that I published, way back in the mists of 2012.

But first, a little note about what I've been up to since last month's rambling. 

As well as cracking on with Sam's latest outing, Troubled Souls, I've also been out and about meeting friends old and new. April saw me darting over first to the Pagan Federation in Wakefield where I sat in on a fascinating talk about Gerald Gardner, the founder of the modern Wicca movement. Then I headed over to sunny Doncaster where I had a jolly pleasant day at Unleashed Event's con.

The first weekend of May saw my biggest event of the year so far, EM-Con. Situated at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham I had an absolute blast and my books were positively flying out. In fact i sold out of The Casebook of Sam Spallucci altogether.

Talking of Casebook...

Like I mentioned earlier, just in case anyone reading this hasn't sampled my works or is unsure as to whether they ought to nip over to Amazon (link below), here is a small extract from the beginning of the first of the cases in Sam Spallucci's first week on the job:

The Case of The Satanic Suburban Sitcom.

So, may I ask you what is the weirdest question you’ve ever been asked? You know the sort of thing. You’re normally sat in a quiet corner of your favourite bar or pub (the Borough, in my case, as it’s just over the road from my office) supping away at your favourite brew, enjoying the peace and solitude of your own inner ramblings when you notice that someone is stood next to you.

Even before you look up from your alcoholic musings, you just know that it’s going to be trouble. There’s that air of “Oh, dear God,” hanging in the air, but you do the polite thing and look up at the person looming into your personal space whilst smiling expectantly.

Now, if it was a normal person stood there, perhaps wanting to share a table due to the lack of space or wanting to ask you what the time might be as their watch had stopped, then they would smile back and make polite conversation.

No, the sort of person stood there now does not smile, they gawp. They have that faraway look in their
eye that tasted far too many magic mushrooms in their youth or tells of a childhood climbing electric pylons on long, hot summer days. Also, they tend to dribble somewhat, don’t they? Not much. Just a drip from the corner of their slack-jawed mouth.

Then they pop the question.

There’s no reason or rationale to their request. It’s just totally random. It might be something like, “I hit badgers with teaspoons. Wanna join in?” or “You wanna see my collection of belly button fluff? The yellow ones are really interesting.”

Yeah. Weird. Really weird.

Well the other week I got asked a question that topped all of those: “Will you investigate the cast of a high-profile sitcom? I think they’re all Satanists.”

I hope you enjoyed that. If you did then either drop me a line at my website for a signed copy, or feel free to nip over to Amazon where you can buy both paperback and kindle versions.

Chat soon,

Tuesday 9 April 2019

A Shadowy Spring

As I sit typing this, the sun is streaming through my window and spring has finally sprung. Duckings are quacking their way down the canal and lambs are starting to learn about the bogeyman spoken of in hushed tones as “mint sauce”. Spring always brings a feeling of rebirth and renewal, a shot in the arm of patent vim and vigour. It makes you feel that perhaps everything can be all right with the world.

Oh, that things could be that simple for my dearly beloved investigator of the paranormal, Sam Spallucci! I am now two cases into his next outing, Sam Spallucci: Troubled Souls, and things are, as usual, spiralling rather out of control for him. Following the same format as Casebook and Shadows of Lancaster, the latest book will be compiled of five interlinked cases: The Case of The Cherokee Checkout, The Case of The Distressed Demoniac, The Case of The Time-Travelling Tea Rooms, The Case of The Dabbling Dominion and The Case of The Bare Lane Butcher. We will see Sam encounter love-stricken spectres, lost creatures from another realm, an interfering angel and not one, but two, serial killers stalking the back streets of Lancaster and Morecambe. 
I am enjoying this outing for numerous reasons. As well as exploring the ever increasing interference in Sam’s life by the mysterious Kanor, bringer of the apocalyptic Divergence, I will also be using Sam’s lodger Alec a lot more and delving into his family. 

Plus, on top of all this, I am delighted to be working with the marvellous Peter Cakebread. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reading his novel The Morecambe Medium which is set in Victorian Morecambe and I asked him at the time whether or not he fancied penning a joint effort. The Case of The Time-Travelling Tea Rooms will be my half of this venture. Sam, accompanied by his bohemian best friend Spliff, will find themselves teamed up with Peter’s detectorators Mulberry and Touchstone, tracking down the original Bare Lane Butcher. As usual in Sam’s world, not everything is as it seems and there will be repercussions later on in Troubled Souls.

Upcoming Events:
As well as scribbling away, I shall be making a few appearances over the next few weeks. Saturday 13th April sees me in Wakefield at the Pagan Federation North East Conference. Then, on the very next day, I shall be just down the road in Doncaster for the Doncaster Unleashed Comic Con. The 4th and 5th May see my return to the ever popular EM-Con (where I hope to successfully stalk cast members of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and on the 11th May I shall be at the annual Oldham Comic Con. Feel free to come along and say, “Hello!”

All the best,
A.S.Chambers (April 2019).