wiv love from Jagmat

Two items of Q&A – with one ‘A’ from me and one, I hope, from you…! ;)

The first is something I was asked this week via the MySpace page of Jagmat from The Black Tattoo. Huge respect and kudos – partly just for not letting the whole shapeshifting blancmange monster thing put him off! – to Mykell, from Maryland, USA, who wondered:

What kind of research do u do when u are writing ur books?

Research… hmm. If you’re talking about facts and figures, details of setting and time and place and action… it depends.

I think details are important, especially in a fantasy story: they give the reader something to hang onto; they make things seem real. For instance, I got the fight scenes in Black Tat checked out by genuine martial artists. While I was writing the book, I met a lady at a party who turned out to be the ranking Number 3 North European Women’s Sabre Champion! She was wonderfully sporting about reading Black Tat’s swordfights for me: I got these excellent emails from her saying, ‘Well, ok: if I was fighting a thirty-foot-long hedgehog centipede beast, I suppose I’d start off on the back foot, with this sort of a grip…’ and off she went. I hope those kinds of details give some realistic weight and crunch to Black Tat’s fights. And if a story needs other kinds of information, I’ll find out everything I can.

But here’s the thing: that stuff should only ever be in service to the story. The story comes first. Because no amount of detail is going to make the readers care if they’re not involved in the scene, feeling for the characters, wondering what’s going to happen next.

The story is the hard bit – the main thing to focus on – it seems to me.

…Which brings me to my second question.


Slice Three of JETHRO’S ACE OF HEARTS, the thirteen-part story I’m currently serializing on Trapped By Monsters, goes live for your delectation tomorrow (Friday 6th Nov ’09) at 12 noon GMT.

My current plan is to have Slice Four go up this Monday, Slice Five go up next Friday, and so on. But a couple of my fellow TBM prisoners think I should go up to three episodes a week – posting on Wednesdays, too.

You, reading this: Hello! What do you think?

I think savouring the story slowly would be best – three slices a week might dominate the blog, and the story would finish very quickly. Or am I just being mean and stingy?

Leave a comment on Trapped By Monsters either way: I’m all ears.


Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. 😉


I’m posting this from a dark, dank, evil-smelling cavern where myself and seven other authors are currently being held prisoner, kidnapped by the very monsters upon whom we all depend for our storytelling livelihoods. Brutally, our guards only allow us access to the internet for a few minutes at a time(!!!) so here – with a quick extra line or two at the end – is a transcript of what I just posted on the blog over there:

I’m not sure what scares me most right now: the monsters or, frankly, my fellow captive authors. The way certain of my colleagues here are already slipping into classic hostage behaviour is starting to worry me. Fraternizing with our jailers is one thing (”leg stroking” indeed!) but turning on each other? Mark, I’m astonished. [And given his knife-throwing prowess and Tae Kwon Do expertise, I’m, ahem, also somewhat alarmed.]

Well. We may be stuck here in a reeking cave full of ravening beasts who will rend us limb from limb soon as look at us (that’s the monsters I’m talking about there, not the authors). We may, even worse, be short of loo roll (AARGH!!) But I, for one, will…


To that end here are some more thrilling books from Jack’s Stack.

FOOL MOON and GRAVE PERIL, by Jim Butcher. These are the second and third books from Mr Butcher’s brilliant Dresden Files series, concerning hardbitten Chicago private eye wizard Harry Dresden. Yep, “private eye wizard”, that’s what I said: as well as crime, the police, the Mafia and the media, Harry Dresden’s mean streets also contain evil magicians, ghosts, demons, werewolves, vampires and all sorts of other supernatural goodies. If that combination sounds like your bag – and it’s certainly mine – then give STORM FRONT, the first of the series, a go. These books are so much fun that I’m having to ration them to myself so I don’t munch straight through ‘em all at once, Honey Monster style. :)

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, by Neil Gaiman. I wanted not to like this book. I’m not proud of that. It’s just that Mr Gaiman is at the top of his game, his previous books are brilliant and sell by the shedload, and everyone loves him. Me, I’m standing at the foot of this ‘being a published author’ mountain, gulping a lot, and I need hope. I wanted signs that the dizzy heights aren’t impossible. I wanted flaws. I’m all the more ashamed, then, when I tell you that THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is, in fact, the finest book for young people that I read in the whole of last year (the nearest competitor was LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow fyi) and it will probably end up being one of my favourite books ever. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is tender when it needs to be tender; it’s got monsters and darkness when there needs to be monsters and darkness (which is often, for me!) It’s fast, it’s smart, it’s touching, it’s beautifully written, it’s enormous fun and once you close the book it lingers in the mind, possibly forever. -Curses! ;p

To judge from what I’ve found on the cave shelves so far (misery memoirs, celeb biogs and – yuck – so many /pony books/!!) these monsters need all the pointers to fine reading they can get, so there’ll be more from Jack’s Stack shortly. For further suggestions in the mean time, check my LibraryThing profile.

Before I pass the mic, I just want to address Mark’s laughable accusation that I’m an imposter. If I understand this right, Mark would have you believe that what I said in my blog is true: that I’m not actually Sam Enthoven, but am in fact the ugnacious Jagmat Wrelkmink, Emperor of Hell. Unhappy with the way that I, sorry, “he” was portrayed in the Enthoven’s, sorry, “my” book The Black Tattoo, I came from Hell to London, killed the Enthoven, and then, being a shapeshifter, I assumed his, um, I mean, “my” identity. Ever since then, while posing as an author I’ve been secretly preying on, sorry, I mean “learning as much as possible about” the human race. Or so Mark says.


I would like to make it clear to my fellow authors here in the cave (and anyone else reading this) that I am /absolutely not/ a repulsive, shapeshifting, blancmange-like demon who belches all the time. You are all PERFECTLY SAFE FROM ME, I assure you, and there is no chance whatsoever that at any moment you may find yourself reduced to your constituent proteins as I envelop and consume you in a seething tide of hot pink digestive juices. So I hope that’s that cleared up. URP. ‘Scuse me. ;)

…Work on draft two of Phase Three continues apace, albeit by the sepulchral flicker of the disgusting earwax candles that are the only illumination our monstrous gaolers have permitted me. My eyes hurt all the time. And the smell! Strewth! Hope you’re having a better January than me.


Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. 😉