Almost Surely – Gavin Jefferson

Almost Surely by Gavin Jefferson

When you control the fate of others, who is in control of yours?

One of the things I love about indie books is that they often defy traditional classification. Sure, categories can help us find what we are looking for, but what if we don’t know what we are looking for until we find it? Some stories just beg to be told, no matter what genre we might later decide they should sit in.

Almost Surely is a book that breaks the genre mould. It has elements of time travel, sci-fi and low fantasy, but it feels very much like an old noir film in its styling. The way the scenes are framed, the locations, and the jazz soundtrack all add to this. There’s also a charming Murakami-like focus on the animals in the background of scenes that really brings the whole thing to life.

But onto the story. Here Jefferson has created a wonderful mythology, which I bought into from the very first page. The opening to the book introduces four Heralds, located somewhere apparently outside of our usual realms of space and time. There’s Gift, the authority that governs karma, Collector, who takes care of death, Love, and Watcher, the blind embodiment of fate. While all of these exist, looming in the background of the book, the story follows Anthony Hopper: an Agent of Influence who directs the lives of those selected by Watcher.

Continue reading “Almost Surely – Gavin Jefferson”

Eudaimonia – Micah Thomas

The Little Demons Inside by Micah Thomas

Eudaimonia: Having a good attendant or indwelling spirit.

The Eudaimonia books by Micah Thomas so far consist of a novel (The Little Demons Inside), and two collections of connected short stories (Evidence of Changes Volumes 1 and 2). The second novel (The Ghosts We Hide) is out in a couple of weeks. I binge-read the first three books back to back, and wanted to tell you all about them.

From the back cover of The Little Demons Inside:

This is not a love story, but there is love. This is not a horror story, but there are horrors. This is not a true story, but there is truth.

In 2017, something went wrong with the world. Or, at least, in 2017, everyone finally saw it. Henry needed to get off the streets to avoid the heat and volunteered for an experimental drug trial. The permanent side effects made his life dangerous and unpredictable.

Henry doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know his place. He’s a broken version of a wandering superhero. Then he meets Cassie. Their connection is brief and intense. These two lost souls are propelled together, apart, and together again in a mind-bending adventure that challenges them to face their demons.

Content Warning: This book contains vulgar language and depictions of violence and moral decay against humans, including but not limited to psychic possession and sexual acts under said possession.

We have long been obsessed with the idea that there are spaces, dimensions, or worlds beyond the physical. It is one of the things I repeatedly reference in my own fiction, and something I’ve been reading a lot about recently in terms of consciousness theories and psychedelic research reports. In the Eudaimonia series, Micah Thomas explores the possibilities of such spaces, and he does so beautifully. You see, not only do these stories have a strong socio-philosophical element, but they are also gripping, accessible and heartfelt: something that makes a book irresistible to me. Continue reading “Eudaimonia – Micah Thomas”

Mind in the Gap

I’ve been busy working on my second book, Mind in the Gap, and it is finally at the stage I can share some details with you!

My first book, Fragments of Perception, has been a great success as far as I’m concerned. What I’m getting from the feedback, however, is that my readers would like to see my next ideas expanded into longer pieces. So, that is what I have done with Mind in the Gap.

Never content with something straight-forward, I decided I wanted to create stories that are individually entertaining and thought-provoking, but collectively reminiscent of a many-faceted reality; the truth cannot be found in any one story we tell ourselves, only in the whole collection. I doubt whether the un-enhanced human brain has the capacity to perceive the complete picture of our world, so we have to make do with Fragments; one-off polaroid shots at single moments in space and time. But that will never stop us from making a puzzle of it all, and therein lies the nature of being human. Mind in the Gap, therefore, is layered and full of Easter eggs.

Here’s the blurb (subject to change) and the cover, designed by the talented Natasha Snow:

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“The body likes continuity. It’s part of the deal. But the truth is, there are gaps everywhere. Gaps only the mind can slip through…”

Follow M – a strange and chaotic being who professes to be the outcast of a black hole – on a journey like no other. Flowing freely through the back streets of hidden realms, she drives her companion to meet the commuters who cross dimensions, embody future technology, and peek behind the scenes at consciousness; all with one purpose in mind.

Inventive, zany, and often surreal, C.R. Dudley’s style melds the metaphysical with the technological to create dazzling architectures of thought. Mind in the Gap is an extraordinary book of diversions, circular routes, and infinite possibilities. A collection of 14 unique stories and 14 alternate realities with more to connect them than meets the eye.

The edited manuscript is currently with my trusty advance readers, and if there are no major hiccups, it will be released on 23rd September: a significant date for my characters. I can’t wait!

An Interlude

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I thought since I have come out of hibernation, it might be a good time to tell you about a few things I’ve got going on. As I don’t do this too often, you could consider it a bumper newsletter! Here goes:
Writing

While giving the draft of my novel, The Enlightenment Machine, some space to breathe, I ended up plotting and starting to write another in the same world. Technically it tells the story of events preceding The Enlightenment Machine, so working on that has given me a good idea of what needs changing on the first for consistency and a stronger story arc. I also have a vague idea for how a third might go, so it’s looking like this might be a trilogy. I know how to set my targets high, that’s for sure!

Despite aiming to complete some longer works, I still love writing short fiction. I have so many ideas for new stories; if I stopped giving them a platform, they’d sneak their way into the novels and that would get messy fast. So, as well as the standalone pieces I post on the blog, I am working on a new collection. It’s going well so far, and I have plans to release it at the end of summer. This time it will be completely new material. These stories are a little longer than my usual flash – in the region of 2,000 words each – and have a running theme and a thread connecting them all. I’m really excited about it and can’t wait to tell you more.
Editing

I’ve done more beta reads over the last couple of months, as well as some full critiques and editing jobs. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the latter. They have been a great exercise in improving my craft as well as hopefully helping others. I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing. Thank you also to those who are helping me to see my own blindspots.
Fragments of Perception

Fragments of Perception has been out for 4 months now and I am thrilled with how well it is doing. Thank you so much to everyone who has bought a copy and recommended it to your friends. I have 7 reviews on Amazon and 8 on Goodreads, all claiming the book was thought-provoking and unusual, most giving 5 stars.

If you have read the book, please do consider leaving a review as they make a huge difference to indie authors. If you haven’t read the book yet, you can find the full blurb and buying options here.
Book Reviews

My ‘to read’ pile (OK, bookcase) is still ever-growing, but I do love to have unread books around me; I find it inspiring. I’ve just finished Otherworlds by David Luke, and have started on Narrative Machines by James Curcio. The new Borne story by Jeff Vandermeer also just arrived on my desk, along with Brett Anderson’s memoir Coal Black Mornings.

I have decided to lose the ‘marks out of ten’ method for rating books here on the blog in favour of letting readers make their own decision from the words I use. I want Orchid’s Lantern reviews to be respected for their in-depth and well-rounded approach, and I think the score being so prominent was going against that a little. I may still use the traditional 1-5 stars in the footer if people prefer that?

I am open to review requests, but they must be within my genre interests for fiction (metaphysical, sci-fi, fantasy, weird) or for non-fiction (philosophy, psychology, mysticism). As always, I will give a full review to anything that gives me enough to say without spoilers, and a ‘group spot’ for brief reviews of everything else.
Orchid’s Lantern

I have been thinking about where I want to go next with Orchid’s Lantern, and it seems that the natural progression would be to invite guests to share stories and reviews on the blog. I am still working out the details of this, but watch this space if that sounds like it could be of interest to you.
Virtual Futures

On 20th February the first Virtual Futures Near-Future Fiction event of the year took place at Library London. Geoff Ryman was guest speaker, and several other authors were in attendance (including me) to share their fictional interpretations of the future of disease. I’m not a public speaker, so thankfully the organisers paired me up with a talented actress who read my story Toxic Duck Inc to the live audience. It was a great venue, a great bunch of people, and a very high standard of writing. I was honoured to be involved. Recordings of all of the stories will be soon available to view on the Virtual Futures YouTube channel, which is well worth checking out anyway.

If you are local and missed this event, the next one is happening on 20th March. The theme will be Virtual Persons, and I have another brand new story called The Test which will be featured. Tickets are available now from Eventbrite.

And that’s it for now. It sounds like there’s a lot going on, and there is, but I’m loving every minute of it. The light is coming back and I’ve found my most productive rhythm – dream and draft in the morning, edit and proof in the afternoon.

I love to hear your comments, so please do keep interacting on the page and anywhere else you can find me. I am on Facebook, but I’m a bit more active on Twitter.

The Surrogate – Gavin Jefferson

C.R. Dudley author Orchid's Lantern blog

The Surrogate is a science fiction novella and debut release from author Gavin Jefferson. The setting is a world in which obesity has been eradicated, leaving behind a ‘healthy, beautiful, and promiscuous’ populous. All, that is, except for one man: a man named Ronald Calico, a.k.a. The Surrogate.

This book grabs the reader from the intriguing first scene where we meet an old man (with a much younger public face) boarding a cruiser with his robotic assistant. It is through his eyes that we are shown the way society has developed, and through his conversation that we learn who The Surrogate is and how his unusual career came about.

This is a straight forward read, and a quick one at just 100 or so pages. What amazes me is that in so little space, and without being immediately obvious, Jefferson skilfully poses important questions about the way we interact and, in particular, the way we perceive intimacy. The Surrogate addresses such issues as body image, sexuality, personhood, and the messages filtered down to the masses from powerful decision-makers. I was left contemplating the role direct and diverse human contact plays in our sense of connection, and whether it could be considered endangered as we reach new levels of scientific and technological discovery.

The characters are well-rounded: likeable but realistic, and the ending made me a bit emotional!

There is also a bonus story included in the book called ‘The Collector’, which is a great teaser for Jefferson’s next release ‘Almost Surely’. I am very much looking forward to reading that and more from this author.

A Chaotic Mind

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My notebook has notebooks inside it!

A chaotic notebook has unfortunately led to a chaotic mind, and last week I had to take some time out from my writing projects to put everything into some semblance of order. I could really do with one of those meta-grids I imagined in Bottled Up… Anyway, I have now devised a set of symbols to help me find things more easily in my journals without losing the spontaneity of mixing up inspiring quotes with research, plotting, prose, and general thoughts about life. I have lists, spreadsheets and trackers; and a (slightly) less cluttered piece of consciousness.

So, as you know, Fragments of Perception has been released into the world. A big thank you to everyone who has bought it so far! I do have a favour to ask: if you have read the book, would you consider posting a short review on Amazon and/or Goodreads? It would mean a lot to me. Alternatively, if you are a book blogger, perhaps you would write a review here on WordPress?

The road to indie publishing has been interesting and challenging: I have loved every minute of it. I know more than ever that this is the path I wish to take, and am excited to now be working on the next book. Right now I’m busy researching subjects as far-ranging as the mid-Atlantic ridge, Greek mythology, and VR therapy. I’m also writing for an anthology, and throwing around some ideas for a collaborative project. All of this inevitably steals from what used to be blogging time, but the truth is I need to keep writing flash fiction to release those smaller, short-term creative echoes. It may be a juggling act, but I fully intend to keep posting new content and I won’t keep you hanging for the next instalment of The Holly King’s Apprentice much longer!

One more thing: this week I will be doing an interview about Fragments of Perception for an online author’s site, and I thought it might be fun to do one here too. If anyone has any questions for me about the stories, process, forthcoming work or even me as an author, please pop them in the comments or email me at orchidslantern@gmail.com and, providing there is enough interest, I will compile them into a special post in the next week or so.

Thanks everyone!

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Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is available in paperback and ebook now! For a synopsis and purchasing options, please visit my Books page.

Why I am Going Indie

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I was having coffee with a friend the other day, and of course I told her all about the book I am about publish. “Oh, but why not try to get a proper publishing deal before you do that?” she said. I told her I wasn’t interested in that route, and she quickly responded with “don’t put yourself down: you never know unless you try.” I assured her that this was a positive decision I was making, and nothing to do with being under-confident. Her response? “Well I suppose at least a proper publisher might see what you do and pick you up later.” My friend’s perspective is not an uncommon one; I have come across many others who think I am somehow selling myself short by ‘settling’ for publishing independently. So in this post I want to explain why it is my first choice to put my book out this way, without ever having sent off a single query letter.

Continue reading “Why I am Going Indie”