Saturday, July 2, 2011

Guest blog with J H Sked author of Basement Blues

I was born in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa, to a family of Scottish descent. 
When my parents realised they had their hands full (I was the kid on child reins , since without them I’d wander off and start babbling  to the interesting guy wearing the dirty raincoat in the shopping mall), they taught me how to read. It meant they usually knew where I was and probably saved my mom several premature grey hairs.

To this day it’s the best gift anyone has ever given me; books, for me, are universal magic.
I started writing in primary school; short stories and poems. When my mother hauled out her old typewriter and gave it me I spent hours clunking away on it.  I was always drawn to the darker stories, both in reading and writing, and although my folks didn’t understand the attraction, they never tried to stop me. When it came to the writing side they encouraged me to write, full stop, despite not really enjoying the subject matter.

I moved to London U.K a number of years ago. I’m lucky enough that I enjoy my job – I work with a really great bunch of people.

Apart from work, I’m studyng an MSc part-time (it seemed like a good idea when I started), which means during term-time I’m a little frantic time wise. When I’m not studying I write – I try for at least a chapter a night, sometimes more, and I paint and read to relax.  I read almost anything – fantasy and horror, crime, thrillers, westerns – as long as the story is good I don’t really mind the genre.

The London underground – the tube – has fascinated me since my first day – there’s nothing like it in South Africa. It’s almost like being on an underground roller coaster, without the loops. There are a lot of abandoned stations and tunnels, and if you use it late at night or very early in the morning it can be genuinely creepy; so it’s not surprising I ended up writing a couple of stories based around it.

Scott has kindly invited me over (Hi Scott!) to let me ramble a bit about WolfSong, Basement Blues and future plans.

WolfSong is a fantasy tale set in the Crescent, a country populated by three distinct species - humans, werewolves, and the militaristic hawks, all living in a very uneasy truce with each other.
Throw in a bit of treachery, violence and a main character who is very close to losing her grip on sanity, and you end up with blood, magic and a few characters with severe attitude problems.

The book started life as an incredibly vivid dream a number of years ago; I was in a group of soldiers that rode into a village full of bodies. Pretty much the entire scene made it into the book; up to and including the shed scene, which is when I woke up tangled in sheets and sweating profusely.
Once my heart rate went back to normal, I realised I really wanted to know what happened next.

I started playing what if? What if the consequences were a lot bigger than one soldier dying in a seemingly random act? What if someone wanted revenge, to the exclusion of everything else? What would that do, to herself and those around her?

I wanted to explore the consequences of loss and the ripple effect a single act of violence can cause, and it turned into a story I'm still happy with.

Basement Blues has a totally different feel to it; very tongue-in-cheek, although it still has a couple of dark moments. Kind of urban paranormal noire, if you like. To give you an idea, here's the blurb:
"Billy's client has a couple of problems.
She's dead, for starters. She smells bad. 
And her laundry equipment is trying to kill her all over again.

Saving the (undead) girl shouldn't be this hard.."

I've had these characters in my head for awhile, but wanted a way to introduce them. A short story (it tops out at thirteen chapters) seemed like a good idea, so when this image of Billy sitting at his desk opposite a zombie in a designer suit popped up, it was perfect.

The plan is to roll out a series featuring the characters of the Blue Moon Detective agency. I had so much fun writing this, and there are so many places to go with them.

The other stories part of the collection are Dim and Pushing Janey.  They're both short stories inspired by travelling on the London underground, which has fascinated me since I moved to London a number of years ago.

Pushing Janey started out because of something I saw on my way to work one morning; a young guy standing in the middle of the carriage. The lights flickered out for a second and when they came on again, he just wasn't there anymore. He wasn't sitting anywhere else and the carriage hadn't stopped at a platform. He just wasn't anywhere to be seen.
Now, I'm not sure whether what I saw was a ghost, although I rather like that idea. I guess most people would have freaked out. I started playing what if? again.

Dim was a case of me experimenting with the underground again; sometimes when the lights flicker and go out you get these weird little sparks in the tunnels outside the carriage. They look like little copper eyes, and to me they always look hungry. It's an out and out horror story, which had a totally different outcome to what I planned when I wrote it.

The follow up to WolfSong, The Weeping of Ravens, is planned for release in December 2011, and follows Amber again as the main character. 
When she follows Scrout's trail out of the Crescent, Amber ends up in a  whole new world of trouble; suspected of murder and with a killer focusing on her as their next victim. The problem is, Amber doesn't play the victim card well. It irritates her. And when Amber gets irritated, all hell is sure to follow..


  1. Hi Janet (& Scott!) -

    I just finished BasementbBlues and I really loved it! I can't wait to read more about that detective agency!

  2. Yeah I think Janet has a winner with that series for sure. I can't wait for a full length adventure (after WolfSong of course).