• Issue 235 - February 2020

    01 February 2020



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the February issue of the Shanville Monthly. The more romantic among you will no doubt be very excited by the upcoming Valentines Day this month -- if you're looking for the perfect reading present for the loved one in your life, I'd like to direct you towards my latest novel for older readers -- Molls Like It Hot. OK, it's not a romance tale per se, but it does focus on an unlikely couple who slowly and rather strangle do start to -- maybe -- fall in love. Kind of. To a backdrop of lots of shoot-ups and dead bodies... More about that below, along with all the latest news and updates from my freaky -- but also freakily romantic -- little world!






    I was delighted to see Molls Like It Hot, my latest novel for older readers, released under the name of Darren Dash, get listed as one of Indie Reader's Best Reviewed Books Of December. To see the full list, CLICK HERE.


    And if you would like to read the full Indie Reader review, CLICK HERE


    Molls has been getting a great reaction both from professional reviewers like the Indie Reader critic, and fans who have bought the book -- you can check out lots of reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. If you'd like to learn a bit more about it, and how to order it either as an ebook or paperback, visit the Darren Dash web site at www.darrendashbooks.com



    TOP 10 part one



    Lots of Best Of The Year lists get floated around at this time of the year, and since we're at the start of a new decade, there have also been lots of Best Of The Decade lists related to movies, TV shows, albums, books and so on from the 2010s. One such list that especially caught my eye was this one by an avid reader called J L Oakman, listing their ten favourite books of the decade just passed. I was delighted to see City Of The Snakes, one of my books for adults (before I started publishing them under the name of Darren Dash) in among the mix. It's always a special thrill when one of my books makes someone's End Of Year list, but to make an End Of Decade list... well, that's ten times the thrill, of course!!! :-)



    TOP 10 part two


    After writing the post above, I started thinking what MY favourite books of the past ten years were. Luckily I grade every book that I read on Goodreads, so I was able to go in and do a quick search. It turns out that I awarded five stars to only twelve books for adults, as well as six books for children or teenagers (I didn't include picture books), so I figured I'd list all of those, rather than try to whittle it down even further. I should point out that I don't read LOADS of books (nowhere near as many as I read in my teens, where I sometimes hit 100 a year), squeezing in a mere 236 in the ten years in question, so this comes from by no means as broad a spectrum as I would like, but anywhere... here we go, in no specific order.


    Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky.
    The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell.
    The Ocean at the end of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.
    I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes.
    Boy's Life, by Robert McCammon.
    11.22.63, by Stephen King.
    Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
    A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
    Swan Song, by Robert McCammon.
    Killing Bono, by Neil McCormick.
    Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett.
    The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.


    Being Billy, by Phil Earle.
    A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness.
    The Ask and the Answer, by Patrick Ness.
    The Savage, by David Almond.
    Someday Angeline, by Louis Sachar.
    Half a Creature from the Sea, by David Almond.



    THE SAGA OF EM & EN...


    A fan called Emma recently returned to my Demonata series, to read the books again after many years, and posted the following comment on Twitter:


    "I opened the first book and realised my overuse of dashes in my writing is fully attributable to Darren Shan. I'M NOT EVEN SORRY!"


    This made me chuckle, because I've had lots of run-ins with my editors over the years, regarding my use of em dashes and en dashes.


    Basically, an en dash is a short dash, like this: -


    While an em dash is a longer dash, like this, but without the gap between the two short dashes which I have to use here:--


    Traditionally, an en dash is used to mark up a long pause between two joined sentences. For example: "Spot has four legs - Spot is a dog."


    Whereas an em dash would be used to break up a sentence with a couple of short pauses. For example: "Spot -- a dog -- has four legs."


    That's always seemed illogical to me. Visually, a short dash to me automatically suggest a short pause, whereas a long dash suggests a long pause. Why should it be the other way round? It makes no sense. I think a lot of people in comics use the dashes the other way, and that's always felt to me to be the RIGHT way.


    (Of course, you can use colons and semi-colons for the same thing, and many writers and editors would insist that those are the correct marks, but I turned my back on those piggy-backing dots and commas a long time ago, and use them very sparingly, only when I feel I must, as I did a few paragraphs above, since it would have confused everyone - not least myself - if I'd used an en dash to highlight an en dash. I'm even getting confused talking about it!)




    I decided early in the game that I was going to reverse the traditional use of em and en dashes, and although my editors protested - sometimes quite loudly and passionately - I stood firm. I don't think anyone should do the "wrong" thing in literature - or indeed in life in general - just because everyone else has done the "wrong" thing for a very long time.


    So, if I was writing about our old faithful friend Spot, I would write (here comes one of those colons again -- watch out!):


    "Spot has four legs -- Spot is a dog."


    or (egads! again!!):


    "Spot - a dog - has four legs."


    And if all of that has left you scratching your head and wondering just what sort of a nitpicking grammatical lunatic this Darren Shan guy is -- just think how my poor editors feel about it!!!!






    Whenever I mention my Saga Of Larten Crepsley books, I almost always get at least one or two fans who blink and go "What?!? He's written books about Mr Crepsley, before his life at the Cirque Du Freak?!? How the hell did I not know about these before?!?"


    Heh heh. It's a busy world, full of all kinds of entertainments. I guess it's hard to keep up with everything today.


    But yes, I wrote 4 books about Mr C and his journey from childhood to adulthood, and they've been knocking around from close to a decade now, in the UK, the USA, and many other countries worldwide.


    The reason I'm mentioning them again is because they were featured in a very interesting article over on the Ginger Nuts Of Horror site, about Quartets In YA Fiction. The author(s) look at lots of cool YA series that consist of four books, and tell you a little bit about them -- you'll find LOADS of great recommendations, may of which I'm better you'll never have heard of before -- including, possibly, four books about a two hundred year old orange-haired vampire...


    To find out what they thought about my Saga Of Larten Crepsley series, CLICK HERE.





    Steve Leopard continues to stir up a lot of debate among readers of my books, even 20 years after his first appearance in Cirque Du Freak. Some hate him with a vengeance, unequivocally, no room for any measure of sympathy or empathy. Others view him as a flawed but pitiable individual, a "there but for the grace of God go I" kind of guy, in many ways a victim of destiny -- and DesTiny.


    While I can certainly understand those of the former persuasion, I'd be more in the latter camp myself. I always saw Steve and Darren as two sides of the same coin -- and that coin, in its original impression, was ME. I tried to put myself in their shoes and explore two different paths that I might have taken in life. I was something of a wild child, with a dark bent of mind, but I came from a good, caring family, and I had some nice, steadying friends. What if I'd come from a broken home, and had no guiding father figure, and felt betrayed by my best friend? Those aren't feeble excuses -- plenty of people in this world come from far worse places than Steve, and rise above their circumstances to become good, decent people -- but they were definitely factors in his slide to the darkest of dark sides. Personally I like to think that without the meddling of Desmond Tiny, and with the friendship of Darren to help steer him straight, Steve would have gone a very different and far more positive way in life.


    But, hey, maybe I'm just a daydream believer!!


    Anyway, for more about what motivated Master Leonard, CLICK HERE to check out the Courageous Nerd site, where this very subject is discussed -- it's what prompted me to raise the issue here, all these years down the road.






    I highlighted this sale in the run-up to Christmas, and I know many of you swooped like vultures to take advantage of it. (I did too, adding several sets to my collection, to use as giveaways at some point down the road.) I don't know how they're selling them at such a crazy low price -- with shipping costs, they must surely be making a monetary loss! I think the most likely scenario is that they're being used as a loss leader, i.e. they're being sold incredibly cheap in the hope of attracting customers who will buy other books as well. Or else they just ended up with a load of them in a warehouse and decided to flog them for next-to-nothing rather than pulp them.




    What I'm talking about are the 10 books in my The Demonata series. They're on sale, as a boxed set (the box they come in is really cool too), from The Works in the UK and Ireland, for just £7.50.


    Yes. £7.50. For all 10 books. Which equates to 75 pence per book.


    Don't miss this one, because I doubt you'll ever find a brand new set for that price again once the sale ends.


    They only ship to Ireland and the UK, so my apologies to fans elsewhere in the world. But, hey, if you've ever considered moving to live here, maybe this will help convince you that now is as good a time to move as any... :-)


    CLICK HERE to buy.







    The Cirque Du Freak movie is now streaming on Netflix in India, for anyone over there who might be interested in checking it out. CLICK HERE to find out more about its launch.


    The movie showing on Netflix in many other regions too, such as the USA, UK, Canada, Australia...


    Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, only you guys can decide. :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)






    It's been a while since our last Cirque Du Freak meme. We had a splurge of them during the last few months of 2019, but that seems to have dried up of late. Thankfully that long-time Tweeter who goes by the name of Vampire Council came through with this little rib-tickler in the run-up to the yuletide. I should really have posted this just before Christmas, but it kinda got lost among all the fan art icons on my desktop... whoops!!





    Although my books aren't mentioned in it, CLICK HERE for a very intriguing (and worrying) article about the rise and fall of YA literature over the last couple of decades, that I think will prove of interest to anyone with even a passing fascination with the genre.


    I've certainly noticed a change to my own YA work among the publishing fraternity, and a few other authors have commented about this as well when I've been chatting with them. When I wrote Cirque Du Freak back in 1997, children's publishers were very wary of it and unwilling to even take a punt on it, as they preferred to focus on books for younger children. Sadly, we seem to have come back round that way again. It doesn't mean that good YA books can't get published or aren't being published. It just means it's a lot harder to get your work out there now than it was ten or so years ago, and much much harder to get a publisher to really back it and take it to a wider audience even if they do take a chance on it. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back the YA way again in the not too distant future, but at the moment it's a bit of a battle if you love those types of books and want to devote your energy to creating them...






    A vlogger with the user name of Atheistic Socialistic posted a couple of reviews of the first two Zom-B books last year. After a bit of a gap, he's back with a review of the third in the series, Zom-B City. If you'd like to check out what he has to say about it, CLICK HERE.


    If you're not familiar with my Zom-B series, there were 12 books in total (plus a non-essential but strongly connected short 13th book, Zom-B Circus, available as a low-cost ebook through Amazon stores) detailing the downfall of humanity and the battle for control of the future. A fast-paced, prescient, dystopian nightmare, it saw the light of day long before the likes of Brexit or Donald Trump reared their political heads, but is so relevant to what's been happening in the world over the last few years that it could have been written and published today... well, assuming I could write 12 books that fast!!! :-)


    It's pretty kick-ass too, even if I do say so myself, and packed with more twists than a sardine can packed with twisty sardines! :-)


    Your local bookseller should be able to order the books for you, or else you can find them online through a seller like Lowplex UK, or Amazon.






    A fan of the Little People from my Cirque Du Freak books, called Kagamitori, recently decided to cosplay as Harkat Mulds. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when people passing by caught a glimpse of this one! :-) :-) :-)





    A mum called Karen wrote to me a while back, to say:


    "My 10 year old son has absolutely devoured your books. He wasn’t particularly interested in reading before but has now read all 4 of The saga of Larten Crepsley and all the Cirque Du Freak books. I do cringe at some of it as to whether it’s appropriate at 10, but he is so passionate about reading I don’t want to discourage him."


    The old "Is it age appropriate?" question! I always find this a really hard one to answer. I know a lot of children's books get slapped with a Recommended Age label, especially those aimed at pre-teens, and I can certainly see the reasoning behind it, not least from the point of view of parents or grandparents who want to buy a book for a child but don't much about the current market. With a 5 year old son, it's something I do myself sometimes when scanning books in a shop -- take a quick glance for an age appropriate sticker if a book that I'm unfamiliar with looks like it might be of interest to him.


    But as kids get older, I think those age recommendations break down. Every reader is different, and children (and teenagers) of a similar age can be reading at VERY different levels. For instance, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I read my first Stephen King book, Salem's Lot. Now, I'd never recommend that for any other child of that age, and I doubt I'd be too happy if I spotted Dante reading it when he's 10, but at the same time I'd have to be a big old hypocrite if I got too huffy about it, because, y'know, *I* read it at that age! Some kids ARE ready for King at 10 or 11... or 12 or 13... or 14 or 15... or...


    As a basic rule of thumb, whenever I ask, I tend to state the following ages for my books -- although please don't take this as gospel, and please always use your own judgement when it comes to any individual child in question:


    Koyasan or Hagurosan -- 9 or 10.


    Cirque Du Freak -- 10 or 11.


    The Demonata or The Thin Executioner or The Saga Of Larten Crepsley -- 12 or 13.


    Zom-B -- 13 upwards.


    My Darren Dash books -- no. Just no. Not for kids. Unless... y'know... they're twisted kids like *I* was... :-)






    I post about many different subjects here -- variety, spice of life, etc -- but I'm not sure if I've ever before posted a link to an article about art school graduates. Just goes to show that no matter how long you hang around on social media for, there's always room for something new! As for WHY I'm posting about art school graduates? Well, you'll have to read it to find out -- all I'll say in advance is to pay special attention to the section about a young artist called Ethan...


    Oh, but before you click on the link, I will point out that there is some mild (artistic!) nudity in some of the photos, so if that bothers you, you might prefer not to click through.


    If you're OK with that, then CLICK HERE.




    To celebrate the twenty year anniversary of the release of Cirque Du Freak in January 2000, I' ran a competition last month offering up two sets of rare Cirque Du Freak books, one for fans who live in the UK or Ireland, and one for fans who live anywhere else in the world. There was a great response to it, the most entries I've received in quite a while. Thanks to everyone who entered, and for the nice little messages that many of you attached. Sadly, there could only be two winners, one for the UK and Ireland region, the other for fans anywhere else in the world, and the lucky victors were...


    UK/Ireland -- Toni Storey, from County Durham.


    Rest Of World -- Christina Gourlay, from New Zealand.


    Congratulations to Toni and Christina -- I hope you both enjoy the rare, signed books. Commiserations to everybody else, and better luck next time! :-)



    IT'S A WRAP!



    And that's it for February. I was a leeeeeeetle bit late in posting the above Happy New Year drawing by a fan called Eszter in the middle of last month, I admit, but better late than never, eh?!? The thing I love most about Eszter's drawing is Mr Crepsley's dour expression. I shouldn't really laugh at it, I suppose, but it's impossible not to. I can just imagine him like this, the grump in the room on New Year's Eve... well, until he gets a few mugs of ale down him, after which he'd be "Let me dazzle you with a few card tricks to get this party going!!!!" :-) I'll be back here at the start of March with all the latest Darren Shan (and Darren Dash) news and updates. Until then, all my bloody best, Darren Shan. x x x



    Follow Darren Shan on Facebook and Twitter. He also has a (very rarely updated!) YouTube page.





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