Joe Dever 1956-2016

When I was a lad, I fell in love with a number of writers, particularly fantasy writers, in the early to mid 80s.  Donaldson, Eddings and Gemmell are all authors I still go back to today – each different in their own way, but still resonating for me even now.

Another author I loved was Joe Dever.  Dever passed away on the 29th of November, another victim of the killing spree that is 2016.  Dever wrote a long running series of what became known as gamebooks (solo roleplaying adventures contained within the covers of a book – start with Choose Your Own Adventures, but then expand out into simple game mechanics involving dice or random number generators as your character battles through a hostile landscape to fame and fortune.  Key examples are Fighting Fantasy and JH Brennan’s Grailquest) based around the title character Lone Wolf.

Dever had developed the world of Magnamund in the late 70s as a setting for his D&D campaign.  Later, he repurposed it for his Lone Wolf books, where you adventure to avenge your fallen comrades, and re-establish the Kai Order, warrior monks who help defend the kingdom of Sommerlund.

The setting is vast, the history deep, the adventures a great deal of fun.  Whereas the Fighting Fantasy world was largely developed ad hoc and only later was it all shoved together to give it coherency, Magnamund was developed from day one and presents a coherent fantasy world with different cultures and peoples and histories and gods and villains.  It’s really a remarkable achievement.

One indicator of Dever’s skill and imagination as a writer was that even while you were focussing on the adventure at hand, you had a sense that away from the storyline, the rest of Magnamund was busy with its own concerns.  This fed into the sensation that you, as Lone Wolf, were part of something far larger than just your adventures.

I encountered the first book, Flight from the Dark, one cloudy afternoon in 1984.  The moody cover, featuring Lone Wolf standing looking at the reader while standing in front of a forest (in later books, Lone Wolf’s back would be to the reader, presenting the idea that it’s YOU on the cover) is immediately intriguing.  Internal illustrations on the early books were by Gary Chalk (who designed the earliest Talisman boardgame) and are as evocative today as they were over 30 years ago.

The series allows for development of the character as he picks up new skills each book.  Unlike most other gamebook series, Lone Wolf followed a storyline with the same character for the first 18 books, which allows for greater buy in from the reading audience.  The later books follow a different character in the same setting.

Dever also wrote the Freeway Fighter set of four book set in a post apocalyptic America dominated by road warriors, and the Combat Hero books where you and a friend play against each other with paired books.

Due to declining sales, the Lone Wolf series finished with book 28 in the late 90s, but not before selling over 12 million copies.  The enduring love for the series saw them re-published, first electronically and for free via the Project Aon, and then later in handsome hardcover editions.  Dever himself set up Holmgard Press to publish the much anticipated books 29-32, with The Storms of Chai only recently coming out.  Dever’s books found new fans in Germany and Italy, and indeed he had to bow out of attending a convention in Italy due to the surgery he underwent before his death.

Dever, who had suffered in recent years from illness, passed away at the age of 60, only fifteen years older than myself.  While that is sobering, it doesn’t outweigh the joy I felt and still feel today when each new book came along, containing the promise of excitement and adventure and a glimpse of a vast backstory.  The continuing interest in Magnamund and his books, which extended into computer and board games and latterly a full blown RPG, testify to the man’s ability to writing engaging stories that tapped into a deep desire for adventure.

Joe Dever 1956-2016



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Out Now from Candy Jar – Eve of the Fomorians!


Released at Halloween is my free extended short story, Eve of the Fomorians, for all subscribers of the Lethbridge – Stewart range of books from Candy Jar.

When Anne Travers, William Bishop and Samson Ware travel home via a remote fishing village on the Scottish coast, they find a place devoid of inhabitants and soon encounter terrifying creatures with even more terrifying plans for the planet.

Available now for all Candy Jar subscribers to the Lethbridge-Stewart range and for those pre-ordering the next book in the range, Times Squared.

Times Squared can be pre-ordered individually, or as part of the Series 3 Bundle (both UK and overseas), which includes forthcoming novels, Blood of Atlantis by Simon A Forward, and Mind of Stone by Iain McLaughlin, or the subscription deal for those wishing to get six books for the price of five (UK only, covering the series three titles, plus the series four titles released early 2017)!

Pre-order directly from; Times Squared is due for release at the end of October.

The previously limited print-collection, The HAVOC Files, has also been released on Kindle. Buy it here

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Lethbridge-Stewart at Halloween: Eve of the Fomorians

Some very exciting news.  Candy Jar Books publish a very strong range of novels and short stories based on the characters surrounding Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, one of the fan favourites of the Doctor Who tv series.

Recently, the editor of the line accepted a story line proposal I made to him.  That story, Eve of the Fomorians, will see publication in time for Halloween.  Press release is as follows:

Candy Jar Books have announced their latest e-book in the Lethbridge-Stewart range for Halloween, free to anybody pre-ordering the next main book in the range, Times Squared:

Lethbridge-Stewart: Eve of the Fomorians (Credit: Candy Jar Books)
Eve of the Fomorians
Written by Robert Mammone
Cover by Paul Cooke

All Hallows’ Eve, 1969. En route back to Edinburgh, Anne Travers, William Bishop and Samson Ware come across a deserted village in the Scottish countryside. A village that is rotten to the core.

Range Editor Andy Frankham-Allen, says:

I was already familiar with Rob’s work, so when he emailed us out of the blue asking if we would consider him for our Short Story Incentive scheme, I was very willing to give him a shot. And he just happened to enquire as we were about to seek out a story for Halloween.

Robert Mammone says:

Once I knew it was going to be set around Halloween, I knew I wanted to do a Quatermass inspired story, with definite horrific elements, sourced back to a scientific explanation/basis.

Shaun Russell, head of publishing at Candy Jar, says:

There is something very John Wyndham about the story, which I know Andy especially appreciates, as do a lot of our readers.

This story is set shortly after Times Squared: Andy says:

Although you can easily read it without having read Times Squared, as it features Anne, Bishop and Samson who are not in that novel. Although it references Times Squared, it does so in a way that will not spoil that novel one bit. It also has a nice callback to the first novel of this year, Moon Blink. All that said, it is very deliberately written to be read on its own, with your feet up, candles lit and the rain lashing against the window.

Times Squared can be pre-ordered from the Candy Jar website.

The limited edition print-collection The HAVOC Files is now available to read on Kindle.


So, if you pre-order Time Squared, the next book in the range, you get my 10,000 word story as a freebie.  That’s a bargain, folks!

As I said before, really pleased to be given a chance to write for this range.  Those of us who gloried in the return of The Web of Fear just over three years ago, were pleased that the high praise that missing story had over the years was justified.  The characters and events in that serial form the basis for the Lethbridge Stewart range and form the basis of my short story.

It’s horror themed, which is apt given its being released in time for Halloween.  IAnything more and I’ll spoil it, but I am very proud of it.

Many thanks to Candy Jar for publishing it.  Thanks to Paul Cooke for his splendidly spooky cover and special thanks to range editor Andy Frankham-Allen for his great work in improving the story.  Thanks, guys!




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Sold a story! All is not lost!

One way to welcome the weekend is to check your email and find one telling you a story has been accepted.

So that’s my weekend started.

The very fine folks at HelloHorror will be publishing one of my short stories, Murmuration, in their October 2016 issue. Each issue is free, so I strongly urge you to have a read of my story when it becomes available.

A bit of background – this story came about after I observed to events on a train platform – a bored business suit wearing office worker staring at his newspaper, and behind him, a trio of schoolgirls entranced by something they were watching on a mobile phone. Add that together, and five thousand words later you have the end of civilisation.

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Architecture of Writing

You know how I promised in my last blog post that I would be updating it weekly?

More fool you for believing me.

That said, I’ve not much really to report, except ongoing disappointment.  Well, I have one bit of news about an acceptance, but until it’s all tied up in a neat little bow, best not to mention anything.  Just a short story acceptance, but welcome nonetheless.

Otherwise, what a barren wasteland of success (really, failure) my writing has become this year.  I’ve finished a few stories, had one acceptance.  One of my stories which I’m quite proud and goes under the title Excess Baggage, has seen more rejections than I’ve had hot breakfasts.  It’s likely because it’s not a very good story, but with editors not providing feedback (understandably), I’m at a real loss as to what to do with the damn thing.

Submit, reject, rinse and repeat I suppose.

I did finally finish the edit on my novella length dark sword and sorcery story.  I quite like it.  It’s a little bit choppy still, part to do with the length of time it took to finish, and trying to seamlessly blend sections which were written not continuously.  I have hopes for it (though I have no idea where to submit it, given its length), but we shall see.  I ahve farmed it out to a few friends to read and comment back to me about.  I know its weak points, but other eyes will help find more, to the novella’s betterment.

The other thing I began, and is the reason for the blog title, is a novel I started a couple of months back.  I’d been working on a story outline and building up the characters for some time, to the point where I thought I was ready to begin.  Started out of the gates like blazes, things were moving along nicely, then it petered out at about 13000 words.  Part of the problem relates to getting different strands of the story to intertwine at the right moments, part of it is the characters feel a little (a lot, actually) bland, part is finding that I’m concentrating on the one character at the expense of the others (his viewpoint anyway) but the biggest problem is the setting itself.

I’ve set the bulk of the story in an abandoned, underground city.  I initially had it physically set up as a series of levels, largely bare of buildings, then realised that if people had once lived there, they needed to have places to live, meet, work and socialise.  It became a real stumbling block, a distraction from the writing which itself seemed to me to lack any heft.  So I’ve put it aside.

I may’ve worked out a way to fix it, so I’ll give that a try.  I think it’s a decent story, with a decent and diverse cast of characters.  Whether I can get to the end of the damn thing is another matter entirely.

So there you have it, not quite once a week, or even once a month.  But there’s your latest blog post.



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I’m still alive

As usual, it has been far too long between blog posts.  I intend remedying that – my intent is to post something at least once a week – if only as an update on any current work.  Apparently engagement is one of the (many) watchwords of this connected age of ours.  Too connected, I say, but there you go…

Of course, if I’d had more published recently, I would’ve posted more, but it has been a very fallow period of late.  I had a couple of stories come out recently, as more recent blog posts would indicate.  Looking at Submittable, I’ve a heap of short stories that have been sent out I’m waiting to hear back about (given my recent track record, REJECTION  appears to be their foreordained fate).  I sit down and look at these stories and wonder if they’re any good.  I mean, they’re okay, but they seem a bit one note – single protagonist, usually male, faces up against something…odd, that usually ends badly.  I mean, it doesn’t really leap off the page, does it?  And as for any sort of unique ‘writerly’ voice…is there one?  The writing needs to be more focussed, less wordy, beefed up and…well, you get the picture.  One day, I suppose.

As for current writing:  I’ve completed a first draft of a sword and sorcery story that was meant to be around 4000 words, but ended up being 20,000.  Yes, you read that right.  Which means that virutally no market will touch it, understandably. And I’ve just finished a 10,000 word horror story – again, the length is problematic, and some of the issues in the previous paragraph pop up.  I need to get in the groove of having multiple characters interacting.  I can do half decent dialogue so coming up with stories that fit is the key here.

I’ll spend the recent of the month fixing those two stories, but my main aim is to start on a novel/novella I’ve been thinking about and outlining since last year.  Again, a sort of dark fantasy (that’s a fancy 90s marketing term for horror, best exemplified by Feist’s Faerie Tale which wasn’t that much chop, to be frank, if I rely on my increasinbly chancy memory), but with sowrd and sorcery elements.  Anyway, the main problem I’ve identified today is the lack of any real tension in the plot I’ve constructed.  Two groups, one hunting the other in a subterranean environment, beset on all sides by strange creatures, don’t really come into contact until near the end.  Of course, if they’re forced to team up, and that truce lasts until the end of the story, then yes, I’ve just fixed the problem while I’ve been typing this!

Well, that’s good, then.

I’ll leave you then to ponder this blog post by the underrated horror writer, Brian Keene, who has decisively moved into elder statesman mode with this blog post.  Enjoy…



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Promo! Massacre Magazine – Issue 8: Horror and Suspense

I welcome in the new year with a story in issue 8 of Massacre Magazine.

The Kindle edition of Massacre Magazine Issue 8 is now available on Amazon.

My story is Cat’s Whisker (you can google the name to find out what one is) and tells the tale of a blogger, his son, and a sinister old man who enjoys listening to number stations just a little too much. I had a great deal of fun writing it and I hope you enjoy it just as much.

Check out Massacre Magazine at the links below.

Facebook –

Twitter –

Newsletter –

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Satisfaction, not money, motivate me to write. Seeing your story accepted and published gives a real buzz. I’m lucky to have a full time job to fall back on, because frankly, there’s not much money writing short horror fiction.

That said, it is a different feeling to be told by your publisher that royalties for your contribution to an anthology will be shortly paid. A contributor’s copy, sure. A few cents per word, okay! But real cash in a lump sum form – that’s something you can take to the bank!

That was my reaction when the publisher of Winter Shivers contacted me with the happy news. Sure, it won’t pay the mortgage off today, but it is greatly appreciated. So thanks to them, and thanks to the readers!

Spread the word, buy the book, read some great festive scary stories, and help pad out my next royalty payment!

Link here.

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Winter Shivers brings Festive Fear!

Winter Shivers Cover

Winter Shivers Cover

Happy to announce that my short story, Sacrifices, is included in the latest anthology called Winter Shivers, from publisher Inkstained Succubus Productions.

The stories aren’t festive themed, but a good spooky story around Christmas is a long tradition dating back centuries.

My story is about two college friends who go off on a hunting trip that rapidly turns into something very, very bleak. Enjoy!

All the purchasing details are below. More money comes the publishers way if you buy direct, but it’s up to you.

Website ebook:



Be sure to follow the publishers at, @inkstainedsuccu on twitter and Inkstained Succubus Productions on Facebook!

I’ve been advised that an audio book is also in the works, which is quite exciting.

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King for a Year – Hearts in Atlantis review!

As a slight change of pace, I’ve reviewed Stephen King’s Hearts in Atlantis for the King for a Year blog, which reviews all of his output.

The review is here:

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