Category Archives: Fiction

Asian Monsters

It’s been some time since I posted, but I am going to endeavour to make a change to that. A good time to celebrate this achievement is the release of a new anthology from Fox Spirit Books, Asian Monsters.

This is the third in a series from the award-winning small press and follows on from European Monsters and African Monsters. I’m so pleased to have my story in there, and honoured to be among such diverse and talented authors of Asian descent. This is particularly exciting for me because this is the first time I’ve had an accompanying illustration for a story. The cover art by Daniele Serra is incredible as always, and the internal art is by several different artists. Imran Siddiq has illustrated for my story “Aswang”.   Asian Monsters is now available on Amazon. Looking forward to reading it!

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THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

This comes to me courtesy of the delightful Ren Warom, you should check her out. She’s in the middle of editing her first novel in a trilogy, Coil, and her industry has infected me (and rightly so) or rather, she has nominated me in this blog hop doodah thingy. Normally this stuff make me cringe but it was good fun reading her post as it gets straight to all the juicy questions about a book.

What is the working title of your book?

Where Dead Gods Lie Buried – this is either the first book and/or the series title

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

I was grasped by one of those ludicrous ideas to write a short story a week for a year and just keep working the hamster wheel, churning out a stock of stories. What actually happened was I began free-writing  the first one, showed it to my friend David and we started chucking ideas back and forth. It grew.

The original opening scene was just about a dark, grim city, not the kind of place you’d want to visit on your holidays, that twists and bends under its own corruption. The protagonist walks into this place she calls home and soon finds everything she knows is turning against her.

What genre does your book fall under?

Definitely secondary world fantasy, possibly epic, most likely of the noir variety.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Gary Oldman, James Earl Jones, Naomie Harris, Miriam Margolyes

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Amid a religious war, a thief on the run joins forces with a monk and an assassin to stop the end of the civilised world.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

Hopefully the latter.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One year. We chucked away more than 100k, but it was fun.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. And without the genre I would say books by mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett have similar tones, such as The Dain Curse. There’s a problem to solve, and the person solving it is just as problematic.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 

If I’m honest it was just that feeling you get when you are in the middle of reading a really great story. Yes I am probably pumping my ego by even mentioning those names above, but that sensation made me want to put pen to paper and generate something from within me that would give people a story they can get their teeth into.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

We’re two people writing one novel so that’s an interesting dynamic to work with as a writer and possibly to observe as a reader as well. Our characters are not straight-cut good and bad people; the protagonist is female, non-white and gay; we chose to set it in a world where  there are no horses . . . so that’s been a lot of fun and fascinating too. If you like violence, grim humour and moral ambiguity this might be what you are looking for.

(this question invented by me in case anyone is wondering) What stage is your book at now?

We are currently reaching the end of the rewrite and then the final edits will begin. The aim is to have the polished manuscript fresh and ready to submit in early spring.

And now I have to nominate five people to pass this on to. Thus I present my fab five (who wear me out just observing their productivity):

The fearless Jen Williams – awesome writer of the Copper Promise fantasy novella series, check it.

The tireless Joanne Hall – author of The Feline Queen and other short stories, The Hierath  trilogy of fantasy novels, as well as bustling organiser of cool things such as the amazing Bristolcon coming this weekend. Get a ticket, go!

The irrepressible Anne-Mhairi Simpson – serial YA fantasy author, and now an editor of anthologies too.

The tenacious Nicole L Bates – from across the pond, author of the Empyrean SF trilogy.

The industrious Colin F Barnes – overlord at Anachron Press, crafter of many a fine horror and SF tale, including the latest shiny addition to his arsenal, a cyberpunk novellette series called The Techxorcist. See his post here.

Altfiction 2012

Hot on the heels of last weekend’s Eastercon I woke at dawn with my tin of cakes and made my way to Leicester. Gorgeous place, beautiful buildings, I wish I’d had more time to take it all in. This was my first Altfiction and it’s significantly more about the craft and business of writing compared to Eastercon, which focused more on fandom. Nevertheless there were plenty of reviewers and readers, as well as writers, who were all enjoying themselves thoroughly as far as I could tell. There was cake, and there was possibly the best fudge I have ever tasted. Everyone was very friendly, warm and welcoming. Even better still, the bar was very reasonably priced.

I began at Mark Chadbourn’s (non) workshop in which he spoke about the business of writing. This was fascinating, positive and really encouraging. It focused on writing as a profession rather than an art, and went into detail about the various ways one can make a proper living from their skills.

Next I went to the New Writers’ panel, chaired by Jon Weir of Gollancz. The authors were Emma Newman, Vincent Holland-Keen, Tom Pollock and Lou Morgan. It seems that most people start their writing career in very similar ways – the imaginative, geeky kid at school that likes to entertain their classmates with stories, for example. But the path to publication varies wildly. Some go the traditional submit/agent/publisher route but there are many serendipitous events and uncanny ways in which things come together. That’s not to deny that there are many years of hard work involved in getting to that stage, but it’s always inspiring and fascinating to hear these stories.

Sunday was more leisurely. There was a fascinating discussion between Kate Laity and Graham Joyce about the Extremely Dangerous Fairy Folk, and their cultural history. I could have listened to it all day.

Straight after was a panel on diversity chaired by Mark Charan Newton with Anne Lyle, Sarah Cawkwell and Adrian Tchaikovsky. Gender parity is a hot topic in SFF at the moment, and it came up again at Eastercon, albeit in a more positive light. I was quite relieved to find that this discussion focused on representation of LGBT and ethnic minorities (or majorities as the case may be). It did touch on the subject of gender, and the dreaded words “As a woman . . .” came out. Puh-lease can we focus on people as writers and not genders?

I thought the panel handled the issues well. I think it is true that fictional worlds in fantasy, secondary worlds especially, must obey their own logic. If we seek to mirror or show an alternate world to ours we often replicate a vast majority of what is or was real, and if we are going to be truthful we need to acknowledge that we live in a world and society filled with many different types of people, who all deserve representation.

The social time was wonderful, the venue is perfect for such an event. I met some fantastic people who I’d only ever tweeted or read about before. It was a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. People often describe the SFF community as being like a ‘family’, and I definitely felt that this weekend.

Thanks to: @RenWarom @Erik_Lundqvist @KTScribbles @FionaSutton3 @ctjhill @hagelrat @mygoditsraining @PabloCheesecake  Adrian Tchiakovsky @MadNad @patkelleher @ClarkeAward @Paul_Cornell @AnneLyle @LouMorgan @tompollock @kaitharshayr @AMhairiSimpson @MarkChadbourn @mariaAsmith and plenty more for a sublime two days.

Eastercon Olympus 2012

My third con ever, and my first Eastercon it was by all accounts its most successful year. No doubt the main reason for that being the main GoH George RR Martin, who featured prevalently in proceedings. This is the first year they have actually sold out of tickets. I felt privileged to be at the 63rd British National Science Fiction Convention. It was held at Heathrow Radisson Hotel, a building someone described as built by an architect unfamiliar with euclidean geometry, and composed entirely of gleaming marble, glass and wood panelling. Confusing as it was, it was pretty luxurious, with a price tag to match (£9.45 for a gin and tonic), and some very strange artwork in the atrium bar.

Unfortunately I was only able to make Sunday but it felt good to arrive when the party was already in full swing, so to speak. The first panel I attended was ‘Promoting Yourself Online’. It was chaired by Danie Ware of Forbidden Planet (as well as author of debut novel Ecko Rising, a hotly anticipated genre mash-up coming out later this year), and the panellists were Elspeth Cooper (Author of the Wild Hunt Series), Paul Cornell, Tom Hunter (of the Clarke awards) and Simon Spanton of Gollancz.

Danie began by commenting on the early days of Twitter, when just a few souls used it and thought themselves very clever, before it exploded in size on an unimaginable scale. Since that growth the importance of Twitter (and to be honest, it was Twitter that the talk focused on) has increased to the extent that, as Danie pointed out, a top-selling author who isn’t on twitter will attract fewer customers to a signing than a newer kid on the block who is actively tweeting.

The panel reflected on what Twitter should and should not be about. There was overwhelming agreement that it should not be the place to push your books, chat about mundane, irrelevant things, nor overshare personal information. They agreed that to promote yourself you do so by helping other people, and by being yourself. Simon Spanton commented on the way that it enables the writer and reader to really get to know one another, and how this can only be a good thing.

Next on my schedule (all worked out by a cunning app available on the Olympus website called Guidebook) was the GRRM interview. This was a fascinating talk, and in the hour and a half that I sat there (it really didn’t seem that long) George described his path to success, the pitfalls of writing and television work, some humorous anecdotes about filming the pilot of the hugely successful television series A Game of Thrones and some genuine nuggets of wisdom for all the aspiring writers in the audience. What resonated with me was his comment on Tolkien (he has been dubbed the American Tolkien, which I don’t think is entirely fair to either man). He said that we are all (fantasy writers) in the man’s shadow, and that it is a common error of the newbie author to spend vast amounts of time worldbuilding, when they should be concentrating on the story and the characters. Tolkien was not primarily a writer, he was a linguist and an Oxford Don. He was drawn to creating languages and cultures at a level far deeper than most people go. George talked of the iceberg of worldbuilding beneath the Lord of the Rings books, the portion that we see above the surface. Our stories, he said, should be akin to ice rafts, it’s not worth fleshing out and wasting time on stuff that nobody is going to read. A language student wrote to him and asked about the Valyrian tongue, to which he replied ‘I’ve written seven words in Valyrian, when I need an eighth I’ll make one up’.

It was a surreal feeling seeing George among the attendees, milling happily without any pretension. I did get a bit of a silly fangirl moment when I asked him for his autograph and could think of nothing to say other than ‘I enjoyed the talk’. I don’t know if it was his beard and bearing but I suddenly felt like a kid brought into Santa’s grotto and overcome by awe.

The dealer room was very large and constantly busy. At the Angry Robot table I was disappointed (and yet pleased) to see that Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls had completely sold out. I got a copy of Adam Christopher’s Empire State which he kindly signed for me after his gripping first chapter reading of Seven Wonders. I will definitely be buying that book.

Something that pleased me about being at Eastercon was the broad spectrum of attendees, and according to the reports, the near equal gender parity among them. I also noticed this on the panels and it was refreshing to see a lot of women leading the discussions (this in wake of the seemingly unequal gender balance at the recent SFX Weekender). I was disappointed to miss the panel on minority representation in fandom, but I hope in the future we will see an even greater diversity in the SFF crowd at cons.

There was only one low point which I will briefly touch on, the thirty eight minute preamble to the BSFA awards. I was brought to mind of the panel on Promoting Yourself Online when smartphones all around me glowed beneath the faces of the audience, a furious storm of reaction unfolding on my twitter feed. Despite the irrelevant, confusing and at one point offensive nature of this skit, I was completely baffled by the amount of time spent on it compared to the actual prize giving itself, which was over in something like ten minutes. One of the winners was Christopher Priest, who ironically lambasted the Clarke Awards recently for its shortlist (of which he was not a member). His one liner about the quality of the award itself was far funnier than anything in the previous ‘entertainment’.

As well as the panels, readings, stalls and goodybags, what cons are really about are the people. It was such a pleasure to meet people in the flesh who I have read about and tweeted to over the last few months. I caught up with old friends, made some new ones and I would liken to experience to a reunion of the best kind. There were no boundaries or barriers: between ability, race, generation, gender, writer or reader.

Next week: Alt.Fiction!

Lucky 7 Meme/Seven Sentence Snippet

I needed an excuse for a new post. I was tagged by Gayle Ramage as part of this Lucky 7 Meme. Here’s how to play (not compulsory!)

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS (or if you haven’t 77 pages, 7 or 17, or 27 etc)
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

I’ve decided to choose seven from a short story I’ve just finished the first draft of. The working title is ‘Mrs Numler’s Gold’.

“Won’t Lord Slavin wonder where his clerk is?” said Slant, pouring the brandy with a gug-gugging sound into the glasses.
“Still up on The Rise for all he knows. I don’t think he’ll begrudge a restorative.”
“And this nephew of Mrs Numler, what’s your take on it?” said Fonbrace.
Gim sank into the velvet chairback, blowing through his lips like a horse.
“The god damn me if I know, but you can bet he’s not got a good reason for coming out this way, whatever it is.”
“When’s he coming?”
Gim took out the missive shell and showed them the tiny script.
I now tag:
1. Colin F Barnes
2. Ren Warom
3. Tammy Crosby
4. Celyn Armstrong
5. Matt T Dillon
6. Lucy Morgan
7. Mhairi Simpson