21 August 2015

Nineworlds Geekfest 2015

So, yes, this year’s Nineworlds then…  Last year was awesome, having all the things I like about Eastercon – the varied tracks, the cosplay, the fun workshops – but with an extra bit of buzz that made it my favourite con of the year.  This year, excepting the dodgy service in the hotel, exceeded that.

Nineworlds is a very friendly con, and one that actively welcomes as many people as it possibly can; catering to a wide range of needs through communication badges, priority seating and as many other accessibility options as the excellent committee bods can think of.  And if they haven’t already got it covered they’re very open to sorting things out once someone’s drawn their attention to it.  And it’s this attitude, I think, that helps makes the con feel like such a relaxed and cheerful place.

The Radisson hotel, however, was distinctly unfriendly towards con peeps.  This isn’t new – over previous conventions at the hotel there’s been a very noticeable shift in attitude towards con attendees over the weekend, most especially from restaurant and bar staff who will ignore anyone wearing a con badge, yet venture in unbadged and they couldn’t be more friendly and helpful. Which is a shame, because I’m quite fond of the hotel as a place generally. Fortunately Nineworlds has wisely chosen to shift venues next year, so here’s hoping the new hotel has nicer staff.

Another thing I really like about Nineworlds is the programme app. With so many tracks on offer, it can be a bit overwhelming sorting out what you’re doing when, but the app makes everything oodles easier. Especially when it comes to spotting triple bookings.  :-)  Now if they could just include a time-turner facility, I might get to see alllll the things as I missed a ton of things I wanted to do and a ton of people I wanted to see.   Och well.  On the plus side, I saw people I wasn’t expecting to and had all manner of interesting conversations which made up for it.

Panels, then.  Due to overwhelming demand, many of the panels got packed out early, so getting there twenty minutes in advance was essential in some cases.  The Friday myth panel was case in point with people getting booted out due to way too many people sardining in.  Also Joanne Harris talked briefly to me before the panel and I totally did not fangirl.  Honest. (She’s so cool!) Ahem, yes. Annnyhoo.

What was really fun, though, was the genre mashing panel (Dragatha Christie totally has to happen).  Not only fun and highly entertaining, it was one of those panels that managed the perfect combinations of panellists (Zen Cho! Gaie Sebold! Adrian Tchaikovsky! James Oswald! James Smythe!) and if you weren’t a fan of the authors before the panel, you definitely were by the end of it.  (There are now so many books on my kindle wishlist, I’m going to go broke, I swear…)

 And then there was the sword fighting! I booked in for the Water Dancing with Syrio Forel workshop thingy as it was one of the things I missed out on last year, and oy, was it fun.  (Not so much fun was having to demonstrate your skills in front of the class at the end. Argh! No.) Apparently I have fire but need to work on my technique… :-)  Definitely a recommended thing to have a go at if you’re around for next year’s con…

Which I’ve already booked in for, because, really, that much awesome, you have to, don’t you.  (Booking open here now!  Doooooo it! You know you want to!)  So huge thanks to the con volunteers for making it such a great weekend and here’s hoping that next year is even better!

21 July 2015

British Fantasy Awards 2015 shortlist (all the squee)

Don't mind me, I'll just be giggling madly in the corner here...  So, this morning the ever lovely Stephen Theaker posted the BF Awards shortlist for this year.... on the BFS website here, in full

This is such a fantastic list with some fab people on it (Lightspeed's Women Destroy SF! Jen Williams! Spectral's Book of Horror! Mark West! Holdfast! Lightspeed!) so huuuuuge congrats to all the nominees....

The absolute highlight though is in Best Anthology where Urban Mythic 2 scored a nomination!  To say Jan and I are insanely pleased would be an understatement of epic proportions.  We are INSANELY pleased!

And! Wicked Women copped a sorta mention too as the awesome Gaie Sebold got a Best Short Story nom for 'A Change of Heart' which appeared in it.  Babylon Steel stories for the win!

Did I mention Jan and I are insanely pleased? There is happy dancing.

And! Not only that!  But my beloved Team Alchemy and Team Skulk picked up all manner of noms, namely -

Best artist - 
Ben Baldwin - who did the gorgeous cover for Urban Mythic 1
Les Edwards - who did the equally gorgeous cover for Urban Mythic 2 as well as covers for other Alchemy titles
Sarah Anne Langton - who did the wonderfully gorgeous cover for Wicked Women as well as covers for other Fox Spirit titles
Daniele Serra - who has done lovely covers for both Alchemy and Fox Spirit

Best collection -
Nick Nightmare Investigates, Adrian Cole (The Alchemy Press and Airgedlámh Publications)

Best fantasy novel (the Robert Holdstock Award) -
Breed, KT Davies (Fox Spirit Books)

Best horror novel (the August Derleth Award) -
The Unquiet House, Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books)  - Who also had a story in Urban Mythic 1.  :-)

Best independent press -
The Alchemy Press (Peter Coleborn)
Fox Spirit Books (Adele Wearing)

Best non-fiction -
Touchstones: Essays on the Fantastic, John Howard (The Alchemy Press)

The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on Sunday, 25 October 2015, at FantasyCon 2015 in Nottingham, and, obvs, Alchemy and Fox Spirit will be winning alllll the awards.  And getting a joint win in Best Inde Press, just cos.  ;-)

03 July 2015

Fab Fic Friday: Littlewood, Tidhar, Bear, El-Mohtar

Goood morning my lovelies.  Here are some of the short fic I've been loving this week -

Wolves and Witches and Bears by Alison Littlewood - Nightmare #34/July 2015
In which Nick and Ella go on holiday to Croatia to try and reconnect, but when Nick's choice of a walking route ends in trouble, Ella must dig deep into herself to come to the rescue. But digging deep brings its own dangers and Ella will be forever transformed by the results.  This is an enthralling tale with as much satisfaction to be found in Nick's suggested fate as there is in Ella's.

Flash by Lavie Tidhar - Daily Science Fiction/June 2015
It's a fun and pointed flash piece, being something of a behind the scenes account of what really happened that time a certain planetary overlord was deposed.

Swell by Elizabeth Bear - Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, ed. Paula Guran (Prime Books)
Mermaids! Elizabeth Bear! Did you need more? Oh, well, ok then...this one tells of a musician's encounter with a mysterious blind girl and the aftermath of a night spent together.  It's a beautiful tale that weaves finding your own voice with not taking the easy option and is a bit reminiscent of some of de Lint's Newford stories. 

Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar - Lightspeed #61/June 2015
This is a wonderfully moving story and no description would truly do it justice.  It tells of grief and loneliness and altered mental realities; and there's also something mildly disturbing about the speed with which Madeleine's therapist can get her institutionalised when she speaks about the interactive memory flashes she's experiencing after participation in an Alzheimers drug trial.

18 June 2015

Brain Reboot

And did I mention the degree is finally done? (hurrah! Results in mid July! Hoping to pull off a 2:1 overall)  And with that clear from my brain, and the drain that is holiday cover for the family business also done with, I'm finally getting my head around everything that's been put on hold.

Most notably, the writing of fiction stuff.  It feels like a small age since I last wrote anything fictional (a quick check suggests the last was just before the last degree module started up, which makes sense) and the little writing cells, they be so rusty.  So I went digging through my old writing to get back in the groove and discovered things I'd completely forgotten I'd written.  Most of which are unpublishable, but teenage/early twenties me did have some surprisingly interesting ideas! (Also some truly terrible and slightly problematic ones, but, we evolve...)  And there's a ton of unfinished shorts from the last couple of years that need sorting out.

And there's new fiction things I've been noodling over the last few months - after sitting down and plotting out things, have discovered that novel-wise I've got 3 secondary world/portal fantasies, 2 urban fantasies, a paranormal romance, a horror, 2 historic fantasies, 2 SF and a supernatural crime thing all begging attention. And that's before we get to the short fiction.  Do not even get me started on the short fiction. It's a looooooong list.

And then there's non fiction - there's a ton of blog posts I need to write so there may be the vague chance of weekly blog posts at some point (don't faint!), plus I want to get back to the short fiction reviewing again.

Am also plotting future anthologies, o'course, because I do love doing the anthologies and hope at some point to eventually edit one that pays pro rates to our lovely authors.  Though where and with who is going to take a bit of creativity.  Possibly a kickstarter may happen next year.  Watch this space.... :-)

19 March 2015

Back to Life

Climbing slowly out of the mire... mostly due to this current and last OU module being the most challenging I've done yet so occupying alllll of my brain since October.  Fortunately I've only got two more assignments left then the course is done, the degree is done, et voila a happy dancing Jen.

Meanwhile, fings wot have happened so far this year -
I had a review of King's The Dark Tower up on the fabulous King for a Year project site thing.  As King is one of my go to genre comfort reads, I was dead chuffed to be involved.  They're doing King books all through the year so go check them out here!

In January I was also a Friday Fiver over at Pornokitsch talking about my five favourite wicked women in comics.  Theme not uncoincidentally tieing in with our fabulous Wicked Women anthology.  ;-)  (Wicked Women and Urban Mythic #2 and the stories within are eligible for alll the awards... hint hint nudge nudge... Or just buy yourself a copy or two! Each book comes with awesome stories and bonus epic love from the editors... Who can resist a deal like that?)

And on the Fox Spirit front, at some point this year I've shorts coming out in Fox Pockets Volumes 6, 7 & 8....'In Darkness Dreaming' in Fox Pockets Vol. 6: Things in the Dark, 'The Strongest Conjuration' in Fox Pockets Vol. 7: In an Unknown Country and ' Dead Women's Tales' in Fox Pockets Vol. 8: Piercing the Vale. (Give or take publication schedules...) All three stories are set in the same world and roughly connected both to each other, and to my stories in the earlier Piracy and Shapeshifters Fox Pockets - with the mermaid pirates from Piracy dropping by in two and the fox shifter from Shapeshifters turning up also in two.  With bonus ghost towns, underwater ruins, sea monsters and genderfluid parenting...

Oh! And! Eastercon! I'll be mooching around there this year.  I'll also be around the fabulous Nine Worlds Geekfest and Fantasycon (the original UK one, not that rampant pretender that's emerged in the States ;-)....)   So say hello if you see me!  x

Oh! And! Also! If you tumblr, I'm on tumblr here if you're so inclined.  It's where I indulge my fannish tendencies so that's what you'll be getting there... :-P

31 October 2014

Wicked Women Out Now!

Just in time for Halloween, Wicked Women (edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber) has landed!  Available in paperback or ebook formats from your local Amazon or Barnes & Noble.com.  Spooktacular!  (Sorry. I'm not sorry!)



From thieves and tyrants to witches and warriors, here are twelve tales of women who gleefully write their own rules, women who’ll bend or break the social norms, who'll skate along the edge of the law and generally aim to misbehave.

Contents:


Juliet E. McKenna - Win Some, Lose Some
Christine Morgan - The Shabti-Maker
Tom Johnstone - Kravolitz
 A. R. Aston -  No Place of Honour
Adrian Tchaikovsky - This Blessed Union
Sam Stone - The Book of the Gods
Chloë Yates - How to be the Perfect Housewife
Stephanie Burgis - Red Ribbons
Jonathan Ward - A Change in Leadership
Jaine Fenn - Down at the Lake
Zen Cho - The First Witch of Damansara
Gaie Sebold - A Change of Heart


Published by Fox Spirit Books 
 ISBN: 978-1-9093486-9-1

20 October 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Tanith Lee interviewed

Author of “The Mermaid” in Urban Mythic 2, Tanith Lee answers a few questions!


Tell us a little about yourself and your writing. How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
I’ve been writing since the age of 9 – about 57 years. Being slightly dyslexic (something unrecognised in my childhood) the school couldn’t teach me how to read. My father stepped in and taught me in a few months. About a year later, by then reading as a locust feeds, I began – as if logically – to write.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?
The story came from an idea a friend told me and said I might use. It was so straightforward – shocking.


You’ve written widely across a multitude of forms and genres including horror, SF, fantasy, historical, detective, contemporary-psychological, children’s and young adult; in novel, short story, radio play and TV script form: do you find yourself drawn to any one in particular? 
All and any, if they call to me. When the inspiration comes, I’m off.

Is there any genre or style of writing you haven’t tried yet but would like to?
Anything, probably, again if I get that alluring signal.

What do you think of the current state of the fantasy/sf/horror genre?
I don’t take a lot of notice of that. I read the ones I love, and now discover new loves. But I read mostly, and widely, outside the three main ‘fantasy’ areas. Always have.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?
None. From wonderful epic ideas and phrases can come rubbish. And from (perhaps) limited or clichéd ones, gardens of Hell and Paradise may flower.

What are you up to next? (Published works/conventions/random fun stuff!)
Some (Main House) reprints of some of my past work, and some new, for the USA, are under discussion. I’m also putting together lots of Lee short story collections, all including new original unpublished tales. These for UK, Australia and the USA. Conventions – I love them, but right now, no time.

17 October 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Chico Kidd interviewed

Author of “Blood*uckers” in Urban Mythic 2, Chico Kidd answers a few questions!

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?
I’ve always had a soft spot for werewolves. About a year or so ago I started trying out a new voice, an NYPD detective who didn’t just happen to be a werewolf but had joined the police because she was one. “They say the real reason so many weres are drawn to law enforcement is we still want to run in a pack. Though if you ask me I think it’s just ’cause we like chasing stuff.” I spent quite a long time nailing Taz’s voice, and also working on her world (in short, the weres are cops and the vampires are the Mob) and how it all worked and fit together. This story came out of that— in effect, it’s backstory before I’ve even completed the present-day narrative!

Alchemy Press have also published your novella The Komarovs – tell us about that and is it connected to any of your other works?
It’s just one in the long-running series I call the Da Silva Tales, which comprises so far about twenty long short stories/novellas (a goodly number of which have been anthologised) and four-and-a-half novels, the first of which, Demon Weather, has been published by Booktrope. David Longhorn summed up the milieu thusly: “One not-so-fine day Portuguese sea-captain, Luis da Silva, found himself in Venice under demonic attack. The result was to make him a ghost-seer and necromancer— one with the power to conjure up those who’ve died before their time.” Set in the early years of the 20th century, the Captain amasses a “Scooby Gang” which includes one of the protagonists of The Komarovs— Harris the werewolf. In fact its original title was Wolfbane!


You’ve travelled a great deal and had many interesting experiences – are there any adventures that particular stick out?  What places or activities have you not yet experienced that you want to?
No adventures as such, but I learnt to dive in the Maldives in the 80s, when the coral was fabulous. Nowadays much of it is dead and white, mostly due to a voracious beastie called the crown of thorns starfish. We travelled round the world about eight years ago, and that was fun. On a later trip to Hawaii I visited the newest lava flow. Mostly cooled, there was still one stream of lava falling into the sea. Two years before, people had been sunbathing on that beach. Before my other half became ill, we would go to the top of anything and everything— many years before 9/11 I remember standing on the top of one of the Twin Towers. The view was astonishing. I’d like to visit Vietnam because I am a great foodie and their cuisine looks amazing.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? 
Romance! And probably politics.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?
Chick-lit vampires! Buffy (and all who sailed in her) was genre-changing, but has sadly yielded to Twilight’s soppy bloodsuckers. That’s a great shame, IMHO. The Buffyverse also made humour and character integral to the action, which is what I aspire to do with the Captain and now with Taz.

What are you up to next?
The second Da Silva novel, The Werewolf of Lisbon, is due to come out this year, I hope, with the others to follow. To that end I need to finish volume five! I also have a story in Terror Tales of Yorkshire, out right about now. Plus I want to do more with Taz. I have this mad idea of writing the series backwards— first novel would be present-day, then go in reverse to the “thirteen years ago” of “Blood*uckers”. But I reckon that’s quite a long way off.

13 October 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Sarah Ash interviewed

Author of “La Vouivre” in Urban Mythic 2, Sarah Ash answers a few questions!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
I love stories. When I was a child, I used to scribble after ‘lights out’ by the street lamp outside my window, filling little notebooks with barely legible scrawl in different coloured crayons. Growing up in Bath, I used to wonder about all the lives lived out from pre-Roman times till the present day and how what happened back then gradually became transmuted into local legend as it was told and re-told through the ages. Which is why what I like to explore in my own writing what would happen, for example, if a rational, enlightened eighteenth century soldier-prince encountered real, raw magic when waging war on the neighbouring country (The Tears of Artamon). I was trained as a musician and taught music for many years and my stories frequently feature musicians struggling with their craft. Kaito, the main protagonist of The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice plays the flute – and an old song of his clan takes on a special significance as the story develops.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?
A summer holiday in the Jura a few years ago brought us into Courbet country. Frustratingly, the new Courbet museum in Ornans was still being finished then, but we were able to visit a few of the places he depicted in his paintings. It’s atmospheric, tranquil, unspoilt countryside where time seems to stand still. As for La Vouivre, this isn’t her first appearance in my writing! I’m still working on a longer novel in which she is one of the protagonists … but set several hundred years earlier.


What attracts you to anime and manga, and have you ever considered writing in this form?
How long have you got? Well, first of all, there’s a distinctive attitude to story-telling and character interaction that I don’t find in other graphic novels or Western animation. For example: in a shounen (boys’) manga or anime like Naruto, characters get hurt and die, even when they have supernatural powers. It might be fantasy (with ninjas) but it feels real. You won’t find that kind of emotional realism in the animated shows churned out (mostly) by the US for YA audiences – and it’s why you won’t find much anime (unless it’s been heavily sanitised) on kids’ TV in the UK.

Secondly, I love the way that certain mangaka-like CLAMP (the celebrated four women team) weave Japanese mythology into their work; xxxHolic is still one of my favourite manga, with gorgeous Art Nouveau-style graphics and twisted tales that stretch the imagination of the reader.

Thirdly, a great deal of care and attention goes into the soundtracks for anime series; the work of gifted composers such as Yoko Kanno, Kenji Kawai, and Yuki Kajiura add so much to the whole experience with their imaginative and memorable scores.
Lastly, I’d really love to write in this form if a mangaka expressed interested in working with me (hint, hint…). And I’d be insanely happy if a Japanese publisher ever offered to publish any of my novels and – a frequent bonus in Japanese light novels – add illustrations.

If you could have dinner with any writer in your field (past or present) who would it be and why?
Alexandre Dumas the elder would make a wonderful dinner companion; given his colourful life and appreciation of all things gastronomique – he might even prepare some of the dishes himself!

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? 
It’s not so much a single subject as when unexpected events in ‘real life’ suddenly – and horribly – come close to a significant episode in the story that I’m working on (tidal wave/tsunami being a recent case in point) I find it almost impossible to continue.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?
The teenage kick-ass heroine who is a ruthless assassin but also a brilliant and sensitive musician, looks good in a silk gown on the dance floor at the palace ball (make up Mary Sue-style shopping list of character assets as desired…). First person present tense with these young ladies is also becoming a little stale. (Was that two clichés?)

What are you up to next?
I’ve recently brought out my first original e-book, The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice which is the first of a two-part Japanese fantasy, so I’m (desperately) trying to finish the second part. I’m also working on the sequel to Scent of Lilies a historical ghost story set in the Byzantine empire

10 October 2014

Urban Mythic 2: James Brogden interviewed

Author of "How to Get Ahead in Avatising" in Urban Mythic 2, James Brogden answers a few questions!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
I love writing stories because I’m basically a control freak and for a short time I get to be god of my own little fantasy world. I also teach English, and my students will probably tell you much the same thing. I’m a naturalised Brummie, born in the north and raised in Australia. I loathe all forms of competitive sport, which is why I was deported from Oz, though I do like to get out into the mountains whenever I can to lose my head in something vast. When I moved to the UK as a teenager I very quickly fell in love with the weight of history which is layered into the landscape of the British Isles, though I wonder how much of that comes from having made Tolkien and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence part of my own internal landscape as a child. My grandmother, who lived back in the UK, made sure to send me and my brothers books which she considered to be quintessentially English; so as well as reading Aussie kids’ classics like The Magic Pudding, I grew up with Billy Bunter, Just William, and Biggles. When I moved here, it all sort of clicked, and it’s kept on clicking ever since.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?
The idea of Jungian mythological archetypes in the collective unconscious – the psychological roots of all our myths – with a bit of tweaking to suggest that the archetypes aren’t just passive parts of our psyches which we tap into occasionally, but that they actively want to be incarnated as living human beings to act out their mythological life stories. And, of course, the inevitable political and media corruption of all this. Disclosure warning here: it’s a bit of a spin-off from my latest novel, Tourmaline, and the sequel which I’ve just finished, called The Realt.


Which of your previous works are you most proud of, and are there any that you would like to forget about?
I’m most proud of my story ‘If Street’, in the previous Urban Mythic collection. I wrote it on a long plane flight back from my brother’s wedding in New Zealand – which was the first time all of my immediate family had been together for about 10 years – and so it’s got a lot of my own feelings about the ambivalence of looking back on your life and wondering about the ‘road less travelled’, which I think crystallised reasonably well. I’m also a huge fan of Robert Holdstock, and I wanted to write something which riffed on the idea of the two brothers at the start of Mythago Wood. That weight of history thing again, and what happens when it falls on a person rather than a place.

If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you choose and how would they die?
Maxim DeWinter, from Rebecca. His second wife should have learned something from the tale of his first wife, channelled some of her fiery spirit, grown a spine and offed him once she realised what a misogynistic bastard he was. Ideally, this would have been by pushing him out of an upstairs window so that he died surrounded by Rebecca’s rhododendrons, then dragged him into the house before Mrs Danvers set fire to it, disposing of the body.

Tell us about Project Tezlar – what’s it all about, and will you be doing any similar projects?
Project Tezlar happened because I wanted to build something physical based on a thing I’d written about (plus maybe a bit of work avoidance). It’s a model of a tezlar gun – a weapon used by some of my characters in Tourmaline to exorcise dreamers from our world who pop up in theirs and cause mayhem. It’s basically a big static electricity zap gun. I bought a nerf pistol from my local toy shop, tricked it out steampunk-style with a brass-and-copper paintjob and stuck all kinds of random cogs and switches all over it, the crowning glory being a plasma ball I put in which lights up when you pull the trigger. I also built a battery pack and had a leather holster custom made for it. If you want to see it, go to my blog. The next project is to make a PV detector to accompany it – but if you want to know what one of those is you’re just going to have to read Tourmaline.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?
Vampire romance love triangles. Can we please put to rest once and for all the ridiculous notion that to these creatures we are anything other than food?

What are you up to next?
I’m putting the finishing touches to The Realt, which will hopefully be with Snowbooks soon after Urban Mythic 2 comes out. Assuming that [a] they like it, and [b] the timing all works out I’ll be launching it next summer at London Film and Comic Con 2015. The project after that is going to be more out-and-out supernatural; kind of a homage to Picnic At Hanging Rock, about a group of school kids on a geography field trip who disappear and end up somewhere … strange. Until then it’s back to the day job.