Monday, 18 November 2013


Hi everyone - happy Monday (which I know sounds like some kind of cruel joke but... we can hope, right?).

Right now the biggest struggle in my life is to try and find some sense of normality. The problem, of course, is that my normality is gone, and it's gone forever. There's a part of it - a part of my life - missing now. A huge, important part. Everything I do, every step I take, is tip-toeing around the edges of that hole, and trying not to fall in. That hole is where my father used to be.

I think it's only when you lose someone who is so important to you that you realise just how much of 'you' is actually made up of 'you and me together'. Bereavement is like that moment in Star Trek or Star Wars where someone screams 'Direct hit! Hull breach!' and you see debris - chunks of the ship, and maybe even crew members - spiralling away into the cold darkness of space, lost forever. That debris is made up of your sense of safety, in-jokes, comfort, silly little routines, the sound of a beloved voice, a familiar smile, a certain smell, happy memories and sad ones. The remaining crew might get the shields back up and save the ship, but that debris is gone. The integrity of the hull is gone. If they make it back to safety they're going to need to weld a whole new bulkhead onto the ship, and fill her up with new control consoles and chairs and carpets, and replacement staff. She will never be the same. Even if she's sound, she'll never be entirely the way she was before.

So I'm struggling to find normality - but in the same way that you might feel helplessly homesick for a home that's fallen into the sea. I can never get back to it. Not really. I have to build a new normality. A bridge across the hole, a new bulkhead, a new 'home'. And a part of me resists that; a part of me wants the hole there, wants to be broken and unsound, because filling the gap with anyone or anything else feels unfair to my father, who deserves to be mourned to the fullest of my ability. To begin to recover would be to begin to let go of him, and that feels like the worst thing in the world.

Not letting go? Well, yesterday I watched Pacific Rim on DVD. It's the sort of thing that my dad and I would have gone to the pictures together to watch, a few years ago, before he got really ill. It's the sort of thing I'd have bought for the two of us to watch together on DVD, after he couldn't go to the pictures anymore. All the way through it, I kept thinking 'I hope there are DVD players in heaven. Dad ought to be watching this'. But when I got to the end of the movie, I still had this gleeful sense of anticipation, and I realised that even though I'd never forgotten that my dad is gone, some part of me was still looking forward to taking it around and watching it with him. That revelation resulted in an hour long crying jag and a really bad headache. Over a silly, glorious film about monsters and giant robots.

Normality. I would like some, please.

Well, that's it for my random ramblings. Onto some actual updates:

I've finished my Akira short story for the Things I'll Never Say anthology and submitted it. It's provisionally entitled 'Storm Clouds Fleeing From the Wind' and although I have no idea if there'll be edits to come, the editor has told me she loves it, so that's good. There's no listing on the Candlewick Press website or on Amazon for the anthology yet, but I'll keep an eye on it and let you know when that goes live.

I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook that I was intending to try and do a modified NaNo this year, in honour of my father to finish the final book of The Name of the Blade. There's about 40-50k left to be written, and my dad loved this trilogy and believed in it so much. It seemed like a good thing to attempt (more struggling for normality). But, as usually happens the moment that I mention an interest in NaNo participation, life got in the way. First of all, when I go back from WFC, my mother had a whole pile of things that she needed me to do - forms and phonecalls and all kinds of unpleasant stuff relating to my dad's passing away. This did not put me in a writing mood.

Then, just as I was getting on top of that, I was struck down, quite literally, by either the NaNo-Virus or the well known 'Convention Crud'. I'm not sure which, but it was an absolute lulu of a bug, not quite bad enough to be the flu, but enough that calling it a cold feels like an insult to me. I personified 'death warmed over' for nearly a week, and only just started to feel like myself again this past weekend. A glimpse at the calendar tells me it's now probably too late to try for NaNo in any meaningful way. So... maybe next year.

But that doesn't mean that I don't want to get back to work. So instead of NaNo I've decided to launch Project Finish This Durned Book. Which involves me re-reading the incomplete draft on paper, marking it up with the Red Pen of Doom, revising the Word Doc, and then going on from there. As with InCreWriJul earlier this year, my goal will be to spend about two hours each morning writing like a fevered pen-monkey, and then spending the rest of the day typing those notes up into my first draft. Even on days when I can't find the time or the motivation to do the typing up, I'm hoping I'll be able to manage the scribbling. Writing has always been my sanctuary and my centre, and I know that getting back into the habit will make me feel stronger and more myself.

Even if Project Finish This Durned Book goes swimmingly, I don't think I'm going to manage to get this manuscript ready to submit in time to hit my deadline, which is the end of the year. What I really want to avoid is being so late that it delays the production of the book in any way. I don't want to do that to you guys.

I'm having lunch with my lovely editor next week. Mostly she wants to see how I am, but I'll be talking to her about potential new books, too, because talking about that makes me happy. Once I've seen her reactions (horrified or intrigued? Who knows!) I might be able to start giving you some more solid hints about future stories. We'll see.

Wish me luck with both my projects, Dear Readers - the book one and the normality one. See you, most probably, next week.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


So, has everyone seen the official poster for the film version of Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT? I really loved the book. I read it way before it came out, after being lucky enough to win an ARC from the author's blog (which I still have, and much treasured it is, especially since Veronica filled it with wonderful notes that gave insight into her writing process). There's controversy surrounding the novel, and controversy surrounding the film and its casting, but I've been pretty much willing to keep an open mind about it. Until this:


So... this is a film about a young hero, and her journey to both physical and emotional strength. About her battle to reconcile basic decency and kindness with courage and necessary ruthlessness. About the terrible things human beings do to one another, and about freeing your mind from preconcieved notions and prejudice and daring to think for yourself.

And this is what Summit Entertainment give us for the film poster. "Hi! My name is Tris Prior - but my love interest there, the guy with the giant gun? He is clearly more important than I am, since he's right at the front of my poster. In order to show that I'm not one of those awful, unsympathetic, domineering women, I'm going to stand behind him, completely unarmed, with my back to you, while coyly looking over my shoulder. But enough about ME! The important thing here is that you can clearly see my boobs AND my butt! Do you like my butt? They lit it specially, defying all the normal laws of light and shadow, and placed it at the exact centre point of this poster!"

I don't know what the film is going to be like. But I do know that this is an awful poster. Egregiously bad. Exasperatingly terrible. This is not the poster that DIVERGENT should have. This is a poster for some other film about a boy and his giant gun, and his girlfriend with the shiny bum. Here. I fixed it:

Much better.

Monday, 4 November 2013


Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Monday. I know it's not my normal posting day, but then again I don't really seem to have normal posting days anymore, do I? It's always hard to come back to the blog after a break, and this time it's particularly difficult because so much has happened. I don't think I'm really up to sticking to any kind of a schedule at the moment; it's too much pressure. But I do want to start being a bit more present online again. I miss it. I miss you. So here I am, with a report that might be a surprise to many of you: I went to World Fantasy Con at Brighton last week.

I actually bought my membership to WFC pretty much immediately after it was announced that the 2013 Con would be held in Britain for only the third time (that was back in 2010, I think? A long time ago, anyway!). One of the first things my dad said to me after we found out he was dying was that I *had* to go to WFC, no matter what happened - he knew how long I'd been looking forward to it. I didn't really feel that I could promise him that at the time. If things had gone the way that the doctors thought, my dad would probably have been in a hospice this past weekend and I would catagorically NOT have been OK with swanning off to Brighton and leaving him.

After he passed away, my mother and my sister both told me they thought I ought to go to the Con if I could face it. It was what my dad had desperately wanted me to do, and it would probably be good for me. I umm-ed and aaah-ed about it for a couple of weeks, but Walker Books had already paid for my accomodation and travel fare, and my friends from my writing group were going, and eventually I just decided to suck it up and go. So last Thursday, the 31st of October, I left my house at 8:30 and travelled all the way across the country (over five hours, not including the taxi rides at either end) to get to the Brighton Metropole Hotel, where the convention was being held.

I don't have a proper Con report per se, but I am bringing back a lot of lovely memories. I met several Dear Readers, all of whom were absolutely lovely, and all of whom were shocked to see me there because even though I'd tweeted about going, of course I haven't been online nearly as much as normal lately and apparently the message didn't get through. Luckily I had postcards and fridge magnets that I could sign and hand out. Thank you all for treating me like a real writer-person even though there were lots of much more famous and successful authors walking past all the time. Every time I meet a Dear Reader in real life I feel as if I've made a friend.

Highlights - the two YA panels, on which Frances Hardinge, Garth Nix, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Will Hill, Sarah Rees Brennan, Chris Priestley and Chris Wooding made lots of wonderful points with humour and insight. All the Guest of Honour events that I attended were also outstanding, particularly Joe Hill's hilarious and fascinating discussion with his UK editor Gillian Redfearn, and Susan Cooper's Lifetime Achievement conversation with Neil Gaiman, which was wandering and wistful and lovely (and the only panel where I was brave enough to ask a question).

I went to some fantastic readings, including one by my Furtive Scribbling pal Tina Rath, who read one and a half of the short stories from her delicious anthology The Chimera in my Wardrobe and reminded me just how much I want to re-read it. Garth Nix made me jump up and down in my seat when he read an extract from his upcoming Old Kingdom novel Clariel (even though I didn't win an Abhorsen bell charm and will *never* get over it) and then signed my programme. The reading that gave me the most chills was predictably Holly Black's. She read the first two chapters of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and left me thrilled and traumatised. When I told her this, she very, very kindly gave me the copy of Coldest Girl that she had read from, and signed it for me. I skipped about (literally) telling every single person I met about this for the next hour or so.

It was marvellous to meet up with Lucy Coats, and Liz de Jager, and Katherine Langrish, and Amanda Sun and Joanne Harris, and Barry Goldblatt, and Karen Mahoney, and equally marvellous to meet several book bloggers whose work I really admire. I owe my friends Barbara Gordan, Tina Rath, Rachel Carthy and Marion Pitman all the thanks in the world for looking after me, giving me space when I needed it, and offering comfort when I broke down (which happened randomly, usually in public, and once right at the beginning of a packed panel).

It was very sad to see the Con end, and say goodbye to Brighton and everyone there. Coming home was even harder, because for the first time in my life my father wasn't there waiting for me, and that's a gap which can never really be filled. But I'm so glad that I went. I don't have any pictures to show you because predictably, I forgot to pack my camera. But here is a sexy picture of the amazing books I picked up and brought home, both from the dealer's room (where books were sold) and from the registration area where ARCs and books by some of the attending authors were given away:

I actually had far more than this, but I couldn't find space for them all in my bags. So I put some back in the registration area for others to take, and a few others I scattered through the waiting areas at Brighton Railway station, Victoria Railway station, and Kings Cross. I hope others will find and enjoy them.

That's all from me for now, my chickies. Take care, and read you soon.

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