SOWIDITMSTLTIWAE* (abridged version)

Well, I’ve been writing, just not blogging.

I’ve also been gardening. I say gardening; I actually mean hard landscaping a mahoosive area, trying to combine two gardens into one, with (hopefully) a Skyrim-ish twist, or at the very least, with an added dash of fantasy. Anywho. At the moment it looks like the Somme. We’ve dug a bijou amphitheatre for messing around with swords in and suchlike shenanigins. We’d also like to build a cob summer house. Now, this is easier said than done as our ‘soil’ is pretty much sand and pebbles. Apparently in the Triassic period a river ran through it. But I needs clay goddamn it! How else will I be able to build a Yoda-meets-hobbit stylee summer house?

You may have noticed that I have not been blogging. This is something I intend to remedy forthwith as I know you’re all dying to know what crazy antics I get up to when not sitting in an office…writing and er…digging dirty great holes in the garden. The excitement, it never starts.
I’ve just got back from a flying visit to Nine Worlds Geekfest. Alas, we could only make it for a slice of Saturday then off early(ish) on Sunday. Such a shame because it is simply lovely. The venue was the Radisson Blu Edwardian near Heathrow which is on Death road, AKA the Road of Despair, the Avenue of the Damned, That-liminal-place-between-flights-that-grabs-your-wallet-by-its-tiny-breasticles-and-squeezes-until-blood-pours-forth-and-all-the-dosh-and-joy-are-slurped-up-by-the-corporate-leviathans-that-hunker-beside-the-runway Street.
In short: Nine Worlds is a great con for all things geeky, but the Radisson is a truly awful venue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clean and shiny (although our room smelled of cigarette smoke), but the service makes Faulty Towers look slick. Also, London prices, which bite harder when the service is soooo slow (except Shivani(SP?) who did coffee at breakfast, she was lovely). The bar however was a joke. And, it’s a weird place, badly laid out. Its feng and its shui are proper bu hao. Anywho.
I now know something of fanfic, of which I knew next to nothing before. I watched the Gemmell Awards, which were short and sweet, and mostly spent the rest of the time catching up with lovely folk, failing to catch up with lovely folk, and talking about swords, and books, and comics, and larping, and games. I also picked a few worthy brains re: publishing shizz, and feel that I’ve gained a tick in my ‘how to develop your writing career’ box. I’m pretty confident it’ll go up when I roll as I’m starting from a preeety low skill level.

However…All is not lost in the writing dept.
My second novel, Breed has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Best fantasy novel (the Robert Holdstock Award). Now, I know some of you might be quite surprised, nay, shocked by this, but I can promise you, it’s nothing compared to how stunned I was when I heard I was on the shortlist via the miracle of da Twitters. Just to be in such fine company is an honour.

*cue violins*. I’ve only ever won one thing before in my life. It was an Easter bonnet competition, held somewhere in the wilds of Preston at a local youth club. I was about seven, visiting a family friend. I won a box of Maltesers. But, oh, my! It was a controversial decision. Some of the mums, who had spent the morning ‘helping’ their kids glue tiny replica ponds (complete with ducks) onto bonnets, didn’t think it was proper for an outsider to win, or even take part, especially since I had done nothing other than make and stick about a thousand tissue paper flowers onto my hat until it could takes nay more. You should have seen it. It was a riot of colour, frivolous, garish. I put my heart and soul into it— lost a morning to that ridiculous labour of love.

but I digress.
I’m a finalist for an award. I’m stunned. Don’t mistake me; I think Breed is fucking awesome. Like Shrek, it has layers. Sure, if you just want a fast fun read then that’s cool, it’s got buckets of fast and fun, but if you like something with a bit of subtext, Breed is also your huckleberry. Anyway, don’t take my word for it, go read it, dig in, fill your boots.

I also have a story in an anthology that’s up for the Best Anthology Award. The book is, The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2. My story is called For the Memory of Jane. It’s Norse myth in Yorkshire, tha’ nos. I feel entirely legit writing this, as a friend once pointed out to a Scandowegian chum of ours, “We’re descended from Vikings. You’re descended from the wusses who stayed at home.”

And finally, re: awards. Both Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit (Breed’s publisher) are up for the award for the Best Independent press. I know I should be all cool and blasé about this sort of thing, but I’m not, I’m thrilled, tickled pink, as over the moon as a premiership footballer.**
In other wordy news, but still word related, I’ve been writing a lot of short stories, the majority of which have been politely rejected, but some lucky few have been accepted. You win some, you lose some, eh? Writing and subbing short stories is helping to make me a better writer (I hope) and is also helping to inure me to rejection. No matter how nicely it’s done, having a story or novel rejected is way more painful than a knife in the thigh. I say thigh instead of gut, because I’ve never been stabbed in the gut.
I mean, first world problems and all that, (not being stabbed, that’s fairly serious whichever world you’re in). Rejection hurts, and I don’t mind saying so, because I’m not some kind of super Buddha-Jesus, teflon coated, Zen machine. Ah gits the sadz when a story is rejected, but in a sick and twisted kinda way, it just makes me want to try harder.

I think basically, it’s because I’ve always had a bad case of the Marty McFlys. I recall once, this big girl was kicking the crap out of me (we had such larks on the estate, quite the proving ground). I wouldn’t stay down, despite her polite, boot-punctuated requests for me to do so. A bigger boy came along and chased her off, but I swear, I would rather have died than stay down. Stupid really, but there you are, I am. I’m also somewhat pig-headed. Pain is a spur, you know? No coward soul and all that.

 

*Some of what I did in the months since the last time I wrote an entry.

**I will most likely be as sick as a parrot when they announce the winner, but in the words of Roy Batty, “Not yet.”

Breed Vlog

I have just finished my first Vlog. Its about my second novel Breed.

 

FantasyCon 2014 – You wait years for a book launch and then three turn up at once.

I’m not doing any panels at FantasyCon 2014 this weekend. I know, I know it’s a tragedy, but weep not, dear friends. I am doing a couple of readings and launching my brand spanking new novel Breed on Saturday 6th at 11AM. Do come along, as there’ll be cake and wine and juice and sparkling conversation and sexeh naked people.

Okay, there won’t be any sexeh naked people, they’ll all be wearing clothes, but come along anyway because Breed is rilly good and Fox Spirit books are superace and will be selling tonnes of other fantastic books to brighten your life. I’ll blog about why Breed is superspiffingmarvellous in another post, (I promise) but first things first.

As well as the launch of Breed at 11, The Alchemy Press are launching a veritable slew of titles including The Alchemy Press book of Urban Mythic 2 where my story, For the Memory of Jane appears. It’s a wonderful collection, skilfully fettled by the editorial dynamite duo of Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber.

And finally, at 7PM there will be more booky shenanigins with the ‘Human Dynamo’ AKA: Alex Davis and Boo Books who are launching a gaggle o’ fine tomes including Worms in which my story, Zombie Worms ate my Hamster dwelleth. There will also be more reading hi-jinks at this juncture.

If you’re there, do come along to any of the above and say hi.

A Broad with a Sword Strikes Back

Yes folks that’s me; a woman who owns swords. Heck, I even use them from time to time*.

“Write about what you know” they say, so upon occasion I write about women who use swords, like in my debut novel The Red Knight.

But that isn’t all. Oh my no. I also write about women who don’t use swords, likewise men, and the odd half human half-lizard type individuals.  In fact I write about all manner of beasties who do and don’t get their shiv on from time to time.

I’m all about equality me. So when ‘broads with swords’ is even mooted as a ‘thing’, I get a little…Ohmyfuckingodswhat?! about it.

I mean seriously? How othering is that for Grud’s sake? Would Guys with Swords be an issue for debate? Noperoonie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that question posed any where or when. So why, in the 21st century, is Broads with Swords even a topic, other than to make it seem weird and wrong and other?

It forces the point that there are men things and there are women things, and broads with swords is just plain wrong, EVEN IN GENRE LITERATURE. Dragons? Fine. Magic? Go for your life. Rape and pillage? Oh, yeah we love the grimdark. Women with swords? OH MY GOD! HOW MAD IS THAT!?

That this was even up for debate I find disappointing. That women writers engaged with it, likewise.  NB: I strongly believe that everyone has a right to their opinion.

That one panellist said that female characters who use swords was a cliché was…odd.

I’m (clearly;) not the grand high Wizard of Words, so I thought I’d check that cliché meant what I thought it meant, which it did:

cli·ché

noun

1. a trite, stereotyped expression, sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser,  or strong as an ox.

2. (in art, literature, drama, etc.) a trite or hackneyed plot, character development, use of colour, musical expression, etc.

3. anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse.

Now, I certainly haven’t read ALL THE BOOKS, but I’m pretty sure a handful of sword wielding female characters do not a cliché make.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that people saying women with swords is a cliché is in fact the cliche because I’ve heard it a fair bit of late.  And surely, since we’re slinging cliché grenades around, aren’t there more male characters wielding swords than female? Which brings us back to the 1950’s ideology that there are men things and there are women things. That people advocate this viewpoint (or seem to) is pretty sad given that it’s 2013 not 1320.

And in the real world, I don’t think of myself as a cliché, or those women I know who engage in pointy shenanigins. But this isn’t the real issue that I have with this…thing.

It is primarily that it is regarded as a thing at all, and thereby worthy of serious debate that I have trouble with.

I, as well as everyone with eyes and ears and a brain in between, know that women in the real world do pretty much the same stuff as men. Y’all know that, right? In fantasy and SF we accept a whole boatload of weird and wonderful shit that simply doesn’t happen in the real world. So why single-out women who get stabby as something other and unnatural?

If you want your women characters to save the world with the power of tea, great, go for your life, enjoy! If your protag is an arch diplomancer, I’m happy for you; go in peace. If your heroine heals the universe with the power of love and cupcakes, fine. It’s all good in my book. The more variety,  the merrier.

And that’s the thing. It’s all good… isn’t it? Or perhaps I missed the memo where it said only certain character and gender roles are acceptable for men and women in genre literature. If so, could someone please point me at the Proscribed list? That would be doubleplus good.

Not only are women with swords not a cliché, but like an onions and Shrek, good, stabby fem-chars have layers. Whatever. At the very least, they should be no more worthy of note for merely existing than men with swords. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?

I would therefore ask that, rather than engage with othering perfectly valid characters (and real, living people;) That folks of all flavours channel their energies into the quest for equality rather than alienation.

 

*My swordy CV

I practiced Kendo for about eight years off and on. I’ve done oodles of re-enactment, sometimes with a musket, occasionally with cannon, sometimes with a bow, and much to the detriment of music, a drum. I also study European martial arts and have even dabbled in mounted combat which I suppose makes me a broad with a horse and spear as well.

I also do other things, ‘cos like all good characters, I like to think of myself as well rounded 😉

Can’t blog, writing.

Well, not just writing, a fair amount of everyday living is also being done and hurray for that as the alternative (not living) would totes* be a drag.

At the moment, the Devourer of All the Time in the Universe  is our project to renovate and make our house eco-friendly with a teeny-tiny carbon footprint. Soooo, combine quite a bit of DIY with job and family  and a wee bit of proper, writing, writing and there aint much time to tell you the colour of my belly button fluff or how difficult the Difficult Second Book is (s’difficult, FYI).

However.

The rather fab Victoria Hooper http://vickyhooper.blogspot.co.uk/ @VickyThinks on the Twitters and blogger extraordinaire  has tagged me in a meme thing. So, just to prove that I haven’t been abducted by aliens or buried in the dining room foundations** I thought, why not? let’s do this thing! So here goes.

 

1) What quality/talent do you admire most in a writer?

Bull leaping. Actually, that’s a talent I admire in anyone. Specifically writers? The ability to drag me into a book with their prose and keep me there to the end. I’m an airhead and must be gripped lest I float away.

 

2) If you could pick any character from a film, TV series, book, or game to give a piece of your mind to, who would it be?

It would have to be FitzChivalry from Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hobb). Seriously, I could shake him. Well, not literally — he’s as hard as ten bastards in a sack, and might very well rip my arms off should I accost him. But yes, it would have to be Fitz for being a great character, so terribly human and (IMO), annoyingly wet.

 

3) What’s your favourite sandwich filling?

Why, that would have to be smoked salmon, the bright orange queen of sandwich fillings.

 

4) Mary Sues… just misunderstood or really annoying?

Marty Stu and Mary Sue can go in peace as far as I’m concerned. I’m not bovved by either.

 

5) If you could live in any country besides your own, where would you live?

Italy, the Eternal City specifically. Don’t get me wrong, I love La Serenissima, but I love not wet feet unless I’m in the bath. Although…now that I think about it… I do love Crete in Greece. Running around Gortys, Knossos, and Phaistos, walking in the footsteps of goddesses and heroines…does it get any better? Ah, but then there’s the lure of the brownstones in Brooklyn in vibrant, loud, all-you-can-eat, great coffee land. I think what I’m trying to say is that anywhere you can feel the Genius Loci of a place —its living, beating heart— gets me all excited and I want to find out its secrets and could happily spend several lifetimes doing so, dragging my children and much put-upon spouse behind me.

 

6) What’s the most meaningful thing that’s ever happened to you?

Define meaningful really, innit? It could be getting married, having sprogs, falling down a mountain(TF); any number of BIG things. So I’m gonna pick a ‘wow’ moment at random and that is…Star Wars. Yes, really. It blew my tiny, underdeveloped, child mind. I cried after watching it. I desperately wanted to live in a galaxy far, far away. Growing up in Shipley, I could relate to a farm boy who lived on the furthest point from the centre of the universe. It was a real Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere moment: an existential smack in the chops that left me bereft and changed forever.

From that moment on, I was a nerd.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried (and I did try), I never manifested any Jedi powers.

 

7) Present tense in fiction… like it or loathe it?

It would depend  on the story and the l33t (or not) skillz of the scribbler.

 

8) An author is going to write the story of your life. Who would you like it to be?

If it please you, I would like it to be a collaboration between Monsieur Voltaire and Miss Jane Austen. The material might only suffice for a slight work, a novella at most, but I am satisfied it would, at least, be amusing.

 

9) Think of your favourite book. Got one? Now, what would that book be if it were an animal?

Do I have to say what it is? Is this a magic trick…? I don’t have one book to rule them all I’m afraid, so it’s gonna have to be a ‘one of’ my favourite books (there are many). And so, in this case, it would be a Peregrine Falcon.

 

10) Flame powers or water powers?

Flame on, baby!

 

11) Recommend me a favourite song! :-)

One of my current favourites is Linkin Park’s I’ll Be Gone from their album Living Things http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5d3MRcy-aM

 

*Totes ironical usage, innit?

**Never do DIY/building work with your nearests and dearests, not when you’re tired and there are sledgehammers around. It can get…tense.