Castles, cons and craft

19th May 2014

I’ve rather neglected this space as a blog (which is how it began life), and inadvertently turned it into an index of articles and reviews I’ve had published elsewhere.

Not my intention.

So I thought I’d write a few words on what I’ve been up to this year, the excellent books I’ve read plus progress on Starborn and its sequel.

Back in January, I started writing for the Waterstones Blog, a great excuse to get thinking about all sorts of creative topics. I’m a firm believer that every word etched onto paper or screen contributes to making us better writers…and I hope this is indeed the case because for the first time in several years, I’ve written more non-fiction than fiction. I’ve also been writing for Fantasy Faction, a massive online community celebrating all things fantasy – unsurprisingly I feel right at home there.

Re my own stuff: I’m expecting edits back on Starborn next month and I’m looking forward to working on it again after a self-imposed hiatus. It’s so tempting to open the document and tweak stuff here and there, but I’m trying not to. (Ok, I may have opened it a few times….) I put together some info for the cover brief a couple of months ago and can’t wait to see what the art team come up with. I think the whole actually-getting-published thing will feel more real when the book has a cover. I’ve also set myself the fairly unscary target of 1000 words a day on book 2 in order to make a serious attempt at getting it off the ground. I’ve built up a pile of notes already, but as a gardener (in George R. R. Martin’s terminology), I have to start writing before anything will grow.

I’ve signed up to 3 conventions this year (Nine Worlds, Loncon & FantasyCon). I am a total novice when it comes to con-going, so I’m hoping someone pro will take pity and show me the ropes. I’d love to meet a few of those I stalk talk to on Twitter. In the meantime, I’m selling books at a Ruby Wax event this Wednesday night for Waterstones, trying to decide what to get Dad for his 67th birthday this week, and going to my first ever wedding (of people I actually know) in June.

I’ve also just come back from 6 days in the Loire Valley, France. I visited a lot of châteaux, the most fascinating of which was Brézé. It’s described as a château under a château and indeed the castle was built atop a vast network of troglodyte dwellings. There was a great deal to explore, but also many roped-off areas which of course I found darkly alluring. I kept wondering what secrets the earth hid and thinking of the people who lived below ground many hundreds of years ago. I posted some of this musing on Tumblr.

Some great books have been published this year, so many that I’m struggling to keep up with all the new releases in genre. Then there’s the Hugo nominated works. While I don’t want to get into a discussion re the nominations, there are a few novels I now need to read before voting time.

Here are some books I’ve burrowed through this year, most of which I heartily recommend.

Den Patrick – The Boy with the Porcelain Bladewhich has the honour of being the first book of the year I could not put down. I tore through an ARC from Gollancz in about 48 hours.

Sebastien de Castell – Traitor’s Blade. Another book with blade in the title and similar in some ways to the above. But really this is a celebration of Dumas. It’s swashbuckling, charming and thoughtful in equal measure.

Joanne M. Harris – The Gospel of LokiCan’t say I’d recommend this, as definitely one of the weaker offerings. But it’s fairly readable.

Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising SequenceI am so late to the party. Thanks to colleagues at work, I am now a certified Cooper fan, having enjoyed the series immensely. (The link leads to an article on children’s fantasy, where I briefly discuss Cooper’s first two books).

Liz de Jager – BanishedYA fae is slightly out of my comfort zone, but this was a solid début with a fun MC.

Jen Williams – The Copper PromiseAnother superb début. I loved the characters and the flying pace of the story. A well-written eulogy to roleplaying games like D&D.

Lord Dunsany – Wonder TalesMy first foray into Dunsany’s marvellously imaginative prose. The link leads to an article which discusses two of his short stories in the context of fantasy-as-escapism.

Laini Taylor – Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Read it. A wonderful and fitting finale to an expertly-crafted trilogy. Enough said.

Trudi Canavan – Thief’s MagicA good read with a few blips.

Currently reading: The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher.

So still a lot to look forward to this summer. Now I had better get on with those 1000 words…

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