That Was the Weekender That Was…

So… just back from the inaugural Black Library Weekender event – and it was so much fun. Of course, I have returned home with ConLurgy, although Dearly Beloved is referring to it as the ‘Maidstone Lurgy’ as I think I may have picked it up from the gloriously wonderful Nik Vincent-Abnett whilst I was there.

Writing up these things retrospectively is always difficult. Every time I attend an event, I think ‘I’ll keep notes as I go along’. Every time I completely and utterly fail to do that. So, as best I can manage, here is what I remember.

Friday

With Dearly Beloved successfully busting his leg last weekend, I hit upon the bright idea of arranging hire of a wheelchair for him. This turned out to be a truly awesome idea as it meant he saved a lot of his strength and energy and managed to cope much better. It also meant, becaues the chair is one he can wheel himself around in, I was able to ‘leave him to it’ on occasion. So we arrived at the Belfry hotel in Nottingham around 2pm and were able to check straight into the room – which was quite lovely, spacious and very comfortable. We then proceeded to join up with people in the bar and watched as our little amoebic collective got bigger and bigger and bigger until the Circle of Nerds was almost all-encompassing. We retired to the corner to have dinner (mine failed to turn up with everyone else’s because they slightly messed up the order… so by the time everyone finished, mine just arrived. Nothing quite so embarrassing as eating whilst everyone stares).

We sat around and talked rubbish until we finally sloped off to bed.

Saturday and Sunday

A whirlwind of activity. Can’t even begin to tell you how many things were discussed, how many books were signed and how many promised hugs were collected. I will never get over how unfailingly generous and kind people are at these events; one fine chap even joined my signing queue just to say ‘I don’t have any of your books with me, but I really wanted to say how much I enjoyed them’. We had a great conversation and that left me feeling buzzy and happy. Other things I remember, in no particular order…

  • TEN MILLION TANKS!
  • I am Alpharius.
  • Horus Heresy graphic novel by Dan Abnett and drawn by Neil Roberts. The preview panes of this were… stunning. This will be something outstanding.
  • People cheering when I mentioned that my next novel is a Silver Skulls one.
  • Some nice guy stopping me in the car park to talk about Valkia the Bloody. “I reckon that book proves categorically that women are far more visceral than men,” says he. “Yes,” says I, not skipping the cue. “We do the whole childbirth thing.” He blinked. “Yes,” says he. “I’d never thought of it like that. You women are scary things.”
  • Sitting up until stupid o’clock reading excerpts from Dearly Beloved’s Very Silly Horus Heresy story and still not being able to get past Equerry Sock and Apothecary Cardboard without dissolving into fits of absolute giggles.
  • TEN MILLION TANKS!
  • Horus Heresy Seminar Bingo.
  • The many Alphariuses and the photo shoot. “What’s my motivation?”
  • Signing an Actual Copy of  Tales of the Nun & Dragon.

So much happened. Official reports and what-not will no doubt appear on the BL website in due course. But the venue was great, the organisation was out of this world and the attendees were brilliant, practically to a man. There were one or two ‘moments’ that soured things a little in the shape of the whining minority, but they were pretty much few and far between.

After a chat with my editor, I’m kind of taking a step back from BL writing for a little while. I effectively wrote three novels, a novella and six short stories back-to-back over eighteen months without a break and have also been maintaining a full time job at the same time. I need to take a pause for a while, especially as I’m starting a new job on November 26th! But there are still a bajillion ideas floating around in my head, so when I get going again, I’ll be right back in the thick of things. Also, depending on how things pan out, there may well be scope for Valkia 2Women Are Definitely More Visceral Than Men…

This does give me the opportunity to move my head back towards Project: Backburner, of course…

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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

I’ve always liked autumn. It makes me think of my mother.

My mother used to create oil paintings. Almost invariably, they were scenes of mountains, rivers and trees. Mum liked these things and she enjoyed putting them onto canvas. It was always a scene of a river leading off into a lake with a mountain in the background. Sometimes when I see one of her paintings, I like to think that’s where she is now and that one day, I’ll be walking along the banks of the river, next to the trees and she’ll be there, just beyond the picture’s reach.

She liked autumn colours most of all.

Not long before she died, she promised me a set of four paintings; the same scene in all four seasons. She only ever did the first one. She picked autumn.

See? Just around the bend in the river, behind the trees.

I keep meaning to sort out a frame for this painting, because the one she put on it got broken in one of the many house moves I’ve had since she gave it to me. But whenever I look at it, I remember her and it’s a nice feeling. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about her, or miss her or wish I could have ‘one more conversation’ with her. She always knew the right thing to say or the right little gesture to make everything right. That’s a mum’s job, I think. I like to think Not So Small Son thinks that way about me. I’d ask him, but he’s currently engrossed in a game of Team Fortress 2 with headphones over his ears, happily oblivious to his mum pouring her heart out on a blog post.

Bless.

So anyway, yes. I like autumn. There’s this heady ripeness about it as a season. If spring is the playful childishness of a year whilst summer is its exuberant youth, autumn is the mature part of the year. The year in its prime; with the capability of slipping back into a summer day without warning or freezing you into two duvets. Autumn is a season that’s all about the senses. The colours in the trees, the smell of frost in the air and bonfires; the smell of the leafmould in the woods. The sound of dead leaves crackling underfoot and the sounds of fireworks (which seem to pretty much herald the arrival of autumn now!). It’s a bountiful time and I’m grateful for all that I have. Every so often, I stop to remind myself just how incredibly lucky I am to have a roof over my head; a husband and son who I love more than anything and outstanding friends.

In other news, Tales of the Nun & Dragon is now on release; early feedback has been very positive, including on my own contribution, the rather tongue-in-cheek Ballad of Gilrain, a story featuring a less-than-competent hero and his long-suffering servant who set out on a quest to slay a dragon.

Edits on Project: Loophole are going pretty well – for those of you who haven’t seen me mention this on Twitter, this is a Silver Skulls novel. My revised manuscript is due in at the end of September and I’m happy to say that after a few… less than productive weeks, I’m back on form and words are flying freely once again. Things are good on that front. I’m not going to Games Day this year which is a shame as I loved it last year, but the Black Library Weekender in November is coming up and I’m looking forward to it enormously.

Project: Backburner is sitting demanding some love once I’ve done with that, too. Project: Backburner is an urban fantasy story set locally (for me) in Durham and again, is not Entirely Serious.

Have an extract. Enjoy autumn.

EDWARD LEWIS FLANAGAN III had been born into the world some thirty six years previously, in a small town outside of Dublin. The youngest of six, he was also the only boy – and the horrors he experienced growing up at the hands of all that oestrogen had stood him in excellent stead for the path his life would take.

His childhood was supremely normal, apart from the expected mocking he received from the other children due to his apparently comical initials. ‘Little Elf’ was the nickname he received on his first day at school and it lasted barely more than a week before the five year old Ed – known even then by his family as ‘Just Ed’ – was in trouble for fighting.

Apart from this demonstration of ferocity, he was a remarkably placid boy who was well liked by his elders and peers alike. He was polite, well-mannered and intelligent. It was this intelligence that led him to Durham University to study Ancient History.

He had long yearned to get out of Ireland and studying offered him a route that came with the additional benefit of indulging his favourite thing. Ancient History fascinated Ed. He had keen hopes of either becoming a museum curator, a lecturer or, at a push, Indiana Jones. His brief sojurn into archaeology ended when out of boundless enthusiasm (and in an attempt to get laid) he had accompanied a girlfriend on a trip to the Outer Hebrides. Sitting for endless hours in an ancient midden, discovering what coprolite was had started out quietly entertaining.

Then, as time wore on, with the rain hammering down on him and with the real archaelogists sneeringly laughing at what they called ‘the wrong kind of trowel’ any of Ed’s Jones-like tendencies had been severely dampened.

It also put a permanent dampener on the relationship.

He came back from the field trip to the loving embrace of academia and was glad for it. They hadn’t even managed to sleep together, either.

Durham had captivated him from the moment he had stepped off the train. The cathedral, standing its silent vigil above the Wear peninsula on which it stood drew the eye wherever you were in the city. The uneven, steep city centre with its plethora of mysterious little passageways that went the heavens only knew where… there was everything in Durham for a young man with a curious mind and a great imagination.

New Beginnings

It’s comin’ on the end of August
Another summer’s promise almost gone

And though I heard some wise man say
That every dog will have his day
He never mentioned that these dog days get so long…

(The song, by the way, is ‘Waiting in the Weeds’ from the ‘Long Road Out of Eden’ album. It’s a lovely song, go listen to it).

Upcoming honest-from-the-heart blog stuff. Feel free not to look.

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Things Have Been Better…

…and things will be better again.

I’ve had a tough few weeks for one reason or another, all of which are entirely too dull to go into in the Blog-o-sphere. So a quick summation of what’s been happening, methinks!

Watched the Olympics – the opening ceremony was deliciously mad and the music selection just brilliant. Danny Boyle did a first-class job of presenting something uniquely… British. Quirky, eccentric and just a little bit *off*. Visually, it was fab; the forging of the Olympic rings, the whole business with uprooting the tree and industry taking over… I did hear tell that some people in a large country over the other side of the Atlantic Ocean thought that Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a Dickens character, which tickled me a little.

The closing ceremony was less of a spectacle, but no less brilliant music-wise. Although… if The Who were there anyway, why on earth did the Kaiser Chiefs sing ‘Pinball Wizard’? Does not compute. Also, I discovered today I wasn’t the only person willing the Spice Girls to fall off the top of their taxi cabs.

The Games themselves seemed to be a lot of fun; it’s amazing how you suddenly find yourself watching things you’d never previously imagined you’d find fascinating. Archery is understandable. But Dressage is just… mad. Horse Skipping. It’s incredible to watch how well-controlled those animals are and there’s a lovely synergy between horse and rider. The commentators need a darned good slap though. They were quite literally commenting on just about anything.

‘Oh, a slight breeze lifting Cottontail’s mane there…’

‘The right hoof clipped the muzzopinkpink fence whilst performing the chipshopstandon manoeuvre…’

It was lovely to see how the country’s morale lifted during the course of the Games. It was a further interesting exercise to note how the Twitter feeds during the opening and closing ceremonies differed. With the opening, it was all stuff to the effect of ‘ZOMGOOSE SO PROUD TO BE BRITISH LOL XX’ With the closing ceremony, it was all stuff like ‘DO THE WHAM RAP, GEORGE!’ Twitter proved itself to be mostly entertaining throughout, but without question, the best thing in the wake of the Games is Mo Farah Running Away From Things. More added daily. Now that’s British.

Had two weeks off work during which time we popped down to the south coast to collect the Son from my dad’s place. Crowbarred in a trip to Brighton as the Chimp had never been. Had a job interview on the middle Friday. Interviewer said he’d let me know one way or the other by Tuesday the following week. He checked my mobile number as he knew I wasn’t at work (it’s a job with the same NHS trust).

Still waiting to hear.

Now, I presume I haven’t got the job and that’s fine. I get that this happens. But to not even let me know?

Meh.

Haven’t done a great deal of writing (see paragraph one), but the break hasn’t been all bad. I sort of worked myself into the ground over the last two years. Working full time, being a full time mum AND writing two novels and quite a lot of short stories has been quite the toll. When I look at it now, objectively, I am genuinely surprised I’m not simply curled up somewhere whimpering pathetically. Taking a bit of a break has been a sensible thing to do and now that I’m emerging, blinking into the sunlight once again, the pace will pick up once more.

Going away this coming weekend WITHOUT the Chimp; just me and a dear friend having a much needed weekend of each other’s company. Laughter will happen. This is always good.

Talking of laughter, I finally watched Keeping Mum. If you haven’t seen this delightfully British film… do it. Maggie Smith is just a legend.

And that’s my life at the moment. Looking forward to the Black Library Weekender in November, though!

 

It’s Treachery, I Tell You!

This gentleman is not happy. At all.

Quite literally in this instance.

I have a shiny copy of Treacheries of the Space Marines to give away to someone. As ever, the prize will go to anybody who makes me laugh. I thought about a competition for a while and here you go, something topical.

The Primarch Olympics.

Which Primarch would be a gold medallist at which sport… and why?

Note: it doesn’t have to be a real sport, although I imagine Horus is a bit of a synchronised swimmer on the side.

Post your comments here! Entries close next Friday the 3rd August.

Entertain me!

The Lazarus Effect

So I’ve not blogged much for a while. Actually, I’ve not done a lot of anything for a while. This is down to a number of reasons, entirely too plentiful and yet outstandingly dull to go into detail about here.

So instead, the weather. Seeing as that and 50 Shades of Grey are the only things people seem capable of discussing, why not join in? What about that rain? Seriously. It started raining sometime in May and has been pretty determined to make life miserable ever since. Ironically, my mood has possibly not been helped much by the persistent precipitation. Perhaps with the sudden emergence of sunshine from behind the dull, sodden clouds, my mood is about to take a swing in the right direction?

I digress. Some writing stuff first.

I’ve been working on edits for Project: Loophole for a few days now. This is the first of my projects to date that has fairly major changes to be made and it’s a very steep learning curve. It’s one thing to make a few tweaks to a story here and there; to insert a few extra scenes featuring a particular character (a’la Jeremiah in TGR), or to slightly change the thrust of a chapter. It’s something entirely different to do what is, in essence, a rewrite. I’m learning as I go and it’s a relief that quite a lot of stuff can be salvaged whole, or only slightly re-written to make it fit that little bit better.

Also, to end speculation on the matter and to directly reply to those of you who’ve demanded the truth from me… Project: Loophole is novel-sized. It features Silver Skulls. A lot of Silver Skulls. It now also features an extra contingent of Bad Guys who weren’t in the original completed manuscript. I am very enthusiastic about them and after a few conversations back and forth with my editor, very excited to get them written in. I’m about to start doing that bit and that’s definite woken up my writing mojo. Due to the aforementioned apathy and its associated reasons, my enthusiasm for… well, anything really… has been severely impaired for a few weeks.

Feedback on Valkia the Bloody continues to be pretty positive, which is a boost to the ol’ flagging spirits when you’re a bit low.

The Lazarus Effect is thus so far applying to me personally and to Project: Loophole.

I’ve done some Other Writing too; I’ve written a light-hearted fantasy story for an upcoming anthology called ‘Tales from the Nun and Dragon’ from Fox Spirit which is due out in August – see here – and I’m busily writing another submission for Something Else.

Next up, some work stuff. This will be brief.

Work has been terrible. I have been very determinedly job hunting and may have an interview next Friday. I’ve been sent for shortlisting which is a good sign, but I’m still waiting for the final yay/nay on whether I actually have an interview at all. The fact I’ve been shortlisted is frankly brilliant, because the role calls for a certain number of qualifications that I don’t have – but I have equivalent work experience. It’s heartening that this has obviously been taken into account. Of course, it also increases the possibility of losing out to someone who has the qualifications. But who doesn’t necessarily have the work experience to back it up.

Difficult one that.

In the meantime, I’m planning to hold out here for another couple of months at most and then fall back on temp work if I can’t find something permanent. The aforementioned aforementioned apathy is largely in part down to work-related stress and to be honest? It might be a case that it pays the bills, but it’s not worth getting unwell over.

So Project: Find Another Job is well established.

Been watching ‘The Hollow Crown’, the BBC adaptations of Richard II, Henry IV pt 1 & 2 and to come, Henry V. And they have been utterly, utterly wonderful. If you haven’t watched these, do it. They are amongst Shakespeare’s greatest plays (for me, at least) and I can’t wait to watch Tom Hiddleston as he flounces about Agincourt this Saturday…

All in all, life ticks over without much difference (but with increased stress). Some wonderful things have happened and some less than wonderful things have emerged to take their place. Equilibrium is not quite yet restored, but it’s definitely getting there.

To paraphrase ADB’s Night Lords… so how are you, then?

 

Another Week Over…

This year’s whizzing by quite quickly. Feels like no time at all since The Gildar Rift came out and yesterday, Valkia the Bloody was unleashed on GW shops. As part of this, I spent the afternoon loitering in Games Workshop at Durham, where I signed lots of copies of the book, along with copies of The Best of Hammer & Bolter v1, Age of Legends and some copies of Architect of Fate. I had a lot of very interesting conversations with people of all ages and the shop was buzzing very nicely.

I always enjoy these things, because it’s a pleasure to meet people who enjoy reading – not just my stuff, but anything. More than one conversation was had about other works of fiction; there was one girl, perhaps about 14 years old, who was keen for suggestions on other Fantasy genre books to read. She went away with a huge list, a copy of Valkia and a smile on her face. This is entirely good.

In terms of writing, I’m on a hiatus at the moment whilst the Editor-beast goes over a bunch of pitches sitting in his in-box. I’m sure this won’t last. It’s very odd, though; I’d gotten so used to writing almost constantly that to suddenly be doing less is a real wake-up call to how hectic I’ve been for the last 18 months. No wonder I’m tired!

Work is ticking over quietly; I’ve reached the stage now where I go in, do my job and come home again. I have no love for what I’m doing, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give it anything less than my all. Ploughing on, really. It’s just so frustrating. I work hard for no thanks and little reward and if ever a job could be considered dead-end, this is it. I can’t advance or progress, there’s nowhere to advance or progress to. And quite honestly, constantly fighting against the government’s outrageously stupid targets is soul-destroying.

Himself, on the other hand… is successfully escaping the clutches of his current pea-brained employers and has landed himself a job with Games Workshop. He’s going for his induction day on 9th July and this is entirely good for him. If he’s going to stay in retail, he’ll at least be in an industry he enjoys, doing something he likes with like-minded people and where the employers themselves actually invest time and effort in developing their employees. Still means I’ll not see him at weekends, but hey… perhaps that’s just me being selfish.

Oh – and a nice review of Valkia the Bloody appeared this morning at the Founding Fields.