(Probably) The Greatest Halloween Signing Ever…

Yes, it’s not quite Halloween, but what’s a couple of days between friends?

Come along to the Great Halloween Signing in the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London tomorrow (Saturday 25th October) and hang out with Actual Proper British Horror Writers (and me. Who will be basking in the reflected glory and trying really hard not to grin like a loon.)

We’ll be signing between 1pm and 2pm, and afterwards there’s a BFS Open Evening taking place in the nearby Bloomsbury Tavern.

I’m there as a contributor to ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! ENDGAME, the third of the ZA! series of mosaic novels.

9781472106421

If you’ve not come across the series – or any other mosaic novels before – think of it as a cross between an anthology of short stories and a novel in dossier form, with each contributor taking one aspect of it. (One of my favourites is the zombie-related app store, complete with developer comments.) My “story” is the diary of a teenager caught up in the zombie outbreak – the catch being that she wasn’t one of the lucky ones. So if you’ve ever wanted to know what goes through a teenage zombie’s mind…

 

Start losing sleep…

new sleepless

 

If you’re in the UK, have a Kindle and 85p to spare, you can now get hold of the ebook of SLEEPLESS!

Come and meet Izzy and her friends: Grey, Tigs, Juliet, Dom, Mia and Noah – all about to sit some seriously scary exams. If they fail them, their lives are over.

At least, that’s what they think…

The paperback will follow (along with the rest of the Red Eye series) in January – but as it’s October and the nights are getting darker, why not get into the Halloween spirit a little early?

To celebrate, I’ve also unlocked a secret Pinterest board I put together while I was writing the book to give you an idea of what the world of SLEEPLESS looks like.

Enjoy – and whatever you do? Don’t go to sleep…

Diouz a reoh, e kavoh

I said I’d be back, didn’t I? And threatened to tell you all about this staircase:

locronan stairs

I’m a (wo)man of my word.

It’s in an old house in a place called Locronan in Brittany, and it’s where I set my contribution to the new URBAN MYTHIC 2 anthology from Alchemy Press. The idea was for each story in there – while obviously being different – to update an existing myth or legend and bring it into the 21st Century.

Being a macabre sort (well, I do write horror too, y’know) I’ve always been fascinated by the Breton legend of the Ankou. While there’s plenty of psychopomp figures in myth – and more than a few skeletal grim reapers – the cult of the Ankou is peculiar to Brittany.

I’ve already talked a little about the legend and the idea behind the story here – where you’ll also see an ancient picture of me, taken in the basement vaults of our old house in Brighton. It’s “moody” because it’s about three degrees and I have water dripping down the back of my neck… – but what appeals to me about the Ankou is his impermanence. He changes with the year, and there’s something very human about that as well as something transformative. It’s the kind of idea that gets under my skin and sticks.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the region, but I still did a fair amount of reading around by way of research (any excuse), both of collected legends and collected folktales and responses to them.

books

(Just out of shot, my well-chewed Breton-French and French-English dictionaries. And a really big pile of headache pills…)

As soon as I knew I wanted to write about the Ankou, I wanted the story to happen in Locronan. It’s a very small town perched high up on a hill, and it’s very deliberately kept as traditional as possible – particularly the town square. As a result, it feels like – tourists aside – you’ve fallen through some kind of wormhole into a recent past that won’t ever quite rest, but hangs around the corners of the square smoking and being disreputable. It’s the perfect setting for a story which is all about the past and how it creeps through into the present.

In particular, I’ve always loved the house in this photo – now a bookshop dedicated to Breton and Celtic mythology, but like most of the houses in Locronan, it may well have once belonged to a weaver (the production of textiles, and sailcloth in particular, made Locronan an important place back in the day).

Somewhat fittingly for a story about the unreliability of memory, I seem to remember that once there was a loom on the ground floor… but I can’t be sure. When I went back this summer, if there ever had been a loom, it’s long gone.

locronan librarie

Either way, that’s where the story came from: a story about memory and family and death and life… and the Ankou, who warns us all that we weave our own reckoning: “according to your work, your reward”.

And, as it’s me, and there’s always a song the story sounds a little like this…

 

 

Event: 42 Worcester, 25th June

A quick reminder: tomorrow (Wednesday 25th June), I’ll be in Worcester as part of the Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe: I’m delighted to be a part of the 42Worcester festival special, talking about YA, horror, urban fantasy, writing and… pretty much anything you like. There’s also a chance I’ll be doing a secret surprise reading (I guess the surprise being that I’ve told you I’m going to do it…?)

You can find me at Drummonds, The Swan With Two Nicks, from 7.30pm.

As an added bonus, if you fancy a free signed copy of both BLOOD AND FEATHERS and REBELLION, both of which have been nominated for British Fantasy Awards, all you have to do is be the first person to come up to me that evening and say “They’re only noodles, Michael.”

(And then poke me and remind me that I told you to say that, because I have the memory of a goldfish…)

 

(This man is unimpressed by my memory…)

Rebellion and the weaver

BFS_Logo_red_SMALLI had a pretty awesome piece of news last week: BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION has been shortlisted for this year’s British Fantasy Awards, in the “Best Fantasy Novel” category.

It’s a fantastic shortlist (you can see the other nominees here, plus the shortlists for all the other BFA categories) and I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of it… and making it even lovelier is the fact that the first B&F book, BLOOD AND FEATHERS, was nominated in the same category last year. Thank you so, so much to everyone who voted it onto the shortlist – it means an enormous amount.

Other good news comes in the form of a short story: I’m delighted to announce that my story, “Death and the Weaver” will appear in Alchemy Press‘s URBAN MYTHIC 2 anthology, launching later this year. My contribution is set in an area I know very well and have a huge amount of affection for: Brittany in northern France, and is the story of what happens to a woman who moves back to the small town where she spent her summers growing up.

The idea behind the anthology (which like its predecessor, the original URBAN MYTHIC, has a great line-up) is to reinterpret myths and legends in a modern way – and there’s no shortage of myths in Brittany. I’ll talk a bit more about the story and this particular myth in “Death and the Weaver” closer to release – which should be at FantasyCon in September.

Another thank you too, to everyone who commented on the SLEEPLESS cover: I’m so pleased you like it as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

The Out-Crowd

It was a post on – predictably – an internet forum that pushed me over the edge: a thread about choosing an area based on the schools available (yes, I know. I’m a mother, we whine about this stuff, get over it).

Don’t forget to look at your local community – you adults have to fit in too!

I’ll just be over there: in the corner, calming down again.

***

I get grouchy when it comes to the topic of “fitting in”, partly because I’ve spent a very long time being obstinate and trying rather hard not to be That Person. You know the one: the kid who falls over themselves pretending to be something vaguely similar to who they really are – but not who they actually are – and ends up with a little grey cloud of self-inflicted misery trundling around after them.

It’s worse at school than at any other point in life (see Mean Girls, She’s All That, The Craft10 Things I Hate About You… and preeeetty much every teen movie made, ever) but it starts younger than you think (take a close look at any nursery or reception class playground) and carries on a lot later (I refer you to Gill Hornby’s school-gate novel The Hive, and just about every *single* women’s magazine in the world).

What it boils down to is this: we spend our formative years as an adult trying to balance figuring out who we are with who we think everyone around us would like us to be, and what we need to be to not end up getting something dumped all over us on the school bus. And then, when we emerge from our cocoon as fully-functioning adults… we have to do it all over again.

To which I say: bite me. (more…)

High Standards

I went to see some Romans at the weekend. Look! Actual Romans!

roman flag photo

 

Well, alright. Sort-of Romans. (They are, in fact, the Ermine Street Guard, who were lovely and friendly and actually quite intimidating when they marched right at you in formation… If you get the chance to go and see them at an event, do.)

While I took far too many photos, had a brilliant day and got slightly sunburned into the bargain (pale post-winter skin, meet early May sunshine… sigh), this photo is the one I wanted to talk about.

Every now and again, I get asked about the Fallen in BLOOD AND FEATHERS – why they fell, how they function, what they do… and about hell.

One of my favourite things about the battle on the plains of hell was the fact I got to bring two armies together: one, the angels, was a mix of Earthbounds, Descendeds and Archangels – each with their own distinct fighting style, depending on the status and their Choir.

The other, the army of Fallen, was an entirely different proposition.

This was the home army, defending their turf. We’d not seen them en masse before this, and there they were, lined up and ready to take on their enemies. The angels used to be their brothers – they know them, they’ve fought beside them and against them for endless, endless years (because these guys are old). Most of them have grudges. Most of them have scores to be settled. All of them are scary. All of them are scared of Lucifer and his generals. All the sensible ones are at least as scared of Michael – and every last one of them is scared of Mallory.

How do you bring that many disparate parts together into an army?

You give them a flag.

(more…)

The Catastrophist (Revisited)

I’ve not blogged for a while, mostly because life has kept getting in the way.

But I was going through my computer the other day and came across an old story I wrote, way back at the start of 2009 (2009! It’s almost unimaginably far back, isn’t it?) and because I like it – despite its faults – I thought I’d put it up here for fun.

It’s not the first time it’s been online, although I’ve given it a very quick once over with a lump-hammer since (don’t expect polish. More a sort of… rustic dented effect). It was published in a small online magazine, although I can’t quite remember the name of it – I’ll look it up.

I’m a very different writer now – better, I hope – but it’s nice to look back at the baby version of myself and make tutting noises and say “Wow. You actually did that. Huh.”

So here you go. In all its apocalyptic glory:

 

THE CATASTROPHIST

 

Did you ever play that game, you know, the one where you could create a little city inside your computer? You laid the roads, assigned the housing, built the schools… and then, when you tired of it, you could let loose monsters – or start an earthquake or wildfire? Well, that’s sort of my job. You have to understand: it’s just what I do for a living – it doesn’t make me a bad person. You can look at it as destruction testing on a grand scale if you like. If it makes it easier.

There’s a few of us in the department. We all work on the same floor, in Cluster 3. Harry does Europe, Sarah takes care of Asia, Dan is Australasia and Antarctica. I’m the Americas (North and South). There’s a new guy working Africa; apparently the last one we had just didn’t pass muster. Some of us are busier than others. It’s not as easy as you might expect – there’s nothing as simple as pressing a button and sitting back to watch the marauding spaceships blow up a city. It takes weeks of planning to get it right: you don’t want two events clashing, so there’s a lot of team meetings, a lot of co-ordination. You have to share a lot in this job.

(more…)