Month: June 2012

Tasting notes (for zombies): wine to serve with… people.

 Matching the right wine to your food can make all the difference to a meal. The right red, for instance, with a steak. A chilled white with a fish-dish.

But what about today’s zombie-about-town; the urban cannibal looking for the ultimate free-range foodie experience?

Never fear: for those needing advice on the perfect wine to accompany human flesh, help is at hand. So to speak…

Huffington Post: Zombie Apocalypse Wine Pairings

Gizmodo: Which Wines Go Best With Human Flesh?

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking… maybe a nice Merlot?


Blinded by (sparkling) science

Stephanie Kwolek. Sophie Germain. Gillian Bates. Lise Meitner.


And this is how we’re planning to attract young women into the field of science?

I wasn’t that keen on science at school. My little heart sank at the prospect of double chemistry, almost as much as it did before PE. I wasn’t as good at it as I wanted to be, and – to be honest – that frustrated me. I also found it boring.

However, it bored me because I wanted to be in English class, reading Faustus or Hamlet (true).

Saying I wasn’t as good at it as I wanted to be was not because I’m a girl and am therefore only interested in lipstick and poncing round in a pair of sunglasses: it’s because I’m Thicky McThick when it comes to science and I still can’t do a simple titration or explain how a blast furnace works*. I can, however, quote you chunks of Shakespeare and Marlowe, and tell you exactly why they have the effect on us that they do. I can read Anglo Saxon, I can give you a detailed (and mind-numbingly dull) description of the differences between the Insular and Continental traditions of early Arthurian literature.

I did not need a pink-tinted video to entice me into this.

Neither did the women whose names I’ve given above.

Like me, they chose to study and work in the fields which interested them; the fields in which they felt their talents lay. I chose arts and humanities, they chose sciences. End of debate. Boys do it too, but apparently we don’t need to try and entice them to become doctors by showing a bunch of consultants knocking back the beers or playing football, do we? And yes, that’s just as mindless a stereotype as the one in the video.

My younger cousin is about to go to university, hoping to study genetics. She spends her free time shopping with her friends and (if her Facebook page is anything to go by) making innuendo-laden comments about Justin Bieber. She goes to parties. She has an unhealthy obsession with Primark. She’s also an Air Cadet. She’s probably one of the coolest people I know, and I imagine if you asked whether her choice of future career had been influenced by that video, she would laugh at you.

And then punch you. (Because we do share some genes, after all…)

We don’t need to Barbie-ise science to get girls interested.

We don’t need to pinkify it, sprinkle it with unicorns and glitter, or insist that yes, women in science can wear heels zomgwtfkthnxbai.

We just need to tell them that they can do anything they put their minds to.

Because they can.

Marie Curie.
Scientist; woman.

*Incidentally, my physics, chemistry and biology teachers were all women…


Just a quick one to set you up for the weekend: I’m absolutely thrilled to say that we’ll be holding the official launch for BLOOD & FEATHERS at the Forbidden Planet megastore in central London, on August 2nd (which, as luck would have it, is publication day)!

It means an enormous amount to me to be launching my first book in FP – after all, Forbidden Planet was where I went to my first ever book signing: Neil Gaiman, in (I think 2007) and where I queued for hours in the rain with a bunch of people who were both fantastic in every way and – equally – quite as mad as me. Oddly enough, I wrote my first published short story – “The Cloth of Heaven” the very next day, so I can’t think of anywhere more appropriate.

If you’re in town, and fancy coming along, we kick off at 6pm.

(Further details are on the Facebook event page, and even if you can’t make it, you can order a signed copy via the Forbidden Planet site and I’ll sign one for you on the night…*)


*Get me, being all professional and writerly with the signing. Me! I know, right? I still can’t really believe my luck…

Postcards from the Edge

My friend Will Hill went off on a big American road trip last year, and while this still leaves me gnawing my knuckles in envy, he’s written an amazing blog post on one part of his trip, over on his blog: his visit to (or as close to it as he could get!) Area 51.

So if you’ve ever wondered just what Dreamland really looks like, head over and have a read…

2012 Gemmell Awards

I was lucky enough to be invited to this year’s David Gemmell Legend Awards, held at the Magic Circle in London. The annual awards aim to recognise achievement in the field of fantasy writing, as well as to promote and raise public awareness of the genre. This year’s winners can be found listed on the Gemmells site.

It was a fantastic evening, with a lovely awards ceremony and reception, with lots of familiar faces in a venue full of fascinating magical bits & pieces. The dress code had said “dress to impress”, so that’s what people did. (I have now used up my entire quota of “looking posh” for the year and fully intend to spend the next six months back in my Converse and my jeans with holes in.)

Yes, there are photos. The ones of me I have shamefully stolen from other people (who I hope will forgive me!) and the ones taken by me are probably a bit blurry…


This is as good as it gets, basically. And even then, I manage to un-glam myself by chewing in the photo. (I’d never make a model. Too busy scarfing down food, if nothing else.)


With Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane.


One thankfully not of me: Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz and Lizzie Barrett looking fabulous at the pre-awards drinks reception.


Sarah Pinborough is busy tweeting incriminating photos of… well, *everyone*.

The whole evening ran beautifully, and the organisers can feel tremendously proud of themselves and their efforts. Congratulations, too, to all the winners and the nominees.

Next year, the ceremony will be held later in the year, and in a different location. It will, in fact, be the opening event of the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, which promises to be pretty spectacular…

Apropos of nothing…

I’ve had a hard week. It’s been… tough.

And despite there being some very nice things happening (catching up with friends, heading to the Gemmell Awards for the first time, realising that I’m lucky enough to know some wonderful people, hearing the actual bound copies of B&F are in…) there have also been some very challenging things. However, I’ve done quite enough whining about all this sort of thing, so I thought I’d do something positive.



Yes. That’s much better, isn’t it?


Warning: this is going to be super-spoilery. There’s just no way round it, so if you want to be… *surprised* by its eccentricities, then you might want to sit this one out. As blogs go, it’s also a bit long.

Make no bones about it, Skyline is not a good film. It’s not. I’m not even going to try and pretend it is… and yet, as I watched it, I found I rather liked it. I just don’t know why.

It’s hugely, hopelessly, massively flawed and there are several aspects of it which are just downright awful… and yet.

(If the trailer won’t load, by the way, you can watch it directly on Youtube here.)

We open with blue lights streaming down from the sky into Los Angeles. In a bedroom, a couple are asleep; disturbed by the lights, they wake up, she rushes to the bathroom to throw up (the first of the film’s subtle nods at character: have you guessed that she’s pregnant?) and off we go. There’s screaming from the next room as Charlie’s-Brother-From-Lost steps into the light, gets a bit sort of burned and then vanishes…

Our protagonist, Jarrod (who is genuinely the only character I can remember the name of, and that’s largely down to the fact I spent much of the film admiring variously his hair, his necklace or his tattoo, and that he’s Jesse from Buffy…) decides that yes, the clever thing is to step into the light too, at which point he also starts doing the weird burny-thing… and suddenly we cut to a tedious flashback of 15 hours ago.

The only purpose of this seems to be to establish that everyone in this film is pretty much a failure as a human being – with the exception of Jarrod, who’s really too bland to count as anything, and who has a habit of stroking his girlfriend’s nose to show his affection. (Remember that: we’ll be needing it later). Girlfriend is prone to bursting into tears and being a bit, well, beige.

Jarrod’s friend, who they’re in town to see, is supposedly a huge success (and lives in a penthouse which somehow later turns into an apartment on a floor of many…) but we never know quite what he does – however, it’s clearly enough to get him a Ferrari and an assistant with whom he’s cheating on his girlfriend. He’s also played by Turk-From-Scrubs. Assistant’s only purpose seems to be to give away the infidelity, and to scream a bit. Not-Turk’s Girlfriend is given a wasted kick-the-cat moment (“Get me a drink!” she snaps. And that’s it) and then sulks and pouts a bit. She smokes, too, which is clearly Hollywood modern-speak for A Bad Person.

Random helicopters fly overhead. “Homeland Security,” says Not-Turk. How the hell does he know? Why is no-one bothered by this? There’s a party. There’s a telescope hooked up to the television in the apartment, which is used to spy on the gay neighbours who are shocking because, y’know, gay, right? Charlie’s-Brother-From-Lost ponces about a bit; passes out. And then we need to meet the building manager-slash-concierge who comes to complain about the noise. The blinds covering the windows are electric. And everyone goes to bed. So. Got that? Awful people, tedious flashback, blah blah blah.

Back to the blue lights.


Join the rebellion…

This won’t be news to most, admittedly, but it still makes me happy.

I’m delighted to announce that Solaris Books have picked up the follow-up to BLOOD & FEATHERS.

The next book: BLOOD & FEATHERS: REBELLION will be published in August 2013.

The full press release is over on the Solaris blog.

So, um, yeah.

Am I happy-dancing?

Just a bit…

Lizards & baseball & witches. Oh my.

I said I’d do a catch-up kind of post, didn’t I? Best laid plans and all that.

Have a picture of a lizard, by way of apology.

That’s admittedly not the one which fell on my head while I was on holiday – but I can assure you that one did. It made a sort of rubbery, splatty noise, and I’m not sure which one of us was more startled. We both went on to make a full recovery.

And yes. I went on holiday. To what I can only describe as a version of the Lost island without the Others or the Smoke Monster.

Sadly, no Sawyer either. Boo. I know. I was as disappointed as you are.

What it did have, though, was a lot of sunshine – and a proper beach and a ridiculously clear sea: the kind you always imagine is made up. (Put it this way: the sea around Brighton Pier doesn’t look quite like that, more’s the pity…)

We were staying on the wrong side of the island to see the sunset (this place is a nature reserve, with only a small village of about 130 people all of whom are involved in protecting the biodiversity of the the island, and a hotel – the rooms spread along the beach in individual villas) but the skies were still pretty impressive.

You can see the next island to the north in that photo.

I basically had to be removed from the porch of the hotel kicking, screaming and shouting “I don’t want to leeeeeave!” at the end of the holiday. Because I didn’t. I could’ve stayed there forever, especially given my joy at discovering there’s nothing about Creole food I don’t like.

Also, my poor husband had to put up with me merrily singing the Red Dwarf theme most mornings at breakfast, from behind a glass of mango juice. Because I am an enormous geek.

Anyway. The important bit is what I read while I was there – which boiled down to the second and third books of The Dark Tower (yes, I still love Roland. Hush now), The Art of Fielding, Hollow Pike and The Testimony.

The Dark Tower books need no introduction – and nor does my response to them – so I’ll leave it at saying my devotion to the series and the characters is still going strong… and I’m onto book 4.

I’d been looking forward to “The Art of Fielding” for a while. It’s a little-known fact that I’m actually a fan of baseball. I don’t follow it much these days, so I haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on or who’s who, but I used to be crazy about it when I was in my early teens, and your first loves leave a lasting impression. (Chicago White Sox, thanks for asking. I know, I know.) So imagine my joy: a baseball novel which requires me to bring nothing in terms of knowledge to the table other than the slightly iffy, second-hand snippets I managed to glean half a lifetime ago, and have largely forgotten… and my affection. Because the book’s not about baseball at all. Well – that’s an overstatement. It is about baseball, but it’s also about hope and despair and family and relationships and friendships and ambition and… things.

I think we rather take this kind of novel for granted in the genre world: we tend to expect that yes, Book A says it’s about dragons, but technically, it’s about the War on Terror. Or something. We expect books to be metaphorical, to a degree. But that’s another story – literally.

Another of my holiday reads was “Hollow Pike” by James Dawson, which I absolutely flew through. It’s a pacy YA book involving witches and the creepy local woods, and it’s really quite unsettling at times. It’s also tremendous fun, and has some great characters and a lot of atmosphere. Also, I want to live in the house that Lis, the protagonist, moves to. Preferably without all the nightmares and the murder and stuff, though. Just saying.

“The Testimony” took me longer, partly because the narrative structure’s more challenging. As the title implies, it’s a testimony – different people all telling their version of the same event – the burst of static and a voice which is heard by (almost) all of humanity one day – and what comes after. I’ve always been a sucker for a big-scale disaster movie (things like The Towering Inferno) and in a lot of ways, that’s what “The Testimony” reminded me of as it wove different characters and plot threads together. It’s fantastic. And terrifying, in the best possible way.

Any of those books, if you’re looking for some holiday reading, will see you right. Although if you’re reading book 2 of The Dark Tower, I advise you give the seafood a miss (I’ll be regarding lobster with a slightly cautious eye for a while, I think), and if you give “The Testimony” a whirl, you may well find yourself freaking out when someone accidentally switches on the PA in the airport and transmits a load of white noise. Hypothetically speaking. Because I totally didn’t freak out. Not a bit. Uh-uh. Nope.

God help me if I have to go through a forest any time soon…