Angels

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.

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It’s Aaaalive!

I’ve been away. I know. There was Nine Worlds (which was brilliant, by the way, and if you weren’t there, why weren’t you?) and then I went on holiday and then I Just. Needed. A. Break. Which is fine. Because – let’s face it – I do go on a fair bit.

So. Hello. Still alive.

And what is it, you might ask, that has roused me from my rubbishness? Is it some fantastic piece of news?

Well, no.

It’s this.

 

The trailer for I, Frankenstein.

Right.

I’m conflicted.

There’s no two ways about this. I just don’t know what to feel.

We’ll get the obvious bit out of the way. I adore Aaron Eckhart. I really, really do. I love him in basically everything (even The Core. Yes. Especially The Core. My love of terrible disaster movies knows no bounds, so hush now). He also happens to be in Possession, which is one of my very favourite films, and an adaptation of one of my very favourite books – so we’re going into this with a hell of a lot of Eckhart-shaped credit.

I do also love my monsters: be they Dracula, mummies or Frankenstein’s monster himself. So, again, lots of credit going in.

On top of that, there’s what look to be a few strong fight scenes going by this trailer (punch-up in a cathedral! Lots of fire! Eckhart carrying some really shiny looking weapons! Also: flying mid-air punch. I love a deeply impractical mid-air punch)  and it could be fun…

But.

I cannot possibly be the only person looking at this and thinking: “Oh. Van Helsing.” Because, boy, did we all get burned by that one.

I want to like it: I really do. But… are those angels? Not that I’m a hard sell on angels and fighting and stuff because *cough*, but… seriously?

I mean… seriously?

So there you go. Conflicted.

Still. Monsters. Plus Aaron Eckhart. How can that be a bad thing?

 

(Yes. This entire post was, basically, just an excuse to talk about Aaron Eckhart. My blog. My rules. Innit?)

As you were, chaps. As you were.

All Un-Quiet on the Western Front

The last time I was heard from, I was about to venture up to EdgeLit 2 in Derby, wasn’t I? Did you think you’d lost me? No such luck…

EdgeLit was fun and very, very hot indeed. I got to hang out with some of my lovely writer-friends, which was brilliant, and I really enjoyed the panel on urban fantasy’s popularity, which covered everything from Buffy as the archetypal “kick-ass” female character (and the fact that she works as such because she has flaws: she may be able to put a vampire through a wall, but she still gets grounded…) to the perception that urban fantasy and paranormal romance are the same thing – and where that came from. For what it’s worth, I strongly believe that they are separate sub-genres with a hefty amount of cross-over in both directions – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one has to contain the other. But maybe that’s just me. Moving on.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook will probably know about the racing. As I’ve mentioned on here before (and whinge about at length anywhere I can possibly get the words out) my husband is the proud owner (and driver) of a race car, which is running in the UK Time Attack series. This means I spend a lot of weekends in the paddock at racetracks, and last weekend was no exception: that was Oulton Park in Cheshire.

This time didn’t go entirely to plan, as you’ll see from the video…

It might not look like much from inside the car – and he was absolutely fine, thankfully – but standing on the other side of the track and knowing that not only has there been a crash but that your husband’s is the only car not back in the pits (and watching the track doctors go screeching off in their car…) is a deeply, deeply unpleasant thing.

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(Photo: Togethia Media / James Young)

Still, driver fine. Car not so much, but there’s a few weeks before the next race – at which the car will have some shiny new livery.

BFR new car livery

Isn’t he pretty? Yet again, that’s the work of my fantastic cover artist, Pye Parr. (The large blank space, in case you’re wondering, is for the series sponsor stickers which have to be applied to the door of every car competing.)

Minor catastrophe aside, the highlight of the event was watching the vintage F1 cars on the track – one an old Schumacher car, and one an old Senna one. Because I’m part of the race team, I get a pit wall pass meaning I’m free to come and go in the garages and pits as well as out onto the safety wall dividing the pits and the track – and for a long-time F1 fan, being able to watch (and hear) them go past from there was something else.

F1 car

Away from motor racing, I popped in to Kim Curran and Bryony Pearce’s launch for their new Strange Chemistry books, CONTROL and THE WEIGHT OF SOULS at Forbidden Planet. It was enormous fun, and it was fantastic to see so many people turn out to support them – including a big group of teen readers. I was lucky enough to read a draft of Kim’s book, “Control” a little while ago, and thoroughly recommend it. She’s one of the most exciting new YA authors working in genre, and I hope there are many more books to come.

Speaking of new books, I’ve been popping up here and there to talk about REBELLION a little more. You can find me lurking at Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds, talking about the challenges of REBELLION (and my favourite paragraph) as well as talking about angels at Winged Reviews. And if you’re interested in the “story behind the story”, pop over to Upcoming4me to find out about REBELLION’s history.

I’ll also be doing a couple of things at the upcoming Nine Worlds convention in London in a few weeks – but I’ll post on that separately. I’m not sure I can compete with the car…

Rebellion breaks out in the UK

Running in very quickly (because you’re almost certainly sick of me going on about it) to say that BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION is officially out and in the wild in the UK, and you should now be able to find it in all places that books can be found – especially, seeing as it’s Independent Booksellers’ Week in the UK, in your local indie. Here’s the Hive link for Rebellion, if you’re wanting it…

I’ve been incredibly busy doing some guest posts and interviews for some lovely blogs, which I’m linking to on the “Interviews” page as they go live, and which I’ll probably also collate into a single Lou-a-palooza blog tour post once they’ve all gone up. Huge thanks to everyone who’s been kind enough to ask me to come and chat for a while. It’s enormously appreciated.

I put a couple of the photos from the REBELLION launch at Forbidden Planet onto my Tumblr (yes, I have one of those too. I’m everywhere. Like, umm, dust bunnies) in case anyone’s interested. I may or may not put some more up, depending on how goofy I look in the rest. If these are anything to go by, the answer will be somewhere on a sliding scale from “slightly” to “incredibly”. So it goes.

As a release-day game, I’ve also got an experiment for you. Over on my Pinterest (like I said: dust bunnies) I have a board called – rather enigmatically – Faces. Most of these guys have served as an inspiration for characters in either BLOOD AND FEATHERS or REBELLION (some both). One or two aren’t taken – yet. If you’re at a loose end, take a look and see if you can match up the face to some of the characters whose fantasy casting actor is on the board. You’ll definitely find Michael, Gabriel, Zadkiel, Castor, Rimmon, Xaphan, Brieus, Pollux and Lucifer on there. And maybe one or two more. It’s not a competition and there’s no prizes – I’m just always fascinated by how differently we see characters in our heads. I may not even tell you whether yours match mine… I don’t know whether that would spoil the fun!

Thank you again to all the team at Solaris and to every single one of you who’s supported me and the books by reading them, talking about them, reviewing them… all of it. I owe you more than I can ever tell you.

REBELLION is all yours.

REBELLION final cover

Launching the Rebellion

It’s a strange thing, launching a book. A lovely strange thing – but a strange thing nonetheless. You see, when you launch it, you take it from being something that is yours (and, grudgingly, your editor’s. Grudgingly.) to something that belongs to… everybody.

Well. I say “everybody”. More truthfully it’s “anybody who cares to pick it up”, because let’s be sensible here.

So it’s exciting and nerve-wracking and brilliant and terrifying, and ohgod will I lose the power of speech halfway through my reading and will I fall over and what if someone asks me a question and I don’t know the answer and it’ll be just like that time in Maths in the 2nd Year all over again and…

You get the idea.

It still feels very special to launch a book at Forbidden Planet, because it was where I went to my own very first signing (Neil Gaiman. Predictably.) It feels like my tribal home, in a lot of ways. It means something. And this time, we brought BAKED GOODS!

biscuits

Those beautiful biscuits are the work of Mutherfudger, who not only made them and iced them but decorated every single one of them with the sigils of the angelic choirs.

Michael’s is the orange one (being of a fiery temperament…) while chilly Gabriel is blue. Raphael’s was clean white, lucky Barakiel’s was green – and newcomer Zadkiel’s was an enigmatic silvery grey.

And yes, people did rummage for their favourite angel. I certainly have fewer left of some than I do others – and as an entirely unscientific experiment, that was interesting!

Biscuits aside, I read a short chapter from early on in REBELLION called “Dancing on Pins”, which was Michael and Zadkiel on fine form, and we had a brilliant time talking about angels on book covers (Angel Dude’s Revenge!), the devil and which of them is the biggest badass of all (tricky).

And there was this:

dave badge

I don’t think there’s any doubt whose team my lovely copy-editor David is on, do you? (He’s actually made me my own badge too: I’m now an honorary member and angel-wrangler. YEAH BABY.)

Thank you to everybody who came along, and to MadNad for the biscuits and to Forbidden Planet for having me back. It meant a huge deal and I had a great time.

I ended the evening in a basement bar drinking a cocktail called “Blood of the Scribe” with Kim Curran. It felt appropriate, somehow. It wasn’t the Halfway, granted, but Mallory would have approved…

Apart from the launch, there’s several tabs which need closing, so here we go.

First: there are three signed copies of REBELLION up for grabs on Goodreads. All you need to do is pop over there and enter – nothing complicated! That’s a worldwide giveaway.

Secondly: Sci-Fi Bulletin has the first review of REBELLION (spoiler: they liked it) which makes me very happy indeed.

Thirdly: I’m on something of a blog tour over the next few days, so you may well end up seeing quite a lot of me (as it were). To kick things off, I talk about the use of scent in the BLOOD AND FEATHERS books – again, on Sci-Fi Bulletin, and let slip 5 secrets about the books over on Fantastical Imaginations.

That’s it for now. Other than dealing with those leftover biscuits. And when I say “dealing with”, I naturally mean “eating…”

And just for the hell of it – to say thank you, and because it’s one of my favourite songs (and certainly one of my favourite videos) and because I’d quite like to be even half as cool as Dave Grohl when I grow up – have some Foo Fighters.

REBELLION playlist

As we’ve long established, I usually write to playlists. And here, as promised, is Blood & Feathers: Rebellion‘s…

Bleed it Out – Linkin Park

My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark – Fall Out Boy

Iron – Woodkid

In My Remains – Linkin Park

Devil’s Choir – Black Veil Brides

Hell Above – Pierce the Veil

Professional Griefers – Deadmau5 feat. Gerard Way

iLL Manors – Plan B

Titanium – David Guetta feat. Sia

Finale (Original Mix) – Madeon

Edge of the Earth – 30 Seconds to Mars

Unknown Soldier – Breaking Benjamin

21 Guns – Green Day

Like A Dog Chasing Cars – Hans Zimmer

My Body is a Cage – Peter Gabriel

Skyfall – Adele

Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri

First Responder – Michael Wandmacher

Razors.Out – Mike Shinoda & Chino Moreno

P5hng Me A*Way – Linkin Park

As usual, all of these fit somewhere – and some are probably more obvious than others. Feel free to try and figure it out once the book hits (and let me know if you do!)

One hint, though? If Michael & No Man’s Land had a theme, it would undoubtedly be this one

A quick update: once again, the fantastic Paul (@pablocheesecake / The Eloquent Page) has been kind enough to compile a Spotify playlist of the tracks, because he’s brilliant: you can find it here.

 

Angels and Alligators

I had a holiday. An actual, honest-to-goodness holiday. It did, admittedly, only last five days and I managed to rack up several injuries while doing very little (including an ant bite and possibly the most ludicrous first-world wound ever: splinters of shells stuck in my finger and the tip of my thumb. Ouch, by the way) but it was a holiday.

I read books – not many, given the timeframe, but 2’s respectable: Dan Brown’s “Inferno” and Julia Wurz’s “SuperEgo” (the latter I enjoyed immensely; set in the world of F1, it’s a sort of Devil Wears Prada, but with wheels instead of heels. Marvellous.) and I went and looked at Stuff.

There was Mont St Michel (which I’ll save for another time, because I have SO many photos. Seriously. All the photos in the world. I don’t think there was a single stone of that place I didn’t point a camera at) which is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s extraordinary, looming up out of the water. Even when it’s packed with tourists (like me) which it inevitably is, it’s an incredible place.

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Like I say: ALL the photos… so, another time.

As well as Mont St Michel, I went to the Scriptorial in nearby Avranches – which is a museum dedicated to the medieval manuscripts made by the monks of Mont St Michel. The French Revolution had a not-dissimilar effect to the English Reformation when it came to medieval libraries, but the Scriptorial is a new purpose-built home for the collection.

Only a few of the books – and what books – are on display at any one time, but they’re regularly rotated to ensure their continued survival. There’s something magical about the “Tresor” room where they’re kept: it’s circular, with the cases set around the walls and one in the centre – and almost entirely dark to protect the books, which have their own lighting. It’s also surprisingly noisy: a side-effect of the temperature & humidity control systems for the display cases. I was lucky enough to get in there by myself: just me and a bunch of 800 year old books… (and the fans, obviously). I had a “moment”. I really did.

The rest of the museum is dedicated to both the history of Mont St Michel itself, and the development of the art of manuscripts. There was a huge amount of information on calligraphy, on the materials used and what went into the different inks… everything connected to the creation of a medieval book. It’s an excellent museum, and well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

Not a million miles away is Dol de Bretagne, with its cathedral and Mont Dol (where the Archangel Michael is said to have defeated the devil, leaving claw marks across the top of the hill. This whole region is very much Michael’s manor) and Medievalys. Another museum: this one dedicated to the construction of cathedrals, taking the one right next door as its reference point.

One of the best things about this place was its layout: it was designed to follow the “idea” of a cathedral from foundation (the architect’s studio on the lowest level) through to construction (an exhibition on the design and the actual craftsmen involved on the middle floors) through to the symbolism of cathedrals on the top floor, which had frankly terrifyingly detailed descriptions of how to read a stained glass window, and absolutely amazing projections of art onto raked sand. You kind of had to see it. Again, if you’re ever in the region – go. It’s beautifully thought out and put together.

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The cathedral of Dol de Bretagne itself is a massive, hulking thing: unusual in that it has a double well (one shaft outside the walls, and one inside, opening in the floor of one of the chapels). It also has a big, big chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael – as you might expect on his stomping ground.

And – just for a change – there was Alligator Bay. I have no idea why or how this ended up right at the foot of Mont St Michel, but there you go. It houses a lot of snakes and lizards (I discovered, climbing down a ladder between two glass cases of ENORMOUS snakes, that I’m not massively fond of them. Wish I’d known that at the top of the ladder…) and, yes, alligators. Lots of them. Including three albino alligators – of whom there are thought to be only 40 in the world. And who didn’t scare me anywhere near as much as the Mississippi alligators did.

 

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Very big, and not at all like this…

Not even slightly.

Which does kind of make you wonder: are they absolutely sure it was the devil Michael fought on that rock – and not just Louis here out for a stroll…?

BLOOD & FEATHERS: REBELLION… the playlist

Or, at least, the first part of it.

I always write (and rewrite, and edit, and all those other things…) to a playlist – and REBELLION is no exception.

The whole playlist will appear in the back of the book when it’s published on July 9th this year, and I’ll be putting it up on here too. But not quite yet.

In the meantime, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is the first track…

BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION cover

REBELLION final cover

Once again, I’ve got the amazing talent of Pye Parr to thank for this, as well as the team at Solaris Books. It perfectly matches the feel of the book, and (for once) I’m kind of lost for words.

I. LOVE. IT.

(And I hope you do too…)

You can pre-order the book from Amazon (UK) (US), BN.comWaterstones and, of course, your local bookshop.

The angels are back…

The Patron Saint of Wishful Thinking

As part of the giveaway I did a few weeks back, I promised to handwrite a copy of a short (very short!) BLOOD AND FEATHERS story for the overall winner. Which I did. And I also promised to put a version of that story up online after a couple of weeks… which I’m doing.

There’s a couple of minor differences between that version and this, but nothing significant.

For those of you who care about this kind of thing, there’s no real continuity. (It’ll make more sense, admittedly, if you’ve read the book, but it’s not mission critical!) In terms of when it fits, it’s fairly safe to assume that it takes place before the main events of BLOOD AND FEATHERS, but beyond that, you’re on your own…

 

 

THE PATRON SAINT OF WISHFUL THINKING

 

“It’s a bit shit, isn’t it?”

Vin and Mallory stood back and looked at the lump of metal on the bench; Vin critically, Mallory with vague dissatisfaction.

“‘Shit‘ is a slightly stronger word than I’d use…” Mallory said with a frown.

Vin just shook his head. “Go on. Say it. You know I’m right.”

“Fine. It’s shit. Happy now?”

“Ecstatic.” Stepping forward, Vin poked at the offending item – yelping as it burned his fingertip. Mallory smirked.

“Might still be hot.”

It was Mallory’s latest thing, the metal-working. He was running low on funds (again) and had decided it was probably time to find some form of gainful employment. Again.

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