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The Coming Storm

I’ve got a few festival appearances coming up over the next couple of months, as well as a couple of other bits and pieces, so it’s probably time for a quick update. (I’ll put relevant dates on the “Events” page too.)

YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) 2015

Friday 17th July, 2.30 – 3.15.

I’ll be appearing on the “Thrills & Chills: Writing Horror” panel with Will Hill, Darren Shan, Dawn Kurtagich and Matt Whyman, discussing why we love horror, why we write it and why it’ll always be popular. This will be followed up by a signing.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Tuesday 25th August, 7.00 – 8.00

I’m hugely excited about this, as it’s the first year I’ll be at Edinburgh. Join myself and Kevin Brooks to talk about the darker side of the subjects that can crop up in contemporary YA: boredom, destruction, stress and fear.

The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival

Saturday 3rd October, 6.30 – 7.30

This feels very like my “home” festival: I’ve been going to the Bath Children’s Litfest for a couple of years now, and it always feels special. This time, however, I’ll be on the stage as well as in the audience, in conversation with YA horror superstars Charlie Higson and Darren Shan as we look at the enduring appeal of zombies and how they’ve brought a fresh spin to everybody’s favourite shambling flesh-eaters in their new books.

YA Shot

Wednesday 28th October

YA Shot is a one-day festival of YA & MG literature organised by author Alexia Casale, Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstones Uxbridge. Details TBC.

 

On the writing front, I’m delighted to have a story in the forthcoming “Legends 2: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell” anthology, alongside fantastic authors like John Gwynne, Rowena Cory Daniels and Mark Lawrence. (A paperback and a limited-edition signed copy are available from Spacewitch Books).

I don’t venture into the epic and heroic very often, so this is a new sphere for me. However, I’m a big fan of the Gemmell Awards and the work they do, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute and to be able to support them. My story, “Oak”, is set just after the Norman invasion and coronation of William I, and both something completely new and very old: it was inspired by some of the legends of a very well-known (perhaps the most well-known) sorcerer from the area where I grew up. No pointy hats, I promise.

 

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…

Archer’s Goon

A little while back, SFX Magazine approached me and asked me whether I’d be interested in contributing to their regular “Book Club” feature. It runs at the back of every issue, focusing on a different book each time. And you know me. I like to talk about books. I particularly like to talk about books I like, and why they’re… y’know, awesome.

So of course I said yes, and the first book I’ll be discussing is ARCHER’S GOON by Diana Wynne Jones.

Funnily enough, it turns out this will be the 100th SFX Book Club, and given the current concern about level of representation female authors receive in the SFF world, it’s a wonderful coincidence. 100 feels like a significant number, somehow: and given the context of those two (brilliant) blogposts, it’s nice that the slot goes to a book by an outstanding fantasy writer who happens to be a woman, and whose loss is still felt so keenly by the genre.

The great thing about the Book Club is that it isn’t just me blathering on (after all, I do plenty of that here). So, if you’ve read ARCHER’S GOON, get in touch! You can comment on the book – did you love it / hate it / never read it because… – on the SFX forum, their Facebook page or via their Twitter, or you can always leave me a comment or tweet!

Roses are Red…

Waterstones have been running a Valentine’s-inspired feature on their blog and across Twitter: they asked some brilliant authors to come up with their own Valentine poems, all beginning “Roses are red”.

You can read the results here, and look at the poetry that everyone on Twitter has been posting by searching the #rosesarered hashtag (although as is always the way on Twitter, you’ll get a jumble of other stuff on there too).

And of course I couldn’t resist joining in…

Roses are red,

Your lips have turned blue.

I thought you’d gone quiet –

Now what do I do..?

 

Merry Crispmouse

Christmas is coming, and we all have that one person who’s impossible to buy for, don’t we? The one who already has everything, or always says they don’t want anything. That one.

Well, here’s the solution. The gift for someone who has everything.

A taxidermy mouse chess set.

(Failing that, why not try the taxidermy Pulp Fiction rodents, or the utterly terrifying monster pendants -not taxidermy, before you ask…)

 

Vincent Chong mini-Q&A

Fresh from his recent World Fantasy Award win and just in time for Christmas, Vincent Chong – one of my favourite artists – has announced he’s releasing limited-edition prints of some of his work, including the art he did for editions of The Shining and Dr Sleep.

Vincent Chong illustration for “The Shining” limited edition

Even if those don’t take your fancy, his art is gorgeous (I have a ridiculous amount of it around the house, including a print of his “Fallen Angel” – natch – in my kitchen) and he has a huge portfolio of work available as standard prints too.

And because he’s not just a fabulous artist but a lovely guy, he’s also popped by the blog to answer a few questions. Like he had a choice…

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Q: Who are your favourite artists (or what are your favourite works of art)?

A: At the moment one of my favourite artists is Shaun Tan. His illustrated story books are simply beautiful and I love all the imagination and touches of surrealism that go into each one.

Q: Who or what do you think has inspired you the most?

A: Dave McKean‘s work has probably been the single biggest inspiration to me; it was seeing his covers for the Sandman comics (in the The Sandman Dust Covers collection) that first opened my eyes to the possibilities of combining digital techniques with traditional ones and what you could achieve by blending the two. It played a big part in shaping the style I developed and the techniques I’ve ended up using for my own work since.

Q: Is digital art more democratic than, for instance, a watercolour?

A: I’ve always liked the idea of anyone being able to own a copy of the artwork that isn’t seen as ‘less-than’ the original in some way, rather than there being one original that only a few could enjoy.

 Q: If you could illustrate any book, what would it be?

A: Nothing in particular springs to mind right now… I used to think I’d quite like to do my own reinterpretation of classic children’s books such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But having illustrated so many authors’ books over the years, I guess what I’d really like to do is come up with my own story to illustrate.

Q: What interests you as an artist? Do you find yourself coming back to the same kind of themes or ideas?

A: I like creating imagery that has various layers to it, and perhaps could be interpreted in different ways, or contain small details that people pick up on repeated viewings. I also love interesting textures so I continue to incorporate a lot of them into my work. Overall, I think my approach is more about building atmosphere and emotion in my art rather than producing images that are overly polished.

Q: What’s the last book you read, and the last film you saw?

A: The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave and Thor: The Dark World.

 Q: What are the best and worst things about your job?

A: Some of the best things…being able to get up whenever I want! And also not having to work alongside people I don’t like or becoming embroiled in inevitable office politics. And some of the worst things…getting a bit stir crazy working on my own at home and not having anyone around to have a natter with when I want!

Q: Finally… tell us a secret?

A: My biggest secret is that % &@?’£ ^&$**@ $*%^!!!

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Vincent Chong is an award-winning freelance illustrator and designer.  Since 2004 he has brought his creative vision and distinctive visual style to a wide range of projects for both print and the web.  Currently living and working in the UK, his art and design has been published internationally and can be seen on book covers, magazines, CD packaging, websites, flash games and book trailers.  He has worked for clients around the world including HarperCollins and Little, Brown and has illustrated the works of  authors such as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King.

You can follow his blog here.

Gravestones to die for

snow churchyardI was puttering around the internet this morning doing some research on the proper names for different types of gravestone (because that’s the cheery sort of person I am). I didn’t necessarily get very far, but I’ve come back with all sorts of eye-opening bits and pieces.

Like this…

How’s this for trivia: the sticky-outy bit on older, traditionally shaped stones are called the “shoulders” – or occasionally, the “wings”. How did I not already know that?

Trivia 2: “taphophilia” is a love of funerals or the funereal, including “tombstone tourism”. (So many thoughts, right there…)

Anyway, I also came across a few links that I thought were kind of cool, so.

– There’s the Urbanist’s piece on 10 Types of Tombstone to Die For… (just look at the Knights of Malta one!)
– CNN’s Most Scenic Cemeteries piece; and Departful’s take on the same idea
– How to read a gravestone using a mirror
– Twelve unusual tombs

And, if you’ve the good fortune to not have suffered through my ramblings for very long, there’s always the Resurrection Cheese

 

The Hidden Mother

I stumbled across this piece on the BBC News site earlier, and… look, I get the idea. It’s about keeping the focus on the child as the subject, isn’t it? But blimey, if you don’t end up with some hella creepy photos as a result…

In Pictures: The Hidden Mother

Take a look and see what you reckon. And then try to forget what you saw. Brrr.

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.

1000111_567602749949112_30444218_n

(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…