angel

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…?

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.

(more…)

Featherbomb

What’s Pye Parr up to now…?

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By the way, if you’re interested in reading a bit more about how Pye works, and how the first BLOOD AND FEATHERS cover evolved, there’s a really detailed interview with him over on the Shewolf reads site, including his mock-ups for concepts which didn’t quite make the cut…

Snowflakes and Angels

As part of The Great Relocation of 2013 (don’t ask), I’m currently holed up in a beautiful village in the South-West of England.

It was already pretty when I got here on Sunday afternoon – all old houses and mellow stone and leaded windows – but like most of the UK this morning we’ve woken up to a beautiful covering of snow.

So naturally, I went to the churchyard.

Like you do.

 

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snow church

 

 

I’ve been asked once or twice why Mallory lives in the back of a church in BLOOD AND FEATHERS – but looking at this, it’s hard to imagine anywhere that would suit him better.

Today the internet…

So, who wants to hear me talking? No, really. On the off-chance you’ve not had enough of my wittering on here, you can actually listen to me waffling on (with the lovely Stephen Aryan trying to steer me vaguely in the direction of sense…) on the first Head Space podcast, which went up yesterday.

I’ve tried to listen to it (to idiot-check it, at least) but I haven’t yet been able to make it all the way through. It’s the sound of my voice, you see – I sound so much posher than I thought, and so terribly, terribly British! From what I could gather on Twitter yesterday, pretty much everyone feels exactly the same when they hear their own voices recorded. Is there anyone out there who sounds like they think they do? Or prefers the sound of their voice the way others hear it? Terrifying.

There have been a couple more reviews of BLOOD AND FEATHERS: one from Elitist Book Reviews, which was very cool and incredibly insightful (if a touch spoilerish in that last paragraph… consider that fair warning if you want to go in pretty cold…) who called it, amusingly, an “anti-Twilight” and said:

This is urban fantasy, colored in plenty of shades of blood-spattered moral gray. Morgan’s angels are vengeful, ferocious, and downright psychotic.

You can read the full review – spoilers and all – here.

A Fantastical Librarian has also posted a review, which is fab – and quite rightly mentions Pye Parr’s gorgeous cover art. I think my favourite part of it was this:

if it were possible to enter a book and explore its universe on your own, we could just walk in there and find it fully formed.

… but again, you can read the full review here.

I’m enormously grateful to everyone who takes the time to review the book, and to put their reviews online – and I’m obviously over the moon that it seems to be getting such an encouraging reaction so far. It means a lot.

In other news, Americans! I believe we are now a “GO” for publication… which means you should be able to find BLOOD AND FEATHERS… well, everywhere. So spread the word and catch an angel. Before they get away.

To celebrate, the Qwillery invited me on to the site to talk a little bit about the book, about writing, research and inspiration. They’re also running a giveaway, so if you want to win a copy, head on over and enter.

And finally, you can also find me talking about life as a debut author over at The Debut Review: including the road to publication and just how the editing process messes with your head…

Actually – one more thing. Very, very finally, thanks to Tor.com for mentioning BLOOD AND FEATHERS in their round-up of July releases.

The Naming of the Ways

 

London has some excellent street names.  This one’s right next to the Millennium Bridge, on the way from St Paul’s over to Tate Modern.*

The City has some of the best (and most notorious) street names I’ve ever seen: most of them are either connected to trades–there’s Milk Street and Bread Street not too far from each other off Cheapside. (There’s even–cough–Gropec*nt Lane and all manner of other bizarre epithets, all of which go back to the old City). But the one in the photo is my favourite thus far.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I’ll be able to rise to the challenge of finding Airwolf Street, but I did pick up an Angel Street on the way home (midway between St Pauls and the Barbican). And, being the type of gal I am, that’s good enough for me.

So now I’m thinking. We know there’s a wealth of streets with interesting /inappropriate /odd names around the place (York, you’ve got to be right in there, haven’t you, surely?). What are your particular favourites? And–more importantly–how many TV shows can we find? Is there a Buffy Avenue somewhere? If not, why not?

Oh, and if someone… anyone… can come up with a street name that involves Airwolf, give me a shout, would you?

 

*By the way, Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds” installation? Incredibly poignant and thought-provoking. I didn’t see the point at all until I was standing in front of it. If you get the chance–even if it’s just to drop in and spend two minutes looking at it–do. You can’t walk on the seeds any more (boo) but somehow, that makes it all the more powerful. It’s free & runs until May.