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.

(more…)

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.

Bite the Rebellion

If you’re coming to the Blood and Feathers: Rebellion launch at Forbidden Planet this Thursday, we’ve got an extra-special treat in store for you.

Now, as well as being able to pick up a copy of the book ahead of its official publication date, you’ll also be able to show your allegiance to the angelic choir of your choice thanks to the fantastic Mutherfudger – codename @Madnad – who will be providing us with some of her amazing baked goods.

Exactly what the Mother of Cookies has in mind is a surprise for now – and I’m far too scared of her to let it slip… but come along on Thursday evening and find out.

The angels are coming. And they’re bringing biscuits.

Join the REBELLION giveaway

It’s less than 2 months to the release of BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION (eeeeeeep!) on July 9th, so I’m going to do one more giveaway. This one’s a little different to last time.

Why?

Because as well as a signed copy of the first book, I’m giving away the opening chapter of the REBELLION manuscript, marked up with notes and amendments.

This means that you’ll be able to see the changes between the draft I sent to Solaris and the text that will appear in the finished book, giving you an insight into the edits we made – as well as getting a look at the first chapter before anyone else.

Publishing being the modern and new-fangled thing that it is, all my edits are sent through in soft-copy. However, me being the Luddite that I am, I always work in hard-copy, and transfer everything back onto the screen. This does, unfortunately, mean that you’ll be getting pages covered in my scrawl, but hey.

All you have to do is tell me where you think you belong.

I’ll explain…

In the world of BLOOD AND FEATHERS, the angels are divided into choirs. Each choir has their own specific talents and gifts.

Every choir has a part to play in the battle.

Michael’s choir – like the Archangel who leads them – are the elite soldiers. They’re known for their loyalty and their single-mindedness… and the fact they tend to burst into flame. Quick to anger, they’re by far the smallest choir, but are almost certainly the strongest.

Gabriel’s choir are able to control lightning (and, by extension, electricity). They often come across as aloof and detached… but they’re simply considering all their options, and it gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to emotional situations.

Speaking of emotions: next comes Zadkiel’s choir. Able to manipulate memories, thoughts and feelings, they can read your mind – or make you see exactly what they want. It’s a more useful trick than you’d imagine. Or maybe that’s just what they want you to think…

If you’re a gambler, it pays to have Barakiel on your side. His choir are, generally speaking, lucky. This manifests itself in funny ways: some of his choir are always in the right place in the right time, some can influence the outcome of a fight or a hand of poker… some keep getting themselves in a mess. The thing is, they always get out again.

Raphael is a healer. They say time heals everything? They mean “Raphael”. Many of his choir are also healers – and others are empaths. Able to feel what others around them feel – not to alter or influence, like Zadkiel’s choir, but to understand. Sometimes, though, feeling what others feel hurts...

And then there’s the Fallen. The outsiders. The rebels. Dangerous and desperate, how many of them wish they could go back and make different choice – and how many of them like things just the way they are?

 

See? Easy.

Which choir do you think you would belong to, and why?

I’d love to know!

 

You can leave a comment on this post, tweet me or mail me. I’ll randomly draw one response this Sunday, May 19th. I’ll also collect all the entries and put them on the blog a bit further down the line – along with my own answer.

Choose your choir.

The REBELLION is coming.

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…

REBELLION release date and pre-order

Just a quick one because yes, I’m still supposed to be doing edits, and yes I have started – I promise. I’ve even written a couple of new scenes and done some swearing at Word’s “track changes” function. It’s a thing.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

BLOOD & FEATHERS: REBELLION now has a release date for this summer: July 9th.

As far as I know, this is the same for the UK and the US – although if that changes, I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

There’s also a pre-order page up on Amazon both for the UK & the US (before anyone asks me, yes, the cover they’ve got up there’s a draft!)

So there it is.

July 9th 2013.

The Fallen will rise, the angels will fight… and the rebellion will begin.

BLOOD & FEATHERS giveaway and winners!

UPDATE:

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition and spread the word on Twitter. I’ve now drawn the victims… winners and notified them.

The lucky three are:

@DogEarDiscs and @RichardKellum, who each win a signed copy of BLOOD AND FEATHERS

@CatHawkins, who wins the signed copy and the handwritten version of “The Patron Saint of Wishful Thinking” (which you’ll be able to read on here in a couple of weeks)

b and f giveaway

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you again to everyone who entered.

By the way, if you weren’t lucky this time, I’ll be doing another giveaway in the not-too-distant future, so keep your eyes open…

###

I’ve decided. I’m doing a thing.

I have THREE signed (and dedicated if you’d like) copies of BLOOD AND FEATHERS to give away.

One of these copies will come with a special bonus. Allow me to explain.

In the run-up to Solaris publishing BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION later this year, I’ll be putting some short stories and flash fiction online. Some of it will tell you more about characters like Mallory; some of it might be deleted scenes. It could be anything: you’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ll be putting the first of these new stories, The Patron Saint of Wishful Thinking, up in the next couple of weeks… but whoever wins the “book-plus” giveaway will get the chance to read it first, because they’ll get a handwritten copy of it along with their book. And yes, I’ll try to keep my handwriting legible…

So that’s three copies, one with a bonus you won’t get anywhere else.

I’ll be doing this via Twitter: all you have to do is include a link to this post in a tweet along with the hashtag #bloodandfeathers. (If you want to @ me at the end of your tweet too, it’ll make you easier to find.)

I’ll be keeping an eye on everyone who tweets and will pick three names at random on SUNDAY 24th FEBRUARY, starting with the two signed books, and then drawing for the book-and-short-story.

This is an international giveaway, so it doesn’t matter where you are: I’ll post the books to you.

I’ll notify winners via Twitter and the blog.

Good luck!

Clarence

[WARNING! SERIOUS POST KLAXON!]

It being very, very nearly Christmas, I’ve done what a lot of people do at some point in December.

I’ve just watched It’s A Wonderful Life.

I’ve not seen it that many times – twice, I think – but I have a huge degree of fondness for it… partly because it’s surprisingly dark for what’s usually called a “feel-good” film – after all, any film where a potential suicide attempt is crucial to the plot would be a hard sell as “fluffy”. Maybe it’s not really that surprising: December is the Beachy Head chaplaincy team‘s peak time of the year.

The genius of Frank Capra’s film is that just for a short while, George Bailey gets to see the world as it would be if he had never been a part of it. It’s the ultimate answer to the question: “Wouldn’t they all be better off without me?”

 

It’s an answer that anyone who takes their own life never gets.

Mental health has, rightly or wrongly, been brought into the news lately too. Rightly because there should be conversations about mental health and they should happen regularly; conversations about supporting people who are struggling and about seeking to dismantle the stigma which surrounds mental health issues. (Wrongly because, well, bullets do have a habit of killing people and it’s very difficult to walk around with a semi-automatic depressive episode in your pocket.)

So here’s the thing. I’m going to tell you about my very own Clarence.

His name was Sanjay. He was my therapist, and I’m certain that without his intervention my life would be very different. Or would have been very different.

Between my second year as an undergraduate and now, I’ve suffered several massively debilitating depressions, each of which has, in its own way, completely and utterly destroyed me. It’s only thanks to the extreme understanding and support of people around me (my family, my various doctors and in that initial instance, my lecturers and the English department at UCL) that each time I have been able to put myself back together.

I’ve taken anti-depressants in varying doses for varying periods of time (Citalopram ftw, kids) and enjoyed their delightful side effects as well as some superbly trippy withdrawal (my particular favourite was the auditory hallucinations: for about 3 days, I was followed everywhere by echoing footsteps. It was incredibly creepy to begin with, but after a while it just got silly. Phantom footsteps don’t follow you to the compost bin on a Tuesday morning. They just… don’t).

I’ve never enjoyed taking them because I feel less like myself on them: they change the way your brain functions, after all, and our brains – our minds – make us what we are. But I’ve taken them because I’ve known that I needed them. And they’ve done their job each and every time – they’ve given me the start I need to pick up the pieces and glue them back together. (There’s almost certainly a “crazy glue” joke to be made there, but it’s just too easy.)

Sanjay, however, changed everything. I was fortunate to have an engaged and understanding NHS GP, and a surgery with a cognitive behavioural therapy teaching programme. I was assigned to Sanjay, overseen by his supervisor, and I saw him once a week for most of a year. That was almost 6 years ago, and since then I’ve not needed medication or further treatment (although that’s not to say I might not need either or both again at some point.)

Sanjay was my Clarence. And I can’t tell you how grateful I am that he was there.

And that’s the thing about It’s A Wonderful Life. In its own way, it shows you the truth about depression, about despair: that they distort. Depression isn’t a black dog. It’s a radiation suit that’s inside out and stitched to your skin, trapping you inside while it slowly poisons you.

Unpicking the stitches is hard.

Realising they’re there in the first place is harder.

I’ve watched several of my friends deal with depression in the last few years, and I’m so proud of them. I’m proud because I know how hard it is, and how it’s so much easier just to give up. I’m thankful they didn’t.

And I suppose that’s why I’m putting this blog up now – while everyone’s doing their “Best of 2012” lists, I’m here nattering away about pretty much the bleakest things imaginable. Because I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for Sanjay. I’m thankful for my family, and my husband especially. I’m thankful for my friends – many of whom have seen the worst of me, and somehow are still here.

I’m thankful for the extraordinary difference that modern medicine, psychology and the NHS have made to my life. Without them… well.

On Twitter, the Samaritans are running a “Stand Up, Speak Out” campaign, raising awareness of the fact they’re there, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their phone number is 08457 909090. You might not need it, but someone you know might.

We can’t all be George Bailey… but maybe, just maybe, we can be somebody’s Clarence.

The end of the Rebellion

The reason I’ve been so quiet lately? Oh, nothing. It’s just… well.

REBELLION’s finished, at least in first draft and has survived its first reading by Other Half.

And now I’m all:

It is only the first draft, and there’s lots of work still to do – but even so, it feels like victory.

This will doubtless turn to utter despair, and reaching for the gin once my editor Jon gets his hands on it (and that’s just his reaction…) but at just over 100,000 words in this version, it’s by far the longest thing I’ve ever written – and when I started, I genuinely didn’t realise how much I would enjoy being back with Alice, Mallory and Vin. Which I did. And I do.

I still have to make my own passes on it, and that’s before we start the real heavy lifting of making it fit for actual human consumption… but I’m happy.

I was made even more happy, as it turns out, by discovering that Book Chick City have made BLOOD AND FEATHERS both their December “Book of the Month” and one of their “Books You Should Be Reading Right Now.” I love the BCC site, so this is a big deal.

(Dean? If you would…?)

I’ll stop now. I promise.

And as it’s my birthday tomorrow – when I’ll be turning the grand old age of 22 (ha!) – I’ll leave you with this. A while back, the excellent Hub Fiction published my Lovecraftian Anglo-Saxon mash-up story, “And the Northmen Brought Their Gods.” It’s now available as a podcast to stream or download, thanks to the lovely team at Dark Fiction Magazine.

Enjoy!