magic

Pledge & Turn

… and, of course, “Prestige.”

(Thank god for that. Leaving it out makes me feel like I want to sneeze.)

And the prestige is, of course, MAGIC: AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE ESOTERIC & ARCANE

Watch closely…

Pretty, isn’t she? And it’s not just the cover that’s pretty: the interior design is also gorgeous, making this one of the nicest-looking anthologies I’ve seen. And I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. Promise.

MAGIC is released this week, with a special launch event at Foyles in Charing Cross Road, London, featuring Audrey Niffenegger, Sophia McDougall and Dan Abnett in conversation with editor Jon Oliver. It’s a free event, but it’s not a bad idea to reserve a space via the Foyles Events site.

If you were at FantasyCon in Brighton this year and swung by the reading room on the Friday evening, you may well have heard either me or Will Hill reading our stories from the book. The theme was, unsurprisingly, “magic” but the brief was specifically for something new; something that looked away from traditional witches and wizards… and judging by the finished anthology, every single contributor took that to heart.

My story, “Bottom Line” is about a man who works in a magic shop; a man who would do well to avoid magic altogether… not that it stops him.

I can still remember the look on his face when I asked for a job. He was sitting at the counter, stringing cards onto wire for the window display. He put the wire down, and he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Donnie. Of all the places in the world, with your history, why in God’s name would you want to work in a magic shop?”

He had a point. You don’t send an alcoholic to work in a distillery, do you? But that’s just it. There’s magic and there’s magic. There’s tricks and illusions and sleight of hand… and there’s what I do. What I did.

“Bottom Line” is a story about addiction and regret and – maybe – redemption. I’m very proud of it, and it was one of those stories I was sad to leave. I liked Donnie, and I hope you do too.

It’s a pleasure and an honour to be included in this anthology: the line-up is beyond intimidating (if you’re me, anyway) and includes Audrey Niffenegger, Will Hill, Rob Shearman, Alison Littlewood, Sophia McDougall and Sarah Lotz as well as many other people. And muggins here.

You can order online (Amazon UK & US) or pick up a copy at Foyles on Wednesday evening. As well as the official participants of the event, several other contributors will be there to sign copies if you’d like your book scribbled on! There will be ebooks, too, the links for which I’ll add once I’ve dragged them out of the lower recesses of the internet.

If you’re in London this week, come along and help us launch this fantastic book; come and say hi. And if you can’t make it, not to worry: with a line-up like that, there’s bound to be something in this anthology which will enchant you…

 

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FantasyCon 2012

 This weekend sees the annual convention of the British Fantasy Society, FantasyCon, which is heading back to Brighton for the second year in a row. It’s a hugely friendly event with authors, editors, agents, readers and publishers all getting together to spend time together. And there’s a disco. And bars which never seem to close…

I’ve been involved in the background of this one for the first time, helping to organise the reading slots which will be running from the Friday afternoon through to the Sunday lunchtime. We were incredibly fortunate that – thanks largely to the overwhelming success of last year’s event – we had a fantastic pool of potential readers to pick from, and we’ve put together a reading programme which should have something for everyone, including Kate Griffin, Will Hill, Joe Abercrombie, Adam Christopher, Gary McMahon, Mike Carey, Stacia Kane… and more, mixing familiar names with debut authors and up-and-comers.

And that’s just the readings. There are all sorts of book launches, parties, panels, signings and events spread throughout the weekend.

I may have been running around working on this one, but they aren’t letting me off yet. I’ll be popping up a few times across the weekend – so if you want me, I’ll definitely be at these events (and will probably be running around or lurking in the background at a few others. I’ll be the one with a vaguely panicked expression…)

FRIDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER:

4 – 5pm, PANEL: YOUR FIRST CONVENTION. (Fitzherbert Room)

I’ll be discussing conventions with Guy Adams, Tim Lebbon, Joanne Hall and super-con-organiser Mandy Slater: how they work, what to do (or not to do!) and how to get the most out of them. Whether you’re an FCon newbie, a convention virgin or an old hand at both, come along.

8.30 – 9pm: READING. (Room 134)

Solaris are launching their new MAGIC anthology at FantasyCon, so I’ll be reading my short story from that, “Bottom Line” for the very first time. If there’s time, I’ll also try and squeeze in a very short excerpt from BLOOD AND FEATHERS. That’ll be a section I’ve not read before (basically, come to enough events I’m reading at, and you may well hear the whole book by the end of it….)

11:30pm – midnight: JUST A MINUTE (Regency Lounge)

This is the scary one. I’m playing the legendary game against James Barclay, Rob Shearman and FCon Guest of Honour Muriel Gray, all under the watchful eye of Gollancz’s Gillian Redfearn. Swing by the lounge to watch us all fail to talk for a minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation on any given subject. Heckle, cheer, laugh… whatever. But bring your moral support. And gin.

SATURDAY 29th SEPTEMBER

2 – 3pm: MAGIC LAUNCH (Bar Rogue)

Along with other contributors (including Rob Shearman, Alison Littlewood, Thana Niveau and Will Hill) I’ll be signing at the launch of the fantastic Solaris anthology. I’ve read a couple of the stories in this now, and I can promise you it’s worth it…

5 – 6pm: launch of A CARNIVALE OF HORROR: DARK TALES FROM THE FAIRGROUND (Regency Lounge)

Another anthology launch: this time, a collection of dark circus stories, edited by the Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan and featuring my story “Face of the Circus”. I’ll be signing, as will Rio Youers, James Lovegrove, Muriel Gray and the cover artist Ben Baldwin.

I’m incredibly excited about both these anthologies, as I’m very proud of those stories and I’m thrilled to be in such amazing line-ups.

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Someone asked me whether I’ll be at the Big Solaris Give-Away & Signing on the Saturday afternoon: the answer to that is “sort of”. I’m not actually involved (I think the lovely Solaris crew will all need a bit of a break from me, to be honest…) but I may well be hovering somewhere in the background and I *will* be around most of Saturday afternoon – most likely either hanging out in the bar or running interference on launches and other events. So if you have a copy of BLOOD AND FEATHERS that you’d like me to sign, just keep an eye out for me and I’d be delighted to oblige!

As an aside, we’re also running a CHARITY CUPCAKE SALE on the FRIDAY AFTERNOON from 2 – 3pm (I think it’s in Bar Rogue, but please check the programme). All cakes are being made specifically by a group of crack volunteer bakers and have a fantasy theme. I’m told there *will* be some GF / vegan choices too, and all proceeds will go to the National Literacy Trust.

My contributions will have a Once Upon A Time theme, and (barring bakery disasters, which are entirely possible, given this is me…) be:

Rumpelstiltskin’s Revenge: chocolate & rum cupcakes with chocolate fudge icing… and plenty of gold.

Snow White: rose-flavoured cupcakes with vanilla icing

The Dark Curse: blackberry and lemon marbled cakes with chocolate icing

So there you go. FantasyCon’s shaping up to be a fantastic (gettit?) weekend all round. Weekend memberships are now sold out, but there may still be some day tickets available for the Saturday.

If you’re coming, I’ll see you in Brighton in a few days. The full programme is online here, with details of launches here. I’m looking forward to it….

Rising

I was going to blog yesterday – really, I was – but I went to see The Dark Knight Rises in the morning, and frankly, by the time I got home, I was ruined. All you’d have had was an essay on why I want to live inside Christopher Nolan’s head. Because I do.

If you haven’t gone to see this yet, do. Like its predecessors, it’s dark and brooding and often chaotic; it’s ambitious and clever and beautifully acted and shot… and as an ending to the trilogy, it manages to pick up, to revisit, themes and ideas from both previous parts. And the final few scenes are perfect. I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way.

(It was also fantastic to see Senate House back as a location – like Nolan, I studied English at UCL and I’m very familiar with that particular building and its place in both history and fiction. It did look a *bit* different this time round, though…)

Anyway. You’re going to get plenty of me now. Sorry.

Possibly the most exciting thing is that I’m featured in this month’s (September, issue 225) SFX Magazine as their “New Author”, talking about the Fallen, my influences and why Supernatural is one of my favourite shows. The BLOOD AND FEATHERS launch at Forbidden Planet on the 2nd is also on their monthly calendar, which is basically amazing and has brought me out in a huge grin.

Secondly, this won’t be news so much as More Stuff About Things You Already Know Because I’ve Rattled On About Them Before… but Solaris have now announced the final line-up for MAGIC, which will be out later this year, and includes my story “Bottom Line”. The authors involved are absolutely incredible, and include some of my very favourite writers right now – it’s a huge honour to be included and I’m very excited about the whole project.

I’m also guest-posting over on Book Chick City today as part of their “Author Top Ten” series – in my case, talking about my favourite heroes and anti-heroes. The emphasis is on action (this being me) and we tour the heroics variously of Gladiator, Drive and The Hurt Locker, by way of the ubiquitous Dean Winchester and Roland Deschain. Swing by BCC and feel free to comment, add to or generally mock my list.

Finally, I’ve added a couple more sneaky character updates to the list on the BLOOD AND FEATHERS site – including the first  of the major characters. The remaining ones will be going up over the next couple of days, and there might even be something a bit different on there next week: you never know…

Ego, Ego, Ego

One of my mad-dash self-pimping posts, this. If you’re averse to the odd spot of self-promotion and shoes with goldfish in the heels* then this is probably the time to look away…

If you’re still here, that’s good. This was worth sticking around for.

Last week, Solaris announced the line-up for their autumn anthology (you might well have read “End of the Line” or “House of Fear”, which were released in 2010 and 2011 respectively). This year, the theme – and the title – is Magic.

Full details including the line-up are on the Solaris blog, and if you look carefully, you’ll see that the “and others” includes, umm, me.

I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am about being involved in this: quite apart from the fact that so many of the people on that list are authors I admire hugely, Audrey Niffenegger is the kind of name that makes my jaw go from here ^ to here _.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favourite books (because I am a girl and in love with Henry, even though he’s an idiot for most of the book, yes, I know, don’t even try.) and so for me, this is a very, very big deal.

Random other pimpening: I’ll be turning up at the SFX Weekender coming up next weekend – I won’t be doing anything other than mooching around and enjoying myself, hopefully, but there’s a good chance I’ll be lurking around the Rebellion / Solaris & Abaddon crew at least some of the time so if you spot me, come and say hello! You can even ask about the fish.

I’ll be at a couple of conventions this year, attempting to sound intelligent… or at the very least, to smile nicely while failing to sound intelligent.

You can catch me at AltFiction in Leicester (April 14th & 15th), where I’ll be wearing my editor’s hat (which has a really big feather in it and goes nicely with the shoes) for one panel to discuss SFF non-fiction. Then I’ll be joining in with the “New Writers” panel, with Jon Weir, Tom Pollock and Vincent Holland-Keen – I’m particularly looking forward to this one.

I’ll also be at the Discover Festival in Snibston (May 18th – 20th), where it’s entirely possible I could be wearing a different hat. With or without feather…

*Note: no goldfish were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Synchroni-City

So there I was, talking about London and its slightly odd underbelly, when the forces of synchronicity came and walloped me round the head.

Jenni Hill, one of the editors over at Abaddon & Solaris—as well as one of my favourite people on Twitter—posted something to the effect of being tired of “alternate Londons”, and wondering why writers in the UK didn’t pick a wider range of cities for their urban fantasy works.

Of course I’ve got my own views on that (don’t I about everything?) which boil down to the fact that, as I said in my last post, London has a long, muddy and bloody history. It has more superstitions than you can shake a rat at—and heaven knows there’s enough of those about if you believe the stories. That’s not to say that Winchester or Edinburgh or York or Bath couldn’t rival it in the history stakes, nor that there are places with superstitions just as abiding as here—but London has its own gravity; it exerts its own pull, and perhaps that isn’t limited to the real world.

I can come up with a good number of alternate Londons off the top of my head: there’s—of course—Neil Gaiman’s London Below (“Neverwhere”), which was the first book to give me that ‘why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?’ moment, with its Black Friars and Angel Islington. There’s China Mieville’s umbrella-stalked UnLondon; Suzanne McLeod’s London populated by witches, vampires, trolls & goblins. There’s Kate Griffin’s London where sorcery battles kebab-shop grease-monsters and hoodies with spray-paint and the best pseudo-Latin I’ve ever seen; Mike Shevdon’s version of a city which overlaps the land of Feyre, and which can be crossed in a heartbeat if you know the right roads, and Mike Carey’sFelix Castor” London, where the dead walk, talk and hang out in abandoned cinemas.

The thing is, I love these almost-Londons. I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to several of these authors about their work (and hopefully those interviews will slowly creep into the light of day. They’ve been hideously delayed for reasons I can’t control, and for which I’m immensely sorry to the people who’ve given up their time to talk to me: their answers were all fascinating, particularly when it comes to the question of “Why London?”) and every one of them has a different thing to say about the city—or City. Each of them has picked another side to explore in their alternate universe: Kate Griffin chooses the London of now, with its graffiti and concrete. Suzanne McLeod opts for the bustle of Covent Garden: magic in plain sight, melding with technology. With Felix Castor, Mike Carey explores a particular sort of man—the kind you’re more likely to find here than anywhere else—who taps into the dead (of whom London has more than her fair share), while Mike Shevdon overlays the arcane traditions that the City perpetuates with something much more exotic, conjuring life from dust.

I can understand why people might tire of the alternate-London sub-genre (and I agree, it’s definitely becoming one), particularly as there seems to be a new book every couple of weeks. Ben Aaronovitch’s “Rivers of London” and the first of Sarah Silverwood’s “Nowhere Chronicles”, both recently released, have been getting great reviews. I’ve not read either yet, mostly due to my slight case of Everything-I-Own-Being-In-Storage, but I can certainly believe that these too can draw something fresh from a city I love. There’s a lot of books out there already—but I can’t say that any of the ones I’ve read have felt stale or samey. Each of them has brought something new, and each of them has made me look at the same old chewing-gum clogged pavements in a bright new way.

And for me, at least, that’s what it comes down to: I want fantasy to show me new faces to the familiar. I want it to take words I thought I understood, streets I thought I knew, and to turn them around—to show me the magic that was always there, unknown and unseen all along.

In my case, that’s most likely to happen in London. I was born in a small town in Wales, but in so many ways I was bred here, in London. My parents met here, married here. I came to university here at 17, and I never went home. It’s in my bones and in my blood; I love it and hate it and refute it and need it. I accept that might not be true of everyone… but to bring wonder to London—to a cynical Londoner (and that’s what I am) who’s been here a third of her life..?

Surely, however well-used it might be, there’s still some magic in that?