So – Now What? Second Album Syndrome

New ThingYou finish a trilogy, have a cup of tea and get your breath back, and the question that hits you, like a slap round the back of the head, is ‘So. What’s next’?!

What’s next? After the numbing crash of farewell?

What’s next? After the inevitable vacuum of self-doubt?

What’s next? After facing the cold page and failing to write a single bloody thing?

What’s next is more tea and a long walk. And than, after that, it’s settling yourself down to start again.

By Sunila Sen Gupta


I had forgotten (no, seriously) how much work it is when you build something new. Perhaps because so much of Ecko’s past is based in old RPGs, and so much of that creativity was done in an orgy of innocence in our twenties, when we did it for love and had no idea what a big thing we’d acheived. To do the same thing in your forties, somehow sandwiched between job and child and trying to sell your house and losing your Mum… well, I think I’ve said before that it initially felt like hitting Second Album Syndrome with an almighty SMACK and sliding down it to the floor going ‘ow’.

But. Trees from acorns and all that, you’ve got to start somewhere.

By Tuomas Korpi

On the water

The ideas are the easy bit. When you start something new, its every synapse firing – you want to include this, and build that, and use the other thing. There’s probably stuff that fell out of the previous MS that’s just too much fun to leave on the cutting room floor. New characters seem to lunge at you from nothing – conversations spring into life fully-formed.

At first, it all goes off like fireworks. Great fun, but all over the shop.
It’s the structure that’s hard. The nine-tenths of the research iceberg that never actually shows in the finished manuscript. The minutiae of social and economic structures, of political history and new magic systems and who has the power and why – and exactly how MUCH farmland a city of thirty thousand people really needs to feed itself…

And, of course, you have to have a map (groans).

MetallugyAnyway, after three months of facing that blank page, I’ve finally made it past that magical 20k and have something that is growing in confidence and structure. It’s been difficult, and I fully admit it – trying to find the time to write is hard enough, trying to find the time to build is a tall order, no pun intended. It’s very different, more urban and metallurgical, a detective story with (apparently) a bit of romantic thread… but we will see.


The longest journey starts with you getting off your arse, after all.


Of Battles and Book-Sniffing – Where I’ll Be at FantasyCon!

Saturday morning at FantasyCon, I’ll be the one belting off the train at high speed and racing straight into the Conference Theatre for the ‘Fighting The Good Fight’ panel – the one where we talk about the battle tactics, the merits of cold steel, and how many Orcs one uber-Barbarian can really take down in a scrap. From the emails that have already been flying around, this promises to be a LOT of fun, and there may just be some propage…

At 2pm, you’ll fine me being rather more sensible, in Suite 2, and talking about book marketing. You know the stuff: social media, what works and what doesn’t, how much is too much and why you should never send a new follower a DM telling them to buy your book.

Or you can find me reading from Ecko Endgame at 4:40pm… plus ther are wicked rumours that Titan Books may have some advance copies, so be very very nice to Lydia, and she might let you sniff the pages.

The one place you won’t find me is behind the booksellers’ table. Because it’s not Forbidden Planet and they’re likely to ask me what in the ever loving fuck I think I’m doing monkeying with their till.

Find the rest of the gleefully awesome FantasyCon programme here!



#squaresbygeeksAfter so many years of trading, being free to roam at BristolCon was a very odd feeling indeed. It was slightly nebulous, somehow, almost as if I’d missed something or there was something I should have been doing… for the first couple of hours, sitting chatting and drinking tea, I kept fidgeting, as if there was something I’d forgotten.

But no! After a while (and a very fine sarnie at the St. Mary Redcliffe just up the road), it finally dawned on me that I didn’t actually have to do anything, and if I wanted to sit on my arse, play with Lego and admire Emma’s sewing and crocheting skills (and all those lovely NERF guns, Ben!) then that was – actually – all fine.

Jen's DragonBut there was a reading (from the screen of my mobile phone as my iPad, dutifully lugged with me all the way from The Smoke, decided it wasn’t having any of it, thank you), a group signing (and actual people bringing actual books to be signed – even ones with my name on them), a book launch, (well done Jo on the almighty sales of Spark and Carousel), and the attending of the panels and the readings (including a very funny conjured-on-the-spot short story from Jasper Fforde featuring a wall of death and a pet lion in a sidecar, all good and blackly-oily fun).

Jasper FfordeAnd the best thing about not being nailed by my knees as usual? Proper time to catch up with people I don’t see nearly enough of, particularly old Vike buddy Ken, who’s now featured in Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion. And yes, I did buy a copy and he did sign it for me!

Well done to all involved for a fantastic event – a real family atmosphere and all very welcoming and laid-back. And, next stop FantasyCon, another event where I shall be a free and unbound creature, roaming widely and signing books and stickering unsuspecting passers-by!

Who knows, I could get used to this…





No Tables! Well, fuck me ragged, it’s a miracle – I will be at a Con, and without those firmly hammered-in nails that attach me to the FP table.

Yes, I will be at BristolCon on Saturday 26th, and will be giving a quick’n’dirty (no, not one of those) reading from Ecko Endgame in the Summit Suite at 13:50 – which will leave plenty of time for all you lovely people to get to Jo Hall’s Spark and Carousel book launch at 14:00.

No idea how it will feel being at an event without my table to hide behind – kind of feels like being bereft of both armour and safe retreat – but this is BristolCon, after all, so it’s all good.

Plus, Des will be there flying the FP flag, so I guess I’m sort of on range patrol…

May also be signing Endgame at the Bristol FP, but more news on that to come!

Full BristolCon schedule is here…

Camping and Growing Up

New Forest SkyI miss camping.

All though my twenties, every weekend through the summer, old battle sites and new pub gardens, gleeful in our naïveté and never really understanding how fortunate we were… how many people get to walk the ruins of Whitby Abbey as the sky sinks and darkens overhead?

After living in London for so long, going to the New Forest and being back with the firelight and the open sky is a poignant reminder of how it felt to be carefree and twenty-four.

Add a ten-year-old son and a couple of wandering ponies, and a weekend away from every type of flatscreen is a very welcome thing.

Let There Be...I’ve missed the stars you can see when there’s no light pollution, and the sweet smell of the air in the morning. I’ve missed the haphazard cookery and the mess tins of tea. Hell, I’ve even missed the flooded tent and the pissing rain – on a British Bank Holiday weekend, you can’t do this stuff by halves.

Old SarumThe weekend included a hot day at Old Sarum (I’m sure we’ve camped in there too, at some point), where there was much foolishness and freeform Medieval Jenga, plus a visit to Salisbury Cathedral to light a votive candle for mum and to rescue an injured Pipistroll bat – and a bonus and slightly unexpected viewing of the Magna Carta.

Best Place For Him!There was the marvellous experience of sitting under our brolly drinking wine while the rain poured down all round is, and the lightning flashed under the clouds.

And on the Sunday, there was a lot of wet kit, a child tearing off round the site on his bicycle, despite the rain, and an afternoon of submarines in Gosport…

P1050406Sometimes, things in your life fall by the wayside – without you ever quite knowing how it happened. Things changed, you got too busy, and you just… didn’t get round to it.

And sometimes, having just a moment of these things back is a wonder without words.

Growing up is necessary, responsibilities are unavoidable.

But don’t lose track of the stuff that matters.

Nine Worlds

Staypuft Marshmallow LadyIt’s always hard to write a review of a Con when you’re trading from behind a table piled creakily high with ALL THE BOOKS – and this one was sans dealers room, our usual partners in crime replaced by a lot of Gundam Mech building and some highly amusing-looking D&D (not envious, honest). Trading table or no, however, Nine Worlds continues with its own particular achievement – to bring new people into fandom with the confidence to be themselves.

Gundam Mech MasterAnd this means that, from a traders’ point of view, we see more people buying books, and reading books, and picking up new things to try… and as we cautiously stray from behind our table, we see more people able to dress and express themselves however they wish, to meet their tribe and make new friends. And lots and LOTS of wonderful Cosplay, this AoT salute one of my favourites – unsurprisingly!

Attack On Titan Survey CorpsShifting away from the demographic, I always do a certain amount of hat-swapping at Conventions. This time, much hilarity ensued from me swearing four minutes into the first panel of Friday morning (in strict disobedience of the five o’clock watershed. (In my defence, I have no recollection of seeing an email about the ban… either that or I get possessed by Ecko at critical moments, (and I know which of those worries me more)). The panel was great though, and it’s always good to not only share, but to learn from the authors with you, and the questions from the audience. Special mentions to Al Robertson and Sebastien de Castell for their wonderful senses of humour.

The Endgame ComethThere was some excitement for the publication of Ecko Endgame (hurrah!), and for the forthcoming Fight Like A Girl anthology. There was much tea (thank you Em and Cara) and much wine (no changes there) and a great fun Saturday night that ended with the sun rising at the end of the Heathrow roadway – and a reminder that I can, apparently, still get up and go to work on two hours’ sleep… it just takes me longer to recover.

Su as Tiny TinaAn overall thank you to Paul and Nazia for all their help and support, Program is a horrible job (and we all know it) and they came through it with flying colours. Thank you to Erich for his tireless help and patience, and to all the authors who signed for and with us – a huge list of mighty talent which, frankly, leaves me exhausted.

Joanne HarrisAnd finally, a particular mention to the lovely Laurell K Hamilton and her crew – a perfect fusion of charm and efficiency!


Ecko, Deepdreaming



These are AMAZING. They’re so gloriously fucked up – and equally so perfectly appropriate to the core theme of the books – I just don’t have words. Only: how badly I’d love a special/limited edition of Rising with this cover!

This morning’s Indy says, “The [deepdream] software works by turning the image recognising computers on themselves. By telling the systems to over-interpret images, they would pick out otherwise meaningless things and exaggerate them — turning clouds into bizarre llamas, for instance.”

Endgame in Deepdream

Endgame in Deepdream

The software is now available on Github so you can put your own images through it and see just how wonderfully, beautifully messed up they really are.

And, of course, it’s Ecko all over.

It could even have been written for him…

Alternative Cover Art for Ecko Rising - and seriously fucked up

Alternative Cover Art for Ecko Rising – and seriously fucked up

Same Old Shit

PageWhen do you reach the end of the Internet? In eight years on Social Media, I’ve watched it change – from friendship and sharing all over the world, to place where people have forgotten their manners. Not everybody, by all means, but enough to leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth. I’ve watched advertising saturate everything, all of it becoming more and more ‘targetted’ leaving less room for creativity and fun. In my earliest days on Twitter, everything was new and original – and I’m not sure if that’s because everything was new and original, or if it’s because I just hadn’t seen it before. Somewhere between the two, I suspect…

…but Social Media has make the world a smaller place, for better or for worse.

And this week, I think I’ve reached the edge of something that once seemed infinite. I’m seeing the same memes and jokes and cat videos turning up on FB and Pinterest time and time again. As Matt Dillon said, take the same meme, slap a Minion and a funny slogan on it, and hey! Clickbait win. And because Twitter is regulated and all about the numbers, and because FB and Pinterest now place the most popular posts, or the posts they think you’ll like best, at the top, I’m even seeing things I posted myself a couple of years ago – coming back to haunt me like last night’s curry.

livesAll the spontaneity has gone. Like the High Street being the same shops in every bloody town, like blockbuster films having the same plots and character archetypes, so the Interwebz has become the same jokes in every feed.

because it’s safe, I suppose, Guaranteed sales, guaranteed bums on seats, and guaranteed Likes.

I rather like that Instagram is the exception. While there are third party apps that will repost from your timeline, it’s not something that I often see. Sarah Langton comments that it’s immediately personal, and used by a lot of artists – who absolutely want original content and to keep their own content original. (Not sold by someone else for ninety grand, thank you). It’ a great showcase for their graphic design.

And it’s a great showcase for fun content. It’s always new. Okay, you might have to to face a lot of pictures of clouds and cats, but at least they’re different every time.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it’s become so successful – it’s the only thing that seems to have escaped the common-denominator-saturation of everything else.

And thanks to Craig for the inspiration. I’ll never look at SOS the same way…

EasterCon Program – or, Books, Monsters and Popping my KaffleKlatsch Cherry

dysprosium_final-01_200Just to be difficult, my schedule at EasterCon is going to differ from that listed by the program.

As ever, you can find me nailed by my knees to the Forbidden Planet stall, safely secure behind our groaning tables of titles, and drinking lots of tea. Please come and say hello, buy books, sign books (your own by preference, but, you know…) and keep us entertained.

On Saturday evening, you will find me in Armstrong at 21:15, with wine, and reading one of my favourite scenes from Ecko Endgame. No spoilers (promise) but action-packed and definitely worth tearing yourself away from the bar to enjoy. With me will be Tej Turner, reading from The Janus Cycle.

And on Sunday you’ll find me popping my Kaffeeklatsche cherry at 13:45, also in Armstrong, along with the Mighty Jim Butcher, Gareth L Powell, and Caroline Mullan.

Posted with thanks to a thoroughly stressed Judi!