Buckeroo – 2015 in review

IMG_4021It’s been a hell of a year.

Normally, I’d talk about work, and books, and finishing Ecko – but this year, it’s all kinda just been lost. I put my flat on the market in March, lost my Mother in April. I’ve been fighting the hissing nest of red tape that is a Lease Extension since February, not helped by an atrociously inefficient Property Management company who couldn’t find their arse with instructions. It’s been a year of hospitals, phone calls, letters, administration, Estate Agents, Solicitors, house cleaning, house viewings, accountants, funeral directors, more phone calls, endless paperwork, even more Solicitors and occasional bouts of ‘I can’t fucking do this’.

It’s also been the year in which I’ve had to edit/finish Ecko, be there for my (very upset) son and continue to go to work every day. And all of that is without getting into the stress and grief of losing someone close – and coping with the fallout. I haven’t written anything about my Mother, and I still don’t know if I can, or if I will.

IMG_3680There have been times, this year, when I’ve felt like the donkey in the kids’ game of Buckeroo – with stuff piling on me and piling on me and piling on me, waiting for the point at which I freak out and throw things because I can’t take it anymore.

But you can’t freak out – the jobs have to be done, and you have to do them. And that’s all there is to it.

Lace up your big girl boots, and quit whining.

Three things have got me though this year. One is the single sagest piece of advice I have ever heard – ‘You eat an elephant one bite at a time’. Even if you’re overwhelmed, take it one day at a time, one job at a time, and it will be okay. You’ll get mighty fucking sick of the taste of elephant… but there will come a day when you realise he’s nothing but a skeleton and a bad-taste umbrella holder, and that you can see the light again.

P1050473The second thing has been the boyfriend. I know I’ve said this before, but Jon’s strength and capability have been something I have set my back against. He’s been there for me – not only dropping everything to come after Mum died, standing tall beside me at her funeral, but fixing the house and doing the garden and painting the windows, tirelessly working so the property could be viewed and sold. And not only the practical stuff, but the being there. Sometimes, someone just making you tea is the best thing in the world.

P1050468The third thing has been a promise: that we would end a year of darkness with Christmas in the light. I’ve always wanted to go to Barcelona and marvel at the mad Gaudi artwork – it’s been a little gleam at the end of the tunnel, something to work towards. And we’ve wandered the sunlit Spanish streets, appreciating the city’s warmth and welcome and laziness, enjoying far too much wine and far too much cheese, indulging ourselves in pavement cafes and gloriously bonkers architecture, all the time remarking how London suddenly seems so dirty and aggressive. We’ve done the sights as well – jaw-dropped at La Sagrada Familia, looked for treasure at La Baceloneta, explored the heights of Park Guell and the depths of Las Ramblas… sometimes, these are the things that keep you sane.

ScaryNext year, the long-anticipated change finally comes: the housemove is imminent, now, and January may well be a bit of a scrabble. But that’s okay, I’m SO looking forward to the new start and having all of this finally over. To new working hours, to Isaac going to High School and to, appropriately enough, a whole new manuscript and world.

Moving out of your comfortzone is a bloody scary thing.

But sometimes, it’s just necessary.

 

 

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!

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BristolCon

#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…

 

 

 

BristolCon

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…

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!

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Ecko, Deepdreaming

This is GORGEOUS!

This is GORGEOUS!

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

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!

Ecko Endgame Cover Art

Ecko Endgame

Ecko Endgame

Cover art is a very special thing. It’s the tipping point between a book being in your head, and the thing being real and breathing and there on the shelf. It’s seeing a concept or a character brought to life. And then, of course, there’s that all-important cover quote – that one-liner that has to sell your glorious vision to the world outside…

As ever, Martin has done a storming job with this one.

With cheers for Natalie at Titan Books, as well!

2013 – A Year of Crashing Plates

PlatesIt’s been a ‘no idea where it’s gone’ year.

In these posts, you’re supposed to write about wonderful things, epic and terrible things. But not this year – it was January, and then it was summer, and then it was chaos, and then it was Christmas again, and then it was me looking at the Facebook ‘12 best moments’ and going ‘fuuuuuuu…’

Anyway.

2013 has seen my son flow from boy towards teenager – the ‘whatever’ years now lurk on the horizon. Yet Isaac has also grown in maturity and responsibility, and I’m more proud of my son that I could ever articulate. But I guess you knew that.

2013 has seen Ecko Endgame written and in – the end of a project that’s been with me for twenty years and more. I wrote that closing sentence and then burst into tears – regret and relief and fulfillment and loss and a little fear. Something that huge being ‘over’ is a very weird.

And 2013 was a frenetic year at FP – as the heatwave hit in July, so work became a sledgehammer of stress, more events than we could cover or handle. My ten-year anniversary passed in a suffocating cloud of panic, and I began to realise an inevitable truth…

More PlatesMy life is a constant juggling act – child and work and writing. Cramming it all in. Organising up the arse, and no social life to speak of because I never have time. It’s bonkers. People say to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it’, and this was the year I had to face a truth that I didn’t like very much…

I don’t. This summer, the plates wobbled and all came tumbling down, slo-mo.

It was just too much. Work reached critical mass, Isaac is my son, Endgame was handed in late, and then by gritted teeth and willpower – I think the tears may have been as much about sheer exhaustion as anything else. But I did it. By some miracle. Just.

Before those falling plates hit the floor and shattered into a million broken pieces.

Too Many PlatesThis year has taught me that I’m not Wonder Woman. That my time and abilities are finite. That if I take on too much, I will fuck it up. Next year, I’m going to take a step back and be happy with less. Spend more time with Isaac and family and friends. Play computer games. Laugh. Spend time – hell, days! – doing fuck all and not feeling guilty about it.

In 2013, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lifelong ambition finally achieved. In 2014, I’m going to be very bloody glad to not have to achieve it any more.