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Reading, Watching, Bum Scratching

reading
READING

You know, I can remember the very first time I heard the phrase "long time, no see". I was about 12, sitting at the edge of a football pitch in Letterkenny with a friend of mine -- and no, I can't remember who the friend was, because memory is tricksy that way.

A stranger came past and my forgotten companion said "long time, no see" and I thought, "Wow! That is so original of you to think that up..."

None of the above is relevant to anything, except, well, long time, no see, dear diary!

I didn't mean to abandon you, but I've been busy. Writing, you know? Anyway, while we were going our separate ways and not talking, a lot of books have crossed my path, many of which I am not allowed to discuss. But... but here's a REALLY good one...

I'm half-way through Gordon Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs. Yes, you're right! I'm following the trend. I always read the cool and hip-of-the-moment book and, I'm always disappointed.

But somehow that isn't the case this time. City of Stairs is blowing my mind in a way that happens, maybe, once a year. As with 2013's Ancillary Justice, we have an intriguing story that casts light on real world issues, that in turn, deepen the intriguing story. It's going to win all of the awards. It's going to have statues built to it. It is an object lesson in how fantasy world-building can be every bit as thought-provoking as the best that Science Fiction has to offer.

All this, and I'm still only at 45%...

WATCHING

My current pleasure is the bleakest crime drama around: Gomorra. The whole thing is in "Italian" in the same way The Wire was in "English". I like to think I speak both of these languages pretty well, but I can understand maybe 20% of the filth that passes for dialog. So, hurrah for subtitles!

Anyway, everything depicted is horrific enough that my feelings after each episode are: a) bring back hanging, but b) even that would be too good for them. The whole thing is creepy and seedy. I can't put my finger on why it's so brilliant, but after the three episodes it took to snag my interest, I was suddenly a binge-watcher.

Join me! Who needs faith in humanity?



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Some Positive Thoughts on Winter

billy
There I was off cycling today, and I was thinking to myself I could keep running the bike into the middle of October maybe. After that, the only exercise would be ever more miserable football under the floodlights. Freezing our tits off. Crying for our mammies until the tears themselves turned to frost and--

But, no. I've decided that this is going to be a positive post. Looking at the pros more so than the cons of winter.

I want to talk about roaring fires, with no mention of the leaping shadows behind or the sinister, hollow stare of the piggy bank on the mantlepiece. You'll hear no complaints from me that I have run out of Cons to go to, or any talk of the pit in my heart where daily, devils squat to fill it with their ordure.

No. I want you to share with you, wise readers, what chilly joys are possible. A long, long list of pleasures unlikely to result in too many doctors' appointments. A veritable cornucopia of... "delights" may be too strong a word... but you will at least read here about several not-bads that can be associated with the darker months of the year in this, the most northerly hemisphere on the entire planet.

I hope you're ready for this! I hope--

Wait! That's the door. It's just a masked man. I'll be right back.

TitanCon: A Wholly Impartial Review

foot
Name Drops Keep Falling on My Head

The crazy beast that is TitanCon, has, after four days, found me indigestible and spat me out again. Away from the gentle acids of its tummy, my disorientation is total. Did I really have dinner with a pack of superstars such as Pat Cadigan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, D.J. McCune, Ian McDonald, Elio Garcia, Mutha Hydra?  Did I learn to play conspiracy games with the brilliant volunteers of the con? I think I must have. Those memories have a gentle glow about them, whereas others, such as some kind of quiz related wardrobe failure, are made of the very stuff of nightmare.

There Started a Beginning

As always, events kicked off with an author reading in front of a kind audience, gently sliding towards a state of happy inebriation. Afterwards, art was committed, and the first of the many, many conversations that make this particular con so special.

Day followed night. More guests appeared. I was privileged to be allowed torment a variety of VIPs, including authors such as Ken Gregory and Laurence Donaghy, as well as some excellent acting talent from the GoT TV series, including Aimee Richardson, Kerry Ingram, Eugene Simon and the very bearded Ian Beattie.

Later in the day, Elio Garcia, one of the co-writers for the imminent and beautiful The World of Ice and Fire, allowed himself to be poked, prodded and quizzed about the book and his contributions to it.

There Came More Stuff

You know the general gist of the rest. Food in good company. A... a quiz with a dazzlingly beautiful assistant. More glorious conversations. Free hugs, and not just from Pebbles! A karaoke of epic awesomeness with genteel waltzing couples crazy dancing. A morning that felt like death.

And Still More

Sunday was the bus tour and dire wolves and castles and feasting and coach singing. Yes, it was magnificent. Night-time was all about games I had never heard of and obscene songs gleefully translated into everything from Gadhlig to Klingon. And yes, I do know the Welsh word for "sausage", which turned out to be disturbingly useful.

Please don't ask.

And it Ends. All of it.

Monday did its usual fun-murdering. The remainders gathered for breakfast and leavetaking at the Wellington Park Hotel. Our bodies didn't have enough fluids left for tears. We squeezed in a few more chats, practiced our hugging some more and laid bets as to who would be first to come down with con crud over the next few days.

We've had a few years of TitanCon now, and every year, I slowly get to know the crew that little bit better, while new people turn up at the edges oozing brilliance and enthusiasm. It's always a sweet experience, but year by year, my affection for it, and those who run it, only grows stronger.

With that in mind, I want to give a special thanks, as always to Phil Lowles, who is head honcho, and yet, everybody's slave. May he toil forever!

foot
I'll come right out and say it now: I would love to see an independent Scotland. In addition, I would love all of our neighboring island to stay with us in the European Union. But I won't try to persuade you to my point of view, however, because it's none of my business what the people of Scotland vote for. So, rest easy, this won't be a political post.

I have been following the debate across the water quite a bit -- it's hard to avoid if you spend time on twitter -- and I keep seeing pro-EU people arguing for Scottish independence, and anti-EU people desperately calling for a retention of the UK as it currently stands. And everybody involved, surely knows that when the day eventually comes for the UK, or England+Wales+NI to vote on whether to leave or stay in the EU, a great many people on both sides are going to be using the very same arguments that are being used against them now to "prove" their points in the next referendum.

Yes, it's obvious. But you gotta find it interesting, whatever your point of view.

READING

I seem to be having a good run of books at the moment. I was given an arc of The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet, which isn't a trilogy at all, but a very amusing satirical pummelling of fantasy authors and YA authors and the book industry in general. Yes, I laughed, but the bloody thing won't be out until November or thereabouts.

I also picked up a YA SF short story collection at LonCon. I've read only 4 of the tales from Futuredaze:Reprise so far, but I'm finding it very refreshing indeed after the painful Hugo Shortlists. One of the editors, Erin Underwood, seems to be becoming a friend, so I'll put that disclaimer out there, but, I'm really looking forward to seeing what else lies in store.



WorldCon, Shamrokon, TitanCon, ExhaustiCon

foot
I've had two weeks off. Fourteen days of great conversation with author pals, BwB pals, random pals from random places who may, or may not be alien tourists in disguise. It's all been amazing and I should blog about it, but it has sucked every iota of energy out of me and left me as a contented, but otherwise empty husk.

I just want to go to sleep, but instead, work and the rest of the real world is lying with jaws spread, waiting for me to stroll right in to be digested. But there is a light at the end of the colon: TitanCon is coming. I can highly recommend it.

In case you're not familiar with TitanCon, you get a day of panels in Belfast with real live actors from the TV series A Game of Thrones, as well as -- oh! Impossible joy! -- some of the best SF/F writers in the world, including, but not limited to Pat Cadigan, Ian McDonald and Adrian Tchaikovsky.

A complete list of guests is here.

Join us. Let us absorb you and leech away your unhappiness...

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reading
Well, well and hey ho.

When I was learning all about the joys of ebooks... when I was preparing for the imminent self-publication of my third novel, The Volunteer, I thought I should practice first, and, as many of you know, I brought out a mini collection of short stories called Forever in the Memory of God and other Stories.

So, did I learn anything?

One lesson was that people don't seem to like "mini" collections. Or at least my people don't, my speculative fiction-reading buddies. I stole the idea from a Romance writer and her victims enjoyed the concept. However, we few, we who are enamoured with impossible worlds, are always looking for more of them.



So, I've added five extra stories.

--Are they new stories, Peadar?

Nope and no. These are stories that are easily available for free in other places. Two of them, Heartless and The Sunshine Baron were tremendous successes in audio form over on Podcastle.org. The other three are skulking about online, whether on the Black Gate website or elsewhere. So, it's not an indication of a flurry of brand new work on my part, I'm afraid.

All I've done, really, is to bring my eight existing secondary world fantasies into a single collection. I'll probably do the same at some point for my SF work and my Irish-based short stories.

If you've already purchased a copy of the book and would like to read, or reread these extras, you should be able to delete your old copy from wherever you put it and download the new one for free. If not, please let me know and I'll sort you out. And I'll thank you too. Again.

Other than that, how is everybody? I can't wait to see some of you in London soon, and others in Dublin the following week, and still others in Belfast shortly afterwards :)

Watching -- Utopia Edition

reading
Last night, I watched with delight and horror the first episode of season 2 of Channel 4's Utopia.
Have you seen it?
-No.
What! Do you live under a rock?
-No.
Of course you don't. It appears I am the only person I know who has watched so much as a minute of the best British genre show around. Yes, I have seen Dr. Who and Sherlock and Orphan Black (if that can be called fully British). During the Second Age of Men, I watched the rise and fall of Sapphire and Steel, as well as Ultra Violet. I've giggled over Misfits and waved a sad farewell to Blake's Seven.

This. Is. Better.

You ask me "why", with a sneer on your face only slightly undermined by the ketchup staining the tardis on your t-shirt.

I'm not sure I can answer that question properly in a way that will do the story and the production justice. It sounds naff and so clichéd that I myself wouldn't cross the road to see it: A group of misfits come into possession of a rare comic book, written by somebody suffering what appears to be a severe psychosis. From that moment on, they are being hunted by their own government.

Ouch!

Luckily for the series, the comic book and the secrets it holds are far more than a maguffin. There are hard, hard questions to be asked, not least of which is this: Who is Jessica Hide?



And the production is AMAZING. Every scene is stunningly beautiful, dominated by primary colours and brooding trees or buildings.

And did I mention the horror? The Science Fiction? The great, flawed, weak characters who think they are saving the world, but might be destroying it? On all sides? The political manoevering?

Why, oh why, is nobody watching this? Must I stamp my feet?

Oh, go on. Get out of my journal.

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Ask the Author asks an Author who is me

reading
The excellent Vikki Patis, a Westeros Board member, has just done a friendly profile of me on ReadWave. Surf that goodness here!

Thanks, Vikki!

Top of the Pods -- Heartless

reading
Well, this is very flattering.

SFSignal have a series of posts running at the moment wherein they list the best 50 PodCasts of all time. They have just placed my story, Heartless, read by the excellent Veronica Giguere, in at #14.

You can listen to it again and again -- as many times as you like! -- over at PodCastle.org.

But which story came in at #1 you ask?

I don't know. That will be next week's excitement...


The Things I do for Research

reading
For the sake of research have I taken a thorny whip to my own bottom. I have read entire books and websites about special forces in order to write a single scene, which I feel is still wrong. But I'll never know how badly I have insulted the elite military services of the world until I wake up -- or, more likely, fail to wake up -- with piano wire around my neck.

But I've been going even further than that this last week or so, because I've begun learning Old Irish for a novel I'm planning to start writing before the end of the year.


I expected it to be hard, and in some ways it is: the final boss of Celtic languages. But what I didn't expect, was how emotional I would feel going through it. This is what it must be like for our American cousins when they finally see the green, green valleys their ancestors emigrated from. I'm learning words here, and brain-twisting constructions that Kings Brian Boru and Robert the Bruce would have understood easily.

But as somebody who has learned bits and pieces of languages from the Celtic, Germanic, Romance and Slavic branches of the Indo-European family, it is INCREDIBLE, and I mean that! Incredible to follow one of them back in time, to see it becoming more and more like its siblings. I mean, everybody knows these languages are related, but this is an experience akin to watching Africa and South America splitting apart and going their separate ways. Or the reverse that. Or something.

Writing

The first draft of my current WIP, which I'm thinking of calling The Orphan Continent, has just breached 80,000 words. 10K more to go, I would expect. Fun times!

I hope you're all well and up to no good!

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