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My New Novel Publication Deal: The Call

Anybody who has so much as passed me by in a corridor over the last few months, must have been thinking to themselves, "What's he in such a good mood for? He's a vegan. He can't even eat cheese, for heaven's sake!"

Well, it looks like the details are finally out there in the world...

To cut a long story short -- although it's more of a novel, really -- my new book, The Call will be out some time next year. I'm so proud of this one and ridiculously excited about it. I don't have a blurb for it yet, but basically, it's a YA portal fantasy. It takes place in an Enid Blyton boarding school with massive casualties and a severe lack of ginger pop.

My old friends at David Fickling Books will be publishing the novel in Ireland and the UK. Meanwhile, brand new best buddies at Scholastic will put my name in lights all over the US. *cough*.

I'm grateful to all of them. As well as to my beta readers and the Cons that let me roadtest parts of the book on innocent punters.

That's it! I'll share the publication dates when I get them.

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Ian McDonald's Luna: New Moon is Brilliant

I'll try not to go on and on here -- the title of this post fully expresses my feelings on Luna: New Moon. But I will go on a little bit.



Ian McDonald has spent much of his career exploring Science Fictional ideas in countries and cultures different from the Western default of white-picket fences and apple pie. He's been in Turkey and Brazil, India and Africa. Japan. Belfast. Now he's decided to mash them all together and slap them down onto the horrifically unforgiving surface of the moon.

His mad experiment has resulted in a brand new culture. It's brutal, fascinating, even exhilarating, with its own laws and artforms and customs. There are people known as "wolves" who skirt the edge of madness whenever a full Earth hangs in the sky; there is a pack of runners on an endless hypnotic jog around one of the cities, where people join or leave as they approach exhaustion. Fashion changes lightening fast, but that's OK: a few minutes can get you a whole new wardrobe printed out.

It's a wild-west claims culture fuelled by murder and complicated contracts. It's packed with a horde of POV characters, all of whom have very different quirks, needs and ambitions.

I don't want to spoil it for you, but man, there are some great set-pieces in there, and while the plot seems to meander a bit at the start of the book, it all comes together beautifully for a big-screen action-packed finish.

I think this is Ian McDonald's best book so far, and for once, I'd love to see a sequel.


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TitanCon Lurgie is a Thing

Wow! I had a hilarious time at TitanCon this year. But punishment was swift and sure and came in the form of a deathlurgie. I had to work today and yesterday too, which didn't help, but at least some Important Stuff got done and now, I can lie up on the couch and replay conversations with all kinds of cool and clever people.

I got to chat a bit more to some of the extras this year and that turned out to be a real privilege, I can tell you. "Sound" is how we refer to people like that down here.

As always, the organizers did mighty work and somehow convinced the Drowned God to provide a stunning day for the tour.

But highest praise of all, goes to the natives of Coach 1 -- the only true coach in the North. Man, we must have laughed or snorted in outrage all around the coast. I learned to love the incredibly moving music of Pod and the Milters. Although, when I discovered what milting acutally was, that joy was somewhat tempered.

I won't name the names of all the weekend's funproviders. There were too many of you and I'd be sure to leave somebody out. Also, I'm incompetent with names. But I will say a great big "thanks", for the memories, and most especially, the Lurgie of Enormity that has brightened my days since.

Roll on Octocon!


TitanCon Programme. Enjoy or be Destroyed.

Why, yes, my pretties, we do have a programme for TitanCon, with workshops galore, Water Dancing, famous writers, ballet dancers, actors, people having torrid affairs, a masquerade and so, so much more. I invite you to join us for the time of your life.

The full programme can be viewed here. Enjoy... or be destroyed.


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Yes, dear friends, sometimes life is very much a joy. Warm weather and blackberries. Good conversation and better cooking. Right now, I'm working my way through the Oh, She Glows cookbook, making everything from puddings, to salt'n'vinegar roasted chickpeas to breakfast cereals. Tonight, it's enchiladas.

By day, however, the nourishment is more intellectual. I'm writing up a storm -- nothing I'm allowed talk about, but definitely stormy. In a relaxed, balmy kind of way.

And then, when all the work is done, it's time to play...

READING

I'm on one of those good streaks in books that seem to come more and more rarely. Judith Herrin's Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire gave me lots to chew on when I ran out of roasted chickpeas. Yes, yes, I knew the Byzantine Empire was a sort of a successor state to ancient Rome, but I had no idea just how complete the continuity was. "Very complete" is the answer.

Right up until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the people of the city referred to themselves as "the Romans" and wrote all their documents in an ancient Greek that Plato would have understood.

On the very last day, as the last Emperor lead the last charge against the Ottomon besiegers, he spurred on his followers with the words, "Hurl you javelins and arrows against them... so that they know they are fighting... with the descendants of the Greeks and the Romans."

Cool stuff!

Yet, it's not quite as cool as N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season.



Now, I have a confession to make. I met this author at a convention a few years ago and thought she was great. Yet, I couldn't bring myself to like her books. I bounced off The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms so hard I broke a tooth. While The Killing Moon left me... indifferent.

So, I swore that no matter how compelling the hype, I was never, ever going to read another of her novels. Luckily for me, I broke that promise, because 30% into The Fifth Season, my skull is creaking under the strain of holding in so many great ideas. Books like this are the reason I love speculative fiction. Books like this keep me up at night, partly in delight and fascination, and partly in a rage of jealousy.

I won't spoil it for you, because I'd cry if somebody did the same for me, but in the unlikely event the rest of the story lets me down, I've still got more out of it than the last five novels I read (or tried to read) put together.

WATCHING

I really enjoyed Narcos on Netflix. No spoilers here, but if you know nothing about Pablo Escobar, you'll think the whole story is a ridiculous, drug addled confabulation. Watch it!

And I've just started a British crime series (also on Netflix), called The Fear. One episode in, and I'm marvelling over how good it is. Has anybody else seen this?

TITANCON

TitanCon is very, very soon now. Anybody toying with the idea of going, should just give in to the impulse right now. Seriously, guests from the Belfast-made Game of Thrones -- including the rascal known as Miltos Yerolemou -- will just be lounging around or posing for photographs. And then, there are the writers: Sarah Pinborough, Joe Abercrombie, Pat Cadigan and more.

Feel free to stay home and weep. But feel even freer to make a new, albeit temporary home for yourself in Belfast, where weeping has been banished, and only ecstasy remains.

More soon.

The Miserly Patron
He pays no horses for verses
--he wouldn't know how.
The best that you'll get,
Is a cow

I just love these little windows into the lives of the ancients! Bards, it seems, were a pampered lot with a sense of entitlement as large as the ocean.

I won't claim those few lines above to be a translation. I've toyed a bit with Old Irish, aka Sengoidelc, but it's too bloody hard for the amount of time I'm prepared to invest.

Luckily, others have not been so lazy. In the middle of the last century, a guy called Gerard Murphy translated and collated every scrap of old parchment he could lay his hands on. In the name of accuracy, he dropped all pretensions at poetry and made thorough, if dull, prose translations instead.

On the plus side, it gives me a chance to do my own rendition, and no, I don't expect any ponies for my efforts. It's just a way to pass the time while I wait for my lottery numbers to come up.


For any masochists in the audience, here's the original:

Ro-cúala
Ní tabair eochu ar dúana;
do beir a n-í as dúthaig dó,
bó.


This one doesn't look that difficult if you know modern Irish, containing as it does lots of words that still exist in similar forms. For example, the first line, these days, would be "Chuala mé". But there's evil in the grammar, believe me. Claws and hooked teeth.

And I can't help adoring that final, one-word line: "cow"*. What a put-down! I wish I could have matched that.

More soon. God help us all.


*Or, "a cow".

A Year in Gadgets

Yes, I am a waste of space and time. I have spent my wages on electronic trinkets, none of which have filled the gaping void I call my soul. And yet... and yet! All have brought me some modicom of joy, so, let me share with you some of the more recent ones.

1) Sony Smartwatch 3 -- 7/10

Who needs a smartwatch? The answer, is precisely nobody. My response was even more negative after a week of owning one, but little by little, trickling updates and innovations have made this one more useful.

I can tick off items on my shopping list just by raising my wrist. I fastforward songs and pause Netflix videos without a remote control or phone in sight. I can tell the time... In addition, this smartwatch has its own GPS, it can connect to my wifi and it has no fear of water.

But do these benefits make up for having to charge the thing every two days? Is it worth €200? Probably not.

2) Nexus 6 Smartphone/Phablet -- 8/10

My eyes! My eyes! Slowly the orbs that kept me so entertained during my youth have begun a betrayal that will only worsen as I age. So, I find I need a larger screen. The Nexus 6 is that screen and it runs on pure Android. Hurrah!

It *is* heavy, though. It *is* big enough that people have likened it to a shovel. But it's either that or wear glasses every time I take my phone out of my pocket.

3) Google Chromecast -- 8/10

This is a simple little device that allows me to fling photos, videos, games etc. up onto my TV screen. I pretty much only use it for Netflix these days, but it works easily and it works well. It cost very little and never needs a hardware upgrade.

4) LG MusicFlow H5 -- 9/10

This is nothing but a high quality wi-fi connected speaker. I pick out music or podcasts or a radio station on my phone; I press play, and there you have it -- the room fills up with enough sound to shake the walls and draw complaints from the next village over.

You might think this is no different from a Sonos, but you'd be wrong, because LG's MusicFlow uses "Google Cast" technology. This means that control of the listening experience lies with the app. on my phone rather than with the speaker itself.

As a result, and unlike the Sonos, there's no nuclear physicist grade meddling needed to get podcasts to work and to synchronise with each other.

It means I can listen to half a song or a playlist in my frontroom, before hopping into my car to listen to the other half over Bluetooth.

5) Forthcoming Gadgets -- 10/10

Future gadgets are always, always the best!

Yet More Reading. Yet More Watching.

READING

I'll keep this brief... There are a few early gaps in my Ian McDonald library and I've been plugging them with ebooks. The latest is Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone, which contains Buddhism, Shinto and human programming. Really liking it so far, but still... still... the one I really yearn for is Luna, which Ian read from at TitanCon last year. However, it won't be out until September, curse them all!



NOT READING

I'll tell you what I'm not reading: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. I want to, but the Kindle edition is $20, while the hardback will cost me $13. Yes, it really, really ought to be the other way around! As it is, I can do without for now.

WATCHING

Season 2 of Bojack Horseman on Netflix went to some very, very dark places. It's one of those shows that looks so vapid until you've seen four or five episodes. But eventually, the brilliance of its characters and its writing is revealed. Highly recommended.

But however dark BH became, it never reached the upsetting depths of Blackfish, a documentary about a particular killer whale at an amusement park in the US. This was an enlightening and scary experience for me. Again, it gets my highest recommendation.

OTHER STUFF

The tiny number of my recent posts have all been about my entertainment consumption. Almost as though nothing else were going on in my life, when the very opposite is the case.

Those who care, will have to wait, while those who care not, will also have to wait -- they just won't realise they are doing so.


Reading, Watching, Amazing

I've been away. I've been around and about and astray. But I always wander back again and so, for your great enjoyment, I present, myself.

READING
I've read some great stuff since we last spoke. One of these was Chris Beckett's Mother of Eden, a sequel to his incredible Dark Eden of a few years ago. The world of Eden was never going to have the same impact the second time around, but this is still a great story that flings weighty themes about, like the origin of religions, the ownership of history and the meaning of feminism. My liking for it was both strong and deep. That guy's worldbuilding is simply a joy.

Luckily for me, it looks like my next read is going to be just as good, because, 100+ pages into Simon Mason's YA detective story, Running Girl, I'm completely taken with the two main characters and the mystery they are competing to solve. Nice and gritty, this one. Try a sample, is my advice.


WATCHING
Man, there's just so much I haven't talked about in this space. I saw the Any Winehouse documentary, Amy, and left the cinema stunned. Go see it.

Also, really good right now, is the Flemish plague drama Cordon. It's so, so much better than the usual pestilential crap, that I'm just waiting for somebody to remake it in English and kill it dead.

I know there's more, I know there is... But never mind, you've suffered enough for today.

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More About Endings, About Spoilers.

Holy crap and what a fool I've been! And thanks to irishhatgirl for crystalizing this for me with a great piece of criticism.

People like suspence. They enjoy mystery. And I used to think -- until about two days ago -- that this mystery was the only thing that pulled them all the way to the end of a novel.

"No spoilers!" they cry on the interwebs and that sound rises to a scream just before every episode of A Game of Thrones or Dr. Who comes on the telly.

But then, how do we explain Mills and Boone Romance novels? We know from the first few pages that the feuding couple are going to be in each other's arms by the end of the book, so where is the mystery there?

I thought I knew the answer to that particular puzzle: I felt sure the readers leapt from page to page in order to figure out the how rather than the what. For example, how will the heroine overcome the mother-in-law who is a werewolf? Or the inevitable evil estate agent? Or the fact that she has seen her beloved with his sister and confuses the woman for a rival? How?

But it's not just that, is it?

We love these characters! That ditzy, quirky secretary, whose only friend is her cat. And Mr. Boone, the tycoon, her boss, who we soon learn has a tender side, hidden by arrogance only because he was hurt once before -- by a secretary, no less! So much do we love them that even though we know they're going to end up together, we want to share in their joy by watching it happen. We want to attend the wedding, even if it goes on for 20 pages after the actual plot has peaked...


By conincidence, I saw the last two (wonderful!) episodes of the Danish historical drama 1864 last night. Sure enough, we had a wedding. Sure enough, even though the main plot had been resolved, the director spent the last thirty minutes slowly resolving every remaining thread of the story. And it was beautiful.

No wonder people keep telling me my endings are abrupt!

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