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For anybody eagerly waiting, or even, lethargically waiting, for the release of The Volunteer on 12 June 2014, what follows will come as a public service announcement. For everybody else, it might resemble one of the more virulent forms of spam. My apologies if you belong to the latter group.

But for everybody else -- and I know I'm speaking to the vast majority of the world's population -- a very massive and extremely free sample of the novel (20%) is waiting for your downloading pleasure here. Read it on your kindle or epub reader, on your PC screen... or print it out so that you can have your way with it out of sight of judging eyes.

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Reading: The Girl With All the Gifts

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If I never read another zombie apocalypse book again, it will be too soon.

However, the fact is that these days 97% of all speculative fiction is of the shambling kind, so, unless I want to swear off books altogether, some small amount of pathogen infected rotting meat is bound to enter my otherwise vegan diet.

Sometimes, as with World War Z, I find I even like the stuff, licking my chops and hoping that nobody has seen the pleasure on my grease-spattered face.

But only once, have I ever loved a zombie book, and that's the one I'm reading right now.

M.R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts is simply wonderful. Great writing. Good characters. Strong plotting with every ounce of sweet, sweet tension juice squeezed out of every situation. Meanwhile all the most well-worn paths are skilfully avoided.

You'll get no spoilers from me, but you should download the free sample and give it a real college try.



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My Birthday is June 12th

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You won't need to buy me one of these, since I already have one. But you will be able to treat yourself if you are so inclined... If not, I have friends who will visit and change your mind for you...

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A 20% sample is available too, right here...

WARNING! May contain slight traces of cannibalism, violence and moments of transcendent beauty that will fill the void you never knew you had.

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Ah, the Simpsons. They do love to mock a good cliché.

Once upon a time there was an episode where a grown up version of Lisa Simpson falls in love with a British Student. "You are the most infuriating man I have ever met," she says. And instantly, they are passionately kissing.

I laughed myself silly the first time I saw that scene. I am not, and never have been an expert on romance literature. I had no idea that such a cliché existed, but it crystalised immediately for me when the Simpsons spelled it out for me, and ever since then, I've seen it everywhere, and not just in traditional hetero stories. A lesbian YA fantasy I read recently had that exact same dynamic going on.

However... a book I'm reading at the moment really takes the biscuit in that regard: it uses the words: "She was the most infuriating woman he had ever met", and then proceeds to spend 1000 pages bringing the future lovers slightly closer together. I couldn't believe it was so... blatant.

But I can't blame the author. The only reason I know to avoid this particular pitfall -- one that would have those of my readers with a romance background rolling their eyes -- is because a cartoon inoculated me against it.

LISTENING

I'm listening to the audiobook of Garth Nix's Sabriel at the moment. So far, a third of the way through, the word that comes most easily to mind, is "delightful".

Also, Dan Carlin, of Hardcore History fame, is knocking it out of the park at the moment with his ongoing series on the First World War. Highly recommended for history buffs.

Yup. It's Spring

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Sometimes I forget what a lovely area I live in and then this happens.

I was cycling on a country road barely wide enough for a single car, and the first thing that hits me is not a tractor, as you might expect, but the most powerful smell of pollen I've ever had in my life. Then I saw the field and was compelled to stop and gawp.

Take that, Winter!

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Watching, Reading, Eating

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Watching

There were times last year, when every night of the week I watched an hour or more of TV. But sadly, my friends, those days of free and easy entertainment seem far behind me.

About the best thing I've seen this year was True Detective and even that was hurt by the fact that about half of Rusty's lines were inaudible. Good show, though.

At the moment, I'm looking at continuations of series I used to watch: The Americans, A Game of Thrones and Mad Men. All are good, but I have nothing to say about them that you haven't heard a million times before. Except that I will be sad to see a certain nasty character depart A Game of Thrones. I always thought he did the part justice.

Hugo Controversy

Every year, I take a different stance on the controversy of the awards season. This year, I find myself agreeing with John Scalzi's position. That is, I'm going to read everything and rank them according to how they make me feel. Yes, it's true that one person on the list has made statements that leave me feeling slightly sick. I've even met the person about whom he made those statements and found her to be both charming and intelligent. But I'm not going to feed anybody's persecution complex by treating them differently.

Of course, if it ever comes to actually paying for anything he's written, then, in that case, I will reserve my right as a customer to say "no thanks".

As for the novels category: Ancillary Justice is a really good book; Wheel of Time is not for me, but is historically important. I haven't read the others yet, but I will.

Reading

Mostly history here. Lots of stuff about the British in India and Afghanistan, written by William Dalrymple who prides himself on actually consulting sources from both sides of a given conflict. Shocking, I know, and when it comes to the Indian Mutiny, almost unprecedented!

What have I learned?

Everybody who invades Afghanistan succeeds. And then fails.

I bet you didn't know that!



Podcasting

It's not too late to listen to a podcast of my story Heartless. Honestly! Really! It's free! It's getting marvellous comments in the Podcastle Forum! I would be your friend. Well, only until the next time I wanted something from you and that is likely to be all too soon!

Eating

I have pickled a turnip.

--What does it taste like?

Why, it tastes exactly as you would expect a turnip to taste if you soaked it in a solution of salt and vinegar for a week. I'm not sure what else I was expecting. It's nice. Not extraordinary. It is itself and I will not be prejudiced against it.

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Oh, Beauteous LuxCon!

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My shower curtain doubles as a huge map of the world, complete with political borders, islands and deep blue seas. A few countries are missing, of course. Some of these did not exist when the map was made. But absent too, is tiny Luxembourg, which to be fair to the curtain cartographers, is only eleven hundred years old.

So, what was I expecting from LuxCon when I nearly missed my connecting flight and almost lost a bag of books? Small. That's what I was expecting. Not large or huge. Not rotund or generously proportioned. I guessed there'd be at most a hundred attendees, sneaking into the convention (probably held in a barn or a seedy pub) with brown paper bags to hide their identities.

Oh, I've been wrong about things before, but rarely as wrong as this!

The building -- a converted shoe factory of all things! -- is a magnificent venue, capable of hosting many hundreds of enthusiasts, and boy did they come! 600 of them from all over Northern Europe, and not a paper bag in sight. Instead, they wore costumes from every movie, game, comic and book you can think of. There were Time Lords and Fox Spirits; demons and Storm Troopers; knights and... well, little bewildered Irishmen. Best of all, the average age of the visitors was probably very early twenties.

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I like to award prizes, and LuxCon gets the Peadar Bloody Brilliantly Organized Con Trophy for 2014. It's impossible to see this as Luxembourg's first convention. It ran so smoothly, looked so beautiful, brought in so many smiling people, eating so many delicious frites...

On a personal note, I met a legion of great people and got to hang out with a clever little gang of BwBers (and a dog) -- pub quiz heroes every one.

LuxCon 2014 was an absolute triumph. Roll on 2015

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Well, two most excellent things today:

My story Heartless from issue #84 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been reimmortalised as a podcast over at PodCastle. Veronica Giguere did a lively and sly reading, with different voices for all the poor unfortunates involved. Really, if you're not too squeamish -- that was a dare, in case you didn't realise -- you should check it out.

Meanwhile, over on the Black Gate web site, Sarah Avery has written the most generous possible review of my mini ebook collection Forever in the Memory of God and Other Stories. Wow. Thank you!

Finally, I have yet to write up my review of the stupendous convention I was at in Luxembourg -- LuxCon. A huge success, but I haven't had five minutes yet to write it up. That's my own fault -- I have a tonne of work to do for LonCon at the moment that I've left for far too long.

Potential Blurb for The Volunteer

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Well, I got great joy from my LJ buddies when I was test-driving the blurb for my mini-collection Forever in the Memory of God and Other Stories. Many thanks, peeps, but since you've given me an inch, I'm taking the mile to which I'm entitled!

What follows is a test blurb for my forthcoming book, The Volunteer. Be warned! The blurb has a few spoilers for anyone who has yet to read The Inferior. You should be fine if you haven't read The Deserter, though.

Suggestions are welcome. There's still time!
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Spoilers ahead for The Inferior!Collapse )

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