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An Oxford Visit

The Introduction
I've just returned from a magical trip to Oxford with my bag full of books and my headmeat full of delightful memories. Other than the apology section, what follows is an attempt to mummify these experiences for my own future perusal. You might want to skip the lot of it!

The Apology Section
First, let me apologise to those of my Oxford friends that I failed to contact while I was over there. I hope to make my excuses to several of you at Mancunicon in person. But this was always intended to be a busy, busy few days, and so in fact, it turned out...

Fantastic Goings-on -- Monday
Too much happened in too little time to list it all. I signed 500 proofs of The Call with my sinister claw. I renewed my acquaintance with the whole crew at David Fickling Books, and I can tell you, I'd sail any sea in such fine company.



I was introduced to Emma Draude, who is to be the UK publicist for the book. Calm, lovely. Note-taking. Clever. A appreciator of fine curries. A sharer of cake. Not peanut intolerant, if I'm any judge.

After lunch, we made a few videos, with Phil and Carolyn chipping in to edit on the fly. Many of these will turn up on the interwebs some time soon in order to trick encourage people to buy The Call.

And finally for Monday, there was a party for various authors and booksellers. A writer should steer well-clear of clichés*, but the children's book industry is populated almost exclusively by sweethearts. Which doesn't mean they can't be tough -- just that they don't want to be. The room was filled with great conversations and the type of snacks that would have brought ancient Rome to its knees.

The authors were fantastic. Without naming names, I met at least one scribbler I have long admired, and several whose work I will be starting in March when my reading time is my own again.



The book trade folk displayed far more friendliness and excitement than they had to. I love them all and want them to have my babies books.

Tuesday in Paradise

I spent the morning on an impromptu tour of Blackwell's Books on Broad Street. Wow! What vasty, multidimensional depths! With cabinets of precious first editions like jewels and the office of the founder's son, preserved in amber with all its old splendour. The staff there are amazing in their enthusiasm. I feel I should name names here, but this is the scary internet, so I won't. But A, B and C (or N), you are stars. It was a great experience.

After that it was back to the DFB offices to talk contracts.

Yes, the second book is now an official thing with a deadline and all that good stuff. More about that next week maybe.

For lunch, the brilliant angalin invited me into the heart of an Oxford College. I loved it! I was expecting typical university canteen food, but everything tasted as if somebody had lavished actual care and love on it. The staff too, were all smiles -- you know, as though they liked their work. You won't catch me grinning like that tomorrow morning at my day job.

One more trip to the offices to say my goodbyes and to steal the most recent copy of The Phoenix and that was that.

A day so perfect Lou Reed would have written a song about it.

*Yes, I know.







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Boskone, Boskone, How I Have Missed Thee

I can already smell the heady scent of Boskone on the wind and know now it must be near. I'll be doing panels! I'll take part in a group reading! And, oh! Oh, for the old friends clasping me to their bosoms! No doubt too, I'll defend my native land against all comers as I man, for a time, the Dublin 2019 desk under the stairs. What a guy!

Full details are below for any interested...

Things I Wish A Pro Had Told Me

Friday 14:00 - 14:50, Harbor III (Westin)

There's nothing like 20/20 vision when you're looking in the rear view mirror. Professionals share their experiences and swap stories about their own writing and career decisions—perhaps musing how a little helpful information might have gone a long way. Find out what they wish they had known, and hear what the pros have to say about your queries during Q&A.

Walter Jon Williams (M), Brendan DuBois, Christopher Golden, Peadar Ó Guilín, Charles Stross

Magical Tactics

Friday 17:00 - 17:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

Plotting and choreographing fights, whether formal battles or street brawls, is a basic item in the working writer's toolbox. What happens when there's magic in the mix?  What changes? What doesn't change? What's a really bad idea? And how do you make it seem real?

Django Wexler (M), James Minz, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Peadar Ó Guilín, Fran Wilde

Mars Needs Moms

Saturday 10:00 - 10:50, Griffin (Westin)

Family can be the backbone of a young character — or his total destruction. The influences, the baggage, the support network within a family all come with benefits and costs. At a time when nontraditional families are on the rise and parents in fiction are growing scarce, what role do families play in our tales? How is the changing configuration of the nuclear family influencing the characters within our favorite stories? And where have all of the mothers gone? Mars?

Fran Wilde (M), A.C.E. Bauer, Emma Caywood, Peadar Ó Guilín, Django Wexler

The Grimm Future -- The Anthology Group Reading

Saturday 16:00 - 16:50, Griffin (Westin)

NESFA Press presents a special reading for this year's Boskone Book: The Grimm Future, edited by Erin Underwood. This exciting new anthology of reimagined Grimm's fairy tales brings you 14 original short stories with a science fictional twist. The Grimm Future features cover art by Boskone 53’s Official Artist, Richard Anderson, and original stories by Guest of Honor Garth Nix as well as program participants Dana Cameron, Max Gladstone, Carlos Hernandez, John Langan, and Peadar Ó Guilín.

Erin Underwood (M), Carlos Hernandez, Max Gladstone, Peadar Ó Guilín, John Langan, Dana Cameron, Garth Nix

Boskone Book Party

Saturday 18:00 - 19:20, Galleria-Stage (Westin)

Join us for Boskone's Multi-Author Book Party, see what's new from authors you love, and discover new favorites. Boskone is also launching three NESFA Press books tonight: The Collected Stories of Poul Anderson Vol 7, Conspiracy!, and The Grimm Future.

Formidable Females

Sunday 11:00 - 11:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

Females were once seen as the weaker sex and assigned weaker social roles. Now, they are  taking full and equal parts, at least within fiction. From Cersei Lannister to Rey, Jessica Jones to Breq, and more, women are taking leadership roles as both protagonists and antagonists within the story. And those are just the characters! What about the writers of these fantastic women? Whom should we be reading? What's next?

Theodora Goss (M), Carrie Cuinn, Max Gladstone, Peadar Ó Guilín, E.J. Stevens



You Can't Handle the Handle

Let's just get the big stuff out of the way, shall we? Let's get it right... out... of... the... way.

I have finally changed my twitter handle from @theinferior to @TheCallYA. The reasons are obvious to anyone who knows that my new book, The Call, is out this year. I just hope my next book doesn't have a title like "Peadar is Crap" as I believe that handle is already taken. Also, peadariscrap.com, .org. and .net are all heavily used for some reason.

Coincidence of the Day

Other peoples' coincidences are boring, they really are. Even so, this one made my hair stand on end just a little.

I've already spoken above about The Call. It opens with a quotation from a hugely famous Irish poem called (in translation) The Lament for Art O'Leary.* It was written by the wife of poor Art, on the occasion of his murder.

He was a real person. A great soldier who "served the Empress Therese as Captain of the Hungarian Hussars". His wife, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill is the aunt of one of the most influential people in Irish history, Daniel O'Connell, a.k.a. "The Liberator". Her own achievement in writing what most consider to be the greatest Irish poem of the 18th century is no small one.

Anyway, I took the quote for my book and I used another few lines as an actual plot-point, but I only ever knew the basics of the story. The guy was murdered. Possibly because he refused to sell his horse.**

Recently, I've been working on book 2. I open up google maps, desperately trying to figure out where my characters are going to go next, and right down the road along which they're retreating, I see a Castle I never heard of before, called Drishane. Brilliant! They can go there. It couldn't be more perfect...

I write the scene.

That night, because David Bowie died, I spent a long time on twitter. Along with all the Starman stuff, is a link that somebody posted to an article written in 1949 about Art Ó Laoghaire. It turns out, that the place his murderers gathered before going off to ambush him***, was, of course, Drishane Castle.

Needless to say, I rewrote that scene today!




*The proper title is Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire.
**There's a lot of history in this statement that I won't go into now.
***If it was an ambush. There are several versions of what happened, some of which seem to indicate that O'Leary was being very provocative.

Originally posted by peadarog at Music Monday: SF/Fantasy's very best of best ever Music. Ever.

Nobody does specfic in music better than David Bowie. Or did, anyway. Of all his songs of the fantastic, and there are too many to list here, my personal favourite has always been "The Supermen". The song tells the story of godly creatures whose only impossible wish is to die. But the specfic elements are not just confined to the story: the music too, especially the percussion, gives us a sense of some great epic tale; the relentless beating of a monstrous heart. Even better is the language. It would be fantasy-twee if Bowie's phrasing were not so sincere:

Where all were minds in uni-thought
Powers weird by mystics taught
No pain, no joy, no power too great
Colossal strength to grasp a fate
Where sad-eyed mermen tossed in slumbers
Nightmare dreams no mortal mind could hold
A man would tear his brother's flesh, a chance to die
To turn to mold.

I'm glad there's not much of a video. In this case, it would only distract from the story. Here ye go.

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The Grimm Future

I was wondering when I'd get a chance to announce this one! I'm absolutely delighted to be part of a new anthology of SF stories based on Grimm's fairy tales entitled... The Grimm Future.

What a fine cover it has! What a great line-up that includes our own Maura McHugh ( splinister), as well as a number of other writers whose work I have long admired. I'll list the scribblers below, but first I want to thank hatgirl who critiqued my own tale, "The Madman's Ungrateful Child", and Erin Underwood, the editor and all-round fabuloid.

Table of Contents


  • “Introduction” by Erin Underwood

  • “Pair of Ugly Stepsisters, Three of a Kind” by Garth Nix
    based upon multiple Grimm fairy tales, including Little Brother and Little Sister,Rapunzel, Little Red-Cap, and Cinderella

  • “The Iron Man” by Max Gladstone
    based upon Iron John

  • “Zel and Grets” by Maura McHugh
    based upon Hansel & Gretel

  • “For Want of a NAIL” by Sandra McDonald & Stephen D. Covey
    based upon The Nail

  • “The Shroud” by Dan Wells
    based upon The Shroud

  • “Long-Term Employment” by Mike Resnick
    based upon Death’s Messengers

  • “Swan Dive” by Nancy Holder
    based upon The Six Swans

  • “The White Rat” by Dana Cameron
    based upon The White Snake

  • “Origins” by Carlos Hernandez
    based upon The Star-Talers

  • “Angie Taylor in: Peril Beneath the Earth’s Crust” by John Langan
    based upon The Brave Little Tailor

  • “The Three Snake-Leaves” by Jeffrey Ford
    based upon The Three Snake-Leaves

  • “The Madman’s Ungrateful Child” by Peadar Ó Guillín
    based upon The Bremen Town-Musicians

  • “Stories of the Trees, Stories of the Birds, Stories of the Bones” by Kat Howard
    based upon The Juniper Tree

  • “Be Still, and Listen” by Seanan McGuire
    based upon Little Briar-Rose



Reading, Watching, Novelising, Hogmanaying

NOVELISING

Long-time friends will know that I always celebrate when a book I'm working on reaches the 40k word mark. For those who don't know, I do this for the stupid, completely arbitary reason that this is the minimum length for a novel. Anything shorter is at best a novella.

Well, today, at the crusty bottom end of 2015, my new baby, The Cauldron, is all growed up and ready to party. Hurray!

READING

A great year for books is ending with quite a bang. A few days ago, I finished Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora. It's not my favourite book ever, but it packs quite a punch in the speculative science department. I don't doubt I'll be thinking about this one for years.



But if it's fun you want -- and who doesn't? We're all Cyndie Lauper at heart -- you could do a lot worse than Claire North's The Gameshouse series. This is a trilogy of novellas, where ever so clever people challenge each other to make or break whole nations, using ordinary folk as pieces. It's not a wholly original concept, but boy is this tremendous fun. Highly recommended. Unless you hate enjoying yourself.


WATCHING -- Never a Spoiler for You, My Beloved

I saw Star Wars, of course. My friends are all in love and want to marry it. For me, if was fun to kiss and cuddle at the back of the cinema. There was much giggling. But I doubt we'll ever see each other again.

On Netflix I really enjoyed:
F is for Family -- a 70s based cartoon sitcom that has fun with the styles and prejudices of the times. Nothing mind-blowing here, but likeable and nasty. Adults only.

Making a Murderer -- a true-crime documentary type thing, but so far above anything like that I've ever seen before that, after an indifferent start, it became totally compelling. Brilliant stuff.

The Bridge, Series 1 -- This was thoroughly spoiled for me by having seen the vastly inferior, English/French remake. Still, very well done, and I look forward now to enjoying a spoiler-free season 2.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Yeah, that's right. Have a great one, all my friends. I myself am on-call tonight, so I'll be sticking with with my books and good food. Take care of yourselves and I hope we'll meet in the New Year.

Almost a Date

It's looking very likely at the moment that my next published novel, The Call, will now appear on both sides of the Atlantic in September 2016 or thereabouts. Originally, the lovely UK Publishers, David Fickling Books, were aiming for Easter. But close cooperation with Scholastic will make for a far stronger release. Twitter, facebook and tumblr are all worldwide these days. Seems wise to take advantage of that!

Walking

I've just been out for an astoundingly beautiful walk, during which the Christmas fairies granted me the ending to the novel I'm sweating over right now. Thank you, Christmas fairies! Thank you!

Current working title? The Cauldron. It may very well change in the coming months.

Death of a Domain

I am sad over the loss of my domain "frozenstories.com". Basically, I was paying the domain name registration through an old email address and missed the expiry notice. An appliance company in China swooped in and ate it. I've been researching online and I don't think there's much I can do about it. *shakes fist at nearby fridge*

Happy Christmas

You know the drill. Have a lovely few days. Don't eat anybody you might need in the coming year. Ignore the haters and make as many new year resolutions as you like. Breaking them is what living is all about.

Hope to see you all soon!

The Real Danger of Videogames

It's rare indeed that I'll last more than a few levels of a videogame these days. And this despite the fact that I was a fiend for them growing up. Yet, just this week, I tried my hand at an old PC classic called Portal, and instantly fell in love. It's a beautifully weighted puzzler backed up by a wonderfully written, slyly humorous script.

"A bit of harmless fun," I hear you say. "Sure, you're entitled, and what'd ye be doing anyway only watchin' telly or readin' books? Am I right?"

Oh, yes, you're right. Entertainment is entertainment after all and it's not as if I was playing during writing hours.

But here's the thing. I don't plan my books. I'm what's known as a "pantser". I start a story and wait to see what happens. In practical terms, this means I rely on a constant stream of inspiration. At every moment of the day, whether I'm thinking of food, or bullying small children, or surfing the NetWorld, my subconscious is busy in the background solving my problems.

But Portal -- the brilliant Portal! -- took over that process. Two nights in a row I dreamed about the game, and while I had plenty of inspiration during the week, it was all about solving the latest fiendish puzzle.

Ah, well. I've finished it now and can get back to daydreaming fixes for plotting conundrums. I'm glad I don't play games all that often. I'm not sure I'd ever get anything done!


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So, the copy-edits for my next book, The Call are done. This means that from now on I will have no further input until we all start marketing the thing and you poor sods begin to receive wheedling pleas asking you to buy it, sell it, publicize it, review it, give all your lives and worldly possessions over to the glory of ME.

Oh, relax! That won't happen for a while yet, I swear it.

It's been years since I've been through the mill of Traditional Publishing and I had forgotten just how much work goes into it. I had at least four full edits at the hands of several, highly qualified people, before the eagle-eyed and brilliantly pitiless line-editor brought death to a thousand commas. She uncovered a host of other tiny flaws. None of these would have ruined the story. None would have brought armies of furious readers onto the streets to take their rage out on shop windows or on poor little match girls in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But each of them acted as an irritation, working and working to pull you out of the story.


I had to pay about $1,200 to self-publish my previous novel, The Volunteer. The lion's share of that money went on a very thorough line edit. I shudder to think how much I would have had to pay over to get all the careful layers of polish
I'm getting on The Call.

I want The Call to be the best book ever written between now and the inevitable death of the sun. I wanted the same for The Volunteer, of course. But this time around, I have a large team at my back who all act as if they want the same thing; as if their very lives depend on it!*

Self-publishing is a wonder of our age and it has saved many fantastic stories from dusty drawers around the world. I don't doubt, that sometime in my life, I'll be making use of it again. But I won't and can't pretend that my work is better for never having anyone but me involved in its creation.


*Some exaggerations may apply. See Terms and Conditions.

Reading, Watching

Just a quick entry to say how much more good stuff has been coming my way over the last few days.

READING

I've just finished with Adam Neville's Lost Girl. It's a grim cli-fi tale of a father's desperate search for his daughter. The tension -- as is Neville's speciality -- slowly, slowly rachets up until you can't breathe. Great stuff with a scarily believable climate apocalypse background.



WATCHING

Just started on season two of The Leftovers. I'm still not quite sure what episode 1 was about, but I enjoyed it immensely.

On the other hand, the first episode of BBC's The Last Kingdom was a great disappointment. I like the books quite a bit, and I imagined the makers of Vikings must have been quaking in their boots when a series covering much of the same territory was being made by a great institution like the BBC. Well, they must be laughing now. The Last Kingdom drops the ball on all the things Vikings gets so right: the alien cultures of both the raiders and the Anglo-Saxons; the child actors; the fight scenes etc. I wonder how Bernard Cornwell feels about it?

WRITING

Currently about 12,000 words into a sequal of my forthcoming novel, The Call. I've had a few weeks where travel and illness and the day-job kept me from doing proper work on it, but I feel I'm back in the swing at last.

MORE SOON

More soon.


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