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The Things I do for Research

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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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Why Orange is the New Black is The New Black

I've made it most of the way through Season Two of Orange is The New Black, and it just keeps getting better and better. What struck me immediately was how amazingly distinct every single character is. The personalities are fascinating, powerful and identifiable in every word and deed.

This is all enhanced by the amazing job the producers did of casting it, with obvious care taken in grabbing as diverse a group of body types and physiognomies as possible.

I've seen people talking about this all over the internet, but it seems to me, that most of them praise it for reasons that are very, very different from my own.

Basically, everyone is delighted to see minorities of all kinds finally getting representation and a voice in a major TV program, and, while I am glad for them, I have to say, that I wouldn't cross the road to watch a program just because the main character was from this minority or that.

I understand that other people will champion content for this very reason and I understand that it's important and healthy for society as a whole that every part of it is reflected in its art forms. I do. I really do. And if you're one of the heretofore voiceless yourself, then, absolutely, hallelujah! You should celebrate!

But personally, I never consume entertainment in search of edification. I don't consume it looking for justice. I'm sorry, but for me, I'm just looking for entertainment. And I happen to think that the blanket perfection of actors on our screens has done massive harm to our ability to tell stories.

Like sugar in medieval times, beauty stops us in our tracks; it causes us to behave foolishly, and it does this in large part, because it is so rare.  It turns heads. It spills coffee. It brings down Lancelot and Gwenyfir and Troy and presidents and Empresses. It sells products of every kind. It sells fantasies. It is one of the great engines of all human stories.

As is the lack of beauty. The prejudice of living without it amongst an entire race predisposed to hate us for the appearance we were born with. As is the search for beauty, or the finding of it in those whom we happen to love for other reasons.

All of these plots and sub-plots are poisoned by the saccharine saturation of perfection on our TV screens. The power of the stories is dissipated in favour of constant easy perving.

So, roll on OITNB! May you have many more seasons ahead of you!

Mighty Hurling

Apparently, they're now showing hurling on Sky Sports, and it has come as quite a shock to our neighbours across the water! It's one of the oldest surviving field sports in the world and probably the most skillful too. Here's a quick video in case you don't believe me. Some of these people should be in Cirque du Soleil or something...




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The Happy Day

So, my friends, the day has finally arrived. The Trilogy is complete. The circle closed.
Please, please, please don't feel you have to purchase this, or read it in order to support me. Taste varies, that's a fact of life. You will remain dear to me whatever you think of my work, and I will neither make a profit on this nor go bankrupt, no matter what happens. Spend your money on a book you will enjoy, then tell me about it, because I might like it too!
The one thing I do want, however, is that the people who clicked with the first two books will somehow find out that the third is now available. With this in mind, if any of you are comfortable with retweeting, or resharing, or mentioning The Volunteer on your blogs or whatever forums you call home, I would really appreciate it. Some of you have done this already and it has warmed my heart more than even the most powerful of acid reflux.
And, you know, if you're not happy doing such a thing, that's fine too. All the loves still belong you, as we never say in Ireland.
But what about reviews?
All are welcome. Gushing or honest. Vicious as a Nork, or gentle as a puppy. But if you are doing a review, I would appreciate it if you would mention that this is the last volume in a trilogy -- I don't want anybody purchasing it by mistake, and I mean that. This is about closure more than the infinite riches that the universe constantly fights to deny me.

Where, oh, where?

All the Kindle stores have it. I am adding a few -- but by no means all -- of the links below. It costs US$4.99 + some taxes.

Kindle US is here.
Kindle UK is here.
Kindle AU is here.
Kindle CA is here.
Kindle DE is here.

EPubs and all other eBook formats can be purchased for all territories from Smashwords here. Other stores, such as Kobo and iBooks, will be getting it over the coming days. Hurrah!

You can find the paperback in any Amazon Territory, or in the Createspace Store for US$9.99 + OMG delivery. I actually do better out of the eBook in spite of this, if you were wondering. Not that it matters. At. All.

Amazon US is here.
Amazon UK is here.

That's it. That's all I've got, except to say thanks again and to sincerely hope that those of you who do buy it enjoy it more than anything written by your current favourite author ;)


Reading, Writing, Not Watching, Publishing

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Not Watching

Holy Moly! The new series of Orange is the New Black is on Netflix and I haven't watched a single episode!
I have yet to catch up on the big battle in A Game of Thrones!
I'm behind on The Americans. Two installments recorded and left lonely on my TVR.
And there's more. So much mooooore! And... and the World Cup starts in two days! God help me. God help us all and our eyes that grow more square by the day.

Reading

Here I'm doing better. I've read the novels and the novellas for the Hugos. I'm pretty disappointed with the novellas, to be honest. I yawned and yawned until a small bird built a home for itself in my mouth. At least the Stross made me laugh a bit. There's a guy who knows how to take something to its most appalling limits.

I also read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. If you've ever wanted to write or paint or artify yourself in any other way, but found yourself instead spending all your time right here online, then this is for you. Oh, it's all a bit high-falutin' for my taste, with references to muses and angels and so on. But it definitely helps.

I'm also enjoying Nick Harkaway's Tigerman on audiobook. So far, although I'm getting through it at a crawl, it's a joyful crawl. I love that guy.

Writing

Just as things in my writing career seem to be going increasingly pear-shaped, I find I'm being more creative than at any other point in my life. Terry Pratchett-sized* particles of inspiration seem to be smashing into me at all hours of the day and night. On holiday last weekend, I nearly died several times to nork attack when ideas distracted me from my very necessary self-defense.

But before I can act on any of this, I need to finish the book I'm working on right now. My current, untitled Work in Progress is up to nearly 75K in first draft. That's pretty darn good progress, to be honest, but I want it off the deck fast, so I can move on.

Publishing

Yes, yes. Two more days until The Volunteer is available for purchase by the sweaty masses. Curse their meaty little fists!

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*It's, you know, a reference. Can't remember which of his books, though...

Not All Tombs Are Created Equal

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I spent the weekend hunting megalithic tombs in Co. Sligo. Now, you know me. You know I won't get out of bed for anything younger than the pyramids, and these beauties have at least 500 years on their Egyptian cousins.

The first thing that struck me as I puffed my way up to the top of the hill at Carrowkeel, was that these people really knew how to die. The views here were some of the best I have ever experienced with stunning scenery visible in all of the cardinal directions.

carrowkeel

But the really amazing thing about these tombs, was the fact that, on hands and knees, we were able to crawl inside them, and once there, to stand up straight and admire a ceiling that, 5000 years after the death of its builders, still keeps out every drop of moisture. It was an incredible feeling.

Outside again, and in the distance we could see the curiously shaped Ben Bulbin mountain and the faintest shadow of Knocknarea where Queen Maeve is said to lie buried in full armour, facing north towards her enemies. So, yeah, after a quick stop off to see the numerous dolmens and stone circles of Carrowmore, we had to pay our respects to her majesty. However, if she is buried there, she is as much of an interloper as we were -- for she lived halfway between our time and that of the original inhabitants of the area.

dolmen

Again, the views were beyond spectacular, and I was thinking, sure you can't blame her for pushing into the bed beside our common ancestors. I wouldn't mind it for myself when my own time comes.

I hope you all had a great weekend too!

Hugo Voter Packet is Now Available

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Just in case you weren't paying attention, I thought I'd pass on the fact that the Hugo Voter Packet is now available to download for all those who qualify to vote for the Hugo Awards -- that's you if you've bought a membership to this year's WorldCon.

Wow! So much free reading pleasure...

I'll be in my bunk.
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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.

TheVolunteer-FJM_Mid_Res_1000x1500

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.

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