All posts in Guest blogs

Guest post: Kim Curran, author of GLAZE, on the importance of fiction in talking about issues

Full disclosure: I’ve known Kim for a few years. In fact, she’s one of my best friends. She’s also a terrifically talented writer – and I’m not just saying that. Her YA trilogy for Strange ChemistryShift, Control and the forthcoming Delete – is a superb slice of present-day sci-fi with an ingenious premise: what if any decision you ever made could be undone?

I read Kim’s new book, Glaze, last year, and once again was blown away. Kim’s writing is the most infuriating kind for other writers to read, because it is so effortless. I’m really a little bit jealous.

Glaze is out now as an ebook (UK / US), and there are 75 gorgeous limited edition hardbacks from Jurassic Publishing out tomorrow.

Today, I’ve got Kim over on my blog to talk about an important topic, not just for YA books, but for books written for any age.

Over to her…


GLAZE_New_Finalsm

Petri Quinn is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.

Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.

As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.


In writing for teens, there’s one thing that makes me more wary than anything else. And that’s ‘issue books’. Books which are written with the sole purpose of ‘helping young people these days’. Books with ‘clear moral messages’. I’m talking after show specials in novel form.

(Remember He-Man’s moral lessons?)

That’s not to say books shouldn’t deal with issues. Of course they should. And the best books written for teenagers have always dealt with a raft of important issues, from gender and sexuality to ideas of belonging and the pressure to conform. But the best writers weave these topics into the tapestry of their story. The issue never drives the narrative. The characters do that.

For me, as soon as an adult uses their books to try and ‘teach’ kids something, they’re in trouble. If you want to teach, become a teacher. If you want to preach, become a preacher. Neither of those things belong in books for children.

Writing is about connecting with your readers, not preaching to them. Rather than trying to teach my readers, what I really want to do is encourage them to think. To question. Not only the world I’ve created but their own world and what’s happening to it. And if they’re not happy about what’s going on around them, then realise that they can do something about it. They have a choice ­– a voice. Something which can be easy for all of us, no matter how old we are, to forget.

Fiction is a powerful way to hold up a mirror to our world. To show an exaggerated or twisted version of our day-to-day reality. Fiction allows us to break through the issue fatigue that often makes it hard for us to handle any more information and see those issues in a new and fresh light.

It’s also a powerful way to help people feel that they’re not alone.

When I set out to write Glaze I didn’t go, ‘Gee I’m worried about how kids use social media these days. Let’s write a book to warn them about it’. The seed of inspiration came from my own fears about how I interact with social media. My love / hate relationship with the networks I spend way too much time on. I try not to make any judgements in the book. The technology in it is, in and of itself morally neutral. It’s what people do with it that causes concern. I wanted the book to empower teenagers, not patronise them.

Glaze was a personal exploration of my fears, my hopes. And it seems that many readers are connecting with those same fears and hopes. Which is a truly wonderful thing and the greatest privileges of being a writer.

I’ll continue to write about the ideas and issues that fascinate me, scare me, fill me with hope. But as soon as I turn one of my books into a soap box, you all have permission to pelt me with rotten tomatoes. Because no one has the right to tell you what to think or to do. And that, kids, is the real moral of my story.


Kim Curran

About the author

Dublin-born Kim Curran is the award-nominated author of books for young adults, including Shift, Control and Delete.

She studied Philosophy & Literature at university with the plan of being paid big bucks to think deep thoughts. While that never quite worked out, she did land a job as a junior copywriter with an ad agency a week after graduating. She’s worked in advertising ever since and is obsessed with the power of the media on young minds.

She is a mentor at the Ministry of Stories and for the WoMentoring Project. And lives in London with her husband and too many books.

To find out more visit www.kimcurran.co.uk


Author links: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | YouTube

Book giveaway! To be in for a chance to win a hardback copy of Glaze signed by the author and cover designer, signed copies of Shift and ControlGlaze Bookmarks, Glaze badges, and to meet with Kim Curran or Skype chat if not able to come to London, follow this link!

HANG WIRE ARCs, pre-order contest pre-announcement, Forbidden Planet International’s Best of 2013

So this year is going pretty fast, right? But that’s okay… they say it’s the good years that fly by. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I’ll take that.

I’ve been immersed in my current work-in-progress, The Jovian Conspiracy. It’s book 2 of what is vaguely called The Spider Wars (although that’s more a catch-all rather than an official series title), the first instalment of which – The Burning Dark – is out in about four months. I’m hoping to have the first draft of The Jovian Conspiracy done by the end of the year, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, physical ARCs of Hang Wire went out into the world, as seen here. Hang Wire is out from Angry Robot in February 2014, and you can find out more about it here. eARCs also went up on NetGalley – not sure how long they stay online, but I have a feeling the physical ARCs are in limited supply, so get in while you can.

Having two books out almost at once is a bit of a juggling act – both are available for pre-order from most places. But to keep things interesting, I’ve got a contest bubbling away. It’ll launch in the New Year, but hang on to your pre-order receipts, because you’ll need them to enter. Every pre-order of Hang Wire and The Burning Dark gets you an entry; pre-order both, you get four entries. And the prize pack is quite something, let me tell you. Seriously. Full details coming in January!

Finally, seeing as it’s that time of year, over at Forbidden Planet International I give a little rundown of how my 2013 went, and pick out some highlights of the year from comics, books and TV. So if you’re looking for some Christmas present recommendations, you’d do worse than checking out my best of for the year.

 

Ten questions about THE BLUE BLAZES, by Chuck Wendig

Here’s the thing – Chuck Wendig is a good friend and runs a crazy-good blog dispensing authorial advice honed from his own experience as a full-time writer. He also grills fellow writers about their work, but when it comes to his own material – well, he can’t exactly interview himself, can he?

So today I’m pleased to turn my blog over to Chuck, to answer ten questions on his new book, The Blue Blazes, which is out today in the UK. I was lucky enough to read it earlier this year, and I absolutely loved it – I think it’s Chuck’s best book yet, and I’m glad we’re going to get some further adventures of Mookie Pearl.

Without further ado…


1. Tell us about yourself: who the hell are you?

I’m a strapping young beardsman with a taste for adventure and a penchant toward deviant pornography. I run a monkey rodeo with a family of three centaurs. I love beer, whiskey, and artisanal honey made from rare corpseflowers. I once killed a man in Reno not so much to watch him die but because he had a taco and I wanted that taco.

Above all else, I am a liar. Which I translate into writing novels and my penmonkey blog, terribleminds.com.

2. Give us the 140-character story pitch

Mookie Pearl and his rebellious daughter stand at the crux between the criminal underworld and the mythic and monstrous underworld.

Or, even shorter:

MAN AND GIRL DO CRAZY OCCULT DRUGS AND PUNCH MONSTERS BELOW THE STREETS OF MANHATTAN.

Or, even shorter:

MAN EATS MEAT, FIGHTS HELL

3. Where does this story come from?

Stories have a curious lineage, don’t they? This one starts when I was a wee kid doing things a wee kid isn’t supposed to do – they say, “Don’t look at the sun,” and the first thing the kid does is look at the sun.

I used to press my thumbs against my closed eyes to see the firework shows behind the darkened lids – blue streamers and curtains of light – and then one time I did it and hallucinated a lion on our front lawn. I still see the lion clear as day in my mind: reclining and queenly as if having just fed.

From there the seed planted that has been spawning vines and flowers ever since: the idea of having an unseen world that is only revealed upon performing some task – and in this case, it’s what happens when you do the mystical drug known as Cerulean, AKA, “The Blue Blazes.”

The impetus to actually write this book comes from being asked to join an anthology called The New Hero, Volume I – Robin Laws said he wanted stories about iconic heroes who did not change themselves but instead changed the world, and from there, the story of Mookie was born. That anthology features Mookie’s first appearance, telling the story of how his daughter dupes him into clearing out a nest of goblins so she can take over the Blue trade in that part of town.

But I wanted Mookie to change (I find characters who change more interesting than those that don’t), and so I set out to continue his story.

Hence, The Blue Blazes was born, where Mookie continues to fight the Great Below beneath his feet while also trying to fend of attacks from his own daughter while still hoping to make peace with her.

4. How is this a story only you could have written?

I have a special love for damaged characters who, at a cursory glance, you should pretty much hate. I liken it to being a stunt plane pilot where you take the plane and plunge it toward the earth as the onlookers look on—dive, dive, dive—and just as they think, Well, this is it, it’s over, no way he can pull out of this, you suddenly jack back on the stick and the plane shoots up out of the deadfall and flies back up into clear blue skies.

I like doing that with the characters – you think, oh, no way I can get behind a character like this. But then (ENGAGE NEW METAPHOR: “Fishing”) you yank back on the rod-and-reel and set the hook. Wait, weren’t we talking about planes? I must be high on a mystical drug. Like, say, the Blue Blazes. Or the Red Rage! Or the Golden Gate, or the Green Grave, or the Violet Void…

5. What was the hardest thing about writing THE BLUE BLAZES?

Well, doing all those mystical drugs was tricky. Especially since mystical drugs don’t exist, so I was basically like, mixing cocktails of drain cleaner, floor sweepings, gunpowder, and hobo blood to get the right effect.

NO I KID, I KID. I don’t do drugs, and neither should you, kids. Stay in school.

The hardest thing for me was that this book was very, very worldbuildy. Lots going on: street gangs and crime families and hell-born monsters given over to an infernal subterranean hierarchy. It’s got strange drugs. It’s got charcuterie. It’s got Manhattan in all its sewage and splendor. So, lots of research, lots of worldbuilding, and in ways I’d never done before. The trick was to not let the worldbuilding be the story driver – the world I built had to serve the story I wanted to tell, not vice versa. It’s tempting to come up with hundreds of awesome things and just cram them into the book but that only clogs the pipes.

To give a sense of how worldbuildy the book gets, some folks have said it’s like a conglomeration of Goodfellas, Lovecraft, and the D&D Monster Manual.

Which is not entirely inaccurate.

6. What did you learn writing THE BLUE BLAZES?

That I could actually write a big honking fantasy epic. Most of my books before this were fairly lean and mean – 70,000 word prison shivs. This was a different book for me, much more of a long, slow crash of a sledgehammer.

7. What do you love about THE BLUE BLAZES?

I love that the book has a lot to chew on. I love that people are telling me that they not only love the characters (a couple folks have told me the ending got them weepy! Score), but that they’d love to play a pen-and-paper RPG or a video game in this setting. I like that it feels inhabited. And layered. And – pun intended, given Mookie’s predilection toward artisanal butchery – meaty.

8. What would you do differently next time?

I would drink less drain cleaner. Because now I pretty much have to have all my food fed to me intravenously. Turns out, the warnings on those bottles actually mean something. I thought it meant like, for kids? Nope. For adults, too.

Also, I would take it more slowly. I wrote this 100k beast in like, two months – and I don’t think that harms the book, to be clear, but it certainly harms me in that my brain feels like it’s a lager that’s about to foam over. In a perfect world I’d get a few more months with it just to savor the taste.

9. Give us your favourite paragraph from the story

I’ll break my own rules and cheat a little bit – I’m fond of the very opening of the book in terms of describing Mookie Pearl, the protagonist of the book:

This, then, is Mookie Pearl.

He’s a high wall of flesh stuffed into a white wife-beater stained with brown (once red), a man whose big bones are wreathed in fat and gristle and muscle and sealed tight in a final layer of scar-tissue skin. At the top of his ox-yoke shoulders sits a head like a wrecking ball with black eyes and shorn scalp and a mouth full of teeth that look like white pebbles fished from a dark river. He’s got hands that could break a horse’s neck. He’s got Frankenstein feet and a Godzilla hunch.

He’s built like a brick shithouse made of a hundred smaller brick shithouses.

Mookie the Mook. Mookie the Meat-Man. Mookie the Monster.

Butcher. Bruiser. Breaker of legs. Some legs human. Most not.

10. What’s next for you as a storyteller?

I’m an insanely busy little penmonkey – I’ve written three books so far this year, and have miles to go before I sleep. (Though I do have some time to take a breather, now.)

Next up for me is my first official foray into young adult fiction – the first book of my Heartland trilogy, Under the Empyrean Sky. It’s the sunniest dustbowl dystopia you ever did see, a world where the Heartlanders toil in endless miles of blood-thirsty corn (no, really), where young Cael McAvoy finds a secret garden and loses the love of his life and has to decide what to do about both. It’s got hover-boats and a secret hobo cabal and “piss-blizzards” (aka pollen drifts) and lording over it all are the masters of the sky, the Empyrean in their giant flotillas.

John Hornor Jacobs suggested that it’s a mash-up of Star Wars and The Grapes of Wrath, and I like that suggestion just fine.


Chuck Wendig: Website / @chuckwendig

The Blue BlazesAmazon (UK) | Amazon (US) | B&N | Indiebound

 

Guest post: Jennifer Williams and THE COPPER PROMISE

I realised this morning that I’ve known Jen Williams for something like ten years, maybe even longer, which is more than a little alarming. We met on an online forum my wife used to run for fans of the TV series Spaced – both Jen and I were writing bits and bobs, and we shared ideas on the forum, but then time marched on, the forum faded away, and I moved to the UK.

And then we found each other on Twitter, and discovered we were both still writing. So we wrote and we talked and we made big plans.

And Jen is a fantastic writer. Her short stories make me weep with envy, and her novels are just as good. Yesterday it was announced she had signed to Headline for a fantasy trilogy, starting with The Copper Promise in Spring 2014. I’m delighted her work has found such a good home!

Over to Jen…


If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last few years, it’s that everyone’s path to publication is different. Some writers assail the mountain on a troupe of hardy goats, sipping buttery tea and eating elvish bread; some fly in, clinging to the gnarly talons of giant eagles; a few may burrow up from the rocky centre of the world, utilizing a team of fearsomely clawed mega-moles. And some of us trip over the mountain accidentally.

The path that led to The Copper Promise, and ultimately its hugely exciting home at Headline, started with a question:

“Do you have anything longer I could read?”

The thing was, I’d been writing and releasing a few short horror stories here and there, and they’d even attracted a few readers. The answer to the question was yes, of course; I’d written a few books, but they were all in varying stages of gruesome edits and certainly weren’t suitable for public consumption just yet.

So I started thinking about writing a novella, a quick and breezy story I could pop up online for people to read, and then I could say: “Look, I am capable of writing longer things. And it’s not all about people eating other people.” (My short stories do seem to tend towards cannibalism. Clearly it’s an issue.) I thought it would be fun to write some rip-roaring fantasy, the sort of fantasy that might have hung around with Fritz Leiber and David Gemmell in a tavern, snorting ale through its nose laughing at their jokes and generally misbehaving. I threw myself into it, gave it a title I actually rather liked, and proceeded to have a high old time writing it.

And then a strange thing happened: I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the characters – with Wydrin and her lack of table manners and her skill with a dagger – and I fell in love with their world, which was magical and odd and full of lots and lots of places I really wanted to go and look at.

The novella, I realised, wasn’t a novella at all. It was two, maybe three novellas. Or maybe it was more than that. In the end, The Copper Promise grew to be a rather sizable tome, and it was honestly the most fun I’ve ever had writing a book. And it was all rather accidental.

The first part did go up online for people to read, but I was lucky enough that the novella attracted some interesting attention, and the amazing and terrifyingly wise Juliet Mushens, who I can only describe as a Super-Agent, took me on as a client. This was just before Christmas. I was over the moon, and frankly, stunned. It was supposed to be a novella, I muttered to myself over the turkey and crackers. It was a breezy little thing.

Juliet, who by her very presence tends to improve things, gave me a list of notes and I went in for another edit. Those future books, the ones beyond The Copper Promise that had previously been just a gleam in my eye, went from being possibilities to realities, and what a joy that was, to know that I would have further adventures with Wydrin and the gang. And now I know that thanks to the awesome John Wordsworth at Headline, I will be able to share them with likeminded fantasy fans. Brilliant.

So, I offer a random piece of writing advice. Not something I would normally do, mind, as most writing advice needs to be taken with giant mounds of salt, since writers are all naturally liars and infinitely varied in their ways, but I feel like it sums up my experience neatly.

Remember always that your path will be different to everyone else’s path. You might climb the mountain with the aid of a wizard and a number of amusingly named dwarves, or you might travel there on a tripped-out steampowered sky-whale; either way, the journey is your own.


Jen’s website and blog are here, and you can find her on Twitter as @sennydreadful.

Events and appearances 2013

This is my 2013 so far:

I’m editing two books for two different publishers (Hang Wire for Angry Robot, and The Book Formerly Known As Shadow’s Call for Tor), both of which have more or less the same deadline. I’ve got a novel proposal to finish, and a new comic pitch due in early Feb, as well as the last two episodes of The Sentinel for VS Comics to script.

So yeah, busy. Busy but happy!

First, some more catch-up links:

Finally, my 2013 event schedule is firming up. I’ll update the side panel shortly, but in the meantime I’ll be at:

So far that’s it for the year, but probably more than enough travel…

Guest post: Angry Robot’s new signing, Emma Newman

I love it when friends find success – as writers, we’re all just trying to create cool stuff for other people to enjoy, so when I learned that Angry Robot had signed Emma Newman for a three-book series, The Split Worlds, I was pretty chuffed.

I first met Emma back in October 2010, when she sent me a tweet asking whether I’d ever thought of turning a novella I’d written, The Devil in Chains, into an audiobook. That reading was then stripped five nights a week over at Dark Fiction Magazine, earning a Parsec award nomination in the process. Emma later recorded a short ghost story I’d written for Christmas 2010, which you can listen to here.

Aside from her audio work, Emma is a talented writer – a very talented writer, author of the post-apocalyptic YA novel 20 Years Later and stunning collection of short fiction, From Dark Places. I quickly became a fan of her work, and I’m very pleased to have her as not only a fellow Angry Robot author, but fellow client of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Emma’s road to publication is really quite brilliant, so I invited her here to tell us about it.


Sitting here, about to tell you about how this three book deal with Angry Robot came about, I’m really starting to appreciate how unlikely it is. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this now if it hadn’t been for a trip in scary weather, a kind man and a missed train.

The Split Worlds series was originally conceived as a self-publishing project with a twist: I secured funding from a private investor to enable me to give up the day job and work on it full-time. If tech companies can find venture capital for the development of tech-based ideas, I thought, why couldn’t I do the same but for a creative endeavour instead? I had no intention of finding a publisher, the project was about finding a way to truly immerse myself in a project without having to write SEO press releases to pay the bills.

That all happened last summer, I started writing the first book of the series in October and in November launched my year-and-a-day long build up to the release of the first book in the series –  The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns – consisting of a short story set in the Split Worlds being released in text and audio formats every week. One was published on this very blog not so long ago.

The Scary Weather
In early January this year, a friend of mine had a certain book launch. That friend was Adam, and the book was Empire State. I live in Somerset, the launch was in central London and that morning there were gale force winds battering the country. I stood at the window, watching the trees bending outside and had doubts about driving, but couldn’t stand the thought of letting Adam down; I know how important launches are, and having friends there to celebrate with you. So I put on my brave hat and drove.

The Kind Man
When I arrived, I knew only two people: Adam (who was a tad busy doing his reading and being the star) and Paul Cornell. I met Paul at Bristolcon in October last year and bless his heart, he looked after me from the moment I went over and said a rather shy hello. He introduced me to people, made me feel welcome and secure and believe me when I tell you he is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.

Anyway, after the reading and signing we all went to the Phoenix bar. We were talking, having a great time chatting and celebrating with Adam and lots of other ace people, when Paul asked me what I did for my day job. I told him about the investor and he was quite surprised. He said I should tell Lee Harris of Angry Robot Books about it, who was there for an obvious reason, as Paul hadn’t heard of anyone doing something like that before.

It being Adam’s night, I didn’t feel it was right to do it then and there, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I decided I’d talk to Lee about it at some nebulous point in the future, we partied on, Lee left and I thought nothing more of it.

Then Lee came back.

The Missed Train
He’d missed his train home and in the time it had taken him to go to the station, shake a fist at the departing train and find his way back to the bar most people had left. I asked Adam if it was okay to talk to Lee, as Paul had suggested, and he said it was fine! So I did.

That conversation changed my life. I told Lee what I’d done, the reasoning behind it and my plans for the series and he was… gobsmacked. He couldn’t believe I’d pulled off something so crazy. We talked for some time; Adam told me later that he and Lee continued to talk about it as they headed back to their hotel long after we’d parted ways for the evening.

Lee asked to see my work, he was curious, so I sent a copy of From Dark Places and an ARC of 20 Years Later. Then he asked to see the first Split Worlds book. I saw it as the best opportunity to get amazing advice and feedback: what better beta-reader could I hope for than a commissioning editor for my favourite publisher?

So a few weeks went by, Lee and I chatted on Twitter, I wrote the second book in the series, all was well. Just before Eastercon I had an idea about what to write after The Split Worlds and I decided my goal was to aim for Angry Robot as my next publisher. I mentioned this to Lee and he invited me to pitch at Eastercon (cue immense nerves and excitement). A few days later I described my idea to him. “I like it,” he said and then described the process of sending in a sample for consideration. I was thrilled. “But what about The Split Worlds?” he added and then told me he’d read the first few chapters and really liked it. He wanted to know if I would consider offering it to Angry Robot for consideration.

All Change Please, All Change!
I was flattered, desperately excited and then mostly angst-ridden: not the emotion I had expected to feel when the publisher I was aspiring to be published by in two years’ time was asking for my current WIP. But I’d planned it all differently and there was my investor to consider. It would mean relinquishing total (and slightly neurotic) control over the project, particularly the timeline. After mulling it over and discussing it with a good friend, I promised to talk to my investor to see if it was plausible to change direction.

My investor was unsurprised this had happened (I was still gobsmacked!) and we negotiated a new arrangement. I sent the latest version of the book to Lee, fully expecting him to read the rest and decide to not take it further.

He took it to acquisitions. I fully expected the rest of the decision-making team to turn it down.

They didn’t.

After an agonising wait, I had the magical phone call from Lee. I might have screamed. I remember saying “I can’t believe it!” over and over again. In fact, I still say that a couple of times a day. I now have an agent, Jennifer Udden at the Donald Maass Agency (I can’t believe that either – there’s a theme here…) and it feels like the beginning of my writing career all over again.

So there we have it, the unlikely tale of how this book deal came about. If I hadn’t driven to the launch that day, none of it would have happened. Then I think about how I became friends with Adam, which really stemmed from the decision to be brave and ask him whether I could narrate a novella he’d written that I’d really enjoyed. If I hadn’t taken that deep breath and sent him that tweet…

But if I keep thinking like that, I’d go crazy. If you want a take away from all this, I would say it’s to be brave, go out and meet people in your niche and when the unimaginable opportunity comes in ways you probably didn’t expect, grab it.

And always drive carefully in gale force winds…


Emma’s website and blog are here, and you can find her on Twitter as @emapocalyptic.

The Split Worlds: The Promise of Riches

Tomorrow I’m off to Alt Fiction in Leicester, where I will be appearing alongside today’s guest, Emma Newman. Emma is the author of the YA dystopia 20 Years Later, and the collection of short stories From Dark Places. She is currently working on a series of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds, an urban fantasy universe, leading up to the release of five full-length novels.

I’m delighted to be hosting this week’s story, The Promise of Riches. Over to her…


This is the twenty-fourth tale in a year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here.

THE PROMISE OF RICHES

Chile, 2008

His boss calls it the Sore. On days when it all feels futile and he can’t see a way out he calls it the Wound but today the mine is the Cauldron, a magical open cast pot turning sweat into copper.

He leaves the air conditioned car and in seconds his collar clings to his neck, the new suit will need to be laundered when he gets back to the city. The only mercy is the breeze, still hot but blowing past him towards the mine. In the nearest village to the west, populated by the stubborn and the sick who care more about ancestral bones than new slums they’re entitled to at the edge of the city, they call the easterly breeze the Devil’s fart. It’s a good name, he thinks as he strides up the ramp to the porta-cabin door, the sulphurous fumes do smell like they could come from hell itself.

He knocks once and goes in, wanting to be polite but also to remind the foreigner that this is his cabin, and this is his country. His mouth is dry and the armpits of his shirt damp, but he refuses to acknowledge his fear. The urgent pulse is nothing but excitement, the slick palms nothing but the humidity. This will go well.

The foreigner doesn’t look up from his paperwork. The man is sitting in his chair, behind his desk, relaxed as if they were his own. He waves a hand at the chair that is reserved for suits, the other one is pushed against a wall, its seat cushion stained by alluvial mud left by the steady stream of complaining workers.

“Tell me,” the foreigner eventually says. “How did you raise the output by such a remarkable amount this year?” His Spanish is heavily accented but grammatically perfect.

“The last man was too soft,” he replies, slowing his speech a little for the foreigner’s ear. “He forgot that his duty was to the company, not to the workers.”

“You’re saying he was too kind to them?” His gold pen runs down columns of figures as he speaks.

“He didn’t realise that miners will always be unhappy about something, and that if someone listens to them like their mother, they will complain like children.”

The foreigner looks up for the first time, his eyes are the colour of verdigris, his hair disturbingly blonde. “And you treat them differently.”

“I make it clear that the only way money flows into this mine and into their pockets is by sending the copper out of it. The more copper goes out, the more money comes in.”

“And yet their wages have been frozen.”

“But the incentives for the most productive have not.”

The foreigner smiles a little, nods. “I’ve reviewed the figures and I’m impressed. So impressed I reviewed your file.”

“Thank you sir, your attention humbles me.”

“There’s no need for that kind of talk,” the foreigner cools, sits back. “Don’t lay it on too thick,” he says in English. He speaks like the Queen and how he imagines everyone speaks as they drink tea and watch big red buses plough through thick London fog.

“I apologise,” he says, switching to English, hoping the foreigner admires his avoidance of the phonemic traps lying within its syllables.

“I understand you’re interested in an international transfer,” the foreigner’s voice sounds like refined murderous intent, but he knows it’s only because he only watches American films cheaply imported, and the villains are always British.

“I am sir,” he replies, suppressing the urge to signal he is prepared to bribe. Such things are not needed here.

“No family?”

“No.”

The foreigner nods, his white eyelashes are barely visible, making the edges of his eyelids harsh as he looks back down at the paperwork. “I’m willing to take you back to London if you can leave tonight.”

“I can.” He’d anticipated such a test. The company wanted proof it was the most important thing in his life, like a damaged lover, wanting to see him drop everything for them.

“Excellent. Do you have any questions?”

“I do.” He leaned forward, lowered his voice. “I have heard it said that you are the best prospector in the company, that you have discovered copper deposits in places other companies have ignored, and in some cases, even after another company has carried out initial testing and moved on.”

The foreigner smiles, gives a slight nod. “And your question is?”

“What do I need to do to be as skilful as you?”

“Like all things, that is both simple and complicated,” the foreigner replies as he scoops up the paperwork and tidies it with three abrupt taps on the table. “If you continue to show such promise, I’ll train you myself. But for now, suffice it to say it’s thanks to the holy trinity.”

He fails to hide his surprise, the foreigner doesn’t give the impression of being a man of faith.

“Not that one,” he continues. “Blood, sweat and tears.” The verdigris eyes flick up at him. “But mostly blood.”

The foreigner grins, there is a dark mirth in those eyes and the breeze drives the stench of sulphur under the door. But he doesn’t notice. His mind is already in London.

Thanks for hosting Adam!

I hope you enjoyed the story. If you would like to find out more about the Split Worlds project, it’s all here: www.splitworlds.com – you can also sign up to get an extra story and get each new story delivered to your inbox every week. If you would like to host a story over the coming year, either let me know in the comments or contact me through the Split Worlds site. Em x

Guest post: Laura Lam on her debut novel, Pantomime

It’s nice to spread some good news. Today, Strange Chemistry announced two new signings: Laura Lam and Julianna Scott, both for two books, the first of which are due early 2013.

I met Laura at FantasyCon 2011 in Brighton, and after hanging out she let me read her first novel, Pantomime, which was at the time under submission to Angry Robot. I loved it, and I’m pleased to see it’s now been picked up.

I’ve invited her here to talk about her road to publication. Take it away, Laura!


Hello, all!

I’m Laura Lam, and I sold my first book, Pantomime. Adam kindly invited me to steal his blog for a bit and write a bit about my book, how it came to be, and how I found a home for it.

Pantomime ’s official blurb:

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

Of course, that’s only a teaser, and there’s a bit of a twist for readers to discover. There’s more to these characters than first meets the eye.

I ended up writing this book in a roundabout way. I originally came up with the idea for the character and the world when chatting on the phone to my then-boyfriend, now-husband. Initially, I started writing a novel about Micah Grey as an adult, but I struggled. I was pretty young, and I was having trouble nailing an “adult” voice when I didn’t even consider myself an adult yet. So I decided to step away from it and write a “short story” about my character’s backstory as a teenager. I absolutely clicked with young Gene and Micah and found the voices right away, and it spiralled into a book of its own. I read a lot of YA and love it, so it made sense to concentrate my efforts there. It’s such an exciting time to be writing YA—people are really pushing boundaries and exploring diversity, and my books fits right in (I hope!).

Just after I finished, I subbed Pantomime to Angry Robot Books’ Open Door Month on March 30, 2011. I really expected just a form rejection—it was still pretty rough, but I was proud of myself for getting back to submitting something. I sort of forgot about it, and then when I was on a road trip along the East Coast of the USA in June, I got an email saying they had liked what they had read, and could I please send the whole manuscript? It was signed by “Amanda for Angry Robot.”

I freaked out, gave it all a last read-through while driving from DC to Philadelphia to try and catch any other typos, and sent it off again, expecting a rejection.

One month later, I found out I was going to editorial. Cue more freaking out.

At the end of November, I got a revision request, from Amanda, who was now a part of Angry Robot as the editor of their new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. I did a substantial edit, which I finished on the 29th of February. I started querying agents that day, and everything happened very quickly. Within three weeks, I was on the other side with a book deal and an agent. Today, I’ve had the deal announced and I’ll be going to Eastercon as an author with a book coming out next year.

After all that waiting, I’m still in shock, trying to come to terms with the fact that I made it and this is no longer a hobby, but a part-time job. And, oh crap, I have to write another book. In half the time. But, still, it’s a dream come true, and I’m unbearably excited.

Pantomime will be released April, 2013 by Strange Chemistry Books, an imprint of Angry Robot, with a sequel to follow at the end of the same year. I hope you’ll take a look and step into the world of Ellada and R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic.


Laura’s website and blog are here, and you can find her on Twitter as @lr_lam.

New interview, guest blog, books in the wild, and SEVEN WONDERS preorders!

Phew. Let’s dive in:

  • Over at the blog of the inimitable Gail Carriger‘s blog, said writer of finest steampunk adventure grills me about tea and shortbread.
  • Over at Angry Robot it’s the 12 Days of Christmas, and today I talk about summer Christmas in New Zealand.
  • Naughty old Amazon.co.uk are indeed shipping Empire State early. Evidence is here and here! So, if you fancy a copy for Christmas – nearly three weeks ahead of the release date (!!) – you can order here.
  • And as we race towards the release date for that book, my second novel, Seven Wonders (out August/September 2012) is available to preorder already – click for Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. To read more about Seven Wonders, you can visit its page over at Angry Robot.

Back to the editing!

Growing up with Target Doctor Who books

Over at The Night Bazaar, I kick off their YA week with some memories of what books influenced me the most growing up – the Target Doctor Who novelisations. I can’t be the only one who owes a lot to Uncle Terrance!

A couple of days to go before December, when it’s back to work on the interrupted first draft of Night Pictures. I’ve never stopped a WIP in the middle before (which I had to do, as I had edits on Seven Wonders, Empire State, and some other projects to complete by deadline), so I’m going back and re-reading the first half of the book to remember what was going on.

It’s actually quite interesting, doing this. Firstly, during the hiatus, my subconscious kept working on the story and it figured out a couple of plot points and even changed some stuff around. As a result, I have a much clearer direction for the second half of the story. Secondly, I never edit as I go, so re-reading part of a manuscript before it is done is not something I normally do. But I’ve quite enjoyed it this time – draft one/zero this may be, but… some of it isn’t too bad. I just had to resist the urge to start editing. That comes later – much later!

Don’t forget, Empire State is being launched at Forbidden Planet on Thursday, 5th January, at 6pm. There is a Facebook event page here, and it’s up on the Forbidden Planet site here. I hope to see you there!