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I will be a guest at this year’s Utopiales in Nantes. I will be there Friday Oct 30-Sunday Nov 1st (with the H and snakelet in tow!)

Schedule is as follows:
-Friday 16h00: Signing session (bookshop). I’m not too sure what I’ll actually be signing other than issues of Galaxies, but hey. I have postcards!
-Saturday 17h00: Signing session (bookshop)
-Sunday 10h30 (Scène Shayol): The Changing Realities of European Science Fiction (Francesco Verso, Paul Carta, Christopher Priest, Anthony Vallat, Jérôme Vincent)
-Sunday 12h00 (Agora de M Spock): Meeting Aliette de Bodard (interviewed by Gérard Klein)
-Sunday 13h00: Signing session (Bookshop)

Gollancz festival

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Gollancz festival

Proud to be a part of the Gollancz festival, a weekend of events in Manchester and London. See here for more details.

My schedule:
-Friday 6:15-06:45, Manchester Room 2: Introducing the class of 2015 (with Al Robertson, Alex Lamb, Tom Toner and Mark Stay)
-Friday 7:30-8:30, Manchester Room 1: Introducing the class of 2015 (with Al Robertson, Alex Lamb, Tom Toner and Mark Stay)
-Mass signing afterwards
-Saturday 3:15-4:45, London Room 1, Writing real and imagined cities (with Ben Aaronovitch, Suzanne McLeod, Bradley Beaulieu and Stephen Hunt)
-Saturday 6:00-6:30: London Room 2, Would I lie to You (with Ben Aaronovitch, Suzanne McLeod, Bradley Beaulieu and Stephen Hunt)
-Mass signing afterwards
-Sunday 12:30-1:45: Introducing the class of 2015, the trials and tribulations of being a new writer
(I’ll sadly have to skip the mass signing afterwards due to, er, an impending Eurostar!)


New release: Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship


New release: Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship

So… you can now buy “Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship”, my story set in the universe of The House of Shattered Wings. It charts the first meeting between Selene and Emmanuelle–and the unexpected adventure they find themselves thrown into!

It is standalone, and you can read it without having read the book–in fact, if you’re not sure whether you’d like the book, you can get a peek at the universe that way (though fair warning: it’s more… light-hearted than the novel).

It’s available as an ebook from all major retailers (see below), at 0.99 or thereabouts–fluffy and cheap, what are you waiting for? *g*

What you get: a caper/adventure, a glimpse at the inside of House Harrier (near Grenelle in the 15e Arrondissement, for the curious)–and more Emmanuelle, Selene and Morningstar, of course. Magic, infiltration, and explosions! (well, a teensy little explosion).

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Here’s the blurb:

In a Paris that never was, a city of magical factions where Fallen angels mingle with magicians, alchemists and witches…

Emmanuelle is the Fallen archivist of House Silverspires, and only wants a quiet life with her books. But when Selene, the latest student of Lucifer Morningstar, walks into the library, Emmanuelle finds herself drawn in an adventure to steal from another House. It’s a thrilling and dangerous task, but the most dangerous thing about it might just be Selene herself–aloof and resourceful, and unexpectedly attractive…

Set in the universe of the critically acclaimed The House of Shattered Wings.

And some early (not at all biased!) reviews:

D. Franklin (of Intellectus Speculativus):

Stephanie Burgis, author of the upcoming Masks and Shadows:

And have an excerpt:

The Fallen came into the library of House Silverspires every morning, and every morning she would go into the stacks and come back with a pile of dusty books smelling of old, cracked leather, and sit down at the furthest table, staring at the books as if she could make them cooperate with a mere glance. By the looks of it–she was still sitting at the table hours afterwards, perhaps a third of the way into the first or second book–it was not going well.

Emmanuelle knew who she was, of course. Everyone did: Selene, Morningstar’s latest student–his latest pride, before he grew bored of her and cast her aside; as he had cast aside all his other students. She walked tall and straight; wearing men’s clothes, a set of black trousers and a swallowtail jacket, both impeccably pressed and arranged with a meticulousness that was more frightening than alluring.

The smart, sensible thing to do–and Emmanuelle was nothing if not practical—would have been to stay away. To smile, and show Selene the way into the stacks, and see her out every morning. To go back to her cataloguing and repairs of old books, and sorting the odd fight between archivists. But… but Selene smelled of patchouli and freshly-cut grass, and walked with the grace of a queen, her face oddly expressionless–what would it look like, if it creased into a smile? And, day after day, Emmanuelle found her gaze drawn towards the depths of the library, and the silent struggle at the table–until one day she found herself smearing glue across the first page of a beautifully illuminated manuscript, instead of efficiently dabbing it on the top of the spine.

Right. Enough was enough.

Want one?

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Deadlines, layered writing and breathing space


Deadlines, layered writing and breathing space

So… a lot of what I write today is to deadlines–and I know I’m not necessarily in the majority here, but I like deadlines. I’m one of the world’s natural procrastinators, and without the focus sheer existential dread of a deadline, I would be writing a lot less.

Thing is… it’s very tempting to think that, with all the time in the world, I could write a novel/short story that I would be happy with, rather than having to rush to meet a tight delivery date. I’m also aware, because I’m one of the world’s natural pessismists, that the correlation between the time I have to write something and the quality of the thing is actually weaker than I’d think.

For starters, “happy with” is a complicated thing. I’ve read a quote somewhere that writers don’t finish stuff, that we merely abandon it, and that’s certainly very true with me. There’s always something I could do to a piece, always some revisions I could do that I feel would make it better. I’m not convinced that they *would* make it better, in the sense that I’ve also edited pieces to death. The late Jay Lake used to say that voice is the easiest thing to edit out of a manuscript, and he’s right. Prose shouldn’t be unformed, but equally being too polished is a sure sign that life has been taken out of it–I’m a big believer in the rawness and energy of it. Which is to say: I do edit my prose, but I’m careful not to go overboard. I also tend to think my stuff sucks whatever the stage it’s at (except possibly those very early stages when it’s still fresh and new and exciting)–yeah, impostor syndrome–and part of the reason I love the H is that he will just prod me into delivering the freaking thing already even if I feel terrible about it.

Of course, if the delivery date is ridiculously tight and I’m under high pressure to meet it, there’s going to be a strong temptation to do a hack job–to deliver for the sake of delivering what really is inferior work (and not what I consider to be inferior work, which isn’t necessarily representative, see above). “Inferior” means “not finished” to me, and my biggest “not finished” issue is complexity and layers.

My writing process is all about layers. I build my stories and my novels that way, on the slow accretion of completely unrelated elements–I just throw everything in, and at some point the magical alchemy happens and they all come together for a story (I’m serious about alchemy. My subconscious is in charge at that point, and it really does feel like it miraculously coalesces from a mess of unrelated things into an actual story). For that to happen, I need space, and some research reading, and some cogitating, before I can have the piece click for me–before it can unfold in all its glorious (and sometimes) messy complexity.

For a short story, I generally need two completely unrelated ideas: for instance, the latest one I wrote started with the image of a Vietnamese dragon flying out from the sun, and over it I layered the idea of a messy and protracted war between two nascent space federations. For a novel, I need more: I need a good idea of the setting, a bunch of characters I feel comfortable with, and a plot that has enough content and twists to keep me happy. The House of Shattered Wings‘s setting started as the confluence of Fallen angels whose flesh was being used to make magical drugs, and of a big, WWI-style magical war in turn-of-the-century Paris. But it didn’t actually gel together until I got all my characters lined up (most significantly, Philippe, the unexpected Vietnamese ex-Immortal and general wrench in the works), and my plot sketched in (I’m not going to give spoilers, but one major plot point involving the death of a visiting dignitary in Silverspires turned out to be the lynchpin on which I could hang part 1–and part 2 was, in turn, hung on a vivid image of Notre-Dame ruined in a very particular fashion). Accordingly, if I haven’t had time to get those layers/unrelated things, or to integrate them properly… Yeah, then it would be a problem.

But. But I’ve written stuff that was brilliant in a couple of days, and stuff that sucked over a period of nine months; so, again, it’s not like more time necessarily results in more brilliant stuff? I think past a certain incompressible time period I need to get the story together, more time just either gives me: a. more time to procrastinate (and lose some of the original passion and drive for the project as the excitement dies down), and b. more time to make the story into a Frankenstein mashup of intractable complexity. At some point I just need to put words down I guess? They might need to be heavily edited (or deleted), but they’re here. They’re not some abstract notion of what the story should be, which I can never do justice to in any case, because the story I write is *never* going to be as perfect as the vision in my head (it never is). They’re real, and they’re on paper (or on the screen), and I can work with that.

(yeah, my other motto is “you can’t fix what’s not written down”)

So, yeah. Mostly I work with deadlines and I love them (honest!). From time to time, of course, I need a break: I need some space for a personal project that I don’t feel I owe to anyone. Works like The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, the Xuya novella with the twined four POVs, or Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship, the courtship/caper between two characters of The House of Shattered Wings–I just write them for fun, and for a while it feels liberating not to have a deadline or the perpetual feeling I’m late. But only for a while, and because it’s a change–I need my deadlines, and if they didn’t exist I suspect I’d make them up!

What about you? How do you handle deadlines? Do you like them/hate them with a passion? Does it not make a whit of difference to you whether you have one or not?

(image credits: Shepherd gate clock at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, UK, retouched by CarolSpears, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Bonus release: Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship


This is all the fault of D Franklin and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, who challenged me to write a fluffy romantic story set in the universe of The House of Shattered Wings. And what would be better suited for that than the courtship of Selene and Emmanuelle, two of the main characters in the book?

And, hum. I wrote it, and I figured I would put it up on amazon and other retailers as a standalone ebook, for those who are interested? It’s percolating through the system of various retailers at the moment: the official release date is Sept 15th.

There’s an adventure/caper, there’s courting, there’s kissing–and there is magic and mayhem and other things, too!

Official blurb:

In a Paris that never was, a city of magical factions where Fallen angels mingle with magicians, alchemists and witches…

Emmanuelle is the Fallen archivist of House Silverspires, and only wants a quiet life with her books. But when Selene, the latest student of Lucifer Morningstar, walks into the library, Emmanuelle finds herself drawn in an adventure to steal from another House. It’s a thrilling and dangerous task, but the most dangerous thing about it might just be Selene herself–aloof and resourceful, and unexpectedly attractive…

Set in the universe of the critically acclaimed The House of Shattered Wings.

And, hum, this is my first experience with deeper involvement in the cover process, aka the confluence of several factors: a. be somewhat congruent with the cover for The House of Shattered Wings, while indicating it’s a more upbeat story; b. not invest overmuch time or money, as this is a short story and it’s a well-known thing these don’t really sell much.

I have no idea how well I succeeded at a. (I am emphatically not a graphics person), and I spent far too much time on b. (it ended being a bit of a time sink, a thing that will surprise exactly no one), but for now I’ll declare myself happy with it, and reassess a bit later if/when necessary :)

I put the image together with Serif’s Affinity Photo, which was recommended to me on twitter as an affordable alternative to Photoshop–and I have to say that for the limited use I made of it, it’s been very handy (and I prefer it to Photoshop Elements, which I’d tried before and didn’t really care for).

Many many thanks to everyone on Codex and Twitter who held my hand while I was working out the cover concept (in particular: Ruth Nestvold, Julie Andrews, Holly Heisey, Traci Morganfield, John Brown, Martin McGrath, you are all awesome. Thank you so much for the detailed feedback). And as usual, thanks to Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, who very kindly made my initial stab at lettering look like an actual cover (as opposed to a Frankenstein botch of fonts)… And hugs and thanks to Stephanie Burgis, too, for convincing me I should do something… splashier with this than burying it in a drawer.

More info on the book here. Oh, and the goodreads page is here.

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Cover for the Oct/Nov issue of Asimov’s (Citadel of Weeping Pearls!)


And here is the cover for the Oct/Nov double issue of Asimov’s, which contains my Xuya novella “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” (mindships! Weapons of mass destruction! Messy family affairs!). And, hum, as you might have guessed, my story is the inspiration for the cover…. Isn’t pretty pretty? I love the dragon!

Synopsis below:

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls was a great wonder; a perfect meld between cutting edge technology and esoteric sciences—its inhabitants capable of teleporting themselves anywhere, its weapons small and undetectable, and deadly.

Thirty years ago, threatened by an invading fleet from the Dai Viet Empire, the Citadel disappeared, and was never seen again.

But now the Dai Viet Empire itself is under siege, on the verge of a war against an enemy that turns their own mindships against them; and the Empress, who once gave the order to raze the Citadel, is in desperate needs of its weapons. Meanwhile, on a small isolated space station, an engineer obsessed with the past works on a machine that will send her thirty years back, at the height of the Citadel’s power.

But the Citadel’s disappearance still extends chains of grief and regrets all the way into the fraught atmosphere of the Imperial Court; and this casual summoning of the past might have world-shattering consequences…

From the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed On a Red Station, Drifting comes a new novella set in the Xuya universe; a tale of relatives and the ties that bind them; of time travel and the weight of the past; and of the price to pay for war and peace….

The novella page is here.

The writer as a cook, update


The writer as a cook, update


The above is my lovely wok with its developing patina–I’ve been using it for a month or so and it’s fascinating to watch it slowly browning. I hope it gets all brown, but I understand that it can take years before that happens! Been cooking a bunch of greasy foods in it to help season (crab fritters, lardons), and using Grace Young’s method of dumping the rice water in it and soaking for 20 minutes to clean it (mostly because it does save a bit of water :) ). Really nice to have browned chicken and steaks again, I have to say. Maillard reactions in a non stick pan just don’t really happen…

Also have been trying to update my knife-wielding skills on Craftsy. I think I’ve got the low cut (for small veggies) worked out, but the high cut is still a problem (my arm and shoulder ache, which mean I’ve probably screwed up somewhere). Ah well. Onwards and upwards!

And not a cooking thing, but check out this: Those who Run with Wolves. I’ve set up a project focused on books that get elided one way or another–my hope is that you can read this and discover a book you missed out on, find an old favorite, or stumble across a new, exciting release. I’ve got wonderful people on board, and we hope to cover a mix of new releases and old classics.

On slates


Right, I thought I was done with the whole Hugo thing, but one last thought (with reference to this post by Elizabeth Bear). I’ve already posted it on twitter, but for the record, here goes…

My position on slates is pretty much the same as Bear’s:

I will never willingly participate in a slate. If I learn that I have been included on a slate, I will ask to be removed.
If you see my name on a slate, please assume that it’s being done by ruiners to punish me, and that whoever put it there has ignored my requests to remove it.

(Bear included some stuff about use of force: I’ve left it off because I will make reasonable attempts to get off a slate, but quite honestly I have close to zero energy currently and it’s likely to continue next year–*cough* motherhood *cough*–so I’m not going to hound people. If they fail to take me off after the first contact, I’d likely be side-eyeing them anyway).

Note that a slate isn’t a recommendations list. Those are fine, I’m very flattered and grateful to be on them (and obviously even more flattered to be on people’s ballots!). In fact, this year I’ve already started taking notes one eligible stuff I read, so that I can make sure to post my usual awards recommendation post at the beginning of the year. But slates are not fine (in case you’re wondering: by slate I mean “a list where the organiser/organisers start urging people to vote for it as a bloc”).

The House of Shattered Wings bonus art!


And to celebrate the US and UK release of The House of Shattered Wings, here is some art! Below, courtesy of Faithom, a sketch of head of Asmodeus, head of House Hawthorn, having an argument with Selene, head of House Silverspires (from chapter 10 if you’ve read the book!).


And below is the painting the amazing Tade Thompson very kindly did for the ebook In Morningstar’s Shadow (which you can still get if you send me a picture of you with the book, ebook or audiobook!). We had to darken it quite a bit for lettering, both to match the darkness of the UK cover, and because it was hard to set letters against the background of the Arc de Triomphe–so I thought I’d post the undarkened version, so you can see the detail (and the creepy eyes in the night!).

Read Chapter One!
Read excerpt from Chapter Three!
Read excerpt from Chapter Four!

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