Casual Fridays: Sixty Pages a Day

So I'm 180 pages into reading the final page proofs of London Falling.  At this stage, rewriting is discouraged. and I'm only looking for typos. (I'm told that it's okay to change the details of my references to West Ham football club, who, to my horror, got promoted to the Premiership after I'd delivered the book.)  I'm managing sixty pages a day, and I'm pleased to report that I still like what I'm reading.

Last Sunday, Caroline was ordained, along with seven of her colleagues, and is now a priest (it's when she gets the magic, now being able to bless, forgive and turn undead on a saving roll; her job title remains as curate).  And she's got a new blog. This afternoon, Russell from SFX Magazine popped over to interview her for a feature, and we were out at the cricket (Middlesex Panthers vs Hampshire Royals at Richmond, thanks for asking) this week with someone who can only be described as her editor.  She's becoming a media person!

This week we also went to see Saint Etienne at the London Palladium.  An excellent show, the dance element to their music pumped up as always live, with big base, and a (sold out) audience on their feet the moment Sarah told them they could be.  While 'Popular' was being performed, slides were projected behind the band showing utopian Top of the Pops chart countdowns (in the 1977 font), the most charming of which was John Lennon & Paul McCartney as a duo.  Our friend Gerard was kind enough to comp us, and this time out was acting as technical director, seen in the wings with his arms folded, watching out for glitches that did not occur.  Jamie McKelvie came along, but, as might be expected, knew the support act and rushed off to see them.  With their new album cracking the Top Twenty, the Et still feel relevant and exciting.  Hoorah!

Now, tomorrow, from 2pm, as you can see in the Conventions and Signings section on the right margin (the link leads you to where you can get tickets), I'll be at Blackwell's on the Charing Cross Road talking to Ben Aaronovitch about his Rivers of London books.  Ben's always great fun, so do come along.

You remember that Jimmy Broxton and I adapted three business books into three panel comic strips for the UK Wired magazine?  Those are now online too.

I'm very pleased to see the arrival of the simple and elegant British Comic Awards, a panel-based system which promises to reward British creators in a way which has already galvanised UK comickers.  Do please go and nominate something.

And also in the category of welcome arrivals on the comics scene, Madefire is a new advance in motion comics, with Liam Sharp as one of the main players, and creators like Dave Gibbons and (hey!) Jimmy Broxton onboard.  Check out their promo video, then download the app.  It's about time motion comics looked as cool as this.  They're doing really well, too, having just made the 'what's hot' page of the US app store.


Last night at the Aylesbury SFF Meet, at which I am now a regular, I was delighted to encounter acclaimed YA author Teri Terry (her real name), whose Slated seems to be doing rather well. It's the sort of thing I've started to expect at what's a loud, buoyant, and always-energising Thursday night.

And may I recommend, from director of my acquaintance Johannes Roberts and actor of my acquaintance Noel Clarke, new British horror movie Storage 24, which is in cinemas today.

I was sad to hear, today, of the demise of The Word, to which I was a subscriber, an intelligent music and media magazine that created a subculture so rich and healthy that it feels impossible that the magazine that birthed it could go under.  Future Saint Etiennes will sing of its greatness.

We fly off to Convergence (the world's best convention) next Wednesday, and I'll be staying in the States for the San Diego Comic Con the week after.  I've already sorted out a pile of meetings, lunches, drinks and parties.  I think it's going to be a good one.  So I'm not sure what I'll be doing for the blog next Friday.  I might just pop in for a quick chat, or there might now be a bit of a break.  Meanwhile, here's today's favourite music, which could only be, really, as mentioned above...



I hope to see some of you tomorrow, and in the next couple of weeks. Until then, Cheerio!

Casual Saturday: The Joy of Plotting

Some of the features of a writer's life are hard to describe if you haven't been there.  For example, for the last week I've been using a big A4 pad and a little (National Showcaves Centre for Wales) notepad to write every detail of the plot for the sequel to London Falling.  I did this while waiting in airports, on aircraft, in the mornings at home listening to BBC 6 Music, sitting by the lifts in a hotel after I'd checked out, with the cricket on in the background on Midsummer's Eve.  I would write ideas in the little notepad, and transfer these to the big pages, which had the headings: forthcoming chapters (four sheets of); changes to chapters already written; the ending; leads (that is to say, elements of the plot that my police officer heroes could use to further their investigation into the villain); Vincent's experience (where what happened to a particular character was so important and had to revealed in such a complex way that it needed its own thread); set pieces.  By Wednesday I'd either transferred everything to the first two categories or crossed it out.



Then, on Thursday, I wrote up the whole thing on the PC as a Word document, leaving me with a plot that's got a theme written at the top, then lists every single thing that happens, in the right order, with jokes, lines, character moments and connections to that theme all locked down.  At only one point did I allow myself to write 'Sefton gets them out using a clever trick' without saying what that trick was.  That's due to ambush future me in about four weeks.

The process described above filled me with joy.  It felt like fixing my world.  Caroline's been away at a retreat before her ordination as a priest on Sunday, so in many ways it was kind of apt that I'd also made an inner journey.  The knowledge that now all I have to do is roar through two thousand words a day for a few months, knowing absolutely where I'm going, has taken a lot of fear out of my mind, especially with the baby arriving in October.  Writing 'the end' was as satisfying, or even more so, than doing that for an actual novel (because with an actual novel, you know that's just a step along the way, and you'll immediately go back in to a next draft).  But it's hard to explain, as I said, this joy.  May you share it one day.

Loads has happened since last I blogged.  On the 9th, I popped along to the BSFA AGM at the Royal Astronomical Society, and watched satisfying panels with Marek Kukula, the Public Astronomer, and Aliette  de Bodard, then went on to the British Library to see Kim Stanley Robinson talk with Iain Banks (each reading from each other's new novel).

Then on the 13th I went along to the BBC Radio Theatre to hear the recording of Welcome to our Village, Please Invade Carefully, a radio comedy pilot by Big Finish alumni (and former Bernice Summerfield producer) Eddie Robson.  (Also in the audience were Aaronovitch, Cartmel, Lidster, Andrew Smith, and a huge cross section of Who fans of my acquaintance.)  I was very impressed.  It stars Katherine Parkinson (from The IT Crowd) and Julian Rhind-Tutt (as a laconic alien invader in the John Le Mesurier style), with pleasing support from Peter Davison (as the sort of distracted Dad he can do so well these days), and Hannah Murray (the lead wife beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones).  It's about a small Buckinghamshire village that's been invaded by aliens, neither side really feeling terribly interested in conflict, with Parkinson's character Katrina caught in the middle.  I think this could be the next big thing, and I'd love to see it go to series.  It's broadcast on BBC Radio 2 at 9.30pm on Thursday 5th July.  I'll remind you nearer the time.

Then last weekend I was in Seattle for the Locus Awards, which consist of a couple of panels, a number of workshops, and the Awards themselves, which are given out at a banquet hosted by Connie Willis.  Seattle feels like a lovely city.  I had a wander, and checked out the EMP Museum (of rock, SF, and, erm, a bit of horror) which, while a bit all over the place, does a good job of setting out a context for particular areas of SF with movie and TV props, then directing attention to a particular book that's at the heart of that.  I'm told it was once a lot bigger, but I liked it for what it was.  I checked out the market, and popped into the very wonderful Zanadu Comics, only to meet, having tweeted about my arrival moments before, a panting chap who'd run over to get his Demon Knights signed.  I'd been told before I went that Locus always tells the winners in advance, so I'd flown out knowing I was just going for the experience, and to see a corner of fandom I hadn't previously experienced.  But Liza Groen Trombi stared at me in horror when I let that slip, and said that hasn't been the case for years.  Which made me start thinking... why did she look so worried at that, and she had asked me, when it had looked like I couldn't come along, for an acceptance speech 'in case', and... I ended up mentally composing an acceptance speech, which was ridiculous really, considering the quality of nominee I was up against.  And then Cat Valente won the award, and I found myself laughing at my own presumption.  Liza (and it was so good to get to know her that weekend, sweet and fun person that she is) told me after that she realised she'd set me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but couldn't find a way to do anything about it.  I told her she'd done the right thing; it's always best to encourage the romance and tension of awards ceremonies.  The Locus Awards traditionally (in honour of the late Charles Brown, father of Locus) demand that everyone coming to the banquet wear a Hawaiian shirt.  And so...




Had to keep the jacket, mind you.  That's my own totem.  Connie Willis hosted, with much mention made of her beloved Primeval.  There was a quiz for those unhappy few who didn't bring a Hawaiian shirt to win one.  It was a pleasure to spend so much time with her, Liza, James Patrick Kelly and (award winner) Gary K. Wolfe and his partner Stacie.  We recorded a (slightly drunken) edition of the Coode Street Podcast, which may or may not see the light of broadcast, owing to, ahem, technical difficulties. 


On Thursday, a group of us gathered to honour Terrance Dicks, signing the new editions of his Target Doctor Who novelisations at London's Forbidden Planet.  He came out for a pint with me, the aforementioned Marek Kukula (who'd expressed the wish to meet the great man), Graham Sleight of the SF Encyclopedia, Resonance FM's Alex Fitch, new Bernice producer Richard Dinnick, and Gollancz man about town Marcus Gipps, with Tony and Tracy Lee popping in for a late cameo.  I think he felt suitably feted, and was entertaining as always.


And then yesterday it was Marcus again, and a whole bunch of the genre's great and good for Gollancz editor Gillian Redfern's birthday bash.  And you know what happens when you put me, Sarah Pinborough, Rob Shearman, Tom Pollock, Mitch Benn, Bella Pagan, etc, in a pub...




That one by Suzanne McLeod.  




And that one of me and Rob with the birthday girl by Sarah Pinborough.


A couple of points of note amongst all this trotting and plotting.  I contributed to SFX Magazine's 50 Worst Sci-Fi and Fantasy Movies that had No Excuse, but didn't see many of my choices get into their top fifty. (And I think I'm rather opposed to the notion that a bad movie or TV show should ever be allowed an 'excuse'.)


I've been interviewed for issue 59 of the Jack Kirby Collector, which will be out for the San Diego Comic Con.  I talk mainly about Etrigan the Demon, and his lead role in Demon Knights.  




On Monday we'll be going to the Saint Etienne gig at the London Palladium.  If you're there and spot us, do say hello.


And next Saturday, as you'll see if you click the link under 'conventions and signings' on the right, I'll be interviewing Ben Aaronovitch at Blackwell's in the Charing Cross Road.  Should be fun.


Today's favourite music is inspired by how much I enjoyed the Punk Britannia series on BBC4, which did a brilliant job of contextualising the before, during and after of punk.  I was reminded once more of how much I adore Johnny, and particularly the second act of his career, actually the more satisfying one, when he achieved so much with Public Image Ltd.




Until next time, Cheerio!

The This Time Next Year Game: Update

So, my spies at the Amazing Spider-Man movie tell me the answer to our Question 19 has been settled (which I won't go into detail about here, because it's a bit of a spoiler).  I've allowed a little bit of leeway on who got a point, and those people are: Jennifer Kelley; Tom; C.A.Young; Matthew Hyde; psmithsonian; Soru; Phil Hansen; Paul F; Liz; rheitzmann; L.M.Myles and Dean Hazell. 


Which leaves our league table like this:

Fizzle: 4
Paul F: 4
Phil Hansen: 4
RHeitzmann: 4
Soru: 4
Tom: 4

B-Guymer: 3
C.A. Young: 3
Dean Hazell: 3
Liz: 3
L.M. Myles: 3
Michael Lee: 3

Ads: 2
David Bishop: 2
James Fairlie: 2
Kendersule: 2
Matthew Hyde: 2
Nick Pheas: 2
PSmithsonian: 2
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: 2
Uther Dean: 2

Adam Short: 1
Jennifer Kelley: 1
L.L.: 1 
N.J.: 1
Penny Heal and Jason Stevens: 1 
Run Iago: 1


You're all doing very well!

The This Time Next Year Game: Update

And another point's been scored in our year-long prediction game, very quickly after the last.  Yesterday, Marvel released The Essential Amazing Spider-Man #11, meaning that Fizzle scores a point on Question 14, and thus goes into the lead!



Fizzle: 4

B-Guymer: 3
Michael Lee: 3
Paul F: 3
Phil Hansen: 3
RHeitzmann: 3
Soru: 3
Tom: 3

Ads: 2
C.A. Young: 2
David Bishop: 2
Dean Hazell: 2
James Fairlie: 2
Kendersule: 2
Liz: 2
L.M. Myles: 2
Nick Pheas: 2
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: 2
Uther Dean: 2

Adam Short: 1
L.L.: 1 
Matthew Hyde: 1
N.J.: 1
Penny Heal and Jason Stevens: 1 
PSmithsonian: 1
Run Iago: 1

You're all doing very well!  But particularly Fizzle!

Many Happy Returns

I'm not sure how much of a Friday blog I'll get to do from Seattle, which I'm flying to tomorrow in order to lose a Locus Award.  (Hawaiian shirts, they tell me, are mandatory for the ceremony.)  So I decided a quick note of several points outstanding was in order.

First off, today is new comics day in the US (it's Thursday in the UK this week, because of the Bank Holiday), and so my 99th and 100th ever comic are coming out, namely Demon Knights #10 and Saucer Country #4.  You can see a five page preview of the former here.  The digital release will presumably be around teatime today, as always.

Now up for pre-order, in advance of its release in November, is Many Happy Returns, the Bernice Summerfield twenty anniversary special, to which I've contributed, written by and starring... everyone, really.  And all for a brilliant cause.  You can see all the details, and the cover, here.

And also out in November, on the 27th to be precise, and now available for pre-order at Amazon, is Run, the first collected volume of Saucer Country, which is why it's joined the Coming Soon images on the right there.

Wish me luck at the Locus Awards.  I may see a few of you there.  Until then, Cheerio!

The This Time Next Year Game: Update

With the abandonment of the Third Test between England and the West Indies, another question of our year-long prediction game is answered, with Stuart Broad (14 wickets) being the top English bowler.

Only one of you, Paul F, predicted that, many going instead for the runner up, James Anderson.  So now, Paul having won his point, here's our latest league table:

B-Guymer: 3
Fizzle: 3
Michael Lee: 3
Paul F: 3
Phil Hansen: 3
RHeitzmann: 3
Soru: 3
Tom: 3

Ads: 2
C.A. Young: 2
David Bishop: 2
Dean Hazell: 2
James Fairlie: 2
Kendersule: 2
Liz: 2
L.M. Myles: 2
Nick Pheas: 2
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: 2
Uther Dean: 2

Adam Short: 1
L.L.: 1
Matthew Hyde: 1
N.J.: 1
Penny Heal and Jason Stevens: 1
PSmithsonian: 1
Run Iago: 1

On the Republican nominee question we'll wait for the convention before awarding the points.  It's a really close contest now.  You're all doing very well!


Casual Fridays: Watching the Weather

Thanks for your patience while I was on holiday last week.  We spent a very relaxing few days wandering around the Brecon Beacons, and popping in to Hay on Wye in the week before the Festival started.  We stayed in a cottage with peacocks strutting around outside.  They were very much in mating season display mode, and were a bit shouty, but the walking and the local bitter and the chance to read a lot more than usual lowered my stress levels hugely.  I'm moving at high speed through Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312, and enjoying the hell out of it.

We got the last bit of the good weather.  I'm a huge fan of the British summer.  That is, when there is a proper summer and Britain suddenly relaxes and does everything it couldn't do for the rest of the year in a kind of mad six week festival.  But with the endless cloud cover and drizzle... well, it slows me down, my batteries don't get charged, and I run the risk of letting myself get miserable.  It's feeding into the apocalyptic tone of the second novel, though.  This is, of course, where climate change would take the British Isles.  It's probably a good thing that after my trip to Seattle next weekend to lose a Locus Award, I'll be doing Convergence in Minneapolis and San Diego Comic Con back to back, staying in the States between them.  (Caroline will be heading home after the first of those.)  Hopefully I'll get to recharge my fuel cells.  Flying back is a connection fest that will take me through five different cities.  I hope I'll get some writing done during all that.

Two weekends ago, I thoroughly enjoyed the small but very well organised inaugural Melksham Comic Con.  They had a packed sales room with a big screen, much sponsorship, enough for a colour booklet, and a neat little interview area.  This being my part of the world, my nephew popped over, with partner and new baby, and Sonia Leong (guesting alongside Barry Kitson and Mike Collins) was kind enough to draw them.  Then on the Sunday I took Catherynne Valente and her husband Dimitri on a tour of Wiltshire's ancient monuments, and we popped in to see my Mum.  (As is now customary.)

This week, as well as having one eye on the Jubilee and the cricket, I've been writing Demon Knights and the sequel to London Falling (now at 34k; no Bank Holidays for freelancers with deadlines).  And on Wednesday, I signed the Stormwatch collection at London's Forbidden Planet.

Next Wednesday marks the release of Saucer Country #4 and Demon Knights #10.  Which, a quick finger count has revealed to me, are the 99th and 100th comics for which I'm credited as writer.  Archivist Lynne Thomas tells me that librarians go with alphabetical order, so I'm regarding Saucer Country #4 as officially my 100th title!

And if you hit the Pinterest tag on the top right, you'll be able to see a gallery of the cover of every comic I've written (and every edition thereof, so there are more than a hundred), a gallery of Bernice Summerfield images, and manifold other delights.  I'm continuing to update my boards there all the time.

By the way, like every other title in the New 52, Demon Knights will indeed have an Issue Zero, appearing after #12, and filling you in on some of our deeper back story.  It's a bit huge, actually.  More on that as we get closer to the day.

The current (cover dated July) issue of the UK version of Wired magazine includes three comic strips written by me and drawn by Jimmy Broxton, reuniting the Knight and Squire team!  What we're doing, and this now looks like it's become a regular feature, is summarising business books in three handy panels, so you don't have to read them.  This is the issue to look out for:


On June 30th at 2pm, I'll be interviewing Ben Aaronovitch at Blackwell's on the Charing Cross Road in London, about his new novel Whispers Underground. Ben's been kind enough to provide a cover quote for London Falling, and I was delighted to be asked to talk to him.

Every year at Book Expo America, there's a much-watched Hottest Graphic Novels panel, and this year the panelists' recommendations include Saucer Country! That's very pleasing indeed.

The last of the interviews I did at Kapow are coming out, including this one at Comics Bulletin.

And you remember I did that online discussion for a comics writing group about Knight and Squire?  Well, there's a write-up of it here. Some quite good stuff in there, I think.

Today's favourite music is again something new.  I love Ladyhawke's pop music, and I've been enjoying the new album, from which this is taken.



I don't know if I'll be going to the BSFA AGM or the Kim Stanley Robinson and Iain Banks talk at the British Library tomorrow, because the weeks ahead are so packed and it might feel better just to lie on a sofa while I still can.  But if I do go along, I hope to see some of you there.  Until then, Cheerio!