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Juror for British Fantasy Awards 2014

Have belatedly noticed that the juries for this year’s British Fantasy Awards have been officially announced, so now I can tell you –  I’m a juror again, yay!

I was chuffed to be asked back again this year, but had to remember not to mention it before the official post went up. Which I then totally missed. Oops. In my defense, I forgot most things during May while I was finishing that last draft. No kitchen fires, but my head was so elsewhere that I wouldn’t have been surprised.

I’m on the jury for Best Small Press  – which means a hell of a lot of reading, as we’re considering overall output from several small presses, as opposed to those namby-pamby Best Novel jurors who only have to decide between  a handful of books 😉

I think the plan is to announce details of the nominees for all categories this Friday, at the British Fantasy Society open night in London.

More details of the other juries here, and I’ll try to remember to  link to the nominee announcement once that’s out. Congrats in advance, everyone, and good luck!

Update: details of all shortlisted nominees are now up on the British Fantasy Society site.

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“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Berlin April 10

Catching up on my stored Instapaper* articles, I found a piece describing some of the (often strange and ritualised) ways in which acclaimed writers write.

Having spent the last few months twisting around myself, trying to organise the ideas and plans for my novel without going crazy, wondering if it was normal to spend so much time planning that the actual writing of prose seems to be the thing I do least, sitting at a desk buried in layers of post-its and index cards, writing in notebooks overrun with more arrows and crossings out than words – breathe, Rhian, breathe – to read about Ishiguro’s flow-charts, Mantel’s showers and Atwood’s scribbles has reassured me that I might be sane. Or, rather, normal. For a writer. Maybe.

Sounds like I have the ‘create whichever system/state of chaos you need in order to beckon and then trap your ideas’ part of novel-writing right, so all I need to do now is try not to flinch at the prospect of getting my prose anywhere near the level of those masters.

(Um, yes. I only want to read really bad fiction at the moment, stuff that makes me feel superior. Badly punctuated, excessively descriptive, heavy on the speech tags? Bring it on! Cliched or nonsensical characters in overwrought settings? Yes please! I’ve had to put my Maggie Stiefvater* backlog to one side, as I can’t handle the prettiness right now).

The article is here, and if you enjoy reading about the writing process then I recommend the Paris Review interviews – a fascinating collection of interviews with artists and writers, in several volumes. Volume 1 is my favourite, featuring Hemingway, Capote, Dorothy Parke, Joan Didion and Kurt Vonnegut.

*Instapaper ROCKS. Especially if you’re trying to reduce your time online, but don’t want to miss out on good reading. It’s especially useful for me because it syncs with my Kindle.

When I see something online I want to read, say an article about literary agents or a blog post about female YA writers, I click to send it to Instapaper and then The Magic Instapaper Fairies compile everything I’ve saved and email me a mini-newspaper made up of them.

So, I can give myself five minutes to scan Twitter, send any interesting links to my Instapaper account, wave at my friends and then get back to what I was supposed to be doing offline. The next morning, my Kindle receives a document containing anything I tagged, and I read it on the train. I don’t find myself online for hours reading when I should be writing, but I still get to keep up with interesting articles at a time I choose. LOVE. IT.

*the beginning scene in Linger, when Isabel comes into the bookshop? It slayed me, it was written so well. So much is conveyed without ever being explicit – I had to stomp around the house, loudly Giving Up Writing, before I could pick up either the book or my writing again.

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Are you there, Yahoo? It’s me, Flickr

Have fallen back into Flickr this week. I guess it’s an outlet for my snot-brain to get involved in something creative while I’m too ill to write much, even if getting involved simply means looking at other people’s pictures or uploading my old ones of Berlin. I tried to finally watch S2 of The Walking Dead, but I keep dropping off and then spoilering myself  by waking up at the end of an episode. So, the laptop wins over the tv for now. For all that I love Pinterest, Flickr has an edge in terms of showcasing images people have actually created, vs passive pinning, and it’s been fun to hang out there again.

Here’s a collection of some of my recent favourites. Lots of sun and beaches, fancy that.

flickr faves 190712

1. ., 2. Untitled, 3. Nā Mokulua, 4. Lemons & Garage Doors, 5. sweethearts just before the plunge, 6. Burst, 7. Space Sindy, 8. Stewy, 20 SIGNED John Cooper Clarke silkscreen, 9. grand central.

Flickr is where I used to live before Twitter, before Facebook and even before Myspace, and it feels out of place next to those modern belles of the ball. Kinda like that old friend you’ve known since you were 14, the one with no social skills and a terrible haircut, the girl you still love but don’t invite to parties for fear of what she might say.

I wish it had more finesse, options to set up wider filters than ‘friends’, ‘family’ and ‘contacts’- this is one place where the circles which infuriate me on Facebook and G+ could make sense. In many cases I’d rather subscribe to select parts of someone’s stream than their entire output. For example, I might choose to see everything a user tags with ‘film’, ‘beach’ or ‘graffiti’, but skip the photos of their children and their motorbikes.

I like the way casual snapshots sit alongside pro photography, and prefer it to the poncy show-off slickness of 5oopx, it’s just that there are better ways of handling that variety of content and every other social site since manages it better.

The Tumblr interface almost does what I want, in terms of sharing images and following other people’s streams – but it’s too heavy with teens and Manga porn gifs to work as a Flickr replacement. Nowt wrong with teens and Manga porn gifs – man, if Tumblr had been around when I was an adolescent I would have been obsessed with it, and my Plath-Gatsby-JMascis-Kerouac-Nirvana-Suede-badpoetry solipsism would have been a wonder to behold – it’s just not what I’m looking for right now.

C’mon Yahoo, please put some money and some new life into the site, I fail to see what else you have going for you as a company right now.

UPDATE – have just been sent this damning, detailed, depressing article on exactly How Yahoo killed Flickr.  Maybe it really is too late?

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Short stories, strippers and cookies

This week’s been fun. This week I have been –

Watching: Once Upon A Time

If I could be a fairy-tale character in this programme, I’d be someone who grants wishes in exchange for the things my heart most desires. Then I would demand The Evil Queen’s red, red lipstick, and the forest-y wallpaper the clever set designers used in her house (pic below). I’d also claim Emma Swann’s knee high, lace-up boots and her cool, yellow VW Beetle. Sheriff Graham’s beard (above) and Irish accent are also very pleasing, but I don’t think they’d suit me.

Reading: Creating Short Fiction, by Damon Knight.

Partly because it’s supposed to be amazing, partly because I want to try writing short stories once this novel is done, mostly because I am jealous of Emma who’s been selected to attend Clarion this summer. Not heard of Clarion? It’s a very cool, very prestigious writer’s workshop in San Diego with a ridiculously impressive lineage of tutors and students. Here’s the blurb –

Established in 1968, the Clarion Writers’ Workshop is the oldest workshop of its kind and is widely recognized as a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction.

Damon Knight was one of Clarion’s co-founders, and so far the book is as good as I’d heard – very readable, with advice that works for stories of all length, not only short ones. Congrats Emma – I’m sure you’ll have a blast, and I look forward to reading the stories that come out of the workshops.

Laughing at: Jo’s letter’s to Hunger Games characters. I think the one to Finnick is my favourite, or maybe it’s her note to Rue? Read them and giggle.

Magic Mike 2012 Steven Soderbergh Channing Tatum Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer William Levy

Waiting Impatiently For: Magic Mike to be released. Steven Soderbergh directs a film about male strippers, featuring Joe Mangienello (a familiar face round here) and the gentlemen pictured above. Jaw-droppingly exciting news, yes? No word yet on a David Holmes soundtrack but that would make me even more excited. It’s not til July though. boo!

I haven’t seen Haywire yet (though I own and love the soundtrack), but that’s out on DVD next month so perhaps it will sate me in the meantime. Don’t think it has any strippers in it, though.

Gorging on Dark Chocolate & Sour Cherry Cookies. Mmm, yes. If I really was that wish-granting character from a fairytale, I’d demand a pack of these as payment as well. Every day.

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