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Guest Blogging for Mslexia

**Trumpet fanfare please, I’m very excited about this**

mslexia logoI’m going to be a guest blogger for Mslexia next year! I’ll be posting from January til March on what it’s like to be writing fantasy, vs literary fiction. No, I won’t just be saying the most obvious thing – Never Judge A Book By It’s Genre. I’ll be writing about the different things fantasy/SF writers have to think about, e.g. not only ‘is my character’s voice consistent’ but also ‘is this magic system consistent’. There are big pluses to being in a niche – it’s easier to find friends, get clear about what you’re about, stand apart from the crowd – but it can also be frustrating, when people take your writing less seriously because it has dragons in it. I’ll link here as my posts go up, and in the meantime you can see my tiny profile here.

If you haven’t heard of Mslexia, you’ve missed out. It’s a quartlerly magazine about writing and featuring writing. Their mission: ‘Mslexia is dedicated to encouraging, nurturing and empowering women writers to produce, publish and have their work read, with the parallel aim of improving the reach and quality of women’s literature.’

And the name?

Mslexia means women’s writing (ms = woman lexia = words). Its association with dyslexia is intentional. Dyslexia is a difficulty, more prevalent in men, with reading and spelling; Mslexia was created to address a difficulty, more prevalent in women, with getting into print… Read the article ‘Three cures for Mslexia‘ written by Editor Debbie Taylor from the launch issue of the magazine, which analyses some of the issues at stake.’

One of the first things I did when I decided to take writing seriously was subscribe to Mslexia, and I love it when a new issue arrives. I take myself off somewhere and squirrel down to read it, highlighting competitions, lit festivals, good advice. Their blog has already had some great contributors, so I am thrilled to be able to join in. In fact, I just ate another mince pie to celebrate. Hope to see you there in January.

mslexia cover

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My Advent Thanksgiving

Lego Advent Calendar

Look how cool this Advent calendar is! Though I have a horrible suspicion it does not include chocolate, which means technically it is not an Advent calendar at all.

Technically, Advent has already started. Or so Wikipedia says. In my world, though, and maybe yours too, if I’m not yet allowed to rip back that cardboard & eat cheap chocolate for breakfast, it ain’t advent. Which means it’s not advent til tomorrow and thus my series of advent posts isn’t late. Phew.

Kinda inspired by all the ‘I am thankful for’ posts that Americans got to post on their blogs last week, this month I’ll be posting about things from 2011 that made me glad, made me lustful, made me dance, made me head of a guild of thieves with a fighting horse and magic gloves*, and made me grateful for my wifi and my local library. See you tomorrow. I’ll probably start with lust 😉

*January Edit:  I didn’t post about Skyrim in the end, because Paul Cornell did it so well on his blog that it eclipsed anything I would have said. The bastard.

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Rulebreaker reviewed at Slacker Heroes

Rule Breaker Cathy Pegau coverOh, I have been remiss and not linked to my review of this yet, though it was such a fun novel to read And – and! – the lovely lady who wrote it, Cathy Pegau, agreed to step into my virtual parlour and answer some questions for me.

After working my way through a knot of books that were hardgoing and/or disappointing, Rulebreaker turned up in my ‘To Read’ pile at just the right time to give me a breather & remind me that reading should be a good time. Here’s the Slacker Heroes review:

I’m excited today because, as well as a book review, I’ve invited the author to answer some questions for us. Rulebreaker is a sci fi romance by Cathy Pegau, out now from Carina Press, and our Q&A session is at the end of this review.

Rulebreaker’s  heroine, Liv, is a low-level criminal with a history of smash ’n grab jobs. She’s been a con since she was a kid, and has yet to find either an honest alternative or the job big enough for her to retire.

The novel opens with Liv on the floor with a gun at her head, held hostage during a bank job. She is particularly peeved about this because she was there to rob the place herself. It’s a nice twist, and gives us Liv’s droll, down on her luck point of view from the start.

The first person, ‘just-wants-an-easy-life-but-keeps-getting-into-trouble’ point of view reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, and the light but fast-paced tone made this a quick and enjoyable read.

The story’s set on Nevarro, a mining planet that’s seen better days. Like most of the drones who work for the mining company, Liv dreams of a bigger things, a better life, legitimate or not. When her handsome ex husband tells her about the job big enough to give her what she wants, she’s tempted despite how things ended between them. One last job, right? Right. We all know how that’s going to go.

As in all good crime capers, Liv gets involved despite the obvious danger. Before long she’s embroiled in corporate espionage, living with her ex and chillingly aware that the people she’s working for are seriously nasty criminals. They’ve hired her to get close to her sexy new boss, and do whatever it takes to get the information she needs. Did I mention that Liv’s long-lost mother (also a con) picks the worst time to reappear and move into her flat, or that her sexy new boss is a woman?

The scene is set for an engaging adventure with some deliciously saucy scenes. Pegau writes well and delivers humour and a believable plot along with the sexual tension. I’ll definitely look out for more of her books in the future, and especially recommend this for Stephanie Plum fans who like a little sci-fi (and a bit of girl-on-girl).

Now for the Q&A section

Thanks for your time, Cathy! How long have you been writing SF/F?

I’ve always loved the SF/F genres as a reader, so it was a natural progression when I started writing years ago. And I do mean YEARS. I wrote my first novel (sword and sorcery fantasy, not pubbed, still in the virtual desk drawer, would love to revise and see it out there) about 12 years ago. There have been sequels and other genres in that time as I learned more about the craft and about myself as a writer. The futuristic/SF setting has been a favorite for a while, but the addition of romance is a relatively recent thing for me.

What comes first for you, characters or story?

That’s sort of a chicken or the egg question, isn’t it? It changes for each story. I’ve had plot ideas that generated characters as well as characters I knew I’d love that I built the plot around. Not that it’s ever so simple : )

For Rulebreaker it was a little bit of both. I was contemplating a story about a thief falling for the person she was supposed to steal from, so the plot and character went hand in hand pretty much from the beginning. Liv was fleshed out as the plot continued to develop, before I even started the actual writing. When it came time to “cast” the love interest, however, the fact it was another woman added all kinds of conflict and characterization dimensions. So while Liv more or less came along with the story, Zia grew from it.

What’s coming next – when can we read more of your stuff?

Nothing official at the moment. I have a couple of more books in the same world with secondary characters taking the leads. I’ll let you know when something happens with them.
Please recommend another writer from Carina, for us to read while we wait for your next novel/

Wow, so many to consider! For science fiction (with or without romance) I like Ella Drake, Robert Appleton, Lilly Cain, KC Burn, Lisa Paitz Spindler, Diane Dooley, among others. There are also great romantic suspense authors like Natalie Damschroder and Maureen A. Miller. I love a good romantic suspense story.

Thanks again, Cathy, for answering my questions. You can get to know Cathy better from her Twitter, website or blog.

 

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My Muses, aka I love Kristin

I don’t remember my first kiss. I don’t remember my first drink or first cigarette (though I do remember my first Marlboro. I nearly fell over, and had to pretend I was deliberately leaning against a wall, all nonchalant like a cat pretending not to have done anything it didn’t intend to). But I do remember my first gig, my first nightclub, and the first time I heard Throwing Muses.

 

Mark & Lard’s Graveyard Shift radio show in the ’90s was responsible for the majority of my taste in music; two hours of mind-expanding excellence, four nights a week, during my most impressionable years. Like a cool older boyfriend, but without the seediness or leather-jacketed heartbreak, they took me by the hand and turned me on to Nick Cave, Belle & Sebastian, The Flaming Lips, Stereolab, Tindersticks. But they could have played crap non-stop and I’d forgive them it, so long as they still played Dizzy that one night, the night I turned the radio on and heard Throwing Muses for the first time.

Poppy and fun, Dizzy is very different from the darker tracks that became my favourites. I guess it was my gateway drug to their close-to-the-bone, raw-edged other songs. The view into darkness that I got from their music was important, because when the black dog came to rip at my own throat few years later, I recognised it. I’d seen it in books, heard it in songs. I knew that some of my heroes had been pushed to the edge and made it back. I knew that they had experienced the walls closing in and the ground falling away, the same way it was happening to me.

It wasn’t anything as conscious as that at the time, and I don’t mean that the music I listened to glamourised mental illness or that my experience was as intense as Hersh’s bipolar disorder. That’s not how it works – it’s not a game of Snap! where only people who’ve had the same experiences can understand or help each other. I listened to stark, lost music not to wallow in how I was feeling, but because it comforted me to know that other people had felt that way and managed to return to centre in the end.

Hunkpapa, along with PJ Harvey’s Dry and, later, Bjork’s Homogenic, became my first aid kit, applied whenever I get fragile and frayed.Even before I had my own frame of reference, there’s something visceral about those albums, an honesty that makes them compulsive.

Muses songs are also damn good fun and sound fantastic played as loud as possible – don’t let my reference to depression give you the wrong idea. Screeching along to ‘Mania’ is one of the most invigorating ways to spend 3 minutes 2 seconds, and I challenge anyone to get 2 minutes into ‘Rabbits Dying’ without bouncing around. Watch this video for ‘Not Too Soon’ and witness perfect pop.

Tuesday night was another first – the first time I got to see the band play live. I’ve seen Kristin play solo lots of times, and seen her play a whole set of Muses songs, but the sound with the whole band was always going to be different. The gig was breathtaking, even better than I expected it to be. I don’t think I blinked once, especially not in the last part of the show when the pace of their early material was especially intense. I’m not a music writer and I’m sure people who are will describe the set better than I can – I’ll put links here when I come across ‘proper’ reviews.
If you’re a fan and you want to know what it was like, just imagine them playing a selection of their finest songs (the tracklisting of their Anthology would be a good place to start if you lack imagination) for two hours in front of a rapt, reverential audience. ‘Pearl’ and ‘Furious’ from Red Heaven were highlights for me (cos that album will forever remind me of being 17. Plus, Bob Mould. Nuff said). Otherwise, ‘Soul Soldier’ and ‘White Bikini Sand’ were (and could only ever be) gorgeous ways to start and end the set. If you’re not yet a fan, buy that same Anthology cd and get started, eh? There’s a wealth of genius to catch up on.
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