We Know Where We're Goin

Here's a short excerpt from the beginning of my story We Know Where We're Goin, which appears in the new anthology End of the Road, edited by Jonathan Oliver, from Solaris Books.

Photo: @thesolitarybee

From the camp at Frunt End I liked ter look back sumtimes the way we'd come, an see the Road stretchin away from me down into the low lands. Strate as a measurin stick it lay across the ruffness and muddle o them wild places. But instead o feet an inches it was marked with my 'memberins, and the graves an birthin places o my family. 

I could 'member back to when I was just a bitty girl an we was pushin the Road thru kindly country, along a wide valley with woods an green hills on eyther side an a river windin down its middle like a silvry snake. There was plenty o time in them days fer me an the other kids ter lark an laze along them shady river banks while the growed-ups discuxed how best ter get the Road across, an the smiths an carpinters got busy buildin the bridges that was goin ter carry it. 

But that was all so long back that I could scarcely see that green valley now from up at Frunt End; jus the far twistins o that river sumtimes, shinin faintly thru blue distance an white ruffs o mist.  Past few years we'd bin climbin agin, up stony steeps where nort but black pines grew, towards high mountins that walled off the sky.  The huntin parties had ter go long miles ter gather all the food we needid, an there was scarce enough forage fer the piggs nor grazin fer the cattle nor timber fer makin the gas to fuel our trucks an diggas. The goin was so bad the Road had ter be laid in zig-zags some places, tho each ziggin an zaggin section of it was still strate as a ruler, so Foreman Skrevening sed it did not deviate from Rightchus Strateness...  

End of the Road also features stories by Lavie Tidhar, S.L. Grey, Ian Whates, Jay Caselberg, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Zen Cho, Sophia McDougall, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Anil Menon, Rio Youers, Vandana Singh, Paul Meloy, Adam Nevill and Helen Marshall. 

It's available from all good booksellers, or as a digital download here.

The Library of Birmingham and the End of the Road

The last stop on my busy long weekend, after the YLG conference and BristolCon, was back in Birmingham, where they have a fantastic new library, known in the children's book world as 'McIntyre's Hatbox'...

It's an amazing building, and when I was there on Monday, it was packed with people. Since this is Half Term week the library has been running a Young Readers Festival, which was why I'd been invited along to talk about me life 'n' works. I was expecting an audience of teenagers, but of course teenagers come with younger brothers and sisters and parents who happened to be passing saw something was going on and brought their children in, so I ended up with quite a lot of tiny listeners. It seemed to go all right, though: I talked about Mortal Engines, Goblins, Murderous Maths and Horrible Histories, and mentioned Oliver and the Seawigs too.  Then some book signing, and back on the train to Devon.

Photos by @LibraryofBham

It's been a very busy month, what with one event and another, so I've decided that I won't be going to the World Fantasy Convention which is happening this week in Brighton. It's a pity, since I signed up for it years ago when it was first announced, but I need some time at home, and I'm writing for a younger audience nowadays, who probably won't be much in evidence at WFC. Still, if you are there, I hope you have a wonderful time. Look out for Anderida Books in the dealers' room - they may have some signed editions of my stuff, and lots of other goodies too.

Also, Solaris Books will be launching their new anthology The End of the Road, a collection of weird and wonderful short stories linked by the theme of roads. One of them is my own effort, We Know Where We're Goin, a coming-of-age story set in a ramshackle society devoted to the building of a long, straight road. It also has a wonderful, black-and-white cover...


Kicking the dust of the YLG Conference from my heels last Friday, I high-tailed it down to Bristol, where BristolCon was taking shape at the Doubletree Hotel.  It's the third year I've attended BristolCon, and this time I was to be Guest of Honour - which is a considerable honour, when you consider how many fine writers there are in or around the Bristol SF scene.

One of them is Emma Newman, whose Split Worlds series of urban/fairy fantasy stories I can highly recommend (and I'm not usually a fan of urban fantasy or fairies). She interviewed me as part of my Guest-of-Honour-ing duties, and we talked about some of the things that had influenced me, including favourite films like Excalibur and Brazil, and my own long and inglorious career as a no-budget movie director, which started when I was 12 and first got hold of a cine camera and sputtered on until about 1990, when I thought of a story so overambitious that even I knew it wasn't worth trying to film it myself, so I wrote it down instead and it became Mortal Engines.

Unfortunately the lighting at the Doubletree always scuppers my attempts to take photographs, and this year I was so busy that I forgot to take any anyway, but here's a snap that Ian Cairns posted on Twitter, showing me in full flow. As you can see, Emma even provided tea (future interviewers please take note!).

Two packed programmes of panel discussions and readings run throughout the day at BristolCon, which means there's always something you want to see (and it's usually on at the same time as something else you want to see). I managed to be in the audience for a couple of good debates, including one called 'How to Poo in a Fantasy Universe', which wasn't quite as scatalogical as it sounds and was really about how such earthy details can help to make a made-up world feel more real.

There were others which I would have liked to see, too, but there's so much else to do, and too many excellent people to catch up with! I was sorry that Tim Maughan and Kim Lakin-Smith couldn't make it this year, and Jeremy Levett is busy being a jolly swagman in Australia, but it's always good to talk to Gareth and Becky Powell (Hive Monkey, the sequel to Gareth's Ack Ack Macaque, will be out soon) Ian Whates, Cheryl Morgan, and Jonathan L Howard (whose Katya's World is also about to gain a sequel, Katya's War).  I won't attempt to list all the people I met because I'll only go and leave someone out, but I enjoyed talking to Lor Graham and will be listening to Rambling Through Genre, the podcast which she runs with Max Edwards and Doug Smith (who were also at BristolCon). And there were some fantastic little steampunk/goblin sculptures in the art room, the work of fantasy sculptor impsandthings... And Scott Lewis and Roz Clarke were full of fascinating folkloric knowledge, and @Mrs Hirez made the best chocolate brownies I've ever tasted!

It was all still going on in the bar when I went off to bed around midnight, and the tireless committee (well I assume they were tired, but they never seem to let it show) were already making plans for BristolCon 2014, at which Emma Newman and Jon Courtenay Grimwood are to be the Guests of Honour. I hope to be there too!  Many thanks to Jo, MEG, Roz, Heather, Claire and the team for inviting me this year, and for running such a fabulous and friendly convention

YLG Conference

I've had a busy weekend, so for blogging purposes it's going to be divided, like Gaul, into three parts.

It started in Birmingham on Friday, where Sarah McIntyre and I forced the delegates at the Youth Libraries Group Conference to draw Sea Monkeys and sing the 'Eep' song. I won't go into details about the conference and our event because here's Sarah's account of proceedings, and here's another by Zoe Toft, from whom (grammar) I pinched this photo. It's always a pleasure to attend the YLG conference and meet so many dedicated librarians, all full of ideas to get children reading.

That rounds off this autumn's inaugural leg of the Seawigs tour, but we're already setting up dates for festival appearances next year, including one at the Emirates Literary Festival in Dubai! They asked us to do a little video to announce our participation, which you can see below - we're at at the end, around 4:15, after all the grown-up authors. (And if I look a bit glum, it's because we couldn't find a camera person on the one morning we were both free to shoot it, so it's basically a video selfie and I'm concentrating on keeping us both in frame.)

And finally, did you know about the Tots 100 competition? Design your own seawig, and win a family portrait by Sarah McIntyre herself! Details here...

Countdown to BristolCon


This coming Saturday is BristolCon, where I'll be doing Guest-of-Honouring duties alongside Storm Constantine and Mark Buckingham.  If you're within reach of Bristol and like SF, fantasy and/or meeting lovely and interesting people, I'd highly recommend it.

There will be two packed programmes of panels and readings running throughout the day. My bits will include:

11. - 11.45  Kaffeklatsch - which is foreign for a cup of coffee and a natter (cake, too, if I can organise it). It's too late to book a space, apparently, but there are four available on the day, first come, first served.

16.00 - 16.45 I'll be interviewed by/in conversation with the brilliant Emma Newman (right) who is the author of the Split Worlds series among many other things. (I'm reading the first, Between Two Thorns at the moment, and it's excellent.)

16.50 - 16.55 Reading - I guess this crowd will be a bit too old for Oliver and the Seawigs, so I'll probably read from my story We Know Where We're Goin', which appears in the new Solaris Books anthology The End of the Road. (Editor Jonathan Oliver commissioned it at last year's BristolCon).

18.00 - 18.45 Panel event: Beyond Arthur: We continue to mine the Arthurian legends for fantasy novels, film and TV, but there’s a wealth of more obscure myth and legend anchored in the landscapes and collective memories of Britain, including the South West. Our panel discusses some of the potential inspirations that lurk beyond the beaten paths, in the forests and lakes beyond Avalon.
With Gaie Sebold (moderating), Roz Clarke, Catherine Butler, me, Scott Lewis

The rest of the time I'll be hanging around the convention, and watching a lot of the other sessions. The programme is packed with good stuff and great speakers, and you can peruse it here. You can also BristolCon on Twitter and Facebook

BristolCon is on Saturday, 26th October at the Doubletree (formerly Ramada) Hotel in Bristol. Membership is £20 if you book in advance, or £25 on the day.

Bath Time.


Here's that Sarah McIntyre, relaxing before our event at the Bath Children's Literature Festival yesterday. (As you can see, she decided to dress down a bit for this one.) We were a bit worried that we wouldn't draw much of a crowd as we'd been given the graveyard slot - 5.30 on a school night, and at the same time as Patrick Ness, whose signing queue was so long that it had those barriers they use in the check-in hall at airports. But we needn't have worried. Lots of lovely Seawigs fans came along, the show went well, everyone drew sea monkeys, we sold out of books, and we completely nailed the 'Eep Eep' song. Go us!

This morning we signed copies of the book for two fantastic independent bookshops, Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights and Topping and Company, so if you're in or near Bath and fancy a signed and doodled-in Seawigs, they have about ten each.

Now I have about two and half days at home before I head off to the Cheltenham Literature Festival for the final (public) stop on the never-ending Seawigs revue tour for this year - at 11.15 a.m. next Saturday (12th October). Catch us if you can!

(Sarah has a much more detailed account of our BathFest adventures, and a lot more pictures, on her own blog...)

Visits to Cambridge and The Middle of Nowhere

I've been away for most of this week, and for once it wasn't part of the never-ending Oliver and the Seawigs publicity tour...

Photo: Sarah McIntyre
I'd been invited up to Cambridge, to be presented with an Honorary Doctorate by Anglia Ruskin University. I'm sort of an old boy, since Anglia was where I studied illustration back in the 'eighties. In those days it was just plain ol' CCAT - the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology - but it's now morphed into a fully fledged university, and the illustration course has become one of the best in the country.

I've never attended a graduation ceremony before, let alone had to make a speech at one, so I was very glad that Sarah McIntyre came along to lend me some moral support, as did Dave Shelton, author of A Boy and a Bear in a Boat and a fellow graduate of the old CCAT illustration course, and Farah Mendelson, SF scholar and critic and author of The Intergalactic Playground (among many others), who is now part of the faculty. I also got to meet Pam Smy, whose illustrations for the forthcoming Siobhan Dowd book The Ransom of Dond which I glimpsed at David Fickling Books earlier this year - it looks astonishing.

And Philip Pullman was also being given a Doctorate, so I was able to meet him at last! (That's him in the photo at the top of this post.) Apparently he's had thirteen of these honours already, so I still have Some Way To Go. He gave a very good and serious speech about what a degree means, and used a lovely phrase about us 'living in a time that is still warmed by the background radiation from the enlightenment'. (I mostly just reminisced about my college years and made cheap jokes about McIntyre's hat.)

As if meeting one legend of children's lit wasn't enough, my second appointment of the week was at the W Hotel in Leicester Square, where I was part of a discussion with Geraldine McCaughrean and Nicolette Jones to celebrate the launch of Geraldine's latest novel The Middle of Nowhere.  Geraldine has been my favourite writer since long before I was published, and I'm still in awe of the way in which she turns out so many books, all on very different subjects, but each perfect, and very much her own. She's also one of my favourite people, and I still can't quite believe it when I'm asked to share a stage with her. I shall try to put a full review of The Middle of Nowhere here soon, but don't wait for that - run out and buy it NOW, it's flippin' brilliant.