How Writers Write, and When Runners Run

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Tony Ballentyne’s blog series How Writers Write is exactly that. Once a month, he’s interviewed folk like Keith Brooke and Neil Williamson and they’ve duly answered – on where they write, choices of style, and what helps them get into the right frame of mind to create great stories. You’ll find rare insights into the creative process of some ace writers, so it’s well worth a browse.
 
A few weeks ago, Tony dropped me an email with a few of the same questions, and you’ll find my answers (complete with a guest appearance from Millie the cat) in the latest installment.
 
How Writers Write: Ruth EJ Booth – http://tonyballantyne.com/how-writers-write-ruth-booth/
 
Just one more thing before I go:

 
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Today marks a year to the day that I ran the Edinburgh Half Marathon in aid of Mind – my first ever running event. So I thought you might like to know I’ve signed up to the Great Scottish Run‘s Half Marathon event in Glasgow in October. I’ll be running for Macmillan Cancer Support, in memory of my friend Carol Laird. More on that nearer the time.

 

BSFA Awards: Best Short Story Nomination for ‘The Honey Trap’

I’m delighted to announce that one of my stories has made the shortlist for this year’s British Science Fiction Association Awards. ‘The Honey Trap’, from NewCon Press anthology La Femme, has been nominated for Best Short Story.
 
The final results of the BSFA member vote will be announced at this year’s Eastercon (aka Dysprosium), to be held over the Easter weekend at the Park Inn Hotel in Heathrow. All BSFA members will get a chance to read ‘The Honey Trap’, along with the other nominated short stories, as part of the annual award booklet. In the meantime, you can read a wee snippet of the story on the Fiction page of this site.
 
Huge congratulations also to my fellow nominees! It’s a really strong showing this year. Regardless of the result, I’ll be at Eastercon 2015, celebrating my first ever award nomination. If you’re going, I’ll look forward to seeing you there!
 
Dysprosium
 

2014: Overture

So that was 2014, almost. Very nearly all of it, though I can’t help but feeling that there’s still something lingering behind the curtain, waiting for us to declare our said-and-dones, so it can finally leap out and catch us unawares.
 
That in itself would hardly be a surprise, in such a strange and cacophonous year. With story edits, choir rehearsals, and half-marathon training, I figuratively and literally hit the ground running in January. Yet it would be Easter before any of these things began to resolve themselves into the strains that would come to define the year.
 
Eastercon: Satellite 4 was a con of firsts [Blog]. I made my first ever convention panel appearances, alongside folks such as Jacey Bedford, Tony Ballentyne and Gillian Redfearn. I had my first ever book launch for La Femme, the NewCon Press anthology, where I was delighted to find my story ‘The Honeytrap’ in the esteemed company of tales by Frances Hardinge, Maura McHugh, Storm Constantine, Jonathan Oliver and many more.
 
Then a late night chat with Hal Duncan about The Scruffians’ “aktchual original lyrics” for ‘An Unfortunate Rake’ led to me singing in public for the first time in fifteen years [Blog], as part of his own Eastercon reading. This set the pattern for 2014, a year where opportunities would suddenly emerge from chance conversations and unexpected coincidences, there to be leapt upon or chased, and damn my anxieties.
 
So when Worldcon hit London this year for Loncon 3 [Blog], I took a chance on last minute opening, and found myself on panels with the likes of Melinda Snodgrass, Jeremy Zerfoss, Bill Sutton and Nicholle Lamerichs. Once again, I gave a reading for the splendid folks at the Pirate Program fringe (for whom I’d given my debut reading at World Fantasycon the previous November). By the end of the year, I’d even given my first poetry reading, a medium I’ve rarely worked in – at least, before now.
 
In terms of the published fiction, more random chances: with La Femme I managed to cross appearing in an Ian Whates anthology off the Bucket List. I was chuffed to return to Fox Spirit, with ‘Blueprint for Red Wings’ appearing in the Girl At The End of the World anthology. Aside from that, this was a year of experimentation with both genre and form – not just poetry, but micro-fiction, pure fantasy, historical fiction, overtly experimental fiction, and so on. The greater part of the writing I did in 2014 won’t be appearing for a while yet (although, keep your eye on the January issue of Far Horizons), but there’s a giddy thrill in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, out into areas where you’ve fuck all clue what you’re doing, and waking up to find you’re still there in the morning.
 
On the photography front, same melody – though a different key: Another chance exchange led to my first ever promo shoot. My shots of baroque folk band By Toutatis [Blog] would end up in the Evening Chronicle and being used as far away as the Middle East [More Blog]. I shot a bunch of local and not-so local bands [Many Blogs], and started working for Drowned In Sound too, shooting bands from RM Hubbert to Mastodon.
 

 
Elsewhere in rock journalism, while I continued to review for Thrash Hits, my Swedish Agent (Benny Bols, Death Folk pioneer) also wrote his first columns for Mass Movement Magazine.
 
There was more. At Fantasycon, I volunteered as a Redcloak [Blog], an experience that gave me a fresh insight into the reality of running a convention. In a personal triumph for someone who spent their teenage years suffering for their weight, I ran my first half-marathon [Blog] – and, thanks to the generosity of you lovely people, raised £340 for Mind. I started learning the ukulele (God help us all), and I started this blog, of course.
 
Most exhilarating has been rediscovering my love of musical performance. In April, I’d find myself performing in Durham Cathedral, as part of Durham County Youth Choir‘s 50th anniversary celebrations [Blog]. But this year was mostly about a capella song. After Eastercon, I sang folk tunes at parties and pubs, in hallways and late nights on bridges. While not everytime was a success, it felt good to be returning to something I hadn’t done in so long, and find my love for it was still as deep as ever.
 
As it stands, 2014 has opened up some unexpected opportunities. Some new and experimental, others as old and familiar as childhood ditties. There have been some successes, some failures – as they stand right now – and Lord knows all my anxieties are still firmly in place, but… Now I know they’re there. Some of these opportunities may find me in a very different place to where I am now, by the time I’ve wised where they’re leading me, pied piper-like. That could be six months from now; it could be six years. For now, 2015 will find me in the wings, waiting for the overture to finish, and just the right moment to step out onto the stage.

Photo by GJB Performance Photography
Photo by GJB Performance Photography

Thrash Hits Top Tens and My Favourite Musical Finds of 2014

So. Things have been happening, and it’s the end of the year, and I should really write a blog.

Really. Write. A Blog.

See, it’s not that I don’t want to, but this is the Hinterland of the year, that magical in-between time, when all the dutiful joy of Christmas is over and done with, and equally as dutiful, but somewhat more desperate celebrations of New Year begin. The time when we tick off the last days of this year’s timesheet, and are just starting to tear it away, tear it to shreds, burn the damn thing, before we face the clean white tyranny of a fresh, crisp, blank New Year. Watch your fingers for papercuts.

I like this time of year. No matter how many wonderful things I have planned for the next twelve months – how many terrifying and scary upheavals that could mean the start of a new and much more rewarding phase of my life… I like that sense of a project completed. I enjoy revelling in that satisfaction, before a new year begins. I like a breather. So understandably, I want to prolong it as much as possible.

I suppose that means I don’t want to write a blog after all.

So in spite of myself, here’s two.
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Firstly, a little housekeeping. Thrash Hits have unveiled their annual round-up of the year’s best releases, voted for by their writers. Here’s the Thrash Hits Top 10 Albums of 2014. You can also check out songs from all those albums on the Sunday Slaylist: The Best of 2014, which you can also listen to on Spotify. The albums I voted for begin with track 33.



Talking of my personal Top Ten, here’s the Thrash Hits Staff Albums of 2014. No spoilers… except I am pretty well chuffed I got St Vincent on there this year.

You’ll also notice (okay, *some* spoilers, then) that it’s not been a particularly metal year for me, in terms of personal favourites. Frankly, folk-influenced and acoustic music has been doing it more for me, generally. Discovering RM Hubbert, Blue Rose Code (Honestly, The Ballads of Peckham Rye is no. 11 on my Top Records of 2014. Making this year’s list on two days notice killed me.), The Lake Poets, Sarah Jarosz, Trev Gibb (‘Old Wounds‘, trust me.), Hannah D’Arcy, MG Boulter, Nadine Shah, has been like finding precious lost items in cobwebbed attics, brushing the dust off, setting them down and watching them sparkle. Yes, I know I should really check out Richard Dawson. He’s next on my list. Honest.

Meanwhile, Les Claypool‘s Duo De Twang, and Devin Townsend and Ché Aimee Dorval‘s Casualties of Cool were both projects that elevated sides of these artists we’d long expected, but perhaps had never imagined would sound so sweet. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of sweets, that Primus cover of ‘The Candyman’ (from their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory album) is a fucking belter.



Told ya.

The other big influence on 2014 has been the theatrical. Or rather, the storytellers, I should say. Aidan Moffat‘s solo stuff, Shilpa Ray, St Vincent (still kicking myself for having flu the night she breezed through the North-East), Fair To Midland, General Sherman, By Toutatis and associated projects… When researching for a panel at Loncon 3, I also came across Darren Korb’s excellent soundtrack for Bastion – one hell of a case of first time lucky for the composer. New …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, and the follow-up to Devin Townsend‘s Ziltoid The Omniscient, Z2, scratched the same itch nicely. John Grant made a late grand entrance, courtesy of the livestream of his Sage Gateshead show with the Royal Northern Sinfonia; the night a friend and I confessed to each other that we were both, just a teensy bit, in love with him.

There are doubtless other names I’ve missed, but here are a few of my favourite discoveries of 2014.

Tissue Culture – Bleak Northern Beaches
One of my favourite discoveries through the Tiny Lights gig nights. Click here for some photos of them I took earlier this year.

John Grant – Where Dreams Go To Die
I had such trouble picking one of John Grant’s tracks for this. ‘Queen of Denmark’, or ‘Sigourney Weaver’ could have easier been here instead. You should look those out too. Or ‘That’s The Good News’. Really, just go, before I start naming more tracks.

Blue Rose Code (w/ Samantha Whates and MG Boulter) – True Ways of Knowing
Killing three birds with one stone, this also features the amazing double basswork of John Parker of Nizlopi, and Rachel Newton, whose sterling harp playing is also on the recent BRC album. I shot Ross and co. at The Cluny in Newcastle earlier this year. He’s touring in April.

Nadine Shah – Stealing Cars
Another late contender this year, I’m barely done with first listens to this.

Shilpa Ray (w/ Warren Ellis & Nick Cave) – Pirate Jenny
Now striking out from her Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers outfit, Shilpa Ray is a trailblazer. Pick up the EP ‘It’s All Self Fellatio…‘, it’s a blinder.

RM Hubbert w/ Aidan Moffat & Alex Kapranos – Car Song
An older track, but one I was so glad to finally hear live when Hubby hooked up with Aidan Moffat at the Sage in May (click here for my DiS photo gallery).

Shrine Black Peaks – Say You Will
One of the things that keeps me writing for Thrash Hits is the radar those boys have. This blindsided us all. Thankfully, their quiet since is largely down to their name change since they released their debut EP, Closer To The Sun.

Sarah Jarosz – I Can’t Love You Now
There’s something about Sarah Jarosz’s writing that suggests someone ten years older writing about how they feel in their early twenties. Here’s one example.

Casualties of Cool – Flight
Not so much a new discovery, but wonderful to hear a project with Ché Aimee Dorval front and centre.

The Lake Poets – Husks
To close, this track taken from the debut EP Honest Hearts. Martin’s show at the Mining Institute in Newcastle was a privilege to witness.

http://youtu.be/spB3a7TG0mU

Bits & Bobs: New Story, New Photos, New Reviews, New Blogs and New Bols

Back at the end of September, I drafted a Bits & Bobs post, due to go up the following week. I finished it all off, save leaving room for adding photos… and promptly forgot about it. Sorry folks! Busyness is no excuse, but needless to say, a bunch of stuff has happened since my last one of these. I’ve been a panelist at the biggest con I’ve yet attended. I’ve had my first experience of Redcoating. Alongside that, there’s a bunch of new articles and some photos online… I’m afraid this is a bit of a monster catch-up as a result, but hopefully worth a browse nonetheless.

 

NEW FICTION

An advance warning first – I’ve got a brand new story coming out in 2015. Fox Spirit has announced the latest in their Fox Pockets series.

FP Evil Genius Cover
Continue reading “Bits & Bobs: New Story, New Photos, New Reviews, New Blogs and New Bols”

Guest Blog: Jacey Bedford on the Parallels between Writing and Singing

This website brings together two sides of my life that I love – music and fiction. Another writer with her feet in both worlds is Jacey Bedford, novelist and singer with folk trio Artisan. Despite “hanging up [her] tonsils” ten years ago, she’s never managed to keep away from the music scene, running her own tour management agency and giving the odd tour herself on the side. The return of Artisan in 2015 promises to be something special, as anyone who witnessed her impromptu a capella turn at Fantasycon 2014 will agree.

Not that she’s been resting on her laurels in the other side of her life either. Empire of Dust, Jacey’s debut novel, is a space opera set in a universe where large corporations and their telepathic, implant-addicted psi-tech agents are locked in a battle for resources across the galaxy. With Empire of Dust due out on 4th November through DAW, here’s Jacey’s take on the similarities between music performance and writing – and what she’s learned from each…

Jacey Bedford at Novacon 2012
Jacey Bedford at Novacon 2012

Continue reading “Guest Blog: Jacey Bedford on the Parallels between Writing and Singing”

Fantasycon 2014: Three Days Running Up and Down Corridors

And finally to the last convention report of the year – a different perspective, this time, from 2014’s Fantasycon. Being based in the North East, attending genre cons often means a minimum 3 hours travel time for me. So the news that this year’s Fantasycon would be in York was a nice surprise. And after the rigours of a London Worldcon, what better time to give this Redcoat – or in this case, Redcloak * – lark a try?Fantasycon 2014 - The Redshirt

Redcloaking would turn out to be immensely fun – and more than just an interesting opportunity to peek behind the curtain of one of Britain’s longest running literary cons. Lots of hard work to boot: Though Fantasycon is only three days, we got into it virtually on arrival – preparing goodie bags and registration. However, what most con-goers don’t realise is that Redcloaking isn’t only a physically demanding job. It’s one that requires a lot of common sense, some self-regard, and a wee dose of silliness to make it through.
Continue reading “Fantasycon 2014: Three Days Running Up and Down Corridors”

Photo Friday: NARC. Fest – Blacklisters, Rivals and Martha at the Tyne Bar

Martha at the Tyne Bar, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, 5th July 2014.
Martha at the Tyne Bar, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, 5th July 2014.

Time for a proper #PhotoFriday. If you’re not aware of NARC. Fest, it’s (surprise!) NARC magazine‘s annual event, taking place at venues across Newcastle’s artistic hub, the Ouseburn valley. While the fest also includes comedy and other things, this is often a great excuse to go check out a bunch of local buzz bands of all genres, with music way into the night.While the 30 minute gaps between bands do allow some travel between spots, frankly, it’s easier just to pick a place and stick to it. Thankfully this year’s line-up made that very easy to do, and I rocked up at the Tyne Bar’s (mercifully) outdoor stage in time for the last three bands. Highlights, maestro…

  • Catching Martha again for the first time in years – that’s ONSIND‘s other, slightly less politically motivated and somewhat poppier band.
  • A storming final ever set from Rivals (who include Ross Millard from The Futureheads), doing their legacy proud before London jobs claim yet another local band.
  • Billy from Blacklisters staggering through the crowd, heckling strangers in hats, and generally making a nuisance of himself all over the outside bar area.
  • Getting to use my daylight lenses for a change during the first couple of bands – nerdy, I know, but I didn’t realise how much I’d missed shooting daylight gigs.

Talking of which, here’s some photos from all three sets:

Photo Friday Thursday: Möngöl Hörde w/ Palehorse & Oxygen Thief

Möngöl Hörde at the O2 Academy 2, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne - 20th June 2014
Möngöl Hörde at the O2 Academy 2, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne – 20th June 2014

Continuing the tradition of Photo Any-Day-But-Friday, this week I’ve got some bonus shots for you. You might have heard of Frank Turner – he was the one playing folk guitar on the hill during Danny Boyle’s Olympics Opening Ceremony last year. You might not have heard of his other band, Möngöl Hörde. Completed by Matt Nasir (from Turner’s backing band The Sleeping Souls) and Ben Dawson (Turner’s former bandmate in Million Dead), they hit the road earlier this Summer with Oxygen Thief and Dawson’s other band Palehorse – including a date at Newcastle’s Academy 2.

I could tell you what a brilliant night it was, but you can actually find all my thoughts in the Thrash Hits review that I, err, didn’t actually realise was online. You can read it here:

http://www.thrashhits.com/2014/07/live-mongol-horde-newcastle-o2-academy-2-20-june-2014/


However, I also took some shots that night that didn’t end up making the final review. So I thought you lot might like a look. Enjoy!

Worldcon: Loncon 3 schedule

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There’s just over a week to go until Worldcon hits the UK – Loncon 3 will be at London’s ExCeL arena over 14th – 18th August. More than 5,000 people will be descending on London for the first UK Worldcon since 1965. So I’m ridiculously excited to announce I’ll be joining a couple of panels in the music stream over the weekend.

Here’s what my Loncon schedule looks like so far:

FRIDAY 15th AUG – “Massively Multiplayer” The Music of Genre Video-games
Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL), 4:30pm – 6pm
w/ Melinda Snodgrass, Jeremy Zerfoss, Isabella van Elferen and Helena Nash.
“Now a larger industry than films worldwide, with the biggest titles inspired by SF&F themes, video games are driving a lot of successful music composition, both classical and modern. Panellists discuss the landscape so far and look to future trends.”

MONDAY 18TH AUG – Worldbuilding to Music
Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL), 11am – 12pm
w/ Bill Sutton, Nicolle Lamerichs and, once again, the amazing Melinda Snodgrass.
“Panellists explore how music inspires imagination and worldbuilding, with examples from current professional and fan works and from classics such as the works of Marianne L’Engle, H. Beam Piper, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and others.”

The full schedule for the con can be found at this link on Loncon 3 website.

If you can’t make those, I should be floating around the con all weekend – so come say hi. Hope to see you there!