Items that will appear on the News page
Diary updates and online links to panel discussions
In a couple of weeks, 7th – 10th April, I’ll be at Conversation, the 2023 Eastercon in Birmingham. I’ll have the tremendous pleasure of interviewing Guest of Honour, Kari Sperring, as well as discussing assorted aspects of the craft and business of writing fantasy and science fiction with interesting people. I will also be reading from my new novel, The Cleaving, and discussing Arthuriana in its various forms.
The Cleaving is officially published on 11th April 2023, but Books on the Hill should have advance copies at Eastercon. If you want to buy sets of the paperbacks of either The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, or The Hadrumal Crisis trilogies, for the at-convention price of £5, email me – firstname.lastname@example.org . Then I’ll know how many books to stick in the boot of the car, and you can pay me at the Convention.
If you’re not at Eastercon, but you’re within striking distance of London, I’ll be at the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club on 11th April, celebrating the official publication day of The Cleaving, along with Anna Smith Spark, and Michael R Miller. This monthly event takes place as The Star of Kings pub near Kings Cross and I recommend you check it out regularly. We’ll give short readings from our upcoming books, and talk about writing, reading and well, whatever else comes up in conversation with everyone there. It’ll be a really fun evening.
In May, I’ll be at the Milford SF Writers Retreat in Trigonos, North Wales. As long as everything’s still going to plan, I’ll be polishing up this year’s Green Man book before sending the draft over to Editor Toby. No spoilers, but I am really pleased with how this one’s coming together…
Looking forward to 2nd – 4th June, I’ll be in Edinburgh for Cymera, Scotland’s festival of science-fiction, fantasy and horror writing, as a guest speaker. This will be my first time at this particular event, and everyone I know who’s been before has enthusiastically recommended it. It will also be great to visit Scotland again. We’ll take the opportunity to have a holiday there as well.
So I’ll be getting out and about. That’s not possible for everyone of course, and the SF&F genre is very fortunate in the range and variety of online events and podcasts that fans and creators now support. I’ve recorded a good few interviews and chats lately that will be coming your way over the next few months. I’ll post links when I have them.
Meantime, you can check out this year’s panels at TBRCon – there’s loads of good stuff. Scroll down and you’ll find me and others discussing ‘Slice of Life Fantasy’.
More recently, I joined children’s writer Abie Longstaff, poet Katrina Naomi, and crime writer Sam Blake in her everyday persona of Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, to discuss making a living as a writer, as part of the Society of Authors’ ‘At Home’ programme of events. You can catch up with the video here. Again, there are a whole of of other videos available, and you don’t have to be a member of the Society to access any of this invaluable advice. (You might like to think about joining the Society, do take a look at what membership offers.)
Diary updates – BFS Event 18th Feb, and more!
It’s all go at the moment, and in the best way. This coming Saturday 18th February, I’ll be taking part in the British Fantasy Society’s online February event. I’ll be on a panel at 1.45pm GMT discussing Hard vs Soft Magic Systems, with LR Lam and Steve McHugh.
Before that, at 1.30 I’m on the Author Readings schedule when I’ll be reading from The Cleaving for the very first time anywhere.
There’s a whole roster of great writers reading through the day, plus another panel on approaches to world-building, and an interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, who is always worth listening to. You can find out full details and more besides on the BFS News page – click here.
On 14th March, I’m on a panel for the Society of Authors At Home event, discussing making a living from writing with children’s author Abie Longstaff and poet Katrina Naomi, chaired by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin (also known as the crime writer Sam Blake). This will be a reprise of our very successful event at last year’s London Book Fair where we lay out the realities of the book business and suggest ways to maximise your earning opportunities. Full details here – and like all online SoA events (apart from the AGM) this will be open to members and non-members alike.
I’m also having a lot of fun recording some interviews this week, with the Fantasy Fellowship for their YouTube channel, and for the Read Write podcast. I’ll post links when those are available for you to enjoy.
And there’s more to come!
Dates for the diary
On Tuesday 24th January – 7 pm GMT/2 pm EST. I’ll be part of TBRCon’s ‘Slice-of-Life Fantasy’ panel alongside Tom Bookbeard (moderator), Travis Baldree, Rebecca Ross, Stephanie Burgis, Travis M. Riddle and Quenby Olson. This will be a live panel, lasting no more than 90 minutes, streaming on the FanFiAddict YouTube channel.
#TBRCon2023 takes place January 22-29, 2023, and is an all-virtual SF/F/H convention with 30 author panels, 25 author readings/Q&As, 3 live podcast episodes and 3 live D&D sessions. It will be absolutely FREE to watch live or catching up later. Check your social media for the hashtag and marvel at the full programme.
On Tuesday 14th March – 10 am GMT. I’ll be online again, taking part in the Society of Authors At Home panel discussing ‘Making a living from writing’, alongside Katrina Naomi, Abie Longstaff and Sam Blake.
As far as other travels and events are concerned, I plan on being at Eastercon and Fantasycon, and I’ll doubtless be heading elsewhere as well. If our paths cross, feel free to say hello.
Making plans for the year to come
I’ve had some exciting book post! An advance reading copy of The Cleaving has arrived. And to be clear, this cover is just for the ARC, to distinguish those from the novel that will go on sale. Those will have the full colour cover art that I have posted previously.
I’m looking forward to making plans with the Angry Robot team to get this novel in front of as many readers as possible.
Which prompts me to add a reminder that I’m starting up a newsletter for 2023 – you can sign up here
New year, newsletter?
Let’s try this as a way for staying in touch. You can sign up at here and I’ll do a trial run next week. Feel free to let me know what you like to see in a newsletter, assuming you’re interested in them in the first place.
Don’t worry if they’re not your thing. I’ll continue posting updates here and on Mastodon as well as Facebook as I always have. I’ll stick with Twitter until it implodes or becomes wholly unusable – though my account there is currently locked to limit fake followers and junk replies.
And writing this post, I’ve just spotted the typo ‘Faebook’ and must now resist the urge to write a short story about social media for supernaturals…
A quick social media update
As social media gets more fractious and fractured, I am still on Twitter for the moment, but my account’s currently protected from the recent deluge of fake followers and junk replies, as well as unnecessarily combative responses from people with no obvious interest in books, SF&F or anything else I do. Follower requests from self-evidently real readers will get approved.
Now I have a better understanding of how Mastodon works, I’m at @JulietEMcKenna@wandering.shop. You can also find me at facebook.com/jemck. And when I get a bit of spare time, I am going to set up a newsletter. Honest!
A quick diary update
Next week’s event at Portishead Library, Monday 17th October, has been cancelled, with apologies for any inconvenience. Well, these things happen, especially when funds are squeezed and folk are concerned about health risks. You can still find out about my JM Alvey dyslexia-friendly quick read here and at the Books on the Hill website.
In more cheerful news, it’s Octocon this coming weekend, and I’ll be on the online panel discussing ‘Peace and Ways to Find It’ on Sunday, 16 October 2022 at 11:30 am. Do check out the full hybrid programme.
And don’t forget you can see me and Cheryl Morgan talking about The Green Man’s Gift, courtesy of ‘Octocon Presents’ – click here.
On the 29th October I’ll be at Bristolcon – full details here. The programme is currently being finalised, and will include some streamed elements for fans who can’t be there in person.
So that’s the news for now.
The Green Man’s Gift is here!
Today sees The Green Man’s Gift published in ebook, hardback and paperback. Head to your preferred retailer for the format of your choice.
Barnes & Noble (Nook) – USA only
If you’re going to be at Bristolcon, you can pick up a book direct from Wizard’s Tower Press – and let Cheryl know, so she can be sure to bring enough copies.
Dan Mackmain’s heading to North Wales in this particular story. It’s an area I’ve visited on holiday a few times over the years, but thinking about it for this story, and seeing it through Dan’s eyes gave me an interesting and different perspective. Driving through Snowdonia in particular offers such marked contrasts between remote, timeless, numinous landscapes, and then sudden encounters with post-industrial landscapes and modern economic hardship. I already knew I’d be setting this new story there, so the Milford SF Writers retreat at the Trigonos centre that I went on back in May was as much a research trip as a chance to get plenty of uninterrupted work done.
What else got me thinking about Wales? Well, I found a fair amount of overlap between Welsh myth and the stories of King Arthur which I was researching last year for The Cleaving, my novel coming next year. Don’t worry, King Arthur has absolutely nothing to do with Dan’s new adventure, but those encounters prompted me to read more Welsh folklore and reminded me of childhood reading like The Owl Service and The Chronicles of Prydain. I started making notes and I soon began to see the shape of this particular story.
I also knew I had the people I’d need to call on to make sure I got the fine detail right. Kari Sperring was generous with her time as I sought her perspectives on the Welsh landscape and language in the first instance, and Liz Williams may not realise how a few passing comments she made were useful too. Once the story was written, Toby Selwyn and Cheryl Morgan could offer further advice and amendments which were very much appreciated. I am very fortunate in my friends – and any errors or clangers that Dan drops are absolutely my responsibility.
It’s been an interesting story to write as I consider how the changes in Dan’s life over the past few years have affected him. We are the sum of our experiences, after all. We handle some of those experiences better than others…
I had a chat with Cheryl about all this and a whole lot more besides yesterday evening, courtesy of the Octocon Presents online programme of events. You can find the recording here, including a short reading from the book (mildly sweary in a couple of places, just so you know). And the Octocon convention is well worth checking out, in person and/or online.
Early readers over on Goodreads have definitely enjoyed the book. I have no clue what’s going on with Amazon ratings and reviews at the moment, where every book seems to be getting every review of the whole series, but hopefully readers will share their thoughts on this new adventure there and with other retailers in due course.
The Golden Rule – a few thoughts about writing steampunk
Today sees the publication of The Golden Rule, my contribution to a collection of four steampunk novellas from Newcon Press which can be purchased individually or as a set. These stories are linked by their cover art, but apart from that, they stand alone. The other titles are Under Pressure by Fabio Fernandes, The London Particular by George Mann, and The Visionary Pageant by Paul Di Filippo.
Steampunk is great fun, in comics, in stories, and in the cogs and goggles aesthetic of the terrific costumes people create. It also draws on the popular literature of the Victorian era that can be too easily overlooked as a significant forerunner of the science fiction and fantasy genres that have evolved in the last century and a half. So far, so good.
However… when I was first invited to try my hand at a steampunk story, revisiting a classic of such literature, I opted for the author H Rider Haggard. Rereading his work for the first time in decades, I was appalled by the racism and sexism underpinning the melodrama. It was scant comfort to realise none of this unpleasantness had made any lasting impression on teenage me. Hopefully, anyway. Certainly, I do know to check for any lingering echoes in my work these days. This rereading did alert me to one major potential pitfall of writing steampunk. While contemporary writers should have the sense to steer clear of the overt bigotry, I realised it could be far too easy to slip into an uncritical pro-Empire mindset, defaulting to Rule Britannia and all that.
Fortunately, as well as H Rider Haggard’s books, those library shelves I had scoured as a teenager held other classics of Victorian literature which offered no such rosy view of their society, such as Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies. I also came across non-fiction like Mary Kingsley’s Travels in West Africa (1897) which gave a very different view of colonisation. So I was aware that critical voices were speaking up in that very era. That gave me the starting point for that first story ‘She Who Thinks For Herself’. As I wrote more late-Victorian stories, in the overlap between steampunk and horror, I continued to use the viewpoints of the overlooked and disregarded to shine a different light on the great deeds of the great white men who assume they are in unquestioned charge. You can find those stories in Challoner, Murray and Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law.
In the decades since I was a teenager, the Establishment’s vision of benign imperialism bestowing railways, democracy and afternoon tea on grateful colonials has been increasingly challenged by a wide range of historians and journalists. We are starting to see a far more complex and multi-layered picture of peoples, places and events. When I was invited to contribute to this quartet of novellas, I recalled one such book and wondered if that might give me a starting point for an exciting steampunk story with a different perspective on the alleged Glories of Empire. I found Anita Anand’s “Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary” on my bookshelves and went from there. This story of an exiled Sikh princess, god-daughter to Queen Victoria, led me to the Golden Jubilee of 1887, where I found that celebration had dramatic facets I had never suspected. Here is a photo of the Indian Cavalry who played a central role in the procession. If you want to know their role in my story though, you’ll have to read The Golden Rule – now available from Newcon Press, and you can find the ebook on Amazon.
Cover reveal – The Cleaving, coming May 2023
I’m off to Fantasycon first thing tomorrow morning, but before I go, here’s the cover for The Cleaving, my Arthurian novel out from Angry Robot in May next year.
We all know the imagery of the Arthurian legends; the sword, the castle, the knightly banners, and most of all, the king. This isn’t his story though. I love how Chris Panatier blends familiar elements with these wonderful portraits of the women who are central to this novel. As their gazes challenge the reader, the artwork mirrors my intent to do that as the writer.
There’s more on the art and design over at the BFS website.
You’d like to know more about the book? At the moment, the cover copy reads:
The Cleaving is an Arthurian retelling that follows the tangled stories of four women: Nimue, Ygraine, Morgana, and Guinevere, as they fight to control their own destinies amid the wars and rivalries that will determine the destiny of Britain.
The legendary epics of King Arthur and Camelot don’t tell the whole story. Chroniclers say Arthur’s mother Ygraine married the man that killed her husband. They say that Arthur’s half-sister Morgana turned to dark magic to defy him and Merlin. They say that the enchantress Nimue challenged Merlin and used her magic to outwit him. And that Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere ended in adultery, rebellion and bloodshed. So why did these women chose such dangerous paths?
As warfare and rivalries constantly challenge the king, Arthur and Merlin believe these women are destined to serve Camelot by doing as they are told. But men forget that women talk. Ygraine, Nimue, Morgana and Guinevere become friends and allies while the decisions that shape their lives are taken out of their hands. This is their untold story. Now these women have a voice.