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[sticky post] Welcome to Warrington's Weird World of Writing

Hi and welcome to my thoughts... I’m the author of twenty or so fantasy novels, including A Taste of Blood Wine, Elfland, A Blackbird in Silver, The Amber Citadel, Dracula the Undead, The Court of the Midnight King among others.

I love to chat about writing, books, and life stuff in general.

I’ve written sword n’ sorcery, contemporary fantasy, vampire novels, alternative history… all sorts really. I like attending SF conventions – mainly in the UK – which is how I met my hubby Mike! This year we’ll be at Eastercon, ‘Eight Squared’ in Bradford – I’m the Fantasy Guest of Honour – and at World Fantasy Con in Brighton. My current publishers are Tor (US), Titan and Immanion Press (both UK).

I just love losing myself in my imagination, and creating characters, and writing about them… And talking about it! You can also find me on Facebook and Please come and gossip with me… I don’t bite!

It’s been a very exciting week for those interested in Richard III, whose remains have been discovered beneath a Leicester car park that I must have walked past 100s of times all unknowing. A documentary (on Monday 4th Feb) told the full story – though I could have done with less of the wild-haired presenter and more solid history. That aside, it seems utterly surreal and magical that they found him after all this time – that by sheer luck his grave was beneath an area that could easily be dug up, that they found him so quickly, that they have the advanced technology to prove it’s really him. Spookier still, he turns out – physically at least - to have been so very much as I’d imagined him from portraits and contemporary accounts. Even those ancient fragments managed to convey a pretty accurate impression of the actual man.

Who gets passionate and excited about Henry VII? Er, thought not. Yet King Richard III, for reasons many and mysterious, still excites massive controversy, debate and high emotion. For me, it was Lawrence Olivier’s portrayal of him that first got me hooked – that combination of wickedness, charm and ruthless intelligence was irresistible. Of course, we know that was Shakespeare’s brilliant creative imagination at work and not the plain truth.

Did Richard arrange the murder of his nephews, the ‘Princes in the Tower’? I don’t know. Possibly. While I don’t believe in the Shakespearian villain, I also don’t subscribe to the opposing view that he was an unfairly besmirched, absolute saint of a man. By all accounts, Richard was a good and fair ruler. I believe he was no worse than his contemporaries, and probably better than most. And I believe that his reason for seizing the throne was simple: he wanted to keep it out of the grasping hands of the Woodville family, and in the Plantagenet line, by passing it to his own son. Sadly, his son died in childhood.

Over ten years ago I wrote a novel about Richard, called THE COURT OF THE MIDNIGHT KING. I say ‘about Richard’ but actually it wasn’t that simple. I set the story in an alternative reality slightly askew from this one. I did this so I could explore Richard III from several different angles. Really it wasn’t about HIM in the strictly fact-based, historical sense, but about the fascination he holds for us. What I was trying to say through the novel was that, in the end, no matter what view we take of him, no matter how many historical facts we unearth or how much we speculate, we will still never, ever truly know him. And that’s part of his enduring fascination.

Regardless, the discovery of his skeleton is astounding. I know many historians are only interested in plain facts and sneer at novelistic invention. But surely there’s plenty of room for both – I’m not a historian, but why shouldn’t I delve into the psychological side of Richard’s hold on our imaginations?

I’m thinking maybe it’s time for my novel to make an appearance on Kindle, as soon as time allows…

A Minor Miracle

Hello friends… 2012 was a funny year of ups and downs, in which I was reminded that the only thing that swallows time faster than writing is the internet. You only have to glance at Facebook and four hours of your life vanishes! Well, not quite that bad, but… as a result, my blog has been neglected. I felt I spent the year floundering around not achieving very much. I did enjoy gawping at the Jubilee, and the Olympics, and the Paralympics, but I don’t think that really counts as achievement

Looking back, though, I realize I did quite a lot… Proof-read MIDSUMMER NIGHT for the paperback. Edited GRAIL OF THE  SUMMER STARS (Tor – due out in April). Made some jewellery, and some artwork inspired by my own novels, for Eastercon. Completely re-edited A TASTE OF BLOOD WINE and A DANCE IN BLOOD VELVET. Wrote a detailed outline for a fourth ‘Aetherial Tale’, which is on ice for the moment. Started some YA ideas, which haven’t gone very far yet, because… Well, parts of 2012 were not easy, and I crashed into a deep dark lake of despair for a few weeks. But then, a minor miracle happened!

In the 90s I wrote a vampire series for Pan Macmillan: A Taste of Blood Wine, A Dance in Blood Velvet, and the Dark Blood of Poppies. They remain my most popular novels, and I still get emails about them even after they’ve been out of print for years. I was so fed up with them being out of print, I had decided to reissue them myself. Then suddenly – along came the publisher Titan! They’ve contracted to republish the three books, AND to write a brand new one! I feel like a proper Writer again!

So that’s where I am. Editing the existing book three, The Dark Blood of Poppies, and working on the new one, The Dark Arts of Blood. What is it like, revisiting an old but much-loved fictional world? That sounds like a subject for next time.

A Taste of Blood Wine comes out in April.

Olympus 2012 - my con report

This year’s Eastercon was held in the Radisson Edwardian near Heathrow – a venue that’s hosted the convention several times before and is memorable for its quirky, rabbit-warren layout interspersed with huge glass atriums and bizarre water features. I’ll keep my report brief as no one needs the minutiae of our day-to-day con experience, but I will just note that we’ve taken to staying in the Marriott next door as we like its huge, comfortable rooms!

It was certainly a busy, bustling con. I think I saw everyone I was hoping to see, but often managed only one conversation with them! There was so much going on.

The consensus seems to be that Olympus was a highly successful event. Membership was completely sold out, and they weren’t even taking walk-ins on the day, which is very unusual. This was largely due to the big-name attraction of GRR Martin, but Tricia Sullivan deserves a special mention for being a superb SF Guest of Honour. She’s a fascinating speaker on panels, and a warm, friendly person to chat to in the bar too.

The art show was one of the best I’ve seen, stuffed with great art from such acclaimed talents as Anne Sudworth, Jim Burns and Chris Baker (Fangorn) along with many others. I like to take part in the art show, because it lends an extra dimension to the convention for me. I don’t want or expect the con to be all about hoping someone will remember I’m an author! (Actually, it’s many years since I naively thought cons should be like that). For Mike and me, it’s about getting together with like-minded friends and having fun. Chatting with other writers, having a business discussion with your agent, and signing the occasional book are all bonuses, and pretty great ones.

Oh, and going to panels! The programme was amazing, almost too big – there were at least five different things going on at all times, making it difficult to cherry-pick what you most wanted to see. Mike doesn’t go to panels at all, preferring to wander about chatting and book-browsing, but I don’t feel I’ve properly been at the con unless I catch at least a few events. On the Saturday I made it to five panels (plus a signing) which was pretty good going. In the main convention hall, the ops had rigged up cameras and a big screen, so everyone had a great view of the panels, which were recorded for later viewing on the net. Great for catching up on anything you missed!

An interesting and welcome theme is taking shape, that of Gender Parity.

I blogged a while ago about the fact that while female authors were publishing very nearly as many books as males, we were getting only half the attention, review-wise – sometimes as little as a tenth of the attention, in SF publications. Now there’s a big push to get male and female authors/ editors/ academics/ fans and so on equally represented in all spheres, not least on panel discussions.

I heard a few of the inevitable moans, ‘What if brilliant male panellists are overlooked in favour of mediocre females?’ >>SIGH<<. It should hardly need pointing out that for countless years – not just on con panels, but in all walks of life! – brilliant women may well have been overlooked in favour of mediocre men, and yet this was taken for granted. Heaven forfend we should challenge the notion!

I don’t wish to get on a soapbox about this, but it seems to me it’s a never-ending battle for women to be seen as equal to men, even in the most supposedly civilised parts of the world. We make progress, then we slide back as society gets antsy and tries to push us back into our ‘place’. It’s like running up a down escalator. Is this going to be The Forever War?

I seem to have got right off the subject here but to sum up, a) we had a great con and b) I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been invited to be Fantasy Guest of Honour at next year’s Eastercon, Eight Squared in Bradford 2013. The others Guests will be Walter Jon Willliams (SF GoH), Anne Sudworth (Artist GoH) and Edward James (Fan GoH). More info soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve posted some links and some fun photos on my Facebook wall, There’s one of Tricia Sullivan, Aliette de Bodard and Justina Robson that I love. Three of our best contemporary writers, folks!

Still Around!

Well, it’s been a while since I blogged, mainly because Life got in the way! And I feel my blog needs a revamp, which I simply haven’t got time to do just yet. However, as a couple of people have visited to ask questions I thought it was a good time to drop in and say ‘hi’!

In answer to the main question, yes, I do intend to bring out at least some of my backlist in e-book format. The first title will be A TASTE OF BLOOD WINE, to be followed by A DANCE IN BLOOD VELVET and THE DARK BLOOD OF POPPIES. I don’t know whether I’ll make my entire backlist available, because it’s a lengthy process, but I’ll certainly do the most popular ones – that is, my Blood Wine vampire series!

Meanwhile, if you’d like to chat I can most often be found on Facebook. See you there.

Last Days of Summer

YIPPEE! I’ve finally finished Book 3 of my Aetherial Tales series, THE GRAIL OF THE  SUMMER STARS. When I say finished, I mean in a fit state for my editor to read. Of course there’ll be editorial work to do yet. I’ve reached that stage that I guess most authors reach – where you’re so close to the work, you just can’t see what’s wrong or right any more! I feel pretty happy with it, at least for now. Although it’s a standalone story again, there are connections with the first two, Elfland and Midsummer Night – including the conclusion of a story-arc that’s been simmering in the background of all three novels. That was a development I hadn’t planned or expected, so it came as a pleasant surprise!

Meanwhile, I’m basking in the relief of getting the ms finished. Now is the time to catch up on all those pesky chores like tax, updating my website, cleaning the house, brainstorming some new book ideas and so on.

Really enjoyed the Glastonbury Festival for the Fantastic in Literature on 3rd September. Some really interesting talks were given on esoteric subjects, and the event had a very intimate, friendly feel. As my GoH spot, I did a reading from Midsummer Night featuring my 60-something character Dame Juliana Flagg, which prompted an interesting discussion of ageism in fantasy and SF. Liz Williams interviewed me, and the audience were very chatty and interactive so we had a very enjoyable conversation.

As I’ve written vampire novels, the comments turned to the inevitable subject of ‘Twilight’ etc, a body of work that seems to come in for adulation and contempt in equal measure. Now I haven’t read the books, and in fact had only seen the first film the week before and found it not as bad as I was expecting. The character of Edward seemed to come in for particular flak (for being an over-idealised, vegetarian vampire I think!) and I found myself in the odd position of saying a few words in his defence. I think that the idea of a character who is unfeasibly good-looking, utterly devoted to his girl, beset with desire for her yet able to practise gentlemanly, iron self-restraint acts as an antidote to the sort of boy that teenage girls may meet in real life – spotty, immature, wanting to hump them like a dog one moment and ignoring them the next. I think that’s what Edward is, a much-needed antidote to reality.

And this thought brought me round to my own work again. I remarked that I loathe reading about sex and relationships in fiction where the genders aren’t equal, where the man has all the fun and the woman has a horrible time, or is left feeling used, abused, dishonoured. Yes, I know this sort of thing can and does occur in real life. But I have always tried to write a different vision, a better world in which the sexes are equal and there is mutual passion, mutual enjoyment. This state of affairs is increasingly achievable in the real world and I will always promote this in my writing (as opposed to the misogynistic/ porn version of the world that’s regrettably still so prevalent). Appropriately to Glastonbury, we discussed the pagan sensibility that views male and female as equal: equally sacred, equally sensual, equally valuable and so on. We desperately need to strike this wise middle path between the ‘holy virgin or whore’, absurd view of women that still refuses to die. And writers are in a good place to do that. I will always keep trying, anyway.

Thanks to Liz Williams for organising a wonderful conference.

A Date for your Literary Diary

Well, this isn’t quite the blog I was going to write as the week’s been full of shocking news. Events in Norway so terrible I can’t find words to comment. And poor Amy Winehouse. I can’t say I was a fan because she seemed to epitomise the unfortunate image that it’s cool to be wrecked and out of control all the time. However, there’s no question she had the most stupendous natural voice and stage presence. She also epitomised the hope that someone heart-breakingly ill could turn around and recover and go on to have a happy healthy life and amazing career. But it wasn’t to be and that’s unbearably sad.

It’s all very well for people to sneer at addicts and alcoholics (I suppose I’m thinking of my parents, the older generation) but who is perfect? For example, if I’m feeling stressed, one drink may make me feel better, but two will give me a bad head. So I stop… at one and a half. That makes me lucky, not virtuous. But what if you need 20 drinks, or more, to make the pain go away? With perfect timing our Tai Chi teacher read out the following that a friend had sent him by email…

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can face the world without lies and deceit,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

Then, my friend, you are probably your family dog!

- “Author Unknown"


Artists who died young such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, it goes without saying, have become legendary. However, the premature deaths of musicians that hit me personally so hard that I can never shake them off are those of Sandy Denny and Kirsty McColl. Both wonderful singers who died too soon as a result of accidents. Denny in 1978 apparently from a head injury following a fall downstairs – I can still remember my shock when I heard the news because her music had been part of my life for only a few years and I couldn’t believe she was gone so soon. I remember repeatedly waking up that night with her name going through my head like a chant.


The one loss I truly can’t get over and never will was that of Kirsty MacColl. I loved her. The woman was an utter genius. She was killed by a speedboat while scuba diving in Mexico on 18th December 2000. My father had died, aged 84, on the 8th and I could not get over the fact that she was 41 yet lived only ten days longer than my dad. I miss my dad, of course, but eleven years on I’m still heart-broken about Kirsty. Why did such a horrible freak accident have to happen to her? Why her? It took me years to listen to her music again. Even now I can’t listen to her without getting choked up. I don’t think I’ve even ever told anyone this before but I’m certain there are thousands out there who feel the same, that she was unique and wonderful and still so, so missed.


What I actually set out to say was that, first, I’m not blogging much at present because I now have a deadline and I MUST finish The Grail of the Summer Stars within the next few weeks. Second, to mention THE GLASTONBURY CONFERENCE FOR THE FANTASTIC IN LITERATURE. Saturday 3rd September 2011 at The Grail Centre, 24 Chilkwell Street, Glastonbury. Speakers include Dr Liz Williams, Dr Kari Maund, Paul Weston, and members of The Write Fantastic. More info at

Oh, and the Guest of Honour is me!

First off, I have to share my exciting news – Booklist Online (American Library Association) has included Midsummer Night in its TOP TEN SF & FANTASY NOVELS for 2011. Here’s the link:

This has made my editor at Tor very happy, as he has two authors in the Top Ten!

Secondly, a quick heads-up that this Saturday, 28th May, The Write Fantastic are hosting a literary event at the Jacqueline du Pré Building, St Hilda’s College, Oxford… Lots of fabulous authors are guesting so do get there if you can. More info here…

Lastly and briefly, the rest of my thoughts on Eastercon…


The main theme of the con was military SF. As a counter-point to this, there was a sub-theme in the form of a series of panels about women in SF – and the imbalance of attention given to male and female SF writers. Ian Sales had produced an impressive list of 150 well-known, highly-regarded female SF authors (or slightly fewer, as he’d accidentally put at least one name twice) – a handy reminder that there are many of them out there, and every bit as worthy of critical attention as the boys. Taking part in one of these panels, I’d unearthed some disturbing statistics compiled from several sources on the web. These apply pretty equally to literature in general as well as SF/ fantasy in particular. Boiling it down to basics, books are published more or less half and half by men and women – just over 50% for men, just under for women. And yet, when it comes to book reviews, male writers get (roughly) two thirds of all reviews, women only one third or less. Yes, male writers are getting twice the attention given to females. (In some SF magazines the figures were particularly biased – as few as one in ten books reviewed were written by women!).

While I don’t want to get bogged down in statistical detail, to me this shows that the battle for genuine, taken-for-granted equality is never completely won. It has to be fought and refought constantly. Seems that the ingrained mindset that men’s work is more important than women’s work, merely because they are male, will be with us for a depressingly long time yet.

I suppose it could be worse. If only one in ten books published was by a woman, and only one in a hundred getting reviewed, that really would be rubbish. We’ll no doubt be talking about this some more in Oxford on Saturday – and covering ageism too!

Knit your own what?

Ha ha ha. That’s made my day! This morning I made my pilgrimage to Costa Coffee and there was a lady and two gents sitting with all the ‘Knit Your Own Royal Wedding’ figures displayed on their table! I had to stop and admire them – wish I’d had my camera. They were hilarious, especially the knitted Archbishop of Canterbury. The woman who’d knitted them had made a beautiful job of them. She complained, though, that her grandson kept posing the corgi with its leg cocked against the Queen figure!

Just so funny. I giggled all the way home.

PS. For the benefit of US readers, KYORW has become a surprise best-selling craft book after being featured in the daily newspapers... the results are very comical. I'm sure there's plenty about it online. I was so startled, tho, to see the woolly figures in real life!