Let Sleeping Gods Lie – Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond

TheWokenGods-300dpiIt pains me to concede that Woken Gods is not quite the novel I’d hoped. I loved the premise, and thoroughly enjoyed parts of it, but I also had nagging doubts that I found difficult to shake. The basis of the novel is simple. Ancient Gods have woken, and they walk the Earth.

Brilliant and audacious, maybe, but I don’t think the novel had enough meat to cover bones this size. I think the problem stems from Woken Gods being a YA novel; heavily plot driven, with teenage angst and romance thrown in. Against a backdrop of all known deities stalking the Earth, these themes feel underpowered. I would like to have seen a much weightier tome. A brick, like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. The reality of Gods walking the Earth would fundamentally alter every facet of human existence. It’s ramifications would run deep, yet in this novel the surface is barely scratched.

We join the story five years after the gods have woken. This gives the peculiar feeling that you’re reading book 2. An experience I’ve not had before. The gods woke, threatened to take over the world, but thanks to a shadowy organisation, ‘The Society of the Sun’, they have been kept in check. This was (apparently) due to an audacious capture and slaying of a god. Realising they too were mortal, the gods started playing nice. I immediately felt like I was playing catch up. Despite being sure this was book one in the series, so heavy was the exposition explaining what i missed, I succumbed to my doubts and searched the Internet to check it wasn’t a second novel.

To trim down the deific interactions only the trickster gods wish to have prolonged contact with the world. This has the effect of paring down the overwhelming number of gods Bond has to deal with, whilst leaving her the cool ones to play with. Some are well known, Hermes, Loki and Set, others less so, Legba and Enki. It is the less notorious gods that Bond focuses on, and the book contains some interesting and little known mythology. This is the first of the novel’s good points.

But it is also where I feel the novel falls down. If the Gods walk the Earth, where is God? And why does no one mention him? Or JC, Allah, Ganesha, Shiva and Vishnu for that matter. Why hasn’t Ravanna poked his heads in? The implications for modern religion are obviously huge, but they are ignored, undermining the novel’s central premise. This is why I would like to have seen a much meatier novel.

Putting that aside, what’s the story like? It’s strong, with some great set pieces and a pleasing prophecy twist (where we all think one thing is going to happen, but something else does). There are some great shadowy villains and nothing creates excitement like gods double crossing each other. The Society of the Sun have a store of religious relics, and Bond uses them bring magic into the novel in an inventive way. (If you like this sort of thing be sure to check out Polly Shulman’s ‘New York Circulating Material Repository‘ books).

Woken Gods’ teen-romance is weak, but that other stalwart of YA fiction, the parental battle, comes off in spades. Despite the unusual backdrop, the relationship between Kyra Locke and her parents feels very real. A father absent through work and a mother missing due to illness means Kyra faces her challenges alone. Beneath her confident tough exterior is a conflicted girl lacking love and support. Bond handles it very well.

The novel ends on a high. It’s open ended, and has the promise of interesting times ahead. There’s a hint that I might be in luck on the religious ramifications side in the next novel, and the promise of a whole heap of action. Whilst not completely convinced by everything in Woken Gods, there was more than enough to maintain my interest. Gwenda Bond has conjured a marvellous premise for a an extend run of novels, and despite my reservations, it’s the first time I’ve ever been tempted to generate some fan fiction. In reality I’ll end up leaving it to the professionals, and I’m intrigued to see where Gwenda takes things next.

Many thanks to Caroline at Strange Chemistry for sending me a copy this book. Here is Gwenda talking to John Scalzi about Woken Gods on his blog, Whatever.

Just Like That – Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone

foolingI have to confess that on starting this book I had the wrong end of the stick. I had thought it was a novel based around the life of young magician; a book not unlike Marius Brill’s excellent ‘How to Forget’, a book I loved.

It started promisingly; our hero is at an international magic competition, where he vies to become magic’s Olympic champion. He fails in a humiliating fashion, returns home, tail between his legs, and gives up magic forever. After taking a position in a physics lab, he gradually finds himself drawn back into a murky world of sleight of hand and three card monte.

The more I read, the more dissatisfied I became. The story didn’t seem to be moving very fast and each chapter felt more like factual description of a facet of the magic world. I read the back of the book, ‘Magic/Psychology’. I read the blurb, ‘Stone reveals the principles and history of some of the greatest tricks ever performed’.

Oh. It IS a factual description of the magical world. Non fiction, not fiction! With this rather important realisation made, I could settle down and really enjoy the book.

Performing magic puts you in the awkward position of having to deceive the very people whose approval you seek to win.’

Fooling Houdini is more than just descriptions and explanations of well-worn tricks. There is lots of insightful information about the psychology of magic, in respect to both performers and audience. Stone suggests that the draw of magic is that it allows us to feel like children again. The idea that the suspension of natural laws makes us question the world around us is a powerful one. We are filled with wonder at the unknown. Magic is a deception that rejuvenates us.

Stone is an articulate companion; an obsessive but self-aware, geeky practitioner of sleight of hand. His self-effacing prose style is engaging. The book is interesting throughout, peppered with information that elevates it towards something special. In magic we find more than a little of what makes the world tick.

I particularly enjoyed the sections about magic and science. Once, the two disciplines went hand in hand, but now they make uneasy bedfellows. Stone shows how one can inform the other. There is some simple yet elegant maths, that whilst counterintuitive make perfect sense. It will ensure that you never look at a deck of cards the same way again. This, combined with some touching portraits of the art’s biggest characters, makes Fooling Houdini a very good read. You’ll like this. A lot.

Many Thanks to the team at Windmill Books for sending me a copy of this book. 

Alive as a Dodo – The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

This review is part of the Hodderscape Review Project. The first of twelve.

eyreI remember vividly reading a review of The Eyre Affair in the Times’ book section, one Saturday over ten years ago. It sounded like nothing I’d ever read. It sounded like something I had to read. By the end of that weekend I had tracked down a copy. By the end of that week, I’d finished it.

It was (as my son had to say in last year’s nativity) astounding, astonishing, amazing. I loved it from start to finish. With its alternate universe, ridiculous names and time-bending structure it was fresh, original and very, very funny. It was also divisive. A friend of mine, read the same review, made the same purchase, but hated the book. Couldn’t understand it, didn’t see the point, couldn’t stand the stupid names. I haven’t seen him since 2002.

Much like The Princess Bride, you either get The Eyre Affair or you don’t. I have a theory that people who don’t like the Princess Bride, probably aren’t going to be worth knowing, and whilst I wouldn’t quite make liking The Eyre Affair a criteria for friendship, if you didn’t, I’d view you with deep suspicion.

So ten years on. There are now 7 Thursday Next novels, and Fforde has written books for at least 3 other series. The Eyre Affair propelled him to literary success and rightly so, but how had his original stood the test of time?

Fforde’s decision to set the novel in an alternate 1985, has made the novel largely future proof. By setting the novel in the past, Fforde has avoided using pop culture references that would date. A good job, as the advent of the e-book and smartphones would have transformed the world in which the Literatecs live. Apart from a reference to flying toasters that won’t mean much to some readers, I didn’t notice any obsolete descriptions.

The novel is essentially a locked room mystery with added bells and whistles. It’s set in an alternate reality in which the dodo has been resurrected, England is at war with Russia and Wales is a communist republic. Literature is at the heart of society. Arcade machines quote Shakespeare and children collect author stickers like they’re Premiership footballers. As the book opens, the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen.

Dastardly criminal, Acheron Hades is the prime suspect, a man who doesn’t show up on cameras and who can convince police officers to turn their guns on themselves. Enter our hero Thursday Next, a literary detective and veteran of the Crimean War.

I found The Eyre Affair to be as entertaining as I’d remembered. Over successive novels Fforde has sometimes struggled to keep his ideas fresh. His world is quirky and clever, but some of its stock jokes can grate when overused. But in this book Fforde has the balance pretty much spot on. The central mystery is entertaining, the concept engaging and the setting fascinating, particularly if you are bibliophile like me. Thursday and her supporting cast have stood up well in the years since their creation, and the Eyre Affair remains one of the most innovative creations of modern speculative fiction.

Many thanks to Anne at Hodderscape for inviting me to join the review project.

When reading The Eyre Affair I used a new micro-blogging tool called Thought Streams. This is a new experiment for me and I’m not sure of the best way to utilise it, but if you do want to look at my Eyre Affair stream, click here.

A Gem to Draw Strength From – ‘The Amber Amulet’ by Craig Silvey

amberThe Amber Amulet is a slim but potent read. It’s a pleasing of blend of Graham Rawle and Michael Frayn. I could easily believe that it was by Rawle, such are the similarities in both prose and appearance. The narrator, a child, dwells in that space that Rawle chronicles so well, of not quite normal, but not outright weird. Then there is the artwork.  A collage of cuttings and photos that tell the story beyond the words. Again, the book lives in the spaces in-between; this time betwixt prose and graphic novel.

Liam McKenzie is the Masked Avenger, caped protector of Franklin Street.  The Masked Avenger draws his powers from hidden energy (potential energy) in precious rocks. He creeps about at night, looking to safeguard his neighbourhood. When the boy genius discovers that his neighbour is unhappy, his researches tell him that amber is the answer.  So after procuring the Amber Amulet, the Masked Avenger sets out to bring light to the wronged.

What follows is a heart-breaking tale of misapprehension and naivety that could only be produced by a child narrator. In this aspect that the novel resembles Michael Frayn’s prizewinning novel ‘Spies’.  Adult readers can spot what is happening, and Liam’s blissful innocence makes it all the more poignant.  ‘The Amber Amulet’ is quick read that takes considerably less than an hour to finish. It packs a powerful punch, and only the hardest of hearts will not be moved by Liam’s journey towards adulthood.  It’s a novel tinged with regret but filled with hope. It really is quite lovely; a gem to draw strength from.

Lost and Found by Tom Winter – Paperback Release

lost and foundIn January, I picked up a small unassuming proof sent to me by those lovely people at Corsair Books. I had no expectations about it whatsoever but found it to be a delight from start to finish. Lost and Found by Tom Winter is the very definition of bitter-sweet. It lays bare the futility of human existence, but manages to remain funny and life-affirming.

With summer now in full-swing the newly-released paperback edition of the book would make an excellent holiday read. If you’re not off on your hols it will make a damn fine read wherever you are. For my full review click here.

Corsair have invited me to put an extract of the book here on Quicksilver Reads (Robins Books, whatever!). To be honest the whole book is quotable gold, but I have chosen something from early on in the book. Chapter 2, with its immortal line about Croydon, made me realise that Lost and Found was something special. And indeed it is. A book that delivers on every level.


 

City of Dreaming Spires ‘The Bone Season’ by Samantha Shannon

bonseason‘Knowledge is dangerous…Once you know something, you can’t get rid of it. You have to carry it. Always.’

Whilst I was reading The Bone Season, the hype surrounding it hit the national press. At twenty-one Samantha Shannon is of an age that captures media interest. The book is published by Bloomsbury and contains magic, and so the inevitable question is asked, Will Shannon by the next JK Rowling? Bloomsbury have paid her a six-figure advance, so clearly they are hoping so. Considering the unique standing Rowling has in the literary world, it is an unfair comparison, and no doubt an unwanted burden.

But is there any justification for making it? Aside from superficial similarities, Bloomsbury, female, magic, I would say no. The Bone Season is an accomplished and compelling debut, but it is far cry from the early Dahlesque, wizards in pointy hats, Potter novels. This is no children’s book. It is much darker. Its blend of magic and dystopia, not to mention an alternate Oxford, make the Bone Season far more Pullman than Rowling. *

Though intrigued by the premise, I found the book awkward at first. Set in the near future (2059) but in an alternate universe (where magic became possible in 1859), the central protagonist, Paige is a powerful wielder of the aether. As a teenager, she is not yet fully aware of her abilities only that she is a dreamwalker, one of the rarest types of Clairvoyants.

The world is split into two types ‘amaurotics’ (people like you and me) who are in the majority and mistrustful of those who can interact with the aether. Of those who can, there are many different types (all beautifully laid out in a diagram at the front) which have weird and wonderful names such as cartomancer (who use cards to access the aether) and chiromancers (palms). The problem is with so many gradings and subtypes of ‘voyant’ it becomes confusing as to who can do what, and what significance (if any) that might have.

The government is backed by the organisation, Scion, designed to keep the minority voyants in check. In what is a standard dystopian device, they do this through use of a draconian police force. Counter to Scion, are the syndicates; gangs headed by crime-lords that run different areas of the city. Paige’s boss Jaxon Hall, is a mime-lord, an expert in voyants; a Fagin for the aethereal generation. Jaxon and his gang operate out of Seven Dials, in London, a wonderfully evocative place, even on your average weekday.  Shannon has constructed her world outwards from there. The dirty streets, oppressed masses and occasional bank of fog give the whole novel a Dickensian feel.

The action quickly moves to Oxford. A closed city and unbeknownst to the rest of the country a penal colony for voyants. Here the true masters of Scion are revealed. The Rephaim. An almost angel-like race (in aspect, rather than attitude), who can use aether for more effectively than humans. They use the voyants for their own nefarious purpose. Their grip on the nation is total, and they hold us in the utmost contempt. Headstrong Paige must learn to survive, but when her life is put in hands of the blood-consort, what chance does she have?

The novel’s success lies in its depth of the world-building. It is a little confusing at first, but Shannon has developed an intriguing and innovative setting. The magic used by the voyants and Rephraim is multi-layered.  The physical aspect that is required for many of the aether’s wielders is particularly interesting and gives the voyant’s magic depth and texture.  The real-world references are well placed. There are small historical extrapolations that make the alternate United Kingdom feel credible.  The novel’s politics and power is detailed and plausible with factions of Rephaim, voyants and amaurotics, all vying for supremacy and survival. There are factions within factions, and as the novel builds up a head of steam, the plays and counterplays are breathtaking.

The best dystopian fiction offers insight into the human condition, and The Bone Season does exactly this.  The ease of indoctrinating humans to become their own gaolers, and the selfishness of the individual are cleverly exposed. There is something Orwellian about the ordeal of the voyants.  The nature of trust is central to the novel. Paige has learned to rely only on herself, but in order to survive she must trust people who are close too her. But at what cost?

The Bone Season is a complex novel, with many layers, and a vast number of ideas. Almost too many at times. It offers much food for thought, whilst delivering excitement and intrigue. It is a fine rendition of a dystopian world, which will appeal to many fans of the genre.  By the end of the novel the central story is closed, but with many of its players still at large, the book is well positioned for a follow on. If the hype is anything to go by, the Bone Season is likely make a decent splash in the literary pond. It deserves to. It’s an original idea, well executed by a prodigious talent. I look forward to reading whatever comes next.

Many Thanks to at Bloomsbury for sending me an advance copy of this novel to review. 

*I was convinced that The Bone Season had been influenced by His Dark Materials, after all Shannon is lucky enough to be of an age to have grown up with Pullman’s novels.  I chanced upon a Tweet from Samantha saying that she had just finished The Northern Lights.  When I asked her about it, she confirmed that this was her first reading of the book, and that she hadn’t heard of Lyra’s Oxford before writing her own version of the spired city.  

Fairytales of New York – ‘The Grimm Legacy’ by Polly Shulman

grimmThe Grimm Legacy is a light younger-teen book, based on a simple but extremely pleasing premise. Objects from fairy tales exist. Not only do they exist, they are stored in a beautiful building in New York, where a library like system allows them to be borrowed. The idea is so elegant, it’s one of those you wished you’d thought of first, and so simple, you’re not quite sure why you didn’t. What follows is a a very pleasing story of magic and fairy dust.

The story is, in itself, slight. Somebody is stealing the items, and it is up to newly recruited Elizabeth to find out who. Together with some close friends she has to… Ok, you know what they have to do. What sets the novel apart from the field is the delightfully named New York Circulating Material Repository; an assortment of all things weird, wonderful and in the Grimm Collection, magical.

As in many fairy tales, the magic comes at a price. For a start, in order to borrow something you have to leave a deposit. This is not simple cash, but something far less tangible. Sense of humour, ear for music or childhood memories are all things that could be left for the duration of the loan. Shulman has great fun with the things her characters do give up, as well as examining the consequences of doing so.

Similarly, there is a wealth of source material to work with. When combined with the repository’s other fictional collections, the Wells Bequest (science fictional items) and the (brilliantly titled) Gibson Chrestomathy (computing) Shulman has given herself licence to plunder the most interesting artefacts from centuries of storytelling and use them to create fantastic new tales. This is particularly effective for the fairy tale elements; their gifts are often double edged and when utilised in 21st century Manhattan, can have some unexpected consequences.

You do have to be able to suspend your belief for the novel to work. The idea that real-life magic artefacts gave rise to the Grimm’s fairy stories isn’t too much of a stretch, but asking readers believe that Well’s Time Machine or shrink rays really exist pushes things a bit too far. Similarly, the idea that a lending library of incredibly powerful artefacts is safe in downtown Manhattan, could, for some, be hard to swallow. Shulman makes some effort to explain how they got there and why most of the collection’s guardians are children, but these explanations wouldn’t withstand serious probing.

But what sort of killjoy would want to do that? The Grimm Legacy is an imaginative reworking, and great fun to read. It’s well-written, with strong characters and snappy dialogue. The novel fizzes with the same storytelling energy as the original works from which it takes its inspiration. If you are looking for something a little different to read, you could do a lot worse than The

Stalk like an Egyptian ‘Weight of Souls’ by Bryony Pearce

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If I hadn’t gone to the launch event for Kim Curran’s ‘Control’ I would never have read this book. It was a double launch, and with two piles of books and two authors to walk past, I wasn’t going to only buy one was I? That would be rude.

Still, whilst the premise sounded interesting, I did rather think the book would end up dropping down the to-be-read pile, never to see the light of day. Why? Well, at the risk of sounding like an ageist sexist dinosaur, it looked a bit girly. Young female on cover…’most popular boy…worst enemy…school…truth or dare.’ Was this book really for me?

Then, as this was a launch the author did a reading. With chapter one Bryony Pearce blew me away. Firstly, she has an excellent reading voice. Put me in that position and I would have mumbled and slurred my words so badly, my car keys would be confiscated. Then there was the quality of Pearce’s writing. Gripping and exciting with a clear strong narrator. I wanted to know what happened next.

Taylor Oh is cursed. She sees dead people. Worse, they can see her. Only those with unfinished business remain in this world. Murder victims. It they touch Taylor they pass on a mark; an inky blot that will consume her unless she can pass it on to somebody else. That somebody else is the ghost’s killer.It’s a great premise backed up by some interesting Egyptian mythology that plagues Taylor’s family. Her mother had the same curse. When her arch-enemy turns up at school as a ghost Taylor must track down his killer. The only problem is he doesn’t know who it is. Justin is sure he wasn’t killed. Taylor has a limited time before the darkness comes to claim her. The race to find her enemy’s killer is on.

The story is well plotted and the characterisation very good. Taylor and the recently deceased Justin work very well together, and peculiarly, since one is a ghost, feel very believable. What I particularly liked is how Taylor is forced to withdraw from the real world in order to survive. Pearce handled it differently to most writers, who either conveniently ignore what might happen in real-life or approach it with bombast. Supernatural powers often take characters beyond the realms of the muggles in the story, and getting their homework done is rarely an issue.

With ghosts being barely discernible from the living. Taylor avoids going out. She doesn’t feel safe in a crowd. It only takes a reaching hand and her geas is renewed. So, if you are crossing London, hunting down wanted killers, how do you make sure your geography homework is handed in on time? How do you revise? Taylor’s curse makes her unpopular with parents and teachers alike. She is only trying to survive, but how do you explain to somebody that you see ghosts? Not a likely real-world scenario but Pearce deals with it in a real-world way. It gives the novel much of its strength and forms the spine of the relationship between Taylor and Justin. In life he was one of her tormentors but in death he finds new respect for the tenacious Taylor. In most books a relationship would ensue, but with one half of the pair dead and due to move onto the afterlife, how will the author handle the relationship?

The whodunnit thread of the book is a little thin. Not much detecting goes on in the novel, but the reveal is exciting, and leaves Taylor with an interesting moral dilemma. The Egyptian mythology dovetails well with the rest of the plot, and as the novel reaches its climax becomes downright spooky. Weight of Souls is a quality page turner with two strong central characters. It might not be my usual fare, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book works on its own, but there is definitely room for a sequel or two. London based supernatural crime-solving is popular at the moment, and on the strength of this, Bryony Pearce could spearhead its march across our bookstores.

Hunger Royale? ‘The Testing’ by Joelle Charbonneau

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With about a hundred pages of The Testing to go, I turned to my wife and said ‘This is pretty good, but it needs something extra, if it’s to be anything special.’ She gave a non committal, ‘I see,’ having read the book when it first plopped through the letterbox several months ago. She gave nothing away.  We said goodnight, and I carried on reading. And reading and reading. Right up to the books understated but thrilling conclusion.

I can’t quite put my finger on what turned the book from diverting story to compulsive page-turner, but I think it’s that Joelle Charbonneau sends the hooks of her story out slowly. You don’t notice how deep they’ve gone and once she reels you in there’s no escape. You’ve have no choice but to be pulled out of the water and flung on the barbie (or something).

On the face of it The Testing is merely a Hunger Games clone. Teenagers plucked from their home, forced to compete in a set of increasingly difficult and barbaric tasks. Yet whilst this novel doesn’t have the immediate visceral appeal of THG, I think it’s the better book. Firstly the world-building is more credible, but more important is the nature of the contest. In most of these types of book (including Battle Royale and THG), The state have a totalitarian grip. The contestants are pitted against one another as part of some macabre mechanism for holding the status quo. In this case, the children want to be signed up. It’s an honour. Success means a place at university. The rub is that the true nature of the games is mostly kept hidden from the rest of the population (in direct contrast to THG).

Further to that, whilst the applicants are pitted against one another, none of the tests demand direct combat between them, but the fewer contestants there are, the more chance there is of success.  Whilst killing an opponent isn’t the aim of The Testing, there are inducements for doing so. The process feeds into itself. The purpose of Testing is to determine whether the children have what it takes to be leaders. Ruthlessness might be considered a virtue, but psychopathy, probably not.

The backdrop to the story is, of course, post-apocalypse, and this adds further poignancy. The Testing is intended to create leaders who won’t make the same mistakes as their predecessors, but whether this is to kill less easily, or more readily is difficult to pinpoint. The world Charbonneau has created is by and large plausible. The Testing itself a little far fetched, but its existence within the world does make sense. For the contestants trust is a continual issue and it is on these shifting sands much of the novel’s tension is generated.

There is a female-male spine holding up the book, as is traditional for this type of fiction. Both characters are well drawn and their relationship believable. As the candidates near their goal, the plays and betrayals begin to bubble to the surface and shadowy factions show their hand. The final chapters are an utterly compelling meditation on the follies of man and our inability to learn from the past. The conclusion is quietly explosive, leaving things open for sequel. A sequel, which on the strength of this novel can’t come soon enough.

Kim Curran on Words with Friends

Many apologies for any formatting problems in this post. There is an ongoing problem between my ISP and WordPress, which means more often than not I can’t access it on my PC. Instead I’ve had to go via Evernote and my phone. 

Last week I attend my first ever book launch. From Twitter, I gathered these occasions are well worth attending. Not only do you get to meet lots of excited people, including the author, but also  there’s often cake. I was not disappointed. Not only were there TWO (count ’em) lovely authors, there was also plenty of iced comestible.

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An abundance of cakey comestible.

My main reason for undertaking this epic journey into the heart of London was to meet Kim Curran, the author of Shift, one of my favourite books. I must have been keen, because due to lack of childcare, I had to take my youngest son, Noah, with me.

So why was this? I’ve read lots of great books but rarely do I feel the need to meet the author. Kim about to start her reading.The answer is social media, and in particular Twitter.

Authors who use Twitter get varying degrees of stick for doing so, but it if used well it is clearly a valuable tool to promoting your book. I’ve followed Kim on Twitter since before I read Shift, and that small amount of interaction was enough to make me want to go to the effort of meeting her in person. 

One of the things that has struck me most whilst following Kim, is how much authors use it to talk to one another. Traditionally writing is seen as solitary pursuit. Yet sometimes my twitter feed is like being in a literary salon in fin de siècle Paris. Only with less absinthe and more lattes. 

I asked Kim about the social side of writing. This is what she had to say:

It’s often said that writing is a solitary pursuit: the image of the lone writer, with only his Gauloise and genius for company is a popular one. But the truth is that while writing the first draft of a book maybe something you do alone, actually publishing it is a collective act.

There are so many people involved in the process that I often wonder why it’s just my name on the cover. (It’s why my acknowledgment page can get so unruly.)

I’m beyond lucky in that I’ve managed to assemble a fantastic team of people around me. I have amazing beta readers, agents (book agent, foreign rights agent, film and tv agent), an editor, publisher and publicity manager.

Then there are the reviewers, bloggers and Twitter / Facebook followers who help spread the word about my books. I’m also blessed to have become friends with a group of staggeringly talented authors. A gang of us hang out together, go to each other’s launches, buy each other’s books. We even sometimes write together, when sitting in a room alone becomes too much.

Without this bunch of incredible people to listen to my fears, give me great advice and generally shove me back on the writing horse when I’ve been bucked off, I’m not sure I would have kept my sanity over the past couple of years. I certainly would have lost my sense of humour.

And finally there are my wonderful, wonderful readers, without whom the whole process would be utterly redundant. There’s a line in one of my favourite films, Before Sunrise, where one of the characters says ‘…if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me, but just this little space in between.’That’s how I feel about writing. The stories I create don’t exist with me or with the reader, but in that special space between..

And so it was at the book launch. The queue for signed books wasn’t just teenage girls and forty year old fathers, there was a stream of authors, many of whom I sort of recognised from their twitter photos. It was most discomforting. Like seeing someone you think you know, but can’t quite place them. Not just once, but with a dozen or so faces. Then it dawned on me, that if I did recognise them it was from Twitter, and I didn’t know them at all.

I must confess I found it daunting. I was in one of the heartlands of science fiction fantasy with a large number of the genre’s rising stars. My own shyness aside, one thing was abundantly clear. How pleased they all were for Kim and Bryony, their fellow pensmiths. Writing was not the solitary pursuit that it is reputed to be. For these writers it was a close community of friends.

Judging by the tweets that went on late into the night, the launch was celebrated with gusto. By this time I was tucked up in bed, Noah safely asleep, wishing that I had felt braver about saying hello. Never mind, there will be others; this may have been my first book launch, but the quality of the cake alone, ensures it won’t be the last!

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Crowd including other authors and overaged blogger (holding cute baby)

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Kim with Control, and cake!