Ahoy March! Surgery, The Ninth Rain, Mass Effect & Bats. Bats!

How did it get to be March? How did it get to be the middle of March, in fact? Timey wimey nonsense.

Actually, for me personally I will blame this particular space/time cock-up on the fact that I spent much of February recovering from surgery, and then the last bit of it launching a book (and having a birthday) which is a lot to fit into one month. Having surgery was interesting. I am, at heart, a coward, and I remain faintly stunned that I went through with it at all, and there were a few days afterwards, where Marty still had to help me in and out of bed, that I was convinced that I was in much more pain than was usual and it was all a bit outrageous. However, that proved to be me being overly dramatic and I must express my gratitude to Marty and my mum for looking after me, and all the lovely friends who sent me books and sweets and DVDs – what lovely people you are, I don’t deserve you.

signing

Me, signing like a boss, in my new favourite jumper.

Luckily, I was up and about in time for the launch of The Ninth Rain, which was handy because it was a brilliant night, with so many people in the queue at Forbidden Planet I suspected more timey-wimey shenanigans. Thank you again to everyone who came out to celebrate the publication of this epic fantasy with bats, bad-ass ladies and explosions, I had a completely amazing time and was very moved by all the support.

nnthrain_v9

So how’s it doing? Quite well, it seems, which is a lovely surprise. Everyone worries every time a book comes out, I suspect, but The Ninth Rain was quite a different beast from the Copper Cat trilogy, and a riskier undertaking in lots of ways. There have been some lovely reviews, and yesterday it popped up in a ‘best recent SF, Fantasy and Horror books’ round up in the Guardian, which you can see here. The word ‘eldritch’ is used! Hooray! If you have read it and enjoyed it, a review plonked up on goodreads or Amazon is always hugely appreciated – it does make a difference and helps get the book in potential reader’s faces. IN THEIR FACES.

catss

In other news, Den Patrick and I have stepped down from running Super Relaxed Fantasy Club. We have wrestled with the decision for a while now, but ultimately we are both horribly busy at the moment and we didn’t feel we could put in the time that SRFC deserved. The good news is that SRFC isn’t going anywhere: the running of the thing is being passed over as we speak, and you can expect monthly events of fantasy fun and booze to continue for the foreseeable future. We’re very proud of what we’ve built, and the little community of SRFC regulars should be very proud too. Watch out for updates on twitter, via @SRFantasyclub.

Mass-Effect-Andromeda

I will be spending late March with these awesome dudes. YESSSS.

So, March then. March will see me working furiously on The Bitter Twins, which is the sequel to The Ninth Rain, whilst also furiously playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, which I am ridiculously excited about. The original Mass Effect trilogy is my favourite piece of SF ever, and I can’t talk about it for any length of time without staring moodily out of windows, heroically holding back tears. If you don’t see me on social media much, this will be why.

See you on the other side, and remember, Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space…

My Pretend Workspace and the Desk of Doom

Thanks to a recent twitter conversation, there has been a small flurry of blog posts from writers talking about their writing spaces. So far Lou Morgan, Laura Lam, Andrew Reid and Stephen Aryan have shown us around the rather lovely places where they do the bulk of their writing work – I recommend going and having a look. There is something infinitely pleasing about a creative space, and the things they choose to fill it with.

The truth about my writing space is, I don’t have one. Or, more accurately, I take it with me. I have a (slightly battered) netbook and a (less than sane) number of notebooks, and they all get shoved in my enormous laptop backpack and dragged to a variety of cafes, libraries, and the sorts of pubs that open at 9am. I find it difficult to concentrate at home, you see. I prefer to be in an anonymous space, where the cat/the washing up/the xbox aren’t staring at me in attention-seeking tones of mute accusation (there are things living in the tea cups, Jennifer, and when are you going to finish that eighth playthrough of Mass Effect?). I like being out and about anyway, because strangers can be dead interesting. Anyone who follows my twitter feed knows that you get some fascinating characters in pubs at 9.30 in the morning.

But I do have a writing desk at home, in the tiny yellow room we call the Box Room, and I have written at it – mostly at weekends, when I’m feeling virtuous. Mainly though, it serves as a place of totems and charms, a place that I can exist in and think about stuff. It’s a tip most of the time, as are most places that are connected to me, but I have taken a few pictures of the main features for the curious, and will attempt to explain some of the mess.

nano certificate

 

Pictures are quite important to me. I use a lot of blu-tac. Here you can see my first ever Nanowrimo certificate for the book Bird and Tower, which was back in, I want to say, 2008? Bird and Tower was a children’s fantasy book, a sort of gender-reversed Rapunzel with some genetic engineering thrown in there. My other Nanowrimo certificates are above this one (for Ink for Thieves, Dead Zoo Shuffle and The Snake House I think) and I like to have them up there as a reminder that I am utterly capable of writing 50,000 words in a month. Sometimes you really need reminders like that. Below the certificate you can also see a postcard from my final year at art college – the project was about depicting weird memories from early childhood, and this one was about a boy who remembered feeding a giant slug in his back garden. To the right of that are some postcards from Spirited Away, one of my favourite films ever, and a quote I printed out from George R.R Martin about Fantasy being written in the language of dreams. You know the one.

the boys

I like action figures. And video games. These guys are some of my favourite characters, and when I’m struggling with something I like to ask, “What would Marcus Fenix do?” Well, blow the fucking shit out of everything, obviously. From left to right we have Thane from Mass Effect 2, Duncan from Dragon Age, Garrus from Mass Effect, Marcus Fenix from Gears of War, an armoured alligator with a sword, and down in front, The Chamberlain from The Dark Crystal. Beyond the D20’s you can also see one of my dad’s belt buckles, a shiny green eagle’s head.

fafhrd

This is probably one of the most important pictures in my writing space. It’s a portrait of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser from Mike Mignola’s comic, and I love it. There is so much I love about Fantasy in this picture – the darkness of it, the various belts and weapons, the overly confident poses. I always look at this and wonder what a version with Wydrin and Sebastian would look like. They would stand exactly the same way I think, only Wydrin would be smirking and Sebastian would probably look faintly long-suffering. The Copper Promise is a love letter to Fritz Leiber’s kind of sword and sorcery, and looking at this picture always reconnects me to that.

oathbreaker

Here you can just about see the hilt of my larping sword. I named it Oathkeeper, although when labelling the photo I called it Oathbreaker, so I think it has a bit of a dual personality. When I’m writing lots of action scenes it’s pleasant to be able to pick up a sword and swing it about a bit. It’s not as heavy as a real sword, obviously, and I’m in no danger of decapitating anyone, but it gets me in the mood anyway. Also on the wreckage of my desk, not pictured, is a real dagger (pointy, but not sharpened) called Frostling, after one of Wydrin’s claws. It is very cool.

pinboard

Just to demonstrate that some actual work does happen in this room, here is my pin board, currently covered in bits and pieces about the sequel to The Copper Promise. It isn’t attached to the wall because I like to carry it around the flat sometimes, so I can do planning in the living room or the bedroom (the Box Room is bloody freezing in the winter).

And finally, the cat. She normally hangs around in the Box Room until she decides that the things on my desk all look better on the floor, at which point she is hurriedly booted out the door with a few well aimed swear words. She does look quite cute in this picture though.

pyra

 

So what about you? Do you have a space where you work, and it is filled with lovely things? Blog it and tag me and let’s all be nosy. Oh, and infinite cookies of win to anyone who can name any of the unnamed toys and pictures…

Mass Effect: Take Out Those Hostiles! (SPOILERS for all 3 games)

Fai

I’ve clocked in a few more hours since my last update (er, about 6) so time to fill you in on how much of the universe Morrigan Shepard has saved so far.

 

Journal: I’ve been to Eden Prime, been assaulted by a beacon, made Kaidan look slightly bashful by saving his useless ass, and been Spectrefied. Filled with a new sense of universal responsibility, Shepard immediately stormed off to bum around some planets for a bit, consequently getting ambushed by a Thresher Maw and had to turn off someone’s life support (always fun). Finally remembering there’s a plot and stuff to be playing with, I zipped off to Artemis Tau and picked up the rather-more-girly-sounding-than-I-remembered Liara T’soni, and had my first proper brush with OH F’FUCKSAKE MAKO WHERE ARE YOU EVEN GOING?!

 

I also got Tali at some point. Did I mention that? I remember because I just had to sit through her telling me about her bloody pilgrimage in the engine room, which I punctuated with shouts of “Piss off you space fascist!” Tali is a bit of a fan favourite, a state of affairs I’ve never quite understood, and I have to admit I felt vindicated in the 3rd game where you see Quarian history through Geth eyes and realise what bastards they were. With this in mind, Tali’s insistence that they had to shut them down (i.e. kill them) before the problem got worse feels particularly callous, and if nothing else you realise that her character arc is a pretty good one after all (unless you manage to make her jump off a cliff in the 3rd game, which is mainly just hilarious). However, I have resolved to give Tali a chance this time round, and she is quite useful when it comes to making synthetics explode.

 

Right now I’m at the Zhu’s Hope colony on Feros, or as it’s otherwise known, Why Don’t You Ask Fai Dan About That? This is the quest that results in shooting both zombies and a giant plant anus, so obviously it’s one of my favourites, but I’d forgotten how annoying all the colonists were. All conversations go like this:

 

Shepard: So, that’s a nice hat. Tell me what you know about that hat.

Colonist: I don’t know really, you should ask Fai Dan. He knows more about it than me.

Shepard: Really? The hat on your head? Fai Dan knows more about the hat on your head?

Colonist: Yeah, ask Fai Dan.

Shepard: I have a fucking gun right here you know.

Colonist: ….

Shepard: I should go.

 

BUT, I get to shoot them all later so it’s fine.

 

Observations:

I have missed all the random shouting your team mates do in the first game. Really, it’s not the same without Garrus bellowing “ENEMIES EVERYWHERE!” in your ear every five seconds.

 

Favourite Shepard line so far: “Big stupid jellyfish!” I’m fairly sure that’s xenophobic, Sheps, but it made me chuckle.

 

The Krogan seem faster in the first game, and regenerate health at a terrifying rate. They also seem very keen on running right at you, causing Shepard to shriek heroically “Argh, get it off me, get it off me!”

 

Mass Effect: In the middle of some… calibrations

If you’ve read this blog at all previously you will know that I love Mass Effect. You will probably also know that I’ve dedicated an alarming number of hours to it already, and you may be thinking, “Look, for chrissake Jennifer, what are you on about? Do we have to have an intervention again? Was the song we wrote* about your Dragon Age obsession a waste of everyone’s time?”

But, yes, I have decided to play Mass Effect again, starting from the very beginning. Yes I have. And I have decided this time round to blog about it. Why? Well, because I have a lot on at the moment…

(and here I can sense you getting quite purple in the face and narrowing your lips at me, because obviously this is a prime reason not to get involved in the best of all Space Opera RPGs, but please, my slightly goblin-faced friend, let me finish…)

 

 …and I find Mass Effect, with all its moral conundrums and shooting people in the face to be the most marvellous stress relief. At the moment my day looks something like this: editing and revisions in the morning, day job in the afternoon, editing and revisions in the evening, collapse in front of tumblr and drool whilst making distant whale noises. What I thought was, instead of the drooling and not achieving much bit, I could go back and explore one of my favourite and most beloved things of all time, with a mind to writing the occasional blog post about it; a little chat about the worldbuilding maybe, about the complex relationships and the building of tension, as well as the occasional gratuitous bit of Garrus worship. Let’s face it, if anything deserves to be pored over and adored, it’s Mass Effect.

 

 So here she is, Morrigan Shepard (named for that wily witch of the wilds from Dragon Age: Origins)

Morriganshep

 

Initially I was tempted to try and make her look like David Bowie (there is just something about the “short blonde hair” preset that invites this) but in the end I went for quite a severe, bad-ass look. As is traditional, I lamented over the weird choices of lipstick – neon pink, kebab shop red and, um, black – and faffed over the haircut. I chose (for possibly the first time, I can’t remember) to make her a War Hero and a Spacer, and class-wise I’ve gone for Vanguard. Technically speaking I should have gone for Engineer because that’s pretty much the only one I’ve never played, but GAWD it sounds boring. I just can’t get behind “trained in omni tools and tech blah blah oh Christ who cares…”

Journal: Have played up until the point where Shepard lands on the Citadel for the first time. Hellooo space utopia!

Impressions:

I have entirely forgotten how to take cover: Kaidan got shot quite a few times before I figured this out.

I really, really miss being able to roll into cover.

The black lipstick actually looks rather kick ass in cut scenes, particularly when Shepard is wearing a helmet.

I went to the loading bay and tried to shoot the Mako but it wouldn’t let me. Damn it. 

 

*May not have actually happened.