That was the year that was…

As promised, a much-overdue round-up of some of the exciting things I’ve been up to this year, and what’s on the way in 2015…

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My first audio script The Prime of Deacon Brodie, originally released as download only, gained a shiny disc to itself as part of The Confessions of Dorian Gray – The Complete Series One & Two.
Lots of people seem to have liked “Brodie”, including this review from Third Eye Cinema.

February

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My genre-mashing Holmes story ‘The Strange Case of the Displaced Detective’ – which contains the unlikely line “do not tantalise the Tyrannosaurus, you will only give it indigestion” –  was published in Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes (edited by George Mann). I also took part in a reading at The Virginia Gallery for LGBT History Month.

March

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My second novel Werewolf Parallel was published by KelpiesTeen, alongside a new edition of Daemon Parallel.   Kirkus Reviews thought it “clever, creative and fun”, while Matt Cresswell  “figured out what the [Parallel] series reminded [him] of: a Scottish Neverwhere.” (click book titles for loads more reviews. Or go mad, buy a copy, and discover Cameron, Morgan and Eve’s adventures for yourself….?)

Launch reading

Launch events took place in Edinburgh at Riddle’s Court (image above by Chris Scott) and at Merchiston Castle School, while I spoke at Edinburgh City of Literature’s monthly salon on the joys of Young Adult Fiction (alongside author Keith Gray and agent Lindsey Fraser). I was especially happy – as a fan of audio – that both Parallel books gained a simultaneous audiobook release by What Noise Productions, available via bandcamp, audible, amazon and direct from What Noise themselves (click – here be Daemons. And Werewolves)

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An exclusive ‘Parallel Prelude’ short story set between the two novels – and illustrated by Mark Manleycan also still be heard for free and for nothing.

  April

A new experience for me: I was interviewed about Werewolf Parallel and YA fiction by none other than Phil Jupitus on BBC Radio Scotland’s The Culture Studio. Fellow KelpiesTeen author Lari Don narrowly avoided getting a bottle of water knocked over her, such was my enthusiasm for the topic at hand…

I also blogged for Scottish Book Trust on the challenges of writing a sequel.

May-September

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I took part in quite a few events over the spring and summer, including for Forthview Primary and for Kirstin Zhang’s Story Detectives at St Columba’s School. I took to the stage at CoastWords and at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (opposite horror/comedy writer Barry Hutchison), and ran workshops for a broad range of groups from Sixth Year students starting work on their Advanced Higher creative writing portfolios to a Primary 7 class taking part in the Green Pencil Awards.

I wrote a fantasy casting blog for the Author Allsorts – although I’m still waiting for someone to make that movie…

I was also pleased to meet up during the Fringe with writer/Big Finish producer Joe Lidster (to talk matters Dark and Shadowy – but more on that later…). We were joined for a drink by the very lovely and mad Katy Manning (Jo Grant in Doctor Who, and sometimes Iris Wildthyme too!)

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October

Out_There_Cover_270.270My story “Generations” was collected in a new anthology Out There (Freight Books, edited by Zoe Strachan). Great to appear alongside so many writers I admire, including Ali Smith, Damian Barr and Louise Welsh.

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10636295_953646237996200_4550022717866568332_n(1)More events, including Dundee Literary Festival – with the lively Lari Don, still dodging flying water bottles – and a panel discussion in North Lanarkshire on the topic of power and YA (again with Lari and joined by Gill Arbuthnott).

November-December

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Another confession for Dorian Gray – I was properly delighted to be asked back by showrunner Scott Handcock. My adventure ‘We Are Everywhere’ pits Dorian against a remorseless serial-killing stalker (played with sadistic grace by Blake Ritson. This picture of Blake and star Alex Vlahos seems to be the most popular thing I’ve posted since being lured onto tumblr…). Lots of lovely feedback via tumblr and twitter so far – @cesarges reckons “hands down, [We Are Everywhere] is one of my favorite episodes of not just the third series, but overall… A fine mix of poison and wine”-  and for the new series as a whole.

Finally, my essay ‘Sequels and Parallels: Seven Impossible or Contradictory Things to Believe when Writing Your Second Novel’ appeared in issue twelve of the British Fantasy Society Journal.

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COMING SOON!

Next year should, I hope, see at least four new pieces of writing released, in one form or another (he said mysteriously). So far announced – Dark Shadows: Panic.

Here’s how Big Finish and the Collinsport Historical Society reported the news. Casting and plot details to be revealed next year (hence the current, tells-you-nothing, placeholder cover).

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And if you’ve never heard of Dark Shadows, try to imagine a mad cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and early Doctor Who – shot as live in a tiny television studio in New York in the 1960s by fabulous actors: a soap opera serial featuring werewolves and ghosts and vampires and time travel and parallel universes and…

But that’s a story for another time.

The Story of Fester Cat by Paul Magrs

20893498Hello…?

Is this thing on…?

*blows away dust*

I’m reviving my neglected blog because I thought it would be a good idea to write a post summing up the projects I’ve been involved with this year, and also looking forward to what’s coming up next. Before that though, I want to say a few words about one of my favourite books of 2014: Paul Magrs’ The Story of Fester Cat.

 

Fester is a small black and white stray who adopts – and is adopted by – Paul and his partner Jeremy. The book is a memoir that covers the years he spends with them, told from Fester’s perspective. It flashes back to a time beforehand – when Fester skulked about with a richly-imagined crew of felines, including the fabulously ferocious (and hairy bollocked) Aunt Bessy – and continues, in some ways, into a life beyond…

 

I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Fester Cat. I put it on my e-reader, zoomed through it over the course of a weekend, and absolutely loved it. I cried unapologetically at the story of Fester’s garden – the den that Paul and Jeremy built together – and the image of Fester racing back to it at the end of his life. I cried again at the afterword in which Paul sums up, directly and honestly, what Fester meant to him. It’s a memoir that’s personal and funny, sad and shot through with loss. People and animals die, family and friends and work are often awkward or difficult. There are no simple solutions beyond the stories we tell ourselves, and the life we chose to try and lead.

 

There is a danger, I think, that a story about a pet cat could be like an anecdote about other people’s children: fascinating and touching to those that know them, but otherwise possibly a chore. This is absolutely not the case here. The Story of Fester Cat is never mawkish or manipulatively sentimental: this is not a romanticised narrative but a lively and lived-in one. It’s about the experience of knowing an animal, and how that changes you. It’s about the way you seek to understand its behaviour – the voice you imagine for it – and the way you deal with its loss. These are themes and experiences that I think lots of people understand, and relate to. More than that, this book also offers an insight into the life of two men living together in a long-term relationship, with all the pleasures and problems that entails, and I found that moving too. I’m not sure I’ve read much memoir or even fiction that touches on that and how it works. There should be more.

 

We are the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we see reflected in others.

 

So here’s to Fester Cat and his story.

 

Ungow!