Wordy Wednesday with Alasdair Stuart

Good afternoon readers! Are you bored of the EU Referendum talk? of course you are - why not settle back with a cup of your favourite beverage and get to know my author of the week, Alasadair Stuart.

Tell us about yourself Alasdair, and tell us about your books, what genre do you write?

I grew up on the Isle of Man which is a little scrap of land halfway between England and Ireland. Culturally that meant I was sort of half and half. It also gave me a rich sense of knowing how to make my own fun. My friends were all the same but where one made a mountain board and another experimented, briefly, with homemade napalm.

He’s fine by the way
I watched out the video store and was at the cinema every week.
I dove into stories and realized I wanted to write them as well as read them. So, I went to University, discovered that landmasses wider than 30 miles are a thing and started writing.
It took a long time, and still is, but it’s worked out pretty well. I work regularly as an RPG designer and wrote two of the Doctor Who incarnation sourcebooks, which was really good fun. I also write lots of pop culture journalism, most recently for Tor and Fox Spirit Books. I’m just starting to get back into fiction too.
My big job though is as the host of Pseudopod, a weekly horror fiction podcast I’ve hosted for nine years. I love that, and I love the company too, which also produces an SF show called Escape Pod, a fantasy show called Podcastle, a YA show called Cast of Wonders and a quarterly magazine called Mothership Zeta. I actually bought the company a couple of years ago too, so my fiancé and I have been getting it into shape. Its fun, and HARD and going pretty well.

Do you have another job or are you a full time author?
Right now I’m full time which is always nice when it happens and the projects line up like that. Shortly I’ll probably be looking for something part time to bring a little extra money in and that’s a system that works well for me. I’ve worked as an office cleaner, a receptionist, an office admin, a comic store manager and a few other things and all of them have been fun. But this is what I love.

When did you start writing?
When I was 10 I wrote a story about a large, friendly yellow dog. That was it, I was doomed.

I spent my teens teaching myself how to write fiction, and, slowly, realizing I needed to NOT WRITE IN BLOCK CAPITALS. Then I branched out into non fiction, and concentrated on that for a little while. Then RPG writing and podcasting came on stream and now, fiction’s coming back on as well. So for close to three decades I’ve been writing various things.

What 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
-Seeing my fiancé, Marguerite, at the end of the day. She’s the love of my life: )

The others vary day by day but right now the two that always work are:

-This remix of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy theme and Journey of the Sorceror, the original music. I love this piece of music but this version is especially great.

-The line ‘Hey goons, thugs and bosses! Guess what? I BROUGHT COLOSSUS!’ in the Deadpool rap from the recent movie.

I grew up around a lot of comedy of a lot of different types and I find a lot of stuff very funny. It does change but those are the ones right now.

Do you have any pets?
No, although we are looking seriously at both a dog and a cat in the near future

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
Oh I have a bunch. Henry Rollins’ spoken word work was a huge influence on me. Also Warren Ellis, especially with Transmetropolitan and Matt Wallace with the Slingers and Sin Du Jour series.

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
A good spread actually:

-The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I’m a massive foodie and very enthusiastic amateur cook and Pollan’s take on food fascinates me. He wraps it up in history and economics and speaks with the clarity of an author who has clearly thought a huge amount about each word. His Netflix series, Cooked, is pretty much a must see.

-Donnybrook by Frank Bill. A collection of monstrously awful people come together at the Donnybrook, an annual and massively illegal bareknuckle fighting tournament to settle their differences. Southern gothic with a rich vein of western to it. Beautiful language, horrible characters, both compelling.

-Afterlife by Maxximillian Dafoe. Maxximillian does these wonderful, vined, complex stories about not-quite LA and not quite now that trip you up in the best way. Mollyville, her last novel, is haunting in the same way Wild Palms or Raymond Carver is. Afterlife, which I’m most of the way through, is no exception.

-The X-Files Season 10 Volume 3-I’m an avid comics reader (And former storeowner, occasional write and frequent journalist in the field) and I’m happily chewing my way through the comic version of season 10 right now. It’s much more in line with the original show than the relaunch season was and so far way more fun.

Where do you do most of your writing?
At home in my office for the most part. However, three times a week or so I try and get out of the house and write for a couple of hours in a local coffee shop. I live in Milton Keynes and there’s a brilliant coffee shop/juice bar on the station called Peel. That’s my usual spot. Although sometimes I’ll push through to the 24 hour Starbucks nearby when I need a fix or to remind myself what Californian coffee shops look like.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
My first novel, which like most first novels is going to live in a trunk forever, featured a journalist who was gloriously peppery. It wasn’t that he was a bad guy or anything, he was just a devious little sod who didn’t let little things like technically breaking the law a bit get in the way of a story. I loved writing him and while the novel may never see the light of day he probably will again.

What is your favourite biscuit?
Hovis digestives. Delicious, great with cheese and apple and they were the first snack Marguerite and I ever shared. (I approve this choice)

Tea or Coffee?
Both! Occasionally at the same time! Coffee during the day, tea in the afternoon and evening. And water, so much water. Seriously, my fiancé is Californian and she firmly believes England as a country would become much nicer overnight if everyone actually hydrated.

And…the weather improved but hey…babysteps.

In the film of your life who would play you? (why)
Dara O’Brian or Henry Rollins. O’Brian because we share a similar hairline and avuncular widebeam Celtic enthusiasm. Rollins because he’s one of the reasons I made it out of my adolescence alive and I get my work ethic, love of doing things and eloquence from him.

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a potato and a sloth...could you get a lazier creature? (my soul mate)
An avocado and a bear. So when the bear shed its winter coat, we’d have unlimited (but maybe slightly furry) avocado.

And now some extra goodies and links to Alasdair's various online personas and works!

Alasdair writes for Tor.com, MCM Buzz and Fox Spirit.


MCM Buzz

Fox Spirit

He has a book out through Fox Spirit collecting the early essays from Pseudopod

The Pseudopod Tapes

And he also writes tabletop RPG games, most recently for the Doctor Who game

6TH Doctor Sourcebook

10th Doctor Sourcebook

Alasdair's blog which is food, exercise and enthusiasm about pop culture is at alasdairstuart.com

And he tweets at @AlasdairStuart

As always, come chat on Twitter or Facebook - my Facebook page likes your likes :-)


Fancy Dress for Camp Bestival

Out of this world! The theme for Camp Bestival this year is Space. I'm sort of hoping that Tim Peake will surprise us all in the big top, but whether he does or not, the theme leads to some cool fancy dress ideas.

Every Year Camp Bestival has a theme and there is a fancy dress day, It is one of my favourite bits of the festival. To see all the costumes, some fabulously homemade, some bought, and some very basic, but everyone having the best fun, being someone else for a day.

In previous years I have dressed as Cinderella in rags (with DD as a mouse for the Fairy tales theme), as a horse (with DD as a rider, for the Olympics theme), as a ring master (with DD as a tiger, for the circus theme), as a Victorian explorer, complete with pith helmet and net (with DD as a butterfly, for the Wild theme). This year DD and I are thinking of Star Wars as our theme, with her opting for an R2D2 dress while I'm trying to decide between a Storm Trooper Morphsuit (remember when I fell in love with Morphsuits?) or Captain Phasma.

But Space has a lot of possibilities, from proper space exploration, NASA and ESA, there are so many movies, books and cartoons. Alien, The Martian, Predator, Superman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvin the Martian or The Jetsons and let us not forget Star Trek or Dr Who.

I love fancy dress so much at festivals that I don't confine it just to the Saturday 'Fancy Dress Day,. I plan each day with some sort of 'out of the ordinary' atire. I have a ballgown for pointlessly swanning about the fields, and so this year I'm trying to think of ways to space theme it (it is black - so maybe stars and planets on it? a galaxy?)

I have also bought a couple of space themed T shirts, I'm also looking at gold boots for no reason other than they look amazing. Do I also need a space suit? A space helmet? Maybe I do!

I always like to get some themed accessories too, things like handbags, shoes, umbrellas, jewellery.

If you are going to be at Camp Bestival will you be joining in with fancy dress? if you need some ideas, check out my pinterest board.


I want my country back

Never mind the country. I have reached breaking point. I am full. I see posters stating that 'I want my country back' and 'Vote leave' everywhere I go. I see 'proud to be British' posters and 'no room' signs. I am full up with them.

I would like my country back too. But the country I know was one that learned from it's brutal beginnings where we invaded and enslaved cultures, one that realised that having a commonwealth meant responsibility as well as power. A country that saw joining a club to stop wars was a wise move. A country that could see that other cultures add to a whole to enrich it not destroy it. A tiny island that knew that bluff and bluster and xenophobia won't help us, it will make up look silly and aggressive like a yapping lap dog.

Copyright: dnkstudio / 123RF Stock Photo

I want my friendly country back, the one that can laugh at itself when we meet a foreigner who speaks perfect English while we wallow in shouting and pointing. I want the country back, the one that welcomes the lost and the scared. A country that is happy to help and knows that in the long run it's better to be friends than enemies. A country of people bright enough to see that bigger is better, that joining the right people is the right thing.

But what of those long weeks of strikes, the misery, the racism, the 'no dogs, no Irish, no blacks' signs? The days before statutory annual holidays from work? The piles of rubbish in the streets? The army manning fire engines? The power cuts? The 'women don't need as much pay as men because they won't be the main breadwinner'? Do I want that country back too? And do I want to return to a time with no free travel around so many countries right on my doorstep?

Yes, that's me.
I think that all of us, all of the people who 'want our country back' are fooling ourselves. We can't grab those past sunshine filled days and expect to slip comfortably in them like familiar slippers. We are moving on, the world is moving on. Staying in Europe, being involved in important decisions that will affect the whole world is important. We need to look ahead not back.

On Thursday I will vote to Remain in the EU. I am scared that I am in a minority, surrounded by a sea of people who 'want things how they were' without even knowing what that means.

Check out some of the myths about the EU here. And think before you vote. But whichever way you vote - if you are eligible, please do get out and make your voice heard. Afraid as I am of leaving the EU I am also afraid of apathy and my path to the future being chosen by a small part of the country. EU referendum day is 23rd June 2016

Copyright: vepar5 / 123RF Stock Photo

Download a guide to voting - showing opposing views and both sides of the campaign, here http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/203410/EU-Referendum-voting-guide_England-and-Scotland.pdf


Cardoo Colouring cards

I've looked at and liked Cardoo cards before. They are a fun idea that turns a card into a small gift. For a child they are great to add some fun to what can be a pretty, but ultimately only decorative, thing. Perfect to send abroad I use them to send to my sponsored child in Uganda.

cardoo colouring cards

Now Cardoo have a new range, perfect for older children, teens and adults. With the craze for adult colouring making colouring a 'cool' thing to do again, and helping lots of people to cope with stress I think they are rather a good idea. Excellent for sending to a teen coping with exams, or in hospital with nothing to do these cards are 8 pages of mandala, floral or geometric designs to colour yourslef. You could even colour half yourself first as a way to bond from miles away on a joint project and send some love.
cardoo colouring cards

Each card is slightly different style, but all have lovely metallic foil finish on the front so that even before colouring they are stylish and beautiful. They are complimented by a plain brown envelope - perfect for you to decorate before posting.
cardoo colouring cards

The cards retail at £3.50 and the range launches on 1st July 2016, with a selction available at WHSmith.
cardoo colouring cards

Find out more about all of the cards and look at the range of colouring cards at www.cardoo.co.uk

Thanks to Cardoo who sent me a couple of cards to review


Puppy Stuff, advice and shit

I am on the internet, I have owned two dogs that died of old age related stuff. I had them from puppies and they were awesome. Based on that I am obviously a PUPPY EXPERT.

I have recently purchased a puppy. She is a border terrier called Fizz, she is exceptionally cute, fast, and clever. A few people (2) that I speak to on social media asked me for puppy advice and so with the multitude (2) questions being asked I felt a blog post by a PUPPY EXPERT (me) was required.

small puppy
Puppy expert in action

Things you think you know about puppies but really don't (or have forgotten - I know I did)

Puppies bite. They do not 'nip'. People tell you that puppies nip but nipping sounds painless and fun and almost friendly . Puppies do not 'nip'. They use teeth that they borrowed from a great white shark crossed with a razor blade to puncture any and every part of your anatomy they can get a grip on. They will bite the soft skin web betwixt thumb and forefinger, there will be blood. The tiny needle teeth will grab and bite into the delicate skin of your inner arm. The puppy will appear to want to snuffle into your crotch but JUST WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT will bite deep into the skin of your inner thigh (or worse!) until you squeal for mercy.
They do eventually stop biting. And this period of biting is important, they are learning 'bite inhibition', which means they are testing what hurts...your screams help in this process.

border terrier puppy

Puppies wee, and poop. They wee all the time, you might have thought leaving the back door open will mean they will wee outside, it doesn't. Puppies have no concept of 'outside'. Your job is to teach them. The simplest way is to use a crate (sounds cruel, isn't) the crate becomes the puppies den, no one likes to piss or crap in their bed, so puppies don't if they can possibly help it. You must use the crate whenever you cannot 100% supervise the puppy, do not let the puppy out of your sight when it is out of the crate or it will wee. Puppies need to go out at regular intervals, about every 30-60 minutes. BUT ALSO (and this is important) as soon as they wake after a nap, after a play time, after food. Treat the puppy or praise the puppy when it wees (or poops) outside. Clean up and ignore the screw ups YOU made by not paying attention that allowed the pup to poop in the house. Weirdly puppies over 8 weeks can go all night (11pm-5.30am) without messing up.

border terrier puppy in a crate
Puppy Prison

Puppies bite. Wait we did this! Yeah but they bite your clothes too, dressing gowns, trouser legs, shoes, anything moving. The edges of skirts will become laced with puppy ripped holes...I'm sure the bite inhibition thing is still in play. I'll be honest. This clothes biting pisses me off.

puppy sleeping
Do not be fooled - she is a velociraptor in a fur suit!
Puppies are ninjas. They can appear behind you, silently in a second. They appear in front of you equally quickly and stealthily, particularly if you are carrying a cup of tea. You will almost stand on them. You will trip over them. A lot.

Puppies can learn stuff really fast as they are like sponges. Don't be fooled by those big eyes and cute noses into thinking 'oh but they are babies, there is lots of time to learn' NO! there is now, now is the time, between 8 and 12 weeks is a window of fixed learned behaviour when puppies can learn either fear or confidence of a situation. Ensure that during this time they meet lots of new people, dogs, other puppies, children (the sort that don't mind being torn to bloody ribbons by excited puppy teeth) . Also that they have lots of new experiences and noises, banging doors, car rides, carrier bags rustling, firework sounds, TV shows etc etc
puppy party
Blurred puppy party picture
puppy in a bag
Taking her out pre-vaccinations - in a bag!
And all the time, train them! Get a decent book and decide on a style (I'm using a clicker this time around and Fizz adores it) and get on with it! Teach the basics (at 13 weeks Fizz can come to her name, sit, lay down, and give a paw when asked). We are working on the 'off' command to tell her to STOP BITING ME/MY TROUSERS/THAT CHAIR LEG and she's finally starting to get it.

border terrier puppy looking innocent
Innocent puppy face

So, that's part one of my guide to puppies, more as and when I think of something you need to know. Do you have a new puppy? Share your pictures and advice with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Fizz even has her own Instagram!


Safe Driver?

Do we all drive safely?

I was send a cardboard VR headset which accommodates a phone, (I have android, it works fine, also works on Apple)  to test out the new Driving Academy game from Goodyear Tyres.

The idea of the Driving Academy game is to demonstrate to teens and children how easy it is to be distracted while driving and how a distraction can cause a mistake and just how quickly it can all go wrong.

The game can be played without the VR headset - so even if you don't have one, pop over to http://drivingacademy.goodyear.co.uk/ with your phone or tablet and try your luck. The VR headset gives you the thrill of 3d of course.

So far I admit I'm not the best driver when playing the game, the phone ringing makes me swerve off of the road! But that's a reason I switch off my phone when I'm really driving - or have it in my bag on silent, so I can get messages when I stop.

Is the game like real driving? No. But it's a good way to introduce driving skills to kids. And the VR headsets (which can be bought in various places, or made if you are crafty!) add some realism.

Thanks to Goodyear for sending me the headset to try out the game.

The Driving Academy App 

In 2016, and as part of the Driving Academy programme, Goodyear launched their first VR (virtual reality) app to connect with young drivers and make them aware of the dangers of driver distraction.
The  app, which uses Google Cardboard, aims to educate young people of the dangers of driver distractions through an immersive experience which puts them in the driving seat, and is used as part of the annual Young Driver Challenge competition run by Young Driver as well as promoted by the DIA through their extensive network of learner drivers.
Developed in conjunction with the Driving Instructors Association (DIA), the game tasks the player to drive through various scenarios whilst navigating internal distractions, such as text messages appearing, or passengers talking, and external distractions, such as pedestrians crossing the road. The free app is available for public use on drivingacademy.goodyear.co.uk (available in Google Cardboard and non-VR formats) and is also used at Young Driver centres across the country as part of our Goodyear Driving Academy programme.
To find out more visit the Goodyear website here.

Wordy Wednesday with Jonathan Ward

Good morning Wordy Wednesday Fans! This week I would like to introduce Jonathan Ward, a writer of...well let's ask Jonathan to tell us what he writes ...
I write in three different genres: science-fiction, horror and fantasy. Of the three science-fiction has to be my main love, but fantasy is growing on me and I think I sneak enough horror into my stories that sometimes the genres blend together!
Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (international spy?) what is it and do you like it?
Unfortunately I’m not a full-time author as yet, though I hope to be some day. At the moment I’m in a job about as far from writing as you can get: the thrilling world of accountancy. It’s not bad as jobs go, although it’s not always the most exciting career! though a spy would say that ...so ...

Jonathan Ward author
Fairly sure our author is the one in the glasses, probably a spy thing
When did you start writing?
Around the age of eight. I remember filling up notebooks with stories, most of which were horrendous rip-offs of anything I had watched or read recently. Quite often they featured main characters called Jonathan. *coughs* Thankfully my writing has improved significantly since then! haha that made me laugh, the megalomania of childhood!

What 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
In no particular order:
My daughter
A nice cup of tea
Liverpool winning a game without making it difficult for themselves!

Do you have any pets?
Unfortunately I don’t have any pets at the moment. I’d love a dog one day though.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
I never know how to answer this; I couldn’t pick a favourite. Some I enjoy are Arthur C Clarke, Neal Asher, China Mieville, Peter F Hamilton, the late Iain M Banks and Terry Pratchett. All authors who have inspired me immensely.

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
The Traitor’s Hand by Sandy Mitchell. It’s set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and brings some humour to what is a very grim and dark setting.

Where do you do most of your writing?
Mostly at home. I get a fair bit done at work in my lunch hour though, which is actually where I’m writing these answers!

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
Hmm, a tough one. The first one that came to mind is Brin, a character in a published short story of mine called “The Last Rushani”. He’s got a good sense of humour despite the things he has been through and the difficult choices he has had to make. Hopefully the world hasn’t seen the last of him yet!
books featuring jonathan ward
Winter Tales edited by the lovely Margrét Helgadóttir I see

What is your favourite biscuit?
Bourbon, without a doubt. a good choice, I'm so glad you didn't say Jaffa cakes - no one needs that debate again

Tea or Coffee?
Tea, definitely. I’m an absolute fiend for the stuff. Can’t stand coffee!

In the film of your life who would play you?
Now there’s a film that not a lot of people would watch! I’ll go with Jesse Eisenberg, because he’s thin and kind of annoying, just like me. (we'll put it on BBC2 late at night)

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a potato and a sloth...could you get a lazier creature? (my soul mate)
An onion and a tortoise… it’s as close as I can think of to making a Bulbasaur.

Stalk follow Jonathan on twitter: Writtenward
Check him out on his amazon page: Joanathan Ward

Once again, thank you for reading, and big thanks to Jonathan for answering the questions. Until next week, pop over and like my Facebook page (I need the love) and follow me on Twitter.


The Jaffa Cake Debate

It can't have escaped your notice that many authors in the Wordy Wednesday interviews choose the delicious orange Jaffa Cake as their favourite biscuit.
plate of jaffa cakes

Since the day the Jaffa cake was invented (by good friends Mr Jaffa and Mr Cake) there has been debate as to whether they are biscuits or cakes. If only Mr Jaffa's cousin Reginald Biscuit had gone into partnership with him as first planned this would never have happened!*

There was even a court case about the small round and biscuit sized snack, which determnined that, for tax purposes they were tiny flat cakes, not biscuits. Decided by the simple fact that a cake becomes hard when stale while a biscuit becomes soft. Test it for yourself, leave a jaffa cake uneaten for a few days out on a dish in the kitchen (no I have never managed this test either - the tax office must be very strong willed).

But can we trust what the tax office says? After all, they said that Egyptian mummies were 'dried fish' for tax purposes, so there can be some debate as to their veracity.

So I asked the general public via the medium of Twitter, as we all know they are an intelligent lot. There was of course much squabbling as they are also an argumentative lot. But the final outcome was...

and therefore there will be no more acceptance of Jaffa Cakes as the favourite biscuit of authors. Thank you.

No! No more!
Ok there we are, we can eat them, we cannot call them biscuits.

Pop over and like my Facebook Page to join in a conversation about Jaffa Cakes, or some news story that catches my eye. Or Follow my meandering chatter on Twitter.

*This bit may be a blatant lie

Extra info about the law and why the debate matters : Under UK law no value added tax (VAT) is placed on biscuits or cakes. But critical to the controversial issue of Jaffa Cakes’ name, when a biscuit is covered in chocolate it becomes subject to the standard VAT rate, currently 20%.

Photo credit Copyright: shootdiem / 123RF Stock Photo


Air Storm Z-Tek Bow and Firetek Rockets Giveaway

Every now and again I see a toy that I think really will appeal to all the family. Having a teen I sometimes think I'm past buying toys (sad times, I love toys) but then I remember the universal appeal of Lego or of Scalextric, and the Nerf gun, and I smile.

And this week I was told about some excellent new Zing products, perfect for the Hunger Games enthusiast in your life, or the William Tell or Robin Hood! The Air Storm Z-Tek Bow, a fine bow, tweaked for the 21st Century, the sort of toy that dad will say "here let me show you" about and then procede to not return for 3 hours. And not only a bow, but rockets too! Firetek Rockets look fabulous - the zombies don't stand a chance, even in the dark, as these rockets light up! Flying through the sky like meteors.

And you can win an Air Storm Z-Tek Bow and a set of Firetek rockets in this easy to enter giveaway.

Get the kids ready for an all-new archery experience with whistling arrows and light up rockets.

I have one Air Storm Z-Tek bow and four Firetek rockets available to win.

Air Storm Z-Tek Bow

Get the next big thing in bow technology with the Z-Tek Bow.  Check out the sleek new design and shape.  Shorter bungees for faster firing.  Arrow clips right on the bow for quick reloads and a powerful presence.  It’s an all new archery experience with the Z-Tek Bow! Hook in the Zartz™ Arrow or Zonic™ Whistling Arrow, position the shot, and watch it fly through the air for an incredible 100 feet! Includes a Z-Tek Bow, two Zonic™ Whistling Arrows and one Suction-Cup Zartz™ Arrow.   
Please note the Air Storm Z-Tek bow comes in two colours – green and orange – winner can’t choose colours of prize

Price: £19.99rrp
Age: 8+   

Firetek Rocket

The Firetek Rocket is launching into orbit as the newest addition to Zing’s Firetek line with lights and sounds, ready for outdoor day or night fun!   Turn the light switch on the rocket to power up the action, Then, attach the Firetek light-up rocket to the launcher, pull the tab, and let it soar into the sky!  Hear the whistle-screaming arrows in action as the rocket flies up to 250 feet high with just a simple flick of the wrist. The Firetek rockets are set to fly to incredible heights with long-lasting performance.  Each set comes with two whistle-screaming light-up rockets and one launcher.

Price: £9.99rrp
Age: 5+   

UK Only - Giveaway ends 24/6/2016
Find Zing on Facebook
Or Check them out on YouTube
Both of the toys are available to buy now. From most good toy shops, Argos, Amazon etc.


Wordy Wednesday with Kate Coe

I love meeting (in a virtual sense) new authors each week. The questions I ask are mostly similar but I chop and change a bit to keep things interesting - if you think there is a burning issue that authors should be asked about - pop over to my Twitter or Facebook and let me know! I'm happy to add a question or two from my lovely blog readers.

This week I can introduce to you Kate Coe who, in her own words is "a writer, DIY’er, RPG’er and GM, bookworm, crafter and geek". She talks code as happily as she talks classical history, she knows how to tile a bathroom (makes note of this for future), and also makes excellent cookies (adds to previous notes). She lives in an old pub with an engineer and a Linux geek, and she doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up. Kate still jumps in leaf piles.

So Kate tell us about your books:
My current genre is best described as “sparkpunk”; think magic and Renaissance technology! The basic starting point for it was “What if magic was just another job? How would that world cope with the advance of technology?” And then I get to combine Mages and flying machines, a love story and a war, electricity and fire magic...and after that it was just a case of following different characters as they bounce around the world. The GreenSky series has ten books, of which two are published - the third, High Flight and Flames, is due out this summer, and the rest are scheduled over the next two years. They’re novellas so nice and short, and they’ve been described as easy reads; I’m a character writer so I don’t tend to get bogged down in description - I make the readers do all the imagination work!

I also write fantasy, fiction, fanfiction, erotica and general madness...I’m working on an urban fiction and a sci-fi story, both of which are best described as “in progress”, along with the next section of the GreenSky series (a trilogy of novels). I also blog over at writingandcoe.co.uk - mostly about writing and gaming, but I also do book reviews and general stuff that crosses my mind.

Do you have another job or are you a full time author?
I am a part-time librarian, and I also moonlight as a submissions reader, editor, copy-editor, proof-reader and web developer for Grimbold Books. I’d like to be an international spy but having your name on the front cover of a highly-publicised bit of paper is apparently not part of the 007-image :-(

Contrary to popular belief, librarians don’t spend all their time reading books (and we don’t say “shhhh!” either!) but I love the job as information literacy is a passion of mine - I love being able to help people understand how to find information and get the most out of whatever topic they’re exploring, and I actually enjoy shelving too! There’s something very satisfying about the mindlessness of putting books in the right place.

With regards my moonlighting job, I absolutely love it - for all that it’s really hard work! I love editing work and reading books, love seeing how things come together and change, and I love the chance to read other writers before they’re published. It’s a nice change to my author side, so I get the best of both worlds.

When did you start writing?
I’ve always made up stories! My Aunt tells me that when I was about seven, I asked her how many worlds she had in her head...she had to break the news to me that not everyone had other worlds they lived in! The GreenSky series came out of ideas I’ve been collecting since forever and a story I started writing when I was about 14, and I’ve just continued from there.

What 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
Jellybeans; getting my hands on a new book (either as a reader or a librarian); and writing a really good scene between my two favourite snarky characters.

Do you have any pets? If yes, what, and do they help or hinder the writing process?
We have two cats and a bearded dragon! One of the cats is usually kind enough to curl up next to me, but the other is a master of the “wriggle in and expand to have all the lap space”, in addition to not entirely getting the “please don’t tread on my keyboard!” thing. He is, however, very adorable and sounds like a broken two-stroke engine when he purrs, so he’s usually forgiven. The beardie is probably the easiest pet to write with, as she either just ~watches~ or will sit happily on my shoulder.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
Diane Wynne Jones is my absolute favourite to read, but the person I most admire is China Mieville; I’d love to be able to write like him! I tend to read fantasy and sci-fi so my reading does mirror my writing, but I’m lucky in that I don’t get visibly influenced (I hope). I do also read crime, historical fiction and nonfiction, information discovery, occasional romance and erotica...so my reading tastes are fairly eclectic.

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
Oh dear...I have a list! I read silly fast, so if I’m trying I can go through 3-4 books a week. I’m currently neck-deep in submissions thanks to Grimbold Books’ slush pile, so most of my reading is the unofficial type. At the time of writing, I’m officially reading Bloodmage by Steve Aryan, The Magicians by Lev Grossman and I’ve just finished One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron on my Kindle, but that list is subject to change almost daily.

Where do you do most of your writing?
Usually on a sofa with a laptop; the sofa occasionally changes (we have five to choose from in our house and I occasionally steal a friend’s or my aunt’s) but the laptop is a faithful Lenovo that has survived two years so far. I do also have a desk and a windowsill, which I use whenever the cats deign to vacate them.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
Toru Idalin is my absolute favourite; he turns up in Green Sky and Sparks so that’s not a spoiler! He’s wilful, arrogant, self-centred, something of a mechanical genius, and so much fun to write. I also tend to have favourites from each book I’m writing; currently it’s Zack Rezian from Bright Spark (GreenSky book 10), who is a slimy weasel and fairly outclassed by his current environment, much as he’d like to think he isn’t...

What is your favourite biscuit?
Jaffa cake! (Does that count as a biscuit? You can dip it in tea, so I think it counts). Does anyone else eat the chocolate and then eat the orange bit and then eat the cake? (I'm going to have a whole post on authors and jaffa cakes, I can sense it)

Tea or Coffee?
Tea! I try to only have one or two cups of caffeine-tea a day, so I’ll have a lot of fruit tea. I do like coffee, but the caffeine tends to make me bounce off the walls...

In the film of your life who would play you? (why)
I’ve been told I look like Liv Tyler (flattering but likely untrue) so I’d probably opt for Zooey Deschanel, partly because I think there’s a very slight resemblance and partly just because I like her as an actress/singer/general weird person!

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a tiger and a pear, if it took too long stalking you it would be all soft and squishy by the time it attacked.
I think manatees are sort-of marshmallow anyway, but that doesn’t really count as a vegetable… (I live with a vegetarian so I know this stuff!). I think a snake crossed with a cucumber would be hilarious. They’d have to lurk in the shade so they didn’t go squishy, and a green and knobbly snake would be awesome! They’d probably be more chilled out, too. The snakes I’ve met tend to be a bit needy.

You can get your very own copy of Kate's books via Amazon
Green Sky and Sparks is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/190984571X (paperback) and http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ZCQFWUA (Kindle)
Grey Stone and Steel is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1909845906 (paperback) and http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B018ANVCLO (Kindle)

Kate blogs at www.writingandcoe.co.uk, and can be found on twitter at @writingandcoe.
Big thanks to Kate and for you all for reading, keep thinking about books, words, biscuits and animal vegetables..until next week...