Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

Tea and Jeopardy 33 – Alan Baxter visits the tea lair

By Emma on March 12, 2015

teaandjeopardy_geekplanetThe thirty-third episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

In this episode, the remarkable author and martial artist Alan Baxter, visits the tea lair. We talk about martial arts in films and books, the Australian SFF scene and how his life is like a film.

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.

The good, the bad and the scary

By Emma on March 6, 2015

A week today I will be in hospital, hopefully floating on the best post-operative drugs, with the surgery behind me. Yeah. More surgery. Last year’s hellish events weren’t satisfied with a standalone, they wanted a sequel. I just hope this medical crap isn’t going to go in for a trilogy.

I’m scared. No getting away from that. I’m a needle phobic at the best of times, have been for many years, and some terrible things happened regarding needles during one of my hospital stays last year that I still haven’t fully got over. So… yeah. Fun times.

But anyway, a few things have been happening that are much more interesting and happy than the impending doom, and seeing as I may just be too anxious to even string a sentence together for the rest of the hospital countdown, I thought I should write up some stuff.

Okay… first things first, there are only a handful of days left to submit your Hugo nominations and I’m going to come right out and say that Tea and Jeopardy is eligible for the Best Fancast category and we would of course be over the moon to be shortlisted again. You can find an index of previous episodes here.

Bestseller for a weekend!

Last weekend something kind of crazy happened: my short story collection From Dark Places went to the number one spot on Amazon in a couple of categories, including SFF anthologies and collections, all because the lovely Mr Paul Cornell tweeted about my upcoming surgery and invited lovelies online to buy the ebook version to help with lost earning time (I’m a freelancing writer and audio book narrator, so whilst I am lucky enough to benefit from our amazing NHS, these ongoing medical shenanigans do have a serious financial impact on our household). I was absolutely blown away by the love and best wishes, and wanted to thank everyone who bought the collection.

A new audio book

I had the pleasure of narrating an audiobook for Ghostwoods Books which has recently gone on sale, called Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran. I loved this book. It was the most challenging I’ve ever narrated – there is even a bit where I have to sing a little bit in two different languages – but it was worth the hard work. It’s the first time I’ve worked with Ghostwoods Books and I have to say that it was an absolute joy. I am very impressed with how well they looked after me.

I found the prose evocative and sensual and the characters absolutely fascinating. It was so refreshing having a female protagonist who isn’t necessarily likeable but fully understandable. It’s hard to place in a pure genre category (like so many of the books I write and love to read too!) so I would call it historical fantasy with very dark romance and elements of horror (though more of the horrific rather than creepy or scary). I cannot recommend it highly enough, though I would like to warn you that there are some very dark themes and a scene containing sexual assault.

This is the blurb:
It begins with a rumor, an exciting whisper. Anything to break the tedium of the harem for the shah’s eldest daughter. People speak of a man with a face so vile, it would make a hangman faint, but a voice as sweet as an angel’s kiss. A master of illusion and stealth. A masked performer known only as Vachon. For once the truth will outshine the tales. On her birthday the shah gifts his eldest daughter, Afsar, a circus. With the circus comes a man who will change everything.

It’s available on Audible here and Amazon here.

Great things other people are doing

I gushed about this on Twitter and Facebook at the time, but I feel I should say it here too. I recently finished reading Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky and you need to buy and read this book immediately. It is amazingly good. Like Sharpe but with a female lead and with sorcerers too. Cannot recommend it highly enough.

If you haven’t heard of Sarah McIntyre, there is a gap in your life. She is fabulous. She’s an illustrator (my son is a massive fan of her artwork in Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space, collaborations between Sarah and Philip Reeve (who wrote the incredible Mortal Engines books that you also must buy and read immediately if you haven’t already). Anyway, aside from phenomenal artistic talent and the most splendid hats in the northern hemisphere, Sarah is campaigning for better recognition for illustrators. I feel this is very important, and so this is a little signal boost for her campaign #picturesmeanbusiness on Twitter.

Oh, and that lovely Cornell chap has The Severed Streets out in paperback now and one of my favourite writerly friends, Adam Christopher, has just had an Elementary tie-in novel released called The Ghost Line.

vagrantLast, but by no means least, my husband Peter (AKA Latimer) had a nice package in the post yesterday: the gorgeous hardback of his debut novel The Vagrant, being published by Harper Voyager in April. Doesn’t it look wonderful? You can pre-order it, by the way, and it makes him bounce up and down and go all smiley which is a lovely thing to see. Book and pre-order details can be found here.

Well, I think that’s all for now. I’m hoping to get another Tea and Jeopardy made live before I go into hospital with another lined up for when I am laid up. In the meantime, sweetlings, stay frosty.

Tea and Jeopardy 32 – Catherynne Valente visits the tea lair

By Emma on February 28, 2015

teaandjeopardy_geekplanetThe thirty-second episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

In this episode, the fabulous Catherynne M. Valente, NY Times bestselling author and poet, visits the tea lair. We talk about living on islands, siblings and find out which word Cat would remove from the English language.

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.

Puzzles

By Emma on January 29, 2015

In the first week of January it seemed like eleventy billion posts went up about the year that had just passed and what was ahead for people.

I couldn’t bring myself to write one.

Then over the past couple of weeks there have been eligibility posts popping up all over the place. “I should write one of those,” I thought.

But I couldn’t bring myself to write one.

I looked at the blog and realised that, for really quite a long time now, most of the posts have been Tea and Jeopardy episodes. I posted other things very sporadically last year. The reason why is tangled up with the inability to write the posts above.

Last year was the worst year of my life to date. And believe me, I’ve had some really bad years. And the thing is, when a year is that bad, it doesn’t do the decent thing and keep itself confined to quarters once the new year comes. No, it leeches into the next.

The danger and strength of narratives

I need to write a longer post about this, when I’m stronger, but for now I’ll just talk about one narrative. Back in April 2014 I had major surgery. I hoped it would take me a couple of months to recover fully.

It took four. And arguably, I’m still not fully recovered as something is wrong, it just hasn’t been diagnosed yet.

All through May, June, July and then into August, as the despair deepened and it felt that the world was passing me by, I kept telling myself that the second half of the year would be much better. I would recover, eventually, do ALL the conventions, get back to pre-op levels of productivity and kick the ass out of the last six months.

Then just as I was starting to do that, my poor Mum was diagnosed with cancer.

It’s treatable, thank goodness, but still a terrible blow. She’s now coming to the end of the chemo phase (which has been utterly hellish) and will soon have surgery, then maybe radiotherapy. Her prognosis is good, but it’s tough to go through.

Three weeks later, my best friend died at the age of 41. October disappeared down a well of all-encompassing grief. In November and December, something acutely stressful happened that I can’t talk about publicly and there was very little left in the tank to deal with that.

That narrative that I had kept myself buoyed up with fell apart. The second half of the year turned out to be so much worse. And it sounds silly, writing about it, but I clung to the idea that things would turn around in September. I really did. It kept me going. Then it twisted into the belief that 2014 was just a shitmonster and I was just going to have to battle it until one of us was left standing.

At one point I got so low I nearly gave up writing. I nearly gave up all together, but thinking of 2014 as that monster made me dig down into reserves I never realised I even had. Sheer bloody-mindedness made me get back to work.

Of course, I got a book deal during all this and I was so relieved there are not adequate words to express that. But the day I found out was the same day I learned about Mum’s cancer. The joy was hard to feel when set against that.

But this isn’t what I want to write about. I don’t want to because I am still living through the aftershocks caused by all those life earthquakes. 2015 has not had a great start, but I’m not going to write a narrative for it yet, other than “Holy shit, surely this has to get better at some point, surely?”

No. I want to talk about jigsaw puzzles.

Over Christmas, thanks to a gift for my son that was far too hard for him, I discovered I like doing jigsaw puzzles. So I got myself a 1000 piece one and thought it might be nice to have something to do whilst I couldn’t play Dragon Age Inquisition.

In fact, I had stumbled upon something that has kept me sane as that horrifically stressful thing rumbles on, as the grief deepens with the dark days and realisation that my best friend is gone forever, as my Mum suffers and I can’t do a thing about it.

They are simple things, jigsaw puzzles. There’s a picture on a box. Inside the box are a thousand pieces. Chaos.

Make the chaos into the beautiful picture on the front of the box.

Making order from that chaos is so soothing. Methodical progress and the knowledge that there is an absolutely, objectively, correct way for all those pieces to fit together. No pressure. Little bursts of pure satisfaction as a tricky bit is finished and the thrill of nearing the end. The feel of running your fingertips over the completed puzzle…

Seriously, take my word for it. If you suffer with an anxiety disorder, if you’re going through something horribly stressful or, as I am, both at the same time, try a jigsaw puzzle.

There’s a whole world of jigsaw geekery out there

The first 1000 piece one, and favourite so far.

The first 1000 piece one, and favourite so far.

I bought my first 1000 piece puzzle with a voucher I got for Christmas. I can’t afford to feed my new hobby at the rate it demands, so I go to charity shops and buy second hand puzzles for a fraction of the price. Invariably I have a nice conversation with the volunteer who is serving who seems delighted that someone as ‘young’ as me enjoys puzzles with the same passion.

And it is becoming a passion. I’m a geek, so it makes sense I’m developing the same intensity of pursuit for this as for Dragon Age or D&D 5th edition (ZOMG it’s so good!). Ravensburger is my favourite puzzle make so far. I like puzzles with lots of details rather than uniform sky or roof or fields or whatever. In the first phases I go by detail, then by colour, then by shape of the remaining pieces. I take a picture of each puzzle when it is completed before breaking it up. Why? I don’t take many pictures at all, but this has rapidly become a ritual.

I didn’t talk about it online. Admittedly I haven’t been as social lately for reasons previously mentioned, but I did talk about it for the first time yesterday. And, of course, others agreed and shared their love for puzzles too. I realised I wasn’t alone in this passion. Because they are my glorious, geeky, gentle tribe and I love them.

That probably includes you, if you’ve read this.

Tea and Jeopardy 31 – Kieron Gillen visits the tea lair

By Emma on January 28, 2015

teaandjeopardy_geekplanetThe thirty-first episode of Tea and Jeopardy is now live and you can find it here.

In this episode, the brilliant Kieron Gillen, writer of comics, visits the tea lair. We talk about Marvel retreats, how he approaches writing comics including The Wicked and The Divine and he brings a rather remarkable curio with him too…

If you love Tea and Jeopardy and want to join the Order of the Sacred Tea Cup, our Patreon page is here.

Credits for sound effects can be found here.

An index of all previous episodes can be found here.