Get on board and Holdfast! Online spec-fic magazine crowdfunds first anthology.

Holdfast is a free quarterly online speculative fiction magazine that’s been going for a little under a year now. It features original fiction, artwork, essays, author interviews and more. Founded by Laurel Sills and Lucy Smee, it’s a beautifully curated, high quality venture with a clever premise.

Each issue is themed; the theme is comprehensively reflected in the work of a featured author, carefully chosen short fictions, non-fiction essays, an open ‘Letter to …’ a writer whose work has been particularly influential, a bookshelf of recommended titles, a playlist of songs, and a selection of related offerings in other media. I love the breadth of that approach, and the intelligence and sensitivity with which it’s executed, and I’ve been hoping that it wins Laurel and Lucy the recognition and success that they deserve. Issue no1 was Speculating on Speculative Women, featuring Emma Newman; no2 was Animals, Beasts & Creatures with Sarah Pinborough; no3, out now, is Objects, Artefacts & Talismans and features Frances Hardinge.

Now Holdfast is moving to the next level, crowdfunding a new anthology of previously unpublished fiction along with essays and original artwork. The print edition is going to be a beautiful object, and they’re already 30% of the way to their target as I write this. They’ve rounded up an impressive array of milestone incentives and rewards for supporters, but there’s a way to go yet and I really want to see this project happen; so I’ve promised to donate an original unpublished poem once they hit the £2000 target.

Also! Verses from said poem will be inscribed by me into four copies of my novels, which will be bundled with a print copy of the anthology and Holdfast badge and bookmark. There are other great prizes as well. Check them out, contribute, tell your friends and share on social media. Here’s that link again.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/holdfast-magazine-anthology

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Publication day giveaway: Gemsigns!

No surprises for guessing which book I’m giving away this week – mine! Gemsigns is available online and in bookshops as of today, and you can win it here. First off, a reminder of what it’s about:

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Humanity stands on the brink. Again.

Surviving the Syndrome meant genetically modifying almost every person on the planet. But norms and gems are different. Gems may have the superpowers that once made them valuable commodities, but they also have more than their share of the disabled, the violent and the psychotic.

After a century of servitude, freedom has come at last for the gems, and not everyone’s happy about it. The gemtechs want to turn them back into property. The godgangs want them dead. The norm majority is scared and suspicious, and doesn’t know what it wants.

Eli Walker is the scientist charged with deciding whether gems are truly human, and as extremists on both sides raise the stakes, the conflict descends into violence. He’s running out of time, and with advanced prototypes on the loose, not everyone is who or what they seem. Torn between the intrigues of ruthless executive Zavcka Klist and brilliant, badly deformed gem leader Aryel Morningstar, Eli finds himself searching for a truth that might stop a war.

Gemsigns has been called political science fiction, social science fiction, a thriller (which it definitely is) and an example of old-fashioned storytelling (which I take as a compliment). Everyone agrees that it’s about what it means to be human. But there’ll be no tricky questions about that from me this week – I just want to know why you think you should win. Post your answer in comments, or tweet it to me @scriptopus (or both!). You have until midnight on Sunday (UK time) to get it in, then I’ll pick a winner. The competition is open to you wherever you are in the world, as long as your answer is in English. Prizes will be dispatched from Jo Fletcher Books HQ in London, and remember, we’ll need your address if you win.

Here’s the question again: Why should you win a copy of Gemsigns?

Win ‘Planesrunner’ by Ian McDonald

The last book giveaway generated some great responses, and I have a feeling this week’s offering will be equally inspirational. The lucky winner will receive a book I read and raved about just a few weeks ago. I’m so pleased to be able to pass this gem on to some lucky reader – maybe you! Before I get too excited, here’s a reminder of the competition format:

I post a summary of the book, plus a thought or two of my own about an aspect of it that I find especially intriguing. Then I ask you to tell me about your particular version of that particular reality. What do I mean? Read on:

 

Plannesrunner_Bfmat

There is not just one you, there are many yous. We’re part of a multiplicity of universes in parallel dimensions – and Everett Singh’s dad has found a way in.

But he’s been kidnapped from the streets of London, right under his son’s nose, and now it’s as if Everett’s dad never existed. The police won’t help, and his mum thinks Everett has brought shame on his family. There is only one clue for him to follow, a mysterious app his dad sent to his iPad: the Infundibulum.

The app is a map, not just to the Ten Known Worlds, but to the entire multiverse – and there are those who want to get their hands on it very badly. Now Everett’s got to find a way to unlock the secret of the Infundibulum and cross entire dimensions to find his father. If he’s going to beat the bad guys, he’s going to need friends: like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness.

Ian McDonald’s novels explore the idea of a multiverse, an infinite sequence of alternate universes each of which is different from the one we know. The difference here on Earth may be one tiny, almost unnoticeable thing – a slightly altered pattern on the wing of a particular butterfly, for example. Or it may be huge – maybe the continents never broke apart. To win a copy of Planesrunner, tell me this: How would the alternate universe you’d most like to visit be different from this one?

Post your answer in comments, or tweet it to me @scriptopus (or both!). You have until midnight on Sunday (UK time) to get it in, then I’ll pick a winner. The competition is open to you wherever you are in the world, as long as your answer is in English. Prizes will be dispatched from Jo Fletcher Books HQ in London, and remember, we’ll need your address if you win.

Here’s the question again: How would the alternate universe you’d most like to visit be different from this one?

Win ‘Blood’s Pride’ by Evie Manieri

Free books are back! I took a break last week for reasons explained here, but thankfully things have settled down to a still-intense-but-manageable pace and I can return to giving away great reads:

untitledA generation has passed since the Norlanders’ great ships bore down on Shadar, and the Dead Ones slashed and burned the city into submission, enslaving the
Shadari people.

Now the Norlander governor is dying and, as his three alienated children struggle against the crushing isolation of their lives, the Shadari rebels spot their opening and summon the Mongrel, a mysterious mercenary warrior who has never yet lost a battle. But her terms are unsettling: she will name her price
only after the Norlanders have been defeated.

A single question is left for the Shadari: is there any price too high for freedom?

I confess I haven’t yet read Blood’s Pride, but one of the aspects of it I think must be fascinating is how the Norlanders do – or do not – communicate; they are called the Dead Ones because they are gaunt, pale, lack facial expressions or body language, and are almost entirely without speech. They communicate by telepathy and a sort of empathic transmission. Evie Manieri talks about the challenge of writing dialogue for characters who don’t speak here, and it made me think about what it would be like to communicate in such a profoundly different way. So my question this week is: Would you give up speech for telepathy? Why, or why not?

Post your answer in comments, or tweet it to me @scriptopus (or both!). You have until midnight on Sunday to get it in, then I’ll pick a winner. The competition is open to you wherever you are in the world, as long as your answer is in English. Prizes will be dispatched from Jo Fletcher Books HQ in London, and remember, we’ll need your address if you win.

Win ‘A Cold Season’ by Alison Littlewood

It’s a surprisingly frosty morning in north Devon and I’ve got a book to give away that feels just right for the last gasp of winter:

43629_Cold_Season_MMP.indd

Cass is building a new life for herself and her young son Ben after the death of her soldier husband Pete, returning to the village where she lived as a child. But their idyllic new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there’s strange graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a bit odd.

And when an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things get even harder. Ben is changing, he’s surly and aggressive and Cass’s only confidant is the smooth, charming Theodore Remick, the stand-in headmaster.

Not everyone approves of Cass’s growing closeness to Mr Remick, and it soon becomes obvious he’s not all he appears to be either. If she is to protect her beloved son, Cass is going to have to fight back.

Alison Littlewood uses the harsh weather, coupled with the bleak environment of the moors, to reflect a growing sense of crisis for Cass and her son. Winter is almost always a metaphor for danger in fiction, and as this one comes to an end we’re probably all heaving a sigh of relief. The competition question is: What’s the worst thing about winter?

Post your answer in comments, or tweet it to me @scriptopus (or both). You have until midnight Sunday 3rd March to get it in, then I’ll pick a winner. The competition is open to you wherever you are in the world, as long as your answer is in English. Prizes will be dispatched from Jo Fletcher Books HQ in London, and remember, we’ll need your address if you win.

One Sentence Wonders: The City’s Son

It’s my turn to join in the Great Jo Fletcher Books Giveaway, and boy do I have some wonderful stuff for you! I’ll be running a weekly competition, starting today and until the publication of my own novel at the end of March (or longer if I can persuade them to let me keep giving away books). Here’s the Twitter-friendly format:

I’ll post a summary of the book of the week, plus a thought or two about an aspect of it that I find especially intriguing. Then I’m going to ask you to tell me, in a single sentence, about your particular version of that particular reality. Examples are the best explanation, so here’s the first one:

 
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Hidden under the surface of everyday London is a city of monsters and miracles, where wild train spirits stampede over the tracks and glass-skinned dancers with glowing veins light the streets.

When a devastating betrayal drives her from her home, graffiti artist Beth Bradley stumbles into the secret city, where she finds Filius Viae, London’s ragged crown prince, just when he needs someone most. An ancient enemy has returned to the darkness under St Paul’s Cathedral, bent on reigniting a centuries-old war, and Beth and Fil find themselves in a desperate race through a bizarre urban wonderland, searching for a way to save the city they both love.

Some of you might remember me raving about this book back in September; it was one of my favourite reads of 2012. Now up for a prestigious Kitschies award, Tom Pollock’s debut novel is about what it means to be part of a city, to be its blood and bones and to have it in yours. It’s a literal truth for Filius Viae, the boy with the city in his skin; and a metaphorical one for Beth Bradley, who finds sanctuary and a cause worth fighting for in the city itself, when home can provide her with neither.

So my question for you is: What makes you love your city? Post your answer in comments, or tweet it to me @scriptopus (or both!). You have until Sunday midnight (GMT) to get it in, then I’ll pick a winner. The competition is open to you wherever you are in the world, as long as your answer is in English. Prizes will be dispatched from Jo Fletcher Books HQ in London, and remember, we’ll need your address if you win.

In one sentence: What makes you love your city?  Ready, set, go!

The Great Jo Fletcher Books Giveaway

Presents aren’t just for Christmas, so the lovely folks at Jo Fletcher Books have turned their authors into elves, with sacks of books to give away. At least four are already handing out a book a week so I’m going to hold off on mine until next month, when the flood of free fiction starts to ebb and it really does feel like the holidays are over. Until then, join in the fun with:

Naomi Foyle (@naomifoyle)

Lynda Hilburn (@LyndaHilburn)

Snorri Kristjansson (@SnorriKristjans)

Karen Lord (@Karen_Lord)

Mazarkis Williams (@mazarkis_w)

This is not an exhaustive list of elves – I gather there are at least four more slinging books hither and yon. Do keep an eye on the @JoFletcherBooks Twitter feed for even more opportunities to win. I understand that the books will ship from JFB HQ in London to wherever you are, so far-flung followers, this is your chance.

I have to mention how much I like the serendipity of the fact that this flurry of book-giving will probably culminate, quite coincidentally, sometime around World Book Night on 23 April. I’m not a giver this year, but I remain a huge fan of the event. The mission is to give literally hundreds of thousands of free books to people who normally read very little or not at all, in return for nothing more than the promise that they will read their new book themselves and pass it on to others when they’re done. And the hope that they will discover the joy and the power of reading, and do it more.

So … snag yourselves a book or two if you can, read and enjoy and share. Aren’t we lucky to live in a world where people want to give us books?

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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