Saturday, 29 August 2009

Writers of the Future 25

Everything is gearing up for the award ceremony in about 5 hours. It takes place in the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, in the same room that hosted the first ever Oscars. There's cameras and lighting and technology and makeup artists... it is really quite intimidating. But for now, for the first time this week, I have time on my hands. Enough to rack-up the apprehension levels.
The ceremony goes out live on
It has been an intense week, with workshops and interviews and not a lot of sleep. This morning I was interview by Tony C Smith for the Sofanauts podcast, along with CL Holland and Sean Williams. The Sean Williams - Australia's biggest SF writer. The podcast goes out on Friday (or a week Friday - can't remember - brain's failing fast.) There's a link on
This week I've been tutored by Tim Powers and KD Wentworth. I've met the coolest, most talented group of hot new SF writers around, and met some of the past and present's SF greats - Robert J Sawyer, Kevin J Anderson, Steve Saville, Sean Williams, Dave Wolverton, Jerry Pournell... it's a long long list.
Five hours. Getting nervous now. Sarah's as nervous as me - she only has to sit there. I have stairs to climb in a Tux and shoes not yet broken-in. There is potential for pratt-falls and internationally recognised emabarrasment.
Deep breaths.
So, before the big prize is announced, here's the roll call for the Writers of the Future 25. I'm proud to have shared this last week with them. Some of these guys are going to be big, big names in the coming years:
Matthew Rotundo
Gary Kloster
Fiona Lehn
Donald Mead
Gra Linnaea
Jordan Lapp
CL Holland
Schon Zwakman
Emery Huang
Heather McDougal
Krista Hoeppner Leahy

Friday, 21 August 2009

Eating out in the USA

I've never really done hotels, I'm a caravan guy really. But it isn't easy to get a caravan over to California so for the last week or so Sarah and I have been living in hotels. Not that I have anything against hotels you understand – they're very nice. You get electric light and wireless internet and a bed that you don't have to construct from seat cushions every night. And in the morning you don't have to walk in sheep poop to get the water. And the toilet actually flushes. Wow!

But there are disadvantages. Every single meal has to be eaten out. No nipping out to ASDA for a quick salad or a tin of something. This is hard. There are decisions. There is expense. There are rituals. We've done the odd hotel weekend before, in the UK, and the eating-out part is never easy. You wander around comparing menus and prices and looking for the veggie options and sometimes it's fun. But other times you just want something simple and homecooked... and light. So here's where it gets hard. The food here is different. We've been touring the coast, and whenever you are on the coast you are 'tempted' by seafood. Well let me make it clear, I am never tempted by seafood. I like my seafood to be square and white and frozen - fresh from the factory floor. This stuff that arrives in nets and looks up from your plate with sad little eyes has never appealed to me. Then there's the coral-coloured aliens with claws and tentacles and multi-jointed legs that sit on your plate looking like something beamed up from the planet Zog. Faced with this kind of 'treat' my vegetarianism morphs into good old-fashioned xenophobia.

So we skip the seafood and look further afield. But everything is different in California. We've never even heard of half of the vegetables. Are they vegetables? Or are they some sort of lizard?

We've had a good breakfast so we only need a snack for lunch; a sandwich. But a sandwich in California comes in the form of a market garden between two halves of a loaf. And it's served with a side salad. We can't finish. No way can we finish. So we're given a box into which we are invited to pack away the left-overs and take them away with us. What to do with a box of three-quarter sandwiches?

Then it's time for tea. Another search for a restaurant. Italian this time. We get iced water before we've even settled. And a bowl of bread. Heavy bread with butter. More salad arrives – mountains of salad. The ice water is topped up. I'm out of the game before the pasta is delivered, a deep, heavy bowl of pasta with exotic and wonderful veggies that I can't even name. It comes with garlic bread. I love garlic bread and this garlic bread is the best. I can't even come close to finishing any of it and here come the doggie-bag boxes again. We leave the restaurant clutching boxes the weight of house bricks. What are we to do with them? It seems insulting to leave the left-overs behind; a criticism of the chef's abilities. But when are we supposed to eat the stuff? Breakfast is paid-for already and I don't want to supplement it with cold pasta. And we still have the sandwiches. And nothing looks quite so appealing when it's a day old.

It's a problem. We're building up a considerable stock of old food. We have baggage weight restrictions when we fly. What are the limits on imported pasta? If you are passing Santa Barbara and feeling a bit peckish why not stop by and help us out.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

So much for my plan to blog every day from America. After more than a week here I haven’t gotten around to it yet. (But see what's happened there with the grammar?)

So far I’ve been too tired, too jet-lagged and just too awe-struck to find the time or the words. But I’ll try.

Sarah and I have taxied to Santa Monica, walked to Venice Beach, driven to Yosemite (pictured), and San Francisco, and Monterey and everywhere in between. I’ve jumped red lights (because here I’m allowed to) I’ve been on the Bart, I’ve learned how to dance the Bolero and I’ve eaten frozen yoghurt (we have to get frozen yoghurt in the UK). Culture shock isn’t just a word any more – now I know what it really means. I love California.

We’ve just spent a few days near San Francisco at the home of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (who are the nicest people I know). They’ve housed us, fed us, shared their friends with us, and introduced us to frozen yoghurt!! This will be a recurring theme - right now we’re in Monterey and there’s a yoghurt shop here, too.

So we’re heading south - creeping ever closer to Hollywood for next week’s Writers of the Future workshop.

Next week. Just seven days. Starting to get nervous. Starting to freak. It’s no wonder I can’t blog, can’t write, can’t think. So this will just have to suffice for now.

Maybe they’ve got internet down at the yoghurt shop.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

California Dreaming and Baen's Universe

Been invisible the last few weeks. Lots of holiday planning to do and I've been rushing to put the third draft of my novel project to bed before I leave.

Not long now and we'll be off on the big silver bird to California. I love planning holidays, and this one beats all. For once the caravan can stay in the drive. We'll be visiting Santa Monica, Yosemite, San Francisco - where we'll be spending a few days with Sarah's brother and his wife - really looking forward to that bit, they're lovely people.

Then we make our leisurely way down route 1 back to LA, and it’s off to the Writers of the Future workshop. Nearly there. It’s been a long year waiting for this one.

I was saddened to learn, today, of the demise of Jim Baen’s Universe. They are to close after April 2010. They’ve run some good stories over the years and I have a particular soft spot for them, personally, since my Jim Baen competition win in 2007. A lot of SF and Fantasy markets are closing at the moment - it's a real cause for concern. It’s difficult not to be pessimistic about the future of genre fiction when solid markets like this are closing or just shrinking away. Maybe there’ll be a Realms-of-Fantasy-type rescue package that will come galloping out of the sun. I hope so.