Book Stuff · Geek Stuff


This weekend I've been in London at the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) which is housed within London Film and Comic Con (LFCC). It's been a brilliant weekend and rather than sit on the idea of blogging about it in a few days I thought I'd forego the detailed post I'd end up aspiring to (and never writing) and instead share a few of my highlights of the weekend straight away. So in no particular order…

  • Spending time with friends – this is, for me, one of the most important parts about the YALC weekend, getting to meet up with people I don't get to see anywhere near enough. I got to speak to everyone I'd wanted to at least briefly which is brilliant. Special mentions though have to go to Keris, Michelle and Donna who I got to spend the most time with throughout the weekend.
  • The atmosphere – being in a space where the focus is on young adult books just seems to foster this incredibly warm, welcoming and friendly space. I've been to plenty of other conventions with different focus topics and they never feel quite like this.
  • The proximity to LFCC – I only visited the main convention once this year but could've spent more time there if I'd wanted to, it's so good to get to go and explore the traditional convention as well as have all the bookish content (plus we bumped into one of my old friends and it was lovely to have a catch up).
  • The panels – this year I only went to two, but they were both very good. I enjoyed yesterday's myth and magic themed panel but today's fandom panel was definitely my highlight.

There's probably loads more I could say, but for me these are the things that made the weekend as special as it was. I'm exhausted now but deep down already looking forward to next year!

Geek Stuff

Glorious geekery.

I always enjoy the weeks after San Diego Comic Con. There's always so much video content generated by the weekend that it takes me a few weeks to watch it all. So far this year all I've managed to watch is trailers, there were (like always) so many good ones and so I thought today I'd share a few that excited me the most.

First up is the trailer for Thor: Ragnarok. I'm a huge fan of the Marvel films as a whole but if pushed would have to choose Thor as my favourite. I'm so pleased to see how brilliant this looks.

Next we have the trailer for the Christmas episode of Doctor Who. There's one moment in it that's really pretty spoilery so don't say I didn't warn you.

And finally the trailer for Ready Player One. This is an adaptation of a book that has been teetering on my to be read list for so long now. This trailer has made me push it much further up it, I want to make sure I've read it in readiness for the film.

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

Changing faces

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, waiting to go and take our seats to watch the Para Athletics (more on that tomorrow when I've got my thoughts in order) when this video finally went live

While I was waiting for the video to load I felt so nervous, there had been so much discussion about the fact that this time might actually be the time when we got a female cast in the role of Doctor but I couldn't bring myself to believe that might be the case. I was so delighted when it started playing and it became clearer and clearer that the Doctor was indeed being played by a woman and the reveal that the lucky lady who gets to write history is Jodie Whittaker.

As expected there are choruses of disappointment and anger over the move to cast a female in the role. I'm choosing to focus instead on the many voices saying that this development is going to bring them back to the show, or is going to be the step that makes them finally start watching it after years of disinterest. With regards to those negative voices though I love this post by excellent author Susie Day that is aimed at young people but speaks really to fans of any age.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where this next regeneration of The Doctor takes the story. With every new Doctor comes a shift of everything, a new beginning nestled inside the richest of histories, this 13th (or 14th or 15th depending on your personal take on the show's canon) face of The Doctor is surely going to take us on yet another incredible adventure.

Geek Stuff

Building brick by brick

Today I spent a lovely morning combining two of the things I love, Lego and The Avengers. 

I’d seen these Brick Headz ages ago and wasn’t entirely sold on them but then I saw a photo on Instagram of someone’s and realised they were actually pretty cool. When I saw them on sale in my local supermarket and noticed the was a Black Widow one I couldn’t resist. And of course I needed a Cap to go with her.

They were really good fun to build. They’re structured cleverly, I was impressed with the range of pieces they used and with the way they’re solid – I’d expected the inside of the head to be hollow but it’s actually filled with bricks.

They’re going to make a really good addition to the geeky shelves above my desk. I think I might have to add the Hulk and Iron Man ones that round out the existing Avengers range before long. 

Geek Stuff

Welcome back.

Doctor Who has been one of my favourite things for quite a few years now. In the time I’ve been loving the show I’ve completed two degrees,  I’ve moved six times, I’ve changed career paths once or twice and through it all the Doctor has been a constant. My degree of love for the show has waxed and waned, but athere’s lways been something that’s kept me watching.

Tonight the show returned for a new series. I was really looking forward to it, both to see how it could continue to build from the previous series which I really enjoyed and also to see the introduction of new girl Bill, played by Pearl Mackie.

I’m not intending on saying anything specific about the episode, as I’m typing this it still hasn’t aired in most places. I really enjoyed it though, I’m so pleased with the way it’s only increased my anticipation for the rest of the series. And as for Bill? Well I think there may be an imminent reshuffle towards the top end of my list of companions ordered by how much I love them!

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

A pair of pilots.

Over the weekend I watched two pilot episodes for genre shows from The CW. I already watch a few genre series made by The CW – Supernatural, Arrow, and The Tomorrow People. I did watch the first season of The Vampire Diaries and a few seasons of Smallville, though looking at the list of dramas both past and present I’ve never watched anything non- genre. I always look with interest at the list of new shows coming from The CW, both Star-Crossed and The 100 sounded like they might be my sort of shows. Having now watched both pilots I thought I’d talk about what I thought of them.

Here’s a bit about both shows:

StarCrossedSet in the near-future, the series follows a romance between a human girl and an alien boy when he and six others of his kind are integrated into a suburban high school.

The 100
The100The series is set 97 years after a devastating nuclear war. The only survivors were residents of several space stations that were orbiting the Earth at the onset of the war. These space stations banded together to form a massive one called “The Ark”. Resources are scarce and all crimes are punishable by death unless the one who committed the crime was under 18 years of age. Despite this, a hundred juvenile residents, convicted of what would have been relatively minor crimes and misdemeanors on pre-war Earth, are now considered “expendable” and are sent on a mission to test if Earth’s surface has become habitable again.

So when are they?
Both shows start with the inevitable exposition, letting us learn that both stories are set in the future, Star-Crossed in 2024 and The 100 an undefined 97 years after a nuclear war (so likely to be 2111 or later). I wasn’t entirely convinced by the near future setting of Star-Crossed but the much more futuristic time frame for The 100 worked pretty well.

Who hates who?
There is clear conflict established in both shows. Star-Crossed is giving us the Romeo and Juliet -esque “us and them” with the humans and aliens in direct opposition, whilst The 100 favors a more dystopian approach with shady seeming adults trying to worm their way into political control and the teens the potential victims of a generally poor situation.

And the love?
From the pilots Star-Crossed is definitely taking the lead romantically. Human girl Emery and alien boy Roman have a past, and it looks like they’re destined for one another. So of course that’s not going to go well.The 100 pilot is much lighter on the love side of things, we have a minor character trying to become a ladies man but our female lead Eliza isn’t too obviously keen on any of the boys she’s surrounded by.

Are they pretty?
It’s The CW. I think it’s written into their constitution that they have to cast pretty girls and pretty boys. The ensemble size means The 100 might just have the edge in this respect, but I did find there were just a couple too many boys with floppy dark hair and got confused about which one was which.

Any diversity going on?
Both shows actually have cast members with either a disability or major health issue, though my gut is telling me that at least one of these characters isn’t going to last very long. There are characters of colour in both shows but it’s not clear yet whether there are any non-straight characters.

Worth continuing with?
Of the two shows Star-Crossed has the edge for me so far, purely because it ticks a few more of the boxes on my “Things I love in TV series” boxes. Both pilots though did plenty to make me tune in again, The CW hasn’t always been particularly good at hooking me in with pilots so I’m hoping this is a good sign for what’s to come.

What about everyone else?
I asked Liz to have a little look at this post, I know she’s watched both pilots too. She made a couple of really interesting points she’s happy for me to share. Firstly she’s seen plenty of chatter about Star-Crossed on Tumblr but not much for The 100, once she pointed this out I realised my online experience was the same. Twice as many episodes of Star-Crossed have aired so far, this may have something to do with it – I get the idea The 100 bit be a slightly slower burner too.

She also commented on the different focus – Star-Crossed looks like it will have a smaller cast and focus on the teens whilst The 100 has a bigger ensemble and is focusing on the full age range of society. I think this is an interesting point, within a few episodes I think the two shows may well fall into very different camps and will appeal to quite different groups of viewers.

I’m looking forward to seeing how both shows unfold. I have a definite preference at the moment but I am interested to see how I’ll feel by the end of the season. Both have 13 episode runs, plenty of time for my feelings to change completely!

Book Stuff · Geek Stuff · Life

Banished is in the wild.

On Thursday I travelled down to London to attend the launch for my lovely friend Liz de Jager’s debut novel Banished. It is the first in a young adult urban fantasy trilogy published by Tor in the UK.

The blurb:
imageSworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

The very first interaction I had with Liz was on Twitter. There was a discussion going on about writing (a far from unusual occurrence amongst many of the people I hang around with on Twitter) and she told me to get my butt in the chair and write – solid advice I am still heeding a few years on. We chatted plenty more online before getting to meet in person at the Thoughtbubble comics convention in 2011, I spent the day with her and her equally lovely husband Mark – we geeked out about the many things we saw, about our mutual interests and of course about writing.

It was as we sat eating lunch that Liz told me about her current project (that was to become Banished), it sounded hugely exciting and part of me knew instantly then that it was going to work out for her. It was a real thrill therefore when some time later she asked me if I’d be prepared to read for her and give feedback – I’ve been doing so every since and it has felt like a real privilege to tag along for her journey to publication.

I’m glad I’m having a break from reviewing, I couldn’t begin to review Banished – it’s a book I care far too much about to begin to work out how to approach talking about it in an impartial way. I’ve been so excited to see so many great reviews for it already, it certainly deserves all of the praise it has been getting.

The launch itself was a wonderful evening. The room it was held in was jam packed with so many well-wishers all wanting to celebrate Liz’s achievement. She’s a popular lady, her time running My Favourite Books has earned her the respect of a huge number of people involved in publishing in the UK – authors, publishers, booksellers and reviewers alike. Liz spent a huge amount of the launch sat behind a table signing copies of her book – at one point it was very hard to work out where exactly the end of the snaking queue was, everyone wanted their copy signed.

I had such a lovely time. I got to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a very long time – living so far from London is a real hindrance at times. I also got to meet people I’d chatted with online but not had the chance to meet before. By the time I got back to the youth hostel I was staying in I was exhausted in the best possible way – it had been a great evening for the very best of reasons.

Geek Stuff · Life · Writing

What I’ve learned from Chicks Dig Time Lords

I’ve been sitting on this blogpost for a very long time. Months and months in fact. Which in itself is pretty relevant to the subject matter of it.

imageWhen I first heard about the book Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It I have to admit I was puzzled by it. The title seemed to sum me up, I am after all a female fan of Doctor Who, but I didn’t really understand why the book was necessary. I don’t watch and enjoy Doctor Who or any of the other geeky or sporty things I like differently because I’m female, so why was it necessary to have a book about being a female fan?

It was released and I heard positive things about the book but remained bemused. Then the nominations for the 2011 Hugo Awards were announced and Chicks Dig Time Lords was nominated in the Best Related Work category, and went on to win it. I decided I probably needed to give the book a go to see if I could work out why it was so highly regarded, bought a copy of it and put it on my bookshelf.

Roll on spring 2013, my understanding of a lot of things had changed and my eyes had become opened to many new things (the internet is a wonderful educator). For reasons I absolutely do not remember I picked up my copy of Chicks Dig Time Lords and started to read the first essay. I read a handful of essays on my first sitting, and then over the next few months read the whole book an essay or two at a time – wanting to spread them out and give myself time to think about what they’d had to say.

I was so very wrong in my first assessment of the book. I completely misinterpreted what the book was about and why it existed. The book isn’t a collection of essays about being a female Whovian, it’s a collection of essays by and about Whovians who happen to be females. And that is such an important distinction, one I needed time and learning to be able to spot, let alone understand.

For all manner of geeky things there are a range of publications both print and digital that give fans a voice. I’m aware that whilst these publications exist women’s contributions are generally less common than men’s. That is what this book has done – it’s given a safe space for women to share their thoughts and opinions. I do think the balance has started to shift a little since the book was published in 2009, but there’s still such a very long way to go.

As a female geek and sports fan I have always known that my voice is a quiet, frequently unheard and sometimes unwelcome one. My presence in both arenas has not been without its difficulties, my gender has time and again gone against me – from dismissive comments assuming the nature of my interest (apparently it’s all about the hot men) to suggestions that my knowledge needed to be tested to ensure I did genuinely belong there. My stories are sadly common amongst female fans, and I count myself lucky (and isn’t that in itself a sad state of affairs) that my experiences whilst irritating, patronising and downright unreasonable are firmly at the very mild end of the scale of the abuse experienced by other women.

I have plenty of thoughts and opinions on the things I am passionate about. I shy away from sharing them publicly, particularly on my blog. There have been odd posts over the years, but far too many times there have been little voices telling me I don’t know enough, don’t have the background, don’t belong, shouldn’t be writing about that particular topic. And so I haven’t.

(As an aside, the one post I did write that always comes to mind is the one I wrote on my old blog about The Sarah Jane Adventures. Someone whose opinion I really respect read it, and misinterpreted a really ambiguous sentence I’d written. They commented about it, and it still makes me cringe to remember years after. A lesson learnt.)

This is the year I’m going to make a change. I have this space all of my own and I’m going to use it to be me. I’m going to write posts about things I love and care about, and actually hit the publish button. I’m going to write more posts about the random thoughts that often fill my brain, things that leave me pondering but I convince myself no one else could possibly care about.

One of my concerns about writing about these things is that I won’t be any good at it – but as I tell my Beaver Scouts the only way to get better at something is to practice. I think it’s about time I took my own advice. I’m going to ignore the voice in my head that comes up with all the reasons why I shouldn’t, I’m going to stop caring about the fact I’m a girl, stop caring about the fact I might get something a bit wrong, and I’m going to take the leap and just get on with it.

My blog, my thoughts, and there’s no one who can tell me what I can and can’t do.

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

TV Boyfriends – the update.

Last February I took part in Fluttering Butterflies’ Love Month, writing a post about my various TV boyfriends – the men I love most of all in my favourite tv shows, the ones I wish would appear in real life and whisk me away to somewhere nice. It was a real joy to write, and it was well received – always pleasing. When I was at the Asylum convention (this focuses on Supernatural) the subject came up, and I decided I ought to update the post in light of the number of new TV shows I was watching. The original 2012 list contained 6 names, I’m afraid this new list is a little longer… a nice round 10 to be precise.

In no particular order (I decided to write this post in May, if I’d had to order it then it would have been next May before I’d have written it), here’s the list. All of these characters are included based on their appearance in the 2012/13 season of their respective shows.

To start off with, we have the returners.

Eliot Spencer (Leverage, played by Christian Kane)
Former military man turned mercenary turned good guy, Eliot provides the physical power behind the Leverage team. A true southern gent with a big heart, there’s nothing Eliot won’t do for his nearest and dearest.

Dean Winchester (Supernatural, played by Jensen Ackles)
Dean evolves with every season of Supernatural, season 8 saw yet more growth and character rounding (with no physical rounding going on). The core of Dean Winchester remains the same – he’s a gruff exteriored, warm, loyal to a fault man prepared to put himself on the line to save his nearest and dearest.

Steve McGarrett (Hawaii Five-0, played by Alex O’Loughlin)
Steve heads up the specialist police task force, using the skills he developed as a Navy SEAL. He has only a cursory care for doing things the right way, he’s far more focused on doing the right thing. He’s snarky and strong minded but has a mellower, softer side when it’s most important.

Neal Caffrey (White Collar, played by Matt Bomer)
Art forger and con man turned FBI confidential informant there’s much to love about the vintage tailoring clad Neal Caffrey. Whilst he’s gone good he hasn’t turned that leaf over entirely – he uses his smarts both for good and for his own gain.

And then we get onto the newbies.

Jon Snow (Game of Thrones, played by Kit Harrington)
“You know nothing Jon Snow”. Well he may know nothing but that doesn’t stop Jon from standing up for what is right. After a difficult start his move north has allowed him to find his feet, and of course as this is Game of Thrones find himself in perilous situation after perilous situation. Jon is loyal to a fault, fighting for his family and friends whenever needed.

John Diggle (Arrow, played by David Ramsey)
Acting publicly as bodyguard to Oliver Queen and secretly as right hand man to the Arrow, Diggle is kept busy and faces down danger on a day to day basis. He’s a voice of reason and willing confidante whenever he’s needed to be, and as a bonus he’s always willing to take part in training montages.

Tim Gutterson (Justified, played by Jacob Pitts)
I have a real weakness for smart mouthed sharp shooters and Deputy Marshall Tim Gutterson certainly fits the bill. Whilst many would choose Timothy Oliphant’s Raylan Givens I, far more interested in the quiet, snarky blonde. After 4 seasons we still don’t know much about Tim, but each glimpse we get into this former Army Ranger sniper makes me want to know more and more.

Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead, played by Norman Reedus)
What a difference a zombie apocalypse makes! Daryl Dixon has emerged from the shadow of uber bigoted big brother Merle to become an integral part of Rick Grimes’ group of survivors. This motorbike riding, crossbow wielding, quiet man is reliable, focused and exactly the kind of person you want fighting in your corner when it all goes wrong.

Derek Hale (Teen Wolf, played by Tyler Hoechlin)
Ah, Derek Hale. Brooding, sad, growly werewolf Derek Hale. Teen Wolf has no shortage of attractive actors but as most of them are portraying high school students it would be entirely inappropriate to consider them for this list (but I’ll happily mention they exist). Derek has made some really poor decisions over the first 2 and a half seasons, but generally they’ve been for the best of decisions. If only he could master the art of using his words a little more… as long as it didn’t cut the number of brooding stares we get to see.

Kelly Severide (Chicago Fire, played by Taylor Kinney)
Lieutenant of a rescue squad in the Chicago Fire Department (and yet another former Army Ranger – that’s three former members of elite armed forces and a couple whose military history is a little less clear on the list) Kelly Severide is, on the face of things, the quintessential ladies man. Underneath it though we get to see a far more thoughtful, respectful man. His father was the love ’em and leave ’em rogue and Kelly is determined not to be like him. He’s a wonderful friend, and always tries to do the best by everyone.

So there’s the 2013 update to my list, it’s interesting (to me at least) to see that whilst the 10 characters are all very different there are many similar traits amongst them. They may all look and behave differently (though yes there are many pairs of very attractive arms on this list… and many characters who don’t wear shirts as often as they maybe should…) but they share a number of characteristics I valour most highly.

With many of the series already into their 2013/14 seasons I know already there are going to be a couple of changes coming to the list – I’ll try and do it a little earlier next year. I may even ask a couple of friends to contribute their lists.

Days Out · Geek Stuff

WFC2013: A ramble.

I thought I’d leave it a few days before I wrote my post World Fantasy Convention blog, partly to get over the fatigue it induced and partly to give myself musing time. In the meantime countless posts have been written by people in far more coherent and considered accounts than mine has any hope of being.

I absolutely had a wonderful, highly enjoyable weekend. I think though that this was as much about the people I was with as it was the event itself. For starters I got to spend the weekend with my awesome friend Liz and see first hand the buzz around her debut novel Banished – ARCs of the book were at the event and getting to see her sign her first… second… and a fair few more copies was truly wonderful. I also got to spend plenty of time with other friends including ones I’d met before, ones I’d only had the chance to interact with online, and ones I’d never had any interaction with before but absolutely will have now.

There was, as there should be at all good events, a good sized dealers room with plenty of browsing opportunities. There was also an art show that included all manner of fantasy related art, including some gorgeous cover art and Lisa Snelling’s lovely Poppets. I was very good and kept my limited budget in mind the entire time, it’s probably a very good thing that the Poppet I fell for was already sold – I think it would have been pretty hard to resist! I did pick up a few very exciting books courtesy of the tables in the registration area, my ARC of Banished is already situated on my shelf of most highly prized items.


There was a wide range of panels on offer over the course of the weekend, I only made it to five of them though. Sadly two of the panels (Fangs for the Memory: Have Vampires Lost Their Bite? and The Mainstream and Us) suffered for having one very dominant voice and we didn’t get a chance to listen to a range of views on what should have been interesting discussions. The two YA focused panels, Not in Front of the Children: How Far Should You Go in Young Adult Fiction? and Are All the Best Genre Books Now YA? were wonderfully entertaining opportunities to hear from some very brilliant YA authors and whilst neither necessarily had anything new to say I enjoyed them both (I took detailed notes at both of these and will put them up once I’ve had a chance to tidy them a little).

The highlight of the panels I attended, and probably the entire weekend, was called 2013 Life Achievement Recipient Susan Cooper in Conversation with Neil Gaiman and delivered just that – two utterly wonderful authors in conversation, the only criticism any of us could levy at it afterwards was that we wanted another hour or two of the conversation!

I also attended one additional event that didn’t come from the main programming. The Popup Pirates set themselves up a few days before the convention to organise a few additional sessions – I went along to their Saturday evening reading to hear my friend Mark H Williams read from his debut novel Sleepless Knights (I reviewed it earlier this year). There was a good range of readings, Tom Pollock’s reading of a scene from the third book in his The Skyscraper Throne trilogy in particular left me wanting more.

In addition to all of the organised, both official and unofficial, aspects of the weekend that I went along to were many, many more that I didn’t. It was great when chatting with people to be able to compare notes about what we’d each seen and heard. The unscheduled part of the weekend though, the time sat chatting with people, was absolutely brilliant. I’m a pretty quiet, shy person really, once I know you I’ll chat away forever but before then I’ll generally keep quiet. The large scale side of the event did leave me feeling overwhelmed a few times, but chilling out with friends completely made up for this (escaping the convention hotel to go to a nearby pub on the Saturday afternoon felt a bit naughty, but most welcome).

The most unexpected aspect of the weekend was how inspired to keep writing I felt by the end of it. I’m sure I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy talking about writing and with writers, for the first time I had actually got a concrete, well underway, work in progress to talk about, and the hugely friendly encouragement I got from the friends I chatted with gave me a huge boost. I’ve come away refocused and with a much clearer understanding of what I’m writing, who I’m writing for and probably most importantly why I’m writing. That in itself was well worth the trip.