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2nd Feb, 2016

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Happy Book Day to Me: Winterwood Is Out Today.

Winterwood front cover-small2nd February 2016

Today is publication day for Winterwood, my third novel and first historical fantasy. It's got pirates, a jealous ghost, a wolf shapechanger and a dark villain who may just have a point. The heroine is a cross-dressing privateer captain and occasional witch, Ross (Rossalinde) Tremayne. After seven years of estrangement she's drawn back to visit her mother's deathbed where she inherits a half-brother she didn't know about and a task she doesn't want. Set in 1800 with Napoleon knocking at the door and Mad King George on the throne, this is the first book in a new sequence called The Rowankind.

I had such fun writing this and at the moment I'm writing the sequel, Silverwolf. (Everything has such a long lead-up time in the publishing industry that Silverwolf not likely to be published until the very end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.)

If you want to read more about Winterwood, please see this post on my other blog at Wordspress.

I'm going to be doing a blog on the cover soon, at Wordpress, too, so if you want to follow me over there, that would be very nice.

In the meantime. BOOK! TODAY! YAY!
Available in bookstores and electronic editions in Canada and the USA. Available as an import in the UK from that well known firm named after a South American river.

23rd Jan, 2016

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Book Log 4/2016 - Paul Cornell: The Witches of Lychford

Witches of LychfordA neat novella set in a sleepy Gloucestershire town threatened with the coming of a supermarket. Opinion is divided as to whether it's a good idea or not, But Judith, the town's resident witch knows that it will be a magical disaster of epic proportions. Building a new supermarket and altering the roads around the town centre will open ancient gateways and let in evil, potentially causing the apocalypse. At the heart of the supermarket proposal is a man--if man he is--who embodies the evil. All that stands against him is a seventy-something year old witch with no friends, the local magic shop proprietor with a reputation for mental health problems, and the town's new (female) vicar with a tragedy in her past and a crisis of faith looming over her.

A quick read, much enjoyed.
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Winterwood, Published 2nd February

Winterwood front cover-smallMy new novel, Winterwood, is due very soon. Publication date is Tuesday 2nd February. I don't have actual copies of the mass market paperback yet, but I have copies of the Advance Reading Copy, a trade-paperback size. If anyone here would like a copy to review, please email me direct via my website at http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk. Unlike my first two books, this one is historical fantasy.

I've been delighted to get a few good reviews already, including ones from Publishers Weekly. It was also a Top Pick at RT where their reviewer said: "seamlessly blends history, magical lore, high seas adventure and romance into one fantastic story" . The latest review today at the Bibliosanctum, which said lovely things like: "The best thing about Winterwood is its many fascinating components, which Jacey Bedford weaves into one amazing story of magic and adventure. Rollicking action is expertly balanced with passionate romance in this novel which will leave you salivating for more, and I loved every moment!" - Well, I can live with that.

So here's the rundown...

WINTERWOOD

It's 1800. Mad King George is on the British throne, and Bonaparte is hammering at the door. Magic is strictly controlled by the Mysterium, but despite severe penalties, not all magic users have registered. Integral to many genteel households is an uncomplaining army of rowankind bondservants, so commonplace that no one recalls where they came from.

Ross Tremayne, widowed, cross-dressing privateer captain and unregistered witch, likes her life on the high seas, accompanied by a boatload of swashbuckling, barely-reformed pirates and the jealous ghost of her late husband, Will. When she pays a bitter deathbed visit to her long-estranged mother she inherits a half-brother she didn't know about, and a magical winterwood box containing task she doesn't want. Depending on who you believe it could right a terrible wrong or it could bring about the downfall of Britain. There's a man - a deadly government agent - willing to use all his considerable powers to prevent Ross from opening the box.
Enter Corwen. He's handsome, sexy, clever and capable, and Ross really doesn't like him; neither does Will's ghost. Can he be trusted? Whose side is he on?

Unable to chart a course to her future until she's unravelled the mysteries of the past, Ross has to avoid the not altogether unwelcome attentions of a dashing but dangerous pirate; evade a ruthless government agent who fights magic with darker magic; and brave the hitherto hidden Fae. Only then can she open the magical winterwood box and solve the problem. Unfortunately success may prove fatal to both Ross and her new brother, and disastrous for the country. By doing the 'right' thing is Ross going to unleash a terrible evil? Is her enemy the real hero and Ross the villain? Should she open the box or let sleeping magic lie.

Whichever choice Ross makes it's going to reverberate down the centuries.


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Book Log 3/2016 - Lois McMaster Bujold: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen - Vorkosiverse #15

Gentleman Jole & the Red QueenIf, like me, you are a fan of not only Lois McMaster Bujold's writing in general, but her Vorkosigan series in particular, you'll have been waiting for this book with bated breath. I jumped the gun and shelled out for the e-arc from Baen in advance of the official publication day on 2nd February 2016. I'm so glad I did. Every book that Ms Bujold writes is subtly different. Stories set in the Vorkosiverse have varied from military SF, through murder-mysteries, conspiracy plots and even Regency romance in space. Apart from the first two, now offered as the omnibus: Cordelia's Honour, most of the others feature the hyperactive Miles Vorkosigan, stunted runt with a brain the size of a planet. This book takes us back to Cordelia, some forty odd years after the events in Cordelia's Honour where as captain of a Betan astronomical survey ship she unwittingly landed her ship and crew in the middle of a war and met the love of her life Aral Vorkosigan.

Cordelia has been there throughout Miles' adventures, often on the sidelines, but always a force of nature. Now, three years after Aral's death, she's back in her own right. Yes, that's right - kudos to Ms Bujold she has a heroine in her seventies (though Cordelia's lifespan could well reach 120 or more as she's a Betan, so seventy is the new fifty). Even so, a fifty year old heroine? Respect! (Bujold has, of course pulled this off before in her fantasy novel Paladin of Souls, set in her Five Gods version of Earth.)

So Cordelia, three years a widow and still Viscerine of Sergyar, ruling in the name of Emperor Gregor, decides that it's time to make some changes. Aral's death has left a hole in her life and in her heart, but with a potential fifty years left to her it's time she did something for herself. It's no accident that the cover has strands of DNA twirling across it as Cordelia decides it's time to give forty-something year old Miles some siblings, courtesy of frozen eggs and sperm which she and Aral 'banked' many years earlier, and which she now has legal control over.

Admiral Oliver Jole, Aral's one time protégé and now admiral in charge of the Sergyar fleet, finds himself unexpectedly drawn into Cordelia's plans which, in turn, causes a re-examination of his own life and aspirations.

Miles, now Count of the Vorkosigan district since Aral's death, but also a ferociously dogged Imperial Auditor, comes to investigate his mother's plans and finds more than he bargained for.

No further spoilers. Read the book. Compared to a lot of Vorkosigan books this one is quite domestic in nature but it manages to cover the ins and outs of developing a colony on a planet with bio-systems still barely explored, plus the reproductive technology that Cordelia introduced into the Barrayaran system and which - forty some years ago - saved baby Miles' life.

It's also a thorough character study of old and new protagonists. I don't remember Jole from other books (though he appears to have been a very minor character and I must go back and re-read) but now in retrospect we see that things were somewhat different to our imaginings. We learn a lot about the retrospectives of Aral, Cordelia and Jole's lives, together and separately, and so - to his surprise - does Miles.

While not a comedy this is funny and sweet while remaining intriguing. Highly recommended.

22nd Jan, 2016

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Movie of the Week: In the Heart of the Sea

In_the_Heart_of_the_Sea_posterThe story of the account on which Melville based his classic story of Moby Dick. A man-against-nature movie with both the sea and a great white whale batting for nature while on the man team is Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Wishaw, Benjamin Walker and Tom Holland batting for the crew of the New England whaling ship the Essex. The story itself is bookended in 1850 by Melville (Wishaw) hunting down the last survivor of the Essex, sunk thirty years before in 1820, to get the true account. And get it he does, in all its gory detail.

The tale describes a voyage already fraught because the first mate, Owen Chase, (Hemsworth) has been passed over for captaincy of the Essex in favour of an inexperienced but well connected George Pollard (Walker). The two are at odds almost at once and this continues through months of finding no whales.

Eventually they head hundreds of miles out to sea in the pacific in search of fabled whaling grounds and that's where their troubles really start. The white whale is a tenacious enemy and this is the story of how they (some of them at any rate) survive.

It's beautifully filmed. The whaling sequences are truly awful, sparing no detail of his the creatures were hacked to pieces and boiled for their oil - a valuable commodity used to light streets and homes. Ron Howard directs and the pace is tense. It had me riveted. Apparently it received mixed reviews, but I'd recommend it.

13th Jan, 2016

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Book Log 2/2016 - Andy Weir: The Martian

MartianI galloped through this book in two days, ignoring my own pressing work and letting the family sort itself out because... I couldn't put it down. I'm sure everyone has heard the plot by now: astronaut, Mark Watney, left behind on Mars when a mission has to be aborted suddenly, and then finds himself having to 'science the shit' out of everything in order to stay alive until the next Mars mission arrives. First he has to make running repairs to his EVA suit in order to get back to the habitat, and then he has to stitch the puncture wound in his side. After that he has to work out how to feed himself after the mission supplies have run out and has to repair and repurpose everything he can find. Nothing is wasted, from human waste to the tiniest little bolt or clip. Every page (written mostly as log entries) presents a new problem to be solved and one by one Watney solves them while the whole population of earth waits with bated breath to see whether the various ideas for a rescue mission are going to fly. (Sometimes literally!) It's an absorbing read, an extreme 'man against the environment' story. I read the book after seeing the movie, but even though I had a fair idea of what was going to happen, I was still thoroughly gripped. Probably the best book I've read in a long time.

8th Jan, 2016

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Margaret Harvey and Wharfedale Riding School

HarveysThe Harvey Family - Margaret on the left.

Back in 2011 I posted some recollections of my college riding club days and riding at the stables in Menston, Near Otley, Yorks, run by Margaret Harvey. Margaret was a character. Even when we knew her in the 1970s she seemed to be a little out of time - a relic of those 1950s pony books that I grew up reading, a mixture of tweedy pony club and jolly hockey sticks with an exceedingly gung-ho attitude to almost everything.

I lost touch with Margaret. She seemed so much older than us at the time we knew her (everyone over thirty was ancient, of course) so back in 2011 I figured she was probably dead. It turns out I was wrong then, though sadly she died just before Christmas in late 2015, so this is a retrospective. Margaret and I communicated by email briefly, but she had a fall and then a stroke and one thing led to another...

I am a member of the Wharfedale Riding School facebook group. Ex-pupils, helpers and employees have been posting photographs of Margaret's remarkable life with horses, some of the slightly fuzzy ones are scanned from newspaper articles.

Here are some of them.


1950s. A Very Big Adventure. Margaret leads a trek from Menston to Malton. The gypsy vardo on the right was always in stable yeard when I used to ride there.
MH Trek Menston to Malton


1858. Margaret with Wharfedale Gay Metal, winners at the Bramham Hunter Trials.
MH-Metal 1958 - Winner Bramham Hunter Trials

1960 Margaret Metal and some of his trophies
MH Metal 1960 Trophies


Margaret riding Metal (the grey) and Heather Willett riding Star, Margaret's other great jumping pony. Both ponies lived to a ripe old age.
1960 MH on Metal, Heather Willett on Star

Margaret in 1973 winning the Winter Riders in Doncaster on Kestrel, her own home-bred appaloosa stallion who sired a great many of the foals that she bred. She beat many of the famous names of the day.
Kestrel 1973 winning Winter Riders, Doncaster

As late as 2013. Margaret with Ravennah, the great great granddaughter of one of her favourite mares, Honey. By this time the riding school was long gone, but not all the horses.
Margaret & Ravennah

Margaret Harvey RIP.
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Book Log 1/2016 - Patricia Briggs: Fire Touched - Mercy Thompson #9

Fire TouchedThe fae 'came out' to humans and then retired to their reservations, fortresses that no human can enter without permission. But the fae are a mess of warring factions and tensions between certain fae and humans are mounting. Coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her werewolf mate, Adam, Alpha of the Columbia Basin pack are called to help with a dangerous, rampaging troll, which they take down only with the last minute help from old friends from one of the fae factions. When Mercy ends up declaring that the Columbia basin is pack territory she sets a sequence of events in motion that pits werewolves against fae.

Well aware that this could escalate into all-out war, the Marrok - leader of all North American werewolf packs - cuts the Columbia Basin pack loose to sink or swim, so Mercy, Adam and their pack have to deal with events. In the meantime Mercy has given sanctuary to a human boy who has been imprisoned in Underhill for centuries, acquiring fae talents which he should not be able to control (but can). The fae want him, Underhill wants him, and only Mercy and Adam stand in the way.

Yet another of the excellent Mercy Thompson books from Patricia Briggs. It's the 9th in the series, so probably not a good starting point for new readers, but if you haven't read them before I do urge you to start at the beginning with Moon Called and read them all in order. You've got time. This isn't out until March 2016, I received this as a review copy from netgalley.

7th Jan, 2016

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Movies of the Week 2015 - Roundup.

Well, I guess the new Star Wars movie was the highlight of the year, much anticipated and very much enjoyed. Other that that there were some highlights and some stinkers. Sadly Pan was probably the worst of the stinkers, beautifully filmed, but an afternoon of my life I'd like to reclaim because I couldn't care about any of the characters. Hunger Games Mockingjay 2 suffered from being split into two movies. Perhaps, one day, someone enterprising with re-cut it into the one movie it needed to be. It wasn't a stinker, but it wasn't as good as it could have been. Of the teen dystopian movies I much preferred Insurgent. I've made sure I don't read the books first this time. (However not reading the books couldn't really rescue Maze Runner - Scorch Trials.) Easily forgettable movies included Fantastic Four, Age of Adaline, Spectre, Tomorrowland, Scorch Trials, Victor Frankenstein, Jupiter Ascending (which could have been so much better than it was!), Into the Woods and Cinderella. None of them was awful, but, a bit like eating a chocolate bar - OK at the time, but once the last bite disappears, the memory fades.

The Martian was fabulous, well deserving of all its rave reviews and I hope it gets a look in at the Oscars. It's certainly in my top two of the year. If you didn't see it at the cinema buy the DVD when it comes out.

Extremely enjoyable were Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation; Man from UNCLE, Jurassic World, Avengers-Age of Ultron, Kingsman, Chappie, Insurgent, Second Best Marigold Hotel, Night at the Museum 3 (Yes, really!), Absolutely Anything, and (suprisingly) Ant Man, which I was in two minds about seeing, but I'm really glad I did.

Birdman was fascinating, and I do think it deserved it's Oscar win, but it's not a movie I would want to watch twice.

The animations were all pretty good: Inside Out, Minions, Home and Big Hero 6 all delivered, though at times Inside Out was like watching an animated psychology textbook.

The live cinema broadcast of the National Theatre's Treasure Island probably shouldn't be included in this list because the experience was more like watching theatre than cinema even though it was experienced via the big screen. I enjoyed it very much and will certainly check out all the other live-performance broadcasts in the coming year.

Anyhow, here's what I saw in 2015:
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Movie of the Week: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Star Wars Force Awakens22nd December 2015

At last, the movie we've been waiting for all year. Both H and I managed to avoid pre-movie spoilers and so we saw it fresh. Verdict? Yes, good. I finally feel as though we've reclaimed Star Wars from the dreary prequels. Hard to review this without spoilers, though I guess most people who want to see it will have seen it by now (writing on 7th January), however I will avoid the major ones.

The new characters are pretty good, particularly Rey (Daisy Ridley), the main (female) hero who is strong. gutsy, clued up, and who takes what she's given and runs with it. Finn (john Boyega) is only half a pace behind as a reformed storm trooper who rejects his heritage and training and makes a run for it rather than slaughter innocents. I was a bit ambivalent about Kylo Ren when I saw this the first time round (yes, I've seen it twice already) but on second viewing it's obvious he's a flawed villan and his flaws are what make him dangerous.

The original heroes of Episodes 4, 5 and 6, Luke Leia and Han are all in there, suitably older but still perfectly cast. Leia is no longer a princess, but a general in the resistance and Carrie Fisher is going to bat for all older actresses. I think she pitches it perfectly. Harrison Ford's Han Solo still steals the show, I think, though he doesn't overwhelm it. Mark Hamil, Luke Skywalker is there, but largely being saved for Episode VIII, I think. This movie slices through decades of Star Wars novels and cuts adrift  the Luke/Han/Leia (and their children) storylines post Return of the Jedi, which was inevitable, really.

It's now thirty years on from the defeat of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi, and the good guys (the resistance) are now fighting the First Order, who seem to be the inheritors of the ld Empire, even if they don't quite see themselves in that light. Rae is a scavenger on a backward and back-woods desert planet who finds (or is found by) the little droid BB8 after Poe Dameron (hotshot pilot in the resistance) and Finn crash after escaping from the bad guys. There are hints that Rae has some kind of heritage that's hidden form her and you can read endless speculation about this online if you want to, but it's easier to take her at face value in this movie.

Essentially Episode VII, The Force Awakens, follows all the beats of Episode VI, A New Hope, but this isn't a box ticking exercise, it's a reclamation. Looking forward to Episode VIII and the standalone movie that we've been promised for December 2016.
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Movie of the Week: Spectre

Spectre16th December 2015

Another outing for James Bond which I avoided for several weeks because my cinebuddy, H, saw it with her husband and said the overall volume was WAY TOO LOUD and the whole thing wasn't as good as Skyfall. Eventually, however, it was a slack week for new movies, so we went to see it. (H for the second time.) Glad to say that at Wakefield the overall volume was not too loud, so it must have been a quirk of the cinema H saw it in (Sheffield), however she was right about it being not as good as Skyfall, which i think was the best bond movie in years, largely due to the onscreen chemistry between Bond and M, Daniel Craig and Judy Dench.

Dench's M is still running the show in this one, despite her shoes having been filled by Ralph Fiennes, having given Bond a lead to follow which leads him to someone from his childhood who has long had it in for him. Sadly that required a lot of suspension of disbelief to get past the plot holes and I didn't quite make it, but it delivered the usual Bondish action of chases (car and foot) and ingenious escapes. Q and M actually got some protagging to do, which was interesting. But the villain, supposedly a supervillain, was lacking in general onscreen menace.

31st Dec, 2015

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Books Read in 2015 - A Retrospective

It's that time of year again. My fiction reading is always severely restricted when I'm writing, particularly when i'm at the first draft stage. I've done a lot of writing this year. I finished off Crossways, which came out in August and made a start on Nimbus which will be the third Psi-Tech book. Then I edited Winterwood, adding about 20,000 words of new material, then immediately began on the sequel, Silverwolf. I'm now 90,000 words into the first draft.

Surprisingly I still found time and energy to read and blog thirty five novels (okay, a couple of them were novellas, so, sue me!) This was the year I discovered Diana Gabaldon. Yes, I know a lot of you recommended her to me at least twenty years ago, and you were right - she knows how to keep the pages turning. New to me this year and authors who will definitely be on my future reading lists include C.E. Murphy, Judith Tarr and Genevieve Cogman. Old favourites included: Lisa Shearin, Joe Abercrombie, Patricia Briggs, Anne Aguirre, Kevin Hearne and Terry Pratchett.

I managed to get all the way through a graphic novel, the reprint of early Modesty Blaise strip cartoons, The Gabriel Set Up, written by Peter O'Donnell and illustrated by Jim Holdaway. I think I managed better with the spare style of black and white drawings originally done for newspaper publication, than I do with the lavish colour graphic novels of recent years where I often have difficulty interpreting what's happening.

My biggest disappointment was Erin Morganstern's The Night Circus, which I'd heard good things about. The writing itself was lush and sensual, but it was too plot-lite for me and I didn't feel deeply involved with the characters. I've never got on all that well with literary novels, but if that's your thing, then you may disagree with me completely over this book.

Anyhow, for better or worse, this is what I read in 2015. Each one of these is book-logged here.


  1. Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus

  2. Lisa Shearin: Wild Card

  3. Joe Abercrombie: Half a King

  4. Jen Williams: The Copper Promise

  5. Patricia Briggs: Dead Heat - Alpha and Omega #4

  6. Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

  7. Octavia Butler: Dawn - Exogenesis #1

  8. Jill Schultz: Angel on the Ropes

  9. Peter Dickinson: The Changes Trilogy

  10. David Barnett: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl

  11. Ian Whates: Pelquin's Comet

  12. CE Murphy: Heart of Stone - Negotiator Trilogy #1 - Old Races #1

  13. Terry Pratchett: Raising Steam - Discworld #40

  14. Judith Tarr: Forgotten Suns

  15. Peter O'Donnell and Jim Holdaway: Modesty Blaise - The Gabriel Set-Up

  16. Winston Graham: Ross Poldark - Poldark #1

  17. Various Authors: Firefly: Still Flying

  18. Lia Silver: Prisoner

  19. Lia Silver: Partner

  20. Diana Gabaldon: Outlander - Outlander #1

  21. Georgette Heyer: An Infamous Army

  22. Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber - Outlander #2

  23. Georgette Heyer: Cotillion

  24. Diana Gabaldon: Voyager - Outlander #3

  25. Terry Pratchett: the Shepherd's Crown - Discworld #41 - Tiffany Aching #5

  26. Ann Aguirre: Forbidden Fruit: Corinne Solomon #3.5 (novella)

  27. Kevin Hearne: Hexed - Iron Druid #2

  28. Toby Venables: Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows - Hunter of Sherwood #1

  29. Diana Gabaldon: The Drums of Autumn - Outlander #4

  30. Diana Gabaldon: Lord John and the Hand of Devils - Lord John #0.5

  31. Diana Gabaldon: Lord John and the Private Matter - Lord John #1

  32. Stella Duffy: Dr Who: The Anti-Hero - Time Trips

  33. Diana Gabaldon: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade - Lord John #2

  34. Genevieve Cogman: The Masked City

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Book Log 35/2015 - Genevieve Cogman: The Masked City. Invisible Library #2

Masked CityMy final book of 2015...

I really enjoyed the first Invisible Library book, and I was looking forward to this. It certainly didn't disappoint.

It continues the story of Irene, an agent of the Invisible Library which exists between dimensions, and has access to all the alternate earths in the multiverse. The library's purpose is to collect and preserve all the alternate versions of important books that have been published in the various dimensions and the librarians are, essentially, book thieves (or sometimes book-buyers). After the first book, Irene is now the resident librarian in a steampunky alternate London, with her assistant, Kai, and their friend, Vale, a Sherlock Holmesian figure. Their world does have some magic and the Fae are in evidence - mostly hanging out at the Lichtenstein Embassy.

The Fae pull worlds towards chaos, which the powerful dragons strive for order. Dragons can't live in high-chaos worlds while Fae are allergic to order, but there are worlds, such are Irene's, which have a helping of both.

Kai is a young dragon - in human form - which is somewhat unusual. Not only is he a dragon, but he's a dragon prince, with obligations. When Kai is kidnapped and whisked off world to a high-chaos Venice Irene must rescue him or risk an all-out war between the dragons and the Fae which will certainly destroy Vale's alternate world, and may well have far reaching consequences for other worlds and the humans caught in the crossfire.

With the help of the Fae, Silver, a rival of the Guantes (the Fae who have kidnapped Kai in order to start a war) Irene manages to get herself to the high-chaos Venice where Kai is due to be auctioned to the highest Fae bidder, triggering dragon wrath. She has a limited amount of time to spring him from his magical prison

There's a lot to like in here. The setting is imaginative, the pacing keen. Irene's character is resourceful and the supporting characters believable. Kai is out of it for most of the story, but there are hints that the attraction between Irene and Kai is rather more than a teacher-student relationship should be, which is why Irene is doing her best not to act on her feelings. I look forward to seeing how this develops in future books. There's at least one more to come.

15th Dec, 2015

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Good Review of Winterwood

Well, it's not out until 2nd February but a good review in Publishers Weekly is certainly very cheering:

Winterwood front cover-smallWinterwood

Jacey Bedford, Author
Swashbuckling adventure collides with mystical mayhem on land and at sea in this rousing historical fantasy series launch set in a magic-infused England in 1800. Rossalinde Tremayne has done well for herself as a privateer in Mad King George’s service, using her abilities as a witch and the ever-present ghost of her long-dead husband (whose reputation and identity she’s borrowed) to claim other ships for profit and the Crown. Her estranged mother’s dying request is for Rossalinde to take a mysterious box, drawing her into a deadly mystery. In order to harness the power within the box, she has to unravel the secrets of a family she never knew existed, all while eluding those who want her dead. When her quest takes her into the hidden land of the Fae, she’ll be forced to make a choice that could alter the fate of an empire. Bedford (Crossways) adeptly weaves together romance, action, and fantastical elements, all set against a richly realized series of far-flung locations. Conflict both nautical and emotional keeps things exciting. Agent: Amy Boggs, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Feb.)

13th Dec, 2015

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Book Log 34/2015 - Diana Gabaldon: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade Lord John #2

Lord John Brotyherhood BladeAnother of the Outlander spinoffs set in the mid 1750s featuring John Grey, youngest son of the disgraced, deceased Duke of Pardloe, and an unrepentant homosexual in an era when it was a hanging offence. Lord John is a principled young man, a career soldier (Major) in his older brother, Hal's regiment. This is a mystery, but largely concerning the story surrounding the Duke of Pardloe's demise, supposedly a suicide, but John Grey, only twelve at the time it happened, knows differently.

A fair bit of the plot hinges on people on the same side not sharing information and it takes a while for John to pull the story together from what he knows and what he discovers. If his mother and older brother had come clean then it would have been a much shorter book.

Ms Gabaldon knows how to write a page turner and with the main murder-mystery, the military detail, and the sub-plot of Grey's complex relationship with Percy, his new step-brother by marriage, there's a lot to like in this book. It's also good to see Jamie Fraser, main character in Outlander, appearing here in a minor but vital role.
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Movie of the Week: Victor Frankenstein

Victor FrankensteinYou might think that the Frankenstein story has been mined out over the years, but this time the film industry has come up with Victor meets Igor, It's not quite a porequel because it does see the story through to the end, but much emphasis is put on Frankenstein rescuing the downtrodden hunchback, Igor, (Daniel Radcliffe) from a desperately bad life as a circus freak, hence Igor's devotion to Frankenstein despite his better judgement.

Radcliffe is a surprisingly effective Igor, particularly in the circus scenes. James McAvoy is the driven (and quite bonkers) Victor. The story does have a different take on the story and was well worth watching on a wet Wednesday afternoon on the Meerkat Movies two-for-one offer.
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Book Log 33/2015 - Humphrey Jennings: Pandaemonium 1660 - 1866

PandaemoniumThe Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers
A collection of contemporary texts on the progress of the industrial revolution from 1660 to 1866, well chosen and arranged in chronologigal order. It includes poetry, diary extracts and contemporary writings and gives an excellent flavour of the changes taking place. It provides a continuous narrative of the industrial revolution, but told from many different viewpoints, a narrative of ideas and emotions, not merely of hard facts and mechanical innovations. The pieces illuminate the industrial revolution as straightforward text books cannot.

Humphrey Jennings was a documentary film maker who died in 1950 with this work incomplete, but with a huge selection of writings and notes from which it has been assembled by Charles Madge. True to Jennings original intention this collection of writings is a visual piece. From a personal research point of view, it provides an insight into the period I'm writing about, from descriptions of London, scientific treatises, newspaper articles, letters, extracts, pamphlets, diaries and poems. It includes writings of Lord Byron, William Cobbett, William Blake, Jeremy Bentham, James Watt, Vincent Lunardi, Tom Paine, Elizabeth Fry, Dorothy Wordswirth, Tom Poole, Michael Faraday and many, many more. Highly recommended.
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Movie of the Week: Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part Two

Mockingjay Pt 2I was only half looking forward to this. I enjoyed the first two films (and the first two books), but Mockingjay Part One suffered from being the movie of the first half of the final book in the trilogy, depicting the period where Katniss, suffering from PTSD, has no agency. Frankly her agency is limited for part of this movie, too, until she takes it back in the final moments in an act which is flagged up so heavily that it comes as no surprise,

There's no doubt that the acting is excellent (particularly Jennifer Lawrence, but also the supporting cast) and the cinematography/world-building well realised, but oh how I wish they'd not succumbed to splitting the last book. One movie would have been quite sufficient.

20th Nov, 2015

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Book Log 32/2015 - Stella Duffy: Dr Who: The Anti-Hero - Time Trips

Dr Wgo Anti-HeroA short novel/novella featuring the second doctor, Jamie and Zoe getting mixed up with auromata and muses at the Library/Museum of Alexandria. A quick, easy, but largely uninvolving read, even when Jamie has a scalpel poised above his chest. There are a few references for current (adult) Whovians to catch in passing, but this largely relies on readers already being familiar with the characters. This is part of the Time Trips series and is obviously aimed at/would be good for young or reluctant readers who are Who fans.

I read this as a review copy from netgalley

18th Nov, 2015

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Recent posts on the writing blog

Here's a list of things you might be interested in on my writing blog over on Wordpress.
No pressure.

17th Nov, 2015

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Book Log 31/2015 - Diana Gabaldon: Lord John and the Private Matter - Lord John #1

Lord John & Private MatterThe year is 1757.It's early in the Seven Years War between Britain and France. Lord John Grey has a very delicate problem when he witnesses something intensely personal that could impact dreadfully on his own family. At the same time he is officially ordered to investigate the murder of a brother army officer. From polite drawing rooms to eighteenth century molly houses, Grey's investigation leads him deeper and deeper into political intrigue, treachery and plot.

Grey is a fiercely intelligent and honourable man with a secret that could ruin him. He's gay at a time when it's a capital offence. He's not only an officer in the army, but aristocrat with a name and a family to protect.

Lord John's timeline weaves in and out of the Outlander books. This is the first full length novel. It takes place between the novellas collected in Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and in the overall timeline it comes after the events of Ardsmuir Prison in the Outlander novel, Voyager. Grey has met (and fallen for) Jamie Frazer, but though his affection is not reciprocated (and he's too much of a gentleman to push matters in that respect) Fraser is still very much in his thoughts. The sexual orientation issues are handled sensitively and in keeping with the attitudes of the day.

The Grey novels are historical mysteries without the fantasy elements and the raw passion of Outlander, but they are well written and good page turners in their own right.
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Book Log 30/2015 - Diana Gabaldon: Lord John and the Hand of Devils - Lord John #.05 (Outlander)

Lord John Hand DevilThree Lord John novellas which offer an introduction to the spinoff series from the Outlander novels featuring Lord John Grey. Outlander had fantasy elements (time travel) but Lord John is much closer to being straight historical fiction/mysteries. Lord John appears in the Outlander book Voyager and these shorts are from various times within the Lord John novels.

Individually the novellas are as follows.

Lord John and the Hellfire Club: Lord John investigates a murder which leads him into political treachery and into the realm of the debauchery of the hellfire Club.

Lord John and the Private Matter coimes here in the timeline

Lord John and the Succubus: Lord John is on active duty in Prussia and has to solve the mystery of a murdered soldier, a treacherous Gypsy and the Night Hag.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade comes here in the timeline.

Lord John and the Haunted Soldier. Recovering from serious injury, Lord John has to investigate an exploding cannon and the possibility that someone is sabotaging ordnance.

Readers of the Outlander novels have already met Lord John when he was put in charge of the Ardsmuir prison during Jamie's incarceration in Voyager. Jamie is not a character in these stories. John is an interesting character in his own right, intelligent, honourable, brave, and gay at a time when it's a capital offence. I'm always wary of spinoff novels, but these novellas had me hooked on Lord John right from the start.
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Book Log 29/2015 - Diana Gabaldon: The Drums of Autumn - Outlander #4

Drums of AutumnI must admit, I've fallen for this series, hook, line and sinker and now I have several friends yelling I TOLD YOU SO!
Yeah, OK, I admit it. They did tell me so and I resisted... But Gabaldon can write a page-turner, and once you get hooked on the characters you have to keep reading.

Claire and Jamie are struggling to set up a new settlement deep in uncharted territory in the Americas while in the 1960s Claire's daughter, Brianna discovers an old newspaper article revealing that her parents died in a house fire - something that her beloved, Roger Wakefield, has decided to keep from her so as not to upset her. This is what happens when Brianna decides to go through the stones to warn her parents.

Lots of exciting stuff in here, contact with American Indian tribes, friendly and not so friendly, Jamie finds allies and saves a life only to find that no good deed goes unpunished.

Claire and Jamie are getting older, but still seem like youngsters in terms of energy level and story. Are they ever going to grow old gracefully? On this showing I doubt it, which bodes well for future volumes. Although there are other major characters this is still very much Claire and Jamie's story.
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Book Log 28/2015 - Toby Venables: Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows - Guy of Guisburne #1

Hunter of SherwoodThough you might expect the hero of this tale to be Robin Hood, in an interesting twist Venables' hero is Guy of Guisburne, and Hood is a figure of chaos, Guy's nemesis, though in this book he only appears as a secondary figure.

Guy is a kind of 007 to Prince John, who in this telling is the good brother and Richard the Lionheart is the shit who virtually abandoned all responsibilities in England and drew off all the resources he could monetise to support his endless warring in the Holy Land. That Richard cared nothing for England is much is pretty well a historical truth. Richard did say that he would sell London itself if only he could find a buyer. John, however did have his flaws, though they seem to have been overlooked here.

Sir Guy is given a task by Prince John, steal a holy relic--the jewel encrusted skull of John the Baptist--before Philip of France can get hold of it. Most of the action takes place in France, but at the same time as the forward action is progressing, we learn of Guy's backstory, his struggle to become a knight, with all that entailed, and his relationship with Robert/Robin Hood when they were both mercenaries, ending up surviving the Siege of Hattin, a huge defeat for Christendom.

Guy's enemy is Tancred, the rogue Templar de Mercheval, and his henchman Fulke. Both Tancred and Fulke are pretty nasty characters. Fulke is bad enough, but Tancred is as mad as a bag of spanners, believing himself to be blessed by God and the dispenser of His justice. He wants the relic for himself. On his side Guy has his somewhat opinionated squire, Galfrid, forced upon him by John, and a mysterious and beautiful stranger, Melisande, a woman who fights better than any man, with assassin style training. There's also a Q to Guisburne's 007 in the personage of Prince John's armourer, Llewellyn, who provides Greek fire and gadgetry.

This book doesn't work perfectly, there's one point where Guy's plan is frankly suicidal and yet he survives it, however the things that do work, work very well indeed. The characterisation is excellent, I especially like Galfrid who makes a brilliant sidekick. The characterisation of Hood also shows what have always been taken as his good points to be severe flaws that make him almost impossible to reason with. Guy himself is a sympathetic hero and we learn a lot of his backstory, which all adds to the character building.

In essence this is a set-up book for future stories and I think we can expect very interesting things from Sherwood in the future.

16th Nov, 2015

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The State of the Jacey

I'm behind on my booklogs, not because I haven't been reading, but because I've been snatching odd chapters between bouts of writing and so not reading in quite such a concentrated fashion as I usually do. I'm about five books behind on writing up my book bloggage - for which I am about to make up. As usual in a year with a lot of writing, it's my reading that suffers. I do find it difficult to read fiction when I'm writing a first draft of something. I'm always wary in case ideas bleed over without me realising. In a normal year I might read (and blog) 50 or 60 books, but this year I'll be lucky to manage 35 or 40.

Cinema, too. Frankly for the last few weeks there's been nothing on we've wanted to see.  I was tempted by the new Bond movie, Spectre, but my cinebuddy, H, went to see it with her best beloved. (Like my best beloved, he doen't much care for cinema trips, usually.) H would have been happy to see it again but she said a) it wasn't as good as the last one and b) it was exceedingly LOUD in places. Besides, I've been busy...

Winterwood front cover-smallI decided to pace myself alongside NaNoWriMo to get a whole heap of extra wordage on the work in progress. I'm currently working on the frst draf of Silverwolf, which is the sequel to Winterwood, my magic pirate book, which comes out in February. (And for which I've just had the cover.) My deadline for delivery of Silverwolf is February, but I want to get the first draft done by Christmas if I can, so that I have time to let it settle, let a few beta-readers have their wicked way with it, and then do any redrafting necessary to lick it into shape. There will, of course, be editorial comments from Sheila at DAW, and a further edit (at least one) beyond that. Publication date hasn't been confirmed yet, but depending on my delivery of the first draft it will either be late 2016 or early 2017.

After that I have Nimbus, the third Psi-Tech novel to write. Before I knew DAW's publication order for the next two novels, I'd done the first 10k words on that, so I have some ideas sloshing round in this bucket I sometimes call a brain.

So NaNoWriMo is halfway over and so far I've written almost 22,000 words, taking a couple of days off for a) my daughter and grandson's all-too-rare visit, and b) Novacon in Nottingham. I need to do at least 1,900 words a day now to make up the 50,000 words for November. Right... onwards and upwards...

20th Oct, 2015

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Movie of the Week: Pan

PanHow can something that is a visual delight be so boring? Pan has everything going for it - including Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, the villain - but manages to miss the mark by a mile. I'd read bad reviews. I should have believed them.

Okay, it's not all bad news. Levi Miller is an effective lead as Peter Pan and largely holds the movie together. Garrett Hedlund is an engaging Hook (who has not yet lost his hand and fallen out with Peter), though he plays it straight out of the Star Wars book with so many Han Solo momentds that you almost wonder which film you're watching. Rooney Mara is a very cute Tiger Lily and gets some pretty cool swashbuckling action scenes. Sadly Hugh Jackman plays Blackbeard as if he were in pantomime. Very occasionally there's an 'acting' moment, and you see a real person behind the character, but I suspect the director kept him firmly two-dimensional because this is certainly not his usual standard of acting. It has to be deliberate.

There's some good CGI with flying three-masted sailing ships, and one or two slightly tacky moments, but mostly the visuals are good, if a little 'Avatar' on occasions. I'm deeply relieved that we saw the 2D version, however.

What lets the whole thing down? Poor script and lacklustre direction/editing. It takes a long time to make its point and to get from event to event. On the whole, I spent the last half of the movie checking my watch because I'd seen enough by that time.

Do yourself a favour, go and see The Martian instead.

18th Oct, 2015

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The Other Blog

Recent posts to my other (writing) blog include:Do go and take a quick look if you have time.
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Movie of the Week: The Martian

MartianFor various reasons we missed a few weeks of regular cinemagoing, so were delighted to be able to see The Martian last Wednesday. I'd heard good things about it and - thenkfully - they were all true. Great plot tension, absorbing problem solving and an engrossing storyline on Mars and the parallel story on Earth with the NASA crew.

And (bonus) Sean Bean didn't die!

By now most people know the basic theme. Astronaut is left for dead on Mars when the crew has to abandon the base due to a storm that's threatening to destroy their ride back home, but astronaut (Matt Damon) survives and then has the problem of keeping himself alive until a) more supplies can be delivered or b) a rescue team arrives.

I am informed by my friends who know more about the science than I do that the science in this is plausible, which is gratifying, but also the storytelling is excellent. It's a man-against-the-environment story told with an interesting 'voice'. While Matt Damon's character is sciencing the shit out of his situation, the NASA crew are working out ways to bring him home. Disagreements surface and are dealt with - one way or another - which leads to a dramatic rescue attempt thanks to the cooperation of the Chinese.

Matt Damon is an effective lead. The Martian landscapes are beautifully realised. Visually satisfying.

Highly recommended.

22nd Sep, 2015

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Movie of the Week: The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner 2)

Scorch TrialsWhat a mess this movie is. I saw Maze Runner, but still spent the first half hour of this wondering what the hell was happening. I hope the book has more clarity. I suspect it does.

Visually it has some good outdoor settings, though it retreats to the obligatory derelict factory for a fair bit of the movie. And when will moviemakers read the Evil Overlord list? In particular the point that it makes: "When I am Evil Overlord I will not have air ducts big enough for a perspn to crawl through."

Plotwise, the kids who escaped the Maze in the first movie (all boys except for Teresa) now have a new set of trials to face. The good guys who rescued them at the end of the Maze Runner turn out not to be so good after all and they have to go on the run into the scorch - the wasteland peopled by zombie-like victims of a plague to which our kids are immune and therefore very valuable (biologically).

Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger from Game of Thrones) plays the chief bad guy, channelling Gary Oldman. The lead character, Thomas is played by Dylan O'Brien and Teresa is played by Kaya Scodelario who looks like a bland version of Evangeline Lilly (who I like). Sadly, neither actor is memorable or even particularly noticeable. Thomas Brodie Sangster (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall) is a more interesting actor, but gets little to do here, though the little he does, he does well. Sangster could probably have played the lead in this with one brain cell tied behind his back. Ditto Rosa Salazar as Brenda. Hopefully she'll be in the third movie in the trilogy (Please, gods, I hope they don't make the last book into two!)

In the current trio of teens-against-dystopia trilogies/quartets: Hunger Games, Divergent/Insurgent and Maze Runner, Maze Runner comes a very poor third. Pity because i would have so liked to like it.

The only upside was that the set of trailers they showed with this bodes well for the rest of the year: Star Wars (yay!) Bond - Spectre, Pan, The Martian and Mockingjay. in particular I've been waiting for the theatreical trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hopefully Disney has done it justice and we can all forget about Episodes 1, 2 and 3 and reset to 4, 5 and 6 (i.e. the original three) and beyond.

21st Sep, 2015

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Movie of the Week: Man from UNCLE

ManFromUNCLEDespite a bad review from a friend whose opinion on movies I value, I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. It's true it bears next to no relationship with the original TV series other than the names Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo, but it's a fun romp for all that. It is what it is, and I guess it would be unfair to review it in the light of what it is not. Yes, I fall into the camp of 'Wouldn't it have been nice if they'd asked David McCallum to play Mr. Waverly?" but they didn't and that's that.

So this is an origin story as Solo, ex thief and con-man now working for America rather than wasting his talents in jail, is forced to work with Kuryakin, fearsome Russian agent with a slightly loose screw. It's set in the 1960s (and captures the era reasonably well).It's the height of the Cold War. A mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons to destroy the fragile relationship between the USA and the Soviet Union. The pair have to find a missing German scientist, and their only lead is his beautiful and resourceful daughter (Alicia Vikander).

U.N.C.L.E. isn't mentioned until the end when Mr. Waverly (Hugh Grant) finally makes his presence felt.

Henry Cavill plays Solo and Armie Hammer is Illya Kuryakin. One thing which does mirror the original show is that Kuryakin is a much more interesting character than Solo and Armie Hammer plays this version of Kuryakin to perfection. The story is pretty unremarkable, but in part it's balanced by the over-the-top set-pieces and underlying tongue-in-cheek humour
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Book Log 27/2015 - Kevin Hearne: Hexed - Iron Druid #2

HexedI thoroughly enjoyed the first Iron Druid book, Hounded, and Hexed did not disappoint.

Atticus O'Sullivan, the last (real) druid fought and killed Aenghus Óg: Celtic god of love, in the first book. Now he has to deal with the consequences. He still has Fragarach, a sword of unearthly power. His Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, with whom he can communicate telepathically, is his companion. Oberon is obsessed by sausages and French poodles, and gets all the best lines.

The death of Aenghus Óg has caused ripples throughout the Irish pantheon, the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Morrigan and Brighid are snapping at each other's heels and Atticus may well be piggy in the middle, but his immediate task is making peace with the survivors of a witch coven led by Malina somewhat tricky since he was (in her eyes) responsible for the loss of half her coven in the first place.

Malina is only the first of his problems; he's shown his hand by killing Aenghus Óg and there are those quick to take advantage of his skills. Coyote shows up and wants him to kill a demon (released in the Aenghus Óg fight and now preying on high school students), Then he has to deal with a strange priest and a rabbi whose intentions are not entirely clear, and Malina wants him to kill a bunch of dangerous Bacchants. But all these seem minor because a new coven has moved into town and is trying to take over the area. Atticus has tangled with them before and already has an old score to settle. It becomes personal when it becomes clear that their first objective is to kill him, his friends (including his new Druid apprentice Granuaile), his staff at the bookstore he owns, and Malina's coven. This is a fight he can't walk away from.

The second book in the Iron Druid series lives up to expectations as a fast-paced, engaging urban fantasy with mythic overtones. There are some loose ends which I trust will be dealt with in later books. Leif--Atticus' vampire lawyer--extracts a promise that Atticus will kill Thor. Yes, THAT Thor.

31st Aug, 2015

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Book Log 26/2015 - Ann Aguirre: Forbidden Fruit: Corinne Solomon 3.5 (novella)

Forbidden FruitA novella which is - according to the afterword - number 3.5 in the Corinne Solomon series, but since I picked this up at random and haven't read any of the others I just took it at face value. Corinne Solomon doesn't actually appear, so it seems to be more of a spin-off than a continuation, or an infill. I don't know whether these two characters are staples of the series or not.

It's pretty obvious there's something strange going on. Shannon communicates with the dead via an antique radio and Jesse is a cop who's looking after her as she resettles in Laredo. There's a hole in her memories, apparently the result of some sort of spell and Jesse, an empath as well as a cop - has the same gap in his knowledge. There are demons after Shann, buit we don't really find out why. I suspect that wuill be revealed in other books in the series. Basically this is the story of how two people's relationship changes. Sweet and sexy in turns this is a quick read and pacy enough for me to wish it continued. Okay - I guess I just have to start reading the Corinne Solomons. I'm already a fan of Aguirre's Sirantha Jax books. Like the Jax books this is written in the first person present, which is not something I'd generally say I liked, but it works for me in the Jax books, and it works here, too.
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Book Log 25/2015 - Terry Pratchett: the Shepherd's Crown - Discworld #41 - Tiffany Aching #5

Shepherds CrownAh, the very last Terry Pratchett and a farewell not only to the author but to one of his most endearing characters, Granny Weatherwax who sets her affairs in order, cleans the house, weaves her own coffin and meets Death as an old friend, leaving her cottage, her boots and her steading to young witch Tiffany Aching.

Tiffany is a powerful young witch, yes, but stepping into Esme Weatherwax's shoes (while not giving up her own steading on the chalk) is a very big step and there are some senior witches, particularly Mrs Earwig, who would deny her the opportunity. Indeed, people are always underestimating Tiffany. She's young, working class, she comes from the chalk, not from Lancre (and chalk is 'soft') and her kind of witching largely consists of going round the district dealing with births and deaths and cutting old men's toenails because that's what needs doing. And that's what a witch does. It's not flashy magic, in fact, it's not always magic, but it's what's needful.

Tiffany has allies. Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax's long time friend, knows that Tiffany wouldn't have been named as her successor unless she was worthy, and the Nac Mac Feegles, the Wee Free Men of the first Tiffany book - a cross between miniature Scottish Nationalists, Glasgow boys on a Saturday night out, and Braveheart extras with double woad - are her staunch supporters and protectors. And then there's Geoffrey, the boy who wants to be a witch, and Tiffany's long distance boyfriend who is learning to be a doctor in Ankh Morpork at the Lady Sybil Free Hospital.

All this comes together when there's another major incursion from the Elves, those Lords and Ladies repulsed by the elder witches in the novel of the same name. Elves are nasty and dangerous. They live by their glamour and take delight in doing mischief from ruining beer to stealing children and tormenting and killing humans in various despicable and painful ways.

Needless to say Tiffany deals with the Elves in her own way and becomes her own witch in the end, not following exactly in Granny Weatherwax's bootsteps, but making her own.

This is a delightful book, a fitting end to Terry Pratchett's oeuvre. I have to say that right from the start there were moments when I could hardly read it dry-eyed. Tiffant has a lot to say about humanity, but she leads by example, working it out for herself as she goes.

When I finished the final page I was left with a hope that somewhere, in some reality, Terry Pratchett and Esme Weatherwax are sitting in the sun enjoying a substantial cup of their favourite tipple together.

25th Aug, 2015

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The Other Blog

I have a new post up on my Wordpress Blog about editing Winterwood, my upcoming third book. Please swing by and take a look. There's a partial of one of the potential cover images.
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Movie of the Week: Absolutely Anything

Absolutely AnythingWe had planned to see Man from UNCLE this week, but a particularly damning report from a friend sent us (almost at random) to see Simon Pegg in Absolutely Anything. A good choice as it turns out.

The premise: a bunch of poweful aliens are trying to decide whether the Earth is worth saving or whether it should be obliterated. As a test they select one person to be the recipient of a power which enables him to do absolutely anything. The power lands on the shoulders of mild-mannered British school teacher, Neil (Pegg) and we follow his discovery of the power, his inept usage for immediate personal benefit and his attempt to use it for the good of mankind. Imagine what a really twisted genie could do if it was granting you three wishes and you might imagine what happens to neil when the wishes he makes are granted literally.

Kudos to the voice actors, all of the surviving Monty Python team as the aliens and the much-missed Robin Williams in his last ever movie as the voice of Dennis the dog - a critical role as Dennis is a bit of a scene stealer.#

A very sweet movie, entertaining and funny - maybe not laugh-out-loud funny, but it certainly offered lots of smiles. Well worth seeing.
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Book Log 24/2015 - Diana Gabaldon: Voyager - Outlander #3

Outlander VoyagerSPOILERS FOR BOOKS 1 & 2 AHEAD.


Nearly twenty years have passed since Jamie sent Claire back to her own time to save the life of his unborn child while he returned to the battlefield of Culloden, expecting to die, and there isn't a day when she hasn't missed him despite getting on with her life, training to be a doctor and having a rocky relationship with Frank (recently deceased) while raising Jamie's red-headed daughter Brianna.

Through a series of flashbacks we see what Jamie and Claire's lives have been in the years they've been apart. Yes, that's right, Jamie didn't die at Culloden, though he had a pretty grim time of it afterwards.

Through some judicious searching in Claire's present (1960s) she, Brianna and Roger Wakefield trace Jamie's family history, discover he's still 'alive' (in his own timeline) and Claire decides to go back. Jamie and Claire are reunited, leading to further adventures and an epic voyage.

This book is back to the top form of the first one. It's interesting in that there are viewpoint shifts, some of it being in third person and Claire's narrative in first, but this isn't jarring. It's a long book, but I galloped through it, unable to put it down.
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Book Log 23/2015 - Georgette Heyer: Cotillion.

CotillionSPOILERS AHEAD.
I MEAN IT. I GIVE AWAY THE ENDING...




I wanted something fluffy to read while editing my magic pirate book and Cotillion seemed like just the job. Kitty Charing has been raised by her irascible adopted uncle. Determined that he is dying of gout he summons Kitty's unwed male cousins-by-adoption and promises to leave his considerable fortune to whichever one of them will marry her, leaving nothing to Kitty in her own right. None of the cousins actually needs the money, being reasonably well-heeled. There's Hugh, a stiff and slightly pompous clergyman; Freddy, an empty-headed dandy more concerned about the knot in his neckcloth than acquiring a wife; Dolphinton, an Earl, but slow-witted, and Jack, a regular Corinthian, gamester and rake-about-town. It's Kitty's choice, but the one she really wants, bad-boy Jack is the only one who doesn't respond to his uncle's summons. So Kitty comes up with a scheme to get herself away from Uncle's restrictive country home, up to London, made fashionable, and introduced into society, to put herself in Jack's way. To this end she coerces the amiable Freddy to a sham engagement, is installed with his respectable married sister (whose diplomat husband is abroad) and is launched upon society. She enters into several matchmaking schemes for other people, but neglects to make progress with her own. The dashing Jack proves to be not all Kitty believed him to be and in the end it's dear, dependable, thoughtful Freddy who comes through, not quite as empty-headed as he thinks himself.
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Movie of the Week: Fantastic Four

Fantastic 4Is it me or are reboots coming so thick and fast that we all wonder why they bother any more? Or maybe why we bother. Spiderman, Superman and now Fantastic Four.

This is the origin story again with Reed Richards transitioning from child-geek to adult geek, making incredible scientific discoveries and learning how to transport organic matter to another universe by playing with bits of junk from his friend's scrapyard. Yeah, right. I can believe in kryptonite, but interdimensional travel via junkyard parts? Not so sure.

FF may be one of my least favourite comic book stories.Is it because the superpowers that our heroes get are a bit lame. Mr stretchy-man? Really? It's not very sexy, is it? As a movie this version was more than a little bland with no stand-out performances. I wasn't all that fond of the 2005 Fantastic 4 but at least Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis had a bit of charisma. I've already forgotten the names of the actors in this.
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Movie of the Week: Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation

MI Rogue NationTom Cruise is always watchable and this Mission Impossible installment delivers what it says on the tin, Lots of excitement, edge-of-the-seat set pieces, twists and disguises. A nice turn by Simon Pegg as Benji and Jeremy Renner as Brandt. Ethan and crew have to take on the Syndicate, a team just as clever and well equipped as they are, and at the same time are disowned and disbanded by their own side. Hounded by both the good guys and the bad guys, Ethan has to go rogue to achieve the impossible.

And yes, I'm sure Tom Cruise has a picture in the attic.
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Movie of the Week: Ant Man

Ant ManI'm not a comics reader, though I generally like marvel movies and this is no exception. I had no prior knowledge of Ant Man, so the movie came as a very pleasant surprise. Paul Rudd is a very engaging Scott Lang/Ant Man, an ex-con, drived to become a small-time burglar, who dons the Ant Man suit in which he shrinks in size while growing in strength. Michael Douglas is Hank Pym, his mentor and Evangeline Lilly, Pym's spirited daughter and (predictably) the love interest.

There are some nice human touches, some finely judges humour combined with full-on action adventure. Pym sends Scott to steal back Pym's technology that he fears will be used to the detrement of mankind.
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Movie of the Week: Inside Out

Inside OutAn animated psychology text book. Sweet in places and quite insightful. I would expect some of this is a bit scary for children. I'm not sure who this movie is aimed at. Parents will probably appreciate it most, I guess. There are some very funny moments (especially Dad putting his foot down) and a useful message: it's OK to be sad.

24th Aug, 2015

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Book Log 22/2015 - Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber - Outlander #2

Outlander Dragonfly in AmberWARNING SPOILERS AHEAD
Apologies, it's impossible to blog this without spoilers for either earlier books in the series, or twists in this book.

The continuing adventures of Jamie Fraser and his wife, Claire, an ex-army nurse from World War Two catapulted back (via a magical stone circle) to the time of the '45 (that's 1745) the Highland rising which culminated in the battle of Culloden when the English army crushed the Scots decisively.

With Claire's foreknowledge if how disastrous Bonnie Prince Charlie's return to Scotland will be for the Highland Clans, Claire and Jamie journey to France to try to prevent the prince from returning to Scotland, but their attempts to change history fail and Jamie is embroiled in the ill-fated campaign on Scottish soil, knowing that it will lead to the  end of the Highland Clans and cruel persecution by the English.

No matter what Claire and Jamie try it seems that history is going to take its course, so with Claire pregnant and Jamie convinced that he'll die at Culloden, he sends her back through the stones to save her life and the life of his child.

Though an excellent read, this second book in Gabaldon's Outlander series wasn't quite so gripping as the first, but it was still plenty good enough to have me reaching for the third book. There are few series that have gripped me enough to make me read three very hefty tomes in a row. Excellent characters and a real page turner.

4th Aug, 2015

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BOOK DAY! Crossways is out today.

CrosswaysIt's BOOK DAY! Crossways, my second novel, is out today.

What starts out as a search for survivors turns into a battle for survival. Space stations, corrupt corporations, telepathy, relationships and something moving in the depths of foldspace.

Not read the first one yet? Empire of Dust is still available, of course. Empire made the Locus Best Seller list in the month it was published. For Crossways to do the same it would be great if those of you who are going to buy it (if you haven't already, do so today or within the next few days. That would be fab. (No pressure, just if...) One small step for readingkind - one giant leap for Jacey!

Where to get it. If you're in the USA/Canada then all good bookstores,  Amazon/ Barnes & Noble etc. It's available as paperback or electronic version (Kindle Nook etc.). If you're in the UK then it's a bit more limited due to it being an American import, but Amazon.co.uk has it.  or Forbidden Planet if you're lucky enough to have a branch in your area.'re lucky enough to have a branch in your area.

If you want some background on the Psi-Tech universe then there's a page on my website here: http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk/psi-tech.htm

And a reminder, not just for my book, but for all books. If you like a book, talk about it, post to facebook, twitter, your blog. Tell your friends. Make recommendations. With fewer and fewer bookshops on the High Street, browsing is limited, so the best way for news to get out about new books is by word of mouth.

Thank you, readers, reviewers, bloggers, retweeters, facebookers. Without you...

21st Jul, 2015

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Time Out

Jacey Crossways 3I haven't been around LJ much for the last month or two because I'm flat out in the middle of editing Winterwood, which is the book after next, due in February 2016. This is the magic pirate book that was the one I actually made the first sale to DAW with but due to publishing schedules is the third book to be published.

The second book, Crossways, is due on 4th August - eep, just a couple of weeks away - and I just got my author copies. The cover is (once more) by Stephan Martiniere and I've done an analysis of why I love it here on my Wordpress blog: https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/book-cover-crossways/

In the meantime - apart from having my nose down to the keyboard, I spent a couple of days in London to attend the Science for Fiction Writers course, at Imperial College (organised by Dr Dave Clements who I met throiugh Milford). Some fascinating items delivered by top scientists in a way that wasn't too hard to follow for us non-scientists, though I'm still a bit boggled by the concept that time doies not exist and constantly retreat to the Douglas Adams lline of : Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. I was fascinated by the account of Rosetta and the Philae Lander. I mean - landing something the size of a washing machine on a tiny rock zooming round space, after a ten year journey. Wow!

Since Imperial College is in South Kensington, just a spit from the museums, I also managed a trip to the Victoria and Albert to check out their Regency costume for the Winterwood book and a dash into the Science Museum to look at spacesuits.
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Book Log 21/2015 - Georgette Heyer: An Infamous Army

An Infamous ArmyThis is almost more non-fiction than fiction. Ms Heyer delves into the social history immediately preceding the Battle of Waterloo, thunders through the battle itself and it's only in the aftermath that romance and history truly meet. It's a fictionalised and extremely well-researched account of Waterloo built around what seems to be a doomed romance between notorious widow, Lady Barbara Childe a heartbreaker at the centre of the social whirl in Brussels where the English have set up their own fashionable society while waiting for Wellington's army to arrive, and the very decent (and hugely forgiving) Colonel Charles Audley, one of Wellington's aides-de-camp.

I tend to read Heyer for a bit of light relief, not a history lesson, though I usually take her research for granted. This book had a huge cast of genuine historical characters - possibly rather more than I wanted to deal with, so all-in-all not my favourite Heyer, though I can understand why it's the book that she was most proud of writing.

On a secondary note - with no bearing on the quality of the story whatsoever - this particular cover bears absolutely no resemblance to any of the major characters in the story.
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Book Log 20/2015 - Diana Gabaldon: Outlander - Outlander #1

OutlanderOutlander was originally published as Cross Stitch in the UK, but I bought it from Amazon as Outlander in ebook form. It's difficult to review this as a book because I confess I watched the firsat season on TV, courtesy of Amazon Prime, before reading the book, so first of all, the book was very close to the TV series, though, of course, that should be the other way round. I greatly enjoyed revisiting the story and perhaps getting a li8ttle more depth and explanation via the text.

The story is of Claire, a Second World War army nurse reunited with her husband, Frank Randall, shortly after the war's end. They are trying to reconnect after many years apart and they go to Scotland on a second honeymoon during which Frank does a little family history, learning, in particular, about his many times great-grandfather Black Jack Randall, a British redcoat captain stationed in Scotland with a reputation to match his name.

When Claire visits a ring of standing stones she finds herself whisked back two hundred years to the time of Black Jack Randall and the time very shortly before Culloden. Randall is the first person she meets, and not in a good way. Startled to find he's the spit of her husband in looks and then horrified to find he's nothing like Frank in temperament, she ends up falling in with a tough band of kilted highlanders. Taken first as an English spy, she proves her usefulness as a healer and finds herself drawn to James Fraser, an outlaw with a price on his head and history - very bad history - with Randall.

Claire and Jamie end up married as an expedient move to make her a Scot by marriage and therefore outside of Randall's immediate jurisdiction. Despite her feelings for Frank and her longing to return to her old life - if she can - she finds herself falling for Jamie, an exasperating, red-headed, stubborn-as-an-ox highlander whose bravery, honesty and sense of honour are amongst his redeeming features. He's not a twentieth century man, however, he's a product of his time, and Claire a product of hers. Clashes are inevitable. He's a soft heart, but a hard head, and his history with Randall is going to cause painful problems for both of them.

I'm not overly familiar with Scottish history, but this feels very well researched. There's a tiny bit of dialect, but only enought ot make it feel authentic. The writing style is beautifully transparent, letting you get on with the story. Nicely done considering this was Ms Gabaldon's first book.

No more spoilers because if you like rollicking historical adventure, more than a touch of romance (and sex) and a dollop of time-travel thrown in this is the perfect book for you. I apologise now to my friend Mary-Anne who told me to read it twenty years ago. I should have taken her advice. But now I have the pleasure of seven more books to look forward to. (And another in preparation, I understand.) Highly recommended. I just ordered the second book, Dragonfly in Amber.

29th Jun, 2015

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Movie of the Week: Minions

MinionsThe minions, having evolved to serve supervillains, can't find one bad enough, at least, not one that survives for long, so after falling into terminal depression, hiding out in an ice cave for a couple of centuries, minons, Kevin, Stewart and Bob set off to find the perfect supervillain, which they do, eventually, after adventures trying to steal the crown jewels. The best jokes are in the trailer, but even so it's a sweet movie for an otherwise dull Monday afternoon
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Movie of the Week: Jurassic World

Jurassic WorldThis is everything everyone says it is, good and bad. Leave all sense of logic at the door and collect it again on your way out of the movie theatre and you'll probably enjoy it a hell of a lot. Chris Pratt makes a decent hero. There are nods to the old Jurassic Park movies and the heroine manages to stay looking reasonably clean for way longer that you might expect. There's a lot of gratuitous violence, but if you didn't expect that to begin with what the hell were you doing going to see this movie anyway? Trained raptors? Well... OK, if you must!

18th Jun, 2015

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Book Log 19/2015 - Lia Silver: Partner

PartnerPartner by Lia Silver is a direct follow-on from Prisoner. The second half of the same story, in fact. Not just action and adventure (though there is that) but also a lot (maybe too much?) exploration of PTSD and combat stress. Though this is something hardly ever tackled to this depth in what appears on the surface to be a lightweight novel, so it certainly adds something. The author certainly knows what she's talking about, being a professional therapist in her other life.

A combination of thriller with supernatural romance. DJ Torres is a 'born' werewolf and a marine who, after being injured in Afghanistan, has been imprisoned by a shadowy government agency somewhere out in the desert. There he's partnered with tough-as-nails superspy and assassin, Echo, one of two surviving experimental clones.

Though they try to hide it because they know that their captors will use it against them, Echo and DJ have bonded. In this half of the story they have to figure out how to escape the secret base, rescue DJ's former marine buddy, Roy, whom DJ bit to save his life when he was dying of wounds. They also have to bring Echo's dying clone sister out with them and liberate the pack of made werewolves who have been experimented on.

Packed with emotion, this book is more about relationships than action (though action is certainly not absent). Echo must learn how to deal with newly awakened emotions when her feelings have been in lockdown mode for many years. DJ has to deal with a new mate bond. The thrust of the story, the escape and the search for Roy, almost plays second fiddle to the psychology. Some of the urgency of the must-rescue-Roy part of the story is weakened.. The solutions, when they come, are maybe a little too easy, though the main characters don't get out unscathed. There's a missed opportunity in that much of Roy's story happens off the page (and is possibly covered in a third book which centres on Roy, which I have not read). But that's me being nitpicky, the whole thing carries you along and it's one of those stories to gulp down quickly while it's hot. It also looks as if there's another book about Echo and DJ which i look forward to reading.

15th Jun, 2015

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Phone Woes

I have a new phone. A smartphone, no less, Motorola G. Bought by doubling up my Tesco clubcard points, so I didn't actually buy it with real money, but still, it seems like a nice piece of kit... I've dowloaded some nice apps and I'm getting good wifi connection at home.

But I haven't used it as a phone yet. I was going to go with Tesco because you get triple credit. Pay a tenner, get £30. Then I realised that the extra £20 evaporates after a month if you don't use it, and since I'm a low user... no point...

So I decided to stick with Orange since I've been with them forever and I get 14p minute phone calls, but this new phone needs a mini sim, so I can't just swap my sim card over from my old phone. And that's where it all falls apart. Has anyone ever tried to talk to a real person at Orange/EE customer services? It's next to bloody impossible. It took five tries to get to someone last week - the line kept cutting off to a long bleep right after: 'We'll put you through to someone who can help you,' And this after going through several frustrating menu choices on the automated systen, none of them seeming quite adequate for what I needed. Anyhow, eventually i got a real person who arranged to send me a new mini sim. All I had to do when it arrived - he said - was to phone on _this_ number to port the number over and activate it.

So today the new sim arrives. It's EE not Orange (contrary to what I'd been told) but it's just a plastic sim with a paper label cointaining the sim number stuck to it and no phone number or instructions attached. There's a printed impersonal Welcome letter and a number to call,

I called the number. Jumped through all the menu choices and... BEEEEEEP. Cut off, just like last week. Tried again. Same. Tried Customer Services number - got someone who couldn't help me. Call the shop. Called the shop. What's the phone number on the new sim? they ask. There isn't one, I reply. But what's the phone number they ask again. I describe what's in the envelope I've been sent. One bit of plastic, one welcome letter, no packaging, no phone number. Hmm, that sim seems to be a blank one that's not active, they tell me. You need to call the PAYG helpline. Called the PAYG helpline. No. No. You need to call the shop. THIS IS MY SIXTH PHONE CALL. ALL I WANT IS A NEW SIM THAT WORKS!!!!! (Yes, I'm getting a little tetchy by now.)

Eventually gent with heavy non Brit accent who was obviously having as much trouble with my Yorkshire as i was with his whatever, calls me back. They are sending me a new SIM. Great, what next?

When you get it call this number...

AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

And then to add insult to injury I look online... Why do all the PAYG have 'packages' that expire within a month if you don't use them, and which you have to commit to paying a minimum of £10 per month? If I wanted to commit to a specified amount each month I'd have a bloody contract. The whole point of PAYG is that you buy minutes and when you've used them you buy more. Doesn't that make sense? It makes sense to me.  Ah, but you get 500 free minutes if you agree to buy £10 of credit a month. Scuse me? Those minutes are not free. I'd be paying £10 for them. And £10 for 500 minutes is not such a good deal when I only use five of them and then i lose them because my month is up. What is it about LOW USER that EE doesn't get? I'd be hard pressed to use 500 minutes in a year let alone a month. Why? Because we have rubbish signal at home and the only way I can use my mobile is to hang out of the front door. It's something I have for emergencies only. The only time I make use of it is when I'm at SF conventions, to keep in touch by text with my conbuddies.

Dear Orange, I promise to buy £10 of credit a year whether I need it or not. Stop trying to sell me stuff I don't need and can't use. just send me a sim that, yanno, actually works and give me my old number. And also send me a new sim for my old phone because though I only paid £20 for it and have had it for three years, it still works a treat. Thank you Rio.
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