Friday, 19 December 2014

On the Merits of Unnaturalness


‘Be aware, my good Reader, that this Pamphlet, no matter how controversial its Content, must never fall into enemy Hands. It details all known Types of Unnaturalness, divides them into seven Orders, and details the Merits of each.’ — Jaxon Hall

Good afternoon! I'm delighted to announce that Bloomsbury will be publishing On the Merits of Unnaturalness, the first pamphlet by the infamous Jaxon Hall, as an exclusive, limited-edition print run. I've been hoping on hope that readers would have the chance to see this little project in the flesh, as it's such an important part of the Bone Season universe.

Within Scion's empire, illegal pamphlets are a popular means of spreading ideas within the clairvoyant underworld. Scion blacklists all literature about clairvoyance, fantasy, and the spirit world, and over the decades, it has held many book-burnings to destroy all such forbidden knowledge. Only one publishing house – the Spiritus Club – has made an effort to fight back. Founded by a voyant in 1908, the Club has published many seminal texts, such as The Vamps of Vauxhall and Love at First Sight; or, the Seer's Delight. Their work is printed in Grub Street and distributed by the couriers of the Penny Post, who carry and sell their stories and pamphlets all over the citadel. But none of their texts are more famous, or more controversial, than On the Merits of Unnaturalness.

On the Merits of Unnaturalness was first published in 2031, before Jaxon became a mime-lord. It explains Jaxon Hall's groundbreaking theory on the Seven Orders of Clairvoyance, in which he divided clairvoyants into seven groups – some of which were superior to others. The pamphlet goes into detail regarding the particular gifts of each order and sub-type of clairvoyant that Jaxon had discovered at that time. (So if you're been wondering what a botanomancer or a crystallist is, this is your chance to find out.) The release of the pamphlet, which was written under a pseudonym, brought widespread knowledge of the Seven Orders system to London and eventually spread to other citadels in Europe. However, it also caused a spate of brutal gang wars between the newly identified categories and the imprisonment of one group of voyants – the vile augurs – in the slum of Jacob’s Island, Bermondsey. 

How can I get one? 

There are 500 pamphlets, available on a first come first served basis to readers in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and India. 

  • Step 1: Pre-order The Mime Order. Pre-order links are here. (If you've already pre-ordered, that's fine! Onward to Step 2). 
  • Step 2: Send evidence of your pre-order, e.g. a receipt or confirmation email, to themimeorder@bloomsbury.com. Make sure you include your postal address, and write ‘The Mime Order pre-order’ in the subject line.  
 
This pamphlet was great fun to write, and I loved inhabiting Jaxon's mind for a while. I hope very much that you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Be Prepared

Finished copies of The Mime Order came in a few days ago, and they're even more beautiful than the Bone Season hardbacks. And bigger. And redder. Here's a master post of crash courses and refreshers so you can get back into the swing of Scion before January...



Refreshers
Crash Courses
Other resources

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Character list

The last refresher for The Mime Order is here! Although there is a recap of the Bone Season's story in the book – specifically in Chapter 2 – I decided not to remind the reader of every single character, so this guide is here to jog your memory. This doesn't cover all characters in the series so far, but it does cover some of the most important ones. 


*** MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 ***


Voyants

Paige Mahoney: The narrator of the series. Also known as the Pale Dreamer or by her slave name, 40. She is an extremely rare kind of clairvoyant called a dreamwalker, with the power to enter other people's dreamscapes and take control of their bodies. Born in Ireland, Paige moved to England with her father and grew up in the Scion Citadel of London as a privileged daughter of a government employee. Since the age of sixteen, she has also worked for the infamous Jaxon Hall, mime-lord of I-4, as his mollisher (heir) in the criminal underworld of the citadel. After being captured by Scion and sent to the penal colony of Sheol I, she led a successful rebellion against the Rephaim along with Arcturus Mesarthim – her Rephaite keeper – and Julian Amesbury. Last seen getting on the train to London. Status: alive.

Jaxon Hall: Also known as the White Binder. The notorious mime-lord of I-4 and author of On the Merits of Unnaturalness, the controversial document that divided voyants into seven "orders". Paige's boss and leader of the Seven Seals. At the end of The Bone Season, Paige declares to him that she plans to leave the gang. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Liss Rymore: Paige's friend in the penal colony of Sheol I, where she was principal performer. A skilled cartomancer (card-reader) from Scotland, she was the human charge of Gomeisa Sargas until he tired of her. Died at the end of The Bone Season at the hands of Gomeisa. Status: deceased.

Julian Amesbury: Paige's friend in the penal colony of Sheol I, who worked with her closely to plan the rebellion. His clairvoyant type is unknown. Last seen during the rebellion. Status: unknown. 

Michael Wren: The loyal human servant of Arcturus Mesarthim. Michael was once a polyglot, but a traumatic event made him an unreadable, and he was treated as an amaurotic by most of the Rephaim. He helped orchestrate the rebellion. He chooses his words carefully. Status: alive. 

Ivy: A palm-reader from London who was imprisoned alongside Paige in Sheol I. Over the course of their six-month detainment, she was repeatedly tortured by her keeper, Thuban Sargas. Status: alive.

Lotte, Charles, Ella, Felix, Nell: Bone Season XX survivors. Last seen getting on the train to London. Status: alive. 

David: An enigmatic Bone Season prisoner who seemed to know too much about the colony and its workings. Status: unknown. 

Eliza Renton: One of Paige's best friends. Eliza has worked for Jaxon Hall since she was eighteen. She is an automatiste, or art medium, specialising in producing and selling mime-art. She stayed in London while the rest of the gang went to rescue Paige. Last seen in Paige's memories. Status: alive.

Dr Nicklas "Nick" Nygård: Paige's best friend, whom she was once in love with. Originally from Sweden. Nick leads a double life as a Scion medical researcher and Jaxon Hall's oracle. He is in love with Zeke Sáenz. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Nadine Arnett: A whisperer who works as a busker for Jaxon, originally from Québec. Half-sister of Zeke Sáenz. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Ezekiel "Zeke" Sáenz: An unreadable who works for Jaxon, originally from Mexico. Half-brother of Nadine Arnett. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Danica "Dani" Panić: Like Nick, Danica leads a double life: one as a Scion engineer, one as Jaxon Hall's inventor. She hails from the Scion Citadel of Belgrade, Serbia. Her clairvoyant type is unknown, but she is believed to be a kind of fury. Last seen getting on the train after helping rescue Paige. Status: alive.

Antoinette Carter: An Irish voyant who was once a famous TV personality before she went into hiding from Scion. Jaxon Hall attempted to meet with her in Trafalgar Square, but the meeting was interrupted by the Rephaim, who aimed to capture both Hall and Carter. Last seen in London. Status: unknown. 

Haymarket Hector: Underlord of the Unnatural Assembly and the clairvoyant crime syndicate. He is the head of all mime-lords and mime-queens in London. Status: alive.  

XVIII-39-7: A human from Bone Season XVIII who betrayed the plan of the "scarred ones" to Nashira in return for freedom. Status: unknown.


The Rephaim 


Arcturus "Warden" Mesarthim: Arcturus was Warden of the Mesarthim family and blood-consort (fiancé) to Nashira Sargas until the end of The Bone Season. He was one of the "scarred ones", Rephaim who rebelled unsuccessfully against the Sargas family in the year 2039. He was Paige's keeper during Bone Season XX and helped her orchestrate the rebellion that led to her escape. Warden is an oneiromancer, or sleep-dealer, which allows him to relive other people's memories. He was last seen on the train station's platform after bidding farewell to Paige, saying that if she ever sees him again, it will mean that there's danger. Status: unknown.

Terebellum "Terebell" Sheratan: Terebell is an ally of Arcturus and a member of the "scarred ones". She protected Paige in the penal colony when she was stealing supplies. She was last seen on Port Meadow. Status: unknown.

Nashira Sargas: Nashira is blood-sovereign of the Rephaim and Suzerain of the British Isles and all of Scion's territories. She is the puppet master behind the Scion government. She was last seen in the Guildhall on the night the rebellion broke out, when she confronted Paige on the stage. Her clairvoyant type is unknown, but it allows her to bind multiple spirits called "fallen angels". Status: unknown. 

Gomeisa Sargas: The other blood-sovereign, Gomeisa Sargas, spends most of his time in London with the puppet government. He was last seen battling the traitor Rephaim in the Guildhall after murdering Liss Rymore, Paige's friend. Status: unknown. 

Kraz Sargas: The blood-heir of the Rephaim. Paige destroyed him using the pollen of the poppy anemone. Status: deceased.

Thuban Sargas: The most brutal of the Rephaim, Thuban was keeper to Ivy, whom he tortured and starved for most of her time with him. Now Kraz Sargas is gone, he is blood-heir of the Rephaim. Status: unknown.

Alsafi Sualocin: One of Nashira's trusted Rephaim, revealed at the end of The Bone Season to be an ally of the "scarred ones". Status: unknown. 

Pleione Sualocin: An ally of the "scarred ones". Last seen during the rebellion. Status: unknown.  
 
Amaurotics


Frank Weaver: Grand Inquisitor of the Scion Citadel of London, leader of Scion's empire. In reality, he is no more than a puppet for the Rephaim. Status: alive. 

Sebastian "Seb" Pearce: From a privileged family, Seb was captured by Scion for unknown reasons and sent to the penal colony along with Paige and her fellow voyants. He was murdered by Nashira Sargas after Paige refused to harm him with her spirit. Status: deceased. 

Colin Mahoney: Paige's father. He originally worked as a forensic pathologist in Ireland before he was conscripted to work for SciSORS (Scion: Special Organisation for Research and Science). He currently lives in an apartment in the Barbican, I-5. As far as Paige knows, he is unaware of her clairvoyance. Status: alive.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Crash Course V

Welcome to the final Crash Course entry! You're almost ready for The Mime Order. This week we're taking a gander at the planes of being, or planes of existence: Earth, Netherworld, the æther, the outer darkness and the last light. These five planes make up the wider cosmology of The Bone Season series' universe. Again, please note that this is not a comprehensive description of the cosmology – it only covers what has already been covered in the series, with a few tidbits of extra information.

The ethereal threshold
 
First, you'll need to be familiar with an important concept described by Nashira in The Bone Season, which is called the ethereal threshold. In the world of the series, you have a choice when you die. You can either go straight to the last light a final death or you can hang around in the æther, where you can still be used and contacted by clairvoyants. If you hang around, you become known as a drifter. The problem is that your presence affects the ethereal threshold. The more spirits linger after death, the higher the threshold gets. This, in turn, affects the natural order of the five planes, and things start to go wrong.



 Diagram of the five planes




Earth

EARTH is the world in which the majority of The Bone Season takes place, also known as the corporeal world, the physical world or, in voyant slang, meatspace. Simply put, it's where you are now: the domain of human beings and other mortal life forms. By the year 2059, Earth's dominant political entities are the ever-growing Scion empire, led by the Republic of Scion England, and those countries that are not part of it, collectively called "the free world", which lack clear leadership. Earth is currently afflicted by a large number of problems, including wars between free world countries and rising sea levels. 

Clairvoyant humans are unique among Earth's inhabitants in that they have a link to another plane – the æther – via aura. This means that they can interact with the æther while they are still alive. Sometimes spirits in the æther, such as poltergeists, can make an impact on physical objects and inhabitants of Earth. Since the breaking of the ethereal threshold, Earth has also been exposed to the Netherworld via small portals called cold spots, which have allowed the Netherworld's residents, the Rephaim and the Emim, to cross over and inhabit its cities.

The dreamscape is sometimes classified as part of Earth and sometimes as its own plane, depending on preference. 



Netherworld

NETHERWORLD, also known as She'ol (from Hebrew שְׁאוֹל) and occasionally the half-realm, is the midway point between Earth and the æther, the living and the dead. Its original purpose was to act as a "limbo" for spirits to come to terms with death and prepare for the journey to the last light, but it has long since fallen into decay. Its inhabitants, the Rephaim and Emim, began to cross over to Earth in 1859, when the ethereal threshold reached its highest ever point in history. There, they occupied the city of Oxford, which they renamed Sheol I.

Very little is currently known about the Netherworld. 



Æther

THE ÆTHER is the spirit world, known by Scion as the Source. The word comes from the Greek αἰθήρ, referring to the essence breathed by the gods. Originally set apart from the physical world, it now flows through and around it. The spirits of the dead exist in the æther, but they can also be used and contacted by clairvoyant humans on Earth. The adjective given to things relating to the æther is ethereal (e.g. ethereal threshold, ethereal batteries).

Clairvoyants are linked to the æther via aura. Aura plugs a voyant in to the æther's energy, allowing them to access and channel it in various ways. However, only one kind of voyant the rare dreamwalker  can actually enter the æther in spirit form. 



Outer darkness

THE OUTER DARKNESS, while technically part of the æther, is often considered a separate realm. The phrase is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. It is a distant reach of the æther, very close to the last light, where spirits can no longer be reached by voyants. Spirits that travel to the outer darkness may be able to return, but it is thought to take a great deal of energy to call them back.

Spirits can be sent to the outer darkness with the threnody, a series of words uttered after death. It is often considered a mercy, as the spirit will no longer be tormented, but it may also be performed against the spirit's will. 



Last light
 
THE LAST LIGHT is a gateway at the farthest reach of the æther, just beyond the outer darkness. It is generally agreed that it leads to a final death from which there is no return. As nobody has ever come back from the last light, next to nothing is known about it.  



I really hope you've enjoyed these Crash Courses and found them helpful. I'll also be posting a list of the characters to refresh your memory a bit closer to Book 2's publication in January.

In other news, I got a lovely review for The Mime Order today from Publishers Weekly! I'm thrilled. (Warning for minor spoilers.)

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Why Adult?

This morning, I answered a question on Tumblr about what factors contributed to The Bone Season being classified as Adult, rather than Young Adult (YA), which I thought I'd answer here as well as there. I often get asked about the target audience for The Bone Season. Is it YA or Adult? Who did I have in mind when I wrote it? It's officially classified as Adult by Bloomsbury, although many of its translations are labelled as YA, as was decided by the publishing houses in foreign territories. In a time when "crossover" books are becoming more and more common, how is an age range decided? 

There were a number of reasons for The Bone Season being classified as Adult. The primary reason is that when my agent was first sending out the manuscript, he sent it to the commissioning editor of the Adult division of Bloomsbury, who fell in love with the book and made an offer on it almost immediately therefore, it was always dealt with by that editor and the Adult division. There was never much discussion of it going to the YA section of the house.

Secondly, Paige is nineteen and is only going to get older, which pushes her out of the traditional age range of YA protagonists, who tend to be between 15 and 18. The vast majority of the characters  Liss, Julian, Nick, Jaxon, Eliza, literally almost everyone (except for a few secondary characters like Seb and Carl)  are well out of their teens in the first book, and, like Paige, will only get older as the series progresses. So it seems to fit better in Adult than YA. There’s more of a focus on the problems encountered by adults than there is on problems encountered by teenagers.

Finally, I wasn’t personally comfortable with the book being labelled as a “children’s book”. YA tends to be seen as a part of the Children’s division of most publishing houses  for example, Bloomsbury has Adult, then “YA and Kids”, which covers YA, MG and picture books. Although the first book is reasonably tame, the Bone Season series is likely to get more violent and sexual as it progresses, and I didn’t want to have to dial down the essential character of the series to squeeze it into the parameters of YA. I especially didn’t want to tone down Paige’s natural voice, which tends to be littered with swearing. The world of The Bone Season is dark and brutal, period. YA is much grittier nowadays, and few subjects are taboo, but I felt it would be inappropriate and misleading for the book to be labelled as a kids’ book.

At the end of the day, YA, Adult, MG and so on are just words. I have spoken before about my belief that nobody should be judged for reading books they enjoy, whatever the category. I know that many readers of The Bone Season are either young adults themselves or keen fans of YA, and that’s fine I love that it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre or age range, and I’m proud when it’s described as a book with crossover appeal but I feel the Adult label is the one that reflects its content best.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Readalong

Just a note to say that Bloomsbury are running a Bone Season readalong, starting tomorrow. This is a great opportunity to read the book for the first time and discuss it with other Goodreads users, or re-read before The Mime Order. You can join in here.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

How to let it go


This is one aspect of the book-creation process that I haven't covered in detail yet, and that's letting your book go. Letting it go to the press and knowing that you'll never get to change it again. Letting it go out into the world, into the hands of readers. And I'm going to be brutally honest: it can be hard. It can be emotional. It can be less nerve-racking than nerve-destroying.

I've done this twice now, and I've decided that letting go of a manuscript is my least favourite part of writing and publishing a book (except finding an error after the book's gone to press, which is the highest of all authorial agonies). It should be the most exciting, and in many ways it is exciting – there's something liberating about being unable to edit the manuscript any longer, to know that it's now in someone else's capable hands – but I only ever remember this in retrospect. Despite making promises to myself that I wouldn't worry so much, I've still found it tough the second time round. I haven't been sleeping well for the last few days. I feel sick with nerves and my mind tick-tocks like a pocket watch, dwelling on every sentence and simile, every name and description and snippet of dialogue. The devils in the details start to haunt me. Did I repeat that image twice? Did I get that date wrong? I flick through the ARC until it's bruised with fingerprints: studying it, eyes peeled for errors. My fingers twitch over my keyboard, half-writing an email to my editor to ask yet again, cringing with embarrassment, if she can make a 'final' tweak. Then, er, another 'final' tweak. Maybe one more? I had to do this only yesterday night, as it turns out I'd made a transliteration error in the manuscript that I needed changed to preserve the meaning of a Rephaite family name. 

As it creeps towards the time when the book needs to go to the printer, it becomes more and more difficult for the editor to take last-minute changes in, and the likelihood that mistakes will be made in the typesetting – typos, gaps, random capital letters – becomes much higher. The manuscript keeps getting passed back and forth between the editor and the typesetter (each version is called a "pass", e.g. "2nd pass"), and making too many small changes means more passes and greater opportunity for error. Fortunately, I have a brilliant editor who takes in as many changes as she can at the eleventh hour but sooner or later, the book must be printed so it can hit the shelves on publication day.

Last year, this part of the process, coupled with my looming Finals, set off a period of severe anxiety and insomnia that left me curled up on the floor in tears during the day and wide awake, trembling with fear, during the night. Those nights were spent in a state of rigid, heart-pounding panic; for all I tried, I couldn't shift my body out of its 'fight or flight' mode. Eventually it reached boiling point. I was getting no work or revision done, and I made the decision to remove myself from college for a few days. Letting go of The Mime Order, while it hasn't been nearly as difficult, has still been the hardest part of the Book 2 process so far.

Once the book goes to the printer, it becomes a fixed object. The word petrified is probably appropriate. Before that, it was a fluid, moving text; a work in progress. An error in the ARC is annoying, as you know that some readers may see it and raise an eyebrow, but it can still be changed for the final, published version. Small errors in the hardback can be corrected for the paperback, but it's pretty final after that. Finality is frightening. I've found that moving on to the next book quickly can help alleviate the panic – it gives the sense that I'm in control again – but even then, I keep glancing back at the previous manuscript, and my brain keeps tick-tocking, searching like a radar for new things to worry about. A fresh wave of panic arrives when I actually get a finished copy. Holding the book for the first time is an incredible experience – there is really nothing like it – but once I actually begin to read my own work in its final form, more worry sets in. Hours pass. Repeated reading, quadruple-checking for typos and mistakes I might have missed the first four hundred times I read the manuscript. With The Bone Season, it took a long time before I could read the hardback without little spasms shooting through my gut and cold prickles dancing up and down my arms.      

Fortunately, I haven't needed or wanted to make quite so many changes to The Mime Order. This time I won't be frightened of getting the finished copy. I'll be proud – and yes, a little nervous. But I won't be quite so terrified. I try to remember that even though the printed text is static, the book is still fluid in the minds of its readers. Ice is still made up of water. Each reader looks at the story differently; each seeks out their own themes and meanings and draws their own conclusions. The author puts the object out there and it comes to life. That's why, even when a reader hasn't enjoyed one of my books, I love the huge range of responses I get. They remind me that, because of those readers, a story is never just 'finished'. And I think it will get easier and easier to remember that as I write more of them.

(PS: Thank you so much to Salim and Fatema for helping me correct aforementioned transliteration error yesterday. Luckily, that's one error I can still correct!)