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A May 2024 Life Update

Well, it continues to be a time.  Let’s start with the positive!

The Last Song of Penelope, book 3 of the Penelope trilogy, is out on June 20th in all good bookshops! It’s not a huge spoiler to say that this one deals with the bit at the end of the Odyssey where Homer says (I paraphrase): ‘then Odysseus came back to Ithaca and there was a teenzy weensy little civil war as the peace of the isles that Penelope had so carefully and diligently maintained for twenty years was shattered but let’s not talk about it anyway that’s what happened bye.’

In terms of narrators, Athena steps up in this one, as we see exactly how Penelope and the women of Ithaca deal with everything they’ve worked to build being threatened by the absolute chaos-bomb that is her husband coming home.

Elsewhere, I’ve had the pleasure of working on some excellent gigs.  Paris Paloma, Grace Petrie and Katherine Priddy all stood out – and while it seems like a little thing, it is genuinely lovely when artists bother to thank their tech team.  It’s easy to do; it feels great.

Between trains – a long walk up to the Cathedral above Marseille to enjoy the morning view

I also had the privilege and pleasure of going to France recently to visit the fabulous Intergalactiques Festival in Lyon, as well as do a couple of book events with the brilliant people at Librairie Atalante in Nantes and Les Voix des Chapitres in Marseille.  There are few things as nice as walking into a warm and welcoming room where people are pleased to see you – especially in another country.  I owe huge gratitude to all the organisers, and extra thanks coupled with mild apologies for the nonsense I put my interpreters, Natasha and Karine, through in Lyon.  I am also grateful for my publishers in France enabling me to do the entire trip by train rather than short-haul flights, especially Lydie, who had to do an inordinate amount of calculating how long it would take me to walk from Montparnasse to Gare du Lyon and Gare du Lyon to Gare du Nord to make all my various connections in time as we zig-zagged across the country.  It was slower; it was nicer; it was vastly better for the planet, and as a perk, I am increasingly confident navigating across Paris and am starting to note my favourite places to get a crepe. 

A brief pause in the Japanese garden in Nantes

Finally, in the coming week I’m running away to Devon for four nights of hiding under a rock with my phone off, and goodness I’m ready for it because honestly, the rest of this update is a bit aaagggggh.

Despite not doing any gigs in April (on purpose, ‘cos exhausted) I remain pretty burned out and dribble.  By the beginning of May I was starting to come through the worst of that, aided by a lovely trip down to the New Forest and long walks beneath the trees, but just as things were easing up a close family member called me saying they weren’t feeling well, and within two hours we were in the back of an ambulance rushing to hospital with blue lights flashing.  I was only loosely aware of sepsis before – my GP’s surgery is full of posters about it, but they mostly relate to babies rather than older relatives – so the last few weeks have been a learning curve.  Sufficed to say, my relative is safe and home, which is miraculous, but it’s gonna be a long recovery and has been an incredibly difficult and unsettled time.

If you want to learn more about sepsis, the Sepsis Trust has a lot of good information on signs and symptoms, and taking fast action is key to a decent outcome.  Particularly in the elderly, a mild infection can lead to a catastrophic result, and should always be taken seriously.  I am incredibly grateful to the paramedics who came and very literally saved my relative’s life.  It terrifies me to imagine living in a society with private healthcare – I imagine what it must feel like to see someone you know potentially that close to death, and having to think – not just about helping them – but about how much making that call is going to cost.  Just being able to dial 999 and knowing that help is on the way, unconditional, no questions asked, and that care will continue in the hospital as long as it needs to, no matter what, is priceless.

And that’s about it!   If you are in London on June 20th, I will be doing an event with the excellent Laura Shepperson at Waterstones Trafalgar Square; and on June 27th I’ll be celebrating the launch of her book, Enchanted Isles, with Laura Coffey at Daunt Cheapside.  Alternatively, on June 26th I’ll be in Waterstones Birmingham (which has one of the best curated SFF sections I have ever seen) with Jennifer Saint.  Hopefully I’ll see some of you there!