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Moving Pictures On A Friday. Offered without comment, this one, except to say – for those curious about the inner life of writers – that it touches (in, for once, a relatively positive and encouraging way) upon what, after family, friends and all that, I think engages and interests and impassions me the most. I tend to see the world in shades of grey, which makes my opinions on a great many things kind of complicated, not always that strongly held. Not so wildlife and the natural world. If you want to see me go all black and white and angry about something, what our one species has done and is still doing to the millions of others we “share” the planet with would be the place to start …

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I’m over on Reddit today, inviting people to Ask Me Anything. So if you’re a Reddit user, please swing by and drop off a question for me to answer later on. You can even watch me answering stuff live there from about 6pm CST.

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So there’s a just a possibility a few folks in the US will have other things on their mind tomorrow, but nevertheless I’m doing an Ask Me Anything over on Reddit on 4th November.

I confess I don’t know it well, but there’s a thriving community of fantasy fans on Reddit and they have their very own home at the Reddit fantasy board. Starting from around midday US (central) time, so early evening UK time, there’ll be a post up there inviting anyone who’s around to fire me some questions – literally about anything, though I guess the assumption is they’ll mostly be writing-related. I’ll swing by that evening (again, US central time) and start answering any and all questions that have been submitted.

I’ll probably put another post here tomorrow linking to the specific question thread, but consider this an initial heads-up: Please do drop by reddit.com/r/fantasy – any time tomorrow – to ask me anything, and if you’re around there in the evening, you’ll even get to see me answering them live … which could get messy, since it’ll be the middle of the night my time.

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Long, long ago I had a job that occasionally involved looking at old trees. There’s not much in Nature that speaks with a richer, stronger voice to us, I think.

Was up on the banks of the River Tay (one of Scotland’s two or three nicest rivers, imho) last week, and found two wonderful examples of timbery ancientness. First up, the Birnam Oak, of indeterminate age but a half millennium plus old. Supposedly the last survivor of the forest Shakespeare referred to in Macbeth:

” … Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him.”

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Leaning on its crutches like a Yoda of the forest, or a declining ent. And though you can’t see it in these photos, hollow as a drum, with enough space for a modest hobbit house inside its trunk.

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And right next door to it, what’s supposed to be Britain’s biggest sycamore. A mere 300 years old this one, but if anything bigger and more spectacular than the oak alongside:

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It’s the oak that’s got the richer voice of the two of them, though. All texture and age and wrinkles and character. Ancient trees are cool.

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I’d probably have a whole other list if I did this next month, but I thought it’d be fun to rattle through my five favourite podcasts right now, off the top of my head. I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, so there’s an absolute heap of deserving stuff I’m not mentioning, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And one other thing: these aren’t exactly recommendations. I’m entirely ignoring the question of whether these particular podcasts might appeal to anyone other than me. They appeal to me enormously, for sometimes personal or idiosyncratic reasons, and that’s all it takes to get them on this list … you have been warned …

In no particular order:

Revolutions – a great history podcast that’s working it’s way through a load of the world’s most significant revolutions, one per season. The British Civil War and American Revolution have been covered, now we’re deep into the big daddy of revolutions: the French. Each episode is reasonably short, the tone is accessible and very appealing. Full of fascinating details and wry humour. Great.

Let’s Talk Comics – there’s no particular shortage of interview podcasts relating to comics out there, and I listen to several, at least now and again. This one is frequent, well-produced and delivers pretty meaty interviews with a pretty wide range of people involved in the mainstream comics industry: artists, writers, publishers etc etc. Tends to take a life-story approach, and it’s always interesting to hear how people first got started in the medium, as both reader and professional creators.

Hello Internet – some folks will just not like this one, I suspect. It’s a fine example of the ‘two guys talking’ podcasting school. No specific theme, though many recurring topics, so its appeal depends entirely on how interesting or engaging you find the two guys and the subjects they choose to talk about. Me, I’m interested and engaged. These guys make their livings from their YouTube channels (in fact, they’re both quite famous YouTubers), and I find stuff relating to that fascinating when it comes up. One of them also has a highly distinctive and structured view of the world and of life that you may or may not always agree with (or even find palatable) but it makes for entertaining, thought-provoking and often amusing listening at times.

Wait, What? – my favourite comics-related podcast. I like it so much I pay for it, via Patreon! Another entry in the ‘two guys talking’ category, this time talking very specifically about comics. All sorts of comics. It’s sometimes meandering, sometimes tangential, sometimes doing a deep-dive into stuff I know very little about, but for whatever reason I always enjoy it.

TetZoo – and here we are at the quirkily unique end of the podcasting spectrum. What’s podcasting for if it can’t produce the kind of audio you just would never, ever hear anywhere else? This is a scientific podcast with a focus on tetrapod (i.e. anything with four limbs) zoology. I’ve got a lot of zoology in my educational background, so I can follow most of what’s going on, but fair warning: quite a bit of jargon is involved. However, because this is podcasting rather than radio, there’s also a lot of silly humour, cryptozoology, sf movie talk, running jokes, vaguely disorganised unprofessionalism. I really like it. Once again, it’s ‘two guys talking’, and it’s very like eavesdropping on them just having a rambling chat in the pub.

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This is the week – I think technically this is the very day, in fact – when The Free becomes an actually published book you can buy and read. It’s out there, online or bookshops, ready and waiting for you, right now! It’s in print, e-book and – an enjoyable first for me – audiobook format. I’d love to hear from anyone who listens to it, incidentally: fascinating to know how it works in audio for the new reader/listener.

Some folks have said nice things about it, if you need encouragement:

‘ … mesmerizing, magical and human.’Publisher’s Weekly starred review

‘ … complicated characters and vivid descriptions elevate this far above run-of-the-mill epic fantasy.’ - Library Journal starred review

‘ … a gripping read … a lot of fun …’Graeme’s SFF

‘ … a blast to read, merging the standard medieval fantasy with Seven Samurai, complete with phenomenal set pieces of warfare and magic.’- Staffer’s Book Review

You can even go read the whole first chapter, entirely for free (appropriately enough), over at the Orbit Books website. That’s got to be worth a try, right?

If you really want to make happy, though, the solution is simple: buy the book!

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The Free Cover gifAs with all my books, my local specialist sf/f bookshop, Transreal Fiction, offers a handy-dandy service for those interested in buying The Free: signing, dedicationing, personalising, that kind of thing.

If you’re at all interested in getting a copy that has been defaced adorned with scrawlings by my own fair hand, check out the options available at the Transreal website. For the measly price of cover price plus post & packing, you can require me to sign, dedicate or otherwise inscribe a brand-new copy of The Free just for you.

It’s a win-win, you know? Get yourself a unique copy of the book, support a real-life bricks and mortar store, entertain me. Smiles all round.

The Free is not the only book I’ve got out this autumn, you know. Oh, no. The Free‘s just my October book; my September book (i.e. this very month!) is a handsome collected edition of the comic I wrote earlier this year: Rogue Trooper: Last Man Standing.

I’m quite proud of it, to be honest. Future war, lone warrior, talking gun, conspiracies and chaos. How can that not sound like fun to any right-thinking reader?

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You can get it in paper-and-ink form or e-form alike, and if you’re tempted but need a little help taking that all important next step of ordering the thing, here’s a nice succinct five star review from bigcomicpage.com to do the helping.

Here it is on Wordery, look (I know the cover’s different, but that’s it, honestly). I really am being helpful today. I might need to go have a little lie down.

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Well, the title says it all really.

More info to come, though. Stay tuned.

Or if you don’t need more info, you could pre-order it of course. That would be nice. Maybe at wordery.com? (free world-wide shipping, you know!)

More photos! Those who follow me on twitter might have seen one or two of these already, but here they all are together. Photos from a recent visit to Jupiter Artland, a cool privately-run art park/estate just outside Edinburgh. It’s a place with a fantastical, surreal vibe – big art installations scattered through the landscape, mostly wooded, nestling in with Nature.

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