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Aaaahh! Mars  Evacuees is out TODAY! It’s my  fourth book and it’s really happening!

And there is a GAME! I cannot believe there is a game, I never thought I’d have a book with a GAME.  And it’s so pretty! It’s free – play it/show your friends/any kids you know.

On Google Play

On App Shopper

It’s worth mentioning; if you pick up Mars Evacuees (and it would mean a lot to me if you did), and if you like it, consider going to Amazon and saying as much. It really does make a difference to a book’s success. And if you’re free tonight, I’ll be reading from Mars Evacuees tonight at Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue at 6.00.

Here’s Excerpt 1

Excerpt 2

Excerpt 3

And now here’s the last excerpt. Alice, Josephine and Noel have something they want to show resident scientist sane-but-slightly-alarming scientist Dr Muldoon: THIS.



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Originally published at Sophia McDougall. You can comment here or there.



Mars Evacuees is published next week. Aaaargh. Can't believe it's so soon. I hope you buy it, I hope you like it. I talked about the book, about the dreaded "strong female characters" with The Book Smugglers for their "March on Mars" month. Head over there to win a copy!

Here's the next excerpt! It's time to reach Mars, and find out what life at Beagle Base is really going to be like. Enter Colonel Dirk Cleaver, and some robots of varying temperaments.

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Mar. 5th, 2014


MARS EVACUEES — Excerpt #2

By Sophia | Published: March 5, 2014 | Edit

Internet, I have many things to show you. First of all, here I am in the New Statesman on how a bookshop looks to me as a grown (female) writer vs how it looked to me as a little girl. Spoiler: it used to look like Paradise and now looks pretty depressing, but there are signs of hope, especially from Foyles.

We are only three weeks away from Launch Day! And I will be signing books and talking about Mars Evacuees at Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue, from 6pm to 7 on Thursday, 27th March! Come along.

I hope Mars Evacuees is fun and for adults as well as children. That said, it’s really nice to find out what actual kids think.  I dedicated the book to my first cousin once removed (Erm, I think? Unless she’s my second cousin something something removed I DON’T KNOW, WE’RE SOMEWHAT RELATED), who read the first three chapter at a point when I’d discovered I didn’t have an agent for this book (I thought I did!)  and was feeling pretty downhearted about the whole project. I wanted to find out if an actual child would actually give a damn about what I’d written so far. Freya, who was then about eleven, told me exactly what I needed to hear:

Hello, I really love Mars Evacuees you are definitely hitting the right note!! It is great I think it will be very popular and I find it very amusing and love the way it is told. Though I think that you should maybe not start so many sentences with ‘and’. The name Alice is quite an old name and maybe you should use something more modern. My best friend read a bit and she could not put it down either. I love the subject you have chosen it is very exciting. As soon as it is published I am getting my dad to go and get it for me. Also I have not read enough to know whether it might come up but I think there should be some romance between Alice and Carl. The opening sentence is great and exciting.

(She was totally right. I did need to cut down on the sentences starting with “and”. “Alice” wasn’t going anywhere, though.)

LoveReading4Kids has a panel of no fewer than nine reviews by children, which are all really positive and delightful to my heart. “’This is a fantastic sci-fi adventure, full of surprises and fun.  I tore through it and loved every minute!” for instance, and “I absolutely love this book in all aspects including space!”After a certain publisher turned Mars Evacuees down on the grounds that “girls won’t read about space and boys won’t read about girls”, I’m particularly pleased to see both boys and girls praising it in exactly the same terms and often saying in so many words “this is a good book for boys and girls.” That’s the idea!

And on Monday another review came in – from Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books. And it’s pretty amazing.

The story is both witty and smart. It is full of friendship and brilliant characters, good times and bad times as well as a few sad times. However these are all explored wonderfully by Sophia.  It’s a joy to read; it has got all the ingredients required to pull off a magical space story. I particularly loved the craziness, playfulness and care free attitude that is evident through this book. This makes me, as on older reader, feel like a big kid and sometimes in this world this can be a wonderful feeling again.

I DON’T think that you can say that you’ve really lived until you have read this book.

Look, I know he said that because he’s riffing off the text on the back cover but the fact is he STILL SAID IT and I will TAKE it.

Now it’s time for another excerpt.  This is from Chapter 3. We’re on the ship to Mars now. Alice Dare, meet Josephine Jerome.

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Yikes, UK publication of Mars Evacuees is only a month away. (March 27th).  How is that even possible?  Should you have misssed the orange glory, you can see the UK cover over on Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books.
Soon I will be going to places and doing things and talking to people, and I have already written several articles and that’s why I am lying on the floor of the midst of an extremely untidy flat right now. But for the
I’ll be publishing an excerpt a week until publication.  Let’s start with the whole of Chapter 1, in which our narrator, Alice Dare, learns she will be going to Mars. She takes it fairly well, all considered.


When the polar ice advanced as far as Nottingham, my school was closed and I was evacuated to Mars.

Miss Clatworthy called me into her office to tell me about it. I’d had in the back of my mind  she might be going to say the aliens had finally shot down my mother’s spacefighter, so on the whole I took the actual news fairly well. And that’s even though I knew Mars wasn’t really ready for normal people to live on yet. They’d been terraforming it for years and years, but even after everything they’d squirted or sprayed or puffed at it and all the money they’d spent on toasting it gently like a gigantic scone, still you could only sort of breathe the air and sort of not get sunburned to death. So you can see that the fact someone had decided I would be safer there than say, Surrey, was not a sign that the war with the aliens was going fantastically well.

Still, after eight months of Muckling Abbot School for Girls, I thought I could probably cope. It was one of those huge old posh schools that are practically castles, and must have been pretty draughty even before the Morrors came along in their invisible ships and said,  ‘Oh we’re going to settle on your planet!” The Morrors had told us when they arrived. “We only need the poles, which are more suitable for our needs! Don’t worry; you will hardly know we’re here! And as a sweetener we will reverse Global Warming!’ (Because that was a bad thing back then, apparently). And of course, it turned out ‘the poles’ meant rather more of Earth than we were entirely happy about, and that they could reverse Global Warming rather more thoroughly than we liked.

And so here we were.

‘Of course,’ Miss Clatworthy said, ‘it’s an Emergency Earth Coalition project and an Emergency Earth Coalition school up there. So it’s rather taken for granted you will enrol as a cadet in the Exo-Defence Force.’

Well that was a bit sooner than I expected, but I’d got the general idea of my future a long time ago, and whether I liked it or not it was always going to involve shooting things.

‘Of course,’ I agreed.

Now I knew what was really going on I thought I might as well relax, and I could even enjoy the fact the office was warmer than most of the school. We were on the coast and about fifty miles south of the worst of the ice, but that wasn’t saying much what with the snow scouring across the playing fields in July and icicles the size of your leg dangling off everything, and there was never enough power to keep anywhere properly warm. But there have got to be some perks to being the headmistress, I suppose, and Miss Clatworthy had a tiny coal fire going. I inched towards it and hoped she’d keep talking for a while.

She did. ‘And they’ll have those new robots teaching you, I dare say! No more boring old fuddy duddy human teachers!’ she said, all tight-lipped and fake-jolly even though she obviously didn’t think it was a good thing.

I nodded. I was quite looking forward to seeing the robots. We only had a couple of robots for cleaning at Muckling Abbot and they were really old and didn’t even talk.

Miss Clatworthy sighed. ‘It’s all such a different world from when I was your age! But I’m sure you’ll be a credit to Muckling Abbott, and you’ll be following in dear Captain Dare’s footsteps. Your mother is such an inspiration to us all, Alice.’
‘Of course,’ I said again. There was actually a framed poster of my mother on the wall. This wasn’t as odd as it sounds. That particular shot of Mum, tossing back her hair in front of the Union Jack on the fin of her spacefighter, was very popular. She’d just blown up a lot of Morror ships at the Battle of Kara and that picture ended up all over the newspapers and that was when she started to become famous. Miss Clatworthy’s poster was one of those ones with ‘FOR EARTH! FOR ENGLAND!’ printed on them.

I didn’t like looking at it very much.

‘There’s a letter for you – I think it must be from her,’ said Miss Clatworthy rather wistfully, as if she wished a small nugget of Mum’s war-hero glory would fall out of the envelope and make everything a little bit better.

‘Thank you,’ I said.

‘You must be so proud of her.’

‘Yes,’ I said. And I was. But Miss Clatworthy looked at me in a vaguely discontented way. Teachers often thought being Stephanie Dare’s daughter meant I ought to march around the school setting a splendid example of morale and patriotism, and sometimes took me aside to tell me so. The other girls tended to think it meant I was in constant need of taking down a peg or two, and sometimes took me aside to tell me that.

This time Miss Clatworthy had other things on her mind, though. ‘And when you’re old enough,’ she said, ‘I’m sure you’ll give those fiendish creatures what for! Those cowardly, invisible brutes! Teach them to come and freeze over our planet as if they own the place!’
That was when I noticed it wasn’t just because of the cold that she was trembling and that her eyes were watery and pink. I felt sort of awful. She really must love the school, I thought. She was always telling us in assembly how we were supposed to, but it hadn’t occurred to me anyone actually could.

Later I wished I’d thought of saying something plucky and full of School Spirit like, ‘Oh, Miss Clatworthy, it’ll take more than a few invisible aliens to shut down Muckling Abbot School For Girls forever! We’ll soon be back – and more ladylike than ever!’ But I’m not very good at that sort of thing, and at the time all I could think was that I wanted to say sorry. I mean not just, ‘I’m sorry you’re sad,’ but sorry as if it was partly my fault. I don’t know why, unless it was because of being twelve and not being able to remember what it was like not to have fiendish creatures freezing our planet over as if they owned the place. Sometimes I did feel like that when adults got upset and homesick for how things were before. It made me feel as if the aliens and kids my age were all part of the same thing. We all happened at around the same time.

Obviously I was scared of the Morrors, because you can’t see them and they can kill you, and obviously I really wished they would go away. But I don’t think it ever bothered me so much that they exist, the way it bothers adults. When we did history I could imagine Romans, or Vikings, or Victorians – but I can’t imagine fifteen years ago and everyone running around being almost normal, but no Emergency Earth Coalition and no one even knowing what Morrors were and hardly anyone being in the army at all.
I couldn’t say any of that, so I just said, ‘Yes, I’ll try to kill lots of aliens, Miss Clatworthy.’ And that didn’t seem to cheer her up much.

Now, you’ll have noticed Miss Clatworthy wasn’t making this announcement to the whole school. I certainly had. ‘It’s just me going, then,’ I said. ‘Just me from Muckling Abbot.’

‘There are only a few hundred places open for now. Maybe they’ll send more later,’ said Miss Clatworthy. ‘The rest of us will just head south to wherever will take us. There are some evacuee programmes on the South Coast … and the Channel Islands … and closer to the Equator for those who’ve got the connections and money, I suppose. So you are a very lucky girl, Alice,’ she finished. ‘And it might be wise if you don’t brag about this to the other girls.’

That annoyed me. ‘I wasn’t going to brag,’ I said, feeling less sorry for her. Honestly, didn’t she realise I had enough trouble with people like Juliet Maitland and Annabel Stoker lurking around the school whispering, ‘Alice Dare thinks she’s so special just because of her mum,’ and Finty Carmichael reminding me all the time that before my mum’s exploits became so fashionable, she was just a bank teller and my dad was a plumber and really I was a charity case.

That was one of the reasons I did not like Muckling Abbot. The others were these:

1) Even with a desperate battle for the survival of humanity going on, we were still all supposed to be highly ladylike and virtuous and proper, which meant: that you should not run in any circumstances except after a ball or away from an alien, and that you should prefer to die rather than wear a hairband of an incorrect colour, and that you should act at all times as if you had completely failed to notice that certain aspects of our situation maybe kind of sucked.

2) Horrifying sludge-green uniforms in which we were all slowly dying of hypothermia while the teachers could wear as many jumpers and coats as they liked.

3) We were all divided up into houses with stupid names like Windsor and Plantagenet and expected to have House Spirit on top of School Spirit, and get really upset if our house didn’t win trophies for punctuality or tennis. Which I thought amounted to an incredibly obvious trick being played on us, as it does not benefit you personally at all if your head of house is allowed temporary custody of a small silver cup with a picture of a Tudor Rose on it. But no one else seemed to agree.

4) Lots of singing.

Finty Carmichael was perfectly right that back in the good old days which none of us could remember, I wouldn’t have ended up at a posh school like Muckling Abbot. But I had to go somewhere; Gran’s health wasn’t great so she couldn’t look after me very well any more and after the Battle of Kara, there was this Emergency Earth Coalition program about the education and care of the dependents of front-line fighters (especially the dependents of people who got made into posters, though obviously they didn’t say that). So the government was already in the way of sending me places, even before this Mars thing.

‘Good luck, then, Alice,’ said Miss Clatworthy, at last.

‘Good luck to you too, Miss Clatworthy,’ I said, and wondered if I ought to salute, if I was going to be in the army now.


Feb. 12th, 2014


Book covers can be a fraught thing from an author’s perspective. Well, probably from everyone’s perspective, really. After a meeting in which I was shown a first version of a cover for Romanitas, my agent said “I thought you were going to cry.” I cannot imagine this was much fun for anyone else there. The cover appeared to show a city of the future being flattened by an enormous green asteroid. Even when the green asteroid had been safely deflected, I once suspected I would go to my grave still weakly moaning, “No, not the London Eye, it’s an alternative world! It wouldn’t be there!” (I am very happy, I should note, with the final covers for Romanitas trilogy. But getting there was not the most relaxing process).

There is even a little rhyme  about the problem:


“There’s a dragon on the cover of my book.
There is a dragon on the cover of my book.
He is big and green and scaly,
He is nowhere in the tale, he
Is the dragon on the cover of my book.”
–by Michael Flynn.

I’m glad that these days you usually first get to see the cover in the privacy of your own home so you can process any tears of anguish without frightening anyone else, but it is hard to open that email without your heart clenching within you while you  whisper “Ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease” to yourself.

Which should give you some idea of how strong the relief is when at last you get the file to open and are confronted with shiny, glorious orangeness, and your shoulders slowly relax, and you think:

I rather like it.

I definitely like it.

I think I love it.

Actually, I love it so much I could weep with joy.

The British cover for Mars Evacuees  is so orange, and so shiny, and so very very pretty, and so much like a really cool band poster, and yet it still has that little bit of retro B-movie something-or-other that I wanted, I just want to rub it on my face and it is possible that I have.

I do a bit of art and design myself, so  I particularly wanted to hear from the artist, Andy Potts, on how he did this wonderful thing. I’m very grateful that he’s agreed to talk us through it:


“It was really exciting news when I was asked to design the cover of Mars Evacuees as I’m a bit of a sci-fi nut and find the genre instantly inspiring. My first instinct was to make the illustration relatively simple, colourful and eye-catching as those are the covers I tend to respond to. After digesting the brief I had a strong mental image of what I wanted and set about designing my initial draft illustration in Photoshop. I worked up the red planet and background digitally using unusual textures I’d photographed and collected, including images of peeling paint from the sides of old boats! I then designed the main characters as stylised silhouettes, I prefer this approach as the reader can create the character’s faces in their own mind. I found the cyber-goldfish guardian character particularly fascinating and made it a major part of the design. The first rough was sent over, as well as a version with a hand drawn type treatment. The illustration minus the type was quickly approved, which is always a relief, and with a few tweaks the cover was finalised. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and owe a big thanks to Sophia and Egmont for getting me involved.”

You can and should check out more of Andy’s work at  and follow him on Twitter as @AndyPottsTweet

So, here it is … on You may have seen versions of the cover, perhaps, on blogs or even on Amazon, (it got out! The shininess could not be contained!) but this is the proper, final, version, with all the shiny – here, on Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books! Go and wallow in orange:



I am so very lucky on this book, I am getting two amazing covers. Goro Fujita is creating the American version. I have seen a preliminary sketch and it is gorgeous already, I cannot wait to show the finished article to you too.

Mars Evacuees is out on the 27th of March.  Check back here soon for the first snippet.


Originally published at Sophia McDougall. You can comment here or there.

Fantasycon 2014, and why you should come


Happy New Year!

It’s about time I made a proper announcement that I’m co-chairing this year’s FantasyCon. You may already have seen as much on Twitter. FantasyCon 2014 will run 5th-7th September, in the Royal York Hotel, situated, perhaps unsurprisingly, in York. Our guests of honour are Kate Elliott, Larry Rostant, Toby Whithouse, and Charlaine Harris.

I’m in charge of programming. I’ve got an amazing team of splendid people on the case with me. Our plans include: Fantasy Fashion shows. Vikings. Combat to the death not actually to the death. (Stupid health and safety.) Newbie mingling sessions. Screenwriting workshops. Comics writing workshops. Agent speed-dating. And games!  We hope it’ll all be awesome.

But we’re going to need more help — your help.

It’s funny to find myself in charge of anything to do with an SFF convention, seeing as I was fully thirty and had been writing, reading and watching SFF for most of my life before it remotely occurred to me I had any place at one. I did not see myself as oppressed or excluded by this. I just, insofar as I thought about cons at all assumed they were for other people.

And yes, because there’s an elephant in the room here — insofar as I thought about those other people at all, I assumed those other people were very largely straight white men. And not without reason. I didn’t know what those SWMs were getting out of it but I assumed it was something very specialised and it didn’t occur to me it might be anything I would also want.

That remained true until I was, I think at a Gollancz party and someone said to me “the SFX Weekender – you’re coming, right?”

And I said okay, and I went. It is a matter of public record that I had some issues with what I found there.

But on the whole, there and at subsequent cons, I had a brilliant and worthwhile time.

I met publishers for whom I’ve since written short stories.

I met fellow writers with whom I discussed ideas. Ideas for collaborations – actually pretty much the first thing that happened was that Tom Pollock (on whom I had never set eyes before) began talking about a comic concept — Tom, I still think we should write that thing some day. Ideas about where the fiction we were immersed in was going, where it was going wrong, how we could fix it. Pieces I’ve written like The Rape of James Bond and I Hate Strong Female Characters have their roots in those discussions.

I danced with Giant David Bowie (I really wish there were pics.)

I made friends. Friends whose cats I’ve petted. Friends who’ve floors I’ve slept on.

I now think conventions have real power. They’re crucibles in which publishers, writers, and fans are all mixed into a reactive solution out of which, perhaps, new things might come. I’d like to see them become more diverse and, as I’d never have gone to one if someone hadn’t asked me  I’m very much in favour of not just waiting for people to turn up, but asking them to come.

Now, whether you’ve been to one or not, you  may have heard some things about the darker side of the convention circuit. Cons that don’t seem to welcome women or minorities, cons who’ve handled the issue of harassment horribly, cons that aren’t interested in discussing anything but the same old topics.  I wish I could tell you all of this wasn’t real, but I can’t. I can tell you about what we’re going to try to so about it.

First of all, we’re going for gender parity across the convention. For reasons Lizzie Barrett ably outlines here, we don’t intend to feature a “Women in…” panel. This is not to say that we want to silence discussion of gender issues! But we would like such discussions to be starting from a somewhat more advanced position than just boggling over the fact that female writers and female characters exist, and we want female panellists to be involved in other topics too. For similar reasons our starting position is not to have a “LGBT people in…” or “People of colour in…” unless people from those groups tell us they want to see/be on such a panel, in which case that’s what we’ll have.

We’ll be donating £1 from every membership to the World SF Travel Fund, a charity devoted to helping international members of the sf, fantasy, and horror community travel to major genre events. We urge other conrunners to consider doing this.

Our harassment policy is here and we’re discussing ways to make sure it’s implemented effectively with professionals in the field.

We welcome ideas – ideas for panels, ideas for outreach, ideas for making Fantasycon its best self. Sign up and tell us about them here. It’s true that we can’t promise everyone will be on a panel or that all ideas will work out, but we will always try to work with your contributions where possible. You don’t necessarily have to be an industry insider to be involved. Are you a blogger? An academic? A prolific fanficcer? A jeweller who enjoys casting magical rings? Get in touch!

I’ll also be hunting talented people down. This would be much easier if, as I could if I were, for example, editing an anthology, offer to pay everyone. But I’ll be using all means at my disposal. (I will not actually kidnap anyone).

We’ll be running a series of blog posts by interesting people about what con-going means to them.

This is, I hope, at least a start. Change the convention, change the genre — change the genre, change the industry – change the industry, change the world!

Well, maybe. But at least, I’d really like it if this year, our con was able to welcome people who perhaps haven’t gone to one before. I’d like it even more if talented people who’ve  felt on the wrong side of any barrier holding them back from claiming a place as a recognised writer, artist or other part of this community, felt some of those barriers fall away. This is entirely selfish. I’d like that because we need those people. Our convention needs them – our literature needs them. We need you.

It took someone asking me to come to get me. So I’m asking you. Fantasycon 2014 – you’re coming, right?

Originally published at Sophia McDougall. You can comment here or there.


Still two weeks to enter my giveaway contest – do a stunt, win Mars Evacuees six months early! I was pleased by this early entry:

It’s now only a few days until World Fantasycon. I’ll be discussing Historical Fantasy on Thursday at 3pm in the Oxford Suite with Aidan Harte, Helen Marshall, Mark Charan Newton, Tim Powers, and Kari Sperring. I’ll be signing advance copies of The End of the Road, from Solaris, in which I have a story called Through Wylmere Woods, from 11-noon in “Signing Alley” on Sunday.  And, as mentioned before, there will be A BILLION, (okay, over a hundred) proof copies of Mars Evacuees JUST KNOCKING AROUND FOR FREE.

But right now I want to talk a little about Through Wylmere Woods.


Not for the first time, I wrote a novelette when I meant only to write a short story. “Short” is something I tend to fail at a lot. (cf my first novel – 200,000 words – and virtually all my blog posts).

Through Wylmere Woods can be read on its own. It can, I promise, it’ll be fine! But it is a Levanter-Sleet story, and to explain what that means I have to tell you about another story, MailerDaemon. MailerDaemon is in last year’s anthology Magic  (also from Solaris). In that story, Grace, a young woman plagued by nightmares on top of depression and unemployment, is chatting online to a friend she has never seen in real life – Seven_Magpies, whose real name we later learn is Morgane. To help with Grace’s nightmares, Morgane, who considers herself a witch,  offers to send a demon called Mr Levanter-Sleet. Grace doesn’t believe in witchcraft or demons, but she doesn’t like to be rude, so she accepts. That night, she doesn’t have nightmares.  But she soon finds she’s acquired a different set of problems.

(That scene’s pretty much the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written, incidentally. I do hope the person who inspired it doesn’t mind. Everything that follows, and everything we later learn about Morgane, is entirely fictional.)


You see that big, smoky, be-taloned fellow on that lovely black-and-white cover? Isn’t he fine? He could be a portrait of Mr Levanter-Sleet in one of his larger aspects.

When Jonathan Oliver asked me to contribute to The End of the Road,  I started thinking again about Morgane and Mr Levanter-Sleet. Maybe I could visit them again? Maybe we could find out how Morgane ended up in a position to send people demons, how she became a witch, how she “met” Mr Levanter-Sleet… It would have to have something to do with a road…

I started thinking about what I already knew about Morgane from MailerDaemon.

  • Morgane is “her real name but not her original name”
  • She seems surprisingly posh in voice and mannerisms, but is living in apparent poverty at the top of a dilapidated South London tower block.
  • When asked if she was always “like this”, she replies “I always saw things. But was I always a witch? No. That takes a lot of self-training.”
  • Grace believed she was about her own age (about 26 or so) but she appeared much younger.

So posh + poor = probably estranged from family? And posh family  + road = a road is being built through the grounds of a country house = road protests, like the battle over the Newbury Bypass in the late 90s? Always “saw things” = scary things everywhere for her to see. “self-training” =???

OK. The outlines were beginning to emerge of a Gothic story about an abused, neglected, poor-little-rich girl living in some creepy stately home, approaching puberty and tormented by her ability to “see things” – i.e demons.

And that was fine. But… I found myself feeling slightly bored by it. Blah blah privileged-but-neglected-magic-puberty-blah. I felt I’d read that story before. So I fretted, and, in all honesty, half-resigned myself to writing a story I wasn’t excited about, hoping that it would come alive in the telling.

But then I came back to something.

Morgane is her real name but not her original name.

Why is that?

And I thought of something – something that completely changed the way I looked  at the story in an unexpected and kind of daunting way — and I started saying “what I’m looking for is not that, it’s not that, but it’s something like that.” Which, when I do it, is always a sign that what I’m looking for  is exactly that. And as I realised that I began to worry about my ability to tell this new story right, to do it justice, but I also began to feel hugely excited.


Here’s a rather long excerpt (but it is a rather long story), in which we learn Morgane’s original name. It’s quite a big “spoiler” in a way, so consider whether you want to read or not, but it is something that happens in the first third — it doesn’t spoil the end. There’s still a lot of road in front of this girl, who, when we drop in on her here, has befriended a couple of protesters in the woods near her home and is going by the name “Christine”.

There are a lot of creatures in the woods that most people can’t see, but Christine has noticed a particularly menacing “thing” (demon) and starts trying to protect the group.

I should warn, this excerpt includes bigoted verbal abuse of a child.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Sophia McDougall. You can comment here or there.

MARS EVACUEES cover text


Once I assumed all blurbs were written by publishing elves. Then I was asked to write my own first two blurbs and for a while I was amused to think all blurbs were written by authors, and people like Doris Lessing were sneakily writing things  like “…nothing will ever be the same again” and going “THAT’LL DO” and sending it in.

But I can’t remember now what happened with SAVAGE CITY — and I didn’t write the cover text for MARS EVACUEES. So maybe I must let go of that dream. But I really like the text Egmont has come up with, so I thought perhaps you’d like to see it too.


The fact that someone had decided I would be safer on Mars, where you could still only SORT OF breathe the air and SORT OF not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well.

I’d been worried I was about to be told that my mother’s spacefighter had been shot down, so when I found out that I was being evacuated to Mars, I was pretty calm.

And despite everything that happened to me and my friends afterwards, I’d do it all again. because until you’ve been shot at, pursued by terrifying aliens, taught maths by a laser-shooting robot goldfish and tried to save the galaxy, I don’t think you can say that you’ve really lived.

If the sme thing happens to you, this is my advice: ALWAYS CARRY DUCT TAPE.

It’s so odd — and yet so nice — to see someone else writing in my character’s voice.

Mars Evacuees comes out in April. But, remember, you can get to read a lovely proof copy NOW if you either come to World Fantasy Con, or if you enter my competition (which you can do pretty much anything for). There are still three weeks to go.


Originally published at Sophia McDougall. You can comment here or there.



(We have a lot to cover in this post. Before we start, make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes, loose-fitting clothing, and are properly hydrated).

I’m going to be at World Fantasy Con in Brighton in just a couple of weeks. I’ll be talking about Historical Fantasy on the Thursday, at 3 pm in the Oxford Suite.

I’ll also be signing copies of Solaris’ new anthology The End of the Road, in which I have another novelette, called Through Wylmere Woods. I am proud of how this story turned out: it’s a prequel to MailerDaemon (published in last year’s Magic), though you don’t have to have read that. It’s about Morgane, the woman who in MailerDaemon can see demons (and email them, with the best of intentions, to unsuspecting friends).  This story visits her as a thirteen-year-old with  lot on her plate, dealing with the demons who are everywhere, a singularly awful family and a large road protest happening near her house. I have more to say about Through Wylmere Woods but I think it had better wait for another post.

But the other news about WFC is that there will be around a-hundred-and-goddamn-fifty proofs of my new book, Mars Evacuees, just there for anyone who wants one. For free. The book doesn’t come out until April (and will, you know, have a shinier cover and properly type-set) so this is pretty cool, I think.

You cannot get to WFC, and it is not fair, you say? You feel hard-done-by and neglected? WE CAN’T HAVE THAT. There are also five copies which I will give to the top five performers of McDougall Pleasing Stunts! I will sign and even draw in your proof, if you want. Rules remains, as per the last two, as follows:

PLEASE ME AND MAKE ME WANT TO GIVE YOU A BOOK. You can please me by promoting my book in some way, you can also try to please me by telling me a joke or posting a picture of you gurning, if you’re really good at it. …

I will not be pleased by illegality or grossness, otherwise you make the rules. I will send the person who strikes me as the most delightful a unique signed, personalised book.

Other possible stunts could involve art, icon-making, stories, bringing down property prices in London , song.   You have until midnight, November 12th to enter with your Stunt. Comment here, message me, or link me to the Stunt on Twitter — just make sure I see it, you’ve got the internet, you’ll figure it out.

You might find some further inspiration as to the kind of thing that pleases me  in these posts:

The Next Big Thing — Mars Evacuees!

The Romanitas trilogy playlists.

Sophia, Agent of SHIELD

In Praise of Saga Noren

And if you don’t end up with a proof, you will still get to read snippets of Mars Evacuees over the coming months: I’ll begin posting them in December.

Originally published at Sophia McDougall. You can comment here or there.


The Poet sends a Picture of her Nose to an older Poet of Celebrated Beauty

Dear Sir,
I am sending you this picture of my nose
In hope you’ll look at it and give me your advice,
Although I cannot claim my nose is quite original,
Some have been kind enough to find it startling.
Please bear in mind that I am still quite young
And that I hope my nose may still be growing.

The Older Poet’s Reply
Your nose is old-fashioned, self-indulgent and too long.
Although the basic bone-structure is lively,
This draws attention to the dullness of the skin.
It is too much like the noses of your parents, and
Your make-up is not well applied.
Between the bridge and tip, I must confess,
I lost all interest in your nose and had to stop.
Possibly with some work your nose might yet improve
Although I cannot hold out that much hope
Take no more pictures of your nose, is my advice,
At least not till you’ve carefully studied mine.

Originally published at Sophia McDougall. You can comment here or there.