Thursday, 28 October 2010


In retrospect I shouldn't have gone to the Renegades last night - my guts were really churning - but in the end I'm glad I did. The highlight of the evening was Tim reading the continuation of his sex-o-drama. He reads well and there is a plaintive quality to his work that I like: it's sort of 'American Psycho' set in the Midlands. The 'hero' certainly has a arm's-length, almost detatched view of the world, a world which he seems intent on proceeding through murdering en route. I know from my own experiences that maintaining that feeling of disassociation - the character being in the milieu of the novel but not of the milieu of the novel - is an especially difficult trick to pull off. He's the observer who is simultaneously the catalyst for the plot's action. Anyway, I hope Tim perseveres: there is something interesting happening there. Nelli thought so too.

All the other pieces were interesting too: I thought, in terms of quality, that it was the best Renegade evening yet.

The one exception was my own effort. I read a part of a chapter from the third Demi-Monde book - Summer - in the hope that I could get some feed-back regarding my use of the old 'book-within-a-book' device. The problem is that by Book 3 the assumption is that the reader is now pretty much up to speed regarding the DM's foibles and idiosyncracies and, of course, that isn't the case. I won't make that mistake again!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


I took a draft of the unfinished third book with me to Egypt. I'd got sorta stuck with my characters running down way too many plot cul-de-sacs so I needed a little thinking time. And it worked. I came away with most of Summer outlined and the plot of the final book Fall almost finished. The key to this was a funny (well, not so funny actually) Russian called Konstantin Pobedonsotsev.

Konstantin Pobedonostsev

Now if ever there was a guy whose face was just made for horror fiction it's got to be Pobedonostsev. He lived during the nineteenth century, was head of the Holy Synod (which made him supervisor of the Orthodox Church) and, most importantly, exerted a huge influence over Tsar Alexander III. That he was fervently anti-Semitic, a believer in autocracy and an opponent to all things liberal and progressive makes him a perfect candidate for reincarnation in the Demi-Monde.

I've done a little piece of dialogue already:

Q: ABBA, I observed, seems to loom large in Mr Pobedonostsev’s thinking regarding the ForthRight's role in the world.
A:‘In this increasingly secular world, when we are all beset by the specious ideas peddled by a decadent scientific establishment, when the atheistic cant of the RaTionalists people is taken as the new gospel, when the faux-religions of HerEticalism and ImPuritanism are promoted and propagandised, it is easy for the young and the less clever to be seduced from the path of Righteousness. They do not realise, as I do, that these ideas are actually sent by Lilith to test and challenge our belief and faith in Him. The ForthRight is a bulwark against the evil of Lilith that has infested the Demi-Monde.’
Q: But what of liberty…what of individual human rights?
A:Mr Pobodonostsev laughed, ‘In my opinion liberty is a dangerous delusion of nihilistic youth. I would rather talk of liberating the people from Doubt, of liberating them from the lies of Modern Science and of Liberating them from the contamination of the nuJus. I would rather talk of Liberating them from Lilith. We must expunge doubt from the Demi-Monde and to do this there must be one race, one nationality, one language, one religion and one form of government. Where there is the Spirit of ABBA so there is Liberation of the Soul.'
Q: And what is the role of the Church of UnFunDaMentalism in this expunging of doubt?
A: ‘This expulsion of doubt is the ABBA-given duty of the Church,’ observed Pobedonostsev. ‘In the ForthRight the Government and the Church are as one and together we are building a kingdom of ABBA here in the Demi-Monde…’
Q: A theocracy, I suggested.
A: ‘Theocracy is a word brought into disrepute by the hysterical and evil nations addicted to false religions…these, thankfully, will be destroyed when ABBA sends His fury of retribution sweeping over their lands. I make no apology for the use of this word: the ForthRight is a theocracy and as such those in the Demi-Monde who do not bow to UnFunDaaMentalism must be seen as the agents of Lilith they are, as the enemies of Right. There must be no dissent; the enemies of ABBA will be silenced. More…the ForthRight must destroy its enemies…must destroy the forces of the devil.’
Q: And who are these enemies? I asked.
A:‘There are so, so many…’ Mr Pobedonostsev answered. ‘The ForthRight is assailed on all sides by the armies and the agents of Lilith.’ He paused for a moment, ‘But there is one thing above all others that we must do: we must also eradicate the contagion that is the nuJu…’

He's the guy I'm gonna use to link all the action in the ForthRight, NoirVille and the JAD. The tragedy is that every opinion expressed in the dialogue was voiced by the real Pobedonostsev, and he was regarded by contemporaries as an intellectual! Crazy as all hell.


Just got back from a week in Hurghada, Egypt where Nelli, myself, (plus daughters #1 & #2) went for a little r&r. This was very close to being a very good holiday but...

The hotel: Sunrise Mamlouk, Hurghada
Let's start with THE GOOD: The hotel - the Sunrise Hurghada - is, in many ways excellent. It's only 20 minutes from the airport, the facilities are pretty good, the rooms are excellent (the soundproofing is terrific!) and the food (for the first three days or so) tasty and interesting. Its got a good beach and an enormous pool area so its easy to make the most of the Egyptian sunshine.

Now let's move on to THE BAD. I got ill (I suspect food poisoning) and judging from what some of the other poor sods were going thru in the queue at the airport coming home I wasn't the only one. The food certainly nosedived in quality after Day 4 - a change of chef perhaps? One other irritant (and this sounds really perverse) was the friendliness of the waiters! I'm all for bonhommie but my two girls did get kinda pissed off with always been leered at and I am sure if one more waiter had asked me 'how many camels did I want for the girl' murder would have been done - Ellie was getting pretty stoked by the end of the hols. We were scheduled to do on two tours (I missed the second to Luxor because I was bouncing between bed and bog): the snorkling one was a real disappointment. The organisation was chaotic (and it's difficult to relax when you think yourself in danger of being marooned on a desert island) and the sealife nondescript. The Red Sea isn't a patch on the Caribbean. Hughada town itself was an odd place too, sort of plasticy and artificial. The shops only seemed to sell tat (though they do a good line in rip-off Ray Bans) and the absence of local women on the streets was a little freaky too.

Hurghada taken enroute to snorkling
Now THE UGLY. I guess this turns on the little corruptions that invade life in Egypt. The airport touts who promise to get unsuspecting Brits to the head of the queue and then just abandon them there to face to ire of the porr sods who have been queing for forty minutes...the promise of a free service which turns out to be bloody expensive...

Couple of other points. If you're over six feet tall you're gonna have a REAL problem in Thomas Cook's aircraft: the legroom is non-existent. Watch out for the hidden extras too: I think the charges made to pre-book seats were nothing short of extortionate and the beer prices on the snorkling tour were really up there.

Still the girls enjoyed it and I'm sure my mood will mellow once I have regained control of my bowels.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Attended the second Renegade Writers' Group in Stoke tonite and it was very useful. It's good for a writer to hear what other writers are doing...the number of ideas I come away with is remarkable.

But tonite was especially notable because Martin Roberts read a story which I thought was truly outstanding. It was untitled and I'm still not sure what it was about but some of the ideas and imagery was terrific. Dig this:

  • 'He liked standing barefoot in his fishtank getting a blow-job': as fine a piece of  of neo-Vonnogutian whimsy as I've ever heard.
  • When one of the protagonists charges a door to take out a bad guy (don't ask) the scene is described as being a mix of 'door and gore'. Wonderful.
  • And the piece-de-resistance? Having one of his characters talk in...well I won't say in what because it's so good some bastard would nick it.
Anyway very enjoyable and I hope Martin is inclined to finish it. I think it could quite easily be worked up as a sort of Dirk Gently-type story, though it would (should) be made even more trippy.

A good evening!

Monday, 11 October 2010


So it's official! HarperCollins is to publish the first two books in the Demi-Monde series in the US, Winter and Spring. Gabe Robinson my editor in the US sent this to Publishers Weekly and Publishers Lunch:

'The first two books in a wonderfully inventive series about a highly sophisticated computer simulated world - the Demi-Monde - that is populated by numerous psychotic personalities from history and the efforts of a woman from the real world who is sent to save the President's daighter, who has been abducted in to this all-to-real nightmarish cyberworld. To Gabe Robinson at William Marrow by Emma Thawley at Quercus'.

Well, I guess this means that HC are now happy with the books' titles.

Anyway I'm a very happy little cat!

Saturday, 9 October 2010


Nell and I attended NewCon 5 today and I’ve got to say I was a little disappointed.

First the venue: Nottingham FishMarket in October is seriously cold. It comes to something went by late afternoon the most popular gathering places from delegates wasn’t the bar but around the heaters dotted about the hall. The acoustics are dire too: it was impossible to hear questions from the audience during the panel sessions.

We sat in on three panel discussions and none of them really sparked (it might have been the cold!). The first ‘SF in Other Media’ never really seemed to get a focus...maybe the topic was just too broad. Couple of good things came out of it though: the idea that the viral videos on YouTube are now a genuine art form; the comment that kids are now living ‘secret lives’ in video games; and the news that Sci-Fi-London will be screening ‘Monsters’ (which is a must-see). The highlight was though Paul Skevington making the statement – apropos of nothing – that ‘the cake is alive’. Great!

Two Generation of McKenna SF-Lovers
The second panel discussion was entitled ‘Well AI Never’ an examination of whether Artificial Intelligence was feasible etc. etc. Again the discussion was disorganised: I’d have thought the place to start would be with the question ‘what is intelligence’, but that’s me for you. I suppose the most disappointing thing for me – considering the panel were all SF writers and hence presumably ‘think outside the box’ for a living – was how predictable the conversation was. The reference point they took for intelligence was Man and I am fast coming to the conclusion that Man isn’t intelligent...99.9999% simply possess the ability to regurgitate taught intelligence. To me emotion isn’t a sign of a higher intelligence it is just static interfering with the though process.

I have though to check out Nicholas Humphries theories of Social Intelligence (thank you Stephen Palmer) and the Turin Test (courtesy of Chris Beckett).

The third and final panel considered ‘Is YA fiction Really so Different from Adult Fiction?’. I thought Kim Lakin-Smith was especially lucid here especially her comment that the secret of YA seems to be to have the young protagonists at the centre of all the action.

I suppose if I hadn’t been so worried about frostbite I might have enjoyed it more, but in the end the cold triumphed and Nell and I cut bait about 4.00 p.m. Shame.

Friday, 8 October 2010


I’m currently writing a new chapter for The Demi-Monde: Summer, the third book in the series, this scene being set in the JAD, the nuJu Autonomous District, the homeland for the nuJu’s (the DM’s faux-Jewish people). This involves a meeting between Vanka Maykov (one of my lead characters) and a guy called Schmuel Glebfisz, the leader of the JAD.

I hadn’t realised how difficult it is to write yiddisher speech without it coming out as a horrible pastiche of Jewish speech patterns. The one good thing was that having had to research Jewish phraseology (‘Drek’ by Yetta Emmes and ‘Let’s Schmooze’ by Julian Sinclair are both recommended) I unearthed some real gems viz:

Bubeleh: little grandmother...there’s obviously a linguistic connection with the Russian baba here.

Molodyets: clever chap. Again there’s the same word in Russian...this is what my Russian teachers occasionally (very occasionally) called me.

Groisser sheeser: a big shot.

Shtik drek: a turd or a shithead.

Golem: an oaf...and obviously where Tolkien found the name for his character.

Shlang: a snake or a large penis. I’m gonna use this a lot...the word that is...

Thinking about it there seems to be some similarity between Yiddish and Dutch...I wonder. And as I’m currently getting into the whole bit about the proto-Indo-European language and the Urheimat hypothesis this is real food for thought.

Oy vay! But will you look at the time. Plant you now and dig you later.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Nell and I attended the Renegade Writers Group in Stoke yesterday evening (every Wednesday night, 19.30 at the Jolly Potter pub – the house white ain’t bad either) and had a GREAT time. I think the success of any Rees outing is directly proportional to the amount of conversation in the car afterwards and believe me the 40 minute trip back to Derby seemed to fly by.

Renegade Writers 1 (or 4, but you know what I mean!)

The biggest frustration I have is that each and every one of the pieces read gave me loads and loads of ideas and the bugger is I’m so committed to finishing The Demi-Monde: Summer (the 3rd book in the series) I ain’t got time to digress and explore them. I really loved Tim's (I missed your surname Tim, apologies) sex-o-drama, though I think it could bear a little ‘pushing’. The anti-heroine needs to be made more conniving and the ‘hero’ more visceral, but overall there’s a great story in there. I liked Jan’s ideas too: I’d be inclined to lean harder on the glass/light motif to make it a more strident metaphor for Bekki's (?) fractured personality. Very interesting though.

Renegade Writers 2

The best thing about attending the meeting (other than the intelligent company which is quite rare these days) was that it made me think about writing styles other than the one I’ve adopted for The Demi-Monde. Seeds have been sown.

I read part of the Prologue from DM1 which was good experience tho' I find reading aloud really shows up the flaws in your work...I should have made the Prologue leaner and meaner. Damn! I’m gonna take the opening chapter from DM3 to the next meeting – having a little early criticism will, I think, be good for the soul...and the syntax.

Many thanks to Peter Coleborn for organising a very worthwhile meet. It’s highly recommended folks!

Monday, 4 October 2010


Just heard from John Jarrold that a Russian publisher - Ripol - is taking the first two books in the Demi-Monde series. Winter will be published in September 2011 which is shaping up to be a frantic time (the US, Germany and Russia are all launching around then). The really interesting thing is there were two Russian publishers in the frame which I hope indicates that they think the book has got legs. Of course with part of the action being set in St Petersburg and two lead characters (Vanka Maykov and Beria) being Russian there will be - hopefully - something for Russian readers to identify with.

Needless to say the Rees household is jumping. Nelli is Russian, I lived there for eight years in the 90's and both the girls were born in Moscow so there's a strong connection with the country. It'll be great fun promoting the book there and catching up with all our old friends from M-TEL days.

Seriously good news!


Spent some time on Sunday working on the storyboard for the Demi-Monde video. I’m looking for something that I can use on the website and on You Tube etc. and which will give potential readers of the book a flavour of what will be coming at them. Of course, the other key aim is to make it as punchy and impactful as possible without breaking the bank. Budget considerations mean that outside shots, exotic locations and the use of actors is a no-no. This ain’t gonna be Avatar but I want it to be something worth watching, so...

The set is that ABBA – the supa-dupa quantum computer which the Demi-Monde is platformed on – is in communication with the US Military from the Demi-Monde. To do this it has to anthropomorphise (try saying that when you’re pissed) and in this state (anthropomorphisation not pissed) ABBA will be played by Nelli. Nelli’s terrific at this sort of stuff so I’ve no worries there. But while Nelli might act her socks off – her message is that the President’s daughter is lost in the Demi-Monde – she’ll still be just a talking head...a very sexy talking head but not terribly arresting.

So...we’re gonna do some digital enhancing. I have a McGuffin in the book called PINC – Personal Implanted nanoComputer. It’s a sort of cyber-encyclopaedia fused to the cortex which gives an individual access to almost limitless information. PINC has obviously piqued Nigel’s imagination because he’s been trying to represent it on screen. The trouble is that if we’re not careful it’ll end up looking like a lo-priced knock-off of the Terminator’s Head-Up Display.

Nigel has come up with one idea – I call it the halo – which he won’t let me post until it’s better developed. I think it might be interesting.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


A lot of you might be too young to remember the cartoon series 'Love Is...' which was immensely popular - so my increasingly flawed memory tells me - back in the 1980's. You know the sort of thing:

Love Is...remembering her birthday.
Love Is...a bunch of flowers

Or as I saw on a tee-shirt one holiday in Key West: Love Is...Swallowing.

But now I truly know what love is. Love is going Line Dancing!

Nell has been talking intermittently about us going Line Dancing for the best part of a year, but I thought it was simply some form of pernicious though thankfully minor, mental aberration so as is my wont I ignored her and hoped this particular fantasy would go away. I mean,,,Line Dancing! It looks awful and is simply not the sort of thing Rod Rees indulges in. After all I ain't Kevin Bacon and the Midlands ain't Footloose territory. But...

Now we're reasonably settled in the new house Nell's been investigating Line Dancing clubs in the area and it seems Derby is knee-deep in the bloody things. So she's decided that this Tuesday we will sally forth and dance. The club she's chosen does 'Modern' Line Dancing -whatever that is - which means that - thankfully - I don't have to dress up like an extra in Midnight Cowboy. But believe me folks, I ain't looking forward to this.

Love is...making a bloody fool of yourself.

Friday, 1 October 2010


Isn't coincidence wonderful?

Yesterday when I was trying to join Facebook (that might be a mistake, folks!) and I was struggling to fill out the favourite films category my mind went blank and I couldn't remember that great film of the 1950's starring the impeccable Henry Fonda, 'Twelve Angry Men'. Then today I read the comment on one of my blogs by amberkraken, checked Anthony out, and lo and behold his favourite film is TAM!

I'm really quite bucked up by this. It's great that these gems aren't forgotten and that they're still being appreciated for the masterpieces they are. Okay, so there was a lot of dross pumped out in the 50's but there were diamonds in the rough.

So it isn't just Daughter 1 who raises eyebrows when she's asked what her favourite movie is and cites something most of her generation has never heard of ('Some Like It Hot').