A word that seems to demand an exclamation mark. Made some last night for Christmas, using the mighty Sarah Raven's recipe, below:
This is quick and easy to make – it will take about 10 minutes – but then needs to be left for a couple of weeks at least before you drink it. Then the lemon zest and lemon grass really infuse the vodka to give a delicious sharp but rich taste.
Makes 750ml bottle

8 unwaxed lemons
2 lemon grass stems
700ml bottle of good quality vodka
220g caster sugar

Zest the lemons and crush the lemon grass and put them into a large sterilised kilner or preserving jar and pour over the vodka.

Put the sugar into a saucepan with 350ml water, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Leave the syrup to cool, then add it to the lemon zest mixture.

Seal the preserving jar and leave for a couple of weeks in a cupboard, shaking and turning every so often. Then strain the limoncello into bottles. This is best served ice cold, straight from the freezer.

Now, doesn't that sound the dog's? The kitchen smells fantastic. Limoncello!
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Been asked to point out that I'm doing something re NaNoWriMo at Blick studios Malone Road at 7:00 pm this very night. Don't let the weather scare you...

back to porridge

returned Monday from France, where, courtesy of my estimable French publishers Denoel (no handy diaresis shortcut on LJ, alas), and the even more estimable Gilles Dumay, my editor, I did an appearance (which sounds more exciting than it was) at Paris bookstore Scylla --this is a great shop, --20 sq metres, and books to the very ceiling. It smells beautiful. Shoppers have to shuffle round, which makes signings upclose and personal. Talked to great people many of whom I recalled from Utopiales last year.
(This was after the Scariest. Flight Evah --LHR-CDG on Air France. It suddenly seemed to run out of sky just over the channel --I saw a light attendant leave the cabin floor. Funnythe kinds of decisions that seem ovbvious --either spill my red wine all over the floor, or go down in screaming terror with a decent Bordeaux inside me... Well darlings, what else would you think I'd do?)
We were staying on the Left Bank, a part of Paris I'd never stayed in before (though I've been many times) --just off the Boulevard St Germain de Pres, which was central and very very walkable. slimmeroftheyea was with me (she was on a different, direct flight from BFS-CDG).
Then on to Utopiales in Nantes, which was excellent as ever --met China Mieville, chatted with Peter Watts and Caitlin (with much hilarity), shared a signing space with Larry Niven --all his books are still in print in France. Good signings --and many of them--, seeing much love for Le Fleuve des dieux. I ended up on panels about robotics, for some reason, but at least I did learn of the robot that eats slugs and digests them for motive power. Everyone instantly said, 'I want one of those.' Saw the big machines at les Machines de l'ile --including the replica of the Sultan's Elepehant, fondly remembered --and finally got to dinner in La Cigalle. Marvellous tilework and high-ceilinged ambience --and on a Sunday in November, all we had to do was dander in to get a table. slimmeroftheyea's French is more confident than mine (I understand a lot more than I can speak), so like a cowardly male I left her to do the talking. I do love Utopiales very much, because it feels like a festival --something I'm coming round to more and more as the way to go. At the games stand, the Kinect provided the biggest crowd and the most hilarity -- it's the fact that everything is done in mime that makes it much more entertaining to watch that the Wii. That has some degree of agency --this is Marcel Marceau. Masquerade: best costume, among all the cosplay stuff, which to be honest, is staring to feel a bit old and stale, was a marvellous costume for the Diva from the Fifth Element.

Back to Paris Monday for an interview for France Culturelle (spelling almost certainly wrong), the main culture radio station --and then back, with a hideous transfer through Heathrow, and WTF do they need do a biometric scan for at Flight Connections in T1? I had my identity checked eight times between Paris and bagagge reclaim at BFS (WTF do they need to check your ID entering bagagge reclaim?)

Anyway, just bloggin this to avoid going in to the office...

The only good teenage boy...

... is a dead teenage boy, according to research reported in this article in the Indie. I excerpt:

The portrayal of teenage boys as "yobs" in the media has made the boys wary of other teenagers, according to new research.

Figures show more than half of the stories about teenage boys in national and regional newspapers in the past year (4,374 out of 8,629) were about crime. The word most commonly used to describe them was "yobs" (591 times), followed by "thugs" (254 times), "sick" (119 times) and "feral" (96 times).

Other terms often used included "hoodie", "louts", "heartless", "evil" "frightening", "scum", "monsters", "inhuman" and "threatening".

The research – commissioned by Women in Journalism – showed the best chance a teenager had of receiving sympathetic coverage was if they died.

"We found some news coverage where teen boys were described in glowing terms – 'model student', 'angel', 'altar boy' or 'every mother's perfect son'," the research concluded, "but sadly these were reserved for teenage boys who met a violent and untimely death."

What a Godawful, preachy, fear-filled nation we've become (and I'm paraphrasing an old Kate Wilhelm introduction to a story in Again, Dangerous Vision Can't remember the title of the story, alas, but her introduction seethed with righteous rage.

Post Belgrade.

Back from Belgrade (actually, Sunday night, and I was in dayjob yesterday). Lavishly entertained by our host Goran and his wife Dragana --and daughters sax-playing and non-sax playing. Your hospitality is overwhelming.
I was there as guest of my publisher Paladin, partly to promote the story collection (which is kind of a Best Of and features a lot of uncollected work). Signings, media, the Belgrade Book fair. The scale of the publishing industry in Serbia is quite amazing --four halls at the Belgrade fairgounds, full of publishers, book sellers, independent retailers. Books books books. And thousands of people, many of them buying (though I'm told that it's the only time of the year that many people buy books). Drinking with the Belgrade SF writers --there is a pretty vibrant local Sf and fantasy writing scene (I did note, a tad low on the oestrogen). Interesting things happening: I was talking to three writers (Goran among them) who all, independently, were pushing at the edges of the mainstream audience -- one alternate history, one dark urban fantasy (not Kick-ass grrrl with ass-antlers, fantasy in a contemporary urban setting) and horror/noir --that will appeal tot he general reading audience. Interesting approach, and one that chimes with me. One thing we all agree on: marketing. When you need it you can't get it, when you get it you don't need it. If I can ever remember my Flickr log-in, I may post up some photos.
Belgrade is a deeply fascinating place, probably one of the most interesting cities I've been to. Everything is layered and nuanced --and I got a feeling of a city and a nation not quite at ease with itself. There's an edge --and the population is very young and energetic. Most of the time I was just looking around and listening. No, I'm not going to McDonald it. Moving on from that.
I am in the middle of polishing an outline for the next Grownup novel Hopeland--agents are excited after the first version of the outline, I'm excited. It's like nothing else I've ever done. It's like nothing else out there. I'm deliberately trying to find out if there's another gear in the box to shift up --I think there may be.