Tuesday, 30 December 2008


Having said that I might not be doing much on the novel, that's 30000 words out of the way.

Monday, 29 December 2008


  • No books for Christmas other than some strange 'How to do just about everything' one.
  • As a result, I resorted to hitting the sales (also known as getting as far away from the house as possible) acquired the complete works of Shakespeare in hardback for £3. Apparently I'm the only person in my part of Yorkshire who would read it for fun.
  • I've also started reading a children's book called 'Sword of Davalon' by Tom Jolley, who is local to me. A review will probably follow, if I can remember not to be too picky about something aimed at the 8-12 market.
  • But before I do that, I've got yet more work to do on the PhD, which should be getting into its end stages. I just want the thing finished, though that will get me out of university just in time to hit the declining job market.
  • As a result, I've not been doing that much work on the novel. Frankly, I've still got a couple to sell before it, so it's not a priority.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant

My brother bought me this for my birthday a week or two ago, so I thought I'd have a go at reviewing it. I have to say that young adult fiction isn't always my thing, but has caught my attention a few times, so I was more than willing to give this a fair go.

The first thing to say is that my friend Scott probably won't like this book. He insists that the Harry Potter series shamelessly rips off fundamental elements of the Lord of the Rings, and is therefore not worth reading. Since Landy has a young heroine who discovers a magical world around her that she never knew existed, along with the fact that she has a potentially special place in it, right around the time that she starts having to fight against an ultimate evil that everyone had thought was defeated, it's fairly obvious where he got some of his inspiration.

Bizarrely though, I actually liked this more than a lot of Rowling's stuff. Stephanie Edgley is a far more likeable, far less petulant, character than Potter, while the writing has a tight, adventurous edge to it that's hard to fault. The basic adventure is quite simple, of course, but what exactly did I expect? It was fun, funny, and full of characters who held my interest, even if they did have silly names.

I think occasionally Landy's background in kenpo karate gets on top of him a little in the fight scenes, letting them descend into something a little too complicated and not spectacular enough, but that's a minor flaw. So is his mildly annoying habit of having almost all description at the start of a chapter, consistently leaving acres of unchecked speech towards the end. Neither issue spoils the flow of the book, or makes it any less of a fun read.

Sunday, 21 December 2008


That's 20000 words out of the way. I may have to pause briefly to rewrite my PhD literature review, but hopefully only briefly. Then again, I might just do both. One in the mornings and one in the afternoons, perhaps.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Getting off the Point

One difference that I've noticed between writing out and out comedy and what I must laughingly call 'serious' urban fantasy is the extent to which it's acceptable to get off the point. Obviously, everything should contribute something, but in serious writing that becomes an imperative to cut every word that isn't catapulting things forward. With the comic stuff, there's slightly more scope for digression, so long as it connects to the main point. As an example, yesterday I got to write an extended bit about urban wasteland as a lead in to the arrival of a group of characters. It's the sort of thing that I would have cut immediately from either of the serious books, but which is absolutely perfect for what I'm working on now.

The best bit, of course, is that if you plan it properly beforehand, even the weirdest excursions end up adding to the overall piece, because the plan ensures that everything you're building the funny stuff around is an essential piece of the plot.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


And I've started another one. Another novel, that is. It's a sequel to the comic fantasy one I've just written but haven't yet sold, which is possibly getting rather ahead of myself. Nevertheless, the first three thousand words or so are down as of yesterday, so here we go again.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Aphelion December 2008

The December edition of Aphelion is up and I have, not one, but two things in it.

First, there's my short story 'cats and fairies'

Then, there's my silly poem 'alternate fuel'

Enjoy. Or not. Or possibly make up some sort of strange dance instead.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


  • I've been fact and reference checking on the PhD, which means that all those times I've thought 'I know it's in there somewhere, but I don't want to break my writing flow to look up the page' have come back to haunt me.
  • Adagio Verse Quarterly have their chapbook competition on at the moment, which means I've been writing poetry frantically. The difficulty is that the thing has to follow a theme, and I normally wouldn't write enough consistently on one thing.
  • The first Test between England and India is underway after initial security concerns following the attacks on Mumbai. I'm glad they decided to go. After all, it's not like Britain is exactly safe at the moment, is it?
  • I went to see HU Drama Society's production of Cinderella the other day, mostly because a friend of mine was in it. Thankfully, she played her part quite well, but much of the rest of it was truly awful. And not even in a fun way.
  • I've learned that Pavels Guzanov is at York University. I know who I'll be going out to in the Yorkshire Sabre then.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

It's behind you

It's the season for, among other things, pantomimes. As such, I'll be going to the Hull University Drama Society's production of Cinderella shortly.

Other things it seems to be the season for:

  • Salvation Army bands who have never heard of counterpoint. Stick one reasonably avid guitarist and a couple of pianists in a cafe opposite some of them (as happened when myself, Tim and Scott were on the way back from Nottingham) and it's hard not to cringe.
  • Incredibly over the top light displays. People who might otherwise turn off every light they aren't using will still shove several miles of fairy lights around their houses. If every house on a street does this, I suspect there might be a chance of light aircraft mistaking it for a runway.
  • Slush, ice and other things that aren't nearly as much fun as snow. It's traditional to make fun of the British weather, but truthfully, we don't get the really bad stuff that often. What we get instead is awkward, nothing weather- drizzle, sleet, occasional bursts of hailstones. It's hard to have a proper snowball fight with sleet.
  • Grumpy people such as myself making lists.

Monday, 8 December 2008

BUCS sabre pt2

The final lists have gone up, and I actually finished 26th. I still should have done a much better job of closing down Pavels Guzanov when he went backwards, though.

BUCS individuals

I went to the British Universities and Colleges Sports individual fencing tournament yesterday, driving down to Nottingham just for the sabre. I could have stayed over the weekend instead, but didn't feel like fencing the foil or epee. Naturally, they'd managed to pick the coldest day of the year so far for the trip down, so East Yorkshire's back roads weren't exactly fun.

I'd promised myself that I wasn't going to take this competition too seriously, since that tends to leave me as a nervous wreck barely able to compete. Even so, since this is probably the last student tournament I'll be doing, I wanted to do reasonably well.

First a note on Hull's other entrants. Apparently they didn't do as well as they'd hoped. The official results for the men's epee are up on the BUCS website, and our highest placed competitor was 85th. He probably made it to about 64th in the foil too, which is more than thirty places lower than he managed last year. Really, we needed some sort of positive result from the sabre.

I'd like to think I did ok. I finished second in my pool to the eventual third place winner, and was placed 28th at that point. I had a bye to the last 64 as a result, and won my first match of direct elimination to take me to the last 32. Unfortunately, my next match wasn't even close. I ran into a Latvian student who beat me 15-6, though he then went on to lose to the guy who'd won my pool. Exactly where I'll finished based on that will depend on how all the other fights went, but a last 32 place seems reasonable, and hopefully I've seen some areas that will allow me to improve.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Last Minutes

Last minutes can be interesting. Take now, for example. A friend who wasn't originally going to be able to do the British Universities Individual Sabre tommorrow has suddenly realised that he might be able to, so we're doing some last minute arranging on the transport. There's nothing like a sense of urgency to concentrate the mind.

Even so, it's usually better to avoid this sort of thing, particularly with anything important. One of my old law lecturers once pointed out that people do 90% of the work for their essays in the last 10% of the time, but still have to worry about them. If they did it in the first 10% of the time instead, they could have the rest of the time off.

Where this applies to writing is in the idea of getting the work done. The act of writing is wonderfully good fun, but so many people put it off almost indefinitely. 50 or 70, or however many thousand words of writing is intimidating, until you've written the first few thousand, and all you've got to worry about is what you're writing next.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Estella's Up

The new issue of Estella's Revenge, with my article 'Where have all the goblins gone?' has gone up here.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Individuals on Sunday

On Sunday I'll be travelling down to Nottingham to fence in the British Universities Individual Sabre. It's become a little more individual than I was originally intending, since neither of Hull's other specialist sabreurs can make it. I shouldn't feel nervous about such a minor open (I think it rates something ludicrously low on the BFA's 'difficulty multiplier' for ranking points) but somehow I'm managing it. Maybe it's just that this year is my last chance to do this one, and also the first time I'll have made it down there. Needless to say, with the individuals for all three weapons contested over the weekend, training has cranked up a gear, as everyone tries to get into competition mode.

It's weird, that divide between a competition approach and a normal one, and it's something I think applies to many other things, including writing. How we write when we're trying to produce an important piece of work is different from how we write for things that don't matter, or for exercises. But should that be the case? The japanese sword master Miyamoto Musashi pointed out that, when fighting with a sword, training with a sword, or just going about your life, your mindset shouldn't change too much. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword (fired out of some sort of catapult perhaps) maybe that applies to the writing too.

Monday, 1 December 2008


The bulbs snuggle under the first frost
Warm beneath a frozen blanket
Of winter rime and icy earth
The first cold turned to insulation
Against the winter’s harsher thrusts

The tiny furred things feel this touch
And know the warning that it brings
They seek the safety of some borrowed
Warmth, stolen in the hidden parts
Of houses. As safe as buried bulbs, ‘til spring.