Thursday, 26 February 2009

Unexpected gain/loss

No, we didn't win in Lancaster. We lost 133-130, which is about the closest match Hull's team has had since we've been there. Since that's the end of our cup run, it also happens to be my last match for the university. In some ways that's a pity. Team fencing can be a lot of fun. On the other hand, it is a predominantly individual sport, and having your fate almost entirely in your own hands has its appeal. Also, I can finally risk washing my kit. If it shrinks now (and fencing gear always shrinks) it doesn't matter so much. It's about time. Some of it was becoming an added incentive for the opponents to keep good distance.

I received a copy of the March edition of the Pulsar poetry magazine in the post this morning, which has my poem 'The Art Show' in it. I'd almost forgotten about that one. The difference in speed between the Internet and paper publishing is obvious. On the other hand, actually being able to leaf through the thing to find my work is very satisfying.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


I've spent the last few days slogging though Paul Dalton's work on the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, and have so had little chance to get anything meaningful written. I've managed a couple of poems and a brief article (which I must submit at once, before I forget). I'm still very much at the waiting stage of the publication process with the novel, and while I'm sure everyone involved is going as fast as they can, it's still a phase when things are out of my control, and so one that I end up worrying about.

I'm working up to re-plotting the one I'm working on at the moment, having decided that it doesn't quite work. The trick here, since I tend to write in a series of scenes, is to work out which of them, if any, are still relevant. I suspect that several will be, particularly the ones that don't feature the main character.

We fence Lancaster next. A long trip for what is likely to be quite a low standard of fencing. I'm beginning to suspect that the university club would do better, for both its finances and members, if it pulled out of inter-university competition and focussed on real fencing tournaments. Still, hopefully we should beat them.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Complete rewrite?

Although I haven't quite got to the end of the novel, I'm currently having a bit of a read through of it. This is because I'm starting to wonder if I haven't made a couple of fairly fundamental errors with it that will ultimately handicap how good it can be. I suspect that my main character isn't 'main' enough, for a start, and that recasting her role in events might result in a better work. I'm reading through in the hope that I'm wrong, because while I feel there are several sections I might be able to salvage almost intact, having to totally rewrite everything would be a bit of a pain.

Again though, this is going to have to wait. I'm at the sharp end of the PhD, and also need to work through the requirements of my credit-getting module. That means I've got an academic book review to put together (meaning that I've got to remember not to do it the way I might do a review here) and also a presentation on the Battle of Fulford. Preferably one that doesn't refer to it as a "no score draw".

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


  • I'm almost at the end of the PhD, or at least I think I am. That's the problem. It can be hard to tell when it's of a high enough standard even when the words are down.
  • One issue arising from that is that I've got to put much more effort into finding what I want to do next. There may be people who have their lives planned out in detail, but I'm not one of them.
  • I'm currently reading Robert Twigger's Hidden Oasis, which is fairly enjoyable. One problem I've encountered is that Twigger's books always end up being more about him than about what he's writing about, and I'm increasingly finding that the version of himself he presents in them isn't one I feel I could particularly like.
  • A friend of mine had a bake-sale yesterday, and I may have possibly overdone things on the cake front.
  • I have finally discovered the secret of learning tunes, which is, it seems, to actually practise them occasionally.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Aphelion Best Of

A couple of my rather silly fantasy poems have made Aphelion's best of 2008 issue, which can be found here. 'Mary's Little Alien' demonstrates conclusively that nursery rhymes work better with extra terrestrials in them, while 'Industrial Action' asks the question of just what your average Evil Leader is supposed to do when their horde goes on strike. I did say they were silly.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sand, Ways Out and Acceptance

A fairly random confluence of stuff, but I'm not in a mood for bullet points today. Firstly, I'm currently in a state of mild disbelief at what has been going on with the cricket. Apparently the groundsman at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium in Antuiga doesn't know the difference between beach cricket and Test cricket, because the outfield is so soft and sandy that the day's play has had to be abandoned for fear of injury to the bowlers. Since this isn't something that's going to get better, there's a good chance of the whole match being called off. This will ruin the carefully planned holidays of all the travelling supporters, and probably cost somebody a great deal of money at some point. In theory, they could just move down the road to the old Antuiga Recreation Ground, but I don't see it happening.

I was going to post something yesterday, but I was simply too tired. Wednesday saw the fencing club take a trip to Bangor, and I wound up doing the driving. So that's 200 miles there, fence for a bit, then 200 miles back. I think I got back home about midnight. On the plus side, we won. And I learnt my only Welsh. Fforde Allen= Way Out, apparently.

Regarding my earlier comments on rejection, I take it all back. I love you, editory people. Mostly, of course, that's because I've just had a short story accepted, and I'm fickle like that.

Incidentally, thank you to everyone who commented on my Bob the Vampire RIP post, since it has helped me to stop being such a wimp about the eventual fate of one of my other characters. Frankly, she deserves exactly the fate that I'd originally planned for her, but I was starting to have second thoughts. Now I'm not.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

In the Headlights

My poem 'In the Headlights' has gone up over at Bolts of Silk, read it here.

Monday, 9 February 2009


  • Somewhere out of the blue I've started writing an article on Ripon's forged Athelstan charter. No plan. No particular consideration. I just wanted to get something down and break through the 'I must get round to doing that someday' block. Sometimes that's the best way, just get on with it so that at least something gets done.
  • Rejection is never nice. I had a short story come back today, and even though it's entirely understandable that the editor in question might not want it, it's hard not to take it personally once you've made an effort to make something as good as it can be. Must remember to take it out on whoever I'm fencing later. That will make me feel better.
  • I was about to write 'I've got to make more of an effort to get some short stories written' but I suspect I've just found the reason why I haven't written many lately. They've become a thing of effort that I 'must' do. I'll do them once they seem fun again instead.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Bob the Vampire RIP

I killed off a minor character today, which always feels a bit weird, or maybe that's just me. There's something about making someone up, putting them through all sorts of odd situations, and then suddenly deciding that they need to die for the story to work out right that makes me feel a bit odd. Or possibly like the Godfather. One or the other, anyway.

The hard part was putting together a workable fight scene in the context of comic fantasy. For the urban fantasy that is my other novels' focus, it's a fairly accepted part of the sub-genre. For this, it's harder, since you have to find ways of taking violence and death and somehow still getting the odd laugh. Hopefully, I've found a way.

So RIP Bob the Vampire (the name works rather better in context, trust me). Now, onto the next bit.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Estella's Up

The February edition of Estella's Revenge has gone up here with my article "I have to have that book."

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


  • Let's get the big one out of the way first. Hull fence Sheffield tomorrow, for the league. I think we ought to win, simply on the strength of our sabre team, of which I am probably the weakest member. I know, I know, it's just university sport. Hull though set out its criteria for awarding colours and half-colours (as in "I won a blue for rowing, don't you know", except with a sort of purple and gold combination) for sport a few years back, and winning your league was one of those set down for half-colours. This is my last chance to win them, and probably my best, so I'd quite like to.
  • After that, we go on to face Bangor 2nds in the cup. Team captain Scott has just informed me that the finals will be broadcast on Channel 4 (presumably at some ungodly hour they haven't got anything else to fill), so that might be interesting.
  • On a front that doesn't involve whacking strangers with swords, an insight into the editorial process of a novel. You submit, and they accept, and the copy-editor makes an entirely reasonable suggestion for a change that eliminates a small logical problem. And even though you've told yourself that this is all good, and you're going to be very helpful, there's still the urge to snatch up the manuscript, shouting "no, my baby! I won't let them hurt you!". Thankfully, after a little bit of this, you then decide to actually read the passage in question, and grudgingly accept that something about it might, just might, need changing. Then, after agonising about how best to do it, you make more or less the change the nice editory person suggested in the first place.
  • I've also crept past the 60000 word mark on the novel, which still seems like slow going. Still, I'll keep plugging away.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Rachel Green, An Ungodly Child

A quick note at the start, just to point out that I've run into the author on the writing forum I use (The Write Idea, the link's at the side). I don't think it's affected this review, but it seems only fair to tell you.

Right then, the plot. Harold Waterman isn't the antichrist, but three angels of destruction are getting sufficiently eager for armageddeon to persuade him that he is. He has the right dad, for a start. So they set about placing him in situations to slowly force him to come into his 'birthright'. One of these (an incurable disease) forces him to get in touch with the forces of darkness in the form of the demon Jasfoup, and together they have assorted small adventures, try to cure Harold, and generally set him on a path to evil paved, not with good intentions, but with a combination of wry wit and occasionally vicious slapstick.

Those two are very much the stars of the show here, and Jasfoup in particular steals it as a tea-obsessed tempter of souls, but there's a supporting cast of wierd and wonderful characters drawn with a nice balance between pushing the story along and making the reader laugh. If a couple seem a little arbitrary (such as the sudden appearance of a vampire girlfriend) they don't get in the way and at least serve as springboards for one-liners. Besides, I suspect they'll have more to do in any sequel.

I was initially slightly thrown by the timing of the humour, mostly because one review had compared it to Pratchett. I went in expecting absurdist descriptions and metaphors, when actually, the laughs seem to come in a slightly different way, possibly more akin in tone to Tom Holt. There's a dryness here that, once you're used to it, is very funny indeed.

In the interests of balance, a couple of minor downsides. The copy-editor needs shouting at, because small, annoying mistakes show up here and there. Also the plot doesn't explode at the end so much as about two thirds of the way through, leaving a long-ish ending. Anywhere else, that might have been a serious problem. Here, oddly, I didn't mind too much. I was having far too much fun.