Friday, 30 April 2010

Blogfest signup

I have signed up for this blogfest on 7th May. Hmm... am I starting to get hooked on these things?

Bad Girl Blogfest

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Eenie, Meenie...

I love generating ideas for stories, which is nice, because it is what I have spent the last few hours doing. I've said it recently, but it's wonderful all the different things you can do with the same basic concept.

I suppose in a normal writing context, the question becomes one of what you choose to give your time to, and how much time you give it. When you look over ideas, do you know already what is going to be a short story, a poem, a piece of flash fiction or a novel? Mostly, I have a length in mind while I'm thinking, so I already know how much time we're talking.

In the case of a novel, it's months. Even years. And that time is time you could be spending on another idea. So how do you choose? How do you decide which one is worth your time? I'm told that one rule is to pick something that really excites you, and that will change you in some way just to write.

When you're working with ghostwritten stuff, the process becomes complicated by the question of how much you should get involved in the planning process. For me, that's a question whose answer is down to the client, and comes down to how much they want you involved. Giving them the best book in the world isn't any use if it isn't at least broadly the book they had in their head. The aim is simply to produce the best possible version of that. Of course, that means one or two left over ideas, which if they're sufficiently different, can go in the pool with the others, so I have an even harder time picking.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


I have been reading Craig Shaw Gardener's old Ebeneezum trilogy of comic fantasy novels. Very funny, but they do also show you just how influential a good cover can be. I only got hold of them because they looked a bit 'Pratchett-esque', and that was largely down to having covers by Josh Kirby.

I have finally got around to putting my entry together for the Sheffield Open sabre, and I happened to look at the entry list. There's someone there from my old club in Colchester. Colchester to Sheffield? That's quite a trek for a bit of fencing.

I found myself doing a bit of research on Azrael, the angel of death in most christian mythology, and it's amazing how often death shows up as a character in things. I'm not complaining, you understand (I can't when I've just written a chapter containing him, and when a slightly different death has already shown up in my short story 'The Apocalypse Factor') With all that popularity, it's just amazing that he has time for the day job.

Oh, and the cricket. Two wickets. For several million runs (ok, probably around forty). It seems that a significant minority of the deliveries I bowl are destined to go over deep mid-wicket's head for six. I also eked out the longest thirteen runs in the history of the game, over approximately that many overs.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

First Game Traditions

I'm playing cricket today, which has elicited some looks of concern from the people I fence with, given what happened at the end of last season (I briefly dislocated my shoulder on a diving stop, resulting in some protracted soreness in the joint whenever I did anything strenuous, like fencing). Hopefully, I'll be a bit more careful today, particularly since it's less than a month to the Sheffield open.

Some things that probably will happen, it being the first game of the season:

  1. Someone gets sunburned. Being in the UK, we tend to forget that the shiny thing we see in the sky occasionally is actually quite powerful, particularly if we're standing in a field all day.
  2. I will have forgotten someone's name. It's a strange relationship we have, we cricketing people. We spend hours together each week in the season, but then don't see one another for six months. Cue "Hello... you"
  3. Someone will have forgotten how to do it. There are two schools of cricketing thought regarding early season net practise. One does it. The other thinks it ought to, but then forgets to book anywhere until February, when all the sports centres are jam packed. Guess which we fall into? This is actually good for me, living on a farm, because I have the space to practise in my garden.
  4. The ball will be harder than I remember. They make it harder each year specially.
  5. There will be a brief discussion of the IPL, before talk turns to the football premiere league, and Hull City's chances of staying in it. It's only a cricket season because there's no football on.
  6. I will hit a run, think it's the beginning of that elusive century (or fifty, or thirty) and then find some annoying way of getting out. Run out at the non-striker's end by one that just flicks the bowler's fingers, perhaps?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Last line blogfest.

Blogfests. Good things? Bad things? Slightly strange things taking me away from what I'm supposed to be doing? Who knows? I do know that I'm thinking of signing up for a few, and have started with the last line blogfest a couple of weeks from now. I've got lots of last lines lying around, so I'm sure there's an interesting one there somewhere.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

And then they...

One thing that intrigues me is that, if you really break them down, the sequences of events in most novels aren't really that interesting. This is even true in fantasy or science fiction, presumably because there are only so many ways that you can steal the eye of.../overthrow the evil... /teach advanced crochet to the ogres of...

I note this largely because yesterday I found myself facing the words "They run away. Aquire transport" in my plan. Now, my plans tend to be fairly simple precisely because I want to give myself options (and because I'm more interested in getting things right structurally at that stage than in the details. Details are easy to change) but that's pushing things.

I suppose the real beauty is that different people can write essentially the same thing different ways. Some writers would probably include a carjacking at this point, while others would no doubt resort to the creation of some sort of giant robot from things lying around in a potting shed. One or two would no doubt have them picked up by a homicidal maniac (though presumably not a very successful one, they have to get to the next chapter, after all). Personally, I thought I'd give the "completely out of his depth" one of this pair a chance to shine, by letting him arrange a lift quietly in the background while the other one unsuccessfully attempts difficult and dangerous ways of getting where they're going.

Oh, and they don't run so much as squelch.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

If you're trapped by a supernatural entity, press 1

I had a fun opportunity to play the "how do we get rid of the phones" game in my WIP earlier. You know the one. It's what afflicts any novel in a modern setting where tension and a lack of help are necessary. You get to the point where the bad guy has someone holed up in a cupboard, or where things have gone seriously weird, and then you have to answer the question of why the protagonist doesn't just call the police/a friend picked at random from their address book/the local takeaway in search of help/moral support/pizza.

Generally, options include:

  1. Stolen/Smashed phones
  2. Poor reception at the crucial moment
  3. "They" are watching us all through the phones
In the end, I went for a combination of one and three, in the traditional "they are watching, so get rid of the phone" routine. It occurs to me that I now have an opportunity for a complaint about the cost of the things that I haven't taken, so I'm off to write that in.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A day's writing.

In a slight pause on the work front, I've found myself with a day to just get stuck into my WIP, putting on around 4000 words. I particularly enjoyed getting to write a parody of some of the medieval visions of the afterlife I have studied over the years. All right, so only about half a dozen people will ever get some of the references, but it's still fun making them.

On that thought, do you include many knowing references to other things in your writing? How do you feel about those little nods to things? Are they purely for comedy, unnecessary showing off, a great addition, or do you feel that you should be reading the thing referred to? Do you find yourself going through something like the work of Jasper Fforde or Terry Pratchett and not getting all the allusions? Does it matter?

I'm also enjoying re-reading Jim Butcher's Grave Peril. The joy of the re-read is that you already know that you're going to like the book. Do you re-read much? Are you one of those people who owns hundreds of books, yet only ever reads them once?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bar Scene Blogfest

Being my entry into the bar scene blogfest. For anybody particularly pedantic, this is strictly speaking a pub rather than a bar, but these days it's hard to tell the difference anyway. Enjoy.

A man walks into a pub.

So far, so normal. Except that it’s my pub, and normal people really shouldn’t be able to walk into it. I mean, when you site your taproom on a nexus in the space/time continuum (I mean, it’s five o’clock somewhere, and it's pretty handy with the licensing laws too) you expect a lot of things. Passing trade from places the other side of the universe, for example. Norse gods complaining that you’ve watered the beer down with handy oceans. People promising to pay their tabs once some giant beetle runs off with the sun. That sort of thing. Not ordinary, slightly shabby looking humans wandering in asking for a pint.

Though things might have been simpler if he’d just asked for a pint.

Instead, he wanders straight up to the bar, apparently unfazed by either the sight of a couple of Celtic goddesses downing whiskey by the half-pint or a Many-Tentacled-Thing attempting to play darts, and asks me what there is to drink.

What sort of question is that? I mean, it’s bad enough when it’s just a normal bar, full of beer, lager, vodka, cider, and all the things with stupid names that the real-ale mob have given us. Me, I’ve got a pub that features unreal ale, not to mention a list of cocktails that most people really wouldn’t want to drink. When the average Haitian death god asks for a zombie, he isn’t messing around.

Even so, being a conscientious sort of landlord, I list a few of them. The new bloke raises an eyebrow.

‘Is that all?’

Something about that eyebrow irritates me. Maybe it’s the way he’s managed to make out that a Flaming Volcano With Real Lava (we get a lot of fire gods in. They tend to be thirsty) is nothing. So I list them. I list every damn drink in the place. Does he order one? Does he so much as twitch? Of course he doesn’t.

By this point, of course, a few of the regulars have decided to chip in. Apparently they think that, just because they happen to be omniscient, they know more than I do. Before I have the sense to say no, a couple of them have jumped to my side of the bar and started mixing things. That’s your other problem with gods, of course. They tend towards bossiness.

One who can’t seem to make up his mind if he’s a spider or a man (and who seems to spend all his time trying to trick other people into paying for his round, for that matter. I don’t know why I let him in, some days) comes up with something that has more rum in it than Jamaica. The stranger shakes his head.

‘It’s not right.’

A passing hob tries something with far too much cider. Another shake of the head. Soon, I’ve got valkeries producing little things with umbrellas in, thunder gods arguing about how you mix the perfect Manhattan, and a fertility goddess wondering aloud if just throwing all of it in a bucket might work.

The stranger won’t drink any of it.

Eventually, the stranger sighs and says he’ll do it himself, rolling up his sleeves like a conjurer about to perform, or at least like a workman who doesn't want to get them dirty while he does the grouting. He takes a pint glass and starts putting things in. A dash of this, a splash of that, a shot of things I didn’t realise I had. The result isn’t the muddy concoction it should be, but something clear and sparkling.

Maybe he’s not so normal after all.

Finally, and with a smile that means he isn’t instantly blasted into a small grease spot on the floor, he plucks a hair from the head of the nearest goddess and drops that in too. There’s a fizz, and something changes in that pint glass. The stranger raises his eyebrow again.

‘Take a closer look’

I do, and find myself staring into blackness. Not total blackness though. Points of light pierce through it, and clouds swirl on the edge of vision. Staring at the lights seems to bring them closer, until I’m nearly blind with it. Somewhere in it, my eyes insist that there are things orbiting the lights, unformed yet, but with the promise of so much more. I pull back from the pint glass as quickly as I think is safe.

‘And you’re going to drink that?’ I ask. The stranger shrugs.

‘Well…it might take a while to settle.’

He drinks one of the Manhattans, to be going on with, he says. In fact, he drinks most of the things the others have put together before he leaves. Doesn’t pay for any of them, of course. Doesn’t drink his own drink, either. Says it still isn’t ready. Which is how I come to have the thing sitting behind my bar. The stranger swears he’ll be back for it.

I suppose I’ve just got to make sure no one spills it in the meantime.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


I'm taking part in the bar scene blogfest tommorow, hosted here. Some of you might have briefly seen my effort, because I got the dates wrong, but it will definitely be up tommorow.

I realised the other day that I have been inadvertently (all right, occasionally deliberately) cultivating the image of a slightly eccentric writer type. Mostly I realised this when I jokingly mentioned to some friends that the main disadvantage of toasters was that things tended to get quite messy if you try to make cheese on toast in them. One of them suspected that I was the sort of person to try it. For anyone in any doubt, I do not do that sort of thing. I don't even like cheese on toast.

On the other hand, maybe that sort of image is a useful thing. After all, except for my quite dark urban fantasy novel Searching (and the eventually to be released sequel Witch Hunt, which admittedly has a slightly lighter tone. You don't have a copy of the first one yet? Neither does most of the rest of the world. It really must hurry if it wants to understand what's going on when it gets to the second one.) I mostly do various degrees of funny. I'm not sure that being known as the sort of person who scrupulously does not do things to toasters necessarily works with that.

Of course, I still have the fact that I like writing scenes in pubs, despite the fact that I don't drink. Does that count as odd enough? If not, I'm sure I can always find a toaster somewhere...

Ok, enough about the toasters. I'll see you again tomorrow, with my usual brand of rather odd pubs.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Novels and Prodding.

I'm re-reading the Neil Gaiman novel Stardust, having seen the film recently. I can only say that, as good as the film was, the novel has so much more in it. It even makes slightly more sense.

My fencing club's epee tournament is next week, so I spent last night remembering how to do it. I didn't fence any sabre at all, which is a bit weird. I even managed some sabre last week at a club that only exists, as far as I can see, thanks to the epee phase of the modern pentathalon.

The current novel is taking a while, though I hope to write some more when I'm done here. For some reason, after spending the day writing, I don't always want to spend the evening writing. Odd.

The novel I'm ghostwriting, on the other hand, is proceeding apace. I even managed to sort out a small plot difficulty in a way that let me do a whole scene of overblown villainy.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Goodbye, Sir Alec

Former England cricketer Sir Alec Bedser died the other day, and this seemed like a good moment to commemorate that fact. One of the big four of English Medium/Fast bowling (S.F. Barnes, Maurice Tate and Sir Ian Botham being the other three, in date order), he was the mainstay of the England and Surrey attacks in the forties and early fifties, bowling thousands of overs every season. Alongside his identical twin brother Eric, in the case of Surrey, which would have been confusing for the scorers had they not tossed a coin when young to decide which of them would get to bowl fast, and which off spin.

On a personal level, it's sad to see him go, because learning about his use of the leg cutter was one of the first stages in my transformation from dodgy medium pace bowler to... well, dodgy leg spinner, but the principle is the same. Actually, my current technique owes more to a much slowed down version of his technique (or that of Barnes) than to anything done by Shane Warne, and without his impact on the game of cricket (or at least on Don Bradman, the great batsman in whose book 'The Art of Cricket' I first saw the technique in question, and who considered Bedser to have bowled the greatest delivery he ever faced) I would probably have never spun a leg break at all. So goodbye to one of the greatest bowlers ever to play the game.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Magical magic?

Since I'm re-reading Tom Holt's 'May Contain Traces of Magic' I find myself interested at the moment by the balance between the magical and the mundane in various forms of modern fantasy. Different authors working with modern settings vary hugely both in the amount of magic they put in their fantasy work and in how magical it seems when they do it.

At one end of the scale, you seem to have JK Rowling and the like, who throw in lots of magic and make it all quite fantastical. Is this just a function of the younger intended audience? Is it because there isn't intended to be anything jaded or cynical about it?

Tom Holt's work probably still uses a lot of magic, but tends not to make such a big deal about it. In fact, the whole "working for J.W.Wells" setting seems designed specifically to make the point that, for all the magic, it's still just a job. Hence this novel about a sales rep, which just happens to contain demons, magical weapons and dehydrated water.

One of the biggest determining factors seems to be how much the story is taking place in the "real" world, and how hidden the magical bits have to be, though Neil Gaiman always seems to be able to fit in more magic than you might have thought possible.

So, where do you fall on the scale, if you write fantasy? Lots of magic? No magic? And how magical is your magic? I've noticed that I often throw in quite large pieces of magic casually, and occasionally just because it might get a laugh. What about you?

Thursday, 1 April 2010


My short (ish, I'm starting to wonder if Adam hasn't exchanged brains with me at some point, what with the sudden brevity of his own work. It's the sort of thing he might do. Though if his adding up still works, probably not.) story Squired Up has gone up over at WryWriter. Enjoy.