Quit smiling, you’re suppose to be professional.

Writing

So, it has been two weeks since the surgery. The new kidney is working very well, as demonstrated by my blood tests (three a week, my veins are not happy) and – perhaps more importantly – by my general condition. I’m eating better, I feel more awake, and I feel motivated and a lot less depressed. Also, my diet is almost a total reversal of what it was previously so I can eat pretty much whatever I like. Double breakfast? It’s on, my friends. It is so very on.

On the downside, I have this pesky ten inch incision running from almost the base of my ribs right down to my unmentionables. It is held in place by 28 staples, and up until yesterday, four very deep stitches. Apparently for someone of my fairly slim build, this is ridiculous overkill. It certainly feels like it – as the swelling has gone down, both stitches and staples have started pulling on the flesh surrounding them. I get the remaining staples out over the course of this week, and that should make things a lot easier.

OH. YEAH. Apparently there is a stent in my bladder. They waited to tell me about that one. I’ll give you one guess as to how they get THAT out. Every day is a new surprise, you know?

Still, it leaves me with four weeks stuck waiting for things to heal up. I’m not allowed to lift anything heavy, and because of the immunosuppression I am not allowed to go hang around too many people. Really, I’m kind of stuck in a chair for the time being.

Since I can’t really do much else, I have started back on my novel. Interestingly, attempting to work on it shows that my concentration isn’t quite back up to full speed yet. It’s coming, but it’s not quite there. I also hit a slight snag in that the outline I had no longer worked with the draft I had written. I had the opening act fairly tightly plotted but after that it was just a series of vague signposts that I imagined I might be able to hit along the way. I’ve been burned by this before (Gunslinger Symphony was missing a transition into the third act for over a year) and so have spent the past two days writing out a detailed synopsis of what actually happens. I bashed most of it out last night as one long, meandering paragraph, and chopped it up into a rough outline today. It works! It actually works and *almost* very nearly comes close to making sense and – unlike all my other synopses – doesn’t read like an omnibus edition of Naruto*. I was quite suprised to discover that a not insignificant portion of my secondary world fantasy novel is, in fact, a courtroom drama. Look! Something that isn’t resolved by punching and or gratuitious swearing or magic! Kind of!

Now all I have to do is finish writing it.

Oh, and go see Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s good fun. Don’t bother staying for the after-credits sequence, though.

 

*Or any other shonen manga, wherein our heroes discover that GUTS and FRIENDSHIP overcome EVIL.

You know how I’ve always longed to see the fair city of Padua.

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So, it’s been a busy few weeks. The new novel is coming along (slowly), I finished a handful of short stories (one of which was accepted the same day I sent it off – woo!), and we have had both friends and family staying over to visit. I’ve been working every day I can to save money for the summer (helped by a timely tax rebate) and aside from a few choice cuts from the Steam sale we’ve been pretty good at controlling our money.

Cross fingers, yo.

Meanwhile, I was thinking of all the stories that I’ve written that haven’t really ended up anywhere. Either they’ve vanished into the ether as single ‘blog posts, or they have just never found the right home to go to. Rather than make a new page here, I decided to set up a Wattpad account and start uploading them there. So far there are only five stories – three Halloween shorts and two previously available only as audio files – but I’ve got a reasonable stack to pile on there eventually.

You can find them all at this link. I did think about trying a bit harder with the covers, but honestly I probably couldn’t do much better without spending a lot of time hunting down fonts.

In other news (talk about burying the lede), I won’t be making it to any events this year, save perhaps for Thought Bubble. The whole kidney failure thing has seriously messed with any hope of attending what looks like one of the most event-packed summers in UK genre memory. That two-week stretch between 9Worlds, Fantasy in the Court, the Gollancz Festival, and Loncon 3 is going to be insane and I’ll be very sad to miss it. I hope you all have a great – and safe – time.

Blowing off the dust and cobwebs.

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here. Frankly, it’s been a while since I’ve felt like posting anything. Eastercon was brilliant – I had a really good time – but I was a bit down after it because I know I won’t be attending the big cons over the summer. Eastercon was, basically, it. 

Piling onto that work commitments, hospital appointments, a leaky bathroom, a bedroom plagued by mould (we discovered it was not underlay under the carpet, but *another carpet*, replete with dubious stains and manky damp bits), and just a general feeling of being crushed by everything all at once, I just let the ‘blog go fallow for a bit. You all understand.

In other news, we put Aoife on a swing. She loved it.

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Along with the ‘blog, the writing has taken a bit of a hit over the past week or so. I’ve got a short story to finish, though, so that should be a nice leg up in getting back on it. I’ve been writing/planning a new novel, which – for the first time – has seen me cracking out the index cards to do a bit of planning. Developing some new skills can’t hurt, can it? Also, thinking up names is bullshit. Full-on bullshit. I want a sealed deck of cards covered in interesting, not-weird-sounding names that I can just crack open and start flinging up onto the corkboard. I managed to royally piss off an old WoW friend by admitting that I’d used the name of one of the other Rogues from our raiding days as a character and not him.

I was going to re-start the ‘blog with a book review, but the last book I read was not my cup of tea at all. It made me so angry I was sending all caps DMs to my friends on Twitter just so SOMEONE would know how much rage I felt. While a hatchet job would be cathartic, I’d really prefer to just keep things light on here.

Instead, I thought I’d do a re-read of the Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man Trilogy. The Farseer Trilogy was one of the first fantasy series I read, coming on the tail end of a childhood defined by the vistas offered by our local library’s Withdrawn table*: techno-thrillers (Tom Clancy represent!), South Africa (Wilbur Smith), and horror (Stephen King/Brian Lumley). I was not an easy convert. I had avoided my brother’s complete Lord of the Rings (won as a prize for achievement at school, a beautiful edition which we immediately marred with a splodge of raspberry sauce from celebratory ice cream) and tried to read the Belgariad a few years earlier: I can distinctly remember slapping the book shut after it started on about Grolims.

The Farseer Trilogy worked for me. It was slow going, but I loved it. LOVED it.

So, when a new book in the series was announced, I was pretty excited. Excited enough that reading all six books again before release day (question: to do the Liveship Traders as well, or just the six? We’ll see how the time goes) struck me as a great idea. And since I haven’t ‘blogged on here in a while, I might as well write about it. Just don’t expect much structure or sense to it. I’ve never tried a read-through ‘blog before, much less a series of linked posts.

So, onward!

 

*true story. For a really long time, book shopping meant taking my £1 pocket money and filling a 65L purple rucksack with books.

This is my design.

blueprint

So, nobody warned me about Hannibal.

Actually, scratch that. *Everybody* warned me about Hannibal, but I just didn’t listen. Two episodes in and I am already having freaky serial killer dreams. Also, we need to have a serious talk about the costume design. Wait. Everyone has already had this talk. I am, as ever, late to the party.

So I’ve been kick the manuscript for Gunslinger Symphony around a bit. I keep giving it to people to beta, and always with the same vague notice – it’s missing something at the 2/3 to 3/4 mark, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on what that is exactly. I re-read it myself at the start of the year: it’s fun, quicker than I expected, and although there are a lot of transitions that need sorting out – it jumps a little too vigorously from point to point, expecting the reader to follow – it’s not too bad. And yet I still hesitate to call it done. It’s missing something – that spark that makes it special and meaningful and – to me – complete.

To be perfectly honest, I still don’t quite know what that is.

But, I’ve never been one to let things like “a complete lack of direction” or “no inkling of a cohesive plan” hold me back. I picked a natural break in the story, added a new chapter (thank you, Scrivener) and started pounding out words. Seven thousand words later, and there might actually be something coming. Not out of the stuff I’ve written – much of it will probably be binned once I edit the book again – but just wandering round inside the character’s heads gave me some insight into what I had been trying to say with the story all along.

One of the first things Juliet asked me when I signed with her was, “what is your book actually about?” She actually had to repeat herself because I spent the next minute making confused faces as I tried to work out exactly what to say. I had just spent six months writing and editing a book and  another six reading beta feedback on it – surely I could tell her what it was about…couldn’t I?

It’s a lot tougher than I expected. In amongst all the monsters and fighting and adventure and (some might say) excessive use of parenthesis, there was a story about the burden of sin.

You would think I’d be faster the next time round, but it’s taken me almost eighteen months (and a draft of a different novel) to figure out what the Hell I’m trying to say with Gunslinger.

Now all I have to do is make sure that it says it.*

 

*and yes, I *am* procrastinating with a ‘blog post.

You’re going to have to talk to people, but that’s okay. Everyone else has to, too.

HIPPO

 

Apologies if this post is a bit UK-centric, but ~95% of my ‘blog traffic is UK-based so I can’t imagine there are going to be a flood of angry comments following this going up.

So here’s what I’ve been thinking. If you’re a writer (or a blogger, or a genre fan in general) then 2014 is a great year for conventions. If you’ve never been to one before, or only a couple and it hasn’t quite stuck, or if you’ve been thinking about it, then this is the year.

Bear with me on this. I know cons aren’t for everyone. They cost money (writing not being a profession that is naturally associated with great wealth), time, and can require some inconvenient travel arrangements. You absolutely do not have to go to cons to be successful, and con attendance is absolutely, positively not a promise of success.

But they are damn good fun.

So why is 2014 so good? Firstly, there are a lot of conventions on, and they are all over the place. If you live in the UK, there’s a good chance that at some point this year one of the larger cons will be within reasonable travelling distance. There’s Eastercon in Glasgow in the middle of April; Fantasycon in York in September; Londoners are spoiled for choice with Worldcon and Nine Worlds blocking out half of August. Throw Bristolcon, Thought Bubble, and Edge Lit into the mix, and that’s a *packed* year. If you write crime? Harrogate is the date for your diary. That’s off the top of my head and I don’t doubt for a second I’ve missed some.

Secondly, 2014 is a good time to go to conventions because there is so much cross-over between the genre community at conventions and online. It’s one massive conversation, constantly ongoing, always developing, and it’s exciting and fun to be a part of it. There’s a whole community out there, right now, and they are (for the most part) a ridiculously friendly and welcoming bunch.

The very first convention I went to, I talked to four people in total. I went for an extended walk and sat by myself at one point because I was convinced that they were talking to me out of pity and that they were just too polite to ditch me. It wasn’t until I went onto Twitter and started looking up people who had also been at the con (*cough* stalker *cough*) that I realised that feeling – that fear – was not unique to me. There were a lot of people just as eager as me, and at the same time just as anxious.

So, when it came to the second convention, I gave myself the order to show up. Say hi, introduce myself, have a conversation. Enjoy spending time with a group of people who not only read the books I do, but read more, know more. It was the best decision.

I don’t know how much value conventions have had for me as a writer. I can’t quantify it as a sum of money or in terms of how I feel they have advanced my (fledgling) career. I deliberately try to avoid thinking of them in those terms because it would feel a little bit mercenary to do so. It’s only happened to me once, but I have had someone cast their gaze around the room the instant they discovered I wasn’t either a publisher or published – it’s not very nice at all.

I will say, though, that without the friends I’ve made, these past five years or so would have been a lot less fun. Were it not for some of them, it’s possible I would have thrown in the towel long before now.

So, what cons are you going to? And which ones have I missed?

Ambience is everything. Or nothing.

BatmanBegins

One time, I wrote an entire novel to the Batman Begins OST played on a loop.

A while back, I rearranged one of the upstairs rooms and set up a writing table. I talk about it here. However, since then it has gone into a slow decline. Firstly, we keep “tidying” the house by moving things into other rooms so that one of them looks presentable by the standards of other human beings. As a result, the clean and fairly minimal (for me) space ended up as two monitors and a keyboard jostling for space among a mountain of books. Secondly, with Aoife now up to the point of crawling, it has made more sense for me to sit downstairs for the majority of the time, working on the laptop, so that I can easily jump up and grab her when she tries to escape the living room/lick the radiator.

It’s not the best for writing, really, or at least it’s taking me a while to get used to it. Part of the problem is the chair – a cheap IKEA dining chair – that is fine for short term use but after a long session at the keys it really does feel like my arse is sliding inexorably forward off of it. The other part of the problem is my tendency to leap onto any other source of stimulus to avoid having to think up the next sentence. It’s the same reason I don’t – can’t – listen to songs with lyrics in while I write: I end up writing the lyrics out. And while my other half does her best not to interrupt me and watches tv with the sound fairly low, she’s still there and I could totally talk to her right now.

Part of me longs for silence and space, that perfect vacuum to sit in while I stare off into the middle distance and think really hard about what that word was I wanted to use. The rest of me knows that situation is now a joke. I’m better off changing my habits than thinking I can only work when the conditions suit me – if I let myself come to that conclusion, then eventually the conditions will never suit.

Also, I should really think about tidying this place up.

Kickboxing. Sport of the future.

SayAnything

I don’t think we reference Say Anything enough. You know, as a species. In general.

Anyway. It’s almost the end of the year, and I’m thinking about the year to come. I was never a big resolutions person, really, as all the resolutions I seemed to hear about involved giving things up, or cutting things down, or some nebulous form of improvement through suppression.

Six years ago, I decided to start spending more  time trying to write things. It was fun, but I still kind of dicked around with it. I finished one novel that was really one third of a novel stretched out over seventy thousand words, a bunch of short stories that were aimless in both form, intent, and delivery, and…that was about it.

Two years ago – or close to it – I wrote myself a letter. It was inspired by Bruce Lee’s letter to himself, but tempered by a British sense of self-confidence and an echoing memory of the SMART acronym. I would write two novels, I told myself. The success of these novels was not discussed. I would write them, and edit them, and put at least one out on sub. Those were my criteria for success. I would write a dozen short stories, and I would write them with the aim of submission somewhere. I did not expect them to find homes, but I expected that writing them might teach me something, even if only about getting things done. I gave myself eighteen months as a deadline, and got to work.

By the time my daughter was born, eighteen months later, I had met my deadline. It was a lot of fun, and I learned tons about how I write and how I manage my time. I got more out of that letter – that decision – than I had out of half a lifetime’s wishful thinking.

So now it’s time for me to sit down and write a new letter. I want to write more (and better, besides), of course, but there are other things to consider, too. I want to bake more, and learn more, and run more, and climb. I want to see my friends more. I want to aim higher than just getting the words out, and see how far that will take me.

Have a great Hogmanay, all. See you in the New Year.

 

On strides, and what happens when you don’t hit them.

The Zen Garden of my Mind (I wish)

So I am going to fail NaNoWriMo. Not by a small amount, either. This year, I am going to fail it hard. Less than ten thousand words down, and I know it’s never going to hit the magic end point.

There are a combination of issues. Late starting, slow to get underway, stuff arriving that needed done – all the standard stumbling blocks that you might expect when trying to write.

One thing that’s struck badly is research. I did a ton of research into Victorian life, but it feels like I’ve been looking in the wrong places for it. Everything I’ve touched feels London-centric and that generic Victorian-ness has seeped back into a draft of the novel that I originally turfed for lacking a sense of location. Ideally, I need to go up to Glasgow and hunt round museums, libraries, and houses there for the context I need. It’s unlikely I’ll have the time or resources to do so any time soon.

The other is the novel itself. I like the new main characters, but I haven’t quite figured them out yet. They spend an awful lot of time sparring and not a great deal is being done. It’s a dull-as-ditchwater start for a novel that is meant to be fun to read, so it needs to be put back into the brain furnace and hammered out clean.

This is not a new experience for me. I have it quite often with short fiction, where I’ll write out an entire story and realise that it just doesn’t work, and that I have to start the whole thing over again with a new twist to it. My Tales of Eve story, for example, was originally written from an entirely different POV to the one in the anthology.

So, yeah. Maybe I’ll have to trunk it for the moment. There’s something missing from the whole thing that I can’t quite put my finger on, and as much as I’d like to buy into the conceit that I can write anything if I motivate myself sufficiently to do so, it may well be that for the moment I lack the skill to do it justice.

We’ll see. But the one thing I do know is that writing any further along the path I’m on is going to give me nothing but a pile of words I have no use for, and that is a sad, sad thought.

Halloween Shorts: The Tall Men

NightForest

 

I have a few books living in my head, waiting to be written. The Ironwood is one of them. What started as a brief pitch for a coming-of-age YA fantasy set in a magical forest quickly took a wild turn in my mind to become something entirely different. I had been chewing it over as a potential NaNoWriMo project, but trying to hold two very different fantasy series in my head simultaneously felt…daunting.

To keep the muse quiet, I wrote a short story set in that dormant world.

Hope you enjoy it!

The Tall Men – A Tale of the Ironwood by Andrew Reid

Halloween Shorts: Team Mushens at WFC edition

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So! As promised, the Halloween Shorts are almost here. This year, Halloween coincides with the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, and I thought it would be really fun to tie the two together.

It just so happens that my agent, Juliet Mushens, will be there along with ten (TEN!) of her clients. She will be appearing on the Not-So-Secret Agents panel on Saturday at 11 am in Hall 04, and otherwise will be generally there at the convention. Since there are so many Team Mushens authors there, I asked the others if they would like to write or offer up a Halloween Short and post it on their ‘blog over the next 4-5 days leading up to the start of WFC. Everyone has been quite busy, but nevertheless there was a great response! Starting Saturday, spooky tales will begin to coalesce out of the ether for your entertainment. We’ll be flagging them up on Twitter and other social media, but I’ll do a round up of links at the end just in case you miss them.

In the meantime, though, here are all the Team Mushens authors who will be attending WFC!

Lou Morgan – author of Blood and Feathers and Blood and Feathers: Rebellion (Solaris)

Amy McCulloch – author of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow (Doubleday Children’s) and upcoming sequel, The Shadow’s Curse

Den Patrick – author of The War Manuals (Gollancz) and The Erebus Sequence (also Gollancz), beginning with The Boy with the Porcelain Blade

Liz de Jager – author of The Blackhart Legacy (Tor), beginning with Banished

Laura Lam – author of Pantomime (Angry Robot) and upcoming sequel, Shadowplay

Jennifer Williams – author of The Copper Promise (Headline), first in an as-yet unnamed Fantasy trilogy

James Oswald – author of The Inspector McLean mysteries: Natural Causes, The Book of Souls, and upcoming The Hangman’s Song (Penguin) and upcoming fantasy series The Ballad of Sir Benfro (Penguin)

Richard Kellum – newly-signed author of Fantasy and Horror.

Stephen Aryan – newly-signed Fantasy author and encyclopedia of all things comic-related.