This weekend sees the return of the SFX Weekender and I’m currently getting ready for it.
Last year’s event proved a lot of fun. Despite being hosted in a holiday camp that looked like it was made to hold prisoners of war, there was a good crowd there and whilst I attended very few panels (I was nearly permanently in the bar) it was quite a laugh.
Even so, I hadn’t planned to go this year. January is the worst time financially and a tumultuous year this year means I’ve cut back on pre-booking cons. But a friend won tickets and so a posse of us will be heading up to the new Prestatyn venue via Cambridge on Thursday. Seems like a lot of people are going as well, so it will be good catch up, especially since Eastercon currently looks unlikely for me this year.
Because I’m on a very strict budget, I’ve been shopping to get a few bits of food (soup and pot noodles) today and doubt I will be drinking very much at all. But I’m looking forward to the event and look forward to seeing some of you there.
I wrote one of my first novels when I was aged 8. It was called “Where the Wind Blows” and involved anthropomorphised animals on a bus. The bus went through the countryside picking up more characters. I abandoned it after about 30 hand-written pages as I had about the same number of characters and no idea of what they were doing.
It was inspired by two things: Watership Down and my school bus journey, in particular one place. We went through a place called Bedgebury Cross. It’s little more than a T-Junction with a few cottages and a field. However, as we continued from our stop towards Kilndown, we’d proceed into a wood (which I now have found out is called the excellent ‘Black Dog Wood’) and I loved how the surroundings changed. Gone was the view of country domestication: the cottages and fields and now we were in the wilderness of the wood.
Things have been pretty quiet on the blog mainly because I’ve been knuckling down and working. There’s nothing sexy or exciting about the vomit draft other than seeing the story come together, and that’s not something I can really share without ruining the book.
There was a depressing moment mid-week when I realised that I’d probably have furthered my career if I sat a little neater inside genre categories. But then I realised that I write fantasy as much for what I dislike about the genre as for what I love. And in creating my own cross-genre fantasy novels, I’m not trying to emulate anyone else. That’s got to be a good thing in the long run? It’s so easy to look at other authors and think “If I had done that, maybe…” but the world don’t work like that.
On a positive note, there seems to be genuine love for my 140 character novel pitches I give when asked on Twitter what I’m writing. It is the excitement about those that spur me on through those fleeting moments of despair. There’s definitely a large audience for my type of fantasy, I honestly believe that it’s actually quite commercial. But whether it is or isn’t, my latest novel won’t write itself and so I continue my process of discovery writing, hoping that this now 20,000 word flashback section won’t end up being cut when it comes to revision.
Busy today on some real life things, so I thought I’d leave everyone with some music. Following a Twitter comment by Will Hill, author of the brilliant Department 19, I’ve dug out my old 1977 album by Ash. Here’s my favourite track from the album: Oh Yeah
There’s more to being a writer than just writing these days. If you want to do it in some professional capacity (large or small) there’s a lot of business; whether that be promotion, dealing with agents and publishers, or just following the market. And then there’s that business of being able to take a look at your work objectively.
There’s a lot to be said for crit groups but I think as you develop as a writer, the criticism that you need changes. I’ve found the members of a group often outgrow each other as they hone their skills and follow their chosen paths. And as a result, crit groups can often provide diminishing returns.
So whilst the first draft work on Gods of the Old Frontier continues, I’m also starting to edit Refugee.
Refugee (or more likely ‘Refugees’ – I’m still undecided) is the tale of a family who become refugees in a fantasy world following the destruction of our own. It’s post-apocalyptic with fantasy imagery. It has a lot of twee fantasy stereotypes in it, mainly because this was born out of a challenge to see if I could write elves, fae and unicorns (almost no-one writes serious unicorn fiction any more!) and make it gritty. I think the pitch to myself was ‘Post-Apocalyptic fantasy with unicrons’.
The result is an almost nihilistic human drama along the lines of The Road, and you know… I think it works as a novel.
A couple of years ago my extended family decided that instead of token presents, it would be a lot more fun to make things for each other. It proved to be a great success. It didn’t matter how well the final product turned out, the time and effort put into it was greatly appreciated by all.
For Xmas 2010 I produced a custom anthology, using Print on Demand to create unique covers for each book. They turned out pretty well and one of the stories still gives my aunt nightmares.
Gods continues to be an interesting process. If you’re not aware, this is the first book I’ve attempted to write where I’m discovering the story as I go. It’s a western fantasy with helicopters and spirit animals. There’s part of me that felt as if the ideas needed to ‘cook’ for another couple of years, but I have to say that the results so far have been interesting.
The book is going pretty well and most importantly, the voyage of discovery is entertaining me even when it takes me in directions I’d never previously thought of.
I have no problems with negative reviews. I’m interested in people’s opinions and if someone didn’t like something, it’s interesting to hear why. There are a few people whose positive reviews are enough to make me buy books, and there are some people whose negative reviews have convinced me likewise.
Coming from the low art side of the spectrum (contemporary sculpture if I want it to sound grand, designer toys if I don’t), I expected the genre community to really push the boundaries of criticism, and whilst there are a number of really great reviewers out there I find those at what genre considers the top end of the scale, to be frankly appalling.
China Mieville is 11 days older than me. 11 days more in which he’s managed to write numerous successful novels, win loads of awards and become the poster boy of genre fiction. Even if I didn’t sleep in the next two weeks I’d never be able to beat that. If there was a scorecard labelled “Genre writer career”, he’d be miles ahead of me on points.
It’s very easy, as a writer, to look at the careers of others and compare. And it’s very easy for that green-eyed monster to raise its head.
I think if you never compare your career to another you’d be lieing. It’s part of human nature. No matter who you are, there are always other writers who have done more, achieved more, written greater stories. The trick is to realise that envy is one thing, jealousy is another.