Archive : Category

Five Reasons To Cast Your Novel Article At Fantasy-Faction

POSTED ON July 14th, 2014  - POSTED IN Writing

This month over at Fantasy-Faction, I’m giving you five reasons why, instead of creating characters from scratch, you should instead ‘cast’ the roles with actors and actresses.  From the comments it seems a lot of you are doing this already.  But if you are not there’s some compelling reasons to try!

News Report On Burlington Bunker

POSTED ON July 10th, 2014  - POSTED IN Writing

If you’ve read The Four realms, you’ll remember the underground bunker where Darwin & Cassidy find D’Toeni.  As some of you are aware, this location is loosely based on Burlington Bunker in Wiltshire.  The location isn’t open to the public and there are very few photos of what was intended to be seat of government in the event of a nuclear war.  However, this news report I found on the BBC talks about it being utilised as a data centre and shows some of the site.

What do you think?  Could you imagine Mr West and his fellow aliens prowling those halls?  I still reckon it would be a good lair to re-establish the Vampire Council.  If only the aliens hadn’t got there first!

Some Four Realms News

POSTED ON July 3rd, 2014  - POSTED IN Publishing, Writing

With Black As Knight out the way, I spent some time last night scheduling the remaining work needed to get the final draft of The Thieving King done.  It’s a huge, complex book and I really started to appreciate all the planning I put into this draft which should make it easier now I’m in the meat of the novel.  Still, I reckon I can get it done by my internal deadline, even allowing for all the other craziness that’s currently going on in my life.

But, as if to remind me Thieving King needs to deliver as much as its prequel, I got a couple of bits of good news about The Four Realms.

It appears that The Four Realms is current on offer at Amazon for just £1.02 in the UK and 99c in the US! So if you’ve been considering picking the book up then now is a good time. I have no idea how long the promotion will be running for, so best not delay.

The Four Realms also recently got voted as one of Reddit R/Fantasy’s Official Underrated and Underread Fantasy. Whilst the main vote is now over, there’s an ongoing poll over at Goodreads.  I’m currently sitting at #16.  So if you loved the book (or indeed loved any of the others listed), please be sure to go vote.

Which leads me to the last point. If you’ve read the book and love it, or even if you didn’t, please be sure to go and rate the book at places like Amazon and Goodreads.  Aside from being a major ego boost when someone posts how much they loved your novel (and trust me on days when you discover massive plot holes and have unco-operative characters, you need it!), small press books like mine really, really depend on word of mouth and reviews at places like Goodreads or Amazon.  You honestly have no idea how much.  False platitudes aren’t going to help anyone but honest reviews might just help someone find a book they love.

It’s a bit of a catch 22 situation.  You need honest reviews to get people to consider your book and possibly buy it.  But you need people to buy it so they can review it.  So if you have two minutes to either rate or review, I’d really, really appreciate it.

The Edit Is Done!

POSTED ON June 30th, 2014  - POSTED IN Writing

It’s done!

After a mammoth effort, the edit on Black As Knight is done! And a day ahead of my self-imposed deadline as well.

There’s a weird feeling when you complete a massive piece of work like this – an emptiness accompanied with a massive sense of accomplishment. I almost don’t know what to do with myself.

This is the first of four novels I’m looking to complete this year, and whilst, at first glances, it may look I’m behind schedule, I have one novel completed, one half-way through the final draft, one awaiting to be edited and another still being planned. Not bad when you consider this year has seen me plan and go on a top secret trip of a lifetime and buy a house in another part of the country.

I’m especially proud of Black As Knight. This is a novel that reads like it’s written by a much better writer than I give myself credit for. I might be the only person who loves this novel but I honestly don’t care – I’m so proud of it. If writing is an activity you primarily do for yourself, I’ve written myself my new most-favourite novel.

I’m incredibly hard on myself as a writer. I’m my own worst critic but I’m really proud of the work I’m turning out this year. I’ve still got a long way to go but this novel really pushed me. I’ve worked really hard and it’s almost quite emotional seeing all that hard work come together in a completed novel.

I have a few final bits to tidy up and then it’s off to beta readers. I hope they love it as much as I do. But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to polish the hell out of it before submitting it to agents and publishers around Worldcon.

No rest for me though. I’m straight into finishing the final draft for The Thieving King. It’s going to take me a few days to get my head around the change in style but I’m hoping to get that novel done by the autumn when I move onto Thunder which has turned from a SF Storm Chasing Thriller to a Supernatural Storm Chasing Thriller. I’ve promised myself that book will come in well under 100,000 words.

Miscellania For A Sunday

POSTED ON June 15th, 2014  - POSTED IN Writing

A lot’s happened in the last couple of days, but none of it really detailed enough to constitute its own post.

I appear to be buying a house.  Have found a dream property, complete with its own writing building at the bottom of the garden.  Will constitute a move to Wiltshire and a little work to get it all ship-shape but at the moment it’s all subject to contract and I’m full of a mix of excitement and terror.

Simon let me know about his piece for the Daily Dot on Jay Lake.  Well worth a read.

Not sure if this will work or not,  but the people I went storm chasing with had an intense hail intercept last night.  Incredible video and photos my friends have since posted to facebook show them all smiling so they seem to all be OK


The Benefits Of Being Busy

POSTED ON June 10th, 2014  - POSTED IN Writing

I used to think that I worked best when I had no interruptions, that my best writing was achieved when real life wasn’t getting in the way.  These days, I’m not so sure.

Of course, there are those bits of real life that really derail you, like Leggedon did me.  This year is all about trying to regain that lost year.  But I’m finding I’m at my most productive when writing is “something else I do”.

It’s possible that I’m more organised now, that my ToDo list resides somewhere other than my head allowing me to crack on with work.  It’s also possible that I’m not as anxious about things as I once was, that I’m more confident in my abilities.  But there’s a lot to be said for being just busy enough that I still have time to do the work but not enough time to spend hours worrying about it.

Case in point:  I’m currently trying to edit Black As Knight.  I want to get it to beta readers before the end of the month, and despite a load going on with life and day job, I seem to be managing it.  I’m editing it as stringently as I did The Four Realms, yet I seem to be whizzing through it.

Part of me worries that I’m being slapdash, but if I am, it’s as slapdash as I was on The Four Realms.  Yet whereas I stressed over the editing of that book, I seem to be enjoying this one.  I’m still finding plenty to change, but it’s nothing structural – it’s all a description here, a subtle change to character there.  Maybe this is a product of all the planning I put into the front end?  Or maybe I just don’t have the time to stress about changes I never end up making.

Whatever it is, I’m enjoying the editing.  I’m loving the hell out of this book and I think you will too.

Jay Lake (1964 – 2014)

POSTED ON June 4th, 2014  - POSTED IN Writing

I never got to meet Jay Lake, a fact that I’m very sorry about.

You see back in 2006 I decided to take my fiction seriously.  I was presented with an opportunity to dedicate some time to my craft and decided to go for it.  Looking back now, it’s easy to see I was right to believe in my talent as a writer.  But back then?  I thought I could just be some deluded, talentless fool who thought their idea for a book about vampires, aliens and little old ladies was the best idea ever.

I knew no-one in the industry.  I was luckier than most in that I’d had a number of articles published in print magazines and had a website a mega-shit-tonne of people read (although as those readers would agree, editing was never its strongest point in the rush to get information up) but still I had no clue of what to do or who to speak to in order to break into fiction.

Writers can be a snobby bunch.  I think a lot of it is born out of their own insecurity and the feeling that they must be doing OK because they are doing better than the next person down the line.  As a result, as unintentional as it is, within the publishing community there’s this hierarchy (a meritocracy as Jay liked to call it).  Social media has broken some of those barriers down but back in the day, it could feel very difficult to connect to other writers, to take those first few steps.

I found myself regularly reading Jay’s livejournal, because he would talk about writing and the process.  He neither lectured on a one-supposed true way, or scoffed at the idea of talking and sharing process.  He’d just engage with people.  He made me feel that this journey I’d set myself upon wasn’t just some fool’s errand.

When I was working on elements of The Four Realms and posted a livejournal post about the genesis of names, he gave me some very helpful advice that became the basis of the troll lore in The Four Realms and Thieving King.  I was extremely grateful for that.  Thieving King has a scene set in Kansas that’s been in the works for years, and whilst I’ve now been there, he put me in touch with a relation of his to give me an idea of the culture and geography.

I’d hoped that at World Fantasy Convention or Worldcon I’d be able to thank him in person, but his progressing cancer made that seem ever unlikely.  There never seemed the right time to say thank you, but I eventually got round to emailing him last year.

“I am always pleased when I hear that I’ve helped someone along the way,” he replied.  I suspect he got a lot of those emails.

And that is how one of the most popular characters in The Four Realms – the troll Joseph – got their name.

RIP Joseph E. Lake, Jr.


Check out Jay’s work at his official website:

Trying Out ToDoist

POSTED ON May 26th, 2014  - POSTED IN Productivity, Writing

As regular blog visitors will know, last year I embarked on a productivity drive to make up for time lost due to the leg injury.  It’s proved very effective and I’ve managed to accomplish a lot since implementing it including a lot of writing and organising the trip of a lifetime in total secrecy.  Even so, I always feel like I’m slacking.

Having returned from America and slowly coming down from a huge adrenaline rush, the past two weeks I’ve felt really sluggish.  In order to keep my focus for the first third of the year, I pushed a load of tasks off until “after storm chasing”.  This has meant I’ve returned to this mountain of work I need to sort through and prioritise.

I needed a week to get my head together and it’s taken another week to get myself organised.  In reality, this is fairly sensible but I realise that from now until Worldcon, I’m going to be insanely busy and I’ve just felt that I’m wasting time.  I’ve got a draft to finish and another novel to edit and already I’m starting to feel a little panicked.

One of the things I’ve done this past week is swap out my personal task management software.  I’ve been using Remember The Milk for the last year and it’s certainly worked.  But you have to really cludge it to get GTD working on it and I felt that this was causing me to think twice before adding tasks in.  There’s a lot I like about Remember the Milk, specifically that it’s cross platform.  But the day job computer has had issues making it difficult to use RTM and I wanted something a little friendlier on the phone.

So I’m trying out ToDoist.  For what I need, there’s probably very little difference but I’m enjoying the phone interface a lot more.  It also feels like there is active development whereas Remember the Milk felt like it had reached a plateau.  Who knows?  At the moment ToDoist is shiny and new, but if that means I’m using it and getting things done, that’s not such a bad thing.  I’ll keep using it and report back how I’m getting on later in the year.

Scotland Bound (But Not To Eastercon)

POSTED ON April 15th, 2014  - POSTED IN Travel, Writing

In a few days’ time I get to go away with the day job for three weeks in the Scottish Mountains doing IT  on what is little more than a construction site. Despite my proximity to Eastercon I will not be there.

There’s a lot to get ready. Longest I’ve been away with the leg is a week and that took a lot of  planning. Three weeks means a lot more. And with a week to go, it’s a little manic.

As a result I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ve already entered the time of “little writing”.  That time is being used with preparation and planning. I knew it was coming and I’ve planned for it. Thieving King is in a perfect place for a break (and I ‘m really pleased that I’m finding that I’m frustrated with myself for not being able to write).

As a result of being in the Scottish Mountains and having terrible phone reception, I’m pretty much going to be uncontactable for at least week or so. If you email me or try and contact me via social media, you are unlikely to get a reply until some time in May.

However, I’ve got a ton of really interesting blog posts scheduled to go live starting around Easter Monday, so I would definitely make a point of checking those out.