Blasters & Battlecruisers

This morning has been one of those great mornings when it’s a pleasure to be a writer.

I finished ‘Spindizzy’ my story for Dark Spires over the weekend, or rather, I finished the main part of the narrative. I needed to write some short inserts that are pastiches of Golden Age SF. I started out fairly restrained, but as the morning progressed the battles got ever bigger, the villains more villainous and the women more beautiful. All in the space of a thousand words!

I’d almost forgotten how much fun SF can be.

Meanwhile the other stories have started to come in, and I’m enjoying reading them.

Tomorrow worn’t be quite so enjoyable, as it’s my stepfather’s funeral, so no blog tomorrow, and then it’s back to work on Ultramassive on Wednesday.

• August 2nd, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Last Night, This Morning

I got back at about midnight from London, where the wonderful Lauren Beukes of Moxyland  fame continued her tour to promote her new novel, Zoo City with an evening at the BSFA. Not only does she write like a demon, she reads marvellously as well, putting real feeling into it. The room was packed, and the audience responded with some stretching questions.

But getting back at midnight, and rising at 5.30 does not make an ideal situation in which to put the novel aside, and to start working on a story for Dark Spires.

Still, it has to be done so I gritted my teeth and with the ease of giving birth, ground out 2250 words this morning. That’s actually about 50% more than I planned, but I found the first 1500 so tough that it was only when I passed target that the words began to flow with anything approaching ease.

And now they’ve started to slow again, so I shall put it aside, and maybe read some review material this afternoon. Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker arrived this morning, and yea verily, it looks good.

• July 29th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Visiting the Ghost Town

I’ve not got much work done the last 24 hours or so, although I’ve managed to write my 1400 words for the day, so the only thing I’m behind on is the various guest blogs I’ve promised people for September to support the Angry Robot launch.

Yesterday I had to shoot into Newton Park to drop off my second consecutive change of course form, as I managed to balls-up the first. Because my academic grades were insufficient to qualify for the BA course, I had to take the DipHE in the first year as the equivalent of academic probation.

So last week was about changing up to the BA course, but the more I thought about it, the more I debated whether to continue with Media Studies, which is interesting but demands most work for lowest return in terms of grades. So I’ve switched from a joint to a single degree, but that meant printing out and completing a second change of course form, which meant a second consecutive visit to the Ghost Town (cue the Specials aka) that is NP.

While I was there I printed out my interim timetable, which was immediately obsolescent  as soon as the Head of Department signed the change form.

So unless I can suddenly access the timetable network remotely, I shall need to make a third visit to the site!

Meanwhile Kate’s taken the day off, which meant a lovely lie-in; with no alarm I slept through until the decadent hour of 7.30. So now I’m running about two hours late. Not that I’m complaining, you understand — the extra sleep was loverly…

• July 22nd, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Hard SF and Other Stuff

I’ve posted some writing stuff over at Suite101, but not much time for anything else today. I’m off to Bath in ten minutes or so. First’s travel policy is that it’s cheaper for me to get a train into into Bath and get a bus from there to Newton Park than it is to get a bus to Corston roundabout. Go figure.

The bad news is that the Newton Park buses only run every hour in the holidays, and my train arrives about two minutes after one leaves. Go figure.

So to pick up assignments and drop a change sheet in, I need to be there before twelve, when the office closes. Fun fun fun…

• July 14th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Novel Release Schedule

This morning I passed 40k on the next novel, so it is now officially a novel, albeit an unfinished one.   🙂

I also posted up my full Angry Robot schedule at Suite101. Since the US and UK have different ordering and delivery cycles, there are four different dates, which makes it hard even for me to keep track of.

And I watched Misfits on Channel 4 last night. Brilliant. Heroes done properly — including a cheeky dig at the American series.

• July 13th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0


This week’s review at Suite101 is A.E Moorat’s Henry VIII: Wolfman. I didn’t much like it, not being a fan of monster mash-ups, and it’s nowhere near as good as the author’s Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, which was far better written, and had some novelty that any follow-ups will inevitably lose.

So I was going to let Wolfman go by without a review.

But Hodder have a publicist, who’s even more annoyingly persistent than they usually are (though Tor have got a particularly odious specimen) and she wouldn’t let it go. Having spammed me with not one but TWO unsolicited hard copies* –stretching my poor elastic walls to their limit– she then e-mailed me asking whether I’d had a chance to read it. At which point I muttered “Okaaaaay…..” and took my gloves off.

Actually, I understand publicists are only doing their job, and maybe they regard even a negative review as being ‘any publicity is good publicity.’ Unfortunately, they never seem to publicize good books and anything that finds it’s way to me via a publicist always seems to be a pile of shite.

And I now look forward to receiving a really good book from a publicist that proves me wrong…

* I don’t mind getting review copies if the publicist has had the courtesy to ASK first. I may say no, but more likely than not I may say yes with the caveat that if I don’t like it, I won’t review it.

• July 8th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0


Today’s 1400 words duly done, but what a horrible, horrible slog it was — unlike yesterday, when I surged past the quota and probably wrote over 2000 words in total.

I suspect that part of the reason I struggled is because I awoke at about 4am, and couldn’t get back to sleep. Consequently I’m red-eyed and sluggish of thought this morning (and tetchy, for the benefit of any EOn, Npower or other bloody salesmen who come to our gate to incur the wrath of Tourette’s Dog).

Or rather, I was just drifting back to sleep when the alarm went off.

This is nothing unusual, of course. Millions of people suffer sleep deprivation on a regular basis.

Some years ago Science News ran an article which stated that ‘normal’ sleep consists of several hours of deep sleep followed by waking up for an hour or two, then a return to a slightly lighter sleep for the balance of the night.  It’s this last stretch and its dreams that we tend to remember on waking.

What screws it up is the presence of the alarm clock which either brutally interrupts that sleep, or because we’re aware that it’s going to go off, renders us unable to relax and return to the arms of Morpheus.

Hmmm, note to self. If inventing time machine, first call is to man who invented the alarm clock…

• July 6th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Monday Morning

It’s been a productive morning — I’m now 20% of the way through Ultramassive, 21000 words in, and I’ve critiqued a short story for Critters to keep membership of that that particular group ticking over.  Plus the review of Black Static 17 is posted.

So now –since it’s 23c in the shade and it feels criminal to be inddors on such a nice day, I’m going to sit under a tree and catch up on some z’s for an hour. There have to be some benefits to being a writer, after all….

• June 28th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Surviving Vertigo

SF writer and journalist Gareth L Powell made this timely comment:  Just as you climb a mountain one step at a time,
you have to keep putting one word after another if you want to write a book

He’s quite right. Writing a novel is also like batting to save a cricket match. One ball at a time, one over at a time, one seesion at a time. Looking too far ahead spells disaster. But the novelist, having to be all-seeing and all-powerful, sometmes has no option but to look up from the detail. 

I used to compare writing a novel to an impressionist painting, but there’s a better metaphor, I’ve now realized. A novel is like a picture made up of 100,000 pixels, with each representing a pixel. Miss out a thousand words, and you have a picture with a hole in its whole.

And today I looked up and was paralyzed, as if my wall had been put on its side and was Everest-high.

I had fallen behind from my (admittedly) self-imposed target of 1400 words a day by the end of August. I had had to work in the morning, whereas I like to write before the day’s smorgasbord of irritations, distractions and events can fill my head and push out all thoughts of Terraformers and Pantropists.

Worse, when I awoke this morning, I realized that my chapter outline wasn’t going to work — so not only was I 600 words behind, but I had no idea how to write my 1400 for today, let alone catch up the backlog.

The answer? Stare harder at the pixels. What’s missing? Some necessary detail on motivation. Why is the hero a mercenary? Why has the heroine come to do her duty on a world that doesn’t like her? How do I show that the hero is gengineered? Through conflict, of course. There’s another mini-scene. One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One day at a time.

When you feel that awful sense that you’re going to fall and/or fail, stare hard at the detail and fill those pixels in.

• June 26th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 3

Books and Story Stuff

This morning’s post on Suite101 is full of joy and tears and awkward questions. More here.

• February 25th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0