Tuesday, 29 December 2009

It's that time of year again...

Oh 2009, how shall we judge you?

Annoyingly, I am something of an optimist and normally reluctant to judge a year based on perhaps the last six months or so; if that were not the case, I would merrily tell 2009 to take a running jump off a prickly cliff. But I’m always looking for the silver lining in the dark clouds (or the smarties in the dog turd) so I shy away from condemning it completely. It’s time to look, perhaps, at what I hoped to do in 2009 and what I actually did, as awkward and slightly embarrassing as it may be:

By the end of this year I wanted to have finished Bad Apple Bone, written an entirely new novel, and a novella during November (which would also be finished).

What I actually did: Well, I did finish Bad Apple Bone (when was that? May? I think it may even have been on Star Wars day…), which was a major achievement I suppose, after two years writing the bugger. It was my first book, and my first real attempt at writing anything, and remains the truest thing I have written, I think.

I did start writing an entirely new book, A Boy of Blood and Clay, and even got 61,000 words into it, but made the rather silly error of mistaking research for planning, and found myself halfway through the book with only the slightest inkling of what was happening. Plus, I really loathed one of the main characters, and wanted to kill her off. Except she was already dead. Oh.
So that book remains at rest currently, “composting” as my favourite art tutor would put it. And the NaNoWriMo novella? Well that little bugger turned into an actual full length book, full of dirt and ooze and I’m-Not-Even-Sure-What-Happens-Next mystery, which made it brilliant fun to write, even as it grows in scope by the minute and I have no chance of finishing it this year.

In conclusion then, I have one finished novel, and two unfinished full length books; not exactly where I wanted to be, but, I have to look the bright side (or the Skittles in the dog plop); this year I have written, not including finishing Bad Apple Bone or any short stories that popped into existence, around 120,000 words. And I can’t really complain about that.

2010 will be the year I learn to give up my time properly to this fabulous craft, and start treating it like I really intend other people to read it some day. This year is The Year of Writing Dangerously.

Monday, 7 December 2009

On winning NaNoWriMo and then failing for a bit.

I did it!

Which you probably all know by now. It's been a week after all, and goodness know I think I posted about it pretty much everywhere when I finished. I actually got to 50,000 words on the Sunday, mainly because I didn't want to leave the vital last couple of thousand words for the last couple of hours and partly because we were going out on Monday night. There was much rejoicing, and like last year, a sense of extreme tiredness.

As I predicted, Ink for Thieves isn't anywhere near actually being finished, and is in fact only about halfway through. This is okay. It turned out that the story had a direction it wanted to go in and I was unable to stop it, or even steer it vaguely back onto the path I had originally expected. I think most writers will recognise this lack of control; normally it means things are going well, believe it or not.

In a similar vein, a friend of mine has been ribbing me lately on my choice of name for my main character, Guido Foss. He rightly pointed out that a) it's a man's name, b) it's a bit silly, and c) it's slang for a thug in certain parts of the world. This is all true, and I've no idea where the name really came from (unless it's because that was my favourite Samurai Pizza Cat). It came to me randomly one day and stuck, even though I knew the main character was female, and the truth of the matter is... I've no more control over what the character is called than I have over where the story is going- I'm currently writing a very long section, for example, that I had no inkling was in the book at all when I started it. As often with these things, I was still considering whether or not I should include it at all when I realised I was already writing the bloody thing! Stories are sneaky like that.

Guido Foss is now Guido Foss to me, no matter how ludicrous the name. At 50,000 words in, I just can't change stuff that is so established, because in the end, the important thing is that I get the story out; the bumps and kinks in the road can be sorted out later. NaNoWriMo creates an odd situation really, because it encourages you to put up pieces of your writing while you're still working on them, and normally during the writing process you wouldn't do that.

In short, I'm following the story where it will take me, whether that means silly names or unexpected diversions in the desert. The polishing comes later. :)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

"Stab them in the face!"

And indeed, the rest of November went as quickly as the first week!

Much to my own surprise, I am still on schedule with NaNoWriMo; up to 37,000 words today, and I'm hoping to squeeze in a bit more later too, so I can go into this week slightly ahead (exciting social things happening on Thursday, and then a day off for a hangover on Friday). I did mean to update the blog around about halfway through, but free time shrinks down to miniscule status during November, and every time I found space to write the thing, it was about 1am. So as a short round up, here are some things I have learnt so far this month:

It is perfectly possible to write 2,000 words a day. Yep. It's just that I have to put the time aside for it. Part of where I was going wrong with A Boy of Blood and Clay was that I was trying to fit the writing time around other things, so I would only get a few hundred words out here and there. I wasn't dedicating a chunk of time to it, but rather writing it in between other commitments. What this left me with was a story that was stilted, choppy and very difficult to get back into each day.

It's difficult, because the only time I have is in the evenings, and what I really like to do in the evening is read, have a snuggle with my bloke, and fart about on the internet. The fact remains though, if I want to get these books finished, I have to write everyday, and I have to write a decent amount.

I've also learnt that Ink for Thieves has a life of its own, and my chances of actually finishing the story at 50,000 words are very slim indeed. I have now accepted the fact that I'll be working on it into the next month, and have a new vague sort of deadline of the 13th December. This is the end of my week off in December, and I'm hoping to get a lot done (in between the hideousness of christmas shopping, of course. Argh)

And now it's time for a gravy dinner. :) Guido Foss waits for me, covered in bug juices and about to discover that the Embers have even more unpleasant surprises for her.


ps) I put an extract of the novel up on my NaNo profile (it's under Novel Info). It's very rough of course, but it was a passage that made me laugh, and I think you should only put up extracts that don't give too much away.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The First Week of November

...has sort of zipped by, don't you think?

It's one of the weird things about NaNoWriMo; it makes November both the longest and shortest month of the year. On the one hand I've still got a ridiculously large number of words to squeeze out of my head, but on the other it feel like only yesterday that I was tidying up my writing space for the kick off. A quick run down of how things are going:

Heating fail. In a great example of the fabulous timing of Sod's Law, our central heating packed up at the beginning of the week, leaving us slowing freezing in our drafty old victorian terrace. It's amazing really how depressing it can get, being cold all day. I survived by buying new hot waterbottles and keeping mine tucked down the front of my dressing gown while I typed. On Friday, the Boiler Magicians came and sorted it out.

Word count win! So far this year, the writing has been fun, and it has been reflected in my word count. As of tonight I'm at 17,222 words, approximately two days ahead of where I need to be. This is good because this upcoming week contains at least two days when I suspect getting anything done will be difficult.

I'm enjoying the story and I'm beginning to wonder if this is a full length book rather than a novella. :s It's always difficult to decide this; ideally, I'd like to have finished this story by the end of the month, so I can get on with a) finishing A Boy of Blood and Clay, b) editing Bad Apple Bone or the rogue c) option, starting another book. ;) But if I'm really getting somewhere with the story, perhaps I should consider continuing into December. Hmm, it's all about the pacing...

I have been surprised by the cynicism of some people. It's not a huge deal, as most people seem to "get" NaNoWriMo and what it's all about, but there does seem to be a little flicker among some who seem to think it's a bit silly and deserves a bit of mockery. My initial response to such people would be "Come back and take the piss when you've written a book in 30 days, dude. Or anything longer than your facebook status update". But I have been good, and ignored any such comments. It's my folly and I love it.

And that's where I am at the moment. :) Guido Foss has made it to the Flats, and is about to find out just how unpleasant life can be out in the desert. I shall enjoy making it difficult for her.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Writing Space

This is the place where I will be doing much of my grimacing at the laptop over November. Items of note; Charlie the Nano Pony- my Nano mascot, pile of sweets and Thorntons chocolate for rewards/sugar fuel, Nano calendar on the wall to the right, small stack of notebooks from previous books to remind myself that I can write, moomin mousepad (I don't have a mouse, but it is very cool) and various postcards of interesting stuff.

To be honest, I don't really subsribe to the Writing Space idea. Someone once wrote (can't remember who) that writing often had to be done around the edges of life; much of my writing is done on the fly, in notebooks or down the pub or on the bus. Having a special space for it is lovely (and I have spent many minutes admiring my little desk and it's collection of pleasing objects) but life doesn't always give you the time to go and sit in it.

Still, for NaNoWriMo having a desk to write at is all part of the fun, and I'm looking forward to starting- not long now! :)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Where I am now...

I am better than I was.

As some of you might know, I've had a shitty few months. Ongoing problems with a tooth, a chest infection that may or may not have been swine flu, an unusable bathroom for weeks, and very sadly my Nan passed away.

I suppose that sometimes strife doesn't line up in an orderly queue, sometimes it just shouts "BUNDLE!" and lets rip. The good news is, I feel like I have, to some extent, come out of the other side now. Although my chest is still a little weak and I have a very sensitive gag reflex now, I'm over the mystery flu. We now have a bathroom with an actual door and sink (you don't realise how important a toilet door is until you don't have one for weeks). We've had my Nan's funeral, which was as difficult and painful as you would expect, and there will be more pain to come as the house where I grew up in is emptied of all the things that made it home, and is sold; but you take the memories that you can and you soldier on, always the walking wounded.

The tooth that was lingering on has been removed. Hoo-fucking-ray! The horrible thing about that was the waiting for the appointment; even when I was feeling myself again, and relatively happy, always at the back of my mind was the tooth problem, sucking away any ability to relax. Now it's sorted, it is genuinely like a black cloud has stopped hanging over my head, and has gone off to bother Charlie Brown or Calvin or someone.

So I am better than I was. :) A side effect of the crap of the last few months has been that my writing has taken a serious knock. I can't concentrate when I'm anxious, and a number of problems with A Boy of Blood and Clay that I had been trying to write around suddenly became insurmountable, and I lost my way with the book. Shitsticks. I forced myself to write for a while, and stopped again when I realised I was hating it, hating the characters, and hating the story. The problem is longwinded, but the short version is this; with Bad Apple Bone, I had the main character in my head for some time, years even, before I started writing. I might not have known the plot, but I had a good idea of what Noon was like. With A Boy of Blood and Clay, I did the briefest of outlines and character sketches, and then threw myself into it, assuming I'd be able to make it up as I went; after all, it had worked with the last book.

It turns out, that was a slightly silly idea.

So I've put A Boy of Blood and Clay to one side for a while. I don't know the characters well enough, and it needs a hell of a lot more research before I can get the story into the shape I wanted in the first place. I'll come back to it (if only because I've written 63,000 words of the bugger already!) and Mike and Faye and Gushel and the terrible Eustace Cream will certainly get an end to their stories one day.

In other news, NaNoWriMo is two weeks away! I had a great time last year writing Bird and Tower, and I can't wait to do it all again- this time with more planning and research, obviously. ;) More about that on the next blog post.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Oxford Street Branch of TopShop is a cleverly disguised circle of Hell

I went to a wedding on Sunday (and a lovely and happy wedding it was too) which obviously meant I spent the week beforehand desperately running from clothes shop to clothes shop growing more and more desperate as I realised I am ultimately doomed to never find anything I like ever. In fact, the chances are that if you spoke to me in the last week or so you'd have had to put up with at least a bit of whinging about how much I hate clothes shopping, and how dreadful the whole experience is.

So I just wanted to say it again here. I hate clothes shopping. Yes I do.

When I've mentioned this previously in the week, I have had at least three people respond with "Oh but all girls love shopping, don't they?". Side stepping the obvious urge to break things here, I will acknowledge that yes, the stereotypical view of women is that they love the shopping, can't get enough of it, love shoes more than men etc. I will admit that there was a time when I might have enjoyed it slightly, mainly when I was a teenager with a) no bills and b) no serious job, so I could wear what I liked because I didn't have to worry about not having money for other things or buying clothes unsuitable for work. Now though, I find it to be a poxy, mind-deadening experience of hideousness, and here are the fundamental reasons why:

1) The people who do like shopping. Shops are heaving with the sort of skinny, invariably blond women who absolutely adore buying clothes, presumably because everything fits them and they look great in everything. They can be seen grazing skinny fit jeans in Top Shop and fingering fabrics like their lives depend on it. True, it's not really their fault that they enjoy it, but it doesn't stop them getting on my wick (and getting in my way).

2) It's the same old shit in every single shop. This is probably the biggest reason I hate it. Seriously, I walked up and down fucking Oxford Street and halfway around Lewisham, not to mention all sorts of random shops I jumped in out of desperation and they all contained EXACTLY THE SAME DAMN THINGS. If you would like, for example, a mid-length skirt at the moment, you're stuffed. You could be entirely ready to accept any style or colour, or even be prepared to snip sequins off it for a wearable skirt, it won't matter because they don't exist anymore. Because, I suspect, it's not "in season". If you want gypsy neck tops in colours such as lurid purple and bright green, black leggings or smock tops, well then you're in luck because that's all there is. Honestly, the most depressing thing about high street shopping is the relentless assertion that you must all dress like the herd; get in line with the other sheep, because we can't be bothered to provide you with an actual choice.

3) The lameness of the shops themselves. The Dorothy Perkins that closed it's changing room an hour before the shop closed itself, for no apparent reason- two members of staff were actually sitting in it, having a chat, but they looked at me like I'd cacked on their gypsy tops because I wanted to try something on. Really? You expect me to buy something without trying it on? Perhaps if I was one of the size 6 blond brigade, this would be viable. The New Look with changing room doors like wobbly saloon doors, with an inch gap in the middle that everyone can clearly see you through. I expect most women have been in changing rooms whilst small children nip about randomly pushing open doors and yelling for their mum- I've always hated this, but in New Look it doesn't really matter because everyone can see your pale bottom and holey underwear anyway. And there's TK&Max, where 60% of the items you pick up will have holes in already or stains in odd places, and good luck trying to find an actual pair of shoes. No chance.

I did find stuff to wear in the end, and amazingly, I liked it (a long purple skirt, tellingly in a Marks & Spencers Outlet store- you can't find any long skirts otherwise, believe me!). But what it has left me with is a huge reluctance to ever go high street shopping again. And I don't think I'll be missing out, quite honestly.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

fly by postings

Well. Well! August has been both busy, and poxy, and it has to be said very little good appears to have come of it. Skipping over some of the shitty stuff I will launch into a hastily written update of where things are and where they may or may not be going...

Firstly, there's the new forum! Well, not quite so new now, we've probably taken the plastic covers off it by this point and scratched the cover a bit when we put it in our pocket with the keys without thinking, but it's up and running and groovy, and we're having plenty of good discussions, sometimes even Box Room related. We had some troubles with the url because it got fiddled with, so here it is in case you need it: http://theboxroom.phpbb3now.com/index.php

I now have three short stories up at scribd.com and they've had lots and lots of views! Whee! I've had some interesting feedback about them, so big huge sweaty thanks to all the people who read them and risked their delicately balanced sanity. The newest one up is Goose, the short story I originally wrote for this very blog- yes, this very blog! Here's the link so you can read it in non-brain achey text, and marvel at a picture of me with a lovely basin haircut: http://www.scribd.com/doc/19017865/Goose

A Boy of Blood and Clay has somewhat ground to a halt. The maelstrom of cack that this month has been took a lot of time away from writing, and also put me in a bit of a depressive funk. The writing has started up again, hesitantly, but I'm starting to look over what I've written and where I'm going and... I'm concerned that I might have bitten off more than I can chew. I love the ideas in A Boy of Blood and Clay, but I have a terrible feeling it's all a bit ambitious. I'm beginning to wonder if this is the book I should have written three or four books down the line; at the moment, I'm not entirely sure I can pull this off.

I have two months to finish it. Two months before the manic, sugar fueled craziness of NaNoWriMo. I'm going to give it that long, and see what happens.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Lights

And following on from yesterday's post where I put up a copy of a story I may have already forced you to read, today we have a brand new spanking spanky new one! Up at scribd.com for your reading pleasure:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18640699/Lights

It's another scary story (I'm coming to terms with the fact that I only write scary ones) and it isn't very long at all, so if you could give it a quick read and let me know your thoughts, I would love you forever and buy you a drink next time I see you.*

*May not actually happen.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Short Story Goodness!

Hey all! You may or may not know that it's been a fairly crappy couple of weeks for me- I don't wanna go over all my woes here, but the short version is that at the moment I am stuck at home with possible/suspected pig flu, or at least a mild dose of it. The most annoying thing about this, in a way, is that although I initially thought "Well at least I can get some writing done..." the truth is, when you have to pause to cough your lungs up every 2o seconds, it's really difficult to concentrate on anything, let alone write cool stuff.

I have managed to do some little bits and pieces towards getting some of my short stories up on the web and readable. Firstly, I have plonked London Stone up online myself- you can see it here and even download it (if this works):

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18589919/London-Stone-PDF

If you haven't read it yet, please do give it a go; I really rather like it, which I can't often say about my own work! If you have already read it, let me know if this PDF business works...

Note: The picture on the front is from a photo I took on my wander around London, if you're interested.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

On Boxrooming

Most of you will know that I "co-host" (i.e, giggle in unison) a podcast with my lovely bloke and fellow geek, Marty. The Boxroom podcast (the name picked in random desperation after we'd realised all the clever sci-fi related names were taken) has actually been doing rather well recently, and I thought it might be groovy to have a wee update about that alongside the endless boring posts about writing (sorry about that!).

Those readers who have met me will know that I am largely quiet, opinionated when drunk (ahem) and mostly horrified by any kind of recording device. When, a few years back, some of my nearest and dearest friends got together to make a Highlander spoof (called Lowlander. It was aces) I was frozen with terror at the thought of possibly appearing on camera at all, let alone my voice actually being recorded- consequently I appear in a fabulously tiny cameo where I draw on Marty while he's asleep.

Getting slightly off track here, but the point is that I continue to be amazed that I'm helping to record an almost weekly podcast, and that people do appear to be listening to it. And responding. And recording marvelous, witty, and above all geeky feedback! I'm enjoying it immensely, and find myself looking forward to the meandering couple of hours a week where we break all the sensible rules of podcasting and talk about such various subjects as Nicole Kidman's merkin, Jonathan Frakes possible motive for making terrible films, and why Muppets are always a plus.

A big thanks to all you people who support it (You know who you are. None of you are remotely crabs. You are the Buck Fucking Rogers of Awesome) and special thanks to the mysterious Rob, who is responsible for more of the content than will ever be publicly known, and the less-than-mysterious Lee, our frequent guest and Token Beardy.

Now lets go listen to 31 again, it's a cracker!

http://www.mevio.com/episode/166977/The+Box+Room+31

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Life sits on the writer and squashes her a bit

Alright, I've been rubbish at updating this thing lately (I wonder how many blogs across the blogosphere begin with that?) so it's time for a quick sum up of recent weeks. If that's possible.

In my last entry I was very excited about my week off, and all the tremendously writerly things I was going to do. Every day. Yep, every day, I would do writerly things.
Well, as often happens, life intervened that week, and I ended up not doing quite as many of the little jaunts that I had planned. Pyra, our small and cheerfully destructive cat had to be taken to the vets to have stitches removed, and this turned out to be more traumatic than I expected. She had a bubble of fluid under the scar, which the vet proceeded to remove with a needle (much to the combined horror of both Pyra and I. Having to hold her down while he carried out this procedure meant I felt like the evilest cat-mummy that has ever lived). It wasn't the cleanest scar, and I spent the next couple of days watching Pye constantly, convinced she would start leaking or something.

Also that week, the electrics in the flat started to play up wildly, resulting in a few days of electrician visits, a further traumatized cat, furniture turned upside down and ripped up floorboards. Oh, and me being stuck in the flat making tea for electrician chaps (who were very nice but, you know, I sorted of wanted to be elsewhere).

All this meant that my writerly trips were rather cut short, but, I got enough done to feel like I had a good week off. I went for a wander up Ludgate Hill, where an important scene happens in A Boy of Blood and Clay, and actually went all the way up to St Paul's (I've never been close enough to touch it before). I walked down Cannon Street to look at the London Stone, which is both tiny and largely unremarked- I peered through the grill to look at it only to find a man looking back at me from behind it; apparently it's just in front of an office window. I went to Monument, looked at some old street names (Fish Street Hill, Pudding Lane) and spent a long time in some pubs writing and writing and writing (the London Stone pub has it's toilets hidden behind a fake bookcase, if you happen to end up in there).

I also had a few trips to our local pub, which is becoming one of my favourite places to write; it's light, spacious and usually quiet, with an "interestingly" arty clientele. I find that I get much more done away from the flat, where the temptation is to watch telly, read or listen to the radio.

So that was my week off. In the week since then, we've had builders in to rip out our bathroom (*sigh*) and having been chucked out the flat early every morning, I have been spending a couple of hours before work writing (in another pub) and consequently, A Boy of Blood and Clay is coming along nicely. Now, if only I had the discipline to get out of bed early every day to do that. Oh, and blog regularly.

If this works, here are a few pictures of the London excursion:










Saturday, 11 July 2009

A break from London in London

It is finally here. The week off. The week of freedom.

This is a very good thing, because I was beginning to approach the London Commuter Boiling Point of Doom. If I don’t count Christmas (which I don’t, because I had flu throughout the entire Christmas holiday- yippee) I haven’t actually had a full week off work since last September, which is roughly, oh, a frigging long time. What I find when I don’t have a break for a while is that my temper gets shorter and shorter, and I develop a tendency to do foolish things, like call people twats if they push in front of me in Sainsburys or quietly seethe because some weirdo insists on sitting next to me on the bus even though there are plenty of empty double seats available.
It’s when I’m walking down a London street scowling and muttering to myself that I realise I really need a break from the 9 to 5. As soon as possible.
This coming week I will be spending quite a bit of time at home because our little cat Pyra still has a bit of a sore tummy, and I still need to keep an eye on her in case she does any crazy things like swinging from the lampshades. She has some ninja in her heritage somewhere.
The rest of the time I will be making short trips up town (as my brother always points out, I am already in town, but you know what I mean). My plan is to go to different places in London that I haven’t been to before, have a scout around and an explore, and then find a cafĂ© or a pub and do an on location writing session.
A Boy of Blood and Clay isn’t just set in London, it’s about London; it’s history, mythology, and stories. This coming week I’m looking forward to getting out there and getting to know the city that I love a wee bit better, and hopefully getting a fuckload of writing done at the same time.
So if anyone has any tips or favourite places to visit in London, a particularly atmospheric street, a busy park or an interesting building, I’d really love to hear about them!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Sunday Night Writing Challenge

In an heroic attempt to get me somewhere near my word count goal today, Mr Adam Christopher (go see his blog here, it's cool: http://adamchristopher.wordpress.com/ )challenged me to a "12 more lines or death!" write off. I think I did a few more than 12, because it all started to flow a little better, but here be the (slightly dodgy, unedited) results:

Mike, still rubbing his sore eyes, pulled the curtain back sharply, rattling the frame and startling the figure that crouched impossibly outside his window. It was entirely black and human shaped, but painfully thin, as if all the flesh had been burnt away and what was left was a living cinder. Mike stumbled back from the glass, a shout of panic halfway to his lips when the creature curled its long stick fingers into fists and banged on the window, twice. Burnt lips pulled back from two rows of neat white teeth and formed a single word.
“Weep”
The initial shock had turned quickly to anger, and Mike leapt back at the window, banging on the glass himself, but the dark figure had already slipped away, lost in the deeper shadows of the courtyard. Mike stood with his fist raised, feeling his heart gradually slowing down again. There were sooty black marks on his window.
Feeling vaguely foolish but unable to stop himself, Mike put a pair of shoes on and went down to the courtyard, making a quick circuit around the bins and patchy grass. The lights of the other flats and businesses meant he barely needed the torch on his phone, but he knew the search was pointless anyway. He knew what the figure had been. He’d had a good few weeks of normality, but now the Unseeables were back.

Back in the flat and having officially given up on sleep, Mike made himself a cup of tea and put the stereo on low, something appropriately alien sounding from a half tuned-in radio station. Even the radio gets weirder at night, he thought, and his hands shook a little as he sipped his tea. Michael Peak sat on his sofa with the curtains drawn tight again and thought of lots of things; of the work he could hide in but was too shaky to continue, of friends he could call but whose names he couldn’t remember, and the small jar of pills in the bathroom cabinet that he knew would make no difference. Michael sat up, and waited for the sun.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Bird and Tower

A brief one, since I have remembered that I've yet to talk about the novella I wrote for last years NaNoWriMo.

Bird and Tower (I hate the title, and have yet to think of a better one) is almost a Young Adult book I think, in that the main characters are young people. I didn't conceive of it as such, but writing about teenagers, and in particular, a naive, optimistic kid gave the book a lightness and mood that is very different to Bad Apple Bone. Having said that, it has it's dark and bloody parts, and I would have to investigate how much violence you're allowed in a YA novel before I really start calling it that...

Written in the frantic time frame of Nano, it has obvious pacing issues and a couple of moments where one character will drop off the page for a bit and reappear later on (not used to handling so many main characters at once!) but all in all I enjoyed writing it, and it surprised me by making me cry at the end. I would love, ideally, to write a sequel as I would dearly like to know what happens next to Quint, Aksu and Acolyte Jones, but that's in the far future I think...

Anyway. Here's a very brief and wonky synopsis I've knocked up to give you an idea of what it's all about. :)

Quint has spent all sixteen years of his life inside the Tower and has never once ventured out into the sprawling city of Ternestrad. This has never worried him particularly; the man who acts as his father, Dr Phiestus, has always taken good care of him, and the many mechanical Croids that keep the Tower spick and span provide a company of sorts.
However, one night Dr Phiestus leaves the Tower and does not come back, and when Quint accidently hatches an egg in the doctor’s storeroom, he realises that it’s time for him to leave the Tower and head out into the world. With the help of a thief, a runaway monk and a creature from another age, Quint must solve the mystery of his own birth and discover the legacy that waits for him beneath the city of Ternestrad.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

My Guilty Book Buying Secret

Most of you who know me will know that I'm a bit of a serious reader. I always have one or two books on the go, and if it looks like I'm about to finish a book without one to follow it up I start to get very anxious. One of the best things my history teacher ever taught me was to never leave the house without a book in your bag (thanks Mr Mealing!) and I have kept to this rule, even if there's no room in my bag for anything else, or I know perfectly well I won't have any time to read while I'm out (except of course that there's always time to read, even if it's just the brief 30 seconds when Marty is in the pub garden having a fag).

Having been a bookseller for a long time, and now working for a sort-of small publishers, I love bookshops. Like all good, decent people. Recently though, I have been doing a very bad thing.

I have been buying books off the interwebs. You know the one. Named after a really big load of trees.

This makes me sad, because when I worked in a bookshop, buying books off the internet was really only one step up from buying them from a supermarket (which is always evil, by the way). Not because Amazon really is the devil, mind, but because when the book trade struggles it's the proper bookshops that get it in the neck, and find it difficult to compete- bookshops have to persuade you to get off your bum and come in the shop after all, whereas Amazon just needs you to roll your eyeballs over the screen.

However, since leaving the bookshop and entering the big wide world of being a bookbuyer, I have discovered the way in which Amazon really kicks the ass of bookshops- range. Like I said, I'm a serious reader. When I discover a new author I like, I tend to go through their back catalogue, as I am with China Mieville at the moment. I wanted to read Iron Council, and given that Mieville is a pretty famous sci-fi/fantasy author I thought I wouldn't have any trouble finding a copy in my nearest bookshop.

Did I buggery.

The bookshop nearest to me is small, so perhaps this is slightly unfair. Mieville writes huge honking doorstops, and you just can't always give up that much of the shelf to one author (believe me, I know this very very well). But once I started to look I realised that not only were there lots of very important and obvious genre books not represented, but that the shelves were exactly the same as they'd been every time I'd been in over the last 6 months. If I was waiting for them to stock more than just the most recent Charlie Parker P.I I would be waiting a very long time.

The problem is (and this is something else I know from personal experience) too much emphasis on the sort of books that arrive in crates and piled in pyramids at the front of the shop; the Richard and Judy choices, the latest celebrity biography, the newest novelty book in the vein of The Dangerous Book for Boys. If you want the first part of Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy you're stuffed, but if you need 20 copies of a ghostwritten biography of a vacuous celebrity twat you're laughing.

This is dangerous for bookshops because, dare I say it, the people who read the celeb bios and misery memoirs are less likely to be the sort of readers who need a book in their bags at all times, and are therefore less likely to be back in every week for their fix.

I fully understand the need to supply the "watercooler books", but the terrible truth of it is; if I can't get the book I'm after, eventually I will trawl the interwebs and discover how easy it is to roll my eyes over lots of books I hadn't even thought of buying, and bookshops (beautiful, amazing, irreplaceable bookshops) lose a few more sales.

Come on! I'm an addict, be my dealer.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

A Boy of Blood and Clay?

A small update, because I've left it far too late this evening and after a couple of glasses of wine I'm a wee bit sleepy, but it's been a while and there has been some progress.

I've hit the 10,000 word mark on the new project, which is, well, not that much really. If I was sticking to my NaNoWriMo schedule I'd be way ahead, but at least I've been adding words every day, which I believe is more important than the overall wordcount. I find that as soon as I have a few days off, getting back into the book is a harder and slower process than it needs to be. So if I only do a few hundred words one day, it's not a disaster because at least I'm still thinking about it and forming the story.

I'm currently working on chapters 3 and 4. These first few chapters are largely about introducing the characters and the situation, and not too much about setting the scene; because both Bad Apple Bone and Bird and Tower were set in entirely fantasy worlds, I had to spend a large amount of time sketching out the world the story inhabited, but as the new project is set in London, this is not so much of an issue. That's not to say I'm not bothering with "building the world", because I love this city and it's lots of fun to write about.

One thing I am having difficulty with is the title. I know it's not essential to have one in place at this stage, and certainly Bad Apple Bone was a good number of words in before the title came, but it is irritating. "The Odd" was originally chosen because I had a vague idea to base the journey of the main character on the Odyssey, but that idea has been pushed aside a little in favour of less wanky ideas. I still half like it as a title because it refers to the odd nature of the story, but... I dunno. My only other reasonable idea has been "A Boy of Blood and Clay", which is appropriate, but possibly a little long.

So what do you all think? Stick with The Odd for now, or give A Boy of Blood and Clay a try?

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Great Big New Pain in the Arse

Far too long without an update- naughty sen, to your bed.

The last week or so has been quite a difficult one writing-wise. When I sat down to start on the new project I was immediately met with a big fat problem, namely, whether or not to write it in the first person. While I was finishing Bad Apple Bone and this project was beginning to form in my mind, I always imagined it to be in the first person. I wanted to try writing an entire book in that style, mainly because when I've done it in short stories I've found it quite enjoyable, and a couple of my favourite writers almost always write in the first person- namely John Connolly and Michael Marshall Smith.

So when it came to the first day of writing, I sat down all ready with my character's voice and the opening scene and... I completely dried up. It felt terribly forced and awkward, and I didn't like it. Mostly, the character just sounded like me. Like me writing a book. This was not what I had planned at all, and even worse, my brain was already re-writing the chapter in the third person. I was crippled with indecision- should I soldier on with my original plan, despite how wrong it felt, or abandon most of my plans for the book and keep to my usual style?

In the end, I did the only sensible thing and wrote the chapter in both the first and third, to see how they compared (this was, by the way, an incredibly painful thing in itself. I am really fucking lazy you see, and writing the same bit twice drove me up the wall). I couldn't help noticing how much easier the words came though, and how much more enjoyable it was the second time around.

So I think I've learnt some things from this:

1) You can't pick a style of writing just because you like the sound of it and because you admire people who do it well- it may simply be inappropriate for the project.

2) I've spent two years on Bad Apple Bone essentially learning how to write (successfully or not I cannot say) and that was in the third person. Perhaps I should use what I've learnt, and carry on improving as much as I can.

3) There will be another time for a big first person story. Yes there will. Possibly in one huge mad rush in November.

I'm on to the second chapter now, the characters are getting to talk to each other and I'm finding out strange things about them. There are lots of juicy bits about it that I love, I just need the framework to make itself a little more obvious, and it's still being difficult and fairly unpredictable (I only realised fairly recently that it all makes a lot more sense if one of the main characters is dead) Not to mention that the sodding thing doesn't have a sodding title!

But I think I'm getting there. Chapter 3 is in my sights.

Friday, 8 May 2009

You deductive motherfucker, you.

Here then, is a blog about bits and pieces and things, and not about writing, for the time being.

I think I’ve figured out what makes The Wire so good*. I mean sort of aside from the acting and the wit and the sexy theme tune. It’s the complete and utter lack of any needless exposition. At no point do you find any characters sitting around discussing the plot or what has happened in the previous episodes, in a handy summary so you can catch up or refresh your tired brain. In fact, The Wire moves at such a zippy speed, and the characters are so realistic in their chatter that it’s actually a real bloody effort to keep up with what’s going on (I’ve heard of people watching it with the subtitles on, and to be honest I don’t blame them). The Wire, in fact, doesn’t care if you can keep up with it or not, it just tells its story at a breakneck speed and gets on with it. Or perhaps it actually credits you with the intelligence to figure it out; even if you didn’t quite figure out the significance of that scene, or catch on to who’s who just yet, it knows you’ll get there in the end, and that it’ll be a more exciting ride for all the complexities.
And that’s why it feels so different too. So much of our drama is so clearly signposted with exposition and foreshadowing that I’m surprised they don’t give out instructional guides with each programme. Taking an example at random *ahem* Doctor Who suffers from apparently being written for very tiny children much of the time. Alright, yes, kid’s programme, and I know comparing Doctor Who to The Wire makes absolutely no sense at all, but so often NuWho (hate that phrase) is written with a big pink crayon, with no acknowledgment of the intelligence of the viewer. Yes, kids are clever. Particularly the ones who watch Doctor Who. Perhaps it would be nice if Who surprised us with a plot that was difficult to understand because it was complex, and not because it just makes no bloody sense (the recent special being a case in point).

Anyway. I did not mean this to be a rant about Doctor Who. What I meant to say is; The Wire is excellent because it treats you like you have a brain, and more of that please.

*I am aware, by the way, that I am late to the Wire party and it's been out years and so on. I don't have proper telly, alright? ;p

Monday, 4 May 2009

The End

Alright. Okay. So I think it's finished.

After very almost two years, I have finally written those last little words for Bad Apple Bone; The End.

It's a strange feeling. I've been fiddling about with it this afternoon, thinking "That bit needs to be moved. Need to take that out. There's a little bit missing there..." but I've come to realise that these are all editing issues, things that can be polished and fixed in the redraft. The important thing is that I've come to the end of the story for William and Noon, and it's time to let it be for a while. The book needs to rest. I need to rest.

I'll probably leave it alone for, roughly, around 4 or 5 months; it's vital to get a bit of emotional distance from the bugger before I begin the painful process of chopping and slicing and making the whole thing make some bloody sense. During that time, I will be enjoying the novelty of researching a new project, and the beginnings of a new book. As well as looking back on what I've learnt, which I hope is an awful lot. When I started writing Bad Apple Bone I didn't even know I was writing a book, and had never really contemplated that underneath it all, what I really wanted to do was make stories. I know that for certain now, and if nothing else ever comes of my first proper full length novel, I'll always have that marvellous little epiphany.

And one last big thank you to all the people (you know who you are!) who have provided endless encouragement and a cheering section when I was flagging, or feeling the terrible urge to go and do something else; you've all been excellent, and are truly very hoopy froods.

sen xxx

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

100 big ones

I finally reached the 100,000 word mark on Bad Apple Bone. 100,002 to be exact. I knew I was approaching it, so after an evening of dodgy writing I randomly stopped and did a word count (er, not manually, you understand) and BING! It was 100,000 words, dead on! There was much excited jumping about for a bit and clinking of imaginary champagne glasses (sadly). It probably says a lot about my writing process that I could only think of a further 2 words for the rest of the night.
The mind boggles at such a number. I vividly remember reaching the 10,000 word mark, and being all dead impressed with myself because, I think, my dissertation was around that long. My smugness ended when I realised I would have to write around 10 times that to get to the end of my book.
And at the end of my book, I am not. At least, not yet. It still twinkles in the near distance, like a shiny American diner all full of hot breakfasts and exciting milkshakes on the desert road of my writing journey. Or something. Emotionally, I am about one and a half chapters away from the end. Technically, I am one and a half chapters and a few-bits-and-pieces-I-left-out away from finishing, which is a little frustrating but entirely my own fault; part of the fun of writing Bad Apple Bone has been that I’ve been learning how I write as I go along, and one of the things I found out is that I sometimes like to write with no regard for chronological order. Marty will point out that I often read this way, too.
So this is my plan. At the weekend I have a sort-of free Saturday, and if I am good and disciplined, it is possible I could push myself over the finishing line. Write my little socks off.
Bad Apple Bone, finished, after two years. It’s almost as unimaginable as reaching 100,000 words!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Writing as distraction, and distraction from writing

So April plods on, and in the distance I can hear the faint screams of a script frenzy project dying, trampled under the feet of other-things-to-do. It's a shame, mainly because although I didn't have a clue what I was doing, I was quite enjoying it, but it seems that one weekend of debauchery and bad science-fiction with friends can throw you off track quite a bit, and I suspect that I am now so far behind it is irretrievable. Still, a couple of things, namely The Dead Garden and Guttle Flog the ghoul, were so much fun to make that I'm certain I will return to The Sinister Bend one day, even if it's in a different format.

Bad Apple Bone continues in awkward little fits and starts. The final big confrontation, or the Endgame as I've been calling it in my head, is complicated to write and I'm taking my time with it. I know I'm anxious to finish because I'm itching to start research on the next project (working title, The Odd) but I don't want to cock it up by rushing.

In some other small writing related news, in an attempt to stop my brain from collapsing during an incredibly boring hour or so yesterday, I wrote a very short, very silly story. I thought since I am unlikely to sell it on anywhere else and I was using it as a sort of writing exercise/brain crutch anyway, I'd pop it up here on the blog, for the amusement of whoever happens to read it. So here we go:

Goose
There were no photos of Albie. He had checked.
On his Grandmother’s sideboard, on the mantelpiece and on the dresser, were quite possibly hundreds of photographs; some framed, some covered in dust, some in those flimsy cardboard frames they give you at school. All his cousins were represented there- Diane waved gaily from a fairground ride, Timothy in his cub scouts uniform, Helen dressed as one of the Three Kings in her school nativity play. Albie’s pudgy form did not make an appearance anywhere, not even in the big photo frame that hung on the wall, with lots of holes for different faces. Baby photos were just as virulent; a few old and yellowed, many fresh and pink, all featuring largely identical squashy faced babies in various states of undress and usually, a layer of drool. Albie, through shrewd detective work, had matched babies and clothes and locations and surmised that no, there wasn’t even a baby photo of him present.
He asked his Grandmother about it, but she just cooed at the boy and handed him a biscuit.
“Don’t be so daft, my little lamb.”

Albie loved his Grandmother very much, which was good because he lived with her. Many years ago, his parents had arrived on her doorstep with Albie in tow, his little hands clasped in theirs. Taking hold of him firmly they had passed him over, and with a few hurried goodbyes had disappeared back down the garden path. He had vague impressions of that day; the sunlight and the cheeriness of his parent’s voices. Mainly what he remembered was his Grandmother’s long cold hand taking his, and the lunch of cold meats she had already prepared for him. Pickles, mayonnaise, bread. Soft white meat in great slices, and a big glass of lemonade to wash it all down.
Many of Albie’s memories centered around food. It was, he thought, the best thing about living with Grandmother. She was a brilliant cook. She produced huge, steaming dinners from the perpetually busy kitchen, and followed them up with enormous, heaving puddings. Roast chicken with fragrant crispy skin, fat golden roast potatoes, lamb chops and pies with suet crusts, thick rashers of pink bacon and great wobbling piles of scrambled eggs. Treacle puddings, spotted dick, chocolate cakes with inch-thick icing, home made ice-cream, bread and rice pudding, and all with the option of custard.
Of course sometimes the family would come round and they would share the feast together, particularly Grandmother’s prized Christmas Dinner, the crowning achievement of her year. But mostly she cooked for Albie, plates upon plates upon plates, as much as he could stand to eat, and more besides. He never missed one of his three meals a day, and elevenses, supper and tea were also as strictly observed.

There were downsides to living with his Grandmother too, of course. The prodigious output of food meant that he out grew his clothes continually, and a man appeared at the house often to measure him for new outfits. Mr Wax was a tall man with a stern, grey face who peered at Albie with such interest that it made the boy quite uneasy. And his apron was always dirty. When, a few days later, the clothes would arrive neatly folded in a brown parcel, Albie would always hope that they would last somewhat longer this time.
Grandmother was also very strict about bathing. Every night after his supper, she would run him a good hot bath, and fill it with what she called her “herbal soaks”.
“It’ll look after your skin, Albie my poppet. And it makes you smell like a prince”
Albie hated bath time with a passion. For one thing, Grandmother always ran them very hot, so that it took him ages to settle into the blistering water, and his skin was a livid pink by the end. And the herbs and bath salts certainly smelt pleasant when she threw them in the water, but being shut in with the aromas in a steamy room meant that Albie was quite sick of their sweet aroma.

He was home schooled, which meant that each afternoon (shortly after lunch) Grandmother would heave down from the shelves her set of Encyclopedias and they would have a brief lesson about whichever chapter Grandmother chose that day. Mostly, Grandmother would become bored and distracted from these studies very quickly, and would suggest a snack instead.
“That’s enough of these dusty old books, Albie my lambkin. How about some raspberry fool?”
On his tenth birthday, Grandmother bought a special bottle of ten year old port. The taste of it filled Albie’s head and made his nose itch. He liked it very much. They drank large glasses of it and Albie ate slice after slice of his enormous birthday cake.
“It’s been aged for ten years Albie,” said his Grandmother. “Just like you!”
From that day on they often shared a glass of port in the evening. If it sometimes made him a little wobbly on his feet and somewhat tired, Albie did not really mind, and it certainly didn’t worry his Grandmother.

In early November Mr Wax made an unexpected visit, much to Albie’s displeasure. His clothes, although certainly snug, were not due to be replaced for some time. Regardless, Mr Wax brought out his tape measure and took particular care measuring Ablie’s wide stomach and thick ankles. The old man nodded to himself with apparent satisfaction and conferred for some time with Grandmother in the kitchen. Feeling self conscious and stupid in his large white underwear, Albie distracted himself by looking again at all the family photos; Stephen by the beach with a lilo under his arm, James and Gary down by the river bank, a bucket of maggots between them, and Sue in a wide brimmed summer hat and glasses . One of the larger photos showed almost all the family together around the long dinner table, party hats askew and the wreckage of crackers strewn between plates. In the middle of the table were the remains of dinner, bones picked clean.
When Mr Wax finally left, Grandmother took one look at Albie’s sulky face and squeezed his pudgy arm.
“Just measuring you up for some special festive clothes, my sweet. This year’s Christmas dinner is going to be the best ever!”

And certainly it was. Mr Wax hung Albie for ten whole days to ensure the tastiest cuts, and Grandmother had saved up her best goose fat, resulting in the sort of crackling that was both crunchy and chewy and full of juicy fluids. A triumph, the family said. A masterpiece.
By New Year’s Eve, when all the cold meat sandwiches were finally eaten, and all the bubble and squeak finished off, Grandmother added a new photo to her collection; the Christmas feast. Glimpsed upon the serving plates and grasped in the greasy fists of uncles and aunts and cousins, Albie finally found his place on the mantelpiece.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Boys from the Dwarf.

Red Dwarf isn't perfect. Of course it's not. But when I was a kid, sitting up round my nan's house on a friday night while my family played cards, and I finally had control over the TV, Red Dwarf was the highlight of my evening. It was funny, and silly, and sometimes had wibbly rubber monsters in it and it was pretty much my favourite programme. After... how many series? 8, I think, was the last one... it's easy to look back and see where it started to go wrong, for me at least. Over time, the writing was less sharp, the jokes less funny- odd, unnecessary things like emotion and "proper story" started to intrude. The essential "git" at the heart of each character was "redeemed" and I lost some affection for them. Rimmer performing a selfless act? It just isn't right. By the time they reintroduced the dreadful Kochanski (with all new actress and accent) I'd sort of given up, but kept watching anyway... CGI became more important, the lovely and endearing model shots were replaced with slicker graphics, jokes seemed more forced and plot given more importance (when did plot ever matter with Red Dwarf?), and Kochanski got on my bloody wick. I eventually gave up, I think, somewhere at the beginning of series 8. Our DVD collection reflects this, ending abruptly at series 6, essentially the last time we laughed at it.

And tonight, on Dave, we have new Red Dwarf. I wish I could write about a return to snappy dialogue, model shots, daftness and slobs in space, but really, there isn't much to report. Stuff happened, they all look a bit older, I didn't laugh once. It's probably true that it suffers from the lack of a laughter track, but when an entire sequence is given over to a new character doing vaguely scientific things in a lab, without a single joke in sight, I don't think some canned laughter would help that much.

It's kind of painful that Dave have followed it directly afterwards with a really good episode, Gunmen of the Apocalypse. It's worth remembering, I guess, that it was brilliant once. Ten year old me certainly thought so. Bob bless Red Dwarf, the only science-fiction sitcom that was ever any good.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

fools

So how is April going? How is it going?

Well, despite absolutely definitely deciding not to do it because it would be silly and I don't have the time, I seem to be doing Script Frenzy anyway by accident. Sort of. Before April 1st came around I tried to fling out a quick plot outline for the idea, reasoning that if I could figure out roughly what it was about I might give it a go. I struggled and complained and filled out a "beat sheet" and eventually discovered that, no, I still didn't know what happens or how it would work, so I would take that as a sign that I wouldn't be doing it afterall.

And then when the 1st of April came around, I had a quiet moment inbetween avoiding getting rickrolled so I very quietly, without looking very closely at what I was doing, kind of sort of started writing the screenplay anyway. *sigh*

It hasn't been a disaster quite yet. I'm still working steadily towards the end of Bad Apple Bone, and the screenplay, called The Sinister Bend, is merrily being made up as I go along with no thought for plot or where it's going- this is fun.

But it is only the 5th, and as I'm sitting here in a Sunday funk failing to get anything done at all, it could still all go wrong!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

STOP PRESS!

I wasn't going to blog tonight because I'm still full of dinner and sleepy*, but news has happened while I was out stuffing my face. My first story has appeared online at Pantechnicon :D I submitted it some time ago, and it's taken them a while to get it all together for various reasons, but it's now up and readable!

This is the first bit of writing I've ever sent off to someone I didn't know, and I'm quite excited. Someone who wouldn't care about hurting my feelings read it and liked it!

Now it's your turn! I'd really really love it if you went here: http://www.pantechnicon.net/ and clicked on Latest Additions, and then had a quick looky at my story, London Stone. It's very short and relatively painless and I'd love to know what you think.


*my blog about the fabulous range of new haircuts on display in Primeval will have to wait.

Friday, 27 March 2009

words

So where did the last week go? Honestly, I blinked and it sailed past. I certainly did not realise that it's been around 6 days since I last did an update on here, and that was about my arch-nemesis, football. That's just not good enough.

Bad Apple Bone has been going very well indeed. I seem to have properly gotten into the rhythm of writing every day, and for the last few have averaged around 1000 words a day, which is very good for me with my lack of spare time and tendency towards procrastination. Due to that, I now have a wordcount of 90,000!

This feels like a significant milestone, and a wild and crazy number. 90k? That's a proper book's worth of words now. The end is in sight, and I suppose part of me has always assumed that I would never finish the sodding thing. I'd get bored, distracted by something else, or just get dissuaded by the enormous amount of work novel writing actually involves. To know that the end is now weeks, or even days away is an extraordinary thing.

Plotwise, BAB (Ew, acronyms. Gross) has been both confusing and surprising recently. A character I thought had exited stage left a while ago suddenly popped up this afternoon, with an entirely new way of looking at the plot; he told me stuff I had no clue was going on, and then buggered off again. Also, the character who I thought was going to do a runner just as the shit was zipping towards the fan is fine, it's the other one who's legging it in the opposite direction. In the confusing stakes, a subplot that I have foolishly not been writing in proper chronological order has suddenly exploded in my face and revealed that perhaps I should think about which chapters belong where. Whoops. For a while I considered dropping the whole thing, but the fact is the two characters it involves are so much fun to write (bad, bad men who do terrible, despicable things) I can't bear to chuck them. And as I threw myself into sorting out their plotpoints this week, I discovered exactly how important they are to the story, and how they need to be there at the end. So that was good.

And there you are. I'm sorry this update was a largely boring one about writing, and did not contain any spewed bile about football/Chris Moyles/breakfast TV. In the next one I sort of intend to talk about my NaNoWriMo book, Bird and Tower, because once Bad Apple Bone is out the way, I'll probably need to start a proper edit and redraft on that, so I might mention it on here from time to time. That is unless I see something that really annoys me, like Ferne Cotton or tomorrow's episode of Robin "shops at Topshop" Hood.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

beautiful game my arse

I don't like football. Football doesn't like me. This is fine, and we tend to keep out of each other's way. We've found that the easiest solution for our mutual dislike is mutual avoidance. Mostly this works, because luckily football doesn't especially agree with my boyfriend either, so I don't have to spend my saturdays with Match of the Day, or listen to witless conversations about footy (what's more tedious than football? People talking about football). I don't watch any sports channels, read the backs of any newspapers, or ask my brother how West Ham are doing.

Unfortunately there is one instance where football flagrantly ignores our peace pact, and that's when it comes to the pub. Because, let's face it, if you don't like football and you want a peaceful drink on a saturday afternoon, most of the time you're pretty much fucked.

Today was a good example; we wandered off out after a long morning and early afternoon spent mooching about indoors, looking forward to have a couple of drinks and a nice chat about stuff. After all, this is what I expect the pub to be about; drinks, and chats. That's all I ask of it. We made our way to my current pub of choice in our neighbourhood, ironically avoiding another local because they charge an entrance fee if there happens to be a match on (and that is another fucking rant altogether). It's a cosy place usually, with an interesting mix of regulars, and pretty decent (and cheap) thai food. I like it there. When we got in and ordered our drinks it was busy; the big screen up the back was showing rugby*, which I expected really, so we made our way to the far corner, which was out of the way of the main crowd.

Cool, I thought. They can watch their footy/rugby/sportwhatever, and we can have a quiet drink and a chat. Unfortunately I hadn't noticed the tiny screen just above our heads playing the apparently less popular football game. Soon we were joined by a quite alarmingly arseholed old geezer, who sat around about a foot away from us and proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes randomlt shouting things such as "SPREAD! SPREAD THE BAAAALL! SPREAD IT!" and "GET ON DEFENNSHH, YOU FACKIN' IDJITS!" and "YOU ARE RUDE! YOU ARE A VERY RUDE MAN!". He also stood up at one point with his arms in the air, silently saluting nothing for a few minutes, and then stumbled back down again. Riiight. As the game went on, we were gradually surrounded by an army of similarly shouty winos. Any chance of hearing each other talk, and me not wanting to punch people, went right out the window.

I fucking hate you football. Leave me alone.



*By the way, I lump rugby in with football; it's all about blokes chucking a ball around, what's the difference?

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Dawdley, the God of Procrastination

The Gods of Procrastination have been whispering in my ears again. And it's all due to http://www.scriptfrenzy.org/eng/node- Script Frenzy!

Script Frenzy is a sister project to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which I took part in last year. NaNo is a brilliant mad thing, where you are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel over the month of November. I really can't recommend it highly enough; if you've ever thought you might enjoy writing and have a secret book inside you somewhere, or you're a frustrated writer who never finds time to get it down, Nano is a great catalyst to get your arse in gear. A community of thousands of enthusiastic writers, all struggling with their own wordcount, and all ready to offer encouragement (or jibes) when you're flagging. It's brilliant fun, and taught me a lot about my own writing, as well as many lessons about how much I can do when I stop whinging and just do it. Of course, given the speed of the output a lot of rubbish is written across the board, and even I was surprised by the number of Nano novels that appeared to be about sparkly vampires and angsty werewolves. Hmm. But it's the pure joy in the act of creation that makes Nano fun to be part of. That and all the sweets you're allowed to eat because you need to stay awake.

Script Frenzy takes place in April, and is essentially Nano with scripts. Now, I've never written something in that format. Have never, in fact, even contemplated doing so. I love films almost as much as I love books, but it's never occurred to me to try and write one. But all it takes is one convincing email from Chris Baty (organiser of Nano and all round nice chap) and I'm contemplating it... Even though Bad Apple Bone is so close to being finished and the last thing I need is another month spent concentrating on something entirely different.

But. I have an idea, gleaned from a half finished storyboard of a half finished comic I did years ago... I think it might make an interesting Guillermo del Toro/Mirrormask/Dark Crystal kind of film.

And it is very, very tempting.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Three

Ooo, I've been sitting a bit funny and my leg's gone a bit achey. Ow.

In the spirit of my aching self, I feel incapable of writing a comprehensible blog today, so instead I think I will make a small collection of thoughts. Sorry.

1) Chris Moyles- I do not like him. A very brief note, but jesus christ, have you listened to Radio 1 in the mornings lately? I had the misfortune to do so, because I had grown so sick of the appalling fetid-brained sock-people that present breakfast tv and decided to try the radio. I should have known that Radio 1 was not for me; Radio 4 is my natural home, and I shall never leave it again. The Chris Moyles Breakfast radio show is essentially an hour (how long does it go on for? I've no clue. How could I possibly find out without wanting to end it all?) where Chris Moyles makes vague references to something funny he said down the pub last night, while a gang of sycophantic jibberers squeel themselves silly about how fucking funny he is. Underneath it all, a constant jingle plays, like we're all having a fucking jolly time, because Chris Moyles is so fucking funny. Christ.

2) I watched around half an episode of Supernatural last night. This is a series I've utterly failed to get into, mainly because it's shown in a fairly random fashion late night on ITV2 (I think) and may turn up on any night, and at any time. I've always been a little intrigued, mainly due to its huge following on fandomsecrets, from which I have learned all sorts of interesting facts about the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean. Mainly, that if they had sex it would apparently be really, really hot.
So I finally saw some of it and was rather disappointed. To be fair, I'm coming rather late to the party, and my paltry plot knowledge gleaned from poorly constructed jpegs containing such wisdom as "I would hit that!" and "Ruby sucks!" was hardly likely to give me the best preparation. But still. What mainly happened was a number of devastatingly attractive people hung around looking devastatingly attractive, whilst giving the sort of moody glances that indicate rumpy pumpy might be on the cards at any moment. True, there was a woman there in a mental institution who could hear the voices of angels and demons, but even she was distractingly beautiful. Despite being loopy, she still apparently had time to nip out and get her hair dyed "Mystic Plum". Oh, someone had a nosebleed too, and someone tried to stab someone else. But that was largely it. And not once did those two brothers have sex. Disappointing.

3) Fantasy trilogies: I am in the middle of one at the moment. This is rare for me, because the sort of fantasy that comes in trilogies (and higher numbers) is normally the sort of fantasy I'm rubbish at finishing. No reflection on the books themselves; I still love sword and sorcery fantasy and all it is and all it stands for. When I was a kid I was obsessed with The Lord of the Rings, but since then I think my attention span has shrunk, and proper po-faced fantasy has me running for something a bit more funky, with a little more humour in it; The Lies of Locke Lamora, for example, or The Book of Lost Things.
So the Trilogy I am currently slogging through? Robin Hobb's Soldier's Son sequence. And I am enjoying it; I'm just not sure I can tell you why. The set up is very similar to her previous series, the Assassin's Apprentice (which I loved) where a young male character grows up with an unwanted magical "gift", has all sorts of shit happen to him because of it, and generally has a fairly rotten time. The AA series had dragons and pirates going for it, and intrigue and castles, but Soldier's Son... well. It has the army. Uh. And spotty magical people. And stately balls (ahem). And the most interesting thing to happen so far happened in the first 100 pages, which is a little annoying when you've read around 800 pages so far.
But, it is a testament to Hobb's writing that she can take the pace this slow, have no dragons in it and still have me balancing the book on the washing machine while I try to turn the burger's over one handed. The woman writes characters you grow to love, and you learn a lot of patience that way.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The House of Terror! Or Unresolved Psychological Issues.

After four weeks of getting up before 6am, I think my brain is finally rebelling at the lack of sleep I've afflicted it with. For the last few days the nearest I've got to working on Bad Apple Bone is writing strange, incomprehensible notes in my notebook; they often says things that a few hours later make no sense to me, such as "Herded by dogs!" and "mouth leaf". Mouth leaf? Next week I go back to my more usual work shift where it doesn't matter so much that I am entirely unable to go to bed before midnight, and hopefully with a bit more sleep under my belt my writing attempts will make more sense.

On another subject entirely, I was pondering yesterday about my grandparent's house. They moved there when they were a youngish couple, and most of my aunts and uncles, and my mum, were raised there. I lived there myself from the age of about 5 or 6, to the age of about 10 or 11, when my parents split up. It's a very significant place to me, the house that I dream about most often, or if I'm writing a story, I tend to instinctively shape the house I'm writing about around that one. My nan lives there by herself now.

I was thinking about what might eventually happen to the place, in a good few years time. I couldn't imagine people other than my family living there, but it seems quite likely we would sell it, with the money being split between my nan's children. What if one of us moved there though, I thought. I tried to imagine moving in myself, or just sleeping over there to help sort the place out, staying for perhaps a week in my old room.... and I was seized with a feeling of almost supernatural terror. I honestly could not bear the thought of sleeping in that house again.

And this is weird, because I have no particularly bad memories of my nan and grandad's house. If anything, I was very happy, because my grandparents were there, and the place was often filled with most of my extended family too, on visits and friday night card games. So why on earth am I so alarmed by the idea of sleeping there? To be fair, I am often reluctant about going round there now, and rarely do, but I've always thought that was due to the weird sense of vertigo you get from visiting the place you grew up; everything is smaller than you remember, and distorted.

So I'd like to know if anyone else has experienced similar feelings. If you can still go to the place you grew up, is everything still cosy for you, or is it a little strained? If you are unable to get there these days, what do you think about going back?

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Thoughts on Watchmen

Potential tiny spoiler alert! Well, if you haven't seen the Watchmen film, or read the comic, or been living under a rock for ten years.

We saw it last night at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, which is an excellent old fashioned cinema with friendly happy staff. Don't try to buy a drink there though; two quid for a tiny coke! In a paper cup! Yikes.

Firstly, let me say I liked it, I thought it was good. It was, in short, one big fangasm from beginning to end.
It was essentially as good a film that could possibly have been made from the source material. I should point out that I was entirely against it being filmed at all; it is possibly the closest thing to a perfect graphic novel ever written, and the best example of how comics work as a unique art form. There was no need for it to be a film. But. It has won me over. Every scene that you would expect or want to see in it is there, and achieved with a perfection that is almost eerie. I spent most of the film rapt with wonder at how faithful it was. I squeed, yes, I actually squeeeed in a terribly fangeek manner every time Rorschach did a "hurm". The opening montage of an alternate history of America with superheroes was one of the most extraordinary bits of cinema I've seen- the Comedian on the grassy knoll! (good use of Bob Dylan there, too). It's funny, violent, scary and bloody good fun; everything the comic was.

There has been quite a bit of criticism of the film, which now that I've actually seen it just don't ring true to me. So I shall take this opportunity to disagree with it all. Hurrah! Some of the things being said:

1) all style, no substance: Now, I'm not sure what these people want. The story is all there, as complete as it could ever be in film form. The ending has impact and meaning (I understand why they changed it, and I still have slight reservations, but the new ending serves its purpose) and the characters are spot on. Seriously, the casting on this film is some kind of miracle, particularly with Rorschach, the Comedian and to my surprise, Nite Owl. The story, the characters, and the "meaning" all work, so what do they want exactly?

2) Not gritty enough: I would say this film is pretty gritty. I mean, you see a little girl's leg chewed to bits by dogs, and Rorschach is one whole film's worth of grittiness by himself. Perhaps what they mean by that is that it should be all realistic shaky cam and dirty tights. To this I would say, firstly, did they actually read the comic? It's beautifully framed. Why would shaky cam be an obvious choice? And secondly, as a friend commented to me; when Nite Owl breaks an arm, I want to see it, preferably in slo-mo. A fumbled fight in a dark alley that you can't really see would have been a bit of a let down to be honest.

3) The dialogue is too comic-booky: Uh, it's based on a comic? Really though, at no point did I squirm with the discomfort of clunky dialogue, although this did happen all the way through Spiderman 3. And bits of the most recent Hulk movie.

4) Its too long: Of course it's long, have you seen the comic? And this is without all the pirate zombie stuff! There were moments, admittedly, where I thought my bum would seize up, but at no stage was I bored, and the story did not drag. There's just no room for drag in it. And Marty will testify that I actually managed to watch the whole thing without having to get up to go to the loo once- if I can do it with my peanut sized bladder, anyone can!

5) Casual viewers won't understand it: I don't care. Come on, if you can follow the Usual Suspects you can follow this. If you want a difficult movie, try the second Nightwatch movie.

My favourite bits:

Rorschach! Just spot on really. I now want a Rorschach action figure, the first time ever I've wanted an action figure of a fascist, woman-fearing, psychotic loon. Apart from Darth Vader maybe.

The opening montage was beautiful; really authentically done, and a clever way to plop the viewer right in the middle of the dystopian 1980's with a pretty good idea of why America was in such a mess.

Nite Owl/Dan Drieberg was lovely. Likeable, heroic, conflicted. We saw probably slightly more of his bum than was needed but that was nothing in comparison to...

...Dr Manhattan's blue penis! I am glad they had the balls *ahem* to actually show it- a less faithful adaptation would have constructed constant super-pants for him, or carefully shot it so his wang was always tastefully out of sight. I mean, it was quite odd. Especially when there were lots of him. But I appreciate the thought.

So, will I be getting the dvd? Yes. Will I be saving my pennies for keyrings with smiley faces and Nite Owl fridge magnets? Very possibly.

Monday, 9 March 2009

the raspberry coulis of doom

I got a fair amount of writing done yesterday; got the characters moving in the right directions, got some other bits and pieces ready for the final scene. I never get quite as much done on a Sunday as I expect to, and the main reason for this is one tv programme that seems to take up most of Sunday's schedule: Come Dine With Me.

If you haven't seen it, the concept is quite simple; four or five people take turns hosting a dinner party, they mark each other out of 10 in secret, and then the person with the most points gets a grand at the end of the week. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no interest at all in cookery programmes. I bloody hate them. I can't think of anything duller than listening to Jamie Oliver warble on about his spuds (although I have been known to watch Heston Bloominecks cock up Little Chef, or stick vibrators inside jellies- but that's not really cookery though, is it?)

The reason I love Come Dine With Me are the people that go on it. Every week, I will find myself asking "Where do they get them from? Really, where do they find them?" Because every group is a glorious collection of grade-A weirdos. First of all, there will always be one you are guaranteed to hate instantly, usually (distressingly enough) a woman of a certain age with a face like a smacked arse and frightening upper arms (I wish there were more hateable men on the show, but it's just not the case). Half of the people there you will wonder why they went on the programme at all, because they clearly can't cook and in fact seem rather surprised by their own kitchens, as if they have never been in there before. It's always these people who are making something they've never made before, with a gadget they bought that morning and haven't bothered to read the instructions for yet. One chap even still had the little wire twines around the plug flex, so fresh was his ice-cream maker from its box. Cue a series of disasters as things go up in flames, vital meats are left out of the oven, or in the oven too long, fingers are cut open, cats eat the appetisers, plasters are left in mixing bowls... One elderly chap put very obviously blue coloured liqueur on his crepes, and then wondered why they turned fairy liquid green. How he could not notice the big blue bottle was full of blue stuff, I do not know.

The other half of these weirdos go on there purely to show off the house they are so dreadfully proud of, which normally looks like it was furnished by the dodgy shop round the corner from me that sells lifesize porcelain labradors, and framed paintings of snow leopards. And then there are the people that just seem to make no sense at all. Last night's episodes contained two; the guy who decided to do a full christmas themed dinner (with decorations and santa costumes) in the middle of summer, and gave the vegetarian of the group her veggie option with pigs in blankets on the side. And then there was the barrister who was terrified of people, who named his hero as being Bart Simpson, and when asked to turn up in Christmas gear arrived as an Aussie surfer. With a rugby ball.

The crowning glory on all this is the fantastically sarcastic voiceover by Dave Lamb. We love to bitch at the people on this show, but Lamb is right there with us. Possibly his greatest comment ever came on yesterday's episode; "Gordon Ramsey would tell you to f**k off." Brilliant.

So if you're not watching Come Dine With Me, for christ sake watch it, it's the best thing on tele on a Sunday by miles, if not all week. It will remain my favourite mainstream programme, at least until the Apprentice comes back anyway, the Holy Grail of Hateful Bastard TV. Can't wait!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Bad Apple Bone

One of the things I'll probably talk about on here is the book I'm writing, so I thought I'd give it a sort of slight introduction here, so you'll know what I'm on about.

I started it in May 2007; I came home from work one day (really cheesed off, actually) and decided to write down the scene that had been going around in my head all day, for no other reason than it would take my mind off my bad mood. While I was writing it I realized that I wanted to know the history behind the scene, and what happened after, so I began to plan that out too... and that's how I started writing Bad Apple Bone. Kind of an accident really.

If I were asked to provide a synopsis for the novel, I would probably whinge and complain that I'm not any good at synopsises, but to give you the most basic of basic outlines; a horror/fantasy novel in which a child has been abducted by an old and dubious witch. The child's older brother sets out to find him with the help of a younger, less experienced witch. Bad things move in the background, pulling strings and causing trouble.
Now what worries me is that as soon as you say "young witch" these days, people tend to assume you mean the ass-kicking, sexy, scantily clad witch made popular by Buffy and horror romance novels where the heroine sees an awful lot of willy action. This is not that sort of book. Just so you know. Don't expect much willy action. If anything, it has a traditional fantasy setting, along with a more modern approach to story and character. Er, yeah.

I love writing it, and I'm tremendously fond of the two main characters, who have managed to surprise me, make me laugh, and make me cry, all unexpectedly. It'll probably be around 100,000 words long (about average for a book) and at the moment... *checks wordcount* ...I'm at 81, 249. I'm well into the third act. The endgame. The shit has now hit the fan. And this is proving to be the complicated bit!

One of the things I learnt from doing NaNoWriMo last year is that with people watching you, and expecting you to get something done, you can suddenly find yourself doing much more than you thought you could. So I'm hoping that by occasionally blogging about Bad Apple Bone on here there will be an added incentive to get the bugger written. I'm so close to the end now!

So if you should see me, bumming around on the internet, looking at pictures of cats with funny captions or twittering about what I'm making for lunch, feel free to say, in your best Stewie Griffin voice: "How you uh, how you comin' on that novel you're working on? Huh? Gotta a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Gotta, gotta nice litte story you're working on there? Your big novel you've been working on for 3 years? Huh? Gotta, gotta compelling protaganist? Yeah? Gotta obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Gotta story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? Yeah?"

Lynxo

Alright then, I thought I'd explain some of the links I now have to the left of this blog. I suppose you could actually click on them yourself, and then you'd find out straight away what they're about, but you might not know me, and I could reasonably have some very strange interests. One link could send you to novelty butt plugs* for example, or the latest furry fashions, or godzilla porn (thanks to Warren Ellis for that one).

So if you trust me, go have a look for yourself. Go on. I don't mind waiting for you. I'm listening to Papa was a rollin' stone, I've got a while.




Well. The level of distrust on the internet just saddens me. The first link, unsurprisingly, takes you to the profile page for The Boxroom Podcast, a podcast I record with my young man, Marty. When we started recording it we did attempt to plan what we were going to talk about; now that's all out the window and it's very much a makeitupasyougo-cast, or a let'sgetpeopletotwitterwhatweshouldtalkabout-cast. Largely, it seems to be about geeky things we like, geeky things we don't like, and how we've embarrassed ourselves in the last week. The cheese story being a good example.

The Lost Bearings forum is essentially a tiny message board for our friends, because when you know a lot of people from various places online, it's nice to have one place where they can all meet up. We're lazy like that.

The Bearcast is a podcast recorded by the grumpy bears I mention in my profile. Yes really. Well, Terry is rarely actually grumpy, to be fair. I make guest appearances on there as Token Female (the cheek) and we discuss... odd things. UFO's. Doctor Who. More cheese.

The Lost Bearings Audio Adventure is my other half's Maximum Octopus; an audio comedy/drama about hope, distant lands, mad scientists, the pub, and soft toys. It is very good indeed.

Pantechnicon is a website that is also a forum that is also a magazine that publishes genre fiction. I mention it here because a) it is a groovy idea that supports new writers, b) it is free and you can actually download it and print it out if you like, and c) the next issue has a story by me in it. Hurrah!


That's all of them for now. I may add more later when I realise I've inevitably forgotten something. On an end note, I would like to ask: wasn't there a character in Thundercats called Lynxo? Was he a bit rubbish? Did you all think this post would be about Thundercats and you are now bitterly disappointed?

Ho!



*Lots of sales on for butt plugs at the moment. I'm just saying.

Friday, 6 March 2009

New Bloggings

The first entry was always going to be a difficult one to write, wasn't it? Spent the whole bus journey brimming over with ideas of how to start it, and of course I come to actually sit down and write the bugger and I can't think of a single one. Typical.

Well. I've decided it's time I had a proper blog, a real "presence on the interwebs", which is a very wanky way of putting it, but it's been pointed out to me in a variety of ways lately that if I really want to be a writer and have people read what I've written (which is sort of the point, I guess) then a blog will help. All the cool people have them. I can point to stuff I'm doing, plug the other things I'm doing, such as the Boxroom Podcast, and whinge about the things I'm struggling through (not too much of that though). Also, in the vaguely patronizing guide to blogs I found, it said something along the lines of "write about stuff you're interested in, and your potential reading audience will be interested in". So expect some tangents along the lines of "Jeezum christ Demons is terrible" and "the new Doctor's hair is very distracting" and so on.

So the blog will be about, roughly: writing, podcasting, geeky things, books. That probably covers most of it. Oh, and there will be lots of swearing, because my vocabulary is fucking ace, or something.