Monday, 29 November 2010

Dead Zoo Shufflings

At risk of jinxing myself, since I haven’t actually crossed the finish line yet (800 words to go!) I thought I’d do a quick post about this year’s nanowrimo experience, and the first 50,000 words of Dead Zoo Shuffle.

It started off rather peacefully, with a week in less than sunny Cornwall to bash out as many words as possible. Despite being largely sozzled much of the time I did manage to get a reasonable amount done on the incredibly long train journey, and in small country pubs with roaring fires. Really, I wish the entire Nano experience could be as picturesque and relaxing.

The following three weeks however, with work and my occasional attempts at a social life, have flown by at an alarming rate. So quickly in fact that I think I’ve barely been on the Nano forums this year, and have had none of the usual encouraging nanomail chats and banter. I’m a bit disappointed about that, as I always enjoy the sense of writerly community November brings, but it seems this year I had no time to do anything but get my head down and write.

Dead Zoo Shuffle itself is proving to be an interesting book to put together. I knew it would be a challenge, because it was both crime and science-fiction, both genres I don’t normally have much to do with aside from reading them, and I wanted it to be in the First Person. Since the only other book I’ve attempted to write from that viewpoint was a massive failure I half expected to give in during week 2 and make the whole thing third person after all.

But I haven’t. It’s hard, and I struggle with some of the twists and turns, but so far Dead Zoo Shuffle has managed to do something quite rare- it’s kept my interest at all times. Not to say that I’ve been bored shitless by my previous books, but there’s almost always a moment where I think “Ye gods, if I have to write about one more night by the campfire I am going to kill someone” or “How can I make their journey over to this place remotely interesting?”. DZS, with its teeming city planet of dodgy bars and even dodgier mercenaries, with its aliens and spaceships and artificial moons, has been strangely refreshing. Dead Zoo Shuffle has so much to keep me occupied I can barely keep up with it.

So hurrah for Nano for providing me with another interesting November. And here’s to the next 50,000 words!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Exciting news from Un:Bound

Remember the rather groovy blog that published my short story Barleycorn? Well, more exciting things are going down at Un:Bound- here be the press release:

Un:Bound Video Editions

For Immediate Release

They told me I was crazy and i'd need a team as crazy as me to pull it off. Fortunately I knew exactly where to get them. Admittedly my crack team of presenter Kat Heubeck, director and video editor Vincent Holland-Keen, news anchor Alasdair Stuart and grizzled editor Lee Harris are not the team I would put together for a lucrative casino hit. Pulling together a show like Un:Bound VE though? I couldn't ask for a better squad of genre fiction grifters.

Don't believe me? I talked to Catherine Rogers of Writing East Midlands about the heist, I mean the show, and here's what she said:

“This, it seems to me, is a natural move for George, sorry Adele as he, sorry, she has been taking over the genre world with her extraordinary team.

Sorry Adele as what , George Clooney, Oceans whatever c'mon? Un:Bound being compared to Oceans numbers - no way. I'm thinking more along the lines of Neo, red pills, Morpheus etc.

So red pills aside / taken etc ... Writing East Midlands' mission statement says something about nurturing new writers in the region ... yes so that includes new writing talent and this by all accounts is just that .... on vidcast. Yay! Check it out.

That was 'red' right?”

Yes, Catherine, yes. No chunky knit wear or unnecessary dance routines here, just a cool, suave look at the latest in genre fiction. And Cthulhu. He was very insistent I mention him.

Fellow Evil Genius ™ Alex Davis had a slightly different take on things, which also makes a worrying amount of sense:

'It sounds more like the A-Team to me than Ocean's Eleven... This truly is the crack commando unit of the genre - in fact the recording equipment was constructed from four elastic bands, three toilet roll tubes and a broken down ZX Spectrum. So if you have a problem, and you need help, and you can find them, maybe you can hire... the Unbound Video Editions team.'

Danny Ocean's team of elegant con men and the world's least violent lethal commando unit. That's heady company to be keeping. So when does the con begin? I mean the show air? And where? Simple it's going to go live on 6th December 2011 at 8:00pm (GMT) at the site . Except, much like that bit with Brad Pitt walking through the casino talking on the phone? We're not quite done. The following weeks will see additional footage of the interviews go live as we continue to plunder the vaults of genre fiction for all things bright, shiny and awesome.

So why not join us? Just remember, don't take the blue pill, don't take your eyes off the vault door and always, always, bet on Unbound.

UBVE will be running a giveaway as part of the launch week so please look out for further details and prizes.

If you want to go and check out the current cool stuff available, get yourself over here

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Nanowrimo & the Small Plastic Dragon

So we are ten days into Nanowrimo. I’m glad to report that it has been proceeding reasonably well, and Dead Zoo Shuffle is 15,000 words in at Chapter 5- amazingly enough, exactly where I am supposed to be. The first five days were relatively easy, given that I was on holiday and had the rather lovely landscape of Cornwall to look at (which is always fabulous, even in November- possibly especially in November, with all the mists and autumn trees and fierce waves. If anything I was vaguely disappointed I wasn’t writing an epic fantasy of the sort that starts out in grassy hills and ends in perilous mountains…). I did my writing on the train, at the dinner table and in small country pubs, and had no trouble reaching the daily word count.

Writing while also having to go to work is a little bit trickier, but luckily I have formulated a routine over the last few months where I sneak into libraries and coffee shops and get it all done before I even have to think about the day job. This has set me in good stead for Nanowrimo, although that’s not to say it isn’t a struggle; the pace and the pressure are somewhat more extreme, after all, and I can’t give myself the night off just because I’m feeling sleepy.

The book itself is both hugely fun to write and incredibly challenging. I’ve written in the First Person before for short stories but keeping it going for an entire novel throws up all sorts of difficulties, not to mention the complications of writing about a human character on an alien world- and at its heart this is more a crime novel than a science-fiction story. But I’m loving Dirk Marshall and Zootsi, even Fredo and his dubious personal hygiene, and the dialogue in this story feels more natural than I’ve managed before.

So in celebration of my wobbly progress, I offer up some things I have learnt over the last few years of Nanowrimo that seem to have helped me:

Tell everyone you know that you’re doing it. I found this awkward and embarrassing the first year, as trying to explain why you’re writing an entire book in a month isn’t easy (“Yes, 50,000 words… Yes, I have to write them all myself… No, you don’t get a prize or any money at the end of it… well, it’s more about having, you know, written an entire book…”) but if everyone is expecting you to be flourishing 50,000 words worth of manuscript at the end of the month you’re less like to give up when you’re feeling a bit tired.

Rewards! Yes, the book at the end is the true reward, ahem, but that’s not to say that you can’t treat yourself with cool stuff as well. Don’t save it all for reaching the end either; 20,000 words is especially sweet when you can finally eat that special bar of chocolate or buy that CD. This year I have a Duncan the Grey Warden action figure on order for my future glory (What? Toys are rewards. Toys are allowed).

Speaking of toys, see if you can find a writing space! They probably aren’t essential, and to be honest I have used mine exactly 3 times so far this month, but having a little nook that is dedicated to writing and your book can help you feel like you’re taking it seriously. My desk is surrounded by pictures of things that interest me, and covered in toys, or, uh, writing mascots. This year I am assisted by Charlie the My Little Pony (a Nano veteran), Tyrion the Small Plastic Dragon and a couple of gaming dice for the cat to push onto the floor to wake me up (hopefully, they will soon be joined by Fully Articulated Duncan).

And there you go, those are my three main tips for Nanowrimo success, or at least, Nanowrimo fun. And if you are doing it this year, tell me what you’re writing about- my favourite form of procrastination is reading other people’s synopsises…
Good luck!