Pitching In

A beautiful sunny Sunday in the north east, which means that I’m all full of hay fever and headache from said hay fever. Don’t get me wrong; I love the warm weather. I don’t enjoy the fact that if I forget to take a 24 hour antihistamine BEFORE I go to bed, I wake up feeling like someone has repeatedly pounded me across the face with a mallet.

This is what hayfever does to my head.

Guess what I didn’t do last night?

We did have our annual Eurovision party last night. The ‘event’ itself is getting increasingly more professional, which is somehow disappointing. Gone are the multiple acts like this year’s Russian grandmothers, or the Skyrim blacksmith from Moldova and instead there are X-Factor-style vocalists warbling their way through stodgy ballads. Greece and Romania are the only countries who repeatedly produce Eurovision songs that actually have an ethnic feel to them; the Greek song sounded Greek, the Romanian song sounded Romanian. Not entirely sure what the dreadlock/sea serpent headed Albanian woman was squawking about, but she had the kind of high-pitched shriek (in tune, to be fair!) that probably sent dogs across the Eurozone running. Wish more countries would get behind that. I note that our entry, the esteemed Englebert Humperdinck came second to last. Awesome. Fun fact of the evening was that with the plethora of Eastern European countries now dominating the contest, the Hump is actually older than some of the competing nations. And as for the voting. Frankly, that’s just turning into a joke now. We ditched the voting halfway through when it became obvious Sweden were going to win and watched Tucker and Dale vs Evil instead.

The last couple of weeks have been taken up with writing pitches. A lot of pitches. This is a necessary part of the writing process that I know a lot of people don’t enjoy. I do enjoy it. I like the brainstorming element of putting a couple of ideas down on paper and then using my imagination to draw a line between them. Sometimes the line goes off on a bit of a tangent and takes me to a story that I’d not even considered. Sometimes it’s a struggle. Sometimes it’s a breeze – but it’s bloody useful regardless. Having a pitch proves that you have a plan – and when you’re writing, even deviating slightly from the original idea can take you so far off course that if you didn’t have ‘Plan A’, you’d never get back. If my pitches were graphic representations of my mind, they’d be frightening things. Like those drawn by my hero.

Yes. He’s my hero. The poor, stupid bastard. Always being beaten down, but always bouncing back and never giving up.

One good thing to do, certainly with short story pitches, is limit your summary to 500 words. If you can’t tell the story succinctly in 500 words, you can’t tell it. That was the advice my editor gave me when I first started writing for him.

Also in this past week, I’ve been putting the finishing touches to Project: IT’S ALIVE, something about which I hope to expand on more in the not-too-distant future and have also revisited – albeit briefly – the bare bones of a steampunk story I started writing after attending a workshop with the wonderful Kim Lakin-Smith at alt.fiction. Oh, and working. I’ve been doing that, too, but least said, soonest mended and all that. Suffice it to say, the job hunt continues.

The winner of my Valkia contest received his prize and read the book from start to finish on the day he got it. He had nice things to say about it, which was brilliantly pleasing. The first Actual Review of it has appeared online as well, here.

So all is well. Ticking over and stuff. Whoop!

Progress [Gildar Rift Update #3]

End October Target: 30,000
Current Word Count: 17,546

Given that I work full time and have to fit my writing around this incidental obstacle, I’m going great guns. Things are flowing well just now. I keep getting those wonderful moments when you suddenly realise exactly why it is that Character A does this, or why Character B says that. Moments of toe-curling glee when everything just seems to slot together brilliantly. I’m still enjoying myself. This probably helps. Ask me again in about 10 weeks time when the first deadline looms like a… like a… looming thing.

I’m well into Chapter Four now, which worried me initially on re-reading my chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I get this a lot. I read the chapter outline and have this moment of inner Abject Panic where I’m saying ‘how the HELL am I going to pad that out into an entire chapter?’ You find ways. Things happened in Chapter Three that gave me great inroads into Chapter Four. Chapter Three was pretty hectic: lots going on, many different camera angles… Chapter Four is a bit of a cooldown in comparison.

I’ve not yet re-read what I’ve done. I’m still working hard on getting the story down. The urge to go back and edit now is getting very strong, though. I have a deliciously fabulous first reader who keeps me on the straight and narrow. He had nothing to comment on where Chapter Three was concerned, which was fantastic. I’m liking that chapter. You watch, it’ll be the one that the Editor-beast goes ‘re-write that, would you? kthx.’

So ever onwards, ever upwards. I’m pretty sure I’ll be well over the 25k mark by the end of this week if it keeps going at this pace: I have the house to myself on Sunday as Small Son will be at his dad’s and Dearly Beloved will be at work. So as long as I can resist the temptation of the Bolthole/Facebook/Twitter/LiveJournal/WoW/DoW et al I’ll be just grand.

In other news, Dearly Beloved has nearly finished reading The First Heretic. This is entirely fabulous, because it means I can actually get to read it now.

Progress [Gildar Rift Update #2]

End of September target = 10,000 words.
‘Clocked off’ tonight at     = 10,809 words.

Lawks, and probably a-mercy, but I’m ahead of myself. This is entirely good and has already made me feel a little less pressured.

Chapter Two, that most evil and heinous of wee beasties refused to start and then, after it hauled itself, wheezing from the primordial soup of my fledgling author’s mind, refused to stop when I wanted it to. I’m still not entirely sure that it’s finished, but I found a suitable and appropriate breaking point for it and have breezed cheekily onto Chapter Three.

Didn’t have such a problem with starting that one, though and have to say that I’m almost ridiculously pleased with the opening sentences. I had to turn the light on.

In summary – damn me, it’s going better than I could ever have anticipated, but I’m really looking forward to the first re-read and edit. I’m trying not to let myself get sucked into re-reading as I go along and instead concentrate on telling the story as it tumbles from the churning idea mill inside my head. The words will rearrange themselves properly at a later date.

More than that?

I’m loving every moment of this.

Happy-tastic!

Plus, I’m rewarding my over-achievement with an early night…

Progress [Gildar Rift Update #1]

Well, I had this sort of crazy idea that I’d do a (probably infrequent) update whenever things were happening during the course of writing Gildar Rift. I figured, why the hell not – it’s an experience I’ve never had before and I know a bunch of people are fascinated by the process. So… well, here’s where I am currently.

Some point last week – I finally finished back-and-forthing my chapter-by-chapter breakdown with my shiny editor and received my commission. Right before Games Day. Now, on his advice, I’d not made a start. So I made the conscious decision to leave starting it properly until the beginning of this week. I’ve set myself a bunch of word count targets – be very interesting to see how they go. Or don’t. But you know. Optimism! My glass? See it? My glass is half full. Of bleach. Or arsenic, maybe.

Anyway.

Of course, I didn’t really listen to my own advice and got most of Chapter 1 down on paper before Games Day.

So… here I am, at the end of official Day 2. Despite the fact there’s only a couple of days left in September, I’ve given myself a 10,000 word target. As of tonight, my current word count sits at a pretty satisfying 8,212. I’ve done all of Chapter 1 and most of Chapter 2 – and so far, it’s reasonably plain sailing. Admittedly, I got to the beginning of Chapter 2 and had a minor flail during which I claimed repeatedly that I couldn’t possibly achieve this. Then I just let my fingers take over and bang – over 3,000 words in Chapter 2 tonight alone.

Am I happy with what I’ve written so far? Well, mostly. But I’ve not yet re-read and edited. It’s far too easy to get hung up in the editing process. One of the things I HAVE decided I need to do is keep track of reasonably critical things like character eye colours, hair styles… that sort of thing. I’m only two chapters in and it’s something that’s already occurred to me.

Chapter 2 has been interesting because it’s very much a ‘building’ chapter, with no action as such. This is weird for me because until now, my experience has been short stories – and the pacing is very, very different. However, I’m not worrying too much about it, if only because I know how much is waiting in Chapter 3. Which I’m looking forward to enormously.

So… so far, so good.

Onwards and upwards, eh?

Stress Level 1-10, where 1 is ‘reasonably chilled’ and 10 is ‘exploding with the pressure’… 2.

Dirty Dishes [Or: All About Fanfiction]

I get jittery when I see people – specifically – non-registered guest accounts over at the Black Library Bolthole, particularly when they’re reading my stuff.  Why is this, you may wonder?  Or maybe you don’t.  I don’t know what you’re wondering.  You might be wondering why the price of petrol continues to rise.  Or what to have for tea tonight.  But in case you are wondering about my jitters, read on.  If you’re not, then go pickle some gherkins, or do whatever it is people do when they aren’t glued to t’interwebs.

For this is a post about that most terrifying of things.

Fanfiction.

Continue reading

On Writing W40K Stories – Thoughts

So then.  To answer some questions I’ve had, let’s address this one.

Why are you writing stories in the W40K Universe?

I’ve been writing for a long time, but only dared dip my toe into the W40K universe for the first time in June 2009.  I had this idea of what I wanted to do, sat down at the computer and produced Life’s Blood. (One of these days I’m going to revisit it; because even in four months my style has changed).

I discovered that I really enjoyed writing it and was rather chuffed when people posted positive feedback about it.  It wasn’t until someway into it and some way down the comments thread that I made a realisation.

All these people, I thought, think I’m a bloke.

At first, I was faintly amused and not bothered by the fact, so I didn’t bother correcting anybody when they said ‘he’, or ‘his’, etc.  But as time wore on, I started to feel –  of the gamut of emotions out there – guilty.  Should I ‘fess up, I wondered?  Should I come clean about being of the female persuasion (excuse my use of the ‘f’ word)?  But then I started to worry.  What if, when this majority of males discovered I had the wrong pairing of chromosomes, they all stopped reading my stuff?

Irrational?  Yes, probably, but it was a very real anxiety.  In fact, it took convincing and some very kind encouragement from the very lovely Nick Kyme and the equally lovely Graham McNeill (the great deflowerer of virgin t-shirts) to go with my instincts.  In fact, Graham McNeill said, how do you know that I’M not a girl?  I didn’t, of course.  It was the best sentence ever, because it made me a) laugh and b) take the plunge and Come Out.

The guys in the writing thread I was currently with were all like ‘wow, really? That’s sort of cool’ and nothing changed.

Since then, I’ve produced so much W40K stuff.  It’s like the whole concept of not being shunned simply because I’m female has spurred me onwards.  It’s a universe I very much enjoy writing in.  I’m also now leaning towards prodding my toe into the slightly-less-murky waters of the Warhammer Fantasy universe as well, which is just plain greedy.

I was chatting to Chris Wraight at Games Day and we had a conversation (albeit brief, and with me looking over my shoulder for people wanting him to do what he was actually there to do – y’know, sign books and not be hogged by a wannabe writer) about the fact that the thing I really enjoy is the human element of the Space Marines.  Somewhere underneath those slabs of muscle, there’s a once-human trying to get out.  In the early Horus Heresy books, I utterly loved the moral struggles that Garviel Loken underwent.  I loved how easy it was to forget that they’re all man-mountain super-ultra mega killing machines…

(Distraction: one of my friends just logged onto MSN.  His screen name is Abaddon, which is of course very cool.  His avatar, however, is Beaker from the Muppet Show…which is less so.  My poor brain has great difficulty reconciling those two).

…I loved how easy it was to forget that they’re all man-mountain super-ultra mega killing machines.  I loved the interaction, loved the bonding of brotherhood…was just pulled into the togetherness of what it means to be a Marine.  Of what it means to be loyal unto death.  Of what it means to live your life according to an often questionable moral code.  I was hooked.  I love writing about these guys, I thought.

After ‘Life’s Blood’, I thought that was it.  I thought that was all I could come up with.  But then I got pulled into a writing group who were developing a lesser-known successor chapter of the Ultramarines – the Silver Skulls – and I was pulled in with the opportunity to pick up the Tenth Company and write for a bunch of scouts.  Not quite human, not quite Astartes…joy of joys.

Thus, along came Primary Instinct, a tale of brotherhood, blood, sweat and Really Scary Aliens which I found allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone of character pieces.  I discovered that I COULD write action scenes, and hey, they weren’t too bad, either.

And then, oh joy of joys, someone asked me if I would like to create a squad of Assault Marines from the Silver Skulls to take part in a group story, and Sergeant Gileas Urten, the character with whom I have connected the most was born.  He showed up first in On Swift Wings, and hasn’t left my head since.  Nearly everything I’ve written since features him in one form or other.

These were the two moments when I lost every second of my free time to an impulsive, fiery Silver Skulls Assault Marine.

Two of the rebels were dead before all five Marines had even landed. Gileas ran a third through with his chainsword, then powered the weapon up, spinning and whirling like a dervish through the rebels. He split skulls and dismembered wherever he went, completely and utterly engrossed in the deadly, destructive dance of death that he was so very, very good at.

and

Breathing heavily, Gileas reached up and unclasped his helmet, shaking out his sweat-dampened mane of thick, unruly, dark, shoulder-length hair. It was at moments like this, just after battle, with his hair dampened into black curls that clung to the tanned skin of his face, his eyes wild and bright with something far more primitive than simple battle-fury, that Gileas looked every bit the southern savage of legend. Even if he hadn’t been an Astartes, Gileas Urten would have been a giant bear of a man.

Gileas (Gil to his friends) has been a joy to write about.  I’m presently writing Childhood’s End which is a REAL exercise in W40K writing – because it barely features Space Marines or technology at all.  It’s all about Gileas’s legendary (amongst the Silver Skulls at least) journey from his home with the tribal people of Southern Varsavia all the way to the Fortress Monastery in the far north.  And it’s like writing  a piece of history.  I’m loving writing it.  I’m hoping people are enjoying reading it.

So I shall carry on with my W40K writing, Being Female be damned, and continue to hope that someone, somewhere is having a nice time reading these stories.

Well, this went on longer than I anticipated.  Someone let me start talking about Gileas again, didn’t they?

Planning

I have two ideas running around my head just now for stories. 

The one…a WHF-verse story featuring a rather inept and (deliberately) unlikeable protagonist who, through his own arrogance and stupidity puts a lot of people in a lot of danger.  He has to deal with the consequences of his actions and make amends – but given certain limitations, it isn’t going to be easy. 

Working title for this story is ‘Cause and Effect’.

The other is a W40K-verse fic featuring a planet overrun by orks, Imperial Guardsmen, Imperial Fists, seige machines, auspexes and an acknowledgement that Fate has a warped, twisted sense of humour. 

Working title for this story is ‘Rivalry’.

Of course, I’m still in mid ‘Childhood’s End’, am co-writing ‘Brotherhood’ and ‘Viper’s Nest’ and have the sequel to ‘Childhood’s End’ in mind as well.  That DOESN’T have a working title.  That HAS a title.  Because I’m mildly confident that this blog is purely my own and nobody actually READS it, the title, for posterity, will be ‘Son of the Waxing Moon’.

Creativity, cease thy permanent skull-battering, would you?