Extract 4: ‘Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising’

Charles Weaver sat at the desk in his study, his head bowed over the ledger, his hand writing the reports from the week’s activities in his beautiful slanted script. The Welsh prisoner had yielded nothing of note, but there was time yet for him to break. At his side was a tray bearing his choice of sustenance: bread, cheeses and a few slices of home-cured meat. The simple repast would serve him well enough. A bottle of wine was uncorked and stood before him. But Charles Weaver neither ate nor drank. To do either required the removal of his mask, and until his personal servants retired for the night, he would not take it off. Even then, he had become strangely reluctant to do so.

The reports came in on a regular basis and not all were pertinent. Here there was an account of possible evidence of magic use in a distant English backwater village. There, details of attempts by magicians to receive the support of the Church. So many of these ended without the intervention of the Inquisition, overly-dramatic scenes of self-martyrdom by the desperate and unofficial elevation to sainthood in the eyes of their faithful followers. All these Charles Weaver read, and more. Wherever there was a hint of unusual activity, the Inquisition would follow up the leads.

So many reports. Weaver growled quietly as he read. A plague upon the people of this country. Nothing seemed to get through to them. Threats that were made and carried out served as little more than a temporary bump in the unholy road they persisted along.

‘My lord?’ There was a tapping at the study door and Weaver raised his head.

‘Enter.’ He set down the quill and leaned back in the heavy oak chair. One of the staff he had brought from his country estate to work in the Tower as his personal servants entered the claustrophobic office.

‘Forgive the disturbance, my lord, but this arrived moments ago. The bearer stressed its importance.’ The servant, a faceless serf whose name Weaver had never bothered to learn, held out an ivory scroll case. Rising to his feet, Weaver moved the bulk of his huge body round to the front of the desk. He took the scroll case, recognising the seal instantly.

‘It’s from the King, isn’t it, my lord?’ It was presumptuous of the servant to speak without cause, and as the metal face turned on him and he saw the glint in the eyes beneath, he wished he’d remained silent.

‘You may leave now,’ the Lord Inquisitor replied stonily. He watched the servant scuttle out of the room, taking a quiet satisfaction in the obvious discomfort he had caused. When the door shut, he stepped across to it and turned the key in the lock. He would not be disturbed again.

He opened the scroll case, slid out the parchment within and unfurled it. He leaned against the desk, holding the paper taut as he read the missive from King Richard. It did not take long. There were several lines that discussed the logistics of what was to come, but Weaver’s eyes were drawn to the words at the very bottom, above the flourish of Richard’s signature.

We will go to war.

You will lead them in my name.


Beneath the mask, Weaver began to laugh, a sound entirely devoid of humour.

Finally, it was going to happen. Finally, the moment he had been waiting for had arrived. He would sweep across France, then Italy. Spain and Portugal. All the countries who wore the badge of magic on their breasts would be crushed. Magic would be driven from the shores of the continent and a new British Empire would be born in the twin lights of science and reason.

‘We will go to war,’ Weaver repeated aloud.

Confessions of a Part Time Writer

So, blog reader(s), I am struggling.

There. The wound is laid bare and bleeding for everyone to have a good poke at. The salt’s just over there behind you if you’re fancying a nice bit of Friday sadism. See it? On the shelf there behind the bottle labelled ‘Your Own Medicine’? Tip: don’t swallow any of that. You’ll regret it.

Got it? Right. Rub away.

I am struggling to get my head back into a writing rhythm and it’s making me increasingly angry with myself. I have got approximately 50% through Project: Carpark. I’d have gotten a damn sight further if I hadn’t decided to scrap 75% of what I’d written and start over. But it’s achingly slow. I can’t work out if that’s my own lack of discipline, or if I’m just over-analysing every single word that goes onto the page… or what. In my more optimistic moments, I reassure myself that it’s because I’m putting extra love and care into the process. In my moments of clarity, my inner self simply points and laughs.

You are so totally going to miss your deadline on this.

That’s the phrase that keeps rattling around in the cavernous wasteland of my thoughts. You are going to have to ask for an extension at this rate. Part of me knows that should that happen (and there is still plenty of time, I’m probably panicking over nothing), my editor will likely be OK with it. But I don’t want it to come to that. I am going to have to get knuckling down and increase my output.

I think for me, part of the problem stems from the fact that I am neither a leisure writer nor a full time writer. I have a full time job (because as everyone knows, being an author is NOT going to keep a roof over your head unless you’re established, tap into a social vein or are just pretty financially stable to start with) and that takes up eight hours a day of writing time. On the weeks that I have the Son, I lose another hour driving up to Durham to collect him and bring him home. Then, when I have him in the house, I don’t like to shut myself off and write. I like to spend time chatting and laughing with him. He’s my son. It’s what I’m meant to do.

Next week he’s not with me, so I may be more productive. I think I need to go back to the way I was when I wrote The Gildar Rift. My whiteboard with ‘current word count’ and ‘monthly target’ written on it. That actually had the desired effect of driving me forwards. The simplest methods often work.

A potential boost will hopefully come next week. I have a meeting in Nottingham with one of my OTHER editors (I’m getting myself a collection of them – they’re kind of like Pokemon, only more literate) and I’m hoping to come out of that meeting massively buoyed up and re-enthused in general.

To be fair, I was reading something yesterday that totally fired me up. Unfortunately, by the time I finished reading it, it was bed time, so it took over the writing window! But… it’s OK. It’ll even out. I know it’ll be OK – I constantly second-guess myself. Onwards and upwards.

In other news, I just finished reading ‘Southern Gods’ by John Horner Jacobs. I bought it quite some time ago and got about halfway through. Then something happened and my attention was pulled off it. That was a mistake. I finally read the whole thing and I recommend it heartily. It’s creepy, it’s quite graphic in places and it just has this… slightly grimy and humid feel to it. If you get the chance to read it – do so.

Right, it’s Friday. One more day of work and the weekend is upon us. See? I write a blog post and my enthusiasm for everything, ever is renewed.

Put the salt back on your way out, would you?

And… Action!

I have Space Marines on my mind.

Not literally, because obviously they’d crush my head like an overripe watermelon. They’re pretty big lads, after all. But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been contemplating them more than I’ve done for a while.

My Silver Skulls got kind of put on the back burner whilst I was writing Valkia the Bloody, so it was a delight to root them out for the short-short story Skin Deep that recently featured as part of the Black Library’s Angels of Death series. This series is a fabulous idea: daily 1,000 word short Space Marine stories, each focusing on a different chapter.

(Note: even as I was in the process of writing this, Fifty Shades of Geek posted up a review of the first handful of stories – including Skin Deep – here! Clearly I’m tapping into the collective consciousness without knowing it. Must stop that. Curse you, precog super powers).

Writing that little story fired up my enthusiasm for writing Space Marine goodness all over again. There’s one or two things waiting ‘in the wings’ as it were and I’m alarmingly hungry to get my mitts on them. This is good. This enthusiasm has been sorely lacking for quite a while and it feels amazing to have that drive injected again.

I’ve been writing steadily on Project: Carpark and I’m reaching a stage now, about halfway into it, where I’m really starting to get a feel for the protagonist. Up until the scene I started this morning, I wasn’t really liking him all that much. Now I’ve found out what it is that makes him tick, I may find it easier to write on. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve just introduced what is likely to be the breeziest, most light-hearted character of the piece, means that I’m quite looking forward to the next ten thousand words or so.

Project: Carpark is different from anything I’ve written before. It’s different because there are no prescribed guidelines like there are to writing in the Warhammer universes. That in itself makes it an astonishingly daunting task. It’s a little like walking a tightrope with the safety net burning beneath you. But, you know. Challenges are cool.

So Space Marines. Big, clunky, oversized monsters of the 41st millennium. I was flipping through the new codex the other evening and getting a delighted tingle every time I saw the Silver Skulls get a mention. They sort of feel like my babies. Obviously, they’re not – they’re anybody’s – but when someone contacts you on Facebook and asks questions about them so they can paint up their army in the most ‘true to the book’ way, it’s incredibly flattering. Also, this guys army looks phenomenal.

The Husband painted my Silver Skulls army for me. My attention span means that I get one arm done and immediately discover a whole list of things to do. Determined to build and paint an army of my own, I picked Necrons. So far, my entire Necron army consists of a single Immortal. I’ve decided that he’s simply ultra-hardcore and will kick any opponent in the nads before running away, giggling.

I was in discussion with someone at work the other day about why Warhammer is such a good hobby. It incorporates so many things: the need to understand a pretty comprehensive rules set, to design your army, to build and paint your army and then to develop game-playing strategies. It’s a sociable hobby – no matter how the media tries to portray it – and I pretty much love the vibe I’ve got from most Hobby Centres I’ve been in. Also, and it has to be said, I’ve generally found that the kids in most GW stores are more pleasant and socially aware by far than those who hang around outside the chip shop terrorising little old ladies.

As well as the game, there’s obviously the Black Library books to go alongside it. The Son has been making his way through the Horus Heresy series (although he broke off to read ‘1984’ on a whim – I wasn’t going to stop that) and seems to be enjoying it. I’ve fallen hugely behind in my BL reading, largely since I started writing it. Not entirely sure why that is. Time, mostly. That’s why a series of 1,000 word shorts has been a joy for me.

But it has made me hungry for some boltgun and chainsword totin’ action…


The Birth of a Warrior Queen

[Cross-posted from its original publication on the Fifty Shades of Geek website, here]

The guys at Fifty Shades asked me if I’d write a little piece on how I approached writing Valkia the Bloody. Here is that piece, with additional ridiculousness.

“Um…” said my editor, a heavy pause at the end of his words, “you don’t actually mind writing about a girl do you?”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is sensible armour.

When the girl in question happened to be Valkia the Bloody, there was never any chance I was likely to turn it down, was there? I mean come on, look at her. This is a woman who struts around the Warhammer universe armed with a killer spear and a shield adorned with the head of an upstart Slaaneshi daemon. This is not your average fantasy female heroine. For a start, she has sensible armour.

At the same time, when I was planning out her story, there were a few things I set out to show. This was not just going to be a book about how astonishingly kick ass Valkia can be. This was going to be a book that showed how she ended up as Khorne’s consort; about what it was she possessed that made the Blood God sit up straighter in his skull throne (he is prone to slouching, you see) and pay close interest to her. After all, there are many champions and heroes in the Old World. Why this woman in particular? So I sat down with a pen and a bit of paper. After doodling endless eyes and cubes, I started to get inside her head. Who was Valkia the Bloody? What made her tick?  She needed to come to life and so here’s the process that took her to the feet of the Blood God.

To start with, Valkia needed a family. She needed people  around her to offset the sparkle of her homicidal brilliance and she needed a LBK. (Life Before Khorne). So I gave her a father, but not a mother. Without a mother’s guiding hand and a father who was the tribe’s chieftain, Valkia was  always going to lean towards tomboyish; a young woman who resented the idea that the only route to battle for her was as a shield bearer. So from the very beginning of the book, Valkia takes charge of her own destiny. Even as a child who sits on her father’s shoulders and marvels at the wonders of the aurora, Valkia knows that she wants more out of life than to just ‘stand at the side of her men’. She wants to lead. She wants to be all she can be – and more.

When faced with a seductive daemon, she almost gives into base feminine urges and desires that she believed she had overcome. There must have been immense satisfaction in nailing his head to a shield afterwards.

She takes what she wants and rarely gives thought to the consequences. Or does she? Perhaps it’s more that she takes what she wants regardless of the consequences.

Wait, hang on. This woman is starting to sound like she is everything I’m not. I would never take what I wanted without written requests signed in triplicate and even then, I’d be apologising the whole time… and there, gentle readers, is the crux of the matter. Valkia is all those things that I wish I could be. Apart from the mad killing machine, naturally. That bit’s sort of… tacked on at the end. But she’s confident, capable, knows what she wants, she’s strong and relentless… and yet, in order to make her more of a person, she also has weaknesses and vulnerabilities during her

Not sensible. Or even comfortable, looking at it.

So Valkia has foibles and chinks in her sensible armour.  These are exploited by a few people – and daemons – in her tale. The self-realisation of this drives her to an effort to divest herself of her  perceived weaknesses. She becomes cold and closed to all those around her, even her own children. She moves from being a woman driven by passion to a woman driven by bloodlust. Before Khorne takes her up to his realm and recreates her, Valkia has already become a daemon in many ways. The useful addition of wings and claws is merely cosmetic.

She was a joy to create. The world around her grew naturally to fit her Viking-esque style and those who followed her took on life and personalities of their own. One in particular – a young tribesman named Kormak – was originally meant to appear in one scene and only then to lose his
arm. He became something entirely different. And entirely awesome.

She led me on a remarkable journey, this self-confident, unbreakable woman. Even when her own mortality was being hacked away, she does not give up. Even when she is completely beaten, her last breath contains defiance and strength. She sort of became my hero for a few months. When  writing any character, it’s always a pleasure to let yourself slip into their heads, to wear their shoes (or power armour) and live their lives through your fingertips. Valkia, although cosmetically a ‘bad guy’ is a powerful, focused woman who knows her own mind and sets out with a belief that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

In the context of Valkia’s world, that’s not such a bad thing to be.

When Inspiration Strikes…

Inspiration is a funny beast, isn’t it? It strikes at the strangest of times and decides to up-sticks and leave you alone at others. For example, I almost invariably get most of my favourite plot ideas whilst driving home from any sort of gathering (be it LRP, or convention or similar). Then, when I get home and try to translate it from the terrifying interiority that exists inside my skull to the screen… nothing. Gibberish. Seriously, the screen may as well read ‘sdkldblkjb lkm lkdsgk lk mlefjlkmcv’ for all the sense it makes.

In my head, I scream silently, this was bloody amazing! 

The first person to invent a device that allows you to plug your brain directly into a USB socket and get those thoughts down before they turn to mush will be a fine individual indeed.

Generally, I do OK getting thoughts and ideas out of my brain and onto the keyboard. I type infuriatingly fast (accordingly to one of my friends) and that helps with the brain to keyboard process wonderfully well. The real problem for me stems from the fact that when I talk, I am always thinking about four or five sentences ahead of myself. Does that make any sense? I have no idea why it is that I do that, but every so often it means that in the middle of a conversation I’ll just stop dead and completely and utterly forget where I was. So even with the infuriating level typing speed, this means that occasionally, when I’m writing down thoughts and ideas, the same thing happens. My way around this has become quite simple. Initial plot ideas now get produced as stream of consciousness. Silly comments and all. Then I go back over them and refine them; take out the silly comments and make them into more acceptable working documents.

For example, when brainstorming with m’colleague John French on our tied-together stories that appear in Architect of Fate, the following was in the original outline that I shared with him before the story was completed. Apparently it made him giggle.

‘Another fight breaks out with I don’t know, a giant hot dog with legs, firing mustard. This is the Warp, man.’

This sentence gave rise to the story’s ‘code name’ of Project: Hotdog. Note: all my stories end up with code names. I’ve never quite been sure why this is, but it’s entertaining and allows me to happily discuss something I’m working on without the worry of openly acknowledging what it is. For example, I recently turned Project: Needles into the editor, am working on edits for Project: Comeuppance and working hard(ish) on Project: Carpark. For reference, The Gildar Rift is the only story that never had a project codename. Going on how excited I was to be writing a novel which was rapidly tempered by the discovery of how hard it actually is to write a novel whilst working full time, it should have been Project: Harsh Reality.

I enjoy stream of consciousness plotting. It allows me to express what I’m feeling without the constraints of the formality a pitch requires. I should really have kept some of the early drafts of the plot development of The Gildar Rift, for example. Had my former hard drive not imploded with the spiteful force of a device hellbent on eating 67k words of a manuscript – which it also accomplished, hooray for the 47k previous emailed-to-self back-up copy – I’d have had that to hand.

Most of my blogs are stream of consciousness style actually. Today, for example. I was contemplating what to write about and asked The Son for his ideas. ‘Inspiration,’ he said, looking up briefly from where he was caught up playing Deus Ex. So today’s blog became about inspiration. It rapidly devolved into an inward-looking self-criticism of my own inability to capture the darned stuff properly. I mean, I’ve got better at it over the last couple of a years. I have a notebook that goes everywhere with me now and I jot down things as they occur to me. Sometimes, however, I’ll turn the page of the notebook, see something written there and wonder ‘uh… OK. What the hell is that about?’ Example: we saw a ‘For Sale’ sign somewhere and the name of the estate agents was ‘Gadsby Orridge’. If that isn’t a name for a noir-esque Private Detective…

(Which automatically reminds me of a back-burner project called ‘Project: Time Freeze’. The previous may give you some idea what it entails…)

So inspiration strikes in the strangest of places. Whilst driving along and catching a glimpse of roadsigns (the A1, for example, features many would-be Hollywood actors. Burton Coggles. Kirk Smeaton to name but two). For Sale signs, or… any number of things. A half-empty field with a single van parked in the almost exact dead centre. Why is that van there? What is it doing? Ever since I was little, I made up stories based on things I saw as we were driving along – a pastime my mum encouraged to stop me being car sick, I suspect.

Now fully open!

Inspiration does not yet come in some kind of handy ‘tap-turning’ form. There’s no magic switch to press that turns humdrum reality off and switches over to the delightful silliness of idea forming. It just happens. I wish it was more controllable though. There’s not much more embarrassing than white-noising out an entire meeting whilst your brain contemplates exactly how it is you’re going to deal with that Silver Skulls Space Marine who is demanding you pick up his story and create Project: Surprise!

Someone get to work on that USB device, please. Chop, chop.

I’m the Batman

And right on cue after yesterday’s observation that everyone is entitled to an opinion, the internet obliges me by providing a highly entertaining round of OMGENRAGED responses to this morning’s revelation that a new Batman has been cast. It’s still early days yet, but poor Mr. Affleck has already been condemned. Given the time difference between the UK and the USA, he’s possibly been horribly condemned before he even wakes up.

I’d watch the shit out of batunicorn. Unibatman. Whatever.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way before I go any further. I didn’t think Christian Bale was ‘all that’ as Batman. Sure, he had a couple of decent film scripts to work with, but I never felt comfortable with him in the role. I’m afraid I’m one of these people who would much prefer a comic-book feel to comic-book adaptations instead of layer on layer of ‘real-world’ angst. Yeah, yeah, Batman is about as angsty as they come, but he’s still a comic book character. Let’s have more of the deliciously over-the-top villainy and less of the ‘argh, terrible inner torment’.

Batman doesn’t like chocolate. The later films could have spun this out for a good quarter of the storyline.

Tim Burton’s Batman back in the eighties captured, for me, the look and feel of the whole thing beautifully. It was deliciously gothic and Michael Keaton just carried off the character so well. (We ignore George Clooney and Val Kilmer, OK? They never, ever happened. There was only one Batman film). I enjoyed that film enormously. I also liked the second one – although not as much – and thought that Danny DeVito was an outstanding Penguin. But if I’m brutally honest, I’ve never been much of a Batman fan anyway. I’m entertained at the fallout surrounding the announcement of Ben Affleck filling Christian Bale’s ranty shoes, though.

I used to read lots of comics – now… not so much. I never really got into DC, being more of a Marvel girl (X-Men, mainly, with some Spiderman thrown in for good measure). I found them more… breezy and entertaining. After all:-

No further comment required.

I loved the reboot of several Marvel series, with the Ultimate range. Ultimate Avengers was one of the best things I’ve read for a long time in comics, but was totally made for me by the sheer beauty of Bryan Hitch’s artwork. Every frame in that comic was so well drawn, and the gatefold battle scene was just eye-popping. I’m one of those boringly traditional types who prefers detailed artwork in comics to the minimalistic approach that you see every now and then. But – to reiterate yesterday – that’s just my personal opinion. It’s what like.

In large, the comments I’ve read this morning in reaction to this news have all been of the ‘OMG, it’s doomed’ ilk. Strangely, this was the general reception that the internet gave to the announcement of Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker. Most people seem happy enough to sing his praises in that role (although I still prefer Nicholson’s take) and it can’t all be down to the fact the poor bastard died, right? Ben Affleck was frankly awesome in Dogma. Yes, he’s been in some pretty dreadful films, but let’s get a bit of perspective in place. The role is that of a fantasy super-hero, not a biopic of some great philanthropist. Superhero movies should be fast, furious, tongue-in-cheek and above all else entertaining. Give the man a decent script and for the love of all that’s good and holy, give him a chance.

But you won’t do that, will you Internet? No. You’ll happily condemn him, arrange his execution and start digging his grave before his alarm clock has gone off and I Got You Babe starts playing. (Film cross-pollenation; see what I did there?)

Give the guy a break. Get over yourselves. Be grateful that they’re still prepared to fund Batman movies at all and enjoy it. Also, have this for good measure.

It’s all true. True.


Meanwhile, the sun is shining, Project: Carpark awaits my loving (snrk) attention and Project: Comeuppance is all but edited. And I have another week off work to look forward to. My husband and son are in the next room, my cats are basking in the sunshine… these. These are the important things in life. (The lamentation of the women is also cool, but… well. Not today).

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

So Mystery Men was on TV last night. Now, I love that film. I find it amusing and entertaining in equal measure. OK, it’s no Shawshank Redemption or American Beauty, but it’s good old-fashioned entertainment. It makes me laugh, I enjoy watching it (‘I am Pencilhead!’ ‘I am Son of Pencilhead!’) Yet over at the IMDB, it gets an average viewer rating of 5.9/10. Only 5.9. I’d happily rate it an ‘8’ on my personal score, but that’s where the whole thng falls down of course.

Films – like books, foodstuffs or music – are an entirely personal thing. What one person loves and thinks is THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD may not appeal at all to someone else. I seem to find that I frequently fall into the category of ‘person who liked the thing that nobody else seemed to’. Maybe I’m just easily pleased, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have no problem at all with someone else having a differing opinion to me. What I have problems with is people who essentially say ‘you don’t agree with me. I am right, therefore, your opinion counts for absolutely nothing.’

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, absolutely. And those opinions don’t always gel. For example, here are two separate comments from two separate reviews of one of my novels from Amazon:-

It’s wonderfully written, contains cleverly crafted space battles and hand to hand which when all brought together gives the reader a story that they’ll remember for quite some time.”


In some parts it was good, characters gelled the story flowed, then out of the blue it would become stilted and jarring, over-long or poorly placed descriptions, bad dialogue, poor plotting, then it would switch again.”

So immediately you can see that these two people (both of whom spent the time to review my book – for which I am immensely grateful, thank you both if you’re out there and I’m directly quoting you) disagree. If you put them in a room to discuss their differing opinion, I feel sure that the conversation would be mature, sensible and lively. I like to think so, anyway. Whilst no writer enjoys negative feedback on something they’ve written, that was nonetheless politely worded and contained at least a trace of usefulness. Compare that with this ‘opinion’ taken this morning from one of the Warhammer fora regarding another novel, by a different author:-

But [the novel] is….Not good,i’ll leave it at that.”  [sic]

That kind of comment is hardly useful by any stretch of the imagination.

I’ve tried, really really hard to avoid reading reviews or getting online opinions of my work. This may seem somehow counter-productive, but when the majority of comments you see tend to be in the format of the forum example given above, you learn very quickly to just not bother. Every so often, I’ll get an email or message from someone who says ‘hey, you might want to read this review’ and I’ll always oblige. But I no longer ‘ego surf’. I believe it was someone awesome like Marilyn Monroe who said (and I parrot-phrase) ‘you only ever remember the bad reviews’. It’s absolutely true. You could have ten people praise your stuff and then see a comment like the one above. And that’s the comment you remember.

People often ask what it’s like to receive negative reviews. Well, if it’s non-constructive and simply dismissive in nature, it’s a little like getting gut-punched. No matter who you are, you’ve poured your heart and soul into the finished product. You’ve had sleepless nights over it. You’ve torn your hair out over it. You’ve made changes given to you by your editor that you later notice someone saying ‘xxx should have happened, not yyy’ and you can’t help shouting at the computer screen saying ‘but xxx DID happen originally’… and so on.

By contrast, constructive criticism is welcome. That way, you can learn from your mistakes and hopefully improve. Snark is not appreciated. If you don’t like something, justify it. ‘Not good, I’ll leave it at that‘ is genuinely silly and attention seeking. It smacks of ‘go on, ask me why I didn’t think it was any good’ and in its brevity, hints that nothing, absolutely nothing you can say will change that person’s mind.

I feel that I’ve been quite lucky and have avoided out and out nastiness, apart from over at a couple of Warhammer fora where they seem to have taken against me. And despite some of the incredibly hurtful – and occasionally personal – comments that are made, I no longer find myself bothered by them. Because at the end of the day, those people don’t know me. I also suspect that they wouldn’t imagine saying those things to my face were I standing right in front of them. Remember… always remember… the Internet Fuckwad Theory.

This is completely and utterly correct.

To the people who have read and reviewed my works, positively or otherwise – thank you for taking the time to do so. I appreciate it.

Right. Time to stop procrastinating and get back to Project: Carpark and the edits on Project: Comeuppance. And to email an editor to clarify something about Project: Needles…

Gold Medal Procrastinator

Nah, I’ll write about procrastinating tomorrow.

Joking aside, procrastination is such an art form when you’re trying to write. I am possibly the most easily distracted person in the entire world when I’m trying hard to concentrate. I try – really try – to structure my day. It goes something like this.

4pm – get home from work. Make cup of tea, check emails/Facebook/Twitter/kitten feeds/guild forum/anything else I can think of to drag out time.
4.30pm – 6pm – WRITING TIME! In an hour and a half, I can produce a –lot- of words when the writing flow grabs me. But in that hour and a half, I probably spend about half an hour of it poking around the internet. Ooh, an email. Ooh, a Tweet. I wonder what the kittens are doing?
6.05pm – wonder why I haven’t done as much as I promised myself I would.
6.10pm – make more tea. Tell self off. Focus. Write more in the next 20 minutes than I managed in the previous hour and a half.

Everyone says ‘switching it all off’ and sometimes I do actually manage to do that. But when I close off my social feeds, I feel horrendously lonely. I write best when I’m the only person in the house and don’t have the distraction of being spoken to, but just knowing that my Facebook friends and Tweeties are there is oddly comforting.

Writing is a lonely pastime. Most writers I know would agree with that. It suits me in that regard; much as I get a bit frustrated at being by myself weekend after weekend, I also rather enjoy my own space. But no matter how hard I task myself to an hour and a half stretch (usually with extra half hour-hours thrown in at weekends or when I’m particularly productive), I rarely stick to it.

One of my school reports from years ago included the advice from a teacher to other teachers. ‘Don’t let Sarah sit next to a window’. That’s true enough; whilst things are going on, if I have a window, I’ll frequently gaze outside, letting my soul soar on the wings of a passing bird whilst my physical self goes through the motions of being present and correct. Or incorrect. I’m a daydreamer and always have been. My head is in the clouds most of the time apparently. Wouldn’t that get a bit cold after a while?

Silly saying.

But… actually, that’s a perfect example of what an amazing procrastinator I can be. Even as I typed the phrase ‘head in the clouds’ in this blog, I thought ‘ooh, shall I go Google for pictures? For other suitably corny phrases?’ That’s how my brain works. I can take hours to look up a word in a dictionary or thesaurus. Another word on the page will catch my attention – particularly in the case of a thesaurus – and I’ll book-jump for ages and ages and eventually realise that I’m about a million miles from where I started.

I meander through the internet in much the same way. Someone might link a YouTube video and I’ll end up mooching off down the sidebar until I go from a Comedy Kitten Clip to a sand artist. I love the way things are linked together and enjoy following trails, particularly when they never end.

I don’t mind though. I enjoy having the multi-tasking capability of being able to be out the window fighting dragons whilst being present in the ‘real world’. I like to walk through the corridors of the hospital from meeting to meeting whilst plotting out the next scene of my story in my head. Sometimes I mutter dialogue to myself when I’m driving. I must look slightly insane whilst doing it, but I don’t care.

I’m always thinking. My brain is always creating and sometimes it gets more enthusiastic than it is at the important times. It’s a cruel trick of nature that my most productive time for writing has statistically proven itself to be 2am on a work night.

Curse you, brain.

Curse you.

Better Late Than Never

Late blog, due to having been in attendance on a training course all day. Appraisal Training for New Appraisers. Strangely entertaining, given how dry the subject could have been engaging trainer and just the right amount of content. Brain is not fried.

Came home and did some work on Project: Carpark. I’m behind on this project, but that’s self-inflicted. It’s because I decided, radically, to scrap the entire lot when I reached 35,000 words and have been re-writing and re-designing it all. This has put me behind schedule and that makes me pretty damned twitchy. Because that means I might, heaven forbid, be late.

Hence the title of this blog.

“Better late than never,” people cheerily say. Well, to those people, I say wrong! WRONG! I am cursed with being pathologically early for everything. I try, time and again, to be fashionably late, but arrive precisely five minutes ahead of schedule. If it does look like I’m going to be late arriving somewhere, I ring ahead and say ‘OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO BE LATE, THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD’. Invariably what happens in these circumstances, is the meeting I’m going to or whatever it is becomes unavoidably delayed due to other people’s lateness. Even my son was born two months early. Clearly he’s inherited this gene.

I blame it all on my dad. He worked for his entire life on the railways and worked with timetables. (Yes, yes, insert obligatory British Rail never being on time jokes here, heard them all). As such, whenever we went anywhere by train, there was an element of precision involved in the process. We needed to allow xxx minutes for parking, xxx minutes for walking to the station and platform, blah blah blah. Even now when I plan any kind of trip, I build these extra elements into the process. Checking in for a flight. Check in at least two hours prior to departure translates as ‘arrive an hour before check-in even opens’ in my bizarre trip-related lexicon. And when I’m writing – whether it be a short story or a novel – I plan out my targets and stress when I fall behind. I can’t help it. I hate inconveniencing other people by being late.

This is actually me. ACTUALLY ME.

Of course, the flip-side of that coin is those people to whom timekeeping means absolutely bugger all. Ladies and gentleman, exhibit A. The ex-husband. I now re-enact for you, via the medium of text, an exact conversation that took place and may perhaps give some clues as to the inclusion of the word ‘ex’ before ‘husband’.

ME: [The thing we’re going to] starts at 7.30. It takes us about twenty minutes to get there, so we need to leave by 7.00 at the latest.
ME: It’s 6.45pm. Are you going to get ready? (At this point there is a small, but distinct twitch under my left eye).
ME: So we’re not going then?
HIM: What?
ME: With it being, like 7.15pm now. And you not being… ready or stuff?
HIM: Eh. It’ll be fine.

We arrived at 8.15pm on that particular occasion. I was a wreck.

So yes. Off my tangent. Project: Carpark is better for the delete and re-build, but it has put me about 18k words behind schedule. Given that I have the Rest of August coming up, during which I have two weeks off work and intend to slob out a little, it’s entirely possible that September is going to become a pretty stressful month for me. but it’s OK. I can cope with it. I have really got to grips with the writing vibe again over this last couple of weeks and am producing stuff at a happy pace once again. I’m confident I’ll be on time with the completed thing. I’ve only missed one deadline so far since I started writing ‘for a second living’ and I was mortified.

But… if I have to ask for an extra couple of weeks, I’m not afraid to do so. After all…

Please may I be second mouse?

Rambling On…

It’s Sunday. Insert stream of consciousness here. This blog plot exists because I thought ‘I’ll just start writing and see where my thoughts take me’. It’s quite telling, actually, and lets you know what’s truly on my mind at the moment.

Well, it’s Monday tomorrow.

Every Monday, the same question gets asked in the office. What did you do at the weekend? Almost invariably, my answer is the same.


I mean, it’s not strictly true. Yesterday, for example, I got up, washed up, tidied the kitchen a bit, read for a while, did some computer stuff, generally mooched and had a great afternoon with my guild leader running around Hoth getting my first tauntaun mount. Which was enormous fun and is more sociable than you might think given that we were on Skype the whole time.

Today is another day of nothing. But again, that’s not true. This morning, I wrote another 2,000 words of Project: Carpark. I’ve washed up, I’ve swept up all the bits of rogue cat litter that Yuna decided needed ditching out of the tray and I’ve just sat down here with a cup of tea to write my blog. When I’ve done that, I might play Spellforce for a little while.

Why have I done nothing? Because Himself works weekends. He works in retail. It’s inevitable. I don’t have a circle of friends up here, so I can’t ‘pop out’ and see someone without making plans in advance and it involving driving a reasonable distance. There’s only so many times you can look around the same shops (and I’m also the world’s worst shopper), so I don’t go into town every weekend.

Basically, I’m boring. I am a little hermit crab of sullenness, tucked quietly away in my corner. But you know what? It suits me most of the time. Yeah, occasionally I go through the whole ‘OH GOD I’M SO LONELY’ phase, but it passes.

Have a couple of weeks off work coming up and Himself is off too. It’ll be weird spending Actual Time with him. I’m not entirely sure what we’ll talk about and we’ve been together for eleven years. Wait… eleven? Or twelve? I DON’T EVEN KNOW ANY MORE. I lose track of things when they reach double figures.

Either way, our wedding anniversary (sixth – I know THAT much) is on September 8th. Hard to believe that six years have gone by. I was looking at a couple of our wedding pictures the other day and being amused that the Son was barely up to Himself’s chest at the time. Now he’s catching up fast. Looking up to talk to your child after thirteen years of looking in a downwards direction was the weirdest experience of my life.

He was so tiny and cute! He is now taller than me. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

He was so tiny and cute! He is now taller than me. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

He starts his GCSEs when he goes back to school. That by itself fills me with great anxiety. Over the next two years of his life, his academic future is going to be determined based on the results of a few examinations. Will he do OK? Will he go on to study A levels and go to University? I don’t know. I really don’t. He has expressed a desire to become an engineer – with a professed interest in robotics and bionics. Will he keep that interest? I don’t know either. Over the years, he’s wanted to ‘grow up to be’ a variety of things from a potter, to an actor, to a man who creates bionic limbs.

For the record, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. When I was five and was asked that question in my first days of school, I remember answering that I wanted to be ‘an adult’. It made people laugh. I was serious. I still haven’t achieved that goal, though.

From the moment the Son was born, worries arrived. When he was born, eight weeks premature, the worry was a physical and very tangible thing. ‘Is he still breathing? Is he alright?’ Note: poking a sleeping baby to test that it’s definitely just sleeping seems like a bizarre thing, but when they start screaming at you in disgust, it’s the best sound ever.

I went back to work full time and left him in nursery. I cried buckets that day. I never wanted to leave him, but I had no financial choice. Work it was. I spent the whole day in misery, rushed to collect him and discovered that he’d had a grand day. It reached a phase where if I was told ‘he missed you today’, I felt smug.

He started school. A whole new swathe of worries. Will he get bullied? Will he behave in class? Well, yes. As it happened, both of these things occurred. The behaviour thing is awesome; the Son constantly gets comments about his good manners and his grown-up attitude. The bullying thing is also oddly awesome. Let me explain.

I was bullied at school and I think it gave me an irrational fear of the same thing happening to him. He went in loaded with the opportunities to be picked on. He’s a glasses-wearing redhead who happens to prefer the Indoors to the Outdoors. I worried about how he was being treated at school right up until the day he was doing his cycling proficiency.

Himself regaled the story. They were walking back down from the school. The Son was pushing his bike and still wearing his bike helmet. Note: at the time, he was about eight or nine. The helmet was a Power Rangers one, I think. You know. Like little kids have.

They passed the corner shop and there was a little gang of three kids sat there, one of whom was a known quantity – one of the nastier kids in the school. He led a little snarky call of ‘nice bike helmet,’ which resulted in sneering derision. I asked the Husband how the Son took it.

‘It was great,’ says Himself. ‘The Son smiled nicely, turned around, fixed this kid with a completely neutral expression and said at least I’m not so fat I can’t ride a bike‘ and carried on walking. The bully’s friends turned their derisive laughter onto him instead and by all accounts, this kid never, ever bothered the Son again.

I stopped worrying about that then. But that’s OK, because not long after came secondary school and adolescence and a whole bunch of new worries, which still persist. Right now though, the big one is finding myself fearing for his future. Will he be able to get a job? Will he have financial stability? Will he be happy?

That last one is the big one. I live for my son, absolutely and categorically. He is fifteen in February and rapidly reaching that point where I will have to let go of the baby reins as it were. Between me, the Husband, the Ex and his wife, we have done all we can to produce a fully fledged individual, capable of taking that step off the roof of our protection and let his wings help him soar as high as he dares go. I have faith in his common sense and intelligence. But it doesn’t mean I’m not scared. What I do know is that the minute he steps off that building, all of us will be on the express elevator to the bottom to deploy the net. Just in case, you understand.

All that I should REALLY be worrying about of course is that his plans to become a bionics/robotics engineer don’t result in some sort of Mad Scientist state of affairs.

It could happen. Right?