Gottle of Geer

I just finished watching Nina Conti‘s quite wonderful documentary about her life as a ventriloquist. I’ve long been in awe of the sheer talent and hours of practise ventriloquists have to put in to achieve their goal and for every Nina there must be a hundred whose attempts are not successful, but who still plug away, talking to a puppet. In essence, this documentary features Nina taking what she calls the ‘bereaved puppets’ of her mentor, Ken Campbell, on a pilgramage to Kentucky and the Vent Haven museum.

‘Bereaved puppets’. A wonderful phrase, and one that also brings to mind this incredibly sad picture, published by Warner Brothers in the wake of the death of the wonderful, wonderful Mel Blanc – an outstanding talent and one of my personal heroes.

The man. The voice. The legend.

There was something she said during the course of the programme (if you can access it on BBC iPlayer whilst it’s still here, do so – it really is a wonderful thing to watch) that resonated with me in my capacity as a writer.

In essence, Nina was talking about the ‘voices in her head’ and how the puppets bring out a dormant side of her personality. I think that’s true of me as a writer as well, except in my case the puppets are characters in my stories. Just as Nina spends a lot of time with her puppets trying to find their ‘voices’, I can’t write about a character if I can’t hear their voice. Sometimes, a quiescent character is louder than I anticipated and as a consequence, my attention goes in their direction.

Take Jeremiah, the scene-stealing swine. Dreamed up as nothing more than a passing character for The Gildar Rift, needed for nothing more than a scene to move the story on, the scratty little Navigator shouted far louder than I ever intended to. As a consequence, he caught the attention of my editor at the first draft stage. ‘More of him, please,’ was the request. So Jeremiah, smirking all the while, got to say more, do more, be more prominent than he was ever meant to be. The same is true for the character of Kormak in Valkia the Bloody. He was conceived with no purpose in mind other than to demonstrate just how far loyalty can be stretched… well, it’s not released yet, but you’ll see what happened there.

All my main characters have very distinctive ‘voices’. I also find that when I read other books, the characters take on tone and pitch; accents and inflections. If this doesn’t happen, then I consider myself completely unengaged with the protagonist. It may not completely ruin my enjoyment of a book, but it somehow becomes more… passive. I read the book in a neutral, clipped British accent; a narrator who pronounces every ‘h’, who sounds every ‘g’ and ‘t’ at the ends of his words. But when a character has a specific voice – and I don’t mean necessarily dialect (Gambit’s varying Cajun from X-Men, anybody?) – then they come alive. They step out of the page and talk to me.

Take Garviel Loken from the Horus Heresy series. In my head, he is a softly-spoken sort of character. At least, as softly-spoken as an Adeptus Astartes with bajillions of genetic modifications can be. I hear this constant note of query in his voice: as if he is questioning everything cautiously. Compare him to a character like Taryk Torgaddon, who blusters his way noisily around the Vengeful Spirit and it works perfectly. Belgarion, from David Edding’s Belgariad series whines his way around the world until he becomes a man. Then he’s much the same, only slightly deeper. Ce’nedra screeches, Polgara talks in very plummy English, Durnik is West Country to the hilt… do you see what I mean?

I think if you can’t find a character’s voice, it’s very hard to write for them. I have written a couple of Doctor Who stories since the new series kicked off (purely for my own entertainment) and whilst I found David Tennant’s Doctor Voice fairly easy to find and work with, I found it much harder to engage with Christopher Eccleston. It became a personal challenge and in the end, I think I managed it. I’m going to drop the story at the end of this post for those who might be interested. (Also, if you want to see any of the Ten stories, just let me know).

At the end of Nina’s documentary, she gives one of her puppets to the ‘Vent Haven’ museum and I have to admit that I was genuinely surprised at her choice. It had seemed to me that this was a puppet with whom she had engaged brilliantly. She also chooses to give another puppet to a young ventriloquist who impressed her. He must be about twelve or thirteen years old. “Do you want this puppet?” It’s a simple question and the sheer delight on the boy’s face is wonderful. “I would love it,” he exclaims and she hands it to him, explaining that she’s tried so hard, but she’s no good at it. She’s not talking about ventriloquism in that moment, because Nina Conti is an astonishingly competent and wonderfully talented woman. She’s talking about finding the puppet’s voice. And in the act of passing it to someone else, she mirrors the action of her own mentor.

If you can’t find a puppet’s – or a character’s – voice, the best thing to do is find another one.

Continue reading

Delayed Response…

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while as it’s in response to a question put to me at the recent Black Library Live event. It was a pretty straightforward question and it went something like this. It’s paraphrased. I’ve slept since then.

“How does it feel when you read a negative review of your work?”

Now, my assorted colleagues have touched on this subject in blogs across the interwebs in the time that I’ve known them. Mark Charan Newton’s comments here, for example along with the musings of the very fine Chris Wraight (Nicest Man on Earth, pat. pend.) There’s not really a lot more that I can add to this. When reviews of The Gildar Rift started trickling through the filter (the filter being my struggles to avoid fora and Amazon and the trickle being my inability to resist), I was – and still am – pleased that the majority of feedback has been pretty good. There have been one or two comments made in an assortment of places that have made me go ‘wait, what book were you actually reading‘, but on the whole, I’ve managed to store the negative comments away in a box. Very few of them are constructive negative comments. Those thatdo carry useful nuggets of information within them are considered.

It’s the most obvious thing in the world, it really is. Everyone likes different things. Some people like Twilight. I don’t, but that doesn’t stop others from enjoying it. Some people like Harry Potter. I do, but I’m well aware plenty of other people don’t. Each to their own. Different strokes for different folks. Horses for courses. (Would that be starter, main or dessert? YMMV.)

So to answer… once you get your head round the fact that all folks are different, it’s actually easy to deal with negative comments.

What else is new then? Project: Loophole has been bouncing along at a very satisfying pace this week, and Project: 4am is pretty much done and dusted subject to the relevant person’s approval. I’ve been contemplating putting a few words into Project: Backburner, but then got caught up in Loophole. I also have a previous project to re-visit and re-consider when one or two people have some time to spare me. So the writing’s been going OK. This pleases me. Ilikewriting. I never want to find myself in that place where it becomes a chore. When that happens… stop doing it.

Work… less said about that the better. This picture probably conveys far more than words.

Even the bunny can't comprehend the sheer depth of NHS-related stupidity.

The loft was boarded out and we’ve turned it into a useful space where the GW modular boards are now permanently set up. The scenery actually needs painting, but it does mean that now Dearly Beloved and Smallish have somewhere to thrash out their battles. And me too, I guess… once there is time, I shall be practising using those delightful Silver Skulls fellows. Thus far, they’re unbeaten. Get them!

Been watching Merlin from the beginning. It’s one of those TV shows that I always forget is on but have always enjoyed whenever I’ve sat and watched it. In this instance, I’m nearly done with season one and already find myself wishing I had season two. Pay day will come around soon enough, I’m sure. Incidentally, I’m aware that Merlin is another one of those TV shows that divides opinion, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It requires no heavy thinking, no deep, hidden meanings and the cast are great and interact very well.

Lancelot, though. Yeah. You would. Well, I would, anyway.

So all in all, another week trundles by without anything new to report other than an increase in the volume of Project: Loophole… and that was categorically meant to happen.

So here’s a picture that made me actu-lol today.



Lines. Dead ones.

In an uncharacteristic move away from form, a writing blog entry. This one’s on every writer’s favourite subject.

You want to write? Well, writing costs. And right here's where you start paying. In cold sweats.

Deadlines. Targets. Reaching the unreachable. That’s what a lot of this writing thing has been about for me. When I started writing, ages ago, I only ever wrote short stories. Due to the fact that when I’m in the Writing Groove and combined with my automaton-like 100+ wpm typing speed, I can turn out 2,000 words in less than hour (when the moons of Saturn are in phase with the cricket population of Western Samoa). But you can’t keep up a pace like that when you’re working on larger projects.

So here’s how I handle targets and deadlines. It’s a bit of a mathematical formula really. And given that maths was my least-favourite subject at school, it’s a wonder that I can work it out.

Target = Time+Daily Word Count.

Simple enough. Let’s say… you have four months to create 100,000 words. You sit down in front of your computer or your typewriter if you’re still so inclined and you ponder the formula.

So the first job is to break your 100,000 words down into big chunks. Over four months, it’s pretty straightforward. 25,000 words per month.

Each month has at least 28 days in it. That’s only 892 words a day. In the months with more than 28 days, anything else you write is a bonus!

See? It’s easy?

No. It isn’t.

Projects rarely start exactly on the first of the month, unless you’re either incredibly lucky or very brave. So you may find that your ‘four months’ is actually ‘three and a bit months.’ (That’s if you’re sensible. If you’re brave, you’ll write January off altogether). What happens if you start your project on January 20th? Already you’ve lost 19 days. That means your target for the first month, according to that formula, would be 2,272 words per day for the rest of month. Which again, is achieveable, but definitely more stressful. Particularly if you work full time.

But you know what? All this is rubbish anyway. Everyone fnds their own way of working. For The Gildar Rift for example, my targets were ambitious wee things. I met them – but there were times it got a bit hairy. I’d never planned my own writing targets in this way before and completely forgot to incorporate small events like ‘Christmas’ and ‘New Year’ and ‘complete bloody apathy’. When I sat down and planned out Valkia the Bloody, I was much calmer about the process. I had been through it before and knew my own limitations much better. Actually, I went a bit too far the other way and went massively over target as I was going along. Which is nice in a way. But it’s all a learning curve.

I strive to meet my deadlines. It’s a combination of several things, including (but not limited to):

  • a sense of personal pride;
  • the promise I made when I signed the commissioning form;
  • a pathological tendency to be on time (or early) for everything in my entire life; and
  • not a lot else.

I think the fact that I have to work to targets and deadlines in the Day Job helps enormously (believe me, my ability to tell you 14, 31 and 62 day dates from any given date is the world’s most boring party trick). I know that if a patient is on day 32 of their pathway, I need to start Prodding Buttock around the hospital to get things moving more swiftly. It’s the same with my writing. If I’m more than 1,000 words below my writing target the week before the end of the month, I unconsciously up my output. The thought of ending the month in some sort of word overdraft fills me with a sense of creeping dread.

I think it’s important that you don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make your daily target. Seriously, I can’t stress that bit of advice enough. Don’t beat yourself up!

Seriously. Don't do this. You'll look like a complete idiot, for a start.

If you struggle to output 500 words on one day, you’ll compensate on another day. It’s no big deal. Every one of those 500 words counts towards that 25,000 monthly target. If you’re doing brilliantly and the words are flowing, just keep going.

Also, monitor that progress in a visual way if that’s what works for you. I’m tragically sad about this. I have… yes. I have a spreadsheet with a line graph that makes me happy when I watch that little line creep up and up to the target line. I also have my whiteboard where I write up the monthly target and the current wordcount. It helps me. It might help you. It might not. Like I say, everyone works out their own way of doing things.

I’m ahead of January’s target, which is why I’ve not sweated this weekend. I’ve not written anything since Friday because I’ve been under the weather. But I also know that there’s still two more days in January for me to inch a couple of thousand words over January’s target and start nibbling into February’s.

It’s all good.

There. Optimism and all that. Let’s finish off with something suitably random, so here’s a hedgehog reading a newspaper. Wearing a strawberry as a hat.

He'd better not be reading the frelling Daily Mail.

Plan Ahe

Re: title of today’s blog. That always used to make me laugh. In fact, I had a badge with it on. I also had a badge with a smug looking dog and the caption ‘Don’t Eat Yellow Snow’ as well, so draw your own conclusions.

(Complete tangent: I chucked a few old CDs onto iTunes earlier, including a Best of Disney CD. Don’t judge me. But ‘The Best of Friends‘ from The Fox and the Hound just came on. Just hearing the opening bars makes me tear up. Damn that film. There is no film more capable of reducing me to incomprehensible weeping than that one. I own it on DVD. I’ve never been brave enough to sit and watch it since I bought it).

Anyway, planning ahead.

I’ve just started work on my next big project, known as Project: Loophole. At the moment, I’m entirely uncertain how much I can say about it. Probably more than I’m saying, but you know. Being cagey is fun. But it’s a longer term project, which means setting myself goals and targets. I enjoy doing that bit. I’ve cleaned off my whiteboard which was full of stuff I’d already finished and I’ve put down my upcoming targets. I’ve set up my new progress spreadsheet (because I really am that nerdy). I’ve even actually started the writing part of the project. I’m already complaining inside the cavernous confines of my own mind of course.

This is what it's always like for me at the start of a project. Honestly.

It’s a bit of a lie actually. Things haven’t yet gone horribly awry, but I’m not being as  productive as I’d like to be. I’m going to blame Christmas. Even that’s difficult because this year, for what’s probably the first time ever, I’m actually prepared for Christmas. In fact, I finished the majority of my shopping at the beginning of December. This confuses and upsets my usual last minute panic self. I’ve changed, man. I’ve become organised. I’m a traitor to the rebellious youth I was. I even came in from work tonight and sorted out a pile of stuff that’s been sat there for probably as long as we’ve been in this house. Which is… uh… eight years this year? Something like that. Shameful, I know.

(Sha la la la la la don’t be scared, you’ve got the mood prepared go on and… kiss the girl).

Anyway, Loophole.

Every time I start something new, I think ‘shall I approach it in a different way than before’? This time I’m feeling less inclined to beat myself up over word count because I know that when it matters, I can deliver. I also need to avoid something I did with The Pact which was to edit as I went along. That style of writing really, really didn’t sit well with me. I much prefer to get the words nailed down onto the page and then tweak them around. Then my editor beast gets his paws on the finished product and so far, I’ve found the editing process extremely useful. I’d like to say that I get frustrated at the editing stage just so I can use this picture.

This is all true. Or a lie. But that might be a lie also.

I’m excited about Project: Loophole because it’s something a little bit different for me and gives me a chance to get pretty creative. It also allows me to use a few characters who have been sitting around in the brain closet crying out for attention. They’re going to get their moment in the sun. So that’s keeping my mind pretty occupied for now.

Feedback on The Gildar Rift continues to slip in and it’s all still good. It got a four-star review in issue 217 of SFX Magazine, which made me feel pretty proud. Age of Legend, a WHF anthology is also now out in the wild and my Valkia short story Bloodraven has met with an apparently good reception. Valkia the Bloody comes out in July next year and I’m really looking forward to people seeing that one, because I am seriously proud of how it came out.

One of the other things that’s been nice to see is the number of people who have arrived here at the blog searching for Accursed Eternity which is my 30k Space Marines Battles novella, and one of the Architect of Fate arc. It’s a nice thought that people have read TGR and are looking for more stuff. Accursed Eternity is currently available as an e-book download, but comes out in a physical, new-book-smell form in May 2012 as well.

(Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side).

Right, well that’s my blog update sorted. That wasn’t even in the plan for tonight. See? Planning ahead doesn’t always produce results.

Back to the grind, the slog, the coal face, etc., etc., etc…


Before I get stuck into explaining the title… first of all, a very good review indeed over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, which was followed up with an interview by said reviewer. The Gildar Rift is pretty much officially ‘out there’ now: I received a text from my dad last week that simply said ‘seen it in Waterstones‘. I presumed he meant my book. I think he was proud. Actually, so was I when I went into the Waterstones in Durham yesterday and there it was on the shelf.

Bless it.

Anyway, advent.

Not, as you might think, (given the time of year) a reference to advent calendars or the countdown to Christmas in general. Instead, it’s one of those words that always evokes great memories for me. ‘Advent’ was the command line on my dad’s ancient TRS-80 to run ‘Adventureland’, the text-based adventure game written by Scott Adams about a bajillion years ago.

>load “Advent”

I loved those games and would devour them. I would oust my dad from the computer (bear in mind I was probably seven years old or something at the time) and would work my way through them with an intensity bordering on insanity. Imagine the thrill of this:-

You’re in a forest.

Obvious exits: North, South, East, West, Up.

You can also see: trees

There was such undiluted charm to those text-based adventure games. And you had to map your own version of it. And you had to struggle desperately with your computer to get it to understand what you wanted it to do. LIGHT LAMP. UNLIGHT LAMP. You wouldn’t believe how damn long it took me to get the latter one.

Here’s an utter joy, then. You can play all the Scott Adams adventures via Java online now. I’ve had so much fun and STILL struggle on occasion to find the right phrasing!

Then, a few years later, along came Prestel. And with Prestel came Micronet. And with Micronet came Shades, the first MUG/MUD I ever played. There I was, playing a text-based adventure game all over again, but this time, there were ACTUAL PEOPLE. People to whom I could speak. People with whom I could fight, win, lose, steal treasure… have quiz nights on a Thursday, throw snowballs at over the Christmas period…

It was a constant race to get from Novice to Witch/Wizard (depending upon your chosen gender… this was also my first slow discovery that men-played-women-and-vice-versa-on-online-games) in as fast a time as possible. This was before the days of anything remotely resembling broadband. Most people connected to Shades on a 1200/75 baud modem. Then there were the REALLY IT-savvy folks who had Atari ST’s and a piece of custom software called Ripper, which allowed you to create macros which essentially played Shades for you. And they all connected at twice the speed of everyone else.

Everyone hated those poeple.

And then there were the opportunities to meet up with these folks in Real Life at Shades meets… These things frequently took place at a pub on the top end of the Tottenham Court Road – The Sol’s Arms. I have no idea if it’s still even there, but I bet it heaved a sigh of relief when Micronet folded. Most of those people are still my friends today.

>w, w, w, s, grab girl, turn, n, w, n, e, dr t

Guess what? Yep. You can still play Shades online, too. Some things just never die. Despite my best efforts.

So from the humble beginnings of Scott Adams and his text-based adventure games, I’ve played a lot of these things. The Hobbit on the Amstrad CPC-464 had, y’know, GRAPHICS. This was amazing to a pleb like me. Can you believe it? Yes. You can still play all these games online now, too!

(An aside… Dearly Beloved recently invested in ‘The Ultimate Sega Megadrive Collection’. For his PS3. Seriously. A few hundred quid’s worth of equipment to be nostalgic on? Mind, I bought Lemmings for the PC not so long ago).

I graduated from the text-based school of adventure into graphic RPGs with games like Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders. And then the Monkey Island series. And Sam & Max. And Grim Fandango. And all the other Lucasarts point-and-click wonders that will never, ever be beaten. Then… then, along came Myst. Which plain creeped me out with its ambient sound effects and the sense that ANY MOMENT NOW something was going to  leap out of a bush and eat your face. I had many, many sleepless nights around that game and it wasn’t all because of staying up until stupid o’clock playing it.

So in time, it was almost inevitable that I would fall to the charms of World of Warcrack… craft. It’s been particularly fun for me because I enjoy the roleplaying element of it. It’s only a mediocre game to play in many ways… after all, you can only kill so many wolves in the woods (none of whom EVER appear to have nostrils, or whatever random body part you’ve agreed to find), but the RP element and the various Extra Things That Happen when you reach level 85 kind of make up for it. Kind of. My lingering problem with WoW is that my time is sort of limited really and so I ‘ve never actually learned the more intense element of the game. I hate going into random dungeons with Unknown People, because if you don’t respond to the barked ‘buff  now noob’ command that is suddenly issued within 0.4 milliseconds, you’re kicked out of the dungeon.

But I’ve lapsed. I’ve not been on WoW for a couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been fortunate enough to be beta-testing Star Wars: The Old Republic. And oh, I’ve been enjoying it. In terms of gameplay, it’s a lot like WoW. But for me, the best thing so far has been the random groups I’ve joined to do various flashpoints with. Without fail they’ve all been pleasant, fun, cooperative and a damn good laugh. And that makes things so much more enjoyable.

The quests are more engaging because the storylines are ongoing and pull you in. I think the fact that it’s voice acting is better than being able to skip through the text. There are so many quests in WoW where I’ve only ever gone quick precis, please, and skipped to the end, as it were. And… well, it’s VERY pretty. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed beta-testing it and now that the testing phase is over, genuinely feel bereft.

Also, lightsabers.


Well worth a play in my opinion, but in the meantime, go and play some of those fiendish Scott Adams adventures. Remember, kids. This was once the pinnacle of technology.

Now where did I put my bus pass?

Onwards, Upwards, Occasionally Sideways

This has been a pretty hectic couple of weeks. With a member of staff down at work, the day job became almost insane. I don’t begrudge my colleague her time off at all. But it does mean that life gets insanely busy. But you know, them’s the breaks. It does mean that my flexi-time remains at stupidly high levels, thus giving me the chance to take time off outside of my annual leave quota. So I took Friday off. I took Friday off so I could sort out Project: Bedfellows.

I have to say that this has been a complicated project for me; perhaps the first one that I’ve had any sort of ‘issue’ with. In my usual way, I’ve been trying to figure out what the problem has been and I’ve sort of narrowed it down to this fact.

Writing a short story on the back of writing two novels effectively back-to-back (with a break for a 30k novella) is a bit mental. Getting my head out of the ZOMGOOSE! EPIC! scale and back into short story land has been difficult. I keep wanting to tell more story than I need to. It’s damn good though, because it’s forced me to self-discipline the writing beast. I’ve also done the one thing with this story that I know I should never do… edit as I’m going along.

Everyone ultimately finds their own favoured way of working. For me, it’s get the story down and worry about the editing afterwards. This time, I’ve tried my hand at doing it the other way around. I won’t be doing that again. FIVE TIMES I’ve scrapped and re-started this story. I’m pretty pleased with where it is now, but that’s been quite stressful for me. Again, I think it’s because of the novel-writing mindset. I thought that switching from short story to novel would be the tough transition, but for me at least, it turns out it’s the other way around. Anyhoo, Project: Bedfellows should be finished in the next day or two. Then I can start giving thought to Project: Loophole.

So one way or the other, the last couple of weeks have been super-stressful. But I’ve had a really nice weekend which started with that Friday off work. Yesterday, myself, Dearly Beloved and Not So Small Anymore Son were down at Warhammer World. They nabbed a table and indulged in some ork-on-guard-action and I joined m’colleague Gav Thorpe in signing shenanigans. Gav was signing copies of the newest Horus Heresy novel, Deliverance Lost which I’ve been really looking forward to. I got home last night and read it cover to cover in about four hours. It’s not very often that I get a chance to do that with a book, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I enjoyed the guessing, I enjoyed the emotional rollercoaster that Poor Old Corax (and his single tear of emo man pain) goes through.

It also contains the Alpha Legion and well… I just love those sneaky little bastards, so all in all it was always going to be a winner for me. Totally enjoyable.

Check out Corax's emo MySpace shot.

It was a fun signing event. I enjoy these things, because I’m generally pretty affable and think that it’s nice to meet people. It’s all a bit crazy and overwhelming at times; there were at least three separate occasions yesterday when I felt slightly dazed by the whole thing and more than a little humbled by the people who made incredibly encouraging comments. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who asked questions about Valkia the Bloody, too – seems that she’s already got herself a lot of interest. She turns up in a short story in Age of Legend as well… doing what she does best. You know, the killing people for fun and profit thing.

Best of all was the chance to actually have a proper author-y chat with Gav. We’ve only met on a handful of occasions before and never seem to get the chance to just sit and Talk Writing. We did that yesterday and it was all pretty useful stuff. We also discussed the relative evilness of rodents and the fact that all chinchillas look like they are just waiting for the first opportunity to take over the universe.

I am plotting your downfall, pleb.

Woke up early this morning and took advantage of the fact to catch up on last night’s Strictly Come Dancing. OK, I know. But I can’t help it. I just enjoy it. Then I popped to the shop and bought bread, because I needed my toast fix… and now I have blogged and can no longer put off Project: Bedfellows…

There may be a signed-copy-of-The Gildar Rift competition later this week, once I think up something suitably evil.

And I can’t end this without sharing a link to the artwork for James Swallow‘s forthcoming Horus Heresy book, Fear to Tread. Because it features Sanguinius. And a Bloodthirster. Fighting. In the air.

It’s just so cool.

Happiness Is…

…knowing your dad and brother are safely back on terra firma after flying thousands of miles home across the Atlantic Ocean. I worried myself all night long. Fortunately for no reason.

…knowing that you’re picking up Not So Small Anymore Son tomorrow. I can’t tell you how much I miss him when he’s not here.

…almost reaching the end of a week that’s been exceptionally difficult at work for a variety of complicated reasons.

…looking over your shoulder and seeing one of the cats nesting along the top of the computer chair and purring whenever you so much as nudge into her.

…actually spending a bit of time RPing on WoW for what feels like the first time in an absolute age.

…having a conversation with your editor that results in you performing the little-known Chair Dance of Glee.

…all of the above.

It’s been a long, difficult week with some spectacular highlights. I’m looking forward to the weekend enormously: I’ll be signing pre-release copies of The Gildar Rift in Games Workshop, Durham. It’s also the store’s birthday so there are competitions, speed-painting contests, games and – most importantly – cake.

In this instance, the cake is not a lie.

Valkia edits are pretty much done and dusted: just one or two key changes to make and then that cheeky gutter snipe can be laid to rest. Project: Bedfellows has given me more problems than anything else I’ve written so far, but that’s in part due to the fact that I’ve been super-ultra-mega tired after work. I plan to rectify that on Sunday. The story is essentially written; it’s a question of jiggling around with the order of it. It’s fun, though. Lots of Prognosticator action.

Sleepy, now.




A great choice of subject heading, if only because it gives me an excuse to post this video again. This one never fails to reduce me to helpless giggles.

But there was a real treat for me this week. I actually spent money. This in itself is alarming; I am totally my father’s daughter and would happily sit in the cold and dark to save electricity. I am the original Scrooge and hate parting with money. This is in part because I rarely have any spare. The joys of being a homeowner. But obviously, since I now in effect have two jobs, my income has improved. So I treated myself to a new computer. This is its first blog post. It’s great, too. I put it to the WoW test last night and like some sort of newcomer, I spent a good fifteen minutes just flying around water and marvelling at the ripples. ‘Look!’ I shouted excitedly. ‘I can actually see into the distance!’

What unadulterated joy to have a PC that can play the only games I really enjoy properly. The last PC I had, which has now become Dearly Beloved’s – he games on the consoles – was an emergency buy after my previous computer just curled up one day and refused to ever start up ever again. Thus, it was a cheap ‘n’ cheerful off the shelf at PC World job. This little devil has come from here – and I tell you something, I can’t recommend these people enough. Their understanding of customer service is exemplary. From the very nice and completely honest sales guy to the fella who loaded the PC into the boot of my car on Wednesday, they were courteous, efficient and polite. They came highly recommended and I’m  happy to pass that recommendation on still further.

Of course, this is me we’re talking about. Thus, nothing ever goes QUITE to plan. In this instance it was entirely down to my own stupidity. It went something like this:

Wednesday 26th October

  • 12:30pm: Receive phone call to say my PC is available for collection. I am super-thrilled by this. I elected to come and collect is as the company are only about 30 miles away and it’s much easier than making arrangements for someone to be in to receive delivery. Plus… saving on shipping cost. See: earlier Scrooge comment.
  • 3:30pm: Leave work in a state of childish excitement. Drive up A1 to Gateshead and locate company. Watch with glee as PC is loaded into boot of car. Try not to perform happy dance in front of nice techy guys.
  • 4.30pm: Pop into PC World to buy a 4-way extension socket. Have recently rearranged the room in the house where the computers live and will need an extension lead.
  • 5.15pm: Get home. Unpack PC with great sounds of glee. Extension socket is long enough. Transplant my monitor from old PC to new. Plug everything in.
  • Except the monitor.
  • Because I have a VGA cable.
  • The graphics card has either DVI, HDMI or USB connectors on the back. Wish as hard as I might, no amount of swearing will turn the VGA connector in my hand into a DVI one.
  • Swear.
  • Curse.
  • Swear again.
  • It’s still a VGA cable.
  • 5:45pm: Realise that PC World down in Stockton will probably be open until 7pm.

    Yep. This is familiar.

  • Reach front door.
  • Walk back again. Check monitor. Yes, there’s a DVI socket in there. VGA-DVI? DVI-DVI? I don’t know about such things. I’ll go and check. Although given my past experience with the staff of PC World, I don’t know why I think they’ll know any more than I do.
  • Break speed limit down A19 and arrive at PC World at 6.15pm.
  • 6.25pm: Am scratching head because of a simple bit of wording on a cable package. It’s a DVI-VGA lead. Which seems straightforward enough. But the package says ‘THIS CABLE WILL CONNECT A VGA CONNECTOR ON A PC TO YOUR HD MONITOR’. Mine’s the other way around. It’ll work, won’t it? SURELY it’ll work?
  • 6.30pm: Still looking puzzled. ‘Hello there,’ says Nice PC World Employee. ‘Can I help you.’
  • Explain crisis.
  • Nice PC World Employee looks horrified at my question. ‘I… I… I’m not sure,’ he stammers, equally confused by the wording on the package.
  • 6.35pm: Spot DVI-HDMI cable. Thrust lesser VGA-based purchase at Nice PC World Employee and run to checkout. Buy it on premise that if it doesn’t work, I can take it back. Leave PC World wishing I knew about such things. Imagine Nice PC World Employee sobbing onto shoulders of colleagues who pat him sympathetically on the back.
  • 7.00pm: Get home. Plug things into other things. Push button. PC works.
  • And there was much rejoicing.

So all in all it proved to be highly entertaining if nothing else.

On Writing

Another pretty spiffy review of The Gildar Rift can be found at the Founding Fields website here. For the most part, feedback for TGR has been pretty positive and that’s made me happy. Had a message from a guy who read Accursed Eternity who said that it actually scared the living daylights out of him. Given that it was essentially written as a W40k horror story, I feel it safe to say ‘mission accomplished’.

BL released the cover art for Valkia the Bloody yesterday. It’s by the ultra-talented Cheol Joo Lee (whose incredible work may be seen in more detail here. A particular favourite of mine is this sketch). I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to have two such awesome cover artists for my first two books in Cheol and Jon Sullivan. The Valkia piece is exquisite: Cheol has such an eye for detail and although this is a low-res version and doesn’t really do her justice, you can still see how deliciously evil she is.

Valkia the Bloody

B-b-b-b-b-b-b-bad to the bone...

So Valkia the Bloody is released in July 2012, but in the meantime there’s a short story in the upcoming anthology Age of Legend, due out in January next year. I get to share space alongside other illustrious Black Library folk such as Andy Hoare, Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe, C.L. Werner and Ben Counter to name just a few! Now… it just so happens that the final treat for this blog entry is a signed copy of that anthology for the person who can entertain me the most by writing the rest of this limerick…

There once was a Blood God called Khorne…

Competition open until Monday 31st October.

Blood for the blood god!


Because, you know. French and whatever. Not So Small Anymore Son has spent the last week in France with the school. I only ever went on one trip with the school and that was the ski trip when I was in the second year. Or what they now call Year 8. I get confused by this new-fangled stuff. The ski trip was the thing of nightmares; a comedy of errors that only I could get caught up in (literally caught up in the Incident With The Drag Lift) and to this day, anything by the Stray Cats will set me off on a chain of memories that lead to night sweats and sheer terror. This track in particular.

Get the rockabilly vibe.

That track was on my Walkman whilst we drove down the autobahn at insane o’clock. Everyone else was asleep. I can’t sleep in transit, so I was staring out the window at the huge snowdrifts and listening to my Stray Cats tapes (note: young people, Google it. Cassette tapes. You haven’t lived until you’ve had to wind the entire spool back into the tape with a pencil).

And then my Walkman refused to work any more. It ate the Stray Cats tape. And I was sans music for the rest of the journey and had to listen to the person behind me snoring like a walrus with a cold being hacked to death by a chainsword. It was the first omen in what would prove to be a… bizarre week. Involving drag lifts (as mentioned), the absolute certainty that I was about to die, being teased because I was the only girl on the trip who liked the A-Team…

I discovered several things during that school trip so many years ago.

  1. I hate cassette tapes.
  2. I can’t sleep in transit.
  3. Never catch a drag lift and go up leg-first.
  4. There are fences in the most unexpected places on mountain edges. Just because you are careening towards a sheer drop doesn’t mean you will die. Do not suddenly wish you were religious. Instead, save your energy to save face after the inevitable collision with said fence and tangle of limbs that ensues.
  5. Side-stepping down the entire mountain is tiring. But the only option for several of us who’d never been skiing before and were told to ski to the bottom. Alone.
  6. I hate skiing.
  7. Liking the A-Team is fine.

I also discovered the joy that is Ritter Sport Marzipan during that trip. I still go all foamy at the mouth if I see it and have to buy it.

Anyway… that was in 19… er… it was quite a long time ago. I remember that in the middle of the week, everyone crowded round the pay phone with a handful of schillings and called home to our anxious parents to reassure them that we were Still Alive And Hadn’t Fallen Down A Mountainside. One phone call for the length of the entire week. The Small’s school are modern and hip and all that jazz. They video blogged the day’s events every day of the French trip. The Small sent me a text every night.

I turned into a complete voyeur in this last week. I would sit impatiently on the school’s website waiting for the video blog to upload. Then I would watch a bunch of kids I don’t know getting up to an assortment of antics in a French town I’d never heard of in an effort to catch a glimpse of my son. There’s the back of his head, I would say, hopefully. Dearly Beloved would shake his head. ‘No?’ ‘No. That’s his elbow, just out of shot, there.’

That may be a little unfair. He did show up in a couple of shots, and my word, he looked bored. Whether it was just an unfortunate camera moment or whether he actually was bored remains to be seen; he’s home today and he’s coming here tomorrow from his dad’s, so I plan to take him to lunch (probably not baguettes) and interrogate him.

Also, I’m glad he’s home.

In other news, Accursed Eternity, my novella from the Architect of Fate Space Marines Battles book went live as an ebook today over at the Black Library site. I love the blurb. It goes…

An Architect of Fate novella. Space Marines of the Blood Swords and Star Dragons Chapters are enlisted by Inquisitor Remigius of the Ordo Malleus to storm the infamous daemonship known as the Accursed Eternity. But all is not as it first appears, and what should have been a relatively simple mission rapidly devolves into a hellish warp-spawned nightmare – the stage is set for a galaxy-spanning tale of Chaotic intrigue and of a war which has lasted for ten-thousand years…

And the cover for the ebook is ultra-pretty:

Accursed Eternity

Looking for a good time? You took a wrong turning, me laddo. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA etc.

Edits for Valkia the Bloody are going very well; up to chapter 13 of 17, so that should be in to the Editor Beast by Sunday. Then I have what we shall call Project: Bedfellows to crack on with and there’s a couple of other Things in the pipeline. Also, there’s another couple of pre-release Gildar Rift signings – one in Durham on 12th November and the other at Warhammer World on 19th November.

Busy, busy!

Love it.

Au revoir!


I hit the completed first draft of Valkia the Bloody last night, reasonably ahead of schedule. Gives me lots of editing time which I’m pleased about. I’ve enjoyed writing this book and I’m actually looking forward to going back and reading it again. I’m one of those writers who prefers to get everything down… to capture the actual story and then go back and get editing. I suspect that as I keep moving forward, I’ll change that practise, but for now, that’s how I roll.

That’s how I roll. Reminds me of this cartoon that Jon Green posted earlier today. It made me chuckle. Thus… sharing.


So. Now that Valkia is at first draft status, this means I can take a wee bit of a breather. And it will have to be a tiny break as I need to finish up Project: Blimey, Who’d Have Thunk? Over the last six months, I’ve written so much stuff that I can hardly remember whether up is down or left is right. Everything is such a whirlwind. The ‘day’ job has been hellishly busy which has meant that I’ve been pretty tired when I get in from work. In a ‘meh, I’m tired, I don’t wanna write’ kind of a way. It’s impeded on my precious World of Warcraft time, has meant I haven’t really had a proper go at Space Marine yet… and yet I love it. I love how busy I am.

Life is good.

Heading down to Warhammer World this Saturday (15th October) for another scribbling session, in the company of the illustrious C.Z. Dunn who will similiarly be scribbling over copies of his W40k game book, Hive of the Dead. I’ve not yet got my grubbies on a copy of this tome, but I intend to on Saturday. By Sunday, I fully intend to be emailing him and whining about how crap I am at game books. I was always dreadful at the Fighting Fantasy games years ago and I suspect that dreadfulness will have been ported into adulthood. My brother always used to tell me I was a terrible cheat.

Speaking of brothers (which we were in a roundabout sort of a way), check out this uber-picture of the Primarchs by Neil Roberts. Clicky for details.

Imagine popping out onto the balcony for a quick ciggie and finding this lot standing there.

What else can I regale you with? Not a lot, really. The nights are getting darker and we now have to switch the bedroom light on when the alarm goes off. Soon, the clocks will go back and winter will have us in its grip. This is actually fine by me, I like winter. As long as any snow we have this year doesn’t hang around. Nothing personal against snow other than I hate driving in it. I trust my own ability to drive in the snow and ice, but my word… some of the muppets who insist that WHITE STUFF DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING TO ME and still hurtle along at break-neck speed… they scare me senseless.


Right, enough rambling, I’m going to go fire up Valkia and start nudging it about. Not too hard, she’s a reasonably scary wench and I don’t think she would take too kindly to being nudged about unnecessarily.


Dan posted this picture, taken at Games Day on his blog earlier. I love it. We’re not QUITE as impressive as the Primarchs, but a motley crew nonetheless.

The Writist Squad muster for battle. Or it may actually have been mustering for dinner. I forget. Whatever.