Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

I’ve always liked autumn. It makes me think of my mother.

My mother used to create oil paintings. Almost invariably, they were scenes of mountains, rivers and trees. Mum liked these things and she enjoyed putting them onto canvas. It was always a scene of a river leading off into a lake with a mountain in the background. Sometimes when I see one of her paintings, I like to think that’s where she is now and that one day, I’ll be walking along the banks of the river, next to the trees and she’ll be there, just beyond the picture’s reach.

She liked autumn colours most of all.

Not long before she died, she promised me a set of four paintings; the same scene in all four seasons. She only ever did the first one. She picked autumn.

See? Just around the bend in the river, behind the trees.

I keep meaning to sort out a frame for this painting, because the one she put on it got broken in one of the many house moves I’ve had since she gave it to me. But whenever I look at it, I remember her and it’s a nice feeling. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about her, or miss her or wish I could have ‘one more conversation’ with her. She always knew the right thing to say or the right little gesture to make everything right. That’s a mum’s job, I think. I like to think Not So Small Son thinks that way about me. I’d ask him, but he’s currently engrossed in a game of Team Fortress 2 with headphones over his ears, happily oblivious to his mum pouring her heart out on a blog post.

Bless.

So anyway, yes. I like autumn. There’s this heady ripeness about it as a season. If spring is the playful childishness of a year whilst summer is its exuberant youth, autumn is the mature part of the year. The year in its prime; with the capability of slipping back into a summer day without warning or freezing you into two duvets. Autumn is a season that’s all about the senses. The colours in the trees, the smell of frost in the air and bonfires; the smell of the leafmould in the woods. The sound of dead leaves crackling underfoot and the sounds of fireworks (which seem to pretty much herald the arrival of autumn now!). It’s a bountiful time and I’m grateful for all that I have. Every so often, I stop to remind myself just how incredibly lucky I am to have a roof over my head; a husband and son who I love more than anything and outstanding friends.

In other news, Tales of the Nun & Dragon is now on release; early feedback has been very positive, including on my own contribution, the rather tongue-in-cheek Ballad of Gilrain, a story featuring a less-than-competent hero and his long-suffering servant who set out on a quest to slay a dragon.

Edits on Project: Loophole are going pretty well – for those of you who haven’t seen me mention this on Twitter, this is a Silver Skulls novel. My revised manuscript is due in at the end of September and I’m happy to say that after a few… less than productive weeks, I’m back on form and words are flying freely once again. Things are good on that front. I’m not going to Games Day this year which is a shame as I loved it last year, but the Black Library Weekender in November is coming up and I’m looking forward to it enormously.

Project: Backburner is sitting demanding some love once I’ve done with that, too. Project: Backburner is an urban fantasy story set locally (for me) in Durham and again, is not Entirely Serious.

Have an extract. Enjoy autumn.

EDWARD LEWIS FLANAGAN III had been born into the world some thirty six years previously, in a small town outside of Dublin. The youngest of six, he was also the only boy – and the horrors he experienced growing up at the hands of all that oestrogen had stood him in excellent stead for the path his life would take.

His childhood was supremely normal, apart from the expected mocking he received from the other children due to his apparently comical initials. ‘Little Elf’ was the nickname he received on his first day at school and it lasted barely more than a week before the five year old Ed – known even then by his family as ‘Just Ed’ – was in trouble for fighting.

Apart from this demonstration of ferocity, he was a remarkably placid boy who was well liked by his elders and peers alike. He was polite, well-mannered and intelligent. It was this intelligence that led him to Durham University to study Ancient History.

He had long yearned to get out of Ireland and studying offered him a route that came with the additional benefit of indulging his favourite thing. Ancient History fascinated Ed. He had keen hopes of either becoming a museum curator, a lecturer or, at a push, Indiana Jones. His brief sojurn into archaeology ended when out of boundless enthusiasm (and in an attempt to get laid) he had accompanied a girlfriend on a trip to the Outer Hebrides. Sitting for endless hours in an ancient midden, discovering what coprolite was had started out quietly entertaining.

Then, as time wore on, with the rain hammering down on him and with the real archaelogists sneeringly laughing at what they called ‘the wrong kind of trowel’ any of Ed’s Jones-like tendencies had been severely dampened.

It also put a permanent dampener on the relationship.

He came back from the field trip to the loving embrace of academia and was glad for it. They hadn’t even managed to sleep together, either.

Durham had captivated him from the moment he had stepped off the train. The cathedral, standing its silent vigil above the Wear peninsula on which it stood drew the eye wherever you were in the city. The uneven, steep city centre with its plethora of mysterious little passageways that went the heavens only knew where… there was everything in Durham for a young man with a curious mind and a great imagination.

The Lazarus Effect

So I’ve not blogged much for a while. Actually, I’ve not done a lot of anything for a while. This is down to a number of reasons, entirely too plentiful and yet outstandingly dull to go into detail about here.

So instead, the weather. Seeing as that and 50 Shades of Grey are the only things people seem capable of discussing, why not join in? What about that rain? Seriously. It started raining sometime in May and has been pretty determined to make life miserable ever since. Ironically, my mood has possibly not been helped much by the persistent precipitation. Perhaps with the sudden emergence of sunshine from behind the dull, sodden clouds, my mood is about to take a swing in the right direction?

I digress. Some writing stuff first.

I’ve been working on edits for Project: Loophole for a few days now. This is the first of my projects to date that has fairly major changes to be made and it’s a very steep learning curve. It’s one thing to make a few tweaks to a story here and there; to insert a few extra scenes featuring a particular character (a’la Jeremiah in TGR), or to slightly change the thrust of a chapter. It’s something entirely different to do what is, in essence, a rewrite. I’m learning as I go and it’s a relief that quite a lot of stuff can be salvaged whole, or only slightly re-written to make it fit that little bit better.

Also, to end speculation on the matter and to directly reply to those of you who’ve demanded the truth from me… Project: Loophole is novel-sized. It features Silver Skulls. A lot of Silver Skulls. It now also features an extra contingent of Bad Guys who weren’t in the original completed manuscript. I am very enthusiastic about them and after a few conversations back and forth with my editor, very excited to get them written in. I’m about to start doing that bit and that’s definite woken up my writing mojo. Due to the aforementioned apathy and its associated reasons, my enthusiasm for… well, anything really… has been severely impaired for a few weeks.

Feedback on Valkia the Bloody continues to be pretty positive, which is a boost to the ol’ flagging spirits when you’re a bit low.

The Lazarus Effect is thus so far applying to me personally and to Project: Loophole.

I’ve done some Other Writing too; I’ve written a light-hearted fantasy story for an upcoming anthology called ‘Tales from the Nun and Dragon’ from Fox Spirit which is due out in August – see here – and I’m busily writing another submission for Something Else.

Next up, some work stuff. This will be brief.

Work has been terrible. I have been very determinedly job hunting and may have an interview next Friday. I’ve been sent for shortlisting which is a good sign, but I’m still waiting for the final yay/nay on whether I actually have an interview at all. The fact I’ve been shortlisted is frankly brilliant, because the role calls for a certain number of qualifications that I don’t have – but I have equivalent work experience. It’s heartening that this has obviously been taken into account. Of course, it also increases the possibility of losing out to someone who has the qualifications. But who doesn’t necessarily have the work experience to back it up.

Difficult one that.

In the meantime, I’m planning to hold out here for another couple of months at most and then fall back on temp work if I can’t find something permanent. The aforementioned aforementioned apathy is largely in part down to work-related stress and to be honest? It might be a case that it pays the bills, but it’s not worth getting unwell over.

So Project: Find Another Job is well established.

Been watching ‘The Hollow Crown’, the BBC adaptations of Richard II, Henry IV pt 1 & 2 and to come, Henry V. And they have been utterly, utterly wonderful. If you haven’t watched these, do it. They are amongst Shakespeare’s greatest plays (for me, at least) and I can’t wait to watch Tom Hiddleston as he flounces about Agincourt this Saturday…

All in all, life ticks over without much difference (but with increased stress). Some wonderful things have happened and some less than wonderful things have emerged to take their place. Equilibrium is not quite yet restored, but it’s definitely getting there.

To paraphrase ADB’s Night Lords… so how are you, then?

 

May? Wait, what?

And then it was May. Beltane. May Day. Whatever floats your boat. You think about May and you think of things like this:

May. It should be like this.

Instead, we’re being treated to a surfeit of this:

Even the ducks have been complaining.

Honestly. The United Kingdom. The only place in the world where we have hosepipe bans and a drought in the ‘rainiest April since records began’. It’s not only been wet, it’s also been very cold. However, I am my father’s daughter and I staunchly refuse to put on the central heating unless I am shivering. More layers, he’d say. Go and put on a jumper. I grew up in a house without central heating (although we had some mad warm air convection heating thing downstairs. It was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard) and so I cope with the cold better than the Boys. I’m actually sitting here with my coat still on (I’ve been in from work for an hour) and even I’m thinking of putting the heating on ‘for a bit’.

My left shoulder-demon is telling me that I should enjoy the luxurious splendour of a centrally heated house. The right shoulder-angel is telling me that I should mind my pennies. Kronk has nothing on me, I swear. These guys bicker all the time.

I'm gonna lead you down the path that rocks...

In other news:

I haven’t seen Avengers Assemble yet. The current plan is to go and see it on Sunday when Dearly Beloved is not at work. The over-zealous enthusiasm for it that’s doing the rounds on the interwebs is kind of putting me off if I’m brutally honest. Sometimes I feel like that about books as well, or books by certain authors when people go ‘OMG IT’S A BOOK BY <INSERT AUTHOR HERE> IT’S BRILLIANT AND THE BEST THING EVER’ and God help anybody who has a differing opinion and dares to express it. Sometimes I find it disheartening that there are so many people out there who seem incapable of recognising that everyone has differing opinions (apart from those who can’t form opinions of their own).

Speaking of disheartening, the day job has become something that I can only just about bear. My workload has increased massively over the past six months or so, which may just be a slight glitch in the flow of patient referrals, but there’s no sign of it easing off. I work very hard at what I do for not very much return. Having one of my major projects ripped apart by a consultant who genuinely didn’t have a clue what he was talking about was galling, but I’m not massively concerned when the hard evidence exists to prove my point. But it just wears you down. I can never wait to be out of there so I can be at home, where I am happy and where I can do the things that matter. Spend time with Dearly Beloved and Smallish. Torment the cats. Write.

On the subject of writing (neat, eh?) I sent off the first drafts of Project: Loophole and Project: ME, ME, ME to the editor-beast over the last couple of weeks. Next to look at are (in no particular order at this point) Project: Hunting Wabbits and Project: Who Shall It Be? On top of that, Valkia the Bloody is due out in the next few weeks, too.

Architect of Fate is on release to the wider public now and a couple of very nice reviews have slipped in, including ones from SF Book Reviews and Starburst Magazine.

Project: Backburner is very low down on the agenda at the moment, but I’m thinking of spending a few hours on it over the next week or two whilst I draw breath and recover from Loophole and ME, ME, ME.

So the writing thing is going brilliantly. I’m job-hunting like it’s going out of fashion… and I’m going to go and put the heating on.

What a rebel.

Out and About

I don’t get out much. So to actually look ahead to Things I Am Doing This Year is quite startling. As an aside, whilst Google-searching for appropriate images to use for ‘Out and About’, I found this one. It worries me enormously.

Bury People First? BEFORE you push them in front of the bus? WHAT? Oh, English language, you are funny.

 

In a week’s time, we’re taking a short trip Down South to see friends. It will be Smallish’s thirteenth birthday whilst we’re away and I have it on good authority that he wouldn’t dare to turn into Kevin the Teenager at midnight in someone else’s house.

Just a little over three weeks to this year’s Black Library Live event! Really looking forward to it. This will be our third year of going and we’ve had a blast both times previously. The difference this year is that I’ll actually be on the ‘other side’, sitting on seminar panels and what have you. I enjoy that kind of thing, I’ve invariably found it a lot of fun. Add to that the fact that I’ll be seeing many awesome people and meeting new ones and all in all, I can’t wait.

I’ve also signed up to this year’s alt.fiction event as well. I definitely enjoyed last year’s and found it to be incredibly interesting and useful. I picked up quite a lot of good hints ‘n’ tips on writing in general and met a bunch of very nice people. Looking forward to that as well.

A week after getting over alt.fiction, I’ll be heading down to London in April for the Salute wargaming event. I’ve never been to this one, but looking at some of the photographs from last year’s event, I’m VERY much looking forward to seeing some of the miniatures there. There’s a whole swathe of insanely talented people out there who can paint the most incredible models and I’m filled up with complete respect for them. My Silver Skulls army is largely being painted by Dearly Beloved, who has the patience and ability that I don’t have. I’ve been doing the ‘necessary evil’ element of basecoating and black washes for the most part, but I’m trying.

Later on in the year, depending on a few factors, we will be taking a trip to the US to see friends in Texas. Now that I’m looking forward to for the fact that it’s seeing friends and involves a trip to a part of the US I’ve never been anywhere near.

All these things make the nasty work element that fills in the time inbetween a little more bearable.

The day job continues without ever improving, but conversely doesn’t really get much worse. Mustn’t grumble and all that.  Project: Loophole is now more than half-done and I’m looking forward to that fun ‘bit just after the middle’ I experienced with both TGR and Valkia when the writing mojo gets a proper lick on. I had a couple of good writing days over the weekend (in terms of actual output volume), but then proceeded to delete a whole bunch of it after shouting a lot at the computer.

Oh well, back to it! Not long until the Out and About starts. Until then, I’m In and Here.

To wrap up, a picture about confidence.

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.

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.

Sleep.

Mmm.

Treat!

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!

The Great British Public… and other animals

Greetings, programmes!

So, I got to take a trip to the Games Workshop store in the Plaza on Oxford Street at the weekend. In London. All by myself. Well, I travelled all by myself. I was greeted at Kings Cross by my dad and brother who travelled up to meet me for lunch. Which was very pleasant indeed. It was about a gazillion degrees, which is slightly unnatural for the 1st October and three and a half hours on the train left me feeling decidedly warm.

I joined up with the very delightful Nick Kyme who was signing copies of his latest release, Nocturne. It’s the last book in his highly enjoyed Tome of Fire trilogy. I finished it on Saturday morning before I left for London and in response to his ‘how did you find it’ question, I gave him a lower lip sad look. I’ve enjoyed the series and am sad that it’s over.

It was a highly enjoyable afternoon of signing copies of The Gildar Rift and meeting more incredibly nice people – including fine folks from the Bolthole, the Overlords and one guy I’ve known for about 23 years and who I haven’t seen for over 10. He came into town just to see me, which was outstandingly decent of him. The mighty James Swallow rolled by to give us support (and to eat my Haribo) and it’s always a pleasure to see him.

Much fun was had; Nick and I were photographed shooting each other with plastic flint lock pistols… (the store had gone all piratical in honour of the release of Dread Fleet. Which is, by the way, utterly gorgeous and is sitting on the side waiting to be played).

This is what happens when an author turns in a late manuscript. No, really.

Finished the signing and crossed Very Hot London back to Kings Cross for my 17:30 train back home. Got onto the train with ten minutes to spare, found my seat and settled down with my copy of Hammer & Anvil (I’d finished Faith & Fire on the way up to London*) and got comfy.

17:35, the driver announced that there was a ‘problem on the train and that engineers were working on fixing it.’

17:55, the driver sheepishly announced that ‘the engineers couldn’t fix the problem, but THAT’S OK PEOPLE! If you cross the platform, that train next to you will take you where you need to be.

In the traditional scrum that ensues in these situations, I crammed everything back into my backpack and followed everyone else across the platform onto the other train. I re-settled and caught the eye of the lady sitting opposite.

‘Is this train going to Darlington?’

‘I hope so,’ I replied with a rueful smile. ‘If it does, then I’m going in the right general direction.’

‘Me too,’ piped up the fella opposite her. ‘I’m going to Newcastle.’

We chuckled about the confusion of it all and established, quite cheerfully, that OK, we were now 30 minutes late, but if we were on the wrong train, we would all have a Great Adventure together and wouldn’t be lonely. It was all lighthearted and a lot of fun.

18:00 (ish), the train pulls out of the station.

18:02, the woman sitting in front of me starts to complain. She complains that she’s late. She complains that she’s not in the seat she was reserved (note: the train was half-empty and was de-classified. She could have sat in First Fecking Class if she’d wanted to). She complains that it’s too hot on the train. She complains that the wi-fi is a bit rubbish. She complains about everything. She has a go at first the refreshment chap and then the ticket inspector. Then she has a go at the refreshment chap as he goes by a second time.

She complained.

And complained.

And COMPLAINED.

All the way to Doncaster. When she got off, about seven people in the carriage genuinely cheered. I wasn’t one of them, but I was joining in silently. Seriously. It was the most irritating thing I’ve ever heard on a train. It was the fact that she eventually started complaining about pathetic things. The coffee didn’t taste right. The sky was the wrong shade of blue.

When I was growing up, my dad worked for what was then British Rail. I always remember a little poem he told me about the communication cord, for which you get a fine if you pull it without good reason. It used to be £50. Do they even have them any more? Or would you just Tweet up to the driver and say ‘STOP THE TRAIN!’ ?

I digress.

The poem went:

If fifty pounds you can afford
Then try your strength upon this cord
If fifty pounds you do not own
Then leave the bloody thing alone.

I tell you what, I’d have paid £50 gladly to get this woman put off the train. I’d have paid £100 if she had been THROWN off.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? She was so typical of people in this country. Lightning fast to complain, but never comment when they receive good customer service. Once, in Sainsbury’s, there was a checkout lady who was just so, so nice. She saw I was struggling with a full load of shopping and a then-one year old baby and she helped me pack and even told off the person behind me when they tutted loudly about how slowly the queue was moving. I stopped at the customer service desk on the way out and asked for a form so I could leave a compliment and thank you note for the member of staff.

The two girls behind the counter blinked slowly and looked at each other.

‘I… think we have something like that…’

‘Hold on.’

The one disappeared behind the counter and then re-emerged with a sheaf of paper that had a layer of dust about seven inches thick on top of it. Spiders had lived and died for generations on that pile of paper. Archaeologists could have found evidence of tiny civilisations if they’d looked hard enough.

The vocal minority likes to complain far too much. Let’s start a new trend! Why not make it a focus, the next time you receive great customer service, to compliment the person behind the counter who smiles at you? Or to tell their manager on the way out the door? Or to phone their head office and say ‘so and so was great – thank you!’ My mother worked for years in a shop and she always got a huge kick out of people thanking her. She gave me many tips for life and one of those was ‘thank you costs nothing and means everything’.

With that in mind, thank you for listening to this brief rant.

And in my writing-related news roundup:

  • my latest short story, Bitter End – featuring Huron Blackheart being a back-stabby git – is now available in the latest ish of Hammer & Bolter (12).
  • Valkia the Bloody is now more than 85% complete and should probably hit first draft stage in the next couple of weeks.
  • I am swamping my poor editor with ideas. He may have drowned by now.
  • The Gildar Rift is due out on 5th December, but there are at least two more signing events planned – 12th November at Games Workshop in Durham and 19th November at Warhammer World in Nottingham. There may be more yet… watch this space!
  • Check out this pretty damn fine advance review (spoiler free!) of The Gildar Rift by the illustrious Shadowhawk.