Another Week Over…

This year’s whizzing by quite quickly. Feels like no time at all since The Gildar Rift came out and yesterday, Valkia the Bloody was unleashed on GW shops. As part of this, I spent the afternoon loitering in Games Workshop at Durham, where I signed lots of copies of the book, along with copies of The Best of Hammer & Bolter v1, Age of Legends and some copies of Architect of Fate. I had a lot of very interesting conversations with people of all ages and the shop was buzzing very nicely.

I always enjoy these things, because it’s a pleasure to meet people who enjoy reading – not just my stuff, but anything. More than one conversation was had about other works of fiction; there was one girl, perhaps about 14 years old, who was keen for suggestions on other Fantasy genre books to read. She went away with a huge list, a copy of Valkia and a smile on her face. This is entirely good.

In terms of writing, I’m on a hiatus at the moment whilst the Editor-beast goes over a bunch of pitches sitting in his in-box. I’m sure this won’t last. It’s very odd, though; I’d gotten so used to writing almost constantly that to suddenly be doing less is a real wake-up call to how hectic I’ve been for the last 18 months. No wonder I’m tired!

Work is ticking over quietly; I’ve reached the stage now where I go in, do my job and come home again. I have no love for what I’m doing, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give it anything less than my all. Ploughing on, really. It’s just so frustrating. I work hard for no thanks and little reward and if ever a job could be considered dead-end, this is it. I can’t advance or progress, there’s nowhere to advance or progress to. And quite honestly, constantly fighting against the government’s outrageously stupid targets is soul-destroying.

Himself, on the other hand… is successfully escaping the clutches of his current pea-brained employers and has landed himself a job with Games Workshop. He’s going for his induction day on 9th July and this is entirely good for him. If he’s going to stay in retail, he’ll at least be in an industry he enjoys, doing something he likes with like-minded people and where the employers themselves actually invest time and effort in developing their employees. Still means I’ll not see him at weekends, but hey… perhaps that’s just me being selfish.

Oh – and a nice review of Valkia the Bloody appeared this morning at the Founding Fields.

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

Valkia the Bloody – Extract

E-book copies of Valkia the Bloody will be available tomorrow from the Black Library website. As part of this, today’s blog had an extract, which I shall duplicate here. 🙂

* * *

‘You could concede defeat to me now, girl.’ Locephax by the light of cold day was nowhere near the mysterious creature he had been by torchlight. The silvery hair sapped all of the colour from him and he seemed, to Valkia’s eyes, almost insipid. ‘Admit that I am your better and take your place at my side. Your days will be filled with all you desire and your nights will be spent in pleasurable ecstasy.’ His eyes narrowed to slits, the purple glow of them almost disappearing beneath his lids and long lashes. ‘I am offering you so much more than the snows of the north and the ingratitude of these barbarous people. If you come with me now, you will be a true queen.’

‘I will be your slave. That was what you said.’ She finally found her voice. ‘And that will not come to pass. Ever. Now still your tongue and fight me.’

‘I admire your courage and tenacity, Valkia,’ Locephax said with a cruel sneer on his face. ‘But I think you should know that I can maintain this for as long as necessary. And I can use many of my master’s gifts to help me. For instance…’

The man turned slightly and cast an expert eye around the carnage. Over the sound of her wheezing lungs Valkia could hear that there were still struggles going on amidst the chaos as her people sought to master themselves once again. Bodies lay everywhere, some clearly unconscious from their exertions while others lay in bloody disarray, their limbs and heads hacked away by frenzied hands. The Schwarzvolf were broken. The thought sent a new shock of anger through the exhausted queen. Her people, the tribe she had lifted from the dust and forged into the mightiest power of the steppe were broken. In the space of a single night this foppish stranger had undone the work of years.

Locephax was talking again and gesturing to the figures slinking through the shadows, but Valkia could no longer hear him. A fury was filling her, stiffening her tired muscles with a strength she did not know she possessed. She blinked the blood from her eyes and stared with naked hatred at the creature that had invaded her home. The man, if he truly was a man, was beckoning to someone. He still wore that disgusting grin on his face, clearly enjoying the destruction he wrought. She needed to kill him. It felt as though there was a colossal pressure building behind her eyes. It crackled along her limbs and filled her heart to bursting.

A voice in the distance roared in defiance and a detached part of her recognised Hepsus as he bellowed in denial. Every bone, every muscle, every sinew, every part of Valkia filled with the terrible need to tear Locephax apart, to cut the head from his shoulders and bathe in his blood. Nothing could stop her. A flurry of cinders gusted past her on the breeze, the dancing motes of ash and sparks seeming to crawl past in slow motion.

‘Blood…’ Valkia growled, though it was the voice of a stranger.

Locephax’s perfect, violet eyes widened fractionally in surprise and he started to turn. He moved so slowly she wondered how she had been unable to strike him before.

‘Blood… for the Blood God.’

Competition Time!

So. I have here, in my hand, a couple of copies of Valkia the Bloody which I’d like to put my scrawl upon and give away as competition prizes. I’ve pondered all day, wondering what I can do to make it fun and entertaining and then I hit upon the perfect solution.

Check out this website. We discovered it years ago and have had hours of fun with it. Play around. Get used to it. What I propose is… create your very own Warhammer (or Warhammer 40k) movie and post the link here! The ones that make me laugh the most will be the winners. There’s B-movie TV, Bombay TV and Abitbol TV. Use whichever you like, but please keep it reasonably free of bad language if you can manage it.

Let’s say until the end of next week – so Friday 18th May, entries are welcomed.

Over to you!

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.

Rollering and Coastering

I’m tired. It’s been a week of ups and downs. This is therefore a bit… stream of consciousness.

It started on a down with the death of the hard drive, as immortalised in my previous ‘Hard Drive Lament’ entry. It dragged me back, kicking and screaming, from my previously easily attainable February target. Let me just digress for a moment or two on the subject of targets. I’ve discussed them before in depth, but just to recap.

I set myself ‘bite-sized’ targets. X number of words by the end of January, Y number of words by the end of February… and so on. I have these written on my white board and it acts as a motivator to look up at it and go ‘YEAH! Only Z number of words left to go to reach target!’ Usually at that point, I do something painfully cliched, like this:-

Take that, air, you sunnovvabitch.

I know, OK? I know. But anyway, I glance up at the whiteboard and go ‘oh yeah. My golden target is within reach.’

After the hard-drive death, that attainability became less likely and I’ve been totally putting myself through hell over it. And here’s the really weird thing: I have no idea why! It’s not like I’m not well within the overall target or anything. But I have this near OCD-like need to reach (and exceed) that February target. As a result, I may have been pushing myself a lot harder this past week than I would otherwise have done. Not that this is particularly bad, or anything. Well actually it is bad. I work full time. Coming home and writing until my eyeballs threaten to pack and leave due to being so tired hasn’t done me any favours this week. But I’ve caught up. At least, as much as is humanly possible. February’s target is now back in my grasp. I am off work Tuesday and Wednesday. Hopefully at some point in the next three days, I’ll achieve Target Nirvana. The air will suffer more punching.

So that’s a kind of up-down thing; both good, bad and frankly, bloody silly. But that’s what I do best.

Let’s look at the UP of this past week, because there’s been a damn sight more of it.

UP NUMBER ONE

Aaron and Katie’s baby showed up on 21st February. After countless months of referring to their unborn child as ‘she’, they were probably somewhat alarmed to discover that ‘she’ was in fact a ‘he’. Alexander is no less gorgeous for the fact and little boys are the stuff of legend. (I may have a certain bias in that direction; although I was convinced Smallish was going to be a girl as well). There are very few things in the world as uplifting as the joy of a friend becoming a parent. They have all the tough early days and nights ahead of them, but all of us Experienced Parents know that it doesn’t last. I wish them every joy and happiness in their new family unit. I predict Alexander will commence his efforts to take over the world in approximately five years.

I predict he will be successful in six.

UP NUMBER TWO

Warhammer 40,000 celebrated its 25th birthday on Saturday 26th February. To mark this occasion, the Black Library released a special anthology of short stories called ’25 for 25′. 25 short stories all collected together in one place. Works out at… whatever it is. Something like 56p per story, which is frankly a bloody bargain. I am thrilled that one of my own short stories, Bitter End featuring everyone’s favourite deranged villain Huron Blackheart is one of those stories. It’s an ebook download which you can get here – no worries if you don’t have an eReader, simply acquire yourself a bit of free software like Adobe Digital Editions (free) and you can still enjoy it. I heartily recommend At Gaius Point by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – that’s been one of my favourite short W40K stories so far.

The subject of eReaders and the attitude of folks towards them may be the subject of a future rant, incidentally.

UP NUMBER THREE

It’s Black Library Live! 2012 this coming weekend (March 3rd). Lots of people gathered up at Warhammer World and taking over the tables in Bugmans Bar to talk about All Things Warhammer. I’m taking part in no less than three of the discussion panels (Space Marines, Warhammer Fantasy and Hammer and Bolter) and am looking forward to it enormously. The last two years have been great fun; but this will be the first time I’m there on the ‘other side’ of the table. If you’re going, I look forward to seeing you there. Among the pre-release books available on the day is the four-book anthology Architect of Fate which contains my novella Accursed Eternity.

UP NUMBER FOUR

Despite being off work for a week, I got caught up again. Huzzah for that. Additionally, I am in tomorrow (Monday), but am then off for the rest of the week. Such a nice warm feeling. Mmmmmm.

So yes. This week has been a bit of a wild ride, but I always liked roller coasters. Occasionally though, it’d be nice to be cruising along on the flat for a while.

Mind, that’d mean life was boring, and mine’s been anything but that over the last three years.

Long may it continue.

Additionally, how much fun does this roller coaster look?

DIVE! DIVE!

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…

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.