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.

Competition Result

Just a quick update… thank you to everyone who sent me a limerick. I had a good chuckle and like judging anything, it wasn’t easy to pick out the one I liked the most.

However, in this instance, the winner is ROB P with this little ditty that actually made me laugh out loud.

There once was a Blood-God called Khorne
an image of fury and brawn
but when Bambi’s mum died
the soppy sod cried
and many years on did he mourn

So… thank you everyone and well done Rob! I’ll be in touch shortly to sort out sending you your signed copy of Age of Legend.

🙂

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!

Celebrations!

Champagne cork

Watch it! You'll have someone's eye out with that thing!

WOO HOO! Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2… well, 1 and 2.

1 – Valkia the Bloody

A brief ‘for posterity’ update.

Completed first draft of Valkia the Bloody sent from my mailbox ten minutes ago. I feel just as accomplished on completing this one as I did at the end of The Gildar Rift. That’s TWO novels I’ve managed to write… and man, I am so proud of myself.

It’s been a blast writing a full-length WHF novel. It’s so different to W40K and so different to mainstream fantasy stuff that it’s a genuine challenge. Feedback I received from one of the BL editors on my Valkia short story that’s coming out in Age of Legend was invaluable during the editing process. I am enjoying this writist thing enormously. I am very tired though. Been hard at it this last week and Dearly Beloved’s patience and assistance during the editing phase has been… brilliant. There’s a reason I love him, put it that way.

So now it’s a question of wait for the Editor Beast to read it and tell me what he wants tweaking. I hereby award myself a week off writing before I start with the next project.

2 – Rugby World Cup

Way to go, New Zealand! Even though you didn’t mercilessly slaughter the French (no ‘you beat England AND Wales you gits’ bitterness from me, honest), you certainly kept the match tense. France, though I say it grudgingly, were probably the better team on the pitch. Both of them had outstanding defence and competed for the nastiest injury to their fly half. Also, the All Blacks prop scored their try which was faintly endearing.

Also also, I loved the way the French marched in an arrow-head formation to stare down the All Blacks during the pre-match haka. Dearly Beloved says it wasn’t them answering the warrior challenge, it was the French hugging each other in fear.

You decide.

But now the RWC is finished! I feel bereft.

Although I get to have a lay-in next Saturday, I suppose…

All in all a good day.

Secret Guilty Pleasure Reason to be Cheerful #3 – Strictly Come Dancing

Just how sweet is Audley Harrison anyway?

Bonjour!

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!

Breather

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.

*snarfle*

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.

*shudder*

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.

EDITED TO ADD…

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.

Games Day 2011

And… breathe.

Right. Stream of consciousness ahead. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

My goodness me, that was something else. I honestly can’t remember ever working so hard on a day off work in my entire adult life. But more of that later. Let me recall the events of Saturday and Sunday in some sort of easy-to-use method. If only there was a way of using something quick and easy to list things. Quick and easy. Like a bullet.

Saturday

  • Myself, Not-So-Small-Anymore Son (NSSAS) and Dearly Beloved departed Durham heading in a generally southwards direction.
  • We stopped for coffee just outside Sheffield. Yet again, it cost a small fortune for two coffees and a milkshake. WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN?
  • We arrived particularly early at the hotel and as we were walking from the car park, I passed a fella who looked faintly familiar. He stopped and said ‘Excuse me, are you Sarah Cawkwell’? It was William King. Never, in my wildest moments of imagination (and some of those are wild) did I ever think that William King would stop me on the street. He and I had been having an email exchange prior to Games Day in which I’d lamented that during my visit to Prague in 1998, I’d never had a chance to properly try slivovice due to expecting NSSAS at the time. He only produced a bottle of the stuff from his bag before disappearing off to the NEC for pre-Games Day Stuff. What a star.
  • We settled into the hotel and spent some deliciously chilling time just sitting around reading, something I don’t get a lot of time to do. In due course, people started turning up. Dan and Nik arrived first. Dan moved furniture around so we could all sit together and discovered it had been designed not to be moved. But the gimbal was perfect.
  • Everyone else arrived and conversation was fun and lively and everyone was in excellent spirits. Then a bunch of taxis arrived and people were bundled off for dinner. Dinner was exceptionally nice. NSSAS kept Jim Swallow and Darius Hinks entertained at the far end of the table. Every time I looked down there, he was holding court and being very serious about things. For the chuckle factor, I sent Jim a text saying ‘I hope he’s not talking your ear off’. I got the terrifying reply ‘I’m teaching him SCIENCE’. In capital letters. I dread to think.
  • It was quite late when we got back to the hotel and folks drifted off to bed except for myself, Dearly Beloved, Jim, Graham, Rik and Bill. Even that little cabal started breaking up… until Graham McNeill (the lightweight) went to bed. I think if DB hadn’t said ‘uh, it’s 2.30am’, Jim and I would still be talking now.
  • At 3.21am my phone beeped. NSSAS (who was sharing a room with Bill’s son) sent me a text. Mam, can I go to the lobby? Because I can’t get back to sleep and don’t want to disturb anyone. Except for me, obviously. So he eventually came upstairs where he could sit and read. He was ultra-excited. I dozed off and woke up an hour and a half later. He was still wide awake and practically dancing around. So sleep was a myth. Also, I had this weird recursive dream thing, where I dreamed I woke up and was telling DB about my dream. But three times.

Sunday

  • Games Day dawned. Although due to the lack of sleep, it was less of a dawn than a gradual fade-in from black. We went down for breakfast, which was served on the TINIEST PLATES EVER. I was tired. NSSAS was wide awake.
  • We travelled from the hotel to the NEC on the monorail, which played dodgy Muzak. It was determined that drop pods play the same tune during a descent.
  • We arrived at the NEC and marvelled in joy at the BL layout. It really was a well-thought out idea with separate ‘corners’ for different things, and a TV display showing upcoming releases and what have you in the centre. I found my signing spot, tucked cosily between Gav Thorpe and Chris Wraight.
  • Then… BANG! The hordes arrived. A few hardy souls got through the queue for the retail area and within a very short period of time, I had the first person to bring a copy of The Gildar Rift to my table. I was thrilled to bits. Someone had come to get the…
  • …oh! Another person! Hi! Thanks! Two peop…
  • …oh! Another person! Hi! Thanks! Three p…
  • And another.
  • And another.
  • And… my word, I’m into double fi…
  • …you get the picture.
  • I was signing from 9.30 until 10.30, at which point, Christian came and yoinked me off to the ‘Writing for the Black Library’ seminar, which I shared with him, John French and Jonathan Green. I’ve been talking to Jon Green for AGES on Facebook and Twitter – and it was lovely to finally meet him properly. The seminar bounced along nice and Christian mentioned pretty much all my upcoming stuff, so I guess it’s fine for me to now do a proper list of what I have on the cards:
    The Gildar Rift on an assortment of pre-release schedules, officially released December.
    Bloodraven (No, not THAT sort). This is a Valkia short story which will be appearing in the upcoming Age of Legend anthology. This was Project: Shoehorn.
    Reaper. Another Valkia the Bloody short story which is slated for the Black Library Live! 2012 chapbook. This was Project: Handbags at Dawn
    Accursed Eternity – my contribution to the four-novella Space Marines Battles anthology, Architect of Fate. All four stories are tied into the tale of Kairos Fateweaver. Fun and games ensue. This was, as I think you all know now anyway, Project: Hotdog
    Indomitable. (Also known as ‘Indomistable’ due to a typo on the commissioning form or ‘Die Hard in Space’ (c) Christian Dunn). An audio drama featuring Marneus Calgar defending an Imperium facility against a thundering influx of orcs. All by himself. Hence, Project: Lonestar
  • I went from the seminar straight to the ‘Author Cafe’ with m’colleagues Nick ‘Dance Commander’ Kyme and Chris ‘Really and Truly the Nicest Man Alive’ Wraight. This was a new idea and was like speed dating. The authors sat with a group of people and answered questions (or in my case, talked utter gibberish) for 15 minutes and then we moved round to the next group. It was an extraordinary amount of fun.
  • It was now 12.15pm and so I went and collected lunch before heading back to the signing desk…
  • …where I didn’t stop signing books until 4pm. And I mean that literally. The queue was permanent. It was… humbling. And an inordinate amount of fun. What a lovely thing to meet all these people who are so enthusiastic about the same thing I am! Speaking of enthusiasm, I know I left my seat on more than one occasion to kneel up, arms waving with energy whilst describing a scene. Sorry if you were on the receiving end of that. It may have been alarming.
  • It was similarly lovely to see people I knew from GD/BLL’s past and through the Bolthole, Facebook and/or Twitter. Too many to remember, but special shout-outs to Narry, Phil, Schafe, Shadowhawk (who came all the way from Dubai!), Xhalax, whose costume I never got to see, Greg, provider of carrot cake deliciousness, Craig, the nice guy from the Bolter & Chainsword whose Real Name I’ve forgotten (sorry!), the Overlords… hehehehe, the Overlords… heh… oh man, my mind’s blown.
  • It ended. I’ve  never been so disappointed. Or tired. Really, really tired. NSSAS was STILL WIDE AWAKE. A plague on youth.
  • We headed back to Bugman’s for food, because I still hadn’t eaten lunch. We sat and chatted with people for a long while. Jim and I yakked on for ages about Blood Angel goodness. Seriously, if you could power the world on the pair of us talking, there would never be any need for alternative energy.
  • We left Bugman’s at about 9.30, swinging via NSSAS’s dad to drop off a now fast-asleep child who literally walked in a trance from the car straight into the house and up to his bed. We got home at 12.30am and did similar.
  • And I still woke up at 6am. With no voice.

My cheek muscles hurt from smiling all afternoon. I had a blast. My biggest regret was not actually getting the chance to see things around the two halls, but DB took lots of photos, so I plan to look through those later.

For now, thank you to all of you who came along to say ‘hello’. Also, enormous thanks to the BL Staff who put on such an incredible area. It was always busy and people seemed to be enjoying the new things. It really was great fun.

I’ve forgotten loads of stuff and quite a lot of it is also strangely blurred and hazy.

Now… sleep.

Pre Games Day Frothing

Games Day 2010 was brilliant. I remember it quite clearly. It was only my second Games Day and it was so far removed from the first one that it was wild. This year… well, this year, things are going to be pretty different and yet the entire day is looking more interactive than I’ve seen in the now three years I’ve been going – particularly from the Black Library point of views. They even have a map!

This year, I get to attend as a guest. Am a proper author-type thing now. I get to sit there and (hopefully) sign copies of my book that people have (hopefully) bought. I’m looking forward to it enormously because a lot of people I know of t’interwebs have promised to come and say ‘hi’. They’ve been promised lollipops as well. That may be a deciding factor of course, but Christian has cake. It’ll be a close call.

You see this? I have these. Cake is SO last year. DRUMSTICKS, PEOPLE.

Dearly Beloved won the local round of the Armies on Parade competition, so he has his own thing to be doing, whilst Not-So-Small-Any-More-Son will be tearing around like a blue-arsed fly. He’s already thinking about his conversion, what he wants to see… he’s excited. We’re all excited. I’m especially excited. I really can’t wait. Not only will it be a great day for fans of the Warhammer-verses, but it’ll also be a great chance to see all the other BL authors who I have gotten quite fond of really.

And these. I have these, too.

Hope to see some of you fine people there. Tune in on Monday for the Post Games Day update…

Remember.

The cake is a lie.

The lollies are where it’s at.

The Painful Truth

What a dramatic blog title. Drama is fun sometimes. But the explanation behind this title is really in response to a question someone put to me at work the other day. I’ve been sitting brooding on it for a while and decided to sort it out by writing it down.

The question was simple. ‘What’s it like to be a published author?’

The answer is not so simple. Because let’s just pick a few words out of the ether here; words and phrases that spring to mind instantly on being asked that question:

  • Brilliant.
  • Amazing.
  • Slightly surreal.
  • It makes me feel incredibly proud.
  • Giggly.

These are all all good, positive words. But for all the positive, there are a lot of painful truths about writing. And I know that a lot of you guys out there are eager to pursue a writing career, or are looking to get published and I wish you nothing but great success. But if you are holding down a full-time job as well, let’s be brutally honest about the more difficult aspects of what being a published author actually means.

  • Free time… I vaguely recall that. I feel guilty because I’ve had to abandon certain things in favour of meeting deadlines and there are people who don’t quite ‘get’ it.
  • Writer’s block (although fortunately, that’s not something I suffer with too much).
  • Frustration.
  • Anxiety. Nerves about the imminent release of a first novel are pretty horrible. I swing between ‘eeeee’ and ‘aaaaargh’ at least five times an hour.

And then people try to help. They really do. They say things like…

“So give up full time work and write for a living.”

Oh, god, can I? But alas. I am cursed with a Sensible Gene, tempered by the lesser known Astartes organ implant of Common Sense. I have bills to pay. Genre fiction is not going to let me do that, certainly not at the front end of my career. At the moment, my short-term goal is to look at going part-time. That way, the steady income remains and the writing income continues to be a nice bonus. I am not in a position to take the plunge and write full-time and because I have responsibilities (house, husband, child, cats, internet account etc), I won’t risk my financial stability for it. I have the greatest respect (and more than a tiny bit of jealousy) for those who are in a position to stick two fingers up to the day job. One day…

“But writing must be really rewarding.”

Hell, yes. Absolutely without question. But for me, it also has quite a few associated irritations. Like… not being able to switch my brain off when I go to bed and laying there for hours wondering what Valkia will do next, or pondering what Space Marines wear under their armour. (Note: that is not a perverted thought. It was a genuine question at the time). My bedside table and computer table are littered with Codexes, Army Books, photocopies of useful research pages… I’ve been cheeky and stolen precious writing time just to read The Outcast Dead, but I actually can’t remember the last time I sat and read a book from cover to cover in one sitting like I used to. I miss that. I still read of course, but now it’s in that period when I can’t sleep.

“You’re going to book signings? That’s exciting!”

Actually yes. Yes, it is. Nerve-wracking, too. But mostly exciting. But I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually done one. 🙂

“But a WRITER! That’s like… J.K. Rowling TASTIC! All that MONEY!”

Uh…

OK. If you say so.

So yes. It’s all really exciting and there’s a lot of stuff currently in the pipeline with my editor that means I have loads more to be excited about. But it’s not all glamour and chocolates and champagne. Actually, chocolates and champagne is massively appealling right now. One moment, and I’ll get my hired help to go and hand craft me some chocolates in the kitchen (which is the size of a football field) whilst chilling the vintage champers. Then I will use my high-technology voice recognition software* to dictate the next chapter of my book whilst lounging on my outrageously expensive hand-made leather sofa and watching the latest films in high definition on a TV that fills an entire wall of the house.

Well? I can dream, can’t I?

In the meantime, I’ll go put the kettle on for more tea.

 

* Note: Our radiology department uses voice recognition software. Yesterday, I read a CT scan report in which a patient’s pancreas was ‘displeased’. I THINK it should have been displaced. I hope not. The first one’s much funnier.

Two Down, Three To Go… (Or: The Importance of Numbers)

…days, that is. Until I have a break from the Day Job for a couple of weeks. We’re not going on holiday or anything like that… mostly we’re staying here and getting some household things sorted out. There will be trips, no doubt. There are too many castles and bits of old Roman wall up in this neck of the woods to resist!

Housesteads Roman Fort

Housesteads Roman Fort. Where the view probably hasn't changed an awful lot since the Romans packed up and left.

The Day Job isn’t so bad just now. After recently having a very good conversation with a friend, I simply tried shifting my perspective a little and it’s been very good advice. I’ve applied it to several situations and all in all, things are pretty much ticking along in the world of work without too much hardship. Things have eased off considerably now that the team is back up to full strength again; we’ve had a few months where we’ve been struggling to cope with our own workloads and those of two full time members of staff who’ve either moved onto new things or gone on maternity leave. But we’re all still alive, so things are good. So that’s the Day Job. Two days of this week down, three to go. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

The Other Job though… man. I’m so, so busy right now with so much going on that I keep having to pinch myself. The bulk of work I’m doing is for the Black Library – biggest project being Valkia the Bloody, with a couple of other smaller things going on. There’s also two or three non-BL projects going on as well which whilst they aren’t eating up as much of my time are still pretty hectic. I’m still keeping myself to a limit though: if I spent all night every night when I got in writing I’d go quietly mad. More mad. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. My daily 1,000 word base target has recently increased to 1,200 minimum (on ALL projects, not on each) and that’s going well. Those extra 200 words make a hellish difference to an overall word count and thus do wonders for your morale.

For example, I just went over the halfway mark for Valkia the Bloody. I’m not quite at my end of August target, but if I keep up the 1,200 words per day between now and then, I’ll be 8k ABOVE it. Whilst this doesn’t mean that I’ll back off and slow the pace, it certainly gives me a bit of room to breathe during my two weeks off. Knowing I won’t be sitting there day after day muttering to myself whilst attempting to do housework, entertain Small and the Chimp and generally enjoy being off work is very encouraging.

So yes. Numbers are important. I was always interested in ‘how many words have I written’ in the days when I was writing short stories and that’s now become something massively important. I’m more and more frequently being asked for advice and stuff like that (gawd, people, don’t ask me – I’m only PRETENDING I know anything!) And so here’s the advice based on the numbers game.

Word counting is important… but it’s not the be-all-end-all of what you’re doing. If you only write 450 words a day, as long as they are words that you are happy with… as long as they are words that progress the story, even if only a little, then be content. Think that 450 words is better than no words. Because that’s not only accurate, it’s true.

If you don’t make your target… don’t beat yourself up about it. Ladies and germs, this is definitely a DO WHAT I SAY, NOT WHAT I DO situation. Savvy?

Be realistic… about your targets. If you work full time and do your writing in that sneaky little space between getting home and before the family gets in (like I do), don’t go ‘I can achieve 5,000 words in that time and if I don’t, I’ll NEVER DO IT etc., etc., etc.’ Work out what’s reasonable and realistic for you. If you aren’t on a formal deadline, great – but it’s well worth the practise. I get away with getting a lot of words into  a short space because I can touch-type. Very fast. In fact, whenever I’m typing, it sounds like herds of wildebeest. And these guys are not sweeping majestically across the plains; no. These fellas are stampeding. An aside: learn to touch-type if you can’t already. One of the best skills I ever learned – even more so now that I am writing!

OK, that’s enough of that. There will be more advice (bad, good or whatever) at some point. When I remember to blog, mostly.

In the meantime, I was invited to write a guest blog for Civilian Reader, which you can see here.

And stealing the idea shamelessly from the illustrious Jim Swallow, here’s a sort of ‘Coming Soon’… there’s some other things too, but because I’m still new at this, I never know what I can and can’t talk about!

Zomgoose. I have signing events.

September 25th – Games Day UK, Birmingham NEC, signing pre-release copies of The Gildar Rift
November 12th – Signing copies of The Gildar Rift at Games Workshop, Durham
November 19th –
Signing copies of The Gildar Rift at Warhammer World, Nottingham
May 2012 – Release of The Architect of Fate, including my novella-length story ‘Accursed Eternity‘.
July 2012 – Release of Valkia the Bloody

And as a final inclusion… just look at this beeeeeeeeyooooootiful Space Marine.

Look at it.

A Son of Sanguinius just standing there. AND HE'S STILL COOL WHILST HE'S DOING IT.