Holy Link Post, Batman!

Busy week, no sleep, too much sugar… my brain isn’t sensible enough to give you a big fat blog post today, but I do have a series of links I should wave about, and one of them does include a big fat blog post:

 

I have been guest blogging over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, where I talk in a meandering sort of way about fantasy maps and my own journey as a fantasy reader.

 

The Dark Fiction Magazine Halloween issue is now complete, with excellent stories from Lou Morgan, Emma Newman, Adrian Faulkner and Joshua Malbin – all with a watery theme. I strongly recommend giving your ears this spooky and slightly damp treat.

 

The cover for Adam Christopher’s The Age Atomic has been revealed and it’s a corker.

 

Nanowrimo continues on its coffee-sodden way; I’ve popped up a rough synopsis for London-Under-Sea if you’re curious.

 

And that’s it! Hopefully next week I will have a more coherent set of thoughts for you, but for now it’s back to the word count.

The Copper Promise All Over the Web

Cpminidragon1

Recently I have been taking up space on other people’s websites, talking about The Copper Promise and fantasy writing. It’s been rather fun. First of all there’s a guest post from me over at fellow writer Alan Baxter’s blog, where I waffle on about the difficulties of writing fantasy in the short form. It features evil rabbits so I’m quite proud of it.

Secondly I did a wee email interview with the lovely Megs Glasscock, and you can read that over at her site, Nomad Chronicle. Poor Megs did a fabulous job of dealing with my wafflings, especially when I got overexcited about picking my favourite character, and I drop a few hints about The Copper Promise Part 2.

Speaking of which, The Copper Promise: Masks of Ruin is currently taking shape, and is starting to look like a whole, complete thing. More news when I have it. Back to the studio!

Skyrim is a Girl’s Toy

Skyrim-dragonborn

The writing of The Copper Promise part 2 continues pottering along on its own meandering course, so I thought today I’d do a little post about that other obsession of mine: videogames.

A great many hours have been spent in Skyrim recently. I shall briefly share the sort of info you traditionally have to bring up in any discussion of this game: I’m a female Nord with a leaning towards one-handed and two-handed weapons, destruction magic and conjuration. I’m also a werewolf, have been playing for approximately 95 hours and no, I’ve barely made a start on the main storyline yet.

Skyrim is an extraordinary game. What makes it so staggering, I think, is the sheer level of detail involved, and the real sense of exploration you get as you go wandering off around the map. You are frequently distracted from quests by mysterious looking paths that lead to secret dungeons, or you stumble across two mages having a tiff, and if you’re not paying attention a dragon might swoop down on you from nowhere and chew on you for a bit. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time just making swords and enchanting them, and have now saved up enough coin to buy a big posh mansion in Solitude, which I’m gradually decorating…

It is, I realised the other day, the ultimate fantasy play-set. It’s like having a giant dollhouse, except the house is an entire land, and the dolls wear armour and have magical swords and go on adventures with werewolves and vampires. You can spend forever just accessorising, collecting spell books to go on your shelves, mucking about down the blacksmiths, crafting potions. And then if you feel like it you can pop out to kill the occasional dragon. In short, I love it. And how I wish I had an Unrelenting Force Shout of my very own…

Some Things I’ve Come to Know About Writing: Or, Stating the Blindingly Obvious

Brains

I thought that for my first post of the year I would do a bit of a round up of some of things I’ve learnt about the writing process. I’m not keen on those “These Are The Rules Of Writing, So Listen Up!” posts, so this certainly isn’t one – indeed, the stuff that I’ve come to know about my own way of writing may not apply to you at all – think of it as more of a “Hey chaps, here’s some points I think I should make a note of because you know I’ll only forget otherwise” post.

 

Write Every Day/Don’t Write Every Day

Yes, I shall start off by being very vague and indecisive! Write Every Day is one of those writing rules that gets bandied around quite a lot, and largely it does indeed make sense; the more you write, the better you get at it. However, I have come to realise that it’s just as important not to beat yourself up if you don’t manage it. Writers have lives too, with day jobs and families, relationships and birthdays and video games, and there are days when you just can’t do it. For example, I have found that I’m pretty terrible at writing at the weekends, but quite good at writing in the mornings before work. So I devote my mornings to stories, and don’t get all guilt laden on a Saturday when I’ve done nothing but sleep and eat toast and push goats off of mountains in Skyrim.

 

Your Muse is a Flighty Cow

Like every romantic idiot that wore a lot of black jumpers and stared moodily out a lot of windows as a teenager, I do love the idea of a muse; that a winsome, mysterious figure will tap me on the temple on a dreary afternoon and fill my bonce with the greatest idea there has ever been. It’s bollocks though, unfortunately, or at least, it is for me. It’s true that I’ve had the occasional idea drop fully formed into my brain while I’m having a shower or waiting for the bus, but mostly ideas come from thinking a lot, all the time, and writing bits of ideas down and herding them around until they actually work. The key is: don’t wait for your muse. She’s probably off gambolling in the woods somewhere anyway.

 

Finish It/Or, the 60,000 Word Wall of Pain

I’ve written six books and finished them. With every one of them, I got a sizable chunk of the way in (usually around the 60,000 word mark) and I suddenly found that I violently hated it. Hated everything about it. Hated the characters, didn’t know who they were or what they were doing. Didn’t know or care where the story was going. Worse than that, it was suddenly very clear that everything I’d written up to that point was a massive pile of fetid garbage. How could I have been so deluded to think it was worth writing in the first place? WHY?

This is the dangerous time. It is a demon of writing. The voice that tells you, always at least once during the writing of a book, that you’d be better off scraping the whole thing and starting again.

Do not listen to it. It will say, “Oh hey, what’s this other idea your flighty muse just appeared with? That’s a lot better than this one. Look at it, all shiny and new and not stinking of garbage. And I bet it would be twice as quick to write as well…”

Do not listen! Squash that demon, keep going, and finish. I have written six books, and in truth I probably only really like 3 of them, but everything I’ve ever written to completion has taught me loads and has been invaluable.

 

Do Not Let Them Taste the Unbaked Cake

Or, resist the temptation to send your first few chapters around to friends to gather their opinions. This is hard, because you might want to know if you’re heading in the right direction, or it might just be that you’re proud of something you’ve done and want to share it, but either way, it’s best not to. Your first draft should be a secret, private thing that only you ever see, so that you’re allowed to make huge mistakes, and the story is entirely yours. Other opinions so early on could change the flavours and make it taste funny.

 

Be Brave!

Because in the end, you can’t please everyone. It’s a terrifying thing, to share your work with the wider world and watch as it raises its eyebrows in a sceptical fashion, but we are word-warriors, book-wranglers, and story-smiths. We can do this. Tell your stories, listen to your characters, and when in doubt, add a three-page long fantasy banquet. That’s what I do (there’s even a mini one in The Copper Promise, no honestly, go look…)

A Round Up: Dark Fiction Magazine, Pseudopod and the Cambridge Film Festival

All right, not a very catchy title for the blog today, but a lot of stuff has happened this week and I’ve utterly failed to write about it, so it’s time for a quick catch up.

 

First of all, the finalists for Dark Fiction Magazine’s Epic Flash Competition have been announced – a big ol’ congratulations and a hearty huzzah to all those picked. I helped out with reading the submissions this time round and it was an amazingly difficult process. There were so many cool ideas and top stories, sorting out which ones should go forward to be judged by James Barclay was very tough indeed. Well done to everyone who sent in a story – you all rock. If you want to read the (officially “woobie”) little short I wrote when inspired by the competition, it’s still up on the blog over here.

 

I’ve been on the narration duties over at Pseudopod, the podcast that brings scary fiction to your lugholes. If you would like to experience the extra creepy thrill of listening to my sarf-lahdan accent read a story, Blue Eyes by Jay Caselberg is up at the moment, and a very unsettling piece of fiction it is too. Go listen!

 

In a change from all the short stories and editing, I wrote a little article about Silent Running and WALL-E for Take One, the magazine of the Cambridge Film Festival. It’s out now and you can read it here, or if you happen to inhabit the actual Cambridge, you should probably be able to pick up a print copy! This pleases me enormously.

Epic Fantasy Competition at Dark Fiction Magazine, and the Art of the Very Very Short Story

Pop on over to Dark Fiction Magazine and you’ll see a rather nifty flash fiction competition has just been announced: they’re looking for epic fantasy stories of a thousand words or under, and there are actual cash prizes! So you are cordially invited to dust off your broadswords, polish up those magical artefacts and get your dragon on. Full details (and a rather excellent picture) can be found here.

 

I do love the perversity of fitting an “epic” fantasy tale into less than 1000 words. I was lucky enough to have my flash fiction piece “Milk” selected for DFM’s Twelve Days of Christmas Special. I had to work really hard to get the story down to a very zippy 1000 words and because of this it remains one of my favourites- it’s as tight as it can possibly be, and every small piece of it pleases me. It doesn’t hurt of course that the very lovely Kim Lakin-Smith read it out for me and did a fantastic job. If you’d like to hear it (don’t worry, it isn’t actually that Christmassy) nip over here and press play.

 

Being a big fantasy fan I’d love to give this competition a go myself, but since I’m helping out DFM with their slush reading at the moment, I suspect I’m not really allowed. 😉 However, I am very excited to see what people can cram into that neat little word-space, and I think we’re going to see some very interesting stories.