Small Update Time, or, “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded”

2013-09-17 11.52.52

Just a quick note, like Granny Weatherwax’s, that I aten’t dead, I’m just super busy. Well, super busy in between spending a lot of time in pubs and learning about Vikings – I’ve just returned from two weeks of being very self indulgent, as well as hanging around York for a while, which was marvellous.

Much of my time off was spent knee-deep in the wobbly insides of Book 2. Previously on the blog I talked about how difficult it can be to get back into the swing of the first draft when your inner editor goblins are still clinging to your heels, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve finally shaken them off, and Book 2 is beginning to morph into its own strange, messy story. The scary part now is all about not quite knowing where certain paths are leading, but then it’s time to put on my Big Girl Writer Pants and go boldly down those paths, armed to the teeth with character development and snarky dialogue.

So before I vanish back into the mists of writing, here are some random observations from the last few weeks:

Agents of SHIELD was fun.

Breaking Bad was amazing, and I’m sorry but I rooted for Walt right up to the end.

York is lovely and the people are friendly and I’m not used to that.

The Welcome to Night Vale podcast is both soothing and scary. Goodnight, listeners.

Review: Doctor Who Dark Horizons by Jenny T. Colgan

dw_dark_horizons_600

 

“We need to reach out. We need to continue the line…”

On a windswept northern shore, the islanders believe the worst they have to fear is a Viking attack. Then the burning comes. Water will not stop it. It consumes everything in its path – yet the burned still speak.

The Doctor encounters a people under attack from a power they cannot possibly understand. They have no weapons, no strategy and no protection against a fire sent to engulf them all. The islanders must take on a ruthless alien force in a world without technology; but at least they have the Doctor on their side… Don’t they?

A thrilling adventure starring the Doctor, as played by Matt Smith.

I don’t often read TV tie-in fiction these days; this is not due to any snobbishness on my part – goodness knows I spent many hours reading endless Star Trek novels as a teenager – but more due to the towering and oppressive presence that is my TBR pile. So I was quite pleased to receive a copy of Jenny T. Colgan’s Dark Horizons, almost as a nostalgic step back to my younger self, scanning the library shelves for anything related to my favourite TV programmes. I would count myself as a fan of Doctor Who, swept back into it with everyone else in 2005, and Matt Smith is my favourite Doctor. There, I’ve said it. I have had my problems with some of the recent series, and those were mainly down to the running time; way too short, I felt, to really get some meat on the Doctor’s stories. Perhaps, I thought, a book will give him more breathing space.

And I was right. It feels like a real indulgence to read a Doctor Who story that really has room to spread out, time to let you get to know all the characters. Colgan does an excellent job of introducing you to them – the Viking raiders and the villagers scratching out a living on a remote piece of coast – before letting you get under their skin, and really come to care for them. I grew particularly fond of Freydis, a prickly, brave Viking princess fighting against the life she’s being thrown into, and Henrik, the young Viking lad who could so easily be a companion for the Doctor (and who thinks the TARDIS makes a terrible ship).

The star of the show for me (as ever) was Colgan’s Eleventh Doctor. He’s full of humour, and kindness, and slight exasperation with humanity, and his attempts to get the Vikings and the villagers to play nicely are as pleasing as you’d expect. There are flashes of the sterner Doctor as he tries desperately to reason with the alien entity causing chaos and death, alongside the Doctor’s willingness to put himself in danger for the sake of others. It was refreshing to see Eleven free from companions for a while too, demonstrating that he can carry a story perfectly well by himself, and there were plenty of little in-jokes and references for fans.

All in all Doctor Who: Dark Horizons is a satisfying romp of a Who novel, with a strong and utterly convincing Eleventh Doctor. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the Whoniverse for longer than the usual forty minutes.

NaNoWriMo – A November of Novel Adventuring

Note

Yes, it’s that time of the year again.

 

And I do appear to have signed up, partly because I can’t bear not to, and partly because I do have a new book project waiting and raring to go. It’s exciting to browse the forums again, reading about everyone prepping for the long month of madcap novel writing to come. It may not work out this year – things are a touch up in the air for me, in several ways – but I think I’m going to be there at the start line at least, fingerless gloves and cheap Halloween sweets in hand.

 

I’ve participated in Nano for the last four years. In my first (2008, I think) I wrote a short children’s book called Bird and Tower. Next up came Ink for Thieves, a book I still love and hope to find a home for, followed by Dead Zoo Shuffle, a book I’m not that massively keen on these days but isn’t entirely hopeless. Last year I did the Beta month of Camp Nanowrimo, and followed that up by doing the official month too, managing to write the entirety of The Snake House in two months, which was something of a record for me.

 

And as everyone starts to get excited, there’s usually a wave of cynicism about Nano too, and I’ve seen the first trickles of this. All those amateurs, moan the weary cynics, thinking they can write. 50,000 words isn’t even really a book, and they’ve never even heard of editing…

 

Sod that, I say. Yes, a lot of young people take part in Nanowrimo, and yes, lots of them might be writing some rather familiar re-hashes of boy wizards, angsty vampires, and demon-hunting hotties, but so what? It’s very easy to sneer at these things (and at fanfiction, although perhaps that is unwise – fanfic led to the biggest publishing hoo-ha of this year, after all) but I’d much rather see people (particularly young people) getting excited and making things, than, say, the umpteenth wannabe farting Wannabe by the Spice Girls on Britain’s Got Talent. Or maybe that’s just me.

 

Besides which, Nano teaches you all sorts of important stuff if writing is where your soul rests. So the first book you harass into life via Nano might not be that great – it might even suck the big one – 50,000 words will still show you all sorts of wonders you’d never even have guessed at on November the 1st. Plus, Nano shows you (albeit in a slightly extreme way) that it is entirely possible to fit writing into your life, and that is often a wonderful and life changing thing to learn. It certainly changed mine.

 

So come, mighty Nano Vikings, with your cups of coffee and writing mascots, let’s go kick November up the plot bunny!

(and while you’re here, tell me how you prepare for Nano)