Saturday, March 31, 2012

Suit up!

For your consideration this fine Saturday, the brand new anthology Armored, from Baen, which features brand new military SF short stories on the theme of power armour and mecha warriors. There's some serious writing firepower in this book, including Al Reynolds, Lauren Beukes, Sean Williams, Brandon Sanderson... Look, I tell you what, this is the link you need rather than me just blathering on about the book. It's a great deal more coherent and informative than me. It'll tell you about the contributors, about the content, and about how to get the book as a book or as an ebook.

I bring it to your attention because it's a cracking collection. I also mention it because, yes, I have a story in it. As with all the contributors, I was asked by John, the editor, to tackle the subject of power-armoured soldiers from an angle that interested me. And given my time on the frontline with the Adeptus Astartes, I decided to go somewhere else with the trope for a change. Hence my rather off-beat tale, Death Reported of Last Surviving Veteran of Great War.

I hope you enjoy it. I know you'll enjoy the collection. If in doubt, Keep Calm And Pack Heat.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dead Classy

Mr I. N. J. Culbard and myself, along with colourist Patricia Mulvihill and letterer Travis Lanham, wish to thank everybody very much for the enthusiastic and positive reception that has been afforded to the first issue of our new publication - The New Deadwardians. The first issue was published this week, and it’s already prompted a very creditable reaction*

We’re simply delighted with the response, as is our editor Will Dennis and everyone at Vertigo, and we hope you’ll stay along for the ride as the series continues, and maybe even spread the good word too. If the series is a success, we’ve got other Deadwardians tales we’d very much like the opportunity to tell.

You can read about The New Deadwardians here and here and here, and also download it from Vertigo here.

To celebrate this occasion, it’s time for another blog competition, and a dead posh one it is too. Mr Culbard and I have signed, with our own fair marker pens, two copies of the first issue - the standard version and the variant cover. I will happily send them to the winner.

What do you have to do? Just post a link here to the blog (or email the site) with the most amusing or exotic place you’ve been able to place the phrase ‘The New Deadwardians’. A camera phone snap or a screengrab will do. Have you put it in your Facebook status? Have you spelled it out in magnetic letters on the side of your fridge? Have you written it on a sheet of paper and held it up in front of you on the beach in the Maldives? Have you painted it on the side of Big Ben (okay, don’t actually do that last one)? Entries will be judged on originality and amusement, and our decision will be entirely mercurial and whimsical. Good luck. Entries in by the last week in April, please (in time for the second issue!).

Now I’m off to take Mr Culbard to get the cure, as he’s been showing distinct tendencies of late and the next issue mustn’t fall behind.

Good day to you!

* I can usually tell because of the overnight bump in Twitter followers ;)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Advance notice...

Just thought I'd mention this...

Lots of fun to be had on the day, including the publication of "Stone", a comic project for Maidstone organised by the Grinning Demon, scripted by me, drawn by loads of local talent!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


A man walks into a book.

My book, actually. Last time it happened, it was about thirty four, thirty five books ago, and the man's name was Lijah Cuu.

I've told this story at con panels and in interviews SEVERAL times before, so I'll excuse the stifled yawns at the back. For those who haven't heard it, I'll keep the facts brief: it was writing the fourth Gaunt novel ("Honour Guard") and it was nearly done, and my computer died, ingesting the MS in its violent death throes. That was the day I learned to back up.

Not wishing to miss the print deadline, I had to rewrite the book from scratch, from memory, in a month. And I did. It should have been a disaster, but it wasn't: somehow, writing it from the memory of the first draft freed me up. It was as though it was a performance I'd rehearsed. The month went by in a blur: I was producing words at a frenzied rate, a white heat of creativity. I wasn't even thinking about it - it was almost an automatic writing exercise.

Anyway, the end product - the published version - was much better than the first. In fact, it's amongst my fave Gaunt books. It was also different to the first, lost draft. New characters had appeared in it, even though I had been diligently following the same plot outline. Maybe the spontaneous new characters and side-plots were part of an unconscious effort on my part to keep the rewrite fresh. All I know is, when these new characters turned up, they came as I surprise. I hadn't invited them. They'd just barged their way into the book, and refused to leave. I was under too much pressure to argue with them, and write them back out again, so I left them alone.

One of them was Lijah Cuu. For Gaunt aficionados, the notion that Cuu appeared by accident seems unlikely. He's such a major character, and continues to be the point man for a major plot line for the next few books. He also [does several notorious things that I won't mention as spoilers]. How could I have.... improvised him?

The way I look at it, Cuu was such a fully formed character, I had no choice in the process. I regard it as emblematic of his force and malevolence as a character. And, yes folks, I know it sounds like preposterous bollocks* when an author talks about one of their characters as having a life of their own. Trust me, you didn't have to share an office and head-space with the mad fether for several years.

Anyway, I mention it this sunday morning (I'm in a slightly baffled state, akin to minor jet-lag, because the clocks went forward last night, but I still insisted on getting up at my normal Stupid Early O'clock: the state reminds me of the way I felt during Honour Guard, which is probably what reminded me), because it just happened again.

No. Relax. I didn't lose a book. These days, my back up processes are automatic and have multiple levels of redundancy. But Pariah (which is the first of the Bequin Triology, aka the first part of the final Inquisitor trilogy, aka Eisenhorn Versus Ravenor 1: This Time It's Shooty) is a very (deliciously) creative process. As I mentioned in the blog yesterday (yesterday, eh? Get me!), novels right now are much more prepared and planned than they used to be. I fill notebooks with notes and maps, sketch things out, even write chunks of text about characters for later use (I barely recognise myself!). I'm now in the frenzied writing stage, and was slightly delighted when an unplanned, unscripted event occurred. A man walked into the book. I was mainly slightly delighted, I guess, because it seems like a flash of the good old, bad old days, the old creative process (which I glorify with the name process, but which was really just a case of forcing everything into a small space and then yelling 'bundle!'). It was a glimpse of the pre-Adventures In Epilepsy me, coming into my office, messing up my notes, stealing my glasses, and weeing in my vase, as if to say "Yeah! Deal with that, motherfether".

And I'm also delighted, because I know what happened last time. I don't know who he is yet. He's just looking at me funny and not saying much.

But, just in case, I'm going to warn Bequin.

* Actual literary term.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Journal of the Monkey Years

By rights, and with an infinite number of damn fine monkeys at my disposal, turning out word-counts to order should be easy as peas. Picture me (and I’m sure you do, having no better ways to fill your time*), and I’m certain you picture a one-man manufacturing process, like something from the peak period of the Manchester mills, streaming out vast yardage of words that are pneumatically wound onto bales and then taken to Liverpool by dray for wholesale use in a million everyday knick-knacks, such as novels, superhero comics, shopping lists and emails.

All the while making a deafening clickety-clackety noise.

Well, it’s not like that. For a start, a lot of my time is taken up with secondary but vital parts of the writer’s craft, such as hunting for tea-bags, and inventively swearing at telemarketers (“Cock the fuck off, Arse-bag!”). Also, staring out of the window with a rope of drool depending from the corner of my lip takes a fuck of a long time, okay?

It’s also worth noting. No, seriously, it is. Really useful, I’ve found.

The thing is, writing [insert stupid number] novels doesn’t hone your craft. It just multiplies the ways you can find to write books. It’s not like I got to [insert smaller, but nevertheless still stupid number] novels and thought, “that’s it, then. That’s how it’s done. That’s The Method.” Each one has been a different experience. There’s not a single trick, tip or shortcut I learned writing any one of those [insert original stupid number] that proved to be remotely helpful with the one after.

The novel writing process used to be all about productivity, and charging along, milling out words while heading for the glorious horizon. Plots were like napkins at the drive through. You take them, even though you won’t actually need them unless there’s a seriously messy upset.

Nowadays, writing is a lot more thinking up front. Thinking, and notes. For weeks, even months. Then there’s a frenzied, almost feverish period of writing. That’s how Know No Fear was. I’m wondering if that’s how Pariah will be. The me that wrote Necropolis or Riders of the Dead would in no way whatsoever recognise the me writing Pariah. Or my process. The process is like a live snake. Every time I add another book to the [insert stupid number and add one], it squirms around to find a new way to slip out, a new way to break free.

I don’t blog enough. There! I knew there was a point to this. I don’t blog enough. It ought to be really easy to put out a few hundred words every few days, especially given my mill full of monkeys. I should barely notice a blog. But it doesn’t work like that, and I’ve worked out that it’s because of the process. I think of myself as very disciplined, focused and regimented, at my desk early, working away, but in truth every book, every day is the start of an mysterious adventure. Adding in something else like Write A Short Blog Every Day to the "To Do" list, and it’s just one more thing that, at the end of the day, you can look at and sigh, “Shit, that didn’t happen.”

Nik’s managing to blog every day. It’s incredibly impressive (I’m referring to the frequency of the output, but the blog itself is also impressive and I urge you to check it out). I look at myself and see that the monkeys have written Could Do Better in red in my margin.

So I wrote this blog post to tell you that I’m absolutely not going to be writing a blog every day. Writing a blog saying I’m going to try to write a blog post every day is tantamount to failing before you even start. It’s tempting fate.

But let’s see if I can do it slightly more frequently, shall we?

*Standard irony engaged, Captain.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Magickal Mystery Tour

Not long ago, Nik and I visited the British Museum with the Cawks-Crew (Sarah, Ben and Small Son), and a grand day out was had by all. Entering the first gallery, I approached the nearest display, at random. And this is what I found:

Oh, Horus! Why you Heresy so much?

One of the main reasons I'd brought them there was to see the Best Museum Exhibit In The World, which is the small collection of objects belonging to Doctor John Dee, Elizabeth the First's court magician. Here's the caption card:

How many chances do you get to stare directly into the actual obsidian scrying mirror of the Elizabethan Era's greatest magician? I mean? Come on!

Later, someone spotted this:

For our next magical outing, I propose we go to Hogwarts and cause a crowd disturbance during a Quidditch match. We'll be the unruly hooligan element that spills onto the pitch singing, "Who's the bastard in the hat?" and "You're not spelling any more!"