Friday, 22 December 2017

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays to everybody!

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Have a wonderful Yule. Have a terrific Kwanzaa. Enjoy Saturnalia.
I hope you all have a lovely time!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Cover Art Part 1


I've just seen rough cover sketches for The Traitor God and I'm awestruck. That's my book, with an amazing cover (to be revealed early next year), that is going to be in bookshops and libraries across the world.

Much excitement!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Cat Is Out Of The Bag

I guess the cat is out of the bag now!

My good friends over at Fantasy Faction have posted the news that Angry Robot will be publishing my debut novel, The Traitor God in June 2018.  You can find the announcement and a fancy guest post from me here.

Would you like to know more?

The Traitor God

A city threatened by unimaginable horrors must trust their most hated outcast, or lose everything, in this crushing epic fantasy debut.

After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magus Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the mageocracy who rule the city. He failed.

Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods – Walker will burn them all if he has to.

After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s killed a god...

Now I'd better bandage all the wounds caused by trying to keep the cat in the bag and get back to writing.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

2017 Fiction Picks

It's that time of year when I look back to the fiction I read in 2017 and try and pick out which ones I most enjoyed.  So here are the ones that leap to mind, in no particular order:

The Ninth Rain - Jen Williams

The Core - Peter V. Brett

The Memoirist - Neil Williamson

City of Miracles - Robert Jackson Bennett

Blackwing - Ed McDonald

Planetfall - Emma Newman

The Seven - Peter Newman

The Fall of Dragons - Miles Cameron

Chaosmage - Stephen Aryan

Hammers on Bone - Cassandra Khaw

Kings of the Wylde - Nicholas Eames

Extinction Game - Gary Gibson

Drake, Dominion, Damnation - Peter McLean

Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, The Autumn Republic - Brian McClellan

Retribution Falls - Chris Wooding

I'm totally missing a handful of others out though...I'll need to root through my book stacks to find out which.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Argyll Adventure

I recently took a few days off and ventured to the west coast of Scotland to explore the wilds and ancient sites of Argyll. We stayed in a castle in the village of Kilmartin, and with more than 350 ancient sites within six miles of the village (150 being prehistoric) we were not going to be short of things to see and do.

Unfortunately our first night away coincided with the arrival of gale-force winds of Hurricane Ophelia hitting the west coast. So that wasn't great. Except, it seemed to have gone further south than forecast and instead we got a brief period of breezy weather and a half hour of pounding rain. I call that a win! We were more than happy to sit in the castle by a crackling log fire, reading books (Chaosmage by Stephen Aryan, highly recommended), listening to vinyl records and sipping Laphroaig whisky.

The weather was incredibly atmospheric. A little drizzle and a lot of low-lying mist up in the hills and forests makes for some awe-inspiring views.

There are some spectacular ancient sites in Kilmartin Glen. Standing stones, cup and ring marked rocks, cairns and stone circles abound. A fantastic place to explore Scotland's distant past.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Quiet Around Here

It's been a bit quiet around here lately. And there are reasons for that. Delicious, wonderful, amazing reasons that I can't quite discuss at the moment.

More information will be forthcoming...

Meanwhile, I'll be back to posting all sorts of other nonsense shortly.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Sale to Far Fetched Fables

What a week! I just received a lovely email from Far Fetched Fables accepting my short story, The Economist and the Dragon, for their podcast. I'm really looking forward to hearing their audio adaption :)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Sale to Kzine

An acceptance email is always guaranteed to brighten up a writer's day!

My short story 'Surviving Life' has been accepted by the excellent Kzine. They have a lot of horror at the moment so it will be a while before my story sees publication, probably late 2018 or early 2019.

After a glut of rejection emails for various stories (boo! hiss! mope!) it's great to get an acceptance.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

James White Award Winner

So I didn't win the James White Award in the end, but it's still a great thing to have been shortlisted in the first place so I take heart from that.

The winning story, 'The Morrigan' by fellow Glasgow Science Fiction Writers' Circle member Stewart Horn is an excellent and well-deserved winner. I'll look forward to seeing it in print in a future edition of Interzone.

Monday, 19 June 2017

James White Award Shortlist

This morning I awoke to some good news - my short story The Dying Glass has been shortlisted for the 2017 James White Award.

The stories that have made it through to the final selection are:

Don – Steve Dubois
May the Pain Guide You Home – Daniel Roy
The Morrigan – Stewart Horn
Skin and Bone – Beth Plutchak
The Cut – Elsie WK Donald
The Dying Glass – Cameron Johnston

My short story has some really good company on that list :)
We should find out soon who the winner will be *fingers and toes and eyes all crossed* *falls over*

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Special Effects

I am finding myself a little bored of all the CGI special effects in movies at the moment. It feels like they are all too often sacrificing character, plot and dialogue for whizz-bang spectacle.

While I enjoyed Wonder Woman I was switching off during the third act with all the lingering on big fancy explosions and magical effects. I would much rather have seen more of that screen time devoted to the Amazons and more of Diana exploring the modern world. It was the same with The Avengers, which I loved, and the countless CGI enemies in Avengers: Age of Ultrabore - I'd much rather have had more character interactions than yet another mashing of an anonymous metal face. Man of Steel was interesting to begin with and then quickly descended into a one long, drawn-out duel with buildings exploding everywhere. Lots of spectacle and some amazingly cool visuals, but at what cost?

Practical special effects and clever puppetry have always appealed to me more than CGI, things like Gremlins, The Terminator, Aliens, Dark Crystal and Robocop. Heading further back, I will always watch Ray Harryhausen animations.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

On Submission

The editing and rewrites have all come to an end annnnnnddddd my agent has sent the manuscript out on submission.

Phew! So, what now I hear you ask? Waiting...mostly waiting...and hoping...and trying not to check my email every now and again...knowing that realistically very, very few books ever get picked up and published, but also that hoping bit is back again...

I'm finding this wait a little different to my short story submissions. Partly because there is a much larger chunk of time, effort and imagination invested, and partly because if this novel does get picked up then I'll have books in shops and libraries - something younger me had dreamed about ever since I first set foot in my local library. I frequently left that hallowed hall with shaking arms holding ten books at a time, and I would be delighted to find my own writing fuelling other people's imaginations in the same way.

I suppose we will just have to wait and see, and hope.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

John Constantine LEGO

So my latest dabble with LEGO has been building a John Constantine minifigure, bottle of booze in hand, ready to glass the sodding demon in the eye. From Hellblazer thanks for asking, not the Keanu Reeves movie, you vile heretic! (Actually, it was an OK film)

Now if only the TV series had taken off and been allowed to go darker. *sigh*. I thought Matt Ryan was pretty good.

So here it is, with a little help from the Dr Strange set:

"I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I'll drive your demons away. I'll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they're down and then I'll be gone back into darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack."

Hellblazer was bloody brilliant!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Ancient Sites

It's hardly a secret that I'm a huge fan of archaeology and history, as anybody who has ever glanced at my Twitter feed will notice. Whenever I have a few days off I like to visit museums, stone circles and standing stones, castles, hill forts and the like. Anything ancient I find utterly fascinating.

Last weekend I took the ferry over to the island of Arran and explored some of the wonderful sites. Amongst the many well-preserved monuments I enjoyed two the most. We walked up the forested hill to view the Glenashdale Falls, and then visited the Giant's Graves on the way back down.

These are actually neolithic chambered tombs that were once mounds. All the earth and turf scoured away by the elements, and heaped stones taken away for building materials. The stone bones of the tomb have been left exposed to the air. The passage you can see in the bottom picture is the entrance passage to the heart of the mound, and the burial cyst.

We also revisited the Machrie Moor stone circles, standing in eerie silence on moorland with sweeping views all around.

Whenever I visit ancient sites I can't help but imagine how they were used by our ancestors and what their rituals were like. What human hands touched these stones so very long ago...

Food for thought.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Editing Editing Editing

I've been busy the last few weeks. Really busy. Neck deep in edits on my novel actually.

My fine agent Amanda Rutter at Red Sofa Literary sent me back my edits and as I readied myself to open the files I knew damn well what was coming. Still, it hit me like a well-aimed half brick to the face to behold a sea of comments, corrections, suggestions and advice. Where do you even start? For me, it was a little paralysing at first, but then I got to work on the quick and easy changes: typos and word choices, clunky bits of prose, clarifications and eliminating confusions. Gradually that mass of edits was whittled down to manageable chunks I could wrap my head around.

Who ever said that writing a novel was the hard part? Re-writing and editing are far trickier, and yet also as - if not more - satisfying. It feels good to trim away the fat and build up the muscle, making my novel a leaner, fiercer, and more emotional beast.

The end is in sight!

And when it gets picked up by a publisher I get to go through the editing process all over again. Yay?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A Writer's Thick Skin

As my novel is currently undergoing edits with my agent *waits with both trepidation and eagerness* it’s got me thinking about the process of critique and editing of my work by other people.

It’s always a slightly daunting prospect to submit a new piece of writing for the first time, especially if you are asking people to pull it to bits and hold each morsel up to the light to be thoroughly examined. Still, that’s one of the best ways to improve your writing, and when all the dust has settled you will be left with a much-improved piece of writing. But you do need to develop a thicker skin. It may be your darling mind-baby but it’s not personal critique, it’s professional.  The harshest critic is likely be your finest friend when it comes to writing.

There’s an important word – Professional. More on that later.

When I joined the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers’ Circle back in 2010 (Has it really been so long??) I poked my poor little prose head right into the word-lion’s den and asked it to bite down hard. I sat in on one critique session to see what it was like and then went along next time to add my feeble and probably not very helpful comments into the mix. Then, since there was a gap in the story schedule, I gingerly put my own short story up for people to read and critique. I thought the piece was OK, not great but not terrible. Oh how wrong I was! To put it bluntly, it was (nicely and constructively) ripped to pieces on every level: plot, character, science behind it, prose and punctuation... It hurt, but they were totally right. Looking back I’m like, ‘Urgh, what was I doing?’ (Hurrah for proof of my own improvement as a writer!) But the point is, I took that all on board and came back for more. It helped me just as much, if not more, to read other people’s stories and apply that same criticism to their works. Gradually I learned and improved my craft of writing.

Gradually, there’s another important word. Let’s add that in the pool with Professional shall we?

Over the years of attending the GSFWC, people have come and gone, and for those that stayed I have enjoyed seeing their writing Gradually improve, whereas other people turn up for one or two sessions and then they are never seen or heard from again. (What? No, we didn’t kill them! They just didn’t come back to the group.) There are probably a few different reasons for that, but I think the main one is the level of detail we go into, a Professional critique of their story. Some people just can’t handle their writing taken apart and the guts exposed like that. I totally get that fear, and acknowledge it’s an especially hard thing to do for newer writers. We are not the right group for very sensitive souls only wanting reassurance or for wanting to be told how amazing they are - if it’s good we will say why, if it’s not, we’ll say what didn’t work for us and how you might improve it.

Writing for us is not about instant gratification or back-patting crap, it’s a long, slow, Gradual burn towards improving your craft to a Professional level. And to do that you need to develop a thick skin, or otherwise erect a fence between personal and professional criticism. Otherwise you will likely succumb to the snarl of self-doubt most of us have and those stories will remain unread and locked away in a dusty file on your computer, probably lost when you get a new one and forget to transfer the data over...then one day many years from now you will think about all those stories that were knocking around your head and wonder what might have been. And if you do still have those old stories, often you will find them not as bad as you had once thought. It’s bound to make you ponder how much time has been lost, but it’s never too late to take up the pen and keyboard again my fine word-warriors.

Some of my friends are trade-published novelists and it’s sometimes been said that you are not really a proper author until you’ve had your first 1-star review. And you will, because you can’t please everybody. It sucks baws, but if you put your work out there somebody will hate it. But others will love it. When this novel of mine gets picked up and published (It totally will, right? Right?), gah...I’m going to hate that 1-star review with a passion. But you can’t give up because some random twit gives you a bad review.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to seeing all these edits and suggestions from my agent. I imagine my stomach will sink when I behold the sea of red, but I do know they will help improve my novel, and ultimately it will be a leaner and meaner piece of fiction. And that will be awesome to see, and hopefully something people will find awesome to read.

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