MOPNOWRIMO again Day 1 (again) (30/4/2012)

Posted in News

Wordcount Target: 5000, Achieved 4120

Procrastineering[1]: v. The completion of many useful but previously uncompleted tasks (usually previous victims of various forms of procrastination) in order to avoid starting on The Thing That Really Needs To Be Started, Like, Today.

So my day went like this: I need to knuckle down and write. So, a good bit of exercise might me in the mood, right? So I set on cycling into town, quietly ignoring the fact that the cycles paths all follow the rivers around here and the rivers are, well, a little bit full at the moment. Well, not so much full as let’s go all Third Reich on all the surrounding land.


Yes, it really does just vanish into a watery horizon. So that took a bit longer than it was supposed to. And then I’m really, really fed up of that slow puncture that’s been bugging me for  ages but I’ve never got around to fixing, but today was clearly the day to sort that out.

Words written at this point: 24.

Also, of course, it was absolutely essential to post something about starting this project as opposed to actually doing the starting. Necessary. Oh yes.

And then there’s this other thing I’ve been meaning to do which is sign up with the local leisure centre, and then having done that, well, might as well get in a quick swim in the pool and a work-out in the gym, right, because I’ve been meaning to get fit for, oh, about ten years I think. Well my procrasinteering failed in the gym on account of not being able to get on a machine right then, but there was still the pool and a quick swim. A hundred lengths to knock some rust off those muscles, right?

I will not say how many lengths I achieved. A small number, so small that number is barely a deserving description. So my utter lack of fitness sort of saved me and some words were done after all.

They’re a bit rubbish. First draft I keep telling myself. First draft. It doesn’t matter. Also, the first thousand of them were a prologue, and since my editor is The Great Devourer of Prologues, they will certainly be cut, and in a way that’s actually helpful, since it’s much easier to accept the crapness when you’re writing crap that you KNOW is going to be cut anyway. Although I suppose I could have claimed a thousand words and done nothing and had a coffee instead.


Anyway, prologue and first chapter done, in which I attempt to recap on the most significant points of What Has Gone Before via the reflections of a man about to be hanged while all hell breaks loose around him. Action and recap seamlessly merged. Not a bad idea, actually. Shame about the execution.


I suppose I could have written another thousand words of chapter two and hit my target instead of doing this.

[1] There is also procrasturbation, it’s rather less useful cousin. But I shall primly not talk about that.

MOPNOWRIMO again: Day 1 (30/4/2012)

Posted in News

Time to write another novel in a month. It’s been time for a while but I’ve been poutting it off. Starting is always the hardest part. It’s not made any easier by having a couple of kick-ass trailers around at the moment:

For Prometheus (and it’s the soundtrack more than anything that sends shivers down my spine). The link is in case you’re one of the three people in the world who hasn’t see it already.#

For The Witcher 2. Please, someone buy me a book-trailer that’s this good? Anyone?

This sort of thing makes it that much harder to sit down and write, knowing that whatever happens, it’s not going to be this. Meh.And even though I know the feeling goes as soon as the story starts to flow, and even though I know the story starts to flow almost as soon as I force out the first words, stil meh. And procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate. Hence I’m writing this instead of laying down the prologue chapter one.

Today’s wordcount target: 5000.

Try Try Try (28/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

Here’s an out-of-context part-of-a-comment take off the web.

“Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ simply fuels the boot-strapping illusion that is strangling contemporary feminism: the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation.”

The author is R Scott Bakker. I don’t intend to link to the thread directly because it’s a very specific discussion and in a way quite personal to the author’s books, which appear to have provoked some rather, ah, strong views. I can’t comment on that because I haven’t read any of his books. There is a lot of context to this quote which I haven’t presented here. For all you know, without reading the entire source material, the author might be arguing the exact opposite of this. He isn’t, but he might be. You only have my word for that, after all. I don’t intend to comment on his specific views except to say that I have sympathy for a great deal of his analysis yet differ in my ultimate conclusion.

I found this statement very thought-provoking for both the truth inherent in most of it and for the way there seemed  to me to be something very poisonous lurking at its heart. Again, I consider the statement on its own, without thought to the author’s intentions or motives. The sense of truth and poison are both my own sentiments. Whether they were meant or not, I have no idea.

For the purposes of dissection, I’m going to reword this statement into something that I think has exactly the same sense and meaning:

Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ simply fuels the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation. This assumption fuels the boot-strapping illusion that is strangling contemporary feminism.

I’m going to ditch the last sentence – it was relevant to the source discussion but not particularly to my own thoughts and I’m in no way sufficiently informed to say what is or isn’t strangling contemporary feminism or whether the first sentence describes something that fits said description. This assumption is a bad thing will do for my purposes. I assume the original author considered it to be a bad thing, at least. While we’re at it, I’ll generalise further and replace Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ with Depicting exceptional people, since I don’t see why either my own thoughts on the subject (or the original for that matter) are specifically and only applicable to strong women. Could be any exceptions to the prevailing social environment.

Depicting exceptional people simply fuels the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation. This is a bad thing.

Does this change the meaning of the original statement aside from generalising it from the specific issue of the portrayal of women in fantasy to the depiction of any exceptional person in any fictional setting? I don’t think it does but you’re welcome to disagree. And I do believe there’s a lot of truth to this statement. The effort and belief of one individual, no matter how vigorously and relentlessly applied, will often fail. We are all single individuals in a vast multitude, and that simply can’t be discounted. And yes, I do think there is a tendency for people to blame the failures of others on they didn’t try hard enough. They didn’t believe in themselves enough. I am certainly very guilty of that sort of thinking. It has a sense to it. A self-empowerment is implied – it wouldn’t have been like that for me. If that’s what I’d wanted, I would have tried harder and succeeded. Ultimately, if I really want to be, unlike you I am in control of my destiny. Because it’s a pretty frightening thing to have to confront the reality that actually no, you’re not.

A somewhat trite but nevertheless relevant example: My six-year old wants to play football for Barcelona in the Champions’ League one day. Maybe, if he were to dedicate his entire life to achieving that end, maybe he could achieve that.  However, there is a clear (if a little fuzzy) limit on the number of six-year olds who can one day achieve that ambition no matter how hard they try. Other things will come into play over which they have no control. Luck. Who they know. Where they live. Their parents wealth and support. Many other things. Ultimately, simple genetics. I can see that in my own family. None of the rest of us  could, no matter what we did. I won’t. I could never have the necessary speed and stamina ever again. Failure is inevitable. I’m fairly sure that no one single person, no matter how hard they try and how much they believe, can single-handedly end bigotry, racism, sexism, any kind of -ism you like.

So I’ll buy a couple of things as being truth here: the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation is a bad thing. Yes. Yes it is when you can try as hard as you like to get out of a situation and still fail through circumstances over which you have no whit of control. That can happen. I think it happens a lot. And even if they haven’t tried as hard as they possibly could, I will argue that it’s still a bad thing. I would suggest, as a general rule that is might be better to aim any assumption of responsibility at the exploiters than at the exploited until evidence to the contrary is received. It can be, I accept, surprisingly difficult sometimes.

And finally the poison. the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe is a bad thing. Yes. I’ll accept that as a truth. The assumption is a bad thing, because endless trying will often still fail and no amount of simple believing in anything will achieve very much. Huge applications of effort and belief will still mostly fail to change the world and there’s nothing we can do about it because that world is big and there’s a great deal over which we simply have no influence or control. But the poison is the never-stated implication that try-try-try and believe-believe-believe are bad things in themselves. No. The assumption that success is inevitable with enough effort, that it is likely or even possible, that’s bad. Blaming people for their own circumstances because they didn’t try hard enough? Also bad. But the trying and the believing themselves are not, and for two reasons I can think of. Allow me to cast this statement another way by inverting it:

the possibility that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe is a good thing

Surely! If we can acknowledge and accept that mostly we will fail through no lack of our own effort, surely it’s still better for even a mere handful to succeed? Shall we all meekly take our lot in life as given to us at birth and none of us strive for something better? I choose not. And the second thing this sentiment fails to acknowledge is the power of numbers. There are many things that one person alone simply cannot change, but if everyone tried at once then it would be easy. Yet if no one tries, what then? Nothing changes.

If I have a personal philosophy of life, it’s been to shoot for the moon as often as I can and to accept that I will miss every single time and to shoot anyway and be pleased by how far my arrows actually reach.It’s worked out well enough up to now. And this could be about feminism, as the original source was, or it could be about sitting down and writing that book that you can’t quite settle to. It could be about changing the world or changing yourself. Either way, the point remains the same.

Accept that there are many things you probably can’t change no matter how hard you try. Seriously get your head around that immutable probability because that’s what the world is like. Then try anyway.

MOPNOWRIMO Revisited 3 (26/4/2012)

Posted in News

Avalanches. My my, what a lot I know about avalanches now.

So there’s this scene, halfway through February’s opus, in which our hero and his friends are on the run from a band of lo-tech savages and have very little by way of gear with them. They cross a snowfield and descend to a ravine crossed by a narrow rope bridge, cross the bridge and cut the ropes and voila! They escape.

However . . .

At the time of writing, I had one of them linger to set up a trap that would in turn set off an avalanche that would sweep away half of the chasers. On in particular. This was one of those scenes that I wrote at the time thinking ah well, that’s a bit of a daft way to set off an avalanche and no one will ever believe it, me included. So I’ll change it into something more plausible in the rewrites. And moved on. Which is how first drafts are made, after all. Usually I get away with it.

I have found out that avalanches usually occur on slopes with a slopes angle in the range 25-45 degrees. From my long-past days of skiing, I could perhaps more usefully reclassify that as the range Ooof that’s steep to Oh my god that’s not a slope that’s a fucking cliff and I’m going to DIE. I’d imagine that those slopes look much the same to a man on foot. Seriously, who would try to walk through heavy deep snow on a 1:1 incline with a ravine at the bottom?

Cue some adjustment to the slope geometry. And the reactions of the characters to seeing it. And how the address it. And I have to go for the lower end of the range, I think, and that means making the slope more prone to avalanche for other reasons. Like generally facing away from both the sun and the prevailing wind. Cue some more adjustment to the geometry and a slight re-orientation of the world map. And a recent heavy snowstorm. Cue some rewriting of several previous scenes which previously thought they were having some relatively balmy weather up until now. And that’s just to set up some likely conditions.

And then there’s the triggering of it. What triggers an avalanche? Wind, snowfall, a prolonged rise in temperature, stuff like that, but what I need is a specific human trigger. A bunch of people tramping across it might do the trick, but what might set it off on cue when there are already a bunch of people tramping across it? A bomb. That’s pretty much all I can find. A bomb, and no character in this scene, quite categorically, is carrying a bomb.


It “just happens”? Plausible? Maybe. Looks like a bit of author divine intervention on the behalf of his characters? Definitely, even though the cutting of the bridge serves all the necessary plot progression.

And thinking about it, an avalanche dropping my chief antagonist down a ravine just gives me the problem of WHY HE ISN’T DEAD. In fact, the avalanche a) serves no purpose and b) actively causes plot problems that I then have to solve.

Half a chapter that was. A whole day and a half of rewrite effort. Stupid avalanche. And the lesson? That pretty, cool, cinematic scene you wanted to have just because? Maybe it just isn’t meant to be there, y’know…

I did find some pretty pictures though. This is pretty close to the location of the scene in question. Only maybe not quite as big and with a ravine at the bottom…


Mountains (23/4/2012)

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Todays excuse for procrasintion – mountains with good cliched fantasy names!

I have a Mount Terror in antarctica …

Mount Terror 1

… another in North America …

Mount Terror 2

I have a Mount Fear here too …

Mount Fear

So the competition is this: Tell me what country this Mount Fear is is and you can have a copy of King of the Crags and The Order of the Scales flying over to you. If you haven’t already got The Adamantine Palace then sorry – no copies left in my stash :(

The mountain from the last competition was Mount Cook, for anyone who didn’t read all the comments…

MOPNOWRIMO revisited 2 (21/4/2012)

Posted in News

Day 6:

The first act is finished.

No it wasn’t.

About a third of the planned second act has vanished in a smoking hole of unexpected narrative decisions, but on the whole, it’s not too bad.

Yes. Well. Little did the author know how far his narrative would stray from his plan in the second act at this point . . .

It has a prologue, of course because all my stories have prologues, almost none of which survive the editor.

Both still true.

Just for fun I’ve given the second act a prologue too, and that probably won’t survive either.

Well yes, when we finally get to the second act, the prologue is still there.

This is a first draft, though, so some serious pruning during the rewrite is to be expected.

No, this lot survived largely unscathed. As opposed to . . .

Days 7 and 8

In which chapters are set in a series of underground grottos and on a snow-covered mountainside, and if all of that has nothing to do with an evening back on Skyrim and then getting six inches of snow overnight and spending most of the afternoon throwing snowballs at each other, then my secret identity is Chairhead from The Tick.


It’s tempting to throw the whole lot away. Certainly the bit where someone builds a snowman in order for someone else to shoot a it a few pages later and thus trigger an avalanche that wipes out a whole bunch of people needs a serious slap in the face with a haddock.

Yeeesss . . . It’s nice to know that I saw how preposterout the whole avalanche scene was even back then.

I’ve written enough novels now to know that it takes, on average, about an hour to write one thousand words in the first draft and about half an hour in the first rewrite, maybe twenty minutes in the second and a little less for any that follow. What matters is the on average part of that statement. So, in theory, what happens now is that I’ve worked how many hours this rewrite will take (about fifty) and carved that up so that I’m working on it for ten days, five hours a day and then it’s all done. Thus is the plan. So the idea is that I work on the rewrite for five hours every day and never mind how many words I cover each day, since on average it should all work out fine in the end. I’m not supposed to be trying to cover tent thousand words every day, I’m supposed to be working for five hours. On some days I’ll cover fifteen thousand and on others I’ll cover five und so weiter etc. and so on. And because it’s all on average it’ll all balance in the end and when there’s a slow day, I won’t get hung up on it because I know that. Right? RIGHT?

And I’m sure it would work fine if I did it like that and didn’t stop every day bang on ten thousand words and go oooh! An hour early! Time for another couple of levels of Prey then!

Or alternatively it would work fine if I didn’t hit chapters I’ve left for myself like the one with the stupid avalanche. It’s possible that the next few updates may get a bit ranty on the subject of avalanches. Stupid avalanches.

So now I’m behind. Meh. Yet another level of Prey then. Surely that will help . . .

MOPNOWRIMO revisited (21/4/2012)

Posted in News

Back in February I set myself the goal of writing a hundred-thousand word novel within one month and then blogged about each day and how it went. Other projects have taken priority since then but over this last week and the next, I’m going over what I wrote back then and rewriting it. Hindsight and a refreshed pair of eyes combined, you see . . .

Anyhow, observations from the first week of rewriting:

There’s a prologue. I rather like it, but really, what was I thinking when my editor is acknowledged as the Devourer Of Prologues? Have decided to keep it in so he can ask for it to be cut and thus feel useful.

I have lost interest in Skyrim over the intervening couple of months. Main quest completed, tanking around in heavily enchanted dragon-plate armour, it’s become a bit of an exercise in finding enough shops where I can sell all the stuff I keep finding, and that’s a bit dull. So no Skyrim getting in the way this week. Apart from me talking about how it’s not getting in the way, obviously.

Day One:

This was a really dialogue heavy day and it’s all pretty bland stuff. Today’s scenes have a fair amount of recapping of the previous book in the series (this being the second of three), too much talking and about as much atmosphere as the inside of a synthetic duvet. In short, they’re a bit crap and if I read this aloud.

This section wasn’t nearly as grim as I thought it was at the time and was easily rewritten. The dialogue was too verbose and too stiff in places, but some simple cutting and straightforward editing appears to have sorted that out. One of the “difficulties” of the very first draft was that the relationships between some of the characters weren’t entirely clear to me at the start (in fact some relationships and indeed entire characters weren’t anticipated at all). Now I know how it’s all going to pan out at the end, sorting these relationships properly out at the start has been easier than I feared – more a case of cutting spurious dialogue and infodumps than anything else. Cutting is always easier :-)

Day Two:

Less talking, more fighting.

That day came easy and it didn’t need much work in the first rewrite either. I think It was mostly expanding the descriptive passages which were a bit terse in the fight and also changing the geography a little. One mistake I made when I wrote the first draft was not to make any kind of map either before or as I was going. That led to some slightly bizarre inconsistencies which are now being ironed out as I go. I’m also making a map this time. I still like the bit where I throw someone off a cliff.

Days Three, Four and Five:

This is about the point in the first draft where all that planning starts to fray at the edges. Ideas that looked fine in a two-page synopsis now appear dull and contrived when put into proper prose. The characters are mostly as they were intended, but one of them is developing more, ah, personality than expected and the main threat has turned out a bit crunchier that intended. This is all to the good, but has made one of the intended relationships quite different. At the same time, the lead character finds himself in a situation that wasn’t quite as I’d intended it at this point and a character I didn’t even know existed when I started looks like they might be making a significant part for themselves. So far none of this seems to derail the main storylines and merely weaves them in a different way.

I seem to have a gatecrasher.

Thought I’d got rid of yesterday’s intruder, but like a bad penny, he shows up again.

And that all turned out to be about right and to the good. The relationship between the principle protagonist and antagonist is much more ambiguous throughout than originally conceived and I think that panned out well in the end (now I know what the end was). My “gatecrasher” – I’m not entirely sure whether I meant the protagonist’s intended sidekick or the character I had never even concieved of until I needed someone to help him escape the overly-comptent antatagonist. Either way, those two characters ended up largely stealing the story in my view (along with the antagonist), which only goes to show that if you’re me, at least, you should just shut up and roll with whatever the muse throws onto the page. Sod plans.

I don’t notice the chapters that were cut from the plan at all and the unexpected character did end up very significant indeed. Most of the rewriting from this section has been easy enough although quite extensive in the dialogue and  the reactions of characters to one another as the relationships I now want are quite different from those I originally expected. It’s maybe worth noting that even despite quite substantial changes to the story and the people, a lot of words remain unchanged. Places still look as they did before, journeys are still from the same A to the same B using the same means of transport and so on. So although the atmosphere is quite different, the level of change isn’t as much as you might think. One pair of chapters did have to be gutted and rebuilt from scratch where one character was behaving oddly. This involved changing the progress of the story (the protagonist now goes from A to B via C instead of directly and gets dumped by his companion en route – so there is now a brief scene at location C and then a lot cut from what happens at B).

There’s also a new short chapter to foreshadow events that come much later. I knew this was probably a good idea when I did the first draft, apparently, judging by the note I appear to have left for myself…

Heading towards the close of act one now, which from memory was where I had a major falling out with my muse about several characters. I think the way things have now been changed will find the end of act one running much more smoothly, but we shall see. I also remember I sequence in which a character starts an avalanche in a totally ridiculous fashion and there is some very confusing geography. One of those things that seemed totally cool at the time but has left me queasy every time I think about it. I anticipate some cutting…

To be continued.

Worldbuilding (part 6: Glaciers and Fjords) (19/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

Strictly I supposed glaciers and fjords are a subset of rivers – what passes for rivers in places where the water never really thaws. Like Slatibartfast, I have a fondness for fjords. Basic fjords? Mountainous coasts that were once covered in ice for a long time (to make the glaciers that carved the valleys that become the fjords). Fjords generally have very steep sides and deep water and are a fine place for siting Impenetrable Fortresses Of Doom, since it’s pretty hard to negociate a coastline full of fjords without doing it by sea. They can reach a good long way inland too.

Wikipedia tells you more on glaciers and fjords than you need to know for most world-building purposes, but  really, the point here are the pictures. Look at pictures of fjords and then try to imagine building a world without them? Not possible, right? Absolutely NOT possible.

Here’s a less than perfect fjord picture. The point, really, is HOW THE HELL DO YOU TRAVEL THIS LANDSCAPE WITHOUT A FLY SPELL? This is why Fortresses Of Doom like to live in fjords.

Doubtful Sound

And here’s a picture of a glacial lake. Just because. First person to name the mountain in the background right in the middle wins a copy of King of the Crags and Order of the Scales.

Photoshop lake

Dragon Hunters of the Sierra Nevada (17/4/2012)

Posted in News

For the last few days I’ve been skivving off work with Robert Redick, author of the most exquisitely magical Chathrand Voyage series. Fantasy writers have the BEST holidays.

Robert Redick - Dragon Hunter lo res

It’s, er, possible that Robert might be indisposed for a while, but for my part, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be back to my MOPWRIMO project, writing the second draft. I dare say some wry and amusing observations on February’s commentary will follow.

The Dragon Blackscar is by Stephen Youll, taken from the cover of The Black Mausoleum.

How to do an Audio Book Right (16/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

I’ve heard some good books ruined by characterless narration of the audio version and I’ve heard mediocre books made good by good narration. This is possibly the best narration of a kids’ audio book I’ve ever heard (although it’s close between this and David Tennant doing How to Train Your Dragon). And the book underneath is, I think, rather a good one too.

Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Narrated by Jason Hughes

Listen and weep. With laughter. It’s touching and totally hectic!

Exocets (14/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

Apparenty, if you follow the chain of corporate ownership long and far enough, I am and have been working for the same people as make Exocets.

This is what Exocets do. Arguably dragons do much the same, only thing is this: dragons aren’t real, right.

HMS Sheffield after Exocet hitUSS Stark after Exocet hit

After the number of years I once spent trying to make Exocets pointless, this is actually pretty depressing.

“His knuckles clenched” (13/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

All us writers have our quirks. I think mine might be clenching things. I’ve begun to notice that a lot of clenching goes on. Fists are clenched. Jaws are clenched. I might even have clenched some toes, although thankfully I appear to have self-edited that out. No buttocks, I think.

Here are the summed stats for a couple of novels of mine whose titles I shall keep jealously to myself.

First draft: 26 clenches
Second draft: 33 clenches
Before the edit: 29 clenches
After the edit: 26 clenches
Final draft: 20 clenches

This is the sort of thing that you start to notice (if you’re lucky) when you read your work aloud, and I’ve been doing a lot of that of late. Is this a lot of clenching? Maybe it isn’t, but I feel it might be. I think a few of my characters have my copy-editor to thank for not having serious impacted molars and possible tendonitis in their knuckles by the end of their stories. Admittedly, many of them have bigger problems to worry about by then.

Contrast this to eyebrow raising from the same two novels:

First draft: 10 eyebrows raised
Second draft: 4 eyebrows raised
Before the edit: 4 eyebrows raised
After the edit: 5 eyebrows raised
Final draft: 5 eyebrows raised

Admittedly, the two novels in question are more knuckle-clenching than eyebrow raising in nature, but see how the eyebrows get self-edited out at an early stage, while the clenching goes up instead of down and needs an editor to get under control? Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with a bit of clenching, but judging from conversations at Eastercon, I reckon most writers either have or had a blind spot somewhere.

“The author, having become aware at last of one blind-spot whose mere existence greatly raised the likelihood of others, felt a familiar tension. A frustration born of his own imperfections. He clenched his fists.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, among many other things, is why we have editors and copy-editors.

Worldbuilding (Part 5: Rivers 101) (11/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

By now, the world has oceans and mountains and some climate and weather patterns. I look at rivers next because I want to know where the water is going to be, because generally water means life and the more water there is, the more life there is, and how much water there is controls how much life there is (glibly, but then all of this is glib, and temperature and sunlight have a big influence too – provided there’s water). Rivers also have another purpose though, because rivers can flow through places where there is little rainfall and yet be the basis of civilisation (ancient Egypt revolved around the Nile, and other early civilisations of the middle east revolved around the Tigris and Euphrates). Rivers are also a means of navigation, a relatively easy way to get from one place to another through what might otherwise be hostile territory, be it dense forest or desert.

This may sound stupidly, obvious, but I’ve see maps that fail to obey all of the following simple rules: Rivers flow from high places to low ones. They tend to get bigger and slower as they move from mountains to the sea. In places where the incline is steep, rivers flow fast and tend to be in steep-sided valleys, gorges or even canyons. Rapids and waterfalls are more likely to appear in such places (but some of the world’s largest waterfalls don’t). Rivers merge together rather than diverge, the exception being deltas. In places where the gradient is steep, the course of a river is determined by the topography; in places where the gradient is shallow, rivers flow slowly and have wide gentle valleys and/or floodplains and are likely to meander. Map your rivers with these in mind, but also considering that rivers in warm places will likely be the arteries of the early civilisations of your world.

As usual, when it comes to basic geography, the simple way of finding out how stuff works it to look it up on wikipedia :-)

Wikipedia on rivers. More basic river formation articles here and here. Also Deltas, Canyons and Valleys

Next maybe something on glaciers and fjords, because I like them. And then ecologies and the tricky stuff starts…

Lowca Zlodziei (10/04/2012)

Posted in News

It’s not the face I had in mind for Berren, but it’s growing on me. Certainly not a “Gollancz” cover, but it has a certain charm I think, especially if you remember it was originally marketted as a YA story.

Polish cover (lo-res)

Mystery Project Y (9/4/2012)

Posted in News

The last couple of weeks have cleared a whole pile of deadlines off my desk, only one of which is likely to come back and haunt me in any way before summer. I find myself wondering about what to do next. Not immediately next, since the next few months will be busy with Mystery Project X, but I find myself wondering what will come afterwards. What will be Mystery Project Y?

Without further ado, here are the elevator pitches for the current contenders. In a travesty of pretend-democracy, I encourage you to cheer or boo whatever takes your fancy before I go and write something that probably doesn’t even appear on this list at all:

A Cork, A Sock and Some Dynamite: A space-opera bastard offspring of Bladerunner, Neuromancer and the Bourne Identity, all wrapped up in an eighties goth-culture frock coat.

Darkfinger: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Monster Hunters – Humorous contemporary fantasy: What Being Human would be if John Woo was the guest writer-director every now and then?

From Darkest Skies: The X-files meets Twin Peaks in space (known to some as The Magenta Files)

His Majesty’s Magician: In an alternate 1920s, a mysterious magician attempts to bring down the British Empire. A little HP Lovecraft, some Fu Manchu, a dash of Sherlock Holmes and a slice of Indiana Jones.

Mine Eyes: That HP Lovecraft / Fu Manchu / Indiana Jones thing set in the future and mixed up with some cyberpunk instead.

The Spirit Cabinet: In late Victorian London, a spiritualist is murdered for the secret he knows. More of a question than the secret itself is how did he know it? Shutter Island meets The Prestige

Sulphur: A couple of hundred years in the future and a humanity scarred by the fruits of its own biological experiments suddenly finds life on Mars. SF that looks like it follows the steps of Alien and The Thing and even Doom, but actually belongs with Moon and 2001.

Syracuse: Time-travelling teens save the world, try to sort out their lives and possibly learn a little history.

Thumper: A bit serial killer, a bit Deathwish, a bit The Diceman and a bit some Channel 4 movie set in the North of England and staring Pete Postlethwaite.

Vicarious: In ancient Egypt, a wizard calls upon the power of an ancient god. In Victorian London, some thieves try to hijack an archaeological find. In the 1970s, some burglars find more than they bargained for in the mansion of a reclusive Egyptologist. In contemporary London, lizard-men roam the tube network, and in the future, someone is testing a psychic weapon. A bit inspired by The Cloud Atlas.

Vampires and Werewolves and Witches, Oh My (4/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

The random jottings on world-building had got as far as where rain falls and was about to get on to rivers. Then something about living things and ecologies and eventually I might have gotten around to to some humans and cultures and histories and social structures and all that sort of thing. But a blurb I had read to me today makes me want to just zip ahead for a moment, just for a moment, for the benefit of those for whom world-building seems (apparently) to be an utterly pointless exercise.

If anyone who reads this is thinking, even a little bit, about writing a story with a contemporary setting with vampires, werewolves or witches in it, please please please for the love of all things supernatural, give at least SOME thought as to the impact and interactions such creatures will have on society at large. I can think of so many examples where this has been done and done well, to the point of being the dominant theme of the book, but even paying some simple lip-service to the idea that the fact that witches/vampires/werewolves exist might mean something more than having a touch of supernatural to add to ones feisty go-getter heroine or tall dark mysterious hero is probably a really good idea. Or am I missing something. Is it just a guy thing to wonder why vampires burn in the hidious light of the day-star but seem to be just fine in – and in fact positively enjoy -  the reflected hidious light of the day-star that is otherwise known as the full moon. Or indeed in the hideous light of the night-stars which is basically exactly the same. Or to wonder what an immortal super-powered creature might do over the centuries to protect themselves and their interests and how they might do it, and how they might struggle (or not) with the advance of technology. Or wonder what their lives might have been like for the last four hundred years? Or to watch a typical werewolf transformation scene and even before the inevitable nope, special effects still can’t make this not look stupid, think hey, that violated the law of conservation of mass!

Is it just a guy thing to think that creatures such as vampires and werewolves and witches should carry more meaning than merely character with dark yet sexy allure.

It’s just me, isn’t it.

I’ll get me coat.


Oh, and your fairies too.

Dragon Queen Completed (3/4/2012)

Posted in News

The last rewriting for Dragon Queen is now finished and the manuscript will be submitted for editing later this week. A few statistics:

Intended Wordcount: 120k

Actual Wordcount: 204k

Intended hours of effort: 300 hours

Actual hours of effort: more like 500 hours (so about two full months more than it was meant to be)

Number of characters inherited from The Adamantine Palace: 2

Number of  dragons inherited from The Order of the Scales: 1

Number of Adamantine Men: 1

Number of characters inherited from The Warlock’s Shadow: 1

Number of unusually polite assasins: 3

Number of people burned by dragons: lots

Number of times the words lightning and/or rocket appear: 172

Number of times the words flower and/or hippy appears: 4

Number of times I had mis-spelled lightning as lighting before I went through and manually checked every single damned instance: 23

Number of primary human characters: 6

Number of primary human characters who are overtly non-Caucasian: 3

Number of primary human characters who are overtly old: 2

Number of primary human characters who are overtly female: 2

Number of primary human characters who are overtly old, female and non-Caucasian: 1

Number of primary human characters who are revealed as shape-shifting sentient lemons from another world: 0

Number of times the word lemon appears: 2

Number of people disintegrated by the wrath of an angry god: 5

Make of that what you will. I am particularly pleased with this one, but then I think I’ve felt that about every book I’ve finished, so perhaps best not to read too much into that.

Back to working on the edits for The King’s Assassin and the proof of The Black Mausoleum.

Gig Celibacy (2/4/2012)

Posted in Critical Failures

Once upon a time, when a man wanted to go and see his favourite band play, he would get himself to the venue box office and queue up for a bit and hand over some money and walk away with a ticket. My, how ancient it makes me feel to rememember doing that. And then came telephones and credit cards and buying things from the comfort of your own home, and then after that came ticket agencies and credit-card surcharges and boy did you PAY for the comfort of paying from your own lounge. I won’t get too ranty about that though, because it would have been a damn sight easier and cheaper sometimes to get on the phone and pay the damn rip-off surcharge than to travel to the venue.

However . . .

I do believe the spirit of Ryan Air has grown too large. Firstly, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I don’t really think it’s very fair to throw in a “delivery” surcharge or whatever it is you’ve decided to call it when there is not one single option that doesn’t actually cost money. Not box-office collection, not printing it out myself, nothing. So it’s not so much a “delivery” surchage as a “being able to have something to present on the night to prove that you’ve actually bought a ticket” surcharge, which I might just as easily call a “letting you in to see the band you paid to see” surcharge, which doesn’t, to be honest, fell like a surcharge so much, y’know, and more of a bog-standard charge sort of charge. I’m looking for the sur, but I’m really not seeing it here.

Why, though, why does it cost the same to have you e-mail me the ticket so I can have the privilege of printing it out with my own paper and ink and electricity as it does to have them sent through the post? WHY? WHY? IT MAKES NO SENSE! Aaaagh.

So through the post it shall be. I can only assume that Sheperd’s Bush Empire has shares inthe post office.

New Three-Book Fantasy Series Announced (1/4/2012)

Posted in News

Following lengthy negotiations with various publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, I can now announce that I will be writing a new three-book fantasy series to be published by Gollancz in 2013.

The series of heroic/epig fantasy will centre around a the character Porqloyne, a former butcher, now a vegetarian, who is forced out of his retirement when his entire family and home village are gored to death by wild boar. As a prophecy known to every man woman and child unexpectedly starts to come true, as extremely unlikely events begin to unfold throughout the generic northern european medieval kingdom, he is forced on a journey to collect ancient cleaver Sorz-Egde. But this will be just the beginning of what promises to be an epig confrontation between good and evil.

“Following the success of Deas’ dragon-based fantasy series, we felt the market was ready for other fantastical creatures. After dragons, flying pigs were an obvious choice, with a recognisable day-to-day appeal that will transcend the usual genre readership and reach out well to the mass market,” said one industry insider, who has begged to remain anonymous.

Much of the story is inspired by my long-held misunderstanding, only recently disabused, that the Bay of Pigs really was a bay full of pigs, and also a slightly unexpected debate in a role-playing game a while back in which it was observed by one party member that the river we were currently unable to cross would be a lot easier if it was made of pigs instead of water. Or possibly I dreamed that last bit.

Work begins after the Easter holidays.