A Life of Fiction CLXXIV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

After NaNoWriMo: Well, I finished a novel during November, even though it was only just over fifty thousand words long. In fact I managed to complete two novels during that period: Strange Days and Blank New World. So I wrote over one hundred thousand words during November. I finished the second novel with a couple of days left to go.
Spending all month on one (or two) projects was interesting, as I usually write bits on several projects during a month, as the mood takes me, and as thoughts arise as how to take projects forward. I work at my own pace on each novel or poetry collection or whatever. While writing constantly on a single project was interesting, I don’t think that either of the novels which I did during November was that great. I think that they were a little hurried. And, if you write at that pace, you can’t do anything else but hurry, forcing yourself forwards.
I did not bother to put either novel into the NaNoWriMo website, after discovering that a picture was required for the cover. I am a writer, not an artist. The only art program which I have on my computer is Microsoft Paint. Anything which I did not that would be boringly simple. I did not have any idea of what sort of cover I would like for Blank New World. But that certainly was not the case for Strange Days. Any cover for that would have shown the cover of a book – the book mentioned in the novel. The cover would be an image of a hardback copy of that book lying on a wooden table. On the cover the sun would be dawning blue, lighting up an otherwise dark sky. It is an image which is important to a storyline. But I don’t have the skills to produce a book cover like that.
I took part in NaNoWriMo, this time, only for myself, setting myself a target of two novels and hitting the target. I proved to myself that I could do it if I had wanted to. Three years, now, I have taken part in NaNoWriMo. But I don’t think that I will bother to take part next year. I already have that JPG award showing that I have doe it. I have four novels as a result: the two mentioned above, as well as Steam Park and Empire of Steam. I don’t think that I have anything else to prove. Not to myself, anyway, and I write, ultimately, to please myself. If anybody else likes what I have written I consider it to be a bonus.
As to the two books I wrote I think that I may stick them on Kindle at some stage, when I feel like it. They will certainly be no worse than some of the books on there (no names). But I think that I will put them on very cheap, at least until some stage where I do a second or third draft of them. And I can’t see a second draft appearing any time soon.
Strange Days is a book about the collapse of reality (or is it?) and a work of fiction which writes itself into the real world. It is, perhaps, not the most original idea. But I needed something which I could write quickly without much pause for thought. Reality going insane is one of the things which I have no problem in writing. I don’t want to say too much else about the novel as I don’t want to spoil it for anybody foolish enough to buy a copy on the Amazon Kindle store.
Blank New World is set in a world where Trump is President of the United States of America. It is set in the very near future, and is a world where, in terms of foreign affairs, things are pretty much going crap. But the main protagonists of the novel are three unemployed ex-students who share a flat in an unnamed town. They spend their time playing console games or watching television or going to the pub (when they can afford it). The novel describes a week in their world. I got the title of the novel after watching an episode of Pointless. It had a round where contestants had to fit in the blanks in the titles of famous books. One of them was ________ New World – or, as Alexander Armstrong called it, Blank New World. I liked the title so much that I decided to use it as the title for my second NaNoWriMo novel. I don’t need to tell any of you that the correct answer to that Pointless question was Brave New World, by the great Aldous Huxley.
Since the end of November I have begun a science fiction novel called Psionex-328. It is a novel in which psionics play a big part, in a dystopian future world. But I have only written the first three thousand words so far. I am still working out the details of the plot inside my head. While I work out the details I work on other things, such as posts to this website and a little bit more to the Bridget Jacobson Mysteries.
Anyway, I think that is enough for now.


A Life of Fiction CLXXIII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Loss: Some time ago one of my very close friends, Brian Grove, passed away. As you are reading this he will have been dead for many months. But that is only because I have had a backlog of these posts to put on WordPress. I put them on in the order that I wrote them.
Right at this moment I feel like giving up, as far as the writing is concerned. Hopefully that feeling will pass. At the time, though, I am in a miasma of inaction, where I have to force myself to write, and where none of my current projects feel all that appealing to me. Writing steampunk or gaslamp fantasy tales feel ephemeral at the moment, if you know what I mean. The one thing which I have been working on is a series of letters to Brian Grove, to try and put my thoughts down on paper, and get some of this sorrow out of my system. I have also wanted to record down what I can remember about my friend, before I begin to forget stuff about him. So far I have written about sixty odd short letters to my dead friend. But even that is running out of steam, at around some thirty thousand words. Maybe I have already said everything which I want to say, and I should wind up that collection of letters and move back to other projects, and try to finish them off. Maybe by the time that you are reading these words I will have already put those letters on Kindle. Or maybe I will never ever publish them. I haven’t decided yet.
Like me Brian Grove was a writer. But he was one who got a proper publisher to publish his book, The Treasure Hunter’s Handbook. If you are interested in becoming a treasure hunter then I know that you can find the book on Amazon. There are some really interesting chapters in the book. I think that my favourite was the one on gold. So go and pick it up and honour my dead friend.
I feel as though I should have stronger feelings of loss, and I feel almost guilty for not mourning more. But I’m not sure that it has completely sunk in yet. I still can’t believe that I am never going to have another drink with him.
The only thing to have come out of this loss is that project called Seventy Letters to Brian Grove, in which I write to him about our relationship, and I try to recall some of his views on life, his likes and dislikes. That project is now complete. I suppose that it is a coping mechanism. I may release it on Kindle, one day, although I cannot really imagine that many people would like to read it.
Anyway, enough on the depressing matter of death. The next post will be called After NaNoWriMo.

A Life Of Fiction CLXXII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

A Few Notes On Storylines: Here are a few brief notes on constructing storylines. First of all, even before you put a pen to paper, don’t think of suddenly coming up with the entire storyline. Imagine how you want the story to end. Then plan how you are going to reach that ending. You don’t have to note your plans down – those who write quickly can, sometimes, keep such plans entirely within their minds. Try and have an idea of the ending, and how the story unfolds from the beginning to reach that ending.
Sometimes I have written the beginning of a novel, and sketched out the next couple of chapters, and then written the ending, while it is still fresh in my mind. Other details can be filled in as the story progresses.
This is especially true of murder mysteries. You have to know who the killer is, at the start of the novel, even if it is something which is only revealed on the last page of the novel. work back from the end, deciding why the killer murdered the victim, and how it was done, and how the person tried to cover up the crime. Be sure to include red herrings, to try and lead the investigator astray (and possibly the reader, as well). People who read murder mysteries don’t always want to know the identity of the killer from the start (unless they are fans of Columbo, of course).
Create story arcs, when you are ready, on your computer or on a piece of paper. If you are doing a complex novel you want to be able to move around sections of the prose, especially if you have multiple storylines running through your prose. Don’t be scared of moving things around to where you feel they fit better.
When you are ready start writing, when you think that you know what is going to happen. But don’t be scared to modify the storyline as you are going along. Sometimes novels can evolve as you are writing them.
That’s enough for now. But I may come back to this, later, in more detail.

A Life Of Fiction CLXXI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

On Comics: In this post I am going to talk about comics. Not any comic specifically, as I have recommended various comics in the past (Moonshadow, etc). No, in this brief post I am going to talk about that sad habit which is collecting comics. Sorry if this is boring to those who are not enchanted by overpriced publications which only have twenty-two pages of story. But normal service will be resumed with my next post. I promise that o won’t talk about comics all the time.
The Comic Collector: The comic collector is not, as some people might think, some spotty fourteen year old bedazzled by the adventures of Spider-man or Captain America. Maybe he was once. But that was a long time ago. He has grown up since then, in age if not in wisdom. Now he is a person in his forties, with more money than sense. Yes, the average age of the person who buys comic books is actually quite old, and getting older with each passing year. Not enough new readers enter the hobby to bring the age back down. Teenagers probably could not afford to collect comics, anyway. You need a lot of disposable income in order to become a comic collector. If you are thinking about becoming a comic collector: don’t. Go and get some cheap hobby instead, like buying gold or owning a horse. You’ll probably have more fun horse riding.
The comics are your most prized possessions. In case of a fire it would not be your wallet which you would grab as you run from your house, but your copy of The Avengers issue 4 (that’s the one where Captain America reappears in the present, found encased in ice by the other Avengers). You got a foxed copy for four hundred pounds in a comic shop and thought it cheap.
Your comics are stored in mylar bags, with a cardboard backing board behind the comic. Mylar is supposed to stop the acid deterioration of the comics.
You know lost of useless information about comic book characters. You know that Batman first appeared in Detective Comics issue 27. You know that he was created by Bob Kane. In fact you know the original creators of most of the famous comic book characters. Unless you plan to go on Mastermind that knowledge is of no use at all. And I think that he has already had a contestant whose specialty subject was comic-book superheroes.
There is a good chance that you are overweight. You might even have a beard. It is almost certain that you have XXL tee-shirts (probably purchased from a comic shop). You may well be single. And if you still have comic-collecting as a hobby then you have a little bit too much disposable income.
Other Comic Collectors: Other comic collectors are the natural enemies of the comic collector. You might think that we should be friends. But that is not the case. Let me explain.
It is other comic collectors who snaffle the comics which you want. They get to the number ones first, so that your collection of The Phantom Stranger begins with issue two, and not issue one. They buy up all the good comics, unless you are standing there when the guys in the comic book store actually put the comics out on the shelves. You have to wait there, like vultures waiting for something to die and become carrion. Then you dive on the comics while they are fresh on the shelves, before anybody else can get them. Yes, I have done that in the past.
Other comic collectors are the reason why, at a comic book signing, you don’t manage to get your comics signed by the writer or the artist. It was not your fault that your train got in late, and that by the time that the queue advanced so that you were almost there the creators decided that they had signed their names enough times.
Other comic book collectors are the reasons why you have just shelled out twenty quid for a comic which is only three months old. You missed that issue of Batman (or whatever) with the alternate cover (limited edition) by your favourite artist because you couldn’t get to the comic shop on the day that it was out and by the time that you got there they had all gone, snaffled up by other comic book collectors. But the comic is now there, on the walls of the comic book store. And you have to have it, to complete your collection, because you are a sad little monkey. So other comic book collectors have just cost you twenty pounds. Cheers!
The Product: This is the comics. They now come out at the cost of $3.99 in the USA. When I began collecting them they cost 12 cents. That means they are now thirty-three times as expensive, give or take a bit. Are they thirty-three times as good? Somehow I doubt that.
Oh, yes, I know that you are going to tell me that it is inflation, and that they really aren’t all that expensive than before; and that the printing of the comics is far superior than what the printing was like when they only cost 12 cents. But they feel a lot more expensive, when I am shelling out for them.
The printing is a lot better than it was, back when they printed in white, black, yellow, cerise and blue. A lot of my early comics have colours which aren’t quite printed in the correct place, so that the colour bleeds out of where it was supposed to be. Even as late as the eighties there were problems with printing. In Crisis On Infinite Earths there were sections which had white letters on a black background. I have issues where the black has bled a little, making some of those comics very hard to read. Not a good idea, white on black. But that is not a problem now.
The writing, once, used to be genius, at the time when Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, John Byrne, Peter David and a host of others all used to be working for Marvel or DC, and working on your favourite comics. Alan Moore on Swamp Thing. John Byrne on Alpha Flight. Peter David on the Incredible Hulk. Grant Morrison on the Doom Patrol. But although some of those writers are still in the trenches the writing, for the most part, has deteriorated, while the printing, and occasionally the artwork, has got better. Now you can get twenty-two pages of very pretty pictures. But they are not comics which you are going to read over and over again, s you used to – as you still do – with The Dark Knight Returns or the first twenty-six issues of Animal Man.
The Comic Book Store Staff: These are the people who take money from you week after week but, when you are broke and trying to sell a few comics which you thought were valuable, offer you less than thirty pence in the pound.
They are people who, over the years, have really become sick of being told how much fun it must bee to work in a comic book store.
The traditional worker looks like the traditional fan, but older and with bigger tee shirts.
They are the people who recommend a new comic to you, telling you that it is brilliant, because they have over-ordered a stinker and don’t know how they are going to shift it, otherwise.
Your Mom: She’s the one who throws away your Avengers comics from the 1960s, not realising that they are probably worth more than her car. And she never understands why you get so upset. “But they were only comics!”
Alan Moore: Alan Moore wrote a lot of good comics a long time ago: V For Vendetta, Swamp Thing, Watchmen, and so on. Because he wrote as well for comics as is demanded in any other form of fiction we call him God. Now he thinks he is one (and I’m not sure that he’s wrong).

That’s all for now. I’m off to buy some more comics. Maybe the latest Batman is in.

A Life of Fiction CLXX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes: Put yourself in their shoes: that is what a poet does; that is what a writer does. Learn to look through their eyes and try to see the world in a new way. So maybe you are an eco-friendly, Guardian-reading intellectual. Most other people aren’t (unfortunately!). There are Sun-reading, Conservative-voting libertarians. There are Sun-reading, Conservative-voting libertarians who aren’t bad people (some of them are my friends). Try to see why they are as they are, and what motivates them to subscribe to their points of view. If you want to create believable characters don’t denigrate the ‘other’ just because, politically, they are diametrically opposed to what you are. Unless, of course, you really do intend to make them the villains of the piece (but that is a different matter).
What makes them tick? People are not born with a series of points of view. Some are inherited from their parents; (or forced on them, in the way that some foolish parents force religion on their naïve children). Other points of view are moulded as the person gets older. Deciding what your views are on things are part of growing up.
What events caused those people to have those views? Were they bullied as children? Were the views bullied into them? Did they have some priest threaten to belabour them around the head with a hefty copy of the Holy Bible? That might well produce somebody who had different views to the child of a pair of hippies.
If you are dealing with many different characters in you book then it may help to write down little notes on each major character. I have even produced little index cards for each character, with things like age, hobbies, etc, on the cards. Index cards are one way of keeping track of things.
Imagine that you are the main character of your book. You are not writing about him (or her). You are him. You are at some crucial turning point of the plot. Imagine all of the things that the character has gone through in his life. Then pick what he would pick in those circumstances. Don’t pick what you would do.
Next time I’ll be waffling on about some recent books I’ve been reading.

A Life Of Fiction CLXIX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Books You May Want To Read: I am not really a big recommender of books, whether fiction or non-fiction, as I never seem to get through books as quickly as I like. I find that life always gets in the way.
I have recommended novels to people on other posts. I’m sure that I must have told you how great The Master and Margarita is, at some stage in the past. But I don’t think that I have waffled on about non-fiction books.
I buy non-fiction books for only two reasons. The first reason is that the books are going to occupy a place on my shelves at home, in what I think of as my ‘research library.’ The other reason is that the subject of the book is so fascinating (to me, at least) that I cannot resist picking it up. Here are three non-fiction books (I could name only a couple of others) which passed the test of See: Must Buy. All three of the books were acquired from charity shops (two came from Oxfam, one came from the British Heart Foundation).
I will try to briefly describe the books without giving away too much about them.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann. This book is about the search to discover what happened to the British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett. Fawcett had become obsessed with the idea that there was a real-life lost city – the Lost City of Z – deep in the Amazon jungle. Fawcett went in search of it in 1925 and was never seen again.
Fawcett was not some dilettantish, amateur explorer. He was a tough and seasoned individual; and it is possible that The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was partially inspired by Fawcett’s adventures. The character of Lord John Roxton was probably modelled on him.
I have not yet finished this book as I write these words. But how could I resist a book with the title of The Lost City of Z. I have been obsessed with lost cities since I was a little kid, ever since I heard about Atlantis and places like that. I have featured lost cities in my novels in the past (in City of Gold, for example). I think that, in my Gas-Lamp Fantasy Game, I even mention the lost City of Z, in one of the supplements. As soon as I saw this book on the shelves in the charity store I knew that it was going to be a good read.
The Riddle and the Knight by Giles Milton. The author was also the writer of Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, another good book. I’m recommending this book because it is probably (and undeservingly) less well known; and because the book is mainly about Sir John Mandeville. Like Fawcett Mandeville was an explorer – but Mandeville lived around six hundred years before Fawcett.
According to legend Mandeville spent around three decades exploring the world. After his travels he reputedly returned to Britain claiming to have travelled to the Far East, and to have encountered all manner of strange men and creatures. He claimed to have encountered Amazons, ; people with only one, giant leg and foot (inspiring a race in the Narnia books of C S Lewis); and Andaman Islanders who only had a small hole instead of a mouth. Anything to do with Sir John Mandeville – a person who I used as a character in Victoria Forever! – was something which I could not resist. I like things which are strange and quirky.
My last recommendation is The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, by Jeremy Narby. The book was originally published in French. It is another book dealing with South America. This one is about the claim made by some South American shamans that knowledge of plants was learned directly from the plants themselves while taking hallucinogenic substances. The book deals with the ideas of the double helix of DNA bring connected with the Rod of Asclepius. Narby claims that shamans (and ancient civilisations) had knowledge which modern science did not rediscover until the 1950s. It does not really matter whether Narby is correct or not. What is important is that you, at least, consider the possibility that he might be right. We should consider any such outlandish theories seriously, and not simply reject them out of hand. Some of the ideas in this book were an influence on my novel The Impossibilities.
Well, that is my selection of non-faction books. Maybe none of the above books are for you. Or maybe you have discovered your own favourite books which are quirky and strange.
That’s it for this post. Another one soon.

A Life of Fiction CLXVIII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

What To Read First If You’re Into Gas-Lamp Fantasy: This article relates to my WordPress site, and it is, basically, a guide as to what parts of my site you should check out if you’re into gas-lamp fantasy and you want to read some fiction, rather than my blog.

The only gas-lamp fantasy stuff which I have of any length (on this site) is my two Edwyn le Fay novellas.

[The adventures of] Edwyn le Fay comes first. Read it from zero onwards. Roanoke is set years later, after he has become a little more competent. Empire of Steam is not gas-lamp fantasy, but pure steampunk, and was written for NaNoWriMo 2014.

In addition to the above, I do have some steampunk stories on the internet, if you would like to read those as well as gas-lamp fantasy ones. There is Empire of Steam, mentioned above. There are a few others, but spread over the internet.

If you are one of those people who don’t mind paying for things on Kindle then here is a list of what I have published on there (so far), and a rough idea of order in which you might want to read them:

He Sees His World In Red

Rex Mundi

The Sifter Of The Sands Of Time

The Magician At The End Of The World

On Her Majesty’s Mystic Service

The Rift

The Return Of Rex Mundi

An American Adventure

Victoria Forever!

Serpent Rising


The Return of the Ogre

The Last Alchemist

City Of Gold

The Wondrous Adventures of John Briggs and William Prenderghast

The Further Adventures of Briggs and Prenderghast

The Exploits of Briggs and Prenderghast

The Final Adventures of Briggs and Prenderghast



Valley Of The Kings



The Mole Machine

Beneath The Ocean Waves

Into The Ether

The Madman Of The Air

Captain Renegade

Phantom Island

There are a few other bits and pieces on Kindle, and more to go on. But those, I think, are the main ones on there, at the moment.