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This august gathering

Henry Rollins once said:

August, the summer’s last messenger of misery, is a hollow actor.

Damn, that sounds deep. And very Northern Hemisphere, but whatever.

August starts on, oh jesus it starts on Saturday and I am probably not ready but screw it! I have plans for that month! And I want to share them with you!

First things first – I am going to finish this revision of Raven’s Blood, I swear with God and you folks as my witnesses.

Yes yes, I wrote last week about embracing writer’s block and letting things happen naturally and giving my muse time to come a’courting and all that. And I stand by that. But my internal frustration and self-loathing is coming to a head, and that’s the primary motivator I have for Getting Shit Done. (Healthy, no?) I want to finish this book and do something with it, if only so I can get free of its gravity for a while and write something else.

So yeah. End of August. Hold me to it.

August is also GENCON! The biggest four days in gaming! The massive RPG convention that I have never attended because it’s in America!

This year I will continue not going to Gencon. But I will write things on Twitter andFacebook or Google+ (depending on whether I want anyone to see them or not) using the #rpgaday2015 hashtag. Because HASHTAG, people. And nerdiness.

Keep an eye out for those if’n you’re so inclined.

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August is also time for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival!

This year I was a minor member of a small programming committee that didn’t use many of my ideas, but that’s still enough for me to score a pass and see pretty much whatever I want. So hit me with your recommendations of people to see and panels you’d like to see vicariously through me!

My main plan – OH MY GOD KELLY LINK WILL BE THERE I HAVE ALL THE EXCITEMENT can’t talk already queueing

Okay, what else is happening in August… um, some parties you’re not invited to, a bunch of work events you don’t care about…

Hey, you know what you could do in August? Register to go to GenreCon in October! That’s what I’m doing, and I might even be helping out with a panel or something while I’m there!

I know, that’s a stretch. The main thing is writing, and possibly listening to a lot of music from The Dear Hunter.

But yeah, it’s mostly writing. And thinking about games. Maybe some drinking.

August: It’s gotta be more productive than July. That’s my epigram, Rollins be damned.

Come, join me.

Stuff and/or nonsense

The last blog post was pretty focused and pretty serious.

This one? Not so much. On either front.

May and June have been crraaaaaapppppp for getting any writing done, thanks to the distracting powers of a) pain and b) painkillers. Instead I have been distracted and lackin g in energy, while my days, nights and productive weekends have been lost in a haze of aches, self-pity and Skyrim.

But! I’m off the painkillers, my leg is feeling a bit better, I’m taking a shitload of vitamin B&D every day to push through the seasonal doldrums, I’m super jazzed after calculating that I made $150 from writing last year (SARCASM) and I am determine to rewrite the living hell out of Raven’s Blood.

I’m back! I’m driving! Witness me!

Last year I read bugger-all actual novels, preferring instead to read graphic novels and Twitter in the blurry half-hour of regret and limited seat space that is my morning commute. But this year I swore to put that behind me and to read at least 50 proper novels, or at least comics that don’t have Batman in them, over the course of 12 months.

That target has slid badly of late because I’m reading David Mitchell’s epic doorstop The Bone Clocks and… I kind of hate it? Or at least don’t like it at all, at all? I’m probably going to keep reading it because friends of mine like it and I feel like I have to give it a burl for their sake, but I’m giving it a rest for a while. Maybe when I come back it will magically be half the length and significantly less repetitive, boring and self-indulgent.

Instead I’ve started reading Kelly Link’s new collection Get in Trouble, and it is of course wonderful and mind-blowing and fantastically well written and creepy as hell and I love it and you should read it. I wish all books could be as good and well-edited as this one.

 

Other books wot I have read and would recommend:

  • The Sugar House, Rose Bailey
  • The Martian, Andy Weir
  • The Cormorant, Chuck Wendig
  • Exile, Peter Ball
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed
  • Sex Criminals, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Look, just follow me on Goodreads, it’s probably simpler.

PODCAST TIME

Welcome to Podcast Time, our regular feature where I describe all the new podcasts I’m listening to – not during my commute, which is reading time, but in the 10 hours a week I spend walking the dog, usually in freezing darkness with a plastic bag in one hand and a torch in the other.

The things we do for love. And audio entertainment.

Anyway! Stuff you should listen to!

  • Rachel and Miles Xplain the X-Men, in which the titular Rachel and Miles work their way through forty years of mutant comics and explain how it all worked and why it was frequently awesome, hilarious or problematic, often all at the same time.
  • Shut Up and Sit Down, which is about board games and is very clever and funny and hosted by people who actually understand what makes games challenging and engaging.
  • Journey Into Misery, where one comics fan explains character continuity and backstory to his interested but easily distracted girlfriend, and I know that sounds mansplainy but it’s actually a lot of fun and they’re both young and adorable.
  • The Allusionist, which is about words and nomenclature and the power of language and if you’re the kind of person who likes words and dry wit  – and I know you are – then you’re probably already listening to it.
  • Unjustly Maligned, where writers, podcasters and other folks explain why they love particular bits of pop culture that other people do not, like Murder She Wrote, Italian cartoon theme tunes or Popeye the Movie and look I can’t agree with that last one but god bless that crazy person for his craziness.
  • Song Exploder, where musicians and composers deconstruct songs and tracks they’ve worked on, giving you a glimpse of their process and craft in a podcast that’s actually too good to make silly run-on sentences about.

Thanks for joining us at Podcast Time. We’ll return when someone finally starts making a good roleplaying podcast that isn’t just three dudes with identical mumbles talking about how much they hated 4th ed D&D and laughing at their own campaign references.

…this may be a long wait.

I wish this blog post was cleverer.

But given how rubbish I’ve been at updating these last few months, I think that it’s just a little victory that it exists at all.

More existence next time! Probably! Hopefully!

Greetings from Planet DONE

Hiya folks,

At last I can emerge from my cave, blinking and scratching myself, covered with body hair and coffee stains like a freelance Bigfoot, to announce that I have finished working on my Pathfinder adventure for Green Ronin Games!

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It proved to be remarkably strenuous work. My RPG-writing muscles are not what they used to be.

The plan for the rest of this month is to watch Daredevil, see Black Diggers and Avengers 2, spend time with my lovely wife (she’s so lovely you guys) and generally not write anything except one or two blog posts that are currently rattling around my head.

After that, May and June are all about revising and polishing Raven’s Blood so that it’s fiiiiinnnnallllly ready for submission to publishers, and then to start work on a new book. Which will be one of two horror projects, depending on where my head is at, and doubtless we’ll talk about that more then.

Daredevil-costume-comparison

Tonight, though, I’m just popping my head up to say hello. Now to make dinner and watch a blind man in a leotard kick evil in the dick.

Check you later.

Checking in again

Miss me?

Yes, I am back from the freezing wastelands of Iowa, where I finally got to play in snow for the first time, an experience that was super-amazing fun until I realised that snow is really freaking cold. This was after significant amounts of it went down the back of my pants.

LEARNING.

More importantly for you, my cherubs, is that I am back, I am rested, I am full of word ideas and I finished the foundation draft of The Obituarist II while I was away. It’s with my editor and alpha-readers, and if they can give me their notes in the next couple of weeks – notes that hopefully aren’t ‘this story makes no goddamn sense’, a possibility that has been worrying me – then I should be able to revise and improve it in time to put it up online for Christmas.

And once that is done, it’s back into the revisions of Raven’s Blood with a vengeance, possibly pausing only to outline a horror novella idea (provisionally called Sickness Dreaming) that’s been in on my mind of late. I’ll even write a few substantive blog posts. Remember those?

But that all comes later. This week I’m jetlagged, frostbitten and desperately trying to catch up on three weeks of dayjob emails. There will be no further writing this week. I’ve earned that much.

Catch you next weekend. Promise.

Checking in, checking out again

Although just at the moment I feel close to it.

I mean, hi! Here’s a lightning fast update on what’s happening with me right now.

  • My day job is kicking my butt. A lot. And I’m not being left with a lot of time or energy for much else.
  • That includes Obituarist II: Dead Man’s Data – but I am really close to finishing it, I swear. It’s about 30-40% longer than the first one, so I’ve had to adjust for that, but includes more action, more one-liners and a significant amount of more swearing. At least, it does in this foundation draft. My plan was to finish it tonight and send it off to my editor and alpha-readers tomorrow, but I’m going to miss that deadline due to packing; instead, I’ll finish it over the weekend, or possibly while in flight, and email it out then.
  • Packing? In flight? Yes, we’re going away on holiday for a few weeks, where I will hopefully recharge some of the energy I’m been using up over the last month. There’ll be pictures and anecdotes when we’re back – and if I get a chance to hang with any writers, maybe even some interviews.
  • Don’t worry, Ernie’s staying with a neighbour. He’ll have fun.
  • I was thinking hard about submitting Raven’s Blood to Hatchette’s open call for YA manuscripts, but decided against it. It’s still too rough and I need more time with it, and right now I don’t have any time to spare. There’ll be other opportunities.
  • I listened to Night Terrace. You should too. It’s really good!

And with that, it’s off to eat tacos, pack suitcases and maybe get a little bit of writing in before collapsing into an exhausted slumber.

Back soon. I promise. Let’s not go so long without talking in future.

Moving day (weekend) (week) (fortnight)

Like any writer worth his/her salt, I work in a garret.

Well, a back room in our house, anyway. It’s reasonably garret-y.

But the time came to expand my study into a larger office, one that would accommodate more shelves and an extra desk. And that time came, and went, and came back again, until two weeks ago we decided ‘okay, time to move furniture this afternoon’!

…it took longer than an afternoon.

Possibly because this was my workspace, the place where the magic happens:

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It contained the normal things you would expect on a writer’s desk: papers, more papers, Post-it notes, index cards, bits of Lego, dice, pens, photographs, coffee cups, toast crumbs, character sheets, thermal gloves, assorted cables for devices I no longer own, CDs for albums I long ago converted to MP3, vitamins, cufflinks, a really big thesaurus, poker chips, clothes pegs painted to look like Batman and Wonder Woman, tax records and dust.

So much dust.

Anyway, most of that material got put somewhere for safekeeping…

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…while the rest of it moved about four metres down the hall.

This process took two weeks.

In my defence, I also assembled a bunch of furniture in the process. And broke-and-then-fixed the internet. And discovered that you shouldn’t mix tequila and major painkillers.

Oh, what an adventure that was.

But! I’m happy to report that I’m in the new office, along with my wife and our dog. All the shoes are lined up neatly, all the graphic novels and D&D sourcebooks are in a neat Ikea-grid, a new office chair that won’t break my spine is being picked out…

…and I’m back to the writing. Of course.

(PS For this, and for other reasons that mostly involve Real Life and me being crap, The Obituarist II is behind schedule.)

(At least try to look slightly shocked.)

 

 

The state of the union, 2013-14

Hiya kids,

Last week’s post was a bit epic; this one is a lot shorter. It’s the end of the financial year, so I’m doing a bit of an audit of projects past, present and future to see what’s what.

In no particular order:

  • I spent about eight times more on publishing my ebooks this year than I made back in sales. This may be some kind of record. Oh well, good thing I don’t rely on writing (or at least this kind of writing) to pay the rent.
  • I made 82 cents from Smashwords sales. Pretty much ready to stick a fork in that site. But how else to get my books onto non-Amazon sites?
  • Alpha-reader reports on Raven’s Blood are coming back in, and so far they’re all pretty positive. There’s work to do, but it’s not like the whole concept and/or execution is fucked. And believe me, I was worried.
  • I’m behind schedule on Obituarist II, which I’m sure comes as a huge fucking shock. But the cover is done! And it’s great!
  • 015Kinda gotta start getting my shit together for this year’s US trip in November.
  • Speaking of shit, plotting out a new short story. It’s about the Devil. And bowel movements.
  • Trust me, it’ll be good.
  • My dog is pretty freaking cute.
  • Even if he does keep stepping on my crotch when I’m trying to write.
  • The X-Men: Days of Future Past soundtrack is boooooooooooooooring.

Okay, that’s me done. See you on the opposite side of the profit/loss ledger.

Obligatory end-of-year blog post

Ah, the end of the year.

At this time it is traditional for us to gather together and paw through the smoking embers of the last twelve months, picking through the ashes for nuggets of gold and occasionally holding up charred bits of regret to ruefully show them off. Then we all get drunk and promise ourselves the next year will be totally different, completely awesome and hopefully less flammable.

Are you tired of that sort of thing? I think I am. I was getting ready to write a 1000-word post about the things I learned in 2013, but when I sat down at the computer I realised that I didn’t really feel like writing that – and that, more importantly, I was pretty sure that no-one else would be all that interested in reading it. We’ve done that before, we’ve all danced that dance, and it’s probably time to change the music and switch to the hokey-pokey instead.

So let’s cut to the chance and do an executive summary. (I do a lot of those, now that I’m an executive.)

Pros of 2013

  • I went to China, France, Germany and Finland
  • I got an awesome new job
  • GenreCon was totally excellent
  • We adopted a pretty great dog
  • The people in my life are pretty much all awesome

Cons of 2013

  • One of my best friends died
  • I didn’t finish writing Raven’s Blood
  • I didn’t finish writing much else either
  • The Abbott government

Things I Want Plan to do in 2014

  • Finish, revise and polish Raven’s Blood and find a publisher for it
  • Write and self-publish Obituarist II: 2 Pinterest 2 Posthumous
  • Write more short fiction and maybe even find someone to pay me for it
  • Become more involved with the Melbourne writing scene, or at least some other writers
  • Go to the US, eat barbecue and have a few drinks with Chuck Wendig again
  • Hang out with my wife and my dog

Things I Will Probably Also do in 2014

  • Drink too much
  • Spend too much time playing games and not enough time writing
  • Come home after work and feel too drained to write or do anything creative
  • Make excuses that I know are bullshit
  • Blog excessively

That probably covers everything. Man, if only I was writing this novel in bullet point form. I could have done the whole trilogy by now.

In closing, many thanks and much respect to everyone who’s stuck with this blog, and with me, in this year where I didn’t get a whole lot done. I probably would have done even less if I hadn’t been worried about disappointing you.

Hope you folks have a good end-of-year celebration, if that’s your bag, and I’ll see you in 2014 – The Year of Living Dangerously (Because You Keep Getting into Bar Fights with Robots).

 

Hello Europe, this is Melbourne calling

Let the silence end, let the trumpets sound, let the word go out across the land – I have returned from my European tour!

…well, technically I got back last week, but I didn’t get home until really late on Sunday night and I was tired. So let’s just pretend that I snapped right back into my blogging schedule straight away rather than being a lazy arse for a week.

But yes, I’m back in Melbourne and into the daily grind after visiting Paris, Berlin and Helsinki, as well as coming home via Townsville (I had my reasons). It was a pretty awesome trip, spent wandering the sights with my lovely wife.

Highlights:

  • Exploring the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles
  • Witnessing the silent dead (and sleeping security staff) of the Paris Catacombs
  • Gazing at Monet’s Water Lilies in their original installation/gallery
  • Just so much art in general
  • Wandering the streets of Berlin and drinking its very cheap beer
  • The incredible DesignPanoptikum in Berlin, a ‘surreal museum of industrial objects’ that is basically the best place ever
  • Pretty much everything else in Berlin, which is like the 90s with wifi
  • Vodka with Cam Rogers and dinner with old White Wolf contact Mikko Rautalahti in Helsinki
  • Two days of non-stop beer and movies with Townsville friends to shake off the jetlag

Lowlights:

  • Getting gastroenteritis on the third day and being left too weak to properly explore Paris with my wife on our freakin’ honeymoon
  • Saying goodbye to said wife as we left Berlin, when I headed to Finland and she went to the USA

It was kind of amazing. There are photos over on Facebook if that appeals to you.

And now I’m back.

The other thing I did in Europe was sit in bars, cafes and restaurants, pull out my laptop and work on Raven’s Blood.

That’s right. Writing while on holiday. Writing while recovering from sickness. Writing when I could have been drinking instead. Drinking Euro-booze.

The influence of GenreCon appears to still be in effect, and I may have at last found the writing work ethic I’ve been missing all these years. I keep wrapping up a couple of chapters a week, which isn’t all that much in real terms (about 4000 words) but it’s text that I’m happy with and that’s likely to stay fairly stable as I revise, tweak and polish. More like third draft than first draft, I think. I hope.

Anyway, even as lots of writers I know are smashing their NaNoWriMo targets, I’m achieving the less-impressive task of just getting my work done – and indeed of looking forward to working on the book. Which is a personal milestone for me.

Another will be finishing it, of course. Please keep holding my feet to the fire for that.

I also, while lying awake at 4am thanks to illness and jetlag, came up with the core premise and major character and plot elements of an entire horror/urban-fantasy (but mostly horror) trilogy called Underneath the Skin, which I can best describe as a mix between Silent Hill and Scarface. It’s a story about drugs, gangs and urban crime mixing with warped hell-scapes filled with blood, rust and atrocities; two underworlds colliding with one not-too-sympathetic protagonist in the middle.

(That could also describe Chuck Wendig’s rather awesome The Blue Blazes, except it’s totally different.)

Lying awake at night and thinking up plots is not that unusual for me – except that this time I wrote it all down in the morning, with notes for all three books and the progression of the main character. This is much better than what I normally do, which is forget all about it forever by lunchtime. So once Raven’s Blood is finished and I’ve taken care of The Obituarist II: Obit Harder, the next project may well be Scar Tissue, the first book of this new series.

That’ll happen any day now. Trust me.

And on that note – and because I don’t have a whole lot to say other than ‘hey doodz, I’m back’, I’ma gonna get back to work on the book. There’s a big fight scene I have to complete – and as we know, fight scenes are awesome.

I’ll be back another time to talk about Big Important Issues and similar stuff. After the crossbows and explosions are wrapped up.