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GenreCon HO!

Let’s start with a little light housekeeping.

My knee is doing alright, and I’m in much less pain than I was a few weeks ago. The surgeons removed a piece of cartilage the size of my little finger out of the joint; apparently it didn’t belong there. Good to know.

Work continues apace on revising Raven’s Blood, although not as fast as I would like (big surprise), and I’m going to need to get my skates on to meet my deadline. One thing delaying me – I’m writing a short story set in the 13th Age fantasy RPG universe, a spin-off and stretch goal for Greg Stolze’s novel The Forgotten Monk. It’s basically The Seven Samurai but with monsters and magic. Sort of. Anyway, gotta finish that this week.

I know it won’t really change anything, and in fact may make regime change less likely next year, and that it’s small and petty to relish the misfortunes of others but SO LONG TONE PLEASE DO LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ARSE ON THE WAY OUT A HAH HAH HAH HAH

If you had any confusion over my political leanings, I hope they are now clearer.

But let us move past these mundanities to more important things:

The GenreCon program is live!

It’s looking like a great lineup of events, and I’ve already locked in my flights and accommodation in anticipation. Hopefully there’ll be a chance to do some effective networking – i.e. getting drunk and singing karaoke with other writers – in between all these great panels.

Particularly these two panels, where I’m honour-bound to attend and not be too hungover:

Saturday October 31, 11.30 am

Indie Tools for Established Authors

Chair: Patrick O’Duffy; Panelists: Anna Campbell, Viola Carr, Belinda Pollard

Independent publishing is here to stay and an increasing number of authors are becoming hybrids – making use of self-publishing techniques and tools alongside their traditional publishing deals. Why do this? What tools should you embrace? Let’s find out…

Sunday November 1, 10.30 am

True Tales of Indie Publishing

Chair: Emily Craven; Panelists: Carmen Jenner; Mark Lingane; Patrick O’Duffy

Interested in indie publishing, but not sure if it’s for you? We’ve asked our team of indie publishers to sit down and talk about what it’s really like to go it alone, as a writer, and discuss what worked (and didn’t work) when building their indie career.

If you’re coming along, drop by either/both of these and watch me pretend to know what the hell I’m talking about.

(If you’d like to go but you’re not, con Special Guest Kylie Scott is giving away tickets HOLY HELL GET IN ON THIS.)

It’s on! I’m excited! TONES IS SCREWED!

Roll on October 30.

Pre-surgery update

Things I will be doing this week:

  • Going to the hospital
  • Having things stuck into my knee while I’m unconscious
  • Being brought home from the hospital
  • Sleeping
  • Groaning
  • Lying down
  • Reading everything I can get my hands on
  • Wishing I had more morphine

Things I probably won’t be doing a lot of this week:

  • Writing

So that’s my plans sorted. Will update you further once I’m through this bottleneck and back to work on the book.

Stupid rewriting tricks

So here’s a thing I’ve learned lately – rewriting is hard. Maybe harder than actually writing something in the first place.

When you’re writing  you’re trying to create something from nothing, which sounds hard but is actually easy – if you write anything at all you’ve basically succeeded. Rewriting, on the other hand, is about trying to make that first effort better – so the bar has been set higher and now you need to do more to clear it than just whacking the keyboard with your exhausted face.

I mean, that’s not how I wrote the first draft of Raven’s Blood. Honest.

…anyway, as I struggle through the process of revising the foundation draft – which is taking more time/effort than I had hoped, so there’s not much chance of finishing it by the end of August – I’ve stumbled across a few tricks, shortcuts and principles that have made the process a bit faster and simpler, which is great because I’m busy and also really lazy.

So if you’re neck-deep in rewrites and reader notes, consider these easy ways to reduce the workload:

Automatically uncover your weaknesses

There are a variety of free online tools that will take your raw copy-pasted text and analyse it six ways from Sunday, calculating everything from lexical density and language/reading level to a simple number-of-times-you-said-BLAH count. Dump your text into one of these sites – such as this one or this one – and you’ll get back a breakdown of how often you used specific words and phrases. Now you can go through your MS and mix things up on the rewrite, making sure you don’t say ‘and the vicar unbuttoned his trousers’ on six separate occasions.

The freedom of the blank page

When you’re trying to fit new writing into old writing, or replace what has gone before, the existing text can feel more like a prison or a stern matron than a welcoming home for your precious story. I found that writing the new text into a new, blank document, then copy-pasting it back into the old one, made me feel a lot less constrained by what I’d written earlier, even if I was switching back and forth between the pages every 30 seconds. Sure, once you’ve pasted in the new text you’ll need to do some tweaking to link it all up, but that’s (possibly) easier than trying to steer it towards the target from word one.

Gerund hunt

A gerund, for those of you who aren’t grammar tragics, is a verb that’s been converted to a noun by adding ‘ing’ to the end. Gerunds have their place, but they can turn prose flatter and less engaging because your active verbs – I run, I write, I defenestrate – get replaced by phrases with dull positioning or identity verbs – they were writing, he was writing, I am defenestrating. To revitalise your draft, do a search for ‘ing’ chapter by chapter and check every instance; when you find gerunds bringing down the energy levels, rewrite them back into active verbs.

No beginnings, only endings

One of my alpha readers opened my eyes to this – it’s boring when things ‘start’ or ‘begin’ to happen. Make them happen now! Don’t pad out the time, go straight to the action. As before, do a word search for the offenders, then rewrite to boost the energy. (You may also find, like I did, an unsuspected propensity to use ‘start’ as a noun, as in she awoke with a start. Consider whether this is actually the word you want. It’s kinda boring as a noun too.)

Let it go

Real talk: you are never going to write a final draft, a best draft. You will always find something you want to change and improve every time you look at your work, because you grow and change as an author every day. So you have to let it go, like the Disney Corporation says. That doesn’t mean you don’t work as hard as you can to make every draft better than the last, to be as good as you can manage right now – but the urge to make this draft PERFECT FOR ALL TIME is what will stop you from ever finishing your work. Draw a line. Very good is good enough. Let it go.

That last one is the hard one. It’s been kicking me around.

So yes, finishing this month? Not going to happen, not with the Melbourne Writers Festival – now with a genre writing stream! – starting in a couple of days and a bout of minor knee surgery knocking me out immediately afterwards.

The new target is GenreCon, which is at the end of October. If you see me there – and you should come, it’ll be awesome – feel free to bail me up and demand proof that I’ve finished the

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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:



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…



…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.