Monthly Archives: April 2017

My Week In Writing (30/4/17)

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The view from my window

April’s almost over – insert obligatory ‘can’t qite believe we’re four months into 2017 already!’ here.

Settlement 359 is now sitting at around 125k and rising and has somehow managed to grow another character, the delightfully named Georgiana Polymer Grace. Over a couple of days I went from ‘what are my characters going to do once they’ve broken into this base’ to ‘how would a pair of sixteen year olds blend in, can I justify a party of schoolchildren’ to ‘this party of schoolchildren is absolutely essential to my protagonists arc’. So that’s always a fun process to go through.

I have this very strong feeling that Georgiana Polymer is going to play some kind of role in the sequel. So far, I have no idea what the sequel will be about, but I know Settlement 359 isn’t a standalone, and I know I have characters I want to do more with (for example: Grover G, Lulu the kidnapped preacher’s daughter, the Ship Thinker). I’m equal parts excited to see where this goes and utterly terrified at the prospect of having to come up with 1-2 more books worth of plot…

I finished marking up Summer, so now I’m scrolling through the comments picking one a day to try and fix. Which is a slightly confusing way to edit, and I’ll probably have to spend a couple of weeks going over it chapter by chapter again pretty soon.

I’m also planning on moving around some of the chapter breaks, which means some moderate restructuring. I just plain don’t have the energy for that right now.

I started my Temporal Logbook submission, working-titled ‘The Tower’, which is now sitting at 7500-ish words. Which is to say, almost over the upper word limit, and maybe three quarters done. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that editing it will be manageable-ish. Hoping to have it written by the end of the long weekend, at the very latest.

I went to the Literary Salon at the Wash Bar, where I heard a talk about libraries and realised (to my shame) that I don’t actually have a library card. So, I should probably do something about that – just a matter of deciding which library I want to register with, I guess.

This week I finished reading Popshot: The Future Issue and reviewed it on Goodreads. I also read Slade House by David Mitchell and The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin (both short, both gripping). Got some notes for reviews but they’re both pretty heavy. Next week I’m switching to something lighter – I’m going to re-read The Circle Opens by Tamora Pierce.

I listened to the second two stories in Big Finish’s Raine Creevey trilogy: Animal, which was very 1989 Doctor Who so thumbs up there, and Earth Aid which is basically Doctor Who does Star Trek, with Ace Mcshane as Captain Kirk. Overall, I really strong trilogy of stories (even if none of them were outstandingly good) and Raine’s a fantastic companion. However, lots of questions left unanswered, and Big Finish’s continuity being as confusing as it is, I honestly don’t know if they get picked up in another story or not.

I also listened to season two of Jago & Litefoot, one of Big Finish’s many (MANY) Doctor Who spin offs. This one’s about George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, a pair of very popular supporting characters from The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a very popular Tom Baker story.

I have… complicated feelings about Jago & Litefoot. The show itself is great fun and both lead characters are a delight, but it belongs to this genre of light-hearted Victoriana that always makes me vaguely uncomfortable (I don’t like the Victorians – I’m writing a novel set in a Victoria fantasy world because I hate them). But that’s probably something I should save for a full review!

I’m still enjoying the new season of Doctor Who. Bill’s great, Peter Capaldi is on point as always, and so far we’re three for three on really good stories (and these last two had only minimal Matt Lucas!).

Next week, I’m planning to go to Inky Fingers, and (hopefully) workshopping a very strange sci-fi story with my writing group. I also have two job interviews, though, so I might be too busy for either.

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How I accidentally wrote a novel

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The only copy of The Challenge

In July of 2016, I was in that awkward place of wanting to start a new story, but having no new ideas. I cast about for an old idea I might be able to put down on paper – and all of a sudden, remembered a sci-fi story I wrote for my GCSE English coursework. I remembered it involved time-travelling aliens, a desert, and a pretty cool used future aesthetic.

Trouble was, on investigation it turned out I’d erased my copy together with all of my old schoolwork. Well, I’d got the idea in my head now. I figured I’d just try and do it again, from memory, and see where it took me.

End result: 120,000 words and counting YA science fiction novel. I didn’t mean to write a novel. I just wanted to start a new longish short story.

This isn’t even the first time. When I sit down intending to write a novel, it fizzles out after a few pages. Almost all my novels have come about after deciding to write a thing… you know, a thing, just something, no pressure. Just write a thing. Suddenly, the thing is 200,000 words long, and I don’t know how it happened.

My sci-fi novel is work-titled Settlement 359 (which I’ll almost certainly change). It’s a story about Cobey H, a 16-year-old human-alien hybrid living on a desert planet that used to be an oil colony owned by an outerspace superpower descended from the USA. There’s a conspiracy, and an interstellar war, and a lot of hybrids with superpowers, and around about act two it all goes a bit Slaughterhouse 5 (one the time travel kicks in).

And it’s pre-novel history is pretty interesting. I through this idea around a couple of times, before committing to it and turning it into something unrecognisable.

The Challenge

I remember I was dead set on writing sci-fi for my English Language coursework. Screw literature, I wanted to have fun and be honest about myself and what I write. I’d also just got done watching Firefly and wanted to write something with a similar vibe.

The first version of The Challenge was about some kids travelling to an abadoned space station and it was basically a haunted house story in space. Which now I look back on it, is actually a pretty fun idea, but it didn’t go anywhere. At some point I realised I had no actual plot, put it aside, and started over.

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A space map

Same title (which might have been part of the assignment? I honestly don’t remember), same aesthetic, totally different story. The second version of The Challenge was about a girl called Callie who lives in a blended human-alien community. Callie has some alien genes, and shares their time travel powers. She spends the story trying to convince the alien priest to let her participate in their coming of age rite, which involves a select group of young people travelling back to the foundation of their society.

Like I said, I deleted my only digital copy, but while clearing out my childhood bedroom, I found a hard copy complete with notes in the margin from my teacher. It’s alright, considering. There’s a pretty glaring structural issue and the used future aesthetic I wanted so badly doesn’t even figure that highly, and the time travel doesn’t make a lick of sense – I remember being acutely aware of that last problem at the time. I’d kind of glad I didn’t get to re-read it before starting the novel. Might have put me off.

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Visual development for the webcomic that didn’t happen

I think I meant to make it a longer story, but at some point I accepted that I was never going to write it, because I adopted the setting (at some point dubbed Marikesh) for another project I was writing, a romance story set in an outerspace monarchy. I wanted it to contain several planets, and grabbed a ready-made one. At one point it was going to be a webcomic, so I have a lot of drawings for it, but that never got off the ground. I never intended for Marikesh to really appear in the story, and it didn’t.

But the romance story did focus on the ramifications of being an interspecies hybrid, which is the central theme of the novel I ended up writing.

Settlement 359 has not been an easy ride. For some reason, I only recently realised that when writing a novel one doesn’t actually have to include all the minutiae of one’s protagonist’s life, so the early sections are, er, a bit padded.

Cobey H spends a lot of the novel stuck in a rut, and not even really trying to get out. She’s a difficult protagonist, one who dodges the call to adventure at every turn because she just doesn’t want any trouble, you know? When she finally goes, she quite literally goes kicking and screaming. Why did I write her that way? I honestly don’t know, but I think it’ll work. I hope it’ll work.

Right now, I’m in part 7, Endgame, which should involve the climax, which should lead into a happy ending. I’ll keep you posted.

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My Week In Writing (23/4/2017)

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Also I made lemonade

Settlement 359 is still trucking along. Part 6 is sitting at about 10k, so I should probably find a way to wrap it up and move on to part 7, which (all going well) should be the climax. Hopefully. Maybe. Then there’ll be an epilogue. I think.

I’m now 10 chapters (out of 13) into editing Summer. Unfortunately I’ve spent most of this week too tired to substantial re-writes so I’ve just been marking passages to come back to later and then realising that I can’t re-write a related passage in the next chapter till I do the earlier passage so I just highlight that one too… you get the picture.

I’ve started working on a story for The Temporal Logbook II, a charity Doctor Who anthology. No idea if I’ll get my story finished in time for the open submission day, though – I decided to take some advice from one of Big Finish’s writers (I forget which one) and try to come up with the best possible Doctor Who story, so I’ve ended up with something very ambitious that might not be doable in <8k. We’ll see. I’m making a spreadshet.

I went to the Creative Salon at Summerhall, where we heard some poetry, which was a nice change of pace. Lot more writers than usual, so I got to chat to some people about my novels.

I finished reading The Snake Wand and reviewed in on Goodreads. Now I’m reading the newest issue of Popshot (which I submitted a story for and didn’t get into, boo). The artwork is gorgeous as ever and the theme is ‘future’, which means the stories are right up my alley.

I’m really enjoying the new season of Doctor Who. Smile was sincerely frightening in that paranoia-inducing way that New Who’s so good at, though I had a curious sensation of deja vu – I’m sure I’ve seen almost that exact premise in a Doctor Who story before, but I can’t place it. But on the up side, Matt Lucas was barely in it, which is a plus.

I listened to two Doctor Who audio plays, both from Big Finish’s Lost Stories range: Point of Entry, a very gothic piece about Christopher Marlowe (which was originally to be scripted by the author of one of my favourite Fifth Doctor serials, Enlightenment) and Crime of the Century, the first in a trilogy of stories featuring the Seventh Doctor and Raine Creevy, the companion who would have been introduced had the show now been cancelled.

Point of Entry does a really good job of capturing the tone of the Sixth Doctor era (it’s got this grungy, rough around the edges feel to it), though in many respects it harks back to the Hinchcliffe & Holmes era. I don’t think I know enough Christopher Marlowe to properly appreciate it, though. I was a bit less taken with Crime of the Century, which I found oddly dull for a story that features the Doctor’s companion sword fighting a giant insect…

I’ve also been listening to The Adventure Zone by the McElroys, ie, listening to a group of very funny and creative people play D&D. I gather the plot goes to some very exciting places (I know a lot of people who are really invested) but I’m still trying to get caught up.

Next week I’m planning to start reading Slade House by David Mitchell (which I literally JUST realised is a companion piece to The Bone Clocks – which is fine by me because I’ve read it and loved it, apparently threw some people!), finish listening to the Raine Creevy trilogy (I’ve heard mixed things so we’ll see how that goes) and make a proper start on writing this Doctor Who story. Just as soon as I get it planned out. It’s gonna need a very detailed plan.

I’m also hoping to go to Edinburgh’s Literary Salon – no idea who the feature is and don’t especially care, I jsut like getting to hang out with some writers for a few hours.

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Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events

5db16efdb30f9cd831a2484f3af36cad6cb97ee7A confession: I didn’t think the 2004 film of A Series of Unfortunate Events was all that bad. Sure, a lot of the changes it made irritated me (Klaus doesn’t have glasses! Why does Klaus have no glasses?) but compared to some book-to-film adaptations… it was pretty okay?

As such, while I do prefer the new Netflix series, I just don’t see as much to choose between the two. In my head they’ve already turned into a sort of Unfortunate blur. Doesn’t help that some elements in the series are actually from the film rather than the books!

Anyway. The aesthetic and tone of the series are absolutely perfect – they really nailed it there. Including Lemony Snicket himself as a character was a masterstroke. And I love the theme song!

I also loved all the new material. Introducing the VFD arc earlier was definitely the right way to go and it was really nicely done. I especially liked the whole Zombies in the Snow sequence, which is, if I recall correctly, a dramatisation of a very strange chapter of Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorised Autobiography.

However, the big downside of the extra material is that it does sometimes diminish the Baudelaire siblings. Ideas they came up with themselves in the books are now indicated to have been orchestrated by VFD agents. It makes the children into less smart, less active protagonists, and it kind of takes away from the ‘you’re on your own now’ feel of the books.

And, I admit, I’m still not sold on Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf. He does a perfectly good job – it’s just that Neil Patrick Harris is such a distinctive actor that I can’t see him as anyone other than Neil Patrick Harris. I never found his Olaf fully convincing or, to be honest, threatening enough. Similarly, Patrick Warburton is a fantastic narrator, but he’s not how I imagined Lemony Snicket.

It’s not perfect, and I’m not as excited as a lot of people seem to be. But it was a very enjoyable and very faithful adaptation and I look forward to the next season.

 

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My Week In Writing (16/4/17)

20170415_151222My novel’s now sitting at 111,200 words exactly, which is an attractive looking number. Slower progress than I would have liked this week as well – hopefully can play catch up next week.

I’m also four chapters into editing Summer, adding a new plot thread, and just started a part that requires some fairly extensive re-writes. Oops.

I went to Event Horizon, where I heard some Scottish hip-hop and some very strange and intriguing sci-fi poetry. Unfortunately, had to leave early because I had a job interview the next day – I had two this week, which meant I also had to miss my book group and my writing group. Ah, well.

But, I did finish the book group book, Fear: Essential Wisdom For Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh, which so far I’m finding helpful. I’d recommend it.

And I went for a very fancy afternoon tea at the Scottish Portrait Gallery (courtesy of my mum – got a voucher for my birthday!).

Currently reading: The Snake Wand by Mavis Gulliver

Currently watching: Voltron: Legendary Defender

 

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Books To Read – April 2017

20170411_2231311 – 4: The Circle Opens quartet by Tamora Pierce. I’ve actually read the first two (Magic Steps and Street Magic) already, but I’d like to re-read them before reading the second two. They were actually my first Tamora Pierce novels if I recall correctly – I read them before the Circle of Magic, the series they’re a prequel too, which in hindsight was a misake.

5: Thirteen Steps by J. Jefferson Farjeon. Impulse purchase in a charity bookshop, because I liked the cover and I’ve kind of been craving some vintage murder mystery lately. Hopefully I’ll still be up for it by the time I get around to reading this!

6: The Snake Wand by Mavis Gulliver. The third volume in the fantasy trilogy I’m reading at the moment. On a break from it just now, but I’ll be reading it next.

7: After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry. Another charity shop impulse purchase, this one just had such an intriguing blurb, I couldn’t resist!

8: Slade House by David Mitchell. I’ve only read two David Mitchell novels (Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks) but I already consider myself a fan. Picked this up with an Amazon voucher I got at Christmas, and I’m planning to read it after The Snake Wand.

9: A Song of Stone by Iain Banks. A charity shop impulse purchase, and I’ll be honest, I bought this mostly because I really dig the vintage Iain Banks cover art.

10: The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin. Also bought with my Amazon voucher. I’m on a mission to read more Ursula Le Guin sci-fi.

10: Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay. A birthday gift, from my mum. There was a theme! (See below).

11: The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden. I’m very excited about this one! I’ve read it before, many times, but this is a new edition, part of a children’s classics range with a foreword by Jacqueline Wilson. I’ve felt for years that The Doll’s House was severely underrated so I’m really pleased to see it getting some appreciation.

12: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. A further birthday gift, from my sister. I don’t know much about it, but it’s certainly very pretty.

13: Darling by Jackie Kay. The other half of my mum’s birthday present.

14: Bed by David Whitehouse. Has a very interesting cover, an intriguing premise, and by total coincidence, it’s signed – and made out to me! Had a good laugh when I got it home from the charity shop and saw that.

15: Popshot Magazine: The Future IssuePopshot Magazine: The Future Issue. Squeezed in at the bottom – the newest issue of one of my favourite literary magazines. I submitted to this one. They didn’t want my story. Still wanted the magazine.

So, that’s my reading for the next, hmm, two months, at least. I’ll be back with more pictures of books once I’ve read these ones!

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My Week In Writing (9/4/17)

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A space station & and setting

Slower progress on my novel this week – I’ve had a lot going on! But I did start part 6, which is weird because I was pretty sure part 5 was going to be climax. Oops. 6-7 parts, I think. Wordcount is currently around 108k.

Still cracking on with Summer. I’m going over a chapter a day, so I should finish this edit and be ready to move onto the more fun business of writing chapter epitaphs in about two weeks…

I finished Cry at Midnight, and its sequel, Clickfinger, and reviewed both on Goodreads. Putting off the third volume, The Snake Wand because I’m reading Fear: Essential Wisdom For Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh for a book group meeting on Tuesday.

I workshopped a short story called The Procedure with my writing group on Monday and it went down pretty well, I think. I haven’t look over it since I wrote it so I actually forgot how squicky it gets. Sorry, writing group.

I went along to Inky Fingers with my flatmate, where we heard a love poem delivered to a block of lard, a poem about shower gel, a story about a world where chicken korma is illegal, and we all sang head shoulders knees and toes, so that was a fun night out. Couldn’t stay till the end, unfortunately – I have to be up at six every morning for my job.

Next week I’m going to Event Horizon at Banshee Labyrinth, which is always a highlight. Will probably have to give my writing group a miss because I have a job interview the next day (yay!) but I’m hoping to get back to my book group. If I can finish the damn book…

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