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27th May, 2009

Very busy with work. Still several men short and consequently knackered more often than not. Have been working on/researching several semi-historical story ideas during my very precious free time and learning a few things about medieval agricultural practices that I hadn't a clue about.

Hmm. On reflection, that doesn't sound very gripping. "Medieval agricultural practices." Exciting stuff. But I like my writing to be as historically accurate and as free of anachronism as possible. In fact, I'd rather err on the side of describing clothing, farming and other cultural practices that are a trifle out of date (easily explained away by the slow spread of innovation in such times) than make mention of something that hasn't actually been introduced into European society in the era I'm working in.

Strangely enough, I find research one of the most enjoyable parts of writing. I deeply appreciate the chance to learn new things and broaden my horizons.

At least now, when the zombies invade, I'll be able to add a basic knowledge of early farming techniques to my considerable list of "save me and my fiancee, we'll be extremely useful in a post-apocalyptic, technologically retarded post-modern era" skills.

Serious stuff, like. You never know those pesky zombie-types are gonna come knockin'..

A Constructive Weekend

Despite attending the Scottish Pagan Conference on Saturday I have somehow managed to write over 20,000 words this weekend. All without neglecting my dearly beloved.

Yup, you heard me. 20,000 words. As an artist friend of mine commented, "Wow, that's like finishing a painting a day." We had to laugh though, for not a moment afterwords another friend, -one giving an illuminating presentation on a certain deity, and a very talented singer/song-writer in her own right- made a serendipitous comment along the lines off: "Sometimes these things just want to explode out of your head and onto the paper."

People around us seemed a little confused as to why we were both laughing so hard, but as we we're both nodding fairly rapidly at the time, I'm quite certain our speaking friend knew we were laughing in sympathy.

The conference on Saturday certainly provided me with a well-spring of inspiration. Not just from a Pagan point of view but also from a writing aspect. Being around so many artistically inclined and wonderfully talented people never fails to charge my brain. It's such a genuine pleasure to be able to sit and chat about artistic stumbling blocks with creative people from so many disciplines. I was surprised by how often that artists from fields as diverse as song-writing, story-telling, painting and metal-working encounter the same difficulties in their work. Whether struggling to gain exposure, finding an agent, establishing a routine or avoiding being ripped off, every one of us had encountered the same problem. And every one of us had come up with a different, but still workable, solution.

Every writer should sit down with another form of artist or entertainer once in a while. Its truly astonishing how much we have in common. And how much we can learn from one another.


Its been a shockingly long time since my last public post on live journal. About time I made another.


At the moment I have a few works in progress. The first is a short article that began life as one of those “What Every Writer Needs to Know About...” essays but quickly grew into something beyond my control. Hence, instead of an article outlining basic military science, I'm working on one that lists about twenty sources that can be used as a starting point for authors who wish to undertake research in this area.


Most of the books are easily available on-line or currently in print and many can be found to this day on the reading list of various Officer-training schools around the world. Naturally, given my military background is British, many of these are on (or were on) the Sandhurst reading list. Others, I came across during my own studies and found useful for one reason or another – whether for the purposes of writing or making myself a better soldier.


Naturally, there will be a strong slant towards post-medieval military theory, but not for the reason one might think. My personal military reference library is well balanced in terms of ancient and modern texts. It's more to do with the relative simplicity of ancient warfare in comparison to the modern concept of military science. In this respect, I'll be nodding to both the fantasy and sci-fi/space opera writers among the sci-fi writers community.


Secondly, I'm working on an alternate history piece, featuring the battle of Bannockburn and the various pseudo-myths that have arisen around it. I'll be telling the tale through the eyes of the oft-overlooked historical figure and Great Captain of History, Sir James Douglas, founding father of the famous – and at times rather infamous- Douglas Earls. A rather interesting figure and something of a conundrum given that he combined a fierce honour and early enthusiasm for the concept of chivalry with a cunning ruthlessness on campaign. Needless to say, he is something of a Hero to those Scots who remember him and a black-hearted villain in the eyes of English Chroniclers


Lastly, I have an idea for a science fiction piece with the working title of “A Fell [or “Foul”] Seed Within Him.” A tale of misery and corruption. Very early stages yet, so no-more word on this one till later. No further on with "Camera Obscura" though but I`ve a few plot and character ideas for the expansion and re-write of Monsters' Lounge.


So, combined with planning a change of address, an up-coming family funeral, being part of a horrendously short-staffed shift and planning for two new additions to the family -don't panic, we're talking Ferrets/Pole-cats here- I've been a rather busy man.





Finally decided to take the plunge and read a submitted manuscript before I receive a return from the editor.

Oh God.

That's why you should always wait twenty-four hours AND THEN READ the latest draft before sending it in for submission. I've hacked and chipped and edited the piece so excessively that the text no longer flows. In fact, the prose is now about as smooth as a B-movie zombie with haleotosis.

Frankly, the manuscript should never have been submitted in the state that it's in. Chalk up another story ruined by my fussy perfectionism. Actually, the draft before the one I sent in is MUCH better. In fact, I should have submitted that one. 

I suppose we live and learn. I can`t help but notice a certain degree of maturity in my writing that was not present a decade ago. Even so, I can't help but think that, after all those years of writing military, police and academic reports, my ability to write entertainingly has suffered. I just can't seem to tell a story as well as I used to. Have I lost the magic? Or do I simply need more practice to regain it?

Perhaps I need a writing partner? Maybe I should relegate myself to the status of "idea man" and find someone else to actually write the tales I come up with?

Or maybe I just need to practice more - that, and a good editor who can tell me when I start to over-edit.

 Editing, editing. Once again it all comes down to editing. I should have listened to Wylde and Danni when we talked about this six months ago.


Yesterday evening, I emailed my first “for payment” submission for nearly eleven years. I cannot even begin to expound sufficiently upon the state of my nerves as I did so. Since I resumed writing again just under nine months ago, I've submitted several pieces to various sites and writers' circles for peer review. So far, feedback has been resoundingly positive. Thank God.

Yet last night I submitted a not-yet reviewed project, on which I have received absolutely no feedback whatsoever, let alone peer feedback. Moreover, even more terrifying for a dyslexic writer such as myself, it had been edited only by my own, tired eyes and an Open Office spell-checker.

Having literally completed my fourth draft of the work just minute's before an appointment that could not be missed (no, it wasn't a duel - I might have had some relief if it was) I had no opportunity to request that a trusted, and more importantly, literate friend look over the manuscript.

I am faced with the somewhat unnerving prospect of having submitted a 8000 word short-story to a market with which I have had no previous contact. A market whose editors will form their first impression of my skill as a writer (or lack there-off) based on a work which lies outside my usual comfort-zone, in a genre I know next to nothing about and which, with hindsight, I believe to be top-heavy with theological concepts. Possibly to an extent that will not sustain the readers interest.

I have not felt my bowels flutter so since my first submission  to a  paying market at the tender age of sixteen. I was lucky enough to see that first submission appear in print only a few weeks later, albeit in the first issue of a pulp magazine which did not survive past it's fourth issue. Even now I can clearly remember the sleepless nights after I posted my work through the red Post Office letter box. How I constantly reviewed every single sentence of that rather bland 3,000 word project , until the daily interruption of my ruminations courtesy of a morning alarm call.

In the 24 hours since it's electronic twin departed my drafts folder, destined for parts unknown, I have deliberately avoided perusing the manuscript. This despite my mouse-pointer having hovered atop its icon onno less than four separate occasions. Though the project is, I hope, fit for publication, it is not my seminal work. My magnus opei. I have not the emotion vested in it as in, for example, my Zama series. Yet still I fret like a rugby debutante on the night of the big game.

I have never, in dozens of conversations; by phone, email or even while squinting in the harsh-light of a convention lounge, met a single author who ever felt than his manuscripts could not be improved upon by a little more work. I am all too aware, however, of the many tales I myself have ruined over the years with fussy re-writes. And yet I cannot bare to open quickeneddeadmanuscript.doc, to risk the breath-stealing realization of a dropped plot-point, a poorly chosen line of dialogue, or the dreaded exclamation mark(!).

Why is it that my older, (I had thought wiser) self is so tormented by an action which, by eighteen, had become so routine as to pass without comment?

A few days ago, I posted a comment on another author's journal. He had sounded rather downcast following receipt of his new book's first negative review. My response was to the effect that even a bad review provides good publicity for a new release. Ergo: no review is bad for sales, only for the ego. The post resounded with the confident nonchalance I had felt ten years ago. Now ,I ask myself, to where has that confidence fled? I have submitted one story, one, to a single paying market.

Yet with one simple action, with a single click of the mouse, I have laid my ego bare. It's fascinating how the mood of a man can change in such swift degrees.

It's  remarkable how something so simple can have so pronounced an effect on the equilibrium of a grown man.

Before closing, I wish it  make it understood that I will not fall apart should this manuscript of mine be rejected. It is, after all, one manuscript. In a genre that is not my own. A genre farther from my comfort zone than anything I can imagine – hence my attraction to writing it. For every publication there comes countless rejections. I do not write in hope of sympathy or a pep-talk. The fortress of my resolve has not begun to crumble.

I merely swish to share with you my utter mystification at this temporary regression of confidence. I do believe I've even managed to surprise myself.





Finished. Finally.

At last. The first draft for the Quickened Dead is finished. At just over 8000 words I'm somewhat perplexed by how long it took. Normally, when I am enfolded in "The Zone", I can write that much in a single day. Perhaps two at most. Yet this particular tale has taken more than a week to unfold. Of course, we did have that wonderful trip to Edinburgh during that period. However, I find myself wondering if the major factor arose from my lack of knowledge of the Western Genre? Westerns are considerably outside my comfort zone as a writer.

Which was one reason why I wanted to do this project in the first place. That, and the fact I have never written fiction “to order,” before. Granted, this isn't a commissioned piece. I wouldn't want there to be any confusion over that. Rather I was answering an ad for a specific type of fiction. However, I was keen to see if I can still write in response to a specific challenge, rather than simply writing something that I've had kicking around inside my brain all along.

However, seeing as I know next to nothing about the genre or the period, I had to do considerably more research than normal. Rather enjoyable research, however. Without it, I would never have learned about the many aspects of Pueblo culture that make these Native Americans unique. Even when compared to other geographically close nations. I am already considering how to insert a Pueblo-derived culture into some of my other works. An interesting exercise to be sure.

In any case, I find myself a little over my maximum word count (and 2000 words above my own personal target word count) for the Quickened Dead. So a little pruning is in order during the second draft. Hopefully, I'll finish that tonight. The Second draft never takes me longer than the first. Though, on the other hand, they do tend to have a larger word count.

Oh dear.

I'm off to relax and subject myself to some fun to for six or seven hours. I'll et my subconscious work over the six or seven changes I already know I need to make to the story while giving my fore-brain and fingers a well needed rest.


Camera Obscura

Just returned from a very enjoyable few days in Edinburgh with my dearly beloved better-half.

Had a wonderful time exploring, helped in no small measure by the presence of a travelling companion with infinite patience for my frequent stops to take notes and peer intently at random bits of scroll-work. A patience helped, no doubt, by her own desire to stop and photograph the very same items of interest I myself was perusing.

Thanks to a visit to one of Edinburgh's main attraction's I now have a wealth of story idea's involving a “Camera Obscura” and the nefarious uses to which such a device may be put in the late 16th or 17th century. Also have a few more idea's stemming from the humorous (at least, I hope it's humorous, but who am I to judge) short story I wrote about nine months ago and mentioned in these articles.

In particular, I was thinking of taking the premise from my short piece “Monster Lounge” and expanding it into an 80,000 word novel of a sort similar to the “Thraxis” and “Hal Spacejock” titles. Of course, there is already a huge amount of competition in the spec-fic/humour cross-genre, so I won't get myself too excited.

Not yet anyway. Let's try a few comical shorts and see how they fare on the publication market before I try to flog a full-length novel.

Heck, I'm not entirely sure I've even finished Monster Lounge. I feel the need to tinker with it once again as we speak. Alas, best finish the “Quickened Dead,” first though eh? Still have a few more draft's to go before it's ready for submission.

Mind how you go!

The Quickened Dead

I`m currently 2000 words into a 6000 word project for Issue 6 of the Crossed Genre's magazine. It`s a monthly magazine which publishes science fiction/fantasy tales with a monthly theme. The theme for this particular issue is the Western Genre. Luckily, I've had an idea kicking around my head which would work quite well in such a setting.

The Quickened Dead is gritty and ( I hope) macabre tale set in the real-world West of 1846. At least, "real-world" in the sense that Mary Gentle's "Ash" was set in 14 th Century Europe. It`s a tale of Lost Innocence, Religious Intolerance and the pit-falls of Good Intentions. Capital Letters intended.

Hopefully, it should satisfy the editor enough to publish it. Heavens know who else is likely to buy it if they don't.

Six Months

Six months!

Well, it has been a long time hasn't it? It took nearly three months just to have my broadband replaced - Sky didn't bother to check to see if they actually provided Broadband to my postcode area when I called up to ask if they did. The end result being many weeks of wrangling over whether or not I would be paying an installation fee for a dish (and and other hardware) I`d never actually be able to use.

Then, in February, we finally managed to get the place to ourselves/ Hence my dearly beloved and I  could go back to BT, our original provider, with our hat in hand and rework our old agreement with them.

End result I`m back online. Back writing and up to loads of interesting things. Think my next article will be about designing Urban settings in a Historic Medieval/ Quasi-Medieval Fantasy tale.

Oh, other articles in the pipeline will include a discussion on traditional tropes and the Fourth Wall.

I`m off to reply to my fifty-four messages and apologise to everyone whose been wondering where I`ve been.


Well, finally, night shift is over and I can once again resume writing. All the more so because I have two weeks off (apart from the one day they couldn`t find cover for) for writing, relaxing and my coming handfasting.

I`ve just begun reading the "Lions Whelp" by Nigel Tranter, and while I`m glad I did I`m also raging. Why? Because it`s given me even more ideas for the Zama series. In effect, the main story I`ve been working on has now become a sequal. The Lion's Whelp is based on the relationship between Sir Alec, Thane of Gilmess and the boy-king James the II of Scotland (ancestor of James the VI who went on to become James the I of England). Alas, this relationship -and the circumstances which brought it about (regicide, rebellion and a chance encounter with one of the few honourable young nobles in the country at the time) rather mirros the back-story I`d created for one of the main characters.

Well, several of them actually, when you consider that the main character of the novel is the city-state of Zama itself. Rather, I should say, the early events of the novel mirror the backstory of the cities ruling family. All in all it`s not a huge problem, as I envisioned the Zama series as encompassing about 100-120 years of the cities history and four generations of  tales regarding it`s inhabitants. All this new inspiration means is that I`ll have to begin the tale about ten years earlier than I`d originally intended.

So no great loss. Bonus,  in fact.




About Me

28 year old Scotsman, ex-military, with degrees in Genetics, Microbiology and a Masters in Middle East Security. A struggling writer (struggling to write, that is) presently working in law enforcement.

Attention span of a Goldfish. Terrible Speller. Accidentally funny.