Thursday, 7 June 2012

"Status Update"

It’s been a long time since I did anything other than review books, or comment on other people’s thoughts on this blog.  In fact it may be that I’ve never done anything but that… to be honest, I forget.  In any case I thought it was time to do something that brought people up to date vis-a-vis my own work: so welcome to “all about me”.

First, the big scary news; I’ve been diagnosed as having a hernia, which isn’t exactly pleasing.  There are four ways of getting one and as I’m not too overweight or pregnant (that would be a modern miracle, wouldn’t it?) it must be down to one of the other three.  I’m choosing to think it’s down to the moving heavy furniture option, simply because that sounds more gallant and noble.  I’m not in too much pain, far less than I expected to be in actually (it aches at times but nothing more than that and long may that continue), and I’ve opted to have it operated on rather than wander about with a metaphorical Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.  Hopefully the operation will be soon, quick and sorted in the next few months.

One of the results it’s produced in me (aside from telling people that I can’t do heavy lifting and ending my glamorous life as a champion weight lifter, obviously*) is that it’s made me more determined to succeed as a writer and get to live the life I want, writing professionally as a novelist (please oh please).  Partly as a result of that I’ve started looking into undertaking a part time MA in Writing, Creative or otherwise, as a way to boost my skills and knowledge and hopefully make new contacts that I can call on to make myself a success.  Whilst I don’t really relish the idea of working and studying at the same time, I keep coming back to the fact that it feels as if writing is the only thing I’m actually any good at and if I don’t try to be a success, then I know that when I reach my dotage (if I do reach it) I’ll look back and wonder what this living malarkey was all for.  So far I’m getting very positive feedback from the speculative emails I’ve sent out to universities.  I think sending samples of my work helped; I know it did with one of the more local universities, if only because they mentioned it in their reply.  The main issue I have is finding referees to support my application.  I don’t tend to share my writing with work colleagues that much and finding someone who can say that I can work at postgraduate level is proving to be a challenge.  I’m sure that I’ll get there and make it work though.

On the actual writing front I’m extremely fortunate to have had a story accepted by the Last Line for their third Asylum anthology, Lost Souls of the Asylum, which is wonderful on a couple of fronts.  Partly I’m glad to have got it written because the idea for the story had been knocking around for over a decade – I first conceived it when I was living in Southport but hadn’t got around to writing it before; its good to have pulled it out of the attic and sent off to a bright shiny home for other people (to hopefully) enjoy.  The other brilliant (or should that be splendid?) thing about being part of the Asylum project is that it’s given me the opportunity to work with Arkwright from the Last Line, a man who is a formidably good editor and immensely knowledgeable about the Victorian period.  I feel that his input made the short story a stronger piece overall and would like to thank him for his patience and skill in pushing it to new heights.

The Last Line has also launched Cogzine, a small paper based ‘zine that’s a real attempt to reach back to a pre-internet age, creating a place for writers, artists and musicians to have their voices heard, especially when they’re starting out.  It’s so important for this sort of venture to be fostered and encouraged so that new talent can have the space to grow and mature before going onto be published elsewhere and I urge you to support it, if you can. 

Whilst I don’t consider myself to be exactly new to writing anymore, after a short conversation with Arkwright on that Facebook I whipped up an “urban steampunk” piece about an angel stranded in London and have submitted another piece in a similar vein which I think has been approved.  It’s an interesting publication to write for, pieces have to be a maximum of 500 words, which is a challenge in itself (this blog post alone proves my tendency to tend towards verbosity), and what I’m trying to do feels like I’m almost forging new territory, creating a steampunk that’s not as bound to the Victorian age but combines the genre with elements of urban fantasy in modern London.  I’m hoping to get a piece into most of the issues of the ‘zine, and to slowly build up something greater than the sum of its parts but the main thing is always to create accessible pieces that people enjoy.

In addition I’m trying to write short stories for collections now, starting with a pair of stories for different Alchemy Gothic collections.  The first is a collection of Ancient Wonders and I’ve ended up, without meaning to, writing a sort of sequel to a Lovecraftian piece I wrote a few years ago.  Whilst the tone is different and I’ve added new elements the theme of an artifact that’s connected to the pre-human world is so strong in both pieces that I felt it would be foolish not to exploit it.  The second collection is a Pulp Adventurer anthology and I’m quite looking forward to creating my own weird vigilante and coming up with a nice alternate universe for him or her to play in.  In the meantime I’m hoping to finish some more stories from my own immense back catalogue of stories to write and get them sent out, in the hopes of building my reputation up a bit.

A Fatal Thirst, which I’m still hoping is going to be my first completed novel, is still going on despite my procrastination and worrying over it.  I think I’m heading towards the denouement; it’s just a case of making everything make sense with it and getting all the bits and pieces sorted out to make it a comprehensive and comprehensible piece of fiction.  I’ve learnt a great deal from writing it, from the importance of planning out what you want to put on the page to the need to have a space to write in where distractions, whether in the form of technology or people and pets are at a minimum.  The spare room is slowly turning into my work space and I feel like things are starting to come together.  I just need the weather to behave and it to be warm enough to work in there now.  As ever the big obstacle to my success is my tendency to self-sabotage or to plan things so sloppily that everything has to be rethought in quick succession.

I’m hoping to get several sequels out of the Fatal Thirst setting and to establish my Faerie Noir books, urban fantasy that at the moment is set in San Francisco but which I might be trying to bring back to London because ultimately I know London at lot better than I know San Francisco (which is err, not at all).  Even though it means losing a few bits and pieces from what I’ve already established I think the core of the book would stay the same but I’ll have to have a think and see what comes out of it.

Other than that I’ve signed up with Angry Robot to be part of the Robot Army, their volunteer reviewers (see the badge at the veeery bottom of the blog), so you can definitely expect to see more reviews and probably quite a few from their authors.  My wife (Emilia Etherheart – who’s now in the process of opening an Etsy shop so if you like her stuff then go and purchase to your heart’s content) and I already own quite a few of their books so I may be plundering the collection to provide a load of reviews for that.  The Post-apocalyptic reviews will continue (and I really must put together a piece to explain that side of things mustn’t I?) and I’m hoping to get some essays, or analytical blog pieces at least, out of my reading.  Aside from that there are some other books that I’m reading where I’ve kinda, sorta, promised reviews to the authors so you can expect to see those soon.

So, lots of things going on, a hard but, hopefully fulfilling, path ahead; and nothing to do but start climbing.  The view from the top will be lovely.

*Sarcasm: I’m the poor schmuck who gets sand kicked in his face in the Charles Atlas ads, not the beach body beefcake.