Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Three Wishes

If you could make three wishes, what would they be?

I started thinking about this partly because of the Split Worlds books, where the protagonist, Cathy, is granted three wishes and wastes two of them almost immediately. The third, turns out to be the truly defining moment for the character in one of those 'wishes versus work' sorts of ways that are so prevalent in modern fairy tales.Admittedly I finished reading those a couple of weeks ago and I've only just throught of doing this post... the wheels of my brain must grind slow.

The other thing that made me wonder is the Museum of Curiousities, the BBC radio show that's currently on (and had both Amanda Palmer and Andrew O'Neill on in a brilliant episode, if you can find it have a listen). It prompted me to remember that both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman contributing devices concerning time, or the lack of it.

That's my starting point I have to admit: I wish I had more time.  In between work, commuting and all the rest of it, time seems to be in short supply especially as it looks like I may have to spend more time at work and commuting (honestly Birmingham's roads just get stupid around this time of year, commutes stretch up to over an hour some mornings). Losing an hour to a long commute (as has happened twice this week) sends me into a tizz, how can I claw back the time? It means working late, that means getting back home late and then playing catch up with other things. It seems to have a knock on effect, I honestly thought, and hoped, it was Thursday today.

Time is a sort of currency in itself, "the minute in your pocket" (as Terry Pratchett's put it) has value whether you acknowledge it or not. Weirdly it seems to operate in direct opposition to the amount of money you earn: the more you earn the less time you have (well officially) and vice versa. Perhaps that's why, at heart, we don't value time as a currency, you can't buy anything with it but hard work, dreams and good memories.

Related to this is wish number 2: I wish I had more energy. I want to write in the evenings and at weekends, but often I feel so tired out that all I can do is sit and stare at the 'net for a while. It's got better than it was in the past, I get something written everyday these days, even if its only a slice of fiction rather than the full 2000 words I want to reach. All the same, I hate the feeling that after a day's work I'm effectively useless, good for nothing but reading and listening to the radio (this is one of my problems with the way capitalism is constructed, it seems to me that by insisting on long hours, unless you can express yourself via your work, you're not likely to because you'll be too tired. There's a reason why television and the internet are so popular, you don't have to go out to use them and they don't really require much effort).

I really need to look at the way I eat and work things out to make sure I get more energy in the evenings. Perhaps doing some sort of stretching exercise would help? I admit I shy away from exercise, ironically because it always seems to be a case of the 'you need to do at least twenty minutes', which with warm ups, cool downs and so on, transforms into... over an hour, which doesn't fit my lifestyle (up at 6.00, out of the door before 7.30, out of work at 5.00, home to cook by 6.00 and the day being done and dusted by 7.30 or 8.00 so I can write or work on my coursework and in bed by 11.00).

My third wish would be...for my wife to be pain free and healthy.

Of course those are sensible wishes (and arguably in reverse order now that I think about it). My silly wishes would probably be quite different - I just can't think of anything at the moment.

What would yours be?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Cold Turkey

So... Things have changed.

A few weeks ago I withdrew from my gaming group. There were a few reasons, partially the fact that I want to focus on writing meant that having a day off during the week really disrupted the flow of the book, making it harder to get back into it. Given that I often have to force myself to write and fight off the distractions, I felt I was struggling to get anything done.

The other reason was similar to the one my friend mentioned when he quit - though in my case it wasn't that it felt like we couldn't get a long game out of it but that in many ways it feels like all the games we play have become, 'bash things and get loot'. In some ways it feels like the first gaming I did, back in Uni, was more grown up and I miss the feeling of 'stretch' that came from playing games like Mage. It also makes games feel predictable, it 's just a matter of counting the minutes to guns being pulled out, swords drawn and the tedium that is combat in most RPG systems being unleashed (how many ways can there be to say 'I hit him'?).

There were a few other problems, it felt like everything we played had slipped into a continuum of 'summer blockbuster' gaming, partly linked to the overdependence on combat but also, frankly, on what seems to be an ever lower level of player buy in - it doesn't feel like a group where something like Mage or Nobilis can be pitched without it causing lots of problems; in fact it feels like anything that operates outside of 'you're a group of mercenaries, working for hire' is a bit of a struggle - even Call of Cthulhu and its derivatives seem like they'd be too much effort somehow.

Given that one of the things I look for in an RPG is a dimension of social roleplay (I came into the hobby with Vampire the Masquerade and it's sort of stuck), and I value the feeling of atmosphere and genre, it was leaving me a sad bunny. I came to the conclusion that the sort of gaming I like, and the genres I like, have fallen out of favour with the other players.

I suspect that this is one of the 'real life' gets in the way moments but I also suspect that its an indication of how tastes change and how much we've diverged. Where I'm loving books series like Split Worlds, Shadows of the Apt and the Merchant Princes - I'm now trying to keep the idea of combining the three out of my head - and playing games like Wind Waker or Last Story, most of the other gamers in the group are enamoured with Game of Thrones*, Dragon Age and other things, often on the telly, which passes me by as I don't watch, well anything. I'm not even sure if most of the players would have heard of the things I adore,  though that's probably more of a statement about me than them truth be told, I've been falling off the face of the world for years now.

Despite the post title, I haven't gone entirely cold turkey, I'm playing with character generation for Numenera (the new Monte Cooke Science Fantasy game) and considering kicking in for The Strange Kickstarter if only because parallel universes are a secret weakness of mine (making Fringe one of the few TV shows I'm considering watching). If I were to run anything it would be one of them in a style that focused on the exploration and discovery of a new world, with as little combat as possible. I guess you need some but I'd rather it was small and quick, a speed bump and nothing more. As I'm considering gaming in theory, as it were, I'm also toying with concepts like handing out experience points for peaceful or clever solutions to problems though I'm not sure if Numenera's specific 'GM Intrusion' method of giving out XP will allow for that.

I'm also looking at the vast amount of games that are earmarked for getting rid of and reclaiming some of them... acknowledging that I was going to get rid of them because the group seems unlikely to play them (not intended as a 'grrr bad people harshing my fun, but as a statement of sadness that the options feel so closed off that I was planning to get rid of things simply because they were likely to stay on the shelf). I'm still going to sell a lot of books it's just that I'm taking the opportunity to work out what I want and when I go back... I'll be taking that knowledge with me.

*I think I've mentioned this before but anyway, I'm afraid Games of Thrones doesn't float my boat, neither does Joe Abercrombie's stuff - I think they're both "Grimdark" but could be wrong. If they are, I'm forced to conclude that that's something I'm allergic to.

Sunday, 13 October 2013



Its been quiet in my neck of the woods, there's been the Birmingham Literature Festival, but I only went to two events, Rosie Garland's book launch and the New Voices which featured Emma Newman. Beyond that I'm back at Uni, studying Screenwriting this time (and torn between doing a Viking Vengeance plot or a weird thing inside the head of a woman in a coma which is very Matrix/Inception like in my head). I've abandoned at least two ideas for my dissertation and it now looks as if I'm going to be doing a book of short stories spinning out of Sacrifices which I hope will allow me to have something to take to market once the course is over - I'm sort of terrified of having wasted two years.

I'm ploughing on with Fatal Thirst and getting somewhere with it, albeit more slowly than I'd like. I'm sure it'll get there, but writing this post is making me glad that I've decided to drop gaming for a while as it's making me realise how much I have to do.

Reading-wise, I've just finished off All is Fair by Emma Newman and I've nearly reached the end of the Trader's War, book two of the Merchant Princes by Charles Stross - reading both has been odd as I've realised that despite the separation of genres the two narratives are very similar in many respects.

Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes has been good so far (I started it last week, because my Kindle ran out of power and I couldn't be bothered to charge it), but does run the danger of being abandoned if the dog getting hurt is too traumatic as that's a hot button issue for me. The way its constructed is hard to read, and I imagine it was hard to write too so I admire Lauren for managing to get the book done at all (pesky nonlinear plots). Anyway, I'm saving it for after I've finished Trader's War (and maybe Defiant Peaks as finishing the Hadrumal Crisis is well overdue).

I've bought so many books over the last month or so I'm going to have to force myself to stop for a while just to catch up on my reading and I'm pondering doing a round up at the end of the year...

Oh and I've been listening to way too much Amanda Palmer:

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Grossed Out and Narked Off

I saw this on my friend Cara's blog ( and thought I'd throw together my own list. I'm not sure if these are things that really make me grossed out or just grumpy, but I think some of Cara's were possibly more in that vein than things that make her feel ill.

I've tried for nine, but in all honesty I found it a bit hard to get a full list, so I'm not sure what that says about me. So I ended up with 7.

1) Interrupting - This is something I just think is rude to be honest and it makes me really annoyed, especially if I'm trying to get a point across. There's a point where I just stop caring what the other person has to say because they can't actually give me the courtesy of letting me finish my sentence. This is one thing I like about media like email or letters, they allow me to say my piece and then respond to what other people say without being talked over and made to feel like my point was actually, uh, pointless.

2) Slugs - Oh I hate these things, I don't care if they're nature's marvels or the next species that'll ascend to top dog or whatever; they freak me out and make my skin crawl. I've had the misfortune to touch them in the past - usually by treading on them, though I did once manage to put my hand on one that was lingering on the clean crockery (yeuch).

3) "It's been done" - definitely one for the narked off box, the tendency of some people to dismiss stories and concepts as having been done before (with the inference being that you might as well not bother because what you're thinking about already exists). This misses the point of any creativity, which is to put forward something that exists from your perspective, which will render it different to what already exists by its very nature (if you do it right).

4) Political Tribalism - this might seem like an odd one but there's something about the 'true believer' that never fails to vex, especially if they won't even concede that there's an alternate point of view. This is annoying no matter what the other person's point of view is or their political, economic or social creed, because it's not about their creed but about their lack of willingness to listen and communicate.

5) 3D Cinema - Another strange one, but there's something about 3D that makes me feel ill a lot of the time.

Sorry, erm that's it. 

6) Zombies - Something I've grown to hate over the past few years. Partially this is because they've been everywhere and I'm tired of them and the memes they've gathered - the reality is that if zombies could exist (they can't by the way) the vast majority of us would not be tough little soldiers, we'd be dead. The other reason is that I can't quite shake the feeling that zombie fever is just another form of snobbery - nice middle class people don't turn zombies, only poor people do that. 

7) Medical Stuff - doesn't matter what it is really (though my levels of squeamishness vary vastly depending on what the medical thing is), by and large if there's a medical thing that's going on I'm likely to feel physically sick. I've always been wired like this, one of my memories of school is the world taking on a green tinge because we were learning about the respiratory system and I felt sick and wobbly. Later, when I started dating Eve we visited the Natural History Museum's human biology section and I had a similar episode when we got to the bit about the brain.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Novelising: an Update

I've been working away at Fatal Thirst for the last week or so, trying to make it my top priority whilst I wait for course stuff to start happening.

It's been interesting, as I've been ploughing through the part of the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo two years ago taking the opportunity to expand pieces of it to add what I hope are more depth and flavour. Its giving me a chance to explain how things work and think through the consequences. I'm revisiting many of the characters - part of what I'm doing with the manuscript (it feels odd to call it that, when it only exists in digital format) is fleshing out the other character arcs in the book to make them fuller.

Its quite gratifying one one level to see that the stuff I wrote two years ago isn't entirely rubbish, but it has needed a fair amount of tweaking and reading it back I find that questions arise - why did x happen, how does y effect the fall out? All of which suggests I need to do more planning and development before I commit too many more words to... screen, though that said I'd like to get what I have down and established so that I can focus on the next part.

I'm pleased to say I've largely managed to get writing done every day - last Thursday was a bust because of migraine and I ended up focusing on other work over the weekend (foolish boy that I am I managed to leave my data stick at work) but otherwise I've done something each day and whilst I'm not at the full 2000 words per day yet ala Stephen King, I'm also not at the James Joyce level of 11 words and wondering what order they go in.

So... stuff is happening at least.