Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Writer’s Resolution Revolution

I’ve never been a fan of New Year resolutions, nor the general paraphernalia peddled by the Cult of Fresh Beginnings during the post-Christmas downtime. This sort of humbuggery (that sounded better in my head) has nothing to do with my attempts to ban Christmas in my home a few years ago (in a gallant effort to live up to Oliver Cromwell’s noble ideals. These days, in bouts of supreme irony, I confine my Christmas to just buying loads of Cromwell stuff as the photo of my latest haul attests). I just don’t understand why people wait until a specific day of the year – regardless of whether it is the first or the last – to set themselves goals.

Want to lose weight? Start now. Want to quit smoking? Start now. Want to seize nuclear launch codes in a bid to attain world domination? Start now. The only thing making people hold out until New Year is the psychological aspect, and if you require a crutch like that to help you then, sorry, chances are you’re not strong enough to actually meet those resolutions when crunch time comes a-callin’ anyway.

Having said all that, New Year is a handy time to take stock. Creating overarching themes to slog towards throughout the forthcoming 365 days can help to focus the mind, provided the detail isn’t overly specific – that’s what’ll trip you. At the start of 2011 I resolved to get my first piece of writing published, and I succeeded with Heavenbloom in May. In 2012 I resolved to get my first piece of writing in print, and I succeeded with The Devil’s Own in an anthology by Pill Hill Press. For 2013 the objective is to get my first novel accepted. Agented, big or small press, I care not. Note too that the objective is “accepted,” not published, ‘cause as any of my writerly brethren reading this will know, there’s at least a year between acceptance and the work actually hitting the shelves. The novel in question could be any of the several I’ve got semi-prepared, of course Covenanted is on point at the moment (though facing a name change to Crucible of Faith), but good old Saint Claus rendered up a number of historical texts containing such intriguing subject matter that plans are afoot to historical-fictionise them too. Havana Preliminary notes on the 1762 siege of Havana are coming along nicely.

The secondary objective is to finish my 13th short story. I’ve currently got 8 published in one form or another, and 4 more in consideration at the time of writing. Why 13? Well, when it comes to pitching my novel it means I can say I’ve had “over a dozen” shorts published, and then I can list the best-paying ones. It has nothing to do with it being the year 2013 at all. Nope, definitely not. Should I be viewing my shorts as something more than just a stepping stone upon which to bait bigger fish? Probably, but what can I say, I’m a commercialist.

2012 has been very good to me. I’ve still got my health, my family, my writing, a girlfriend and all my old amigos. 2013 will inevitably bring change, but the key is not to resent it. It’s to ride the wave, and channel it towards your overarching goal. I’ll let you know how that goes in about a year’s time.

Happy New Year!



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Paper Vultures – A SITREP (part 3)

It’s time for another Paper Vultures instalment! To those of you questioning what on earth a “Paper Vultures” post is, I can best describe it as the blog version of when the CIA (or Mi6 thankyouverymuch) watch the crazy guy in the cell talking to himself via the one-way glass windows. And if you’re questioning that parallel, rest assured that I’m the crazy guy.

But it doesn’t matter that I’m crazy, or that I’m locked up on charges of international terrorism, or even that the world is going to end in a few hours (according to some ancient south Americans anyway) because IT’S CHRIIIIIISTMAAAAAS. Nearly. I may have been bundled by the feds but I’m free from University essays, so I’m going to using this Vulturiffic moment to take stock of the coming month of Holiday Fun.

The most pressing matter on my platter just now, aside from the rash of social events I’m expected to attend, is Werekynd. You may or may not recall it from last month. It was a smash hit, but if I’m to keep up the momentum I’m expected to pen 5,000 words more for it every month. And it’s now December 20th, without a word of Chapter 8 yet set down upon that virtual page. No worries… yet. University is momentarily finished, so in between seeing the Hobbit for a third time, hosting a high school reunion and not one but TWO Christmas Eve meals, I should be able to blast out the necessary creativity. Anyone following the serial, standby…

With more work comes more reward. This month has seen the release of my 8th short story as part of the 5th anthology I’ve been involved in – “Since this War” in The Black Wind’s Whispers. It was the first time I’d ever shared word count with a ‘real’ author (and a well known one at that), CL Werner – being able to see my name alongside the one featuring on three books on my shelves was awesome. And the cherry-on-top was the review done a few days back by Bane of Kings on The Founding Fields  “Since this War” picked up a nice bit of praise, the reviewer even going so far as to put it up there alongside Mr Werner’s short. It’s certainly a nice counterpoint to the everyday drudgery of agent query rejections.

 Lastly, Covenanted tweaking aside, there’s one more writing project building to the boil. I’m going to be cryptic and claim its top secret. Well, not really top, but at least a little bit secret. Helps with the hype and all that. I will say it’s a short story, its historical fiction, its working title is “A Speciality for Rugs” and it is set in… Feodosiya. No, I didn’t just make that up, it’s by the Black Sea, and it was formerly known as Caffa. More about that come February.

So, season’s greetings and goodwill and all that jazz to everyone, I have a healthy bit of writing to get done and even more home-banter to be Christmas-dinnering through. If I post here before January 1st, chastise me! Until then… 

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“I May Be Gone Some Time”

*Disclaimer – this post WAS written on St Andrew’s Day, but due to abrupt internet failure could not be posted until today. And for the record it’s EVEN COLDER NOW! This post didn’t have a title initially, but I now christen it with the famous last words of a certain grim Arctic expedition.

It. Is. So. Frikkin. COLD in Edinburgh right now! Because the motion of typing and my overheated laptop are the only sources of warmth available to me in the flat right now, I thought it would be a pleasant distraction to spend this Saint Andrew’s Day evening doing a bit of housekeeping. But first, a disclaimer;

Yes I love St Andrew’s Day, as do all True Scotchmen. Yes, I know how to dance at ceilidhs because, yes, we Highlanders have actually been taught the steps in school since we were five years old. Yes I possess the full regalia, kilt and all. And no, I’m not attending any ceilidhs, hoolies or doos tonight or for the foreseeable future because I have an essay to write. And this post to finish. Don’t take it so hard, there’s always Burns Night in January.

Anyhoo, recovering from the Jukepop induced voting fug (see the post below, I still love you all!) I remembered I had a post backlogging which needed to be done by the end of this week. And since the end of this week is RIGHT NOW I’ve kinda hit the deadline. I’ve also written the 500 words required to keep my essay on track for its December 13th deadline, so right now the only thing keeping me from playing Shogun 2/freezing to death is this post.

The post in question is courtesy of Mr Craig Schmidt. Attentive readers will recall his name from previous blogging adventures. He’s the writerly chap responsible for reading over my novel, and has a blog full of interesting insights in the craft of writing. What’s his credentials? Well, he’s a teacher, and since I’m but a humble student you’ll probably glean more from him than you ever will from me;

We’re heading into week 27 of The Next Big Thing, a blog networking operation aiming to boost the audience of fledgling writers like myself. At the core of the pass-it-on post are 10 questions about novel/novel writing for everyone to get their teeth into. So if you 1.                  What is the working title of your book?  Covenanted.

 2.      Where did the idea come from for the book? As a history student I’ve always loved historical fiction. Moving down to University at Edinburgh I found myself studying the Scottish Revolution of 1638, a little-known yet vitally important part of our history. Imagination fired by those long-gone days, it was around the same time that I came across the stall of an independent press based in Edinburgh at a University publishing event. Inspired to write something I thought they’d like about Edinburgh during the period of the revolution, I started digging for real-life characters to build my story around. That’s when I discovered Jenny Geddes, the young peasant stall-seller who threw her stool at the deacon in Edinburgh’s Saint Giles cathedral, thereby sparking the whole uprising…

3.      What genre does your book fall under? Historical Fiction, though viewed from a certain angle it could easily be a Historical Romance too (as much as my boyish mentality shies away from such yukky girly stuff).

4.      Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Karen Gillan (of Doctor Who companion fame) would definitely play Jenny, she has the red hair and the fiery temprement for it. Plus she’s from my home city, Inverness! I’d probably have Eddie Redmayne (Google him and you’ll probably recognise him) as the young fanatic, Jamie.

5.      What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book? Drawn into Scotland’s 1638 national revolution, Jenny, a young peasant girl, must choose to either stand up for her principals or save her family.

6.      Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Originally (as mentioned) I wrote Covenanted for an indy press, but since I finished it I’ve been submitting to agents as well. Basically, whoever wants it first wins!

7.      How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript? A bit under four months.

8.      What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Literally a week before writing the final chapter of Covenanted I discovered a successful Scottish author, S. G. MacLean, who lived barely ten miles from me and had written a series of books about a Scottish detective in the 1630s. After overcoming my initial terror at the fact that she might have already covered Jenny’s story (she hasn’t), I actually got the books and started reading them. They’re awesome.

9.      Who or What inspired you to write this book? In brief, the fact that history is always better than fiction. As mentioned Jenny was a real person, and her impact on our past was truly inspiring. She helped spark vast civil, religious and even cultural changes throughout both Scotland and the rest of Britain, all through one act of defiance. As soon as I read about that I knew it was a prime subject for a work of historic fiction.

10.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Want to know what a Tron is (hint: it’s nothing to do with computers)? Want to see a Scottish guillotine in action 150 before it put Paris on the map (and you can actually go see the real thing in the National Museum)? Want to know how long it takes to travel from Edinburgh to Aberdeen by cart? Want riots, executions, murders, love and hate, religious zealotary and pitched battles? Just like Scotland today? Covenanted has it all, and more!

I now nominate the following blogs, sound allies one and all, for next week’s “The Next Big Thing.” Check them out around December 5th!

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December 3, 2012 · 8:33 pm