Monthly Archives: January 2013

Paper Vultures – A SITREP (Part 4)

I’ve seen Les Miserables four times.

Just wanted to get that out there right from the start. I’m mean damn, what a film. Okay, okay, it’s true I’ve never seen the play or read the book, but if it weren’t for the film I may never have gotten round to either of them. Now they’re top priorities.

What a cast it was. What emotion they put into their work. I’ll even defend Russel Crowe’s singing to the death (seriously, he sounds better 2nd time around. And 3rd and 4th…). In fact I loved the character of Javert so much I intend to play him one day, despite never having acted in my life. I’ve made him the poster boy for this post. I’m going to write Javert fanfic, and now that I think about it I’m just back from my girlfriend’s place, where I made her duet as Jean Valjean with me in the “confrontation” scene. University karaoke night here we come! 

Jaysus. I’m sorry. I know, Paper Vultures is where I tell you about my writing, and in return you get the lowdown on a few small markets you yourself may like to try it. I just got a little carried away. It’s not often a film comes out that inspires me that much.

So, writing, writing, writing. I’ve done a lot of writing lately. Had a wee angst phase and voila, over 3,000 words of Covenanted’s (my wannabe novel, whose name has now actually changed to Crucible of Faith because who the hell ever uses the word Covenanted.) 2nd draft written in less than a day. My agent rejection list is nearing 30 now so something has to be done. But hey, as we McNivens say, where there’s life there’s hope.

Resolutely stealing Crucible’s limelight is the ever-present Werekynd, my ongoing serial fantasy piece for Jukepop Serials. It’s approaching the time of year when Jukepop hands out a $500 reward to their most viewed serial, and what can I say? I’ve got my eyes on the prize. I just need about 600 more votes but don’t worry, you’ll hear plenty more about that soon enough…

Filling the ranks of the secondary projects are two horror shorts, Pelt and Where Poppies Grow, which are both currently in consideration with different publishers, Blood Bound Books and Dark Discoveries. A Speciality for Rugs has been sent off to Edinburgh Uni’s Writer in Residence, though Lord only knows if it’s been received (the classy folks at Uni demand paper manuscripts only). A forth short, a sci fi piece for World Weaver Press, was finished last week and sent off. Three days later I received a prompt reply along the lines of


Which to be honest cut me as it does any writer, but I’m a big boy now and the crit was all good. It’ll be a grand anthology regardless. I don’t have the stomach to revise and submit it elsewhere at the moment, but one day Cygnet 5 shall return.

So that’s about the long of the short of it. Objectives to be achieved by midspring – get 10 more chapters of Werekynd written minimum, chew through as much Crucible redraft as possible, hope that at least one of my three works currently in consideration get accepted. Until then it’s back to Uni whilst daydreaming of Inspector Javert.

Do you hear the keyboard sing? 


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A Healthy Blog Makes a Happy Robb

What better way to start 2013 than with my best blogging week on record? Well, I can think of a feck-tonne of things that are better than a few good days of blogging, but it’s still a nice way to kick things off.

Much like writing, where the only true keys to success are to read and write loads, the only two ways to boost you cred in the blogosphere is to write and interact loads. I’ve been writing a fair bit in the six months since this wordpress became active, but I’ve been doing literally zilch when it comes to interacting with the writing community. Until January 1st 2013.

I’m proud to say that in one week of hard scrolling I’ve opened my eyes to all the amazing work, writerly, or otherwise, kicking about this place. And my firm follow-follow spree has also lead to plenty of folk who’ve never read a word of my writing coming over and investigating this humble fiefdom of internet space I’ve carved out for myself. I’ve broken my previous score for most blog views every day for the past three days, and had more visits in this one week than I’ve had in the whole of month of December.

 Y’all keep on introducing yourself, and recommending yours and your friend’s blogs. I’m here to learn, read and write.

On a similar note, word has reached me from my spies that my absolute favourite high school teacher (she taught English, needless to say) is apparently an avid fan of this blog! Hi Miss Merrell! I’ve not forgotten to dedicate a book to you, I just need to get those pesky publishers to accept them first…


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I was convinced…

I was convinced there’d be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard would be there to tell me it was all over and they’d caught up with me, and now I’d have to go and get a real job, one that didn’t consist of making things up and writing them down and reading the books I wanted to read. Then I’d go away quietly and get the kind of job where I’d have to get up early in the morning, and wear a tie, and not make things up anymore.

Neil Gaiman 


January 6, 2013 · 11:29 pm

The Big Secret

The Big Secret

A picture says a thousand words. Sadly I’ve been told by my publishers that picture books aren’t really for grown-ups, and the Scottish Revolution of 1638 isn’t good material for children, so back to writing (and reading) it is.

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January 6, 2013 · 9:35 pm

No Fairytale Endings Here

That could be my writing motto.

A recent short story submission for an indy press has brought up an unexpected realisation. The anthology I’m pitching to is generally leaning towards tales with upbeat, that-went-better-than-I-expected endings, as well as positive human messages. And while the story is coming along just fine, I find myself trying to square the circle with the closing few paragraphs. It has made me realise that I’ve already developed an important part of my writing “voice.” I’ve already developed the type of stories I tell.

GrimBy “type,” that oh-so ambiguous word, I don’t mean the particular descriptive or dialogue style that provides the backbone for my writer’s voice – I fear my work is still too much in its infancy for that to have developed yet (at the moment I feel like some horrible bastard child of Dan Abnett and Bernard Cornwell) . Nor am I referring to the genre I like to write for – thus far I’ve had fantasy, science fiction, horror and historical fiction all accepted across the board, and while the latter will always remain dearest to my heart I enjoy all four.

I’m not talking about any of these common writing characteristics when I use the word “type.” Here it refers to the tone of my stories. Put simply, whether the endings are happy or, in my case, sad.

Just like “type,” the words “happy” and “sad” are monstrously ambiguous phrases that fail to capture the nuances of any story ending, yet as an overarching theme the word “sad” is probably the best descriptor. A quick study of my published works to date have confirmed my suspicions. Of the eight tales, three see their main characters die horribly, two involve the main character losing someone dear to them, and one involves everything the main character believed being revealed as a lie. Of the remainder one is an ongoing serial whose finale hasn’t quite been planned out yet, and only one actually has anything resembling a “happy” ending (and a lot of dead vampires). As for my novel, Covenanted, deciding whether the ending is happy or sad depends on which characters you were rooting for throughout the book, but regardless of your personal tastes I feel it has an exhausted, world-weary, possibly jaded ending.

So what has led to such a downright depressing little collection of stories? Five minutes in a very hot shower (the secret Scottish way of determining any matter of philosophy, as evidenced by the Enlightenment’s hand-in-hand rise with personal hygiene standards) rendered up the answers.

For a start, as mentioned in my last post I grew up reading a lot of Black Library fiction. Games Workshop’s universes aren’t called “grimdark” for no reason. A bleak outlook when it comes to charting the fate of my characters has been almost genetically coded in my writing style.

The other answer seems to be linked to the very reason that I started writing for serious reals in the first place – it helped me to cope with good old teen angst. Looking back that may seem laughable, but I’m certain that by venting my moody yin upon unfortunate imaginary characters I was safeguarding the sunny real-life disposition I still *generally* enjoy today. Writing was and still is an outlet, and whilst it may not be every happy-do-gooder’s idea of a fun read, I’d certainly rather make the characters on my pages miserable than inflict it on everyone I know in real life.

This leads me to wonder, just how many of my fellow writers are only preserved by the safety valve that is their work? 


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