Monday, 13 October 2014

Kurly's Poetry

A quick post about Kurly McGeachie who came to the writing group I  help run at Ludlow Library on Saturday. It was a great, engaging workshop involving lots of rap/poetry and included Sonnet 18 to 'Breathe' by the Prodigy which was an entertaining mix. He was probably lucky I didn't start dancing.

But you know this is just excuse to put up the short weird poem I wrote (short?! It's four lines!!!). I think Lauren was glad I didn't get to read it or anything else out but her hopes have been foiled by the internet! Bwa-hahahahaha!

Where did you find that monster crab?
I stole it from the madman's lab,
Watch out for its fearsome pincer,
Or you'll look like you're been through a giant mincer.

It sends a shiver down the spine, doesn't it?



Wednesday, 1 October 2014


So, as I wait for the latest beta version of Elite: Dangerous to download I thought I'd do a quick blog about my recent writing escapades. For the last few attempts at a story I've followed a simple writing premise:

  1. Get an idea
  2. Write to buggery, off the top of my head
But I've had a new idea and without going into detail it's quite complex and needs a bit of planning. This time I need to think about how things fit together. Not just chapters and event but also places. Usually I just make up a load of places, there aren't that many and they aren't too far from each other, and it didn't really matter too much about how they related (maybe this is why the stories are all a bit meh?!). But this time I'd like to fit the places together. I need a map!

Maps are awesome! I loved making maps when I was a kid, burning the edges and staining the paper with old tea bags. A map makes a book all the more brilliant. It gives a little glimpse of what's to come. I can remember reading The Hobbit and looking at the map in the cover, what were all these places like? Following Frodo as he journeyed onwards towards the Lonely Mountain.

Now I just have to decide how to draw the map; Do it all in one go before I start writing and let it be part of the structure I hang the story on?

Fill in some of the main parts that I am sure of now and fill in the rest as I go?

Or build it completely as I go? I quite like this one, especially if I use little scraps of paper to make the map. It'll mean I can add and remove parts f the map easily and also move parts about if I have to later. I'm going to try and build a composite map and it will be MAGNIFICENT!

Um, sorry about that. But yeah, I'm quite excited.

About making a map.

I don't get out much.

Hopefully I'll be able to post some pictures of the map and maybe a little bit about the places shown.


Mark (the map mad monkey)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Stuck in my cave. My Space Cave with lasers!!!!

Nick Cross wrote blog about coming out of his writing cave. It made me feel a bit guilty as, a bit like him but much worse, I haven't blogged for a donkey's yonk. Unlike him I haven't really been writing regularly, because my current writing cave zooms through space at super fast speeds and has lasers attached. It doesn't really involve writing.

Last year I discovered that the remake of Elite on Kickstarter. Elite was the first open computer game that I know of, originally allowing the player to fly around 2000ish star systems trading goods, being a pirate  (arggggh!), and generally shooting hot and blinding death at any polygon that got in your way. I was about 5 when it came out so I wasn't very good. But I used to watch my brother play it. He'd go about exploding ships and murdering their pilots, scooping up the narcotics and slaves they'd been transporting. This soon got incorporated into the games of Lego we played. These days I sometimes wonder if my parents were worried that I was a five year old drug running, slave trading Lego overlord.
Eat laser death!

But moving past the questionable morals of my youth, a few months ago I gained access to beta version of Elite (beta is like an ARC of the computer gaming world). And it is great fun. It now has 400 billion systems, or something like that, and the universe has become a pitiless, pretty, place. Unfortunately playing Elite tempted me. Next I found a remake of another game I played when I was younger. Xenonauts allowed me to battle an alien invasion during the 1970s and what it lacks in graphics it made up with in depth and humour.

So I've been frittering my time away on computer games (and quite a bit of gardening but that doesn't involve lasers or exploding aliens so I'll not go into details).

I'll admit to feeling a bit guilty about not writing so much at the moment. But I think the games have helped formulate a couple of writing ideas. I've also come up with my own Martian invasion board game so maybe playing games isn't quite the waste of time I had thought it was.

I've probably just got to avoid the 27 hour non-stop, in my pants sessions. I don't  think Lauren would like them. On the other had, we're married so she might just have to suck it up. No, I should avoid them for everyone's sake.

Hopefully grabbing a joystick again (it's called a Thrustmaster, I blush every time some one comes round and sees it) doesn't mean the end of my writing. I just need to find a balance. And maybe it will help fire some ideas, some really good publishable ideas .



P.S. You can find out more about Elite here and Xenonauts here.

P.S.S. The gardening did involve a fair amount of exploding slugs, I could tell you about that if you like?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Amazing Writing Advice #31: Leave it? Whey?

A lot of so culled experienced writers will tell you that you should leave a recently drifted peace of work for a while and reread it. Some even recommend redrafting it! Madness. If you do that some other writer might sneak into your bedroom at night with a BFG-style brain-trumpet and suck the ideas right out of you.

Your only responsibility as a writer is to get the ideas down as fast as possible and send them off as soon as possible. There's a slush pile out there and by Odin's ear I'll be dimmed if I'm going to let it shrink.

Remember, getting your idea out quicker means it will be seen quicker; it increases the number of things you have in the pile so you're more likely to get a manuscript pulled out; and finally I've never met an agent who has complained about a shoddy submission.

Then again I've never met an agent.

This game is all based on luck and chance and stuff like that. There's no skill to it at all. Bang 'em out like you are the book sausage factory and  words are your meat, punctuation the E numbers and plot is the horrific rubbery skin.



Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Amazing Writing Advice #30: A picture paints a thousand words

You've all heard the saying but probably don't know the truth about where it came from. Roald Dahl (I still have to look up how to spell his name) said this at a cocktail party in 1897, while talking to Gandhi and President Kennedy. Gandhi, intrigued by this idea, asked Lord Dahl what he meant. Darth Dahl, after choking a waiter to death for bringing him the wrong martini, explained that to ideas for his books he'd shuffle a pack of pictures and then deal himself between 20 and 30. From those pictures his books were born.

It kind of makes sense when you think about how mad they all are. I mean, as if a boy would ever want to go around a chocolate factory! Ha!

But anyway, I thought I'd demonstrate this technique by creating the outline of a short story with five pictures. So here we go.

There once was a unicorn that lived in a happy sunshine land. But the unicorn wasn't happy as it wanted an adventure.

An army of cats turned up and killed the unicorn for a laugh. That showed the idiot unicorn that it's stupid to wish for adventures.

Everyone ate Frazzles to celebrate the death of the silly unicorn.

Zombie Unicorn*

So the unicorn came back as a zombie and stabbed their brains out with its horn.

And they all had a cup of tea as a reward. The End.

I think you'll agree that this method has a lot going for it. And not just the Frazzles.



* Stolen from DeviantArt, not sure if I need a licence for it.

Thursday, 15 May 2014


I drifted.
It had been days.
Weeks even.
Not so much a a kitten's sneeze of wind. The water looked frozen it was so still. My little boat, shallow and leaky. Planks crumbling and creaky. Water tricking though the gaps, snaking along the joins and pooling around my red, raw feet.
The sun was up there somewhere in the dreaded brightness. I needed a hat. And a coast line. And an idea.
I'd left behind such things on this voyage. Vikings. Giant crabs. Some kind of enormous electric eel that had sunk a vast iron ship, crushing and burning it beneath its shimmering green coils.
Exciting stuff.
But now I drifted.
I wasn't alone. I saw other boats drifting. Sometimes a wave from the red skinned skipper. Sometimes I'd see them sink beneath the cloying water.
And on the horizon, clouds; a coast; the promise of things to come.
I drift on.
And while I wait, I fish.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Techno-geeky Nonsense #4: Mucking about with Maps

I've been mucking about with maps for a while, for work and for some other sites. I also put together a prototype of a book tour map that people could add events to. You can see it here. It's not really finished and I'm not sure if I'll get around to finishing it. The events won't persist so you can't send links to people and if you leave the page they'll probably disappear. It's just a little test really.

If anyone is interested in the code I can send it, I might even get around to putting it on github. It uses AngularJS as I'm cool like that.

Obviously if it doesn't work you have to remember that it's just a test!