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!



Monday, 21 April 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour - the root to success

When Sue Hyams came at me with the secateurs and a bumper pack of Weedz-B-Nuked the only way I could save myself was by agreeing to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. It's a blog tour about the writing process. I've got to answer some questions.

What am I working on?

I've got this whole new root system under a bit of old masonry you might have noticed to my left...oh, bookwise. That's quite difficult as, for a shrub, I'm quite flighty. I've got a farting goblin on the go and a weird H.P. Lovecraftian* slug based silly horror is getting pruned. But recently I've started planning a weird space horror adventure (I'm ripping off Aliens, sorry Bekki Hill) and there's a character called Pest punching my brain, demanding some attention.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

It's written by a mutant shrub. other than that I have no idea if it is different. I don't really know what I'm doing. All I've got is an old biro, some dock leaves and a whole taproot of misplaced belief!

Why do I write what I do?

It beats trying to talk to invasive ants. But making stuff up is a lot of fun so why not put some work in and see if anyone else likes it?

Ants have moved next door

How does my writing process work?

Hmmm, not sure I have a process. Generally I just start writing and see if it goes anywhere. Then I'll try to add some planning and research in as I go along. I edit a lot after it is finished. Edit edit edit. I think it is the shrub in me, editing is like pruning. Be ruthless and you'll get the space for it to develop, Percy Thrower told me that.

So that's my writing process. Maybe you think I'm just a crazy mutant shrub and maybe I am. I asked several other writer friends to take part next week:

Basil - Italian master of saucy love stories.

Sage - wannabe wizard writer of high fantasy! Has a pen of prose +10.

Ummmmm...can't remember...**

Unfortunately they all died from frost bite so won't be able to do it.***


Mark the Shrub

*Why isn't there a H.P. Lovecraft sauce?

** Oh yeah, Forget-me-not.

*** Sorry, I was just too lazy to ask anyone. If you want to take part let me know and I might update the post or you can find someone competent to follow on from.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

I ain't got time to...

A human female called Michelle has written a blog about not beating yourself up about not writing but I haven't had time to read it. Can someone give me a brief synopsis in the comments? You can find other interesting blogs at the SCBWI Ten Minute Blog Break. Some are done by an amazingly talented person called Mark Jones. Got to go do stuff but will hopefully have some techno-geeky nonsense to bamboozle you with soon. And maybe something insane/funny.



Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Amazing Writing Advice #29: Ask Mark (Definitely not Julia)

Here I answer some more questions from budding authors that I in no way stole from an #askagent by Julia Churchill. They are all genuine queries sent to me here at my blog because I get lots of people asking me things and stuff, like.

'Do agents make allowances for new writers who make schoolboy errors & are scared stiff of the submission process? :)'
Same strict rules for everyone. Using a smilie in a tweet to an agent means you are blacklisted for 40 years.

'Is there a specific font agents prefer for query letters and partials/fulls?'
Agents really like this font  or maybe this one or if you are feeling really fancy this one. If you can't see what these crazy fonts look like due to internet badness just imagine vomit in text form. Agents prefer a full glass to a partially full one.

'If I'm submitting the first book in a trilogy, how much detail do agents need on the following books?'
None. You'll be rejected for daring to think you can get more than one book published.

'Hi Julia Mark! If your book is written in the 1st person, could the synopsis be too? Or always best in 3rd person?Thnx'
What are you asking about my book for? You should be asking about your book. Fool.

'I am a picture book author who can't draw! Would you recommend finding an illustrator, or just sending my texts?'
I recommend learning to draw. It's a picture book, it's full of pictures not words. Amateur.

'What's a good word count for a MG (7-9) children's novel'
240,000,000 words not one more not one less.

'If a YA book has YA characters but only a little PG-13 content, does it still qualify as YA??'
What is with all the initials? A YA book? Is that for Germans? Is PG-13 some kind of tea? What are you babbling about?

More insane questions from the book-scribling hopefuls when I next open 'my post bag'.



Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Book Rejections #5

Some more books I've had rejected recently. Genius is never recognised in its own mind.

Ruski the Belligerent Bear

Danny and his family live next to the forest which contains bears! One morning they find Ruski the bear is living in their garage. Danny tries to persuade Ruski to move back to the forest but gets called a Neo-Nazi and beaten up. All Danny's neighbours say it's terrible  and something should be done but keep getting their fire wood from the forest.

Reason given by P. U. Tin Agency: VILE PROPOGANDA!

Guess Who's Watching You

Danny goes on to the internet and accidentally finds a site about making bombs! Which security agency will arrest him first?

Reason given by The Agency: Funnily enough they rejected it before I even sent them the email.

The Cat Has Got My Tongue!

A psychotic cat rips off Danny's tongue and runs around the house with it. Pop out picture book (Danny's tongue literally pops out!) with special glitter and blood colouring sections.

Reason given by every agency that received it: YOU SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO WRITE BOOKS!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Amazing Writing Advice #28: How to write a blog regularly

You might have noticed that no matter what happens I have this blog written and posted every Wednesday. I'm not like these bloggers who get distracted by moving house or getting married or little mice with clogs on. No matter what, I'm here blogging. Cats on fire; I'm here blogging. Shoes in orbit; I'm here blogging. The towns run out of Frazzles and I have to drive 200 miles to get a bag; I'm here blogging. Elephants in my mustache; I'm here blogging. No matter what, I'm here blogging. So here's my 18 point plan to how to keep blogging no matter what:

  1. Pick a day when you don't have too do much. I find week days are the best and are also quiet as everyone else is at their 'proper' jobs.
  2. Keep a list of subjects to blog about close by. I use the dictionary. Next week is all about 'at'.
  4. Sorry, I don't know what happened there.
  5. Pick a subject you have knowledge about. Don't try to bluff your way through by inventing an alter ego so you can justify your ignorance.
  6. Remember when you are supposed to blog.
  7. Frazzles.
  8. Hrrrheheheehhhhhhh AND THAT'S IT!
Soon you'll have a wildly successful blog that everyone loves and...stuff.



Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Square One Here I Come

Sadly, I find myself agentless. I guess these things happen but now I feel like I'm back at square one. Instead of being all sad about it I thought I'd come up with a list of all the things I've missed doing while trying to get an agent.

  1. Writing synopsissseses. I don't know how I get through the day not doing these.
  2.  Sending queries from the wrong email address. At least it isn't or
  3. Trolling #askAgent. I'm sure the agents have missed me too. Who wouldn't want to answer questions like 'Can you guess the colour of my pants?" or "Is there anything that makes earwax taste nice?"?
  4. Sending queries with horrendous spelling mistakes. In the agent's name.
  5. Getting 5 rejections in one day.
  6. Trying to keep track of all the agency hopping.
Right, I've got to start thinking of some questions for the next #askAgent...



Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Reuse, Rethink, Resketch (or how I'm addicted to Kickstarter)

I'm a doodler. I doodle when I'm thinking and when I'm not. I doodle when I'm working and when I'm supposed to be working. My home and work desk are both overwhelmed by mounds of Postit notes and scraps of papers covered in dragons, zombies, space ships, mazes, flowers...any piece of scrap paper gets covered in it. I debase myself so people provide me with their scrap paper.

So when I spotted on Kickstarter the Resketch project I got very excited and probably paid more than I could really afford to back it. But that's the nature of Kickstarter! The books are made from waste paper reclaimed from various sources. Flicking through the pages there's all different textures and colours mixed in with architectural plans and other interesting things.

Along with the main notebook I received a creative prompts book with lots of weird and interesting little sketches in it. It's going to be a shame to actually take my pen to both of them but on the plus side I'll be able to take them with me when I travel so I won't be carting around dozens of scraps of paper in my pockets. Those ones usually end up in the bottom of the washing machine.

You can now buy bundles of Resketch book from the resketch website.



Monday, 20 January 2014

My New Desk

Until about 2 months ago I was writing either in bed (which was rubbish) or on a dinning room table while Emerdale was on (which was even rubbisher). The plus points were that I didn't have to pay rent and never had to go and visit my mum as Lauren and I were living with her until we found a place to live.

But then we did, wooo! (Sorry, Mum).

And now I've got a desk, a lovely desk in a sort of snuggy room just off the kitchen which has a hobbit hole style entrance and a dodgy transformer in the light. I've also got an enormous made to measure desk  so here is a picture of my desk with some exciting notes about it (they tie up with the hard to see numbers but you can see slightly bigger by clicking it)!

1. Pretentious chessboard.
2. Photo of orangutan instead of Lauren
3. Trailwalker certificate to remind myself never to do it again.
4. Mess
5. Emergency fez.

Also you can just see Percy the rat on the wall in the background, through the hobbity arch.

Next week maybe a picture of the bookshelves behind me. Though probably not. No one wants to see the horror of that...



Saturday, 11 January 2014

Poetry Bonanza! (no cowboys)

For the last few months I've been helping out a teenagers writing group at Ludlow Library called Write to the Point. Today we were joined by Mia, Shropshire's first young poet laureate.

Mia took the group through a workshop (grab an object, mind map some ideas, do some rhyme-y stuff, write the poem) before reading some of her work out. The group found it interesting and enjoyable (I can tell because they all went quiet) and it resulted in some really interesting and funny poems. Here's my first effort, the idea came from a plastic flower thing that looked a little like a snowflake:

How can a snowflake,
Keep me awake?
One splinter of ice,
Falling on its own,
melts unseen,
unknown, never been.
But one million snowflakes,
can silence the land,
And wake me from my sleep.

I think you'll agree that that's quite profound...for my next poem I was a bit poemed out (it's been 20 years since I've written one!):

Everyday it's a new year,
A chance to start a fresh,
Why dwell on one night of beer,
Rather than...ner...ner...ner...ner

Anyway, it was great to meet someone so enthusiastic and interesting. Her poetry carries a message with it and clearly means a lot to her. I'm looking forward to seeing her perform at the Wenlock Poetry Festival in April.



P.S. Next blog I might show you a picture of my new desk. It is all kinds of awesome!