Tag Archives: fan fiction

And so I’m back… from outer space… I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face. Presumably because you’re in my house and shouldn’t be. Now… get out…

So… it’s been a while. How are you? How are the kids? How’s the WEATHER?

I think that’s still how people speak to each other, but hey, I’m no expert.

Anyhoo…

I’ve been busy. I’ve had exams of the HOLY FUCK I REALLY HAVE TO PASS THIS variety. I’ve had a lot on writing-wise and that’s only going to get worse. Well, better, depending on how you look at it. There’s going to be more of it, put it that way.

Currently:

Spares (in novella form) was submitted to and then rejected by a very nice publishers who liked the idea, liked the writing and are keen for me to submit further writing to them. Super! It’s a rejection of the very best kind so I’m feeling highly confident and happy at the moment and it’s really spurred me on. Not bad at all for a “thanks, but fuck off” letter!

My magnum opus (Coburn: The Black Saint cycle) is in the planning stages and will remain so for “some time.” I’m not rushing this one and it will be going on in the background for as long as it takes to do it right and get it finished. It will be a trilogy and, once I’m done writing it, I will start to pimp out the first book. This is going to take YEARS, so I may be boring you with updates on it infrequently but for a long time. Haha.

I have three short stories in with publishers and am waiting with baited wotsits for news on those. One of which I would have expected to hear about if it had been accepted, so I’m writing it off as a dead ‘un. One I should hear about this month at some point, probably, and the third I’ll hear about sometime in September, probably. I’ve got one more to write for one of these publishers and will then be off

One other short story I have written was done to spec, so that’s in with the editors at the moment and there’ll be a proper announcement for the anthology once we’ve got dates and artwork to bandy about. The anthology is going to be called “The Night Wind’s Whispers” and features myself and several others writers from the Black Library Bolthole, talented bastards all. More on that soon…..

Now; current project. I can hammer out short stories pretty fast and novellas with reasonable alacrity, so I’m going full-bore to write a novel as quickly as possible. There will be semi-regular updates on this one (semi-regular like someone who eats only bananas and prunes, presumably) and this one will be a little… erm… it’ll be odd.

Expect to hear about the completed “Gumptions Follies” in the next four months. I aim to have it done (first draft form of course) by the end October. Why? Well, it’s fun writing to a deadline and the anthology I’m to be a part of is to be released in time for Halloween, so I’ll be racing alongside. This gives me four months to complete the project and, hopefully, that will be plenty.

Watch this space for a sample in the next couple of weeks!

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Are you a writer? Well? Are you?

You can’t do it. You lack the inspiration, the drive, the capabilities or the creativity. You have the time     management skills that the White Rabbit would have if he was off his furry little tits on absinthe and weapons-grade ganja. You’re never going to get published because you have three pounds of goat shit where your brains are supposed to be. Your typing fingers are greasy, flaccid nubs, incapable of creating superlative prose or pleasing a woman. You have the creative aptitude of a two inch rubber cock. You suck, like, really bad, you dumb fuck. Put that pen down and back AWAY from the writing industry and go do something you were born to do. Wanking yourself silly into a paper bag on Wimbledon Common or something, like some sort of filthy-minded, indecent Womble. If you’re female then substitute the last few details for Smurfette, Alan Carr’s back garden and a rolled up copy of the Radio Times. It doesn’t matter. You’re still rubbish.

I very much doubt anyone has ever said any of the above to you but these are the sorts of things that go through my head after falling into the negativity traps that lie all over the bleedin’ shop when you’re an aspiring writer. It often feels to me like you’ve got a writer or interested party on each hand pulling you up, while an entire PACK of bastards are either yanking you back down or standing there with their foot on your head. Everyone has an opinion on what it takes to be considered a writer and a lot of the time, you’re going to find out that you’re not it. In their opinion, at the very least.

My advice to you is two-fold. Firstly, define and describe yourself however the fuck you want to. Fine, you’re going to come over as a twat if you introduce yourself as a writer and will look a prize cock if they ask what you’ve written and you have nothing to tell them, but you can qualify it however you like. Writer in my spare time, shit-house poet or the man with the golden pen. If you love to write, like to write or just do write, no matter how much or how little, as far as I’m concerned you are a writer. How good you are is your fucking problem, right? But that brings me on to the second piece of advice: fuck’em. Conceptually, not actually. Unless you want to, you sick puppy. “Writer” is a vague term. Just because someone else’s personal definition precludes you, don’t let that ruin your day. There are a great many people that I both respect and like that would not consider me a writer and, on that one key point alone, I couldn’t give a flying basket full of tortoise turds what they think and neither should you.

YOU know what you consider makes someone a writer. If that is your goal then aim for it and go balls-out to get it, and don’t allow self-doubt to creep in because some asshole has a different set of criteria. Let’s use a crude analogy, shall we? What makes someone a good lover? Some like it long, some like it quick and some like it while being hung upside down by the ankles while being shot repeatedly in the ass with paintballs. One term, millions of definitions, and only one set of criteria that you should value in any way: YOUR OWN.

The best inventors in the world create a few great things while standing on top of a fucking MOUNTAIN of failures that would fill a hundred sheds, stacks of blueprints for daft things like grape-toasters and thermal-imaging goggles for aphids and dozens of rejected patent applications because the patent office couldn’t be arsed to register the “intercontinental ballistic hamster magnet.”

As and when you get to where you want to be, you’re going to need a thick skin. Those who love your work might praise you but they will be drowned out by those that don’t like it, and who have the many tools of the internet at their disposal and will do their best to stop you ever producing anything else, simply because they mistake their own opinion for cold, hard fact. Oh, that and because they’re pricks.

You have a hard enough path ahead of you and, believe me, it is LINED with bastards. At some point you will need to realise that you must judge yourself on your own terms, identify the helpful noises in the deafening cacophony of bullshit and ignore the twats. Might as well start as you mean to go on, really.

 

 


Characters – an endless parade of bastards.

Prior warning: Today’s blog entry is brought to you by a tired, irrational and somewhat exhausted Alec. He may bite if startled.

Ever heard of a Mary-Sue character? If you have, well, tough. Go on, smart ass, fuck off to Wikipedia and read about Latvian Gorilla-Llamas for a few minutes while the adults are talking.

Basically a Mary-Sue character is an idealised version of the writer, with all the strengths they lack and without their weaknesses, or something. There’s some debate about precisely what makes a character a Mary-Sue as opposed to a boring, overpowered cretin of some other creed, but frankly this is the definition that suits my current aims. If there was a door, I’d be directing the disgruntled towards it at this moment. Just poke yourself in the eye and kick yourself firmly up the arse and we’ll pretend I’ve just evicted you from the blog, ok?

The point is, don’t write a Mary-Sue. Unless you’re including one for a good reason other than polishing your own cock (or lady cock) they’re a dull, lazy way to write a character that smacks far more of self-indulgence than it does of creativity. Filling the pages of a book with a Mary-Sue is almost rude, it’s almost a form of masturbation and frankly I don’t want you flopping your wedding tackle out where I am forced to look at it.

What we need, or at least what I need, are flaws. That doesn’t mean Kryptonite, before any rabid Superman fan-boys approach, flapping their limp-wristed, clammy little hands in my general direction. Look to the mundane and go from there. Is your character unspeakably badass? Are they the sort of person who could kick the asses of 90% of the population unarmed? Fine! That’s cool, just hamper them enough to make them interesting.

For example:

Meet Jimmerz. Jimmerz is a boxing champion, billionaire, super-genius philanthropist who is capable of anything. Sound interesting? Maybe, at first, but now imagine meeting him. He’s tougher than you, better looking than you, smarter and funnier than you. Though your wife would swear different if she’d had to choose her partner from what’s on paper, she’d be doing him now and not you. And yeah, he’s bigger than you too. In that way.

You would HATE him. Or become his Igor or something, if you swing that way. Loser.

Add any flaw, any flaw at all to the above, and it will make him more interesting. Again, for example;

Meet Jimmerz. Jimmerz is a boxing champion, billionaire, super-genius philanthropist who is capable of anything. Sound interesting? Maybe, at first, but now imagine meeting him. He’s tougher than you, better looking than you, smarter and funnier than you. Though your wife would swear different if she’d had to choose her partner from what’s on paper, she’d be doing him now and not you. And yeah, he’s bigger than you too. In that way. But his left nut is haunted by a former chancellor of the exchequer who constantly screams his latest budget ideas at the top of his lungs.

Or he’s got a radioactive nipple. Or no elbows. Or an ostrich growing out of his ass.

ANYTHING is more interesting than a god made flesh, so for the love of crap don’t make one. There’s no need to just write someone incredible and insert a dark past or something obvious, but remember that characters are people, and people suck. We’ve all got something wrong with us, from the mundane to the harrowingly dreadful, and it is often what is wrong with us that makes us interesting. Sometimes, like it or not, it’s the presence of flaws that make people comfortable in our presence. They equalise us and provide us with opportunities to improve and to learn. They inform and direct us as people and they are essential to your stories.

Without flaws, what are your characters overcoming? Nothing. What are they learning? Very little. Why should we care? We shouldn’t, not even for a moment.

Now, bugger off and write something. I’m going back to sleep.


The curse of the expansive slush pile; a self published blog by Alec McQuay.

It’s a frustrating time to be a writer, no doubt. Whether dedicating every waking moment to the putting of words onto paper or chipping occasionally away at that manuscript between feeding a baby and juggling a forty hour working week, the world and his/her wife seems to be writing that novel we’ve all supposedly got inside us.

This has a variety of consequences, not all of them good. Editors have slush piles at risk of avalanche, small publishers are springing up and publishing works that lie anywhere from the incredibly good to the absolutely pants-shittingly awful both in writing ability and editorial quality and, thanks to the dubious wonder that is the shopping and porn-drenched wasteland of the internet, we also have the phenomenon of the self published writer. People have been self publishing for years of course, but never before has it been so simple. Within moments even the dullest of semi-literate fuckwits can have their name on Amazon as a “published” author, complete with or without any form of editorial process and in return for a small quantity of your money should you wish to buy.

Cool, huh? Well… it really depends on how you look at it.

Becoming a professional, semi-professional or at least published author in the traditional sense can be incredibly daunting and it really isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy. Self publishing is fantastic as it can provide an audience for those who are starting out, can provide the truly great writer with a larger return on their time and effort in the form of considerably larger royalties and it has that awesome indie vibe, like unsigned bands playing in dismal bars in return for free beer for the evening and perhaps a kebab if they’re not totally shit. It’s fun, it’s a bit cool and feels a little edgy to me and all of those points are great, but in self publishing you really do have a “diamonds in shite” situation. The cream will rise to the top and the muck will sink to the bottom, as will those who publish but fail to promote and don’t maintain their presence. Getting it out there and getting it sold are two different things, and doing it for a living is something else altogether, but it can be done. This all, of course, alters the state of the competition.

Slush piles are growing larger, inboxes are crammed to the gunwales and the signal to noise ratio is not necessarily favourable. In a world where word processors and spellcheckers do a fair amount of turd-polishing on our behalf for a sincere and hard working writer on the up-and-up, it can all be a tiring, long winded and unrewarding experience to get their beautifully honed manuscript through the massive wall of crap and get it onto the desk of the person best placed to get it published. Jumping up and down at the back of the crowd is not a pleasant experience for anyone, particularly when we know that a large percentage of our competition is utter dross (a bit of literary X-Factor I suppose) and has no business in being submitted in its current amateurish, poorly planned, badly executed and almost totally unedited form.

My point? It’s a bit of a ramble of course because this is a complex issue that isn’t going away any time soon, but the whole thing makes me smile. Sure the playing field has changed and we have to shout above the noise to be heard, but we also have to makes sure that our manuscript really jumps out at the poor bastard tasked with reading through the tottering heap in the inbox. It presents a greater challenge to overcome and yes, it lengthens the process considerably, but frankly I am so, so pleased to live in a world where so many people are writing, whatever the quality of it may be.

All I ever heard as a child was that children were rude, ill mannered, dirty, lazy little wastrels. As a teenager we were all stoned, violent, barely literate, sexually charged thieves and compulsive masturbators. As a young adult my kind were lethally poor drivers, scrounging dole money from the government and popping out children at a rate that would alarm any self-respecting rabbit. I was looking on to my thirties as an overweight, football shirt wearing, heavy drinking, chain smoking, thuggish moron. In my mid-life I would be glued to my sofa while my teenage children picked up where I left off and I could focus my efforts on becoming older, more and more miserable and complaining that things were not “like they were in my day.” All to the constant glow and throbbing background noise of the television.

But do you know what? Children are reading. So are teenagers, young adults, adults, middle aged people and the elderly, of both sexes. A great many of them are so inspired by the world around them, the world that they see on TV, the music they hear and the books that they read that they are writing about it. Reading and writing have positively exploded in the last few years and I, for one, could not be happier about it.

So yes, it makes it harder for the writer to get published, but as far as I’m concerned the best of us will be the ones that get the good deals, the best pay days and the greatest exposure.

Cream floats and shit sinks, for the most part. Of course you’ll get the odd floater from time to time, but you can’t please everyone.

Apologies for the numerous comparisons between dairy products and faeces. I’ll adjust them during the editorial process…


Here’s to the future.

Well, my novella is basically finished from a writing point of view. Sure it needs further editing and this may or may not require a certain degree of rewriting once it’s back from the beta readers, but the story is there. It needs tweaking and finishing but it’s back onto the back-burner for a while as I await the judgement of my fellows, and that means that I have to get on with some other projects.

Now with regards the novella, I do have a comment and a slight retraction to make. I’m not going to be giving it away. I’ve listened to a great deal of feedback from people who think it’s a good idea and those who hate the idea, and given the time to mull it over I’ve sided with those who believe that you shouldn’t give your work away. I place a fairly high value on my own work, possibly through a certain degree of artistic arrogance, and I believe that the story is worth a small amount of your hard earned money. If this annoys, upsets or pisses anyone off (which I doubt, I’ve got a blog readership of about six people) then I apologise, but them’s the breaks I’m afraid. I could have just deleted the post where I discussed this, but at least I’m being honest with you.

Right, and on to the projects.

First of these is a novel set in a less futuristic setting, one that I’ve had bubbling away in the back of my head for some time. It’s a quest based story (groooooan) but one with a little potential I think, and it feels a bit like a process that I need to go through in order to improve my writing. There are many, many linear quest based novels out there and that style is perhaps a little over done in the genre, but as with anything else the real test is to do it and to do it well. Yes it involves a small group out to journey across the world, uncover secrets and some horrible truths and ultimately take down a powerful witch. Yeah yeah, yawn yawn fucking yawn, but you’ll just have to trust me on this, it will not suck and you will enjoy it.

After this will come the novel length sequel to the novella “Spares” which will take the concept, setting and characters and go large scale with it, hopefully with the view to be pimped out to publishers as soon as it’s reached an acceptable level of quality.

I have other plans beyond this, including but not limited to a vampire story (by the time it’s done people will be receptive to a genre faithful tale rather than one that tears up the rulebook for kicks and crowd pleasing) and one that I started and put back down, featuring the angelic hosts and the Grim Reaper.

Throw into the mix my potential (but unconfirmed) attempts to gain access to the Black Library’s open submissions window and I’ve got a busy few years ahead of me. I’m still not decided on whether or not I want to continue the pursuit of writing in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K universes, but I’m not ruling it out. This isn’t to sound arrogant or dismissive but success with them would mean a greatly increased workload, which would by necessity mean pushing my other projects into the background in the meanwhile. Now obviously success is far from assured and is indeed quite unlikely for a huge number of reasons, but only a complete dickhead would approach something like that without attempting to succeed and consideration as to what that would actually mean.

I have a lot to think about it would seem, not least of which being finishing this blog post and doing something more productive.

So…

Bye.


Warhammer 40K flash-fiction piece: The Audacity of Hope.

Written for the Black Library Bolthole’s monthly “Read in a Rush” competition. Give it a read and then go give them a look. They’re a friendly bunch and there are some bloody talented writers on the roster, so head on over to http://www.thebolthole.org/forum if Warhammer, 40K and fan-fiction are your bag?

The Audacity of Hope – 1150 including title.

‘This could… it could change everything…’

Four pairs of red eye lenses gazed up at the monolith. Its surface was black and polished to mirror smoothness, its thousand tonne bulk resting on a lintel wrought of alloy the colour of weathered bone. Sergeant Geritsson scanned the atmospheric data as it flashed before his eyes and smiled thinly, noting that in spite of the calm there was a faint, but very real, trace signature coming from within the relic. Somewhere within the seamless, faultless construct, a power source was still active after countless millennia. The Standard Template Construct was still functioning.

‘The Forge Master will be here soon,’ murmured Captain Rasmusson, his enormous arms hanging by his sides as he tried and failed to give voice to the awe he felt. ‘He alone of us could discern its true function. Let alone the proper method of its activation. If our intelligence is correct … If the secrets lost to us can be revealed…’

The intelligence to which he referred had been taken from a fallen brother; a Relictor captured by pure chance as he attempted to land his damaged Storm Raven on a planet where the Ursus Gallack were engaged against the greenskins. It had been a training mission, the best and brightest of the chapter formed into a small strike force, tasked to assassinate a potential warlord before he could gain the support and momentum to begin a new Waaaaagh through the Ultima Segmentum. Brother Geritsson had torn the beast to ribbons with his lightning claws and cast its severed head into the dust, and for the chapter master and the Inquisition both this had been victory enough. But as the Storm Raven careered into the atmosphere a new prize had been theirs for the taking, ripped forcibly from the Relictor’s mind by Inquisitor Vheilan. On his travels he had happened upon the location of an STC, one containing the specifications for a form of shield generator far superior to any currently known to the Priests of Mars. If the Relictor’s beliefs proved to be true this reclaimed technology would render the ships of the Imperial Navy and the Adeptus Astartes nearly impervious to all known hostile weaponry, combining a series of overlapping Gellar Fields and reactive barriers that bolstered the shield strength by drawing directly on the diffused energy of the attack. If this was true the implications for warp travel alone were immense, not to mention the possibility of finally taking the fight to the Hive Fleets and Craft Worlds, the daemon-seeded wastelands of the Occulus Terribus and the upstart empires of the eastern fringe.

No longer would mankind’s fight be one of furious preservation. The Great Crusade could begin anew and could be completed some ten thousand years after it began. Mankind’s manifest destiny could once more be within its grasp. For the first time in ten increasingly darkening millennia, mankind could permit itself the audacity of hope.

A deep rumble drew Geritsson from his thoughts, denoting the arrival of the Thunderhawk gunship that carried Forge Master Samuelsson and his tech-marine retinue. Within a few minutes the vast, many-armed silhouettes of the chapter’s finest technical minds appeared in the cave entrance, flanked by a half-dozen gun servitors on either side. The new arrivals stopped as they reached the advance party, all except Forge Master Samuelsson who strode forward to stand beside his captain.

‘I take your silence as a positive sign, brother?’ Rasmusson growled. ‘I trust you are suitably impressed?’

It took a moment for Samuelsson to reply, his communications with his cadre of servitors and tech-marines being carried out usually in hissing streams of binary code. ‘A still tongue denotes a virtuous soul, my brother, but yes. I feel the weight of all that was lost to us lifting from my shoulders in its presence. And still…’

There was a keen note of sadness in that tone, an edge of remorse inexpertly conveyed by a mouth unused to the crude nuances of High Gothic. Rasmusson made to question him but the words died in his mouth as a tingle ran the length of his spine, a chill he felt only in the presence of one man.

Inquisitor Vheilan had come unannounced, but not alone. Behind his hooded frame stood a figure clad in matt-black armour, its head concealed within a death-masked helmet etched with intricately designed patterns chased out in hardened lacquer that caught the light as he moved.

‘My Lord,’ Geritsson gasped, taking immediately to one knee as the Black Saint approached. ‘We did not know that you would be joining us.’

The death mask turned to regard him slowly, its head level with the enormous assault sergeant’s own even as he knelt. For a moment it seemed that he might speak, that something human remained of the creature within its inherited carapace, but as every figure save Vheilan followed Geritsson’s example he turned away and walked to the base of the monolith, placing one hand on its surface and becoming perfectly still.

‘For the love of the Emperor, rise,’ Vheilan hissed. ‘You know how your father would have hated to see you kneel.’

There was sadness in Vheilan’s words. Something had clearly shaken the usually callous Inquisitor and the effect was disturbing. All eyes but Geritsson’s turned to the Black Saint as he reached deep into the STC with his mind, seeking out its history from the dormant spirits within and bending his own extraordinary talents to the extrapolation of its future. For almost an hour he was still, the chamber silent as the assembled Imperial servants awaited his judgement. As he finally removed his hand and turned to Vheilan, shaking his head slowly before walking away and out of the cave, the Inquisitor gave out a deep sigh of resignation.

‘Forge Master, place the beacon and return to the ship. The rest of you would be well advised to do the same.’

-x-

Geritsson watched from orbit as the bombardment began, three Black Ships and two Strike Cruisers lending their firepower to the utter destruction of the STC and the planet on which it resided. He remained there until the guns fell silent and the planet’s crust broke apart, its molten core bursting forth as the broken sphere consumed itself in a firestorm of superheated rock.

With a heavy heart he turned away, knowing that the Saint must have had good reason to deny the human race this chance at vitality, this knowledge with which to finally take its rightful place as undisputed master of all. He returned to his arming chamber to meditate in the hope that the Emperor might grant him the serenity to understand, the insight to see anything but a mighty blow to the hopes for mankind’s future.

Hidden in the shadows beneath a vast statue of the Emperor, the Black Saint watched him go.