Tag Archives: steampunk

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!


Writing – art imitating life.

Romeo! Romeo! Hurry up it’s fucking draughty up here!

This has the potential to be a slightly embarrassing subject for me, but I thought I’d go for it anyway. I have this mole…

I don’t have a mole. Sorry, couldn’t resist, but I use humour as a defence mechanism. Seriously. Only last week I smacked a burglar with a joke book…

That didn’t happen. Anyway, this could go one of two ways. Other writers could read this and say “actually, I do that too” or there could be some pointing and laughing involved. Either way, I would strongly advise you to consider trying your hand at a little acting.

Dialogue can be tricky because these characters don’t speak like you, they are NOT you (at least not all of them) and their dialogue has to flow naturally. It has to feel real; it has to sound like the sort of thing a person might say at that moment and in that context. Darth Vader’s famous, “No. I am your father,” line is a fantastic example. This is a PIVOTAL moment in that movie and the franchise as a whole and, I’d be willing to bet, one of the most commonly (and incorrectly) quoted lines of dialogue of all time. Spot the difference a moment:

“No. I am your father.”

“Actually you labour under a misapprehension. It is I that must claim parental responsibility.’

How shit does that second one sound? Of course, no-one would have written that line of dialogue and it’s an over-blown example of what I mean, but what if it was a close run thing? What if it was a tossup between that and “I did not kill your father. I AM your father.” That’s not half bad, but which is more natural? Which sounds like a retort and which one sounds like a carefully prepared line? See, the line was spontaneous. Darth didn’t sit up all night, looking in the mirror and going over the possibilities for when he bumped into his son. “Actually, funny story… no, that’s not right. Your father is I! No no no, that’s not it! PUT THAT LIGHTSABRE DOWN AND GO TIDY YOUR FUCKING ROOM! Is that something a father would say? Oh I don’t know… maybe I should ask Palpatine…”

He had it in mind that now was the time to do the big reveal, but that line was delivered like a blade. In that moment, with Luke at his mercy, he finished the deal with five words that lead to the girliest scream in cinematic history. That line is perfect in that context and as such, it is one of the most easily recognisable lines ever delivered, even to people born years after the first three films were made.

Now, my characters are somewhat… caustic. My universes are unforgiving and the trials I put my protagonists through… horrible. These people are hammered by life in a way that I simply can’t relate to off the top of my head all the time so I’ve gotten used to saying “right, that doesn’t work” and acting the lines out to my shadow like a scene partner. Sure, you feel like a bit of a prick at first (I don’t do this when anyone is around) and it’s so tempting to scream “Gimme the keys you fucking cock-sucker-mother-fucker-aaaaaaaaargh!” but once I’ve had a few moments, I can usually tell whether or not something works. Has the speaker just been punched in the face? Trying delivering that long line while cradling your swollen jaw. Try speaking at length when you’re gasping for breath after a run. Trying firing that retort quickly and seeing how it feels.

Of course our protagonists have the luxury that everything they say has already been filtered by you, the writer, so it isn’t as spontaneous as it sounds, but believe me, this is a fantastic way to make it sound the way you want it to. Soon enough you’ll be able to get right into that character’s shoes without having to do any amateur dramatics at all, but it’s a great technique to refer back to.

Other than dialogue, I would definitely recommend this for fight scenes. I have the luxury of a modest degree of fighting ability and a comfortable knowledge of technique, so I know roughly what moves link one to another. Most of you with common sense will have worked out that you generally can’t deliver a knock-out blow as you’re flying backwards away from the target. You know that if you’ve taken a knee to the stomach you are NOT likely to do much more than go WOOMPH and bend over like an enthusiastic soap hunter, unless you have justified such a capability within the story.

Stand up and act out each strike, block, parry and counter attack in super-slow-motion and see if it’s possible. Go through the motions, make it real and be rewarded by breathing a shit-load of realism into your work. Watch UFC videos on Youtube, do your research and you won’t go far wrong. Prime example: elbow strikes. Seen those in movies, where a guy gets six elbows to the face in quick succession and stumbles back but, unbleeding, continues to fight? Bullshit. Think of the skinniest, least threatening kid at your school and think of the toughest. That kid, connecting ONE solid elbow to the face, probably just won that fight. No shit you have NO IDEA how much power a knee or elbow can deliver and believe me, you want to find out by watching it happen to someone else or not at all.

That’s it for today so the message is this: learn by doing. Sure you’ll feel a right prat if someone walks in and catches you at it, but hey… I bet there’s a least one thing you do regularly that you wouldn’t want to be caught doing and at least this is productive…


The importance of inspiration.

Sitting there, scratching your head, simply is not likely to work. Not forever, anyway. No matter how fertile your imagination might be, sooner or later you will run out of ideas, you’ll lose that spark of ingenuity and your brain will need topping up and this, my delightful sun dodgers, will mean going outside, reading, listening to music or doing something else to reinvigorate your exhausted noggin.

For me, my most recent foray into blatantly stealing ideas from my environment was yesterday’s Steampunk festival and I can tell you, it’s given me some fantastic ideas. You see, at events like that everybody is working from the same brief. Come dressed up if you so wish, the theme is Steampunk. It’s a mish-mash of old and new, with Victorian influences, a dollop of HG Wells and a smattering of Isumbard Kingdom-Brunel to create something totally unique and interesting, all for the sheer hell of doing it.

I personally lean towards the military aspect as I’m sure you might have guessed, but this isn’t about me. It isn’t really even about Steampunk or about anything in particular; it’s simply about how the environment can charge your mind with ideas at random and how other people’s ways, dress and behaviour can create images in your head with only the token effort of note taking and a touch of observation. For example, yesterday there were pith helmets, militaria, gypsy dress, jet packs, all manner of bizarre weapons (mostly wielded by some very well behaved and thoroughly cheerful children, which immediately spawned a race of gun-wielding diminutives from somewhere or other), some fantastic gizmos and an assortment of goggles anyone would be proud of, all of which sparked different ideas for my upcoming novels or at least became notes for potential use later on.

It isn’t like I was sat there with a notebook all day, in fact I was joining in and having a great time while my brain refilled itself all of its own accord, though my trusty BlackBerry does contain a few things I actually bothered to commit to proper storage. 

Rambling as always but the message is simple; if you’re out of ideas, don’t sit there pounding your brain as though a boss is likely to appear and fire you for being unforgivably shit, just go and do something else for a while. Go read a book, go for a walk, go take a leak or get a change of scenery. Real life is the inspiration for basically EVERYTHING. If the idea you’re looking for just isn’t in there at the moment, it most definitely is out there. Somewhere. Just go have a look.


An outdoor festival… and it’s sunny… almost seems too good to be true!

Steampunk Nerf Gun - N-Strike BarricadeSteampunk isn’t exactly something I’m that familiar with or that involved with from the point of view of dressing up, but there is certainly something about the combination of old, new and futurism that appeals to me as a writer. Taking many apparently disparate ideas and mixing them together produces such surprising results and leads to all new avenues of thinking, so it has to be said that I’m really looking forward to our trip to the “Steampunks in Springtime” festival, event thingy over in Laddock today, organised by our friend Seraphina Sprocket-Twitcher (who also goes by the name “Abby,” but in a community it’s good to have a name that immediately announces what you’re about when people first hear it, especially when you’re trying to organise things.)

I don’t think I’m ever likely to dress up in as intricate a fashion as some of the community do, but it does present an interesting opportunity for self expression and having a bit of a laugh, possibly at my own expense, so I’ve dutifully put together a costume that at least shouldn’t make me stand out too much while being far more interested really in seeing how everyone else dresses up, hopefully giving me a little inspiration for future writing projects and characters. It’s also given me an excuse to paint a Nerf gun up in Steampunk fashion (I think, I’m certainly no expert) and it’s come out very nicely indeed as I’m hoping you’ll agree.

For those who may be interested, there is a very slight Steampunk vibe in my novella “Spares,” which I should be self-publishing in the next month or two and a considerably larger Steampunk vibe to come in the three novels that follow on from it. I decided that rather than throwing myself into that style of writing from the get-go my protagonists, faced with being cut off from resources and modern technology, turn back to basic industrial ingenuity in order to prepare for a war that they have no chance to avoid. So if you like the idea of the undead combining some incredibly unpleasant surgery with the sort of thing Brunel would have probably kept in his tinkering shed, they may well be for you. If not you may want to block this blog, my FaceBook page and my Twitter account, as when they’re written and I’m trying to get them published, I’m going to be talking about them A LOT.

Enjoy today, because this weather isn’t going to last!