Killing your darlings

So George RR Martin has made a meme for himself by killing his characters, like, a lot. And it is a commonly held belief amongst writers that you can’t get too attached to your characters, that you have to be willing to let them go if it’s what the story needs.

I just don’t know if I have that in me.

*Spoilers for Bridge to Terabithia*

When I first read Bridge to Terabithia as a teenager, the ending hit me like a sack full of bricks. The writing had pulled me in and I felt so close to these two characters. For one of them to just die, it hurt.

Leigh Bardugo is a prime culprit for this. As I commented on twitter, she lures you in with amazing writing then starts playing heart piñata. You should read her books, they’re amazing… but brace yourself.

I have a couple of books that are going to come out in the coming years, and I know that I’m going to have to grow as a writer to deliver them well. Because in one of the upcoming books, a character dies.


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Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I have met [a:Leigh Bardugo|4575289|Leigh Bardugo|]. We were on a panel at the 2014 Eurocon together. Leigh is charming knowledgeable and wise and I fully admit that it was meeting her that prompted me to read this book. However it is not why I’m writing this review.

When I opened [b:Shadow and Bone|10194157|Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)|Leigh Bardugo||15093325] I was scared. I saw a detailed map followed by a list of the different ranks of the second army. I was scared that I wasn’t going to like this book written by the lovely person that I’d met. I could not have been more wrong. I’m not usually a fan of intricate worlds with strange references that you have to keep flicking back to look up, but I needn’t have worried.

Within minutes of starting the book I was hooked, because while the author has created an amazingly intricate world rich with details, the book is ultimately about one girl, Alina, and her struggle to cope with the fact that everything she knew in life has been turned upside down.

I usually take a while to read books, not having much free time. With Shadow and Bone I was finished in days, I simply could not put it down. It wasn’t just the amazing writing, I had to keep reading because I thought I knew what was going on and I needed to find out if I was right. The author manages to create a narrative where you are almost as lost as Alina, constantly wondering which way she should turn and what she should believe.

I cannot recommend this book enough, as soon as I was finished it I ordered the sequels, because with writing this good, you have to follow the story.

View all my reviews

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The benefits of owning a cockatiel

As anyone who has read the blurbs about me knows, we own a cockatiel. His name is Noddy, and when he’s not treating my ear like it’s his arch nemesis, he’s pretty adorable. He is often the focus of guest visits and soaks up ll the attention.

There are some downsides. I rarely go to work without having to brush some feather or piece of fluff off my shirt, and he has a tendency to perch on my forearm and then get very upset when I do something rude like type, move or breathe.

But there are some upsides too, when Noddy is on roosting terms with me, which is most of the time in fairness, he will perch on my shoulder, one leg up, eyes closed, feathers fluffed up. It’s relaxing to have him there. I can write away for hours and he won’t move. Sometimes I’ll forget he’s there only to be reminded when I make a sudden movement that I’m a bad perch and am supposed to hold still.

Sure he can be annoying, and he won’t stop trying to eat my ear, but he’s the best animal writing companion I could ask for.

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As Semisonic sing “Every new beginning starts with some other beginnings end.”

The first draft of The Other Foe is complete, something that seemed distant and difficult for most of this year. I am now waiting for feedback before I begin revisions, whereupon the second draft will go to my beta readers. It’s a quiet time, after the draft is done but before the feedback arrives, it feels good to be able to relax and not worry about it for a little while.

Which doesn’t explain why I’ve just written the first 1000 words of book 3 The Other World. I’m pretty sure writing book 3 while doing revisions for book 2 is not what I had planned. I can only surmise that my fellow author Paul Anthony Shortt is rubbing off on me. He seems to be a writing machine and I am often in awe at the speed with which his drafts are completed.

Suffice to say it felt good to pick the story back up immediately and the words flowed with ease. I’m going to carry on with this jump start on book 3, if only for the fact that people have been clamouring for book 2 for some time and it would be nice to not have them wait as long for book 3.

Watch this space dear readers, and we shall see what will unfold.

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It’s Done!

After many long hours and innumerable trials, the first draft of The Other Foe is complete. To the many many people who’ve been asking when they get to read book 2, I can finally say, sometime next year :p

For now starts the long phase of rewrites and editing where we polish up the ugly parts and make the The Other Foe the best dam novel it can be (And oh but it’s going to be good).

I may let slip titbits and clues about what goes on in The Other Foe, especially to the members of my email list. There will also be at least one more short story before The Other Foe is published, and a number of scenarios using The Other System.

So take some time over the next while to check in and see what’s happening, because life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

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Miranda Short Story!

There once was a convention called Gaelcon, wherein was held a charity auction to raise money for DEBRA Ireland. To this charity auction I donated the first ever short story from The Other Series, one all about Miranda. The lot was won by Karen Wade-Wilson and since her bid exceeded the stretch goal, I signed over the copyright for the story to her. Now Karen could have kept the story all to herself, but instead she wanted to share it with all of you and raise even more money for a very worthy charity. So from this morning The Other Day, a Miranda short story, will be available in my Web Store for 5 Euro. All proceeds from sales of The Other Day will be donated to DEBRA Ireland.

I have to say a big thank you to Karen for being wonderful and wanting the giving to keep on going.

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A lot of people have asked about buying copies of The Other System RPG scenarios. I always try to have a couple of copies at conventions, but this relies on me being there and people finding me. So now when people ask I will direct them to the fancy new Web Store section of my website. The first item up in the store is The Other Nightmare, winner of Best Game at Warpcon Games convention 2014.

More scenarios will be added shortly. All scenarios will be 3 Euros and will be delivered as PDF downloads. I will also be selling short stories from the world of The Other Series, so watch out for more announcements.

If there are any stories you’d like to read from the world of The Other Series, leave a suggestion in the comments and I might just write it!

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Normal services have been resumed

For any of you who’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed me going quiet over the past few months. Unfortunately my health and other matters took priority. But now everything is awesome and normal services have been resumed. I’m excited to say that I’m on the last few chapters of The Other Foe, it’s been a difficult one, but I like the shape it has taken. I think this book is going to have more rewrites than book one, there’s a lot more that needs to be consistent.

Watch this and other spaces for more news, and keep an eye on the website for some exciting changes.

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The Power of Words

Last Friday I was rushing through town to get to an appointment. I don’t know how many exactly, because I don’t count these things, but I would guess 10 people begged or asked me for money as I moved from one side of the city to the other. I reacted in the way that I always do, I shook my head and kept walking. It’s gotten so that I start shaking my head before they say anything.

Now, it’s not that I have no sympathy for the homeless, but for me, as for a lot of other people in today’s Ireland, every Euro in the monthly budget is accounted for. I don’t have that much to give, and if I was to give, how do I choose which of the 10 people I should give it to? So I shake my head and I keep walking. Every now and again some notion will move through my mind and I’ll feel like this time I should give, and I give that person some money and do without something that day.

This wasn’t one of those times. Instead, as I’d just passed the Gaiety, a woman stepped away from the wall with a familiar look on her face. I shook my head before she spoke and carried on walking, so it was a good 10 paces before her words registered with me. She hadn’t asked for money, she hadn’t said she was trying to get into a hostel. She’d simply said “Please, could you buy me some food?”.

The realisation of her words froze me in place. I thought about the contents of my backpack. I’d gotten a very large chicken roll from my work canteen earlier and eaten half of it on the Luas. The other half was just sitting in my back pack, neatly wrapped in tinfoil, waiting to be maybe eaten later if I got hungry. So I took off my backpack, took out the roll, walked back and handed it to her, telling her what was in it.

In a world where everyone wants your money, and you can’t know for sure why, I met a woman who was hungry, and that I could fix.

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Shamrokon – Day 3

I know many of you were gripping the edges of your seats, eagerly thirsting for my last day of adventures at Shamrokon, to you, faithful readers, I apologise for the delay.

Sunday was the day with the most nerve racking start since I was on a panel at 10am “Where Are All The Adult Irish Speculative Fiction Novels?”. You don’t have to be Irish or even a con goer to know that 10am on a Sunday morning of a con is a ridiculous hour to expect people to be awake, attentive or coherent.

Needless to say we did not expect a packed room, but I think we got a fair turnout for the ungodly hour. My fellow panellists where Ruth Frances Long, who is an author of fantasy romance and young adult fantasy, Paul Anthony Shortt, who you guys may have heard me talk about before, because he’s awesome and the launch of the third book in his Memory wars trilogy is next Saturday. We were also joined by Bob Neilson of Aeon Press and Patricia Kennon who is actually a lecturer in children and young adult fiction.

The resounding consensus was that there were no adult speculative fiction authors (Save those present on the panel, and a few we had tracked down on the interwebs). This was the panel I prepared the most for and did the most research and I will definitely be doing more of that as I have been assured by multiple persons that more panels are in my future. The lack of speculative fiction written by and for Irish adults was attributed by the panel to the unwillingness of most of the publishing industry in Ireland to “Take a risk” on a genre book in such a small market. With a lot of Irish authors finding publishers overseas and finding themselves able to self publish, perhaps this will help turn the tide.

Once the shock of having to speak and give opinions woke me up I slipped into the panel next door for the second hour. This was “Steampunk: Monorails!”. We were treated to wonderful descriptions, pictures and even video of a late 19th century Monorail that has been restored at Listowel. The discussion ranged from that monorail to others to crazy Victorian inventions to the appeal of the steampunk genre.

I then promptly took the next three hours off. Not that I had intended to, but a lovely lunch at the hotel bar with my wife ran long, and then I got chatting to wonderful Larpers and authors, and I also had the highlight of my day. I got to meet and chat with Laura Anne Gilman. She is without doubt one of my favourite authors and I’m extremely proud of myself because I:

  • Didn’t squeal, faint or wave my hands about too much (I think)
  • Kept the over enthusiastic fanboy zeal to a minimum (I hope)
  • Got to tell her how she confirmed a childhood theory of mine

You see, when I was a kid, I didn’t realise quite how big the world of authors was, or indeed the world in general. So I had all these books that I loved and the authors were so cool, so I figured all the cool authors must know each other, right? They probably talked a lot and swapped story ideas and met at cool author parties. Now, you may recall on Shamrokon Day 1 we attended a panel that included Carrie Vaughn, who is another author that I absolutely love. At the end of the panel, while we were all shuffling about and moving to leave, in walks Laura Anne Gilman, walks straight up to Carrie and they greet each other with great big smiles and start catching up. So it turns out 10 year old me was totally right, only the “Cool Author Parties” are called cons.

It was 4pm before I could a) recover from talking to a favourite author, and b) manage to persuade myself to stop having interesting and diverting conversations with my fellow congoers. These conversations may have led to a boardgame and a LARP for Gaelcon 2015, this stuff just keeps happening. The 4pm panel was about project Gutenburg and was moderated by my good friend Lora O’Brien. There’s not a lot of bad things to say about a project that preserves old texts and makes them freely available, but we certainly learnt a lot more about it and some of the worries about changes in copyright law.

The 5pm slot held a real treat, Des Doyle let us have a sneak peek into his upcoming feature length Documentary Showrunners. The Documentary looks at the people behind our favourite TV shows, the ones who keep all the plates spinning. It includes interviews with Joss Whedon and Jane Espenson and the clips he showed painted an intriguing picture of a world we seldom get to see. It is due for cinematic release in September as well as being available on the line later in the year.

After that, all that was left was the closing ceremony. My hands were sore as we clapped for an hour through thanks and awards and speeches, but then, it was all well deserved. Shamrokon was one of the best cons I have ever attended and it has given me some unforgettable memories. Now I look forward to Octocon 2015 and hopefully, Worldcon 2019. We’ve done Europe… now the world.


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