All posts in Devil in Chains

Parsec awards 2011

Still on holiday. Now eating pineapple lumps and Twisties and watching Te Karere.

Some news: the 5-part podcast of The Devil in Chains, superbly read by Emma Newman, is up for a Parsec award!

The Parsecs are the annual podcasting award and are given out at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia, in September. The Devil in Chains falls under the novella category.

The Parsecs are a judged award and the list of nominations for some categories is long, but I’m very pleased to have made it onto the nomination list alongside some great material. Dark Fiction Magazine is also up for a Parsec in its own right, which is a terrific achievement considering this is its very first year of existence.

Fingers-crossed for September! You can download a free PDF of The Devil in Chains here, and listen to the 5-part podcast here.

11th February, 2011: I am the fifth dimension!

I swear I’m getting back on track. Honest. But let’s call this week… interesting. And it’s Friday and Friday means time for tunes.

In lieu of anything at all, readers (or listeners) of The Devil in Chains may enjoy this music video from the superbly named Lemon Demon, who wrote a song about Gef. Gef being a mongoose who talks (perhaps), and the star of my novella (kinda).

Actual content to resume presently. Carry on!

20th January, 2011

It’s Friday and the sun is shining, so just a quick note before the weekend. Tonight the final episode of my voodoo steampunk horror novella The Devil in Chains goes live on Dark Fiction Magazine, so check it out. All feedback is welcome!

Writing
Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 1,139
Words total: 11,675/20,000 (47%)
Total words for 2011: 36,156

Yet another sub-2k day, but I did spend a lot of it planning a couple of other projects. One is the sample I need to work up for a post-apocalyptic novel called The Last of the Outlaw Truckers (I’ll eschew a codename here as I love the real title), and the other is for the book after that. I wasn’t thinking much about that book until last night when a giant slab of the plot just arrived in my head, along with a title. Which was nice. The title is Ride, and it’s about a motorcycle gang and an alien invasion. It’ll be a while before I get to it, but in the meantime here’s the song that partially inspired it:

Reading
I finished The Dead Zone, and it was quite, quite brilliant. I found the end very moving, in fact the whole book was quite emotional. Definitely the best King novel since ‘Salem’s Lot, I think, which is evidenced by the speed at which I read it (585 pages in about two weeks, which is super-fast for me). As per the requirements of the 2011 Stephen King Challenge I’ll be posting a review shortly. Next up is a break from King with some post-apocalyptic action.

Books: Finished The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Comics: On hold until February.

17th January, 2011

Yesterday was one jam-packed day filled with good bits and bad bits.

On the plus side, my steampunk horror novella The Devil in Chains began a five-episode run on Dark Fiction Magazine. Narrated by the dulcent tones of Emma Newman, you can grab an episode a night all week. The Devil in Chains features airships, a voodoo deity masquerading as a Manx fairy, plenty of stiff-upper-lipness, men in uniform, and a talking mongoose. If any of those things take your fancy, go check it out. If they don’t, check it out anyway.

On the not-so-plus side, my vampire short The Nightmare of You and Death in the Room failed to make it to the British Science Fiction Association 2010 awards shortlist. I should say that this was entirely expected, and the shortlist this year is very strong indeed. Many congratulations to those who made it, and I certainly know where my votes are going! And thanks again to whoever nominated by story.

Also yesterday codename: Oh Mummy! got a rejection. So it goes. I can reveal the actual title is Transmission, and it’s a zombie horror novel featuring cadavers possessed by the spirits of dead celebrities, hidden stations on the London Underground and a secret society sworn to protect them, and the resurrection of an Ancient Egyptian pharoah. Oh, and mummies.

Rejection stings of course, and over at Terrible Minds Chuck Wendig offers some excellent advice on what to do with a rejection when you get one. As he points out, rejection is the default state of a writer. You must expect it, and expect it often. How you deal with it is what’s important. I recently read some comments on someone’s Twitter stream about how they had just had another rejection (the latest in a long line of them, from what I could work out), and they said they when it arrived they didn’t feel anything at all. Personally I think that’s a little worrying – you should be upset and disappointed, because it means you really want it and the work is important to you. Like great performers who suffered nerves before walking on stage/the director shouted action (Lawrence Olivier being sick in his dressing room before a performance; Patrick Troughton visibly shaking between takes in Doctor Who) – if the fear and disappointment isn’t there, something is wrong. Well, I think, anyway.

So after my I’m so sad, so very, very sad moment my first thought was: dude, you gotta step up your game. Transmission is fully outlined and I have the first three chapters written, so I’ll file it away for a while and when the time is right, I’ve got a headstart on a new novel sitting right there. But, more importantly, along with the rejection came an invite to submit something else. The invite was for a totally different type of story, and as it happens I have already had an idea floating around that fits perfectly. The key now is to make that submission better than the first.

Writing
Progress continues on The Wasp in the Lotus with 1,992 words added. However, something is awry with my wordcounts for the year, and after a tally-up yesterday the numbers I have been reporting here are all off slightly. I haven’t been able to work out what’s gone wrong, but there is a clue in yesterday’s count. My daily target is 2000 words, and I worked on Wasp in two sessions. In the first, I wrote 1,000 words exactly. In the second, I wrote 1,015. I tracked this with the Project Targets function in Scrivener, which allows you to see goals for a writing session and then pops up an alert when you have reached it. According to the Project Targets tracker, I wrote 2,015 words. And yet the total length of the project is only 1,992 words longer than yesterday.

There’s something fishy going on. For the moment, I’ll do an audit of all my projects this year and see where I am really up to so I can update this blog properly. Also I’ll clearly have to track the word counts differently, so I’ll make up a couple of Excel sheets and keep a log that way.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 1,992
Words total: 8,415/20,000 (32%)
Total words for 2011: 30,255

Editing
I hit the end of chapter two of Seven Wonders, yesterday, and after the action-packed (and difficult to edit) opener I’m now starting to pick up speed, focussing on fixing the writing and taking notes on story problems.

Project: Seven Wonders (superhero novel)
Pages edited today: 20
Pages to go: 506

Reading
Books: Some pages of The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Comics: Still on hold. Too much else to do, although I am looking forward to getting back into it.

To the devil, a podcast!

I’m pleased to be able to spill this particular plate of beans. Or is that a tin? And have I had too much coffee today? The answer to both of those questions is: possibly.

Anyway, starting tonight, Dark Fiction Magazine is podcasting my steampunk horror novella, The Devil in Chains! The story is in five 30-minute episodes, read by the wonderful Emma Newman. Emma first approached me with the idea of doing an audiobook of The Devil in Chains last year, being someone who enjoyed the story. She’s a pro voiceover artist, and her narration of my story is the bees knees.

The Devil in Chains was first published in Pantechnicon in two parts in 2008 and 2009 – there is more info about that here, as well as some blurbage. Producing the podcast version with Emma was a blast, and I can’t thank her enough for the superb work she put in. Emma is a writer herself, and her first novel 20 Years Later is due to drop from Dystopia Press later this year. She’s also on Twitter, and I recommend you follow her at once.

Blue Monday? Getouttatown.

November miscellany

The end of November already? Cripes. Too much to write, not enough time!

Sir Julius Vogel Award

I mentioned this back in August when the winners were announced, but last week my Sir Julius Vogel Award trophy arrived from New Zealand. These are New Zealand’s national science fiction awards, handed out at the national SF convention. Of course as I now live in the UK, I couldn’t attend in person!

It’s a lovely and reasonably hefy hunk of brass, and takes pride of place on my Doctor Who bookcase (actually filled with DVDs). As with any award it represents blood, sweat and tears, and I’m very pleased to have it cap off my time as TSV editor. It also reveals my surname (Christopher being my middle name) which I don’t use for fiction for a variety of purely practical/conspiratorial reasons (delete as applicable).

Tap! Magazine

Something of a nice surprise (aka total jaw-dropping shock) this week – my voodoo steampunk novella The Devil in Chains made an appearance on the front of the first issue of Tap! magazine, a new publication dedicated to iPhone/iPod touch/iPad apps.

I’ve not yet seen the magazine in person, and I do think it is brave of the publisher to be launching such a title in an already crowded marketplace, but…

ZOMG LOOK! My novella shares the shelves with some of my favourite authors − Dan Abnett! Cherie Priest!, Terry Pratchett! Lavie Tidhar! Peter F. Hamilton! Gail Carriger!

Which is nice.

Hat’s off to @CTD who supplied the screenshot of his iBook app for the magazine. A man of impeccable taste, I’m sure you’ll agree.

EscapePod

EscapePod is one of the web’s best science fiction podcast magazines, and this month I began a regular blog with them in which I talk about… stuff! I try and get something up each week, so please check it out. Also, if there is anything that’d you’d like me to talk or write about, feel free to send in suggestions. My remit is very broad, so long as it is genre-related in some way.

And now/shortly, December. In which I shall have various bits of news to share. I know, promises promises, right?

New fiction, old fiction, podcasting

Some new fiction for you this week – my horror flash-fiction short story, The Nightmare of You and Death in the Room is out today in Hub magazine #126. Please take a look and I welcome feedback – I’ve already had some interesting interpretations of it on Twitter!

It’s old news now, but Amazon opened the UK Kindle store on 5th August. Prior to this, you could buy Kindle ebooks from Amazon.com, but due to the addition of VAT and other mysterious charges, prices were often a little high. My voodoo steampunk novella, The Devil in Chains, for example was set at a price of 99 cents (the minimum, as you can’t give away free Kindle books), but UK customers had to pay something rather more (I think it was between $4 and $5, although I don’t remember).

The UK Kindle store is good news, then, and you can grab The Devil in Chains for just 72p. I’ve tried it out on the iPad’s Kindle app, and I have to say it looks pretty gosh-darned cool. I’d be interested to see it on an actual Kindle – hopefully I’ll be able to hijack one down at FantasyCon in September and take a look. I must admit the new Kindle, in smexy graphite grey, looks pretty cool and the price is terrific (£109 for the WiFi model, £149 for the WiFi + free 3G model)… but it’s a mono-functional eink device. Hmm. I carry too much stuff as it is.

As well as being “in print” this week, you can marvel at my mumbling half-New Zealand, half-British accent over at WordPunk. A couple of weeks ago I was a guest host on their Genre, Movies and TV, and Tech and Gadgets episodes, all of which are now online and available at their website or via iTunes. I had a great time on the show and my thanks to Del, Simon and James for having me on!

Right, back to the editing!

Honourable mentions

Week one of the new decade draws to a close (no, I’m not getting into an argument about whether the decade starts in 2010 or 2011. Get. Over. It), and after a bit of heaving and swearing (lots of swearing), I’m finally dragging Empire State back on track. After about two months in the doldrums, it’s a bit like that old metaphor of turning a cruise liner around. It takes a bit of coaxing, and it’s not a fast process. Anyway, one million words, here I come.

Meanwhile, Cherie Priest, the author what wrote that damned fine book Boneshaker that I harped on about earlier, seemed pretty pleased that she rubbed shoulders with Stephen King on the pages of this blog. Thanks for the link, Cherie!

And this I dig, a lot. Reader ediFanoB, whom I randomly bumped into on Twitter due to our shared love of steampunk, has a few words to say about my novella, The Devil in Chains, on his website. Now, The Devil in Chains isn’t a new release, and one of great mysteries of the publishing world is how books are all hot news on the week of release, then everyone forgets about them. I mean, Coke advertise several times a day on TV, and you can go to the store and buy a can. But I can also go to my local bookstore and buy, say, Salem’s Lot, but you don’t see Salem’s Lot advertised anywhere. Although writing is an art and a craft, publishing is about building name and brand. With that in mind, I’m pretty chuffed that ediFanoB enjoyed The Devil in Chains enough to not only blog about it, but demand I get on with the rest of the series and get Dark Heart (the first novel in the series, for which The Devil in Chains is a stand-alone prequel) edited and, heck, published even!

Well, that’s why I do it. I write stuff that I hope people enjoy. And if they do, that’s my job done. Thanks, edi!

The awesome and radical of 2009 (part 2) and my New Year’s Resolution

Two down, seven to go. Tonight it’s just one, and it’s the big one.

Writing

I don’t have a competition running against Jennifer Williams, but we do egg each other on a bit. In 2009, she wrote 120,000 words, and if her novels (one completed, two in progress) are anything like her short stories, she’s going to snap up an agent and deal in next to no time. At which point I will be very jealous, and may have to take up some form of Black Magic to make her laptop battery die at inopportune moments. Jen has christened 2010 the “Year of Writing Dangerously”. I like it.

For me, 2009 has been the “Year of Writing Seriously”. It started with me completing my first full-length novel, Dark Heart. I had started this in 2008, or even earlier, but after a year of faffing had reached 30,000 words or so. In 2009, I Took It Seriously, and churned out the next 70,000 words in just two months. Taking It Seriously seemed to work. Dark Heart (first draft) came in at 118,743 words. I even got the manuscript printed up as a trade paperback via Lulu, providing myself with a bound, portable manuscript that I could edit wherever and whenever I wanted.

Taking It Seriously worked so well that I applied the same general technique (sitting down and writing) to my second novel, Seven Wonders (originally called New Gods, but so harassed was I by Jack Kirby fans – and rightly so, and myself included actually – that I changed it). I didn’t keep a track of time on Seven Wonders, but the first draft of this, my second novel, was done at the end of August and came in at 111,073 words.

I took a break after that, and started to edit Dark Heart, but after hacking at the first third of the book I realised it was still too soon. The text was too fresh, and I remembered nearly every comma, which made it hard to judge whether something – a scene, a chapter, a character, a plot point – was actually working. So I shelved that Lulu paperback and moved on to book three.

Book three is my current work-in-progress, Empire State. I was going to write the second in the Dark Heart steampunk series (I have books two through five plotted), but I felt I needed to stretch my writing muscles and write in different styles and genres. And if I spent another three months writing book two, only to never be able to sell book one, I’d kinda be stuck. It wouldn’t have been a waste of time, far from it, but as a new writer it made more sense to have written three books and be able to pitch each of them, rather than having written three books and be able to pitch only two of them.

Empire State, then, is a SF detective noir fantasy thing. Hmm, I think I need to work on the elevator pitch… the draft stalled in November/December for a variety of reasons that I have posted about before, but the file will be cracked open tomorrow as part of my New Year’s Resolution. Empire State stands at 35,387 words. The target is, again, 100,000 words, which leaves me about 65,000 to go. It started as a NaNoWriMo project, but November is where it all went wrong, so I didn’t even crack the required 50,000 words that month. Eh. What can you do?

Aside from these three full-length novels, I wrote a short story – The Unpopular Opinion of Reverend Tobias Thackery. This Lovecraftian horror was written in June 2009, and is 7,143 words long. It was rejected by Weird Tales, and is currently with another publisher, but if there is no luck there I’ll put it up here for free, and also as another Legends iTunes eBook alongside The Devil in Chains. Short stories are not my thing – I find them too hard to write and I rarely read them either.

That’s my writing for 2009. A total of 272,346 words written. Two complete novels and one complete short story written, and one novel at the 33% mark. The Year of Taking It Seriously seemed to have paid off.

For 2010, I have just one New Year’s Resolution (I’m not sure if that is supposed to be capitalised or not… I’m assuming it should, because that makes it Important, and Important is a Good Thing). If 2009 is my Year of Taking It Seriously, 2010 is my Year of Taking It Professionally. Okay, that grammar isn’t the best, but in 2010 I will have more time to devote to writing, which means I can think and act like a Writer.

My goal therefore is 1 million words in 2010. I think I got the idea from something Scott Sigler said, that he was going to write 1,000,000 words in 2009. I’m not sure whether he hit it or not, but Stephen King also said that you need to write 1 million words before you get to the good stuff. He might be right, and it looks like I’m 25% of the way there already. One million words is 2,740 words for each and every day, which is actually quite achievable considering on a good day I can get to 5,000 words at a push. So those one million words will be, more or less, the last two-thirds of Empire State, plus seven more novels, plus revisions on two novels.

That’s the plan anyway. And it all starts tomorrow. All I need is my ass, a chair, and my computer. And tea. Lots of tea.

More of my awesome and radical things of 2009 tomorrow. Happy New Year everyone! See you in the Amazingly Utterly Awesome 2010. See, capital letters, 2010 is Important.

The Devil in Chains [remastered]

The Devil in Chains

Following the excellent example of fellow writer of the dark and scary Jennifer Williams, I’ve tweaked and reformatted The Devil in Chains, my steampunk novella and prequel to Dark Heart, and am pleased to announce an improved PDF version, as well as formats for other devices such as ePub, etc. You can get these on Smashwords, which has the advantage of an online catalogue accessible directly from Stanza on the iPhone and iPod touch. Stanza is completely free, and I highly recommend it as an eReader application.

Additionally, the definitive PDF version can be downloaded here. This version differs slightly in format to the Smashwords version, as the latter required some special tweaks to get the text working in ePub format. I’d recommend this as the best version, with Smashwords useful for reading on the move.

Formatting for different eBook formats is fun but fiddly – please feel free to report any bugs, problems, mistakes or issues to me, and I’ll fix them as I can.

The Devil in Chains is also available as an eBook for the iPhone/iPod touch at the iTunes app store.