All posts in The Wasp in the Lotus

26th January, 2011

Straight into the action today, because…

Writing
The Wasp in the Lotus is done! Well, the first draft anyway (aka draft 0, the vomit draft, etc). The maximum wordcount allowed for this project is 20,000 words, and my draft came in at 21,220. This is not as bad as I thought it would be – at one point it was looking like 25-30,000 words, but I wisely decided to excise a sequence. This is a novella, after all, not a novel, and sometimes you just have to hold back. I changed my mind about a lot of things several times over the course of the draft, so the rewrite is likely to be fairly extensive. Certainly there won’t be a problem in getting it within the specified limits.

However, something rather interesting and unexpected happened at the end of the story – during the final showdown between heroine and villain, the villain revealed some information that suggested the events of the novella were just a small part of a much larger diabolical plan. While The Wasp and the Lotus reaches what I hope is a satisfying and logical conclusion, it’s really only the beginning of the story. They’ve got an awful lot of work ahead of them, battling evil right across the world (well, I did say the diabolical plan was somewhere on the large side).

As a result, I’ve now got the set-up for an ongoing series of stories featuring the two main characters, set in an entirely new steampunk/clockpunk universe. I’ve already got one steampunk universe/series on the boil (which begins in The Devil in Chains, and then continues into my first novel, Dark Heart), and here’s a second! Importantly, despite similarities in genre, this new one (which is more clockpunk than steampunk) is completely and totally different.

Which means another index card on the magic corkboard, currently entitled Zappa and the Princess. At the moment I have it pegged as a novel, but we’ll see.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 1,393
Words total: 21,220/20,000 (100+%)
Total words for 2011: 45,701

Reading
Death’s Disciples was released yesterday in the US and Canada, and I’d recommend picking up a copy pronto pronto. North American readers also get a cool new cover, just for them! Might have to snag a copy myself…

Books: some pages of Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King.
Comics: On hold until February.

25th January, 2011

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, we all do. And really, that’s what the cover is for – it exists to advertise the book and to entice readers to pick it up and take a look. If, for a moment, you imagined your local bookstore stocked with nothing but books which used a generic cover template of black text on a plain white background, you would be totally lost.

I’ll admit, then, that I’m something of a cover nut. When I seek out a book on Amazon, I’ll often take a look at the other editions available, just to see if the book was ever printed with a better cover (if the current cover is a bit lame). Plus I also buy a lot of books from the US, where covers have undergone something of a renaissance and are now often better than their UK equivalents.

Earlier this week I was pointed to a new piece of cover art by one of my favourite book artists, Dan Dos Santos. This guy paints his covers in oils, and as his website shows, he’s a freakin’ genius. His new cover knocks it out of the park:

This is for My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland. Thanks to this cover, I’m definitely going to take a look. Which kinda proves my point about the purpose of covers, as looking at Diana’s website, she appears to write exactly the kind of urban fantasy that I have no interest in. On the basis of the covers of previous books on display, I wouldn’t give them a second glance in a bookshop.

But thanks to this killer book cover, I’m going to read her work for the first time. And who knows, if I like it, maybe I’ll try some earlier books.

Writing
Nothing yesterday thanks to a very busy day gig. I’m free today, however, so I should be able to catch up a little and finish draft 0 of The Wasp in the Lotus.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 0
Words total: 19,827/20,000 (99%)
Total words for 2011: 44,308

Reading
Death’s Disciples continues to impress. I don’t need to say anything more except go the hell out and buy this book. Also, the cover is brilliant. See? Covers are important.

Books: some pages of Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King.
Comics: On hold until February.

24th January, 2011

Behold, the magic corkboard!

Well, it’s not magic, but it is made of cork. I’ve been keeping a big spreadsheet of book ideas, but one thing that has been bugging me is that unless I want to print it out, it’s not constantly visible. What I really wanted was a physical chart of books that I’m planning to write, and what better way than a corkboard. Each planned book gets an index card with the title and a one-line summary on the front, and some more detailed notes on the back. I’ve obscured the summaries in this picture (aside from Hang Wire and Godless, which are currently in progress), which might seem pretentious given that I’m not a published novelist yet, but, what the hell, why give anything away!

The beauty of a corkboard and index cards is that I can shuffle the cards around to indicate some kind of schedule, once I’ve worked out what it is, anyway. There are 16 cards up there, and at a rate of three books a year that’s over five years of work ahead of me.

Well, at least you can’t say that I don’t take this seriously. There’s a word for writers who don’t give up: published.

Writing
So close to wrapping up The Wasp in the Lotus now. The question at the moment is how far over the 20k word limit I’ll go. Hopefully I can get it wrapped up today (Tuesday), and then… the editing begins. As much as the thought of editing pains me, the story has changed a fair bit over the course of this draft 0, so I am looking forward to tidying things up.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 2,015
Words total: 19,827/20,000 (99%)
Total words for 2011: 44,308

Reading
Death’s Disciples does not muck around. I like it. If you read the back cover (or, indeed, even just looked at the front cover) you’ll know there is an explosion on a plane. This happens on page 2. Page 2. Talk about being dropped into the action!

Books: some pages of Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King.
Comics: On hold until February.

23rd January, 2011

I came across this piece of writing advice yesterday:

“Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy purple patches; as when describing a sacred grove, or the altar of Diana, or a stream meandering through fields, or the river Rhine, or a rainbow; but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?”

So says the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BCE) in his Ars Poetica, giving us the definition of purple prose. Sounds like a smart dude.

Writing
The Wasp in the Lotus is nearing the climax… still. The main character and her captor are sitting around threatening each other at the moment, but any second now the action will start. Any second.

See? This is why we edit after we have written draft 0.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 2,067
Words total: 17,812/20,000 (89%)
Total words for 2011: 42,293

Reading
Did somebody mention purple prose? As much as I hate giving up on a book, I couldn’t take The Culled any longer and have switched to Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King. The relief, as they say, was palpable.

Books: some pages of Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King.
Comics: On hold until February.

22nd January, 2011

This year seems to be shaping up as a good one for fans of superheroes, but over at EscapePod today I talk about the problem of translating them from comics to live action. Head over there and feel free to add your comments! Coincidentally, just as that blog post went up, NBC have announced they have picked up a live-action Wonder Woman TV series as a pilot. The description of the story – that Diana is “is a vigilante crime fighter in L.A. but also a successful corporate executive and a modern woman trying to balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life” – doesn’t sound much like the Wonder Woman I know. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses, but I wonder if it will actually get made or broadcast. NBC is also the home of The Cape, a spectacularly bad piece of television with nose-diving ratings – assuming that The Cape is cancelled before the season is out, I wonder if this will change NBC’s position on superhero television. I suspect it will, and I suspect that it will result in Wonder Woman (whether it is good or bad) being dropped during pre-production. Unless NBC see the failure of The Cape as proof that you need to be working with an established property and not an original one, which is why they suddenly picked up Wonder Woman after it had done the rounds of the other networks and been rejected by all.

It’s a shame really. Wonder Woman is one of DC’s “Big Three” characters, and yet had never been managed that well. Her mooted live-action movie has been in development hell for years, and her comic has sufferred from being juggled between a succession of different writers before the issue 600 reboot late last year, which saw the character get a new costume, a new personality, a new origin… a new everything. That generated quite the hoo-haa, and rightly so, although Wonder Woman has undergone similar transformations before and clearly it was a temporary change – the DC Comics app and online store, the DC Universe Online game, and the new Wonder Woman range of make-up (yes, make-up) all use the classic Wonder Woman design. Fortunately, reboot writer J. Michael Straczynski quickly jumped ship from Wonder Woman (and Superman) when he worked out monthly comic work didn’t pay well enough, so fingers-crossed the return of the iconic Princess Diana may come earlier than was originally planned.

Writing
The Wasp in the Lotus is nearing the climax, which means I have to write a sword fight. As a fencer, you’d think that might be relatively easy, but I’m not so sure – there is a balance between writing an enjoyable piece of action, and filling it with accurate terminology and description. Too much of the latter and it’s a writer showing off. Too little of it and it’s just another action scene. I’ve never written a sword fight before, so… well, we’ll see what happens.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 2,045
Words total: 15,745/20,000 (78%)
Total words for 2011: 40,226

Reading
Yesterday I said I was enjoying The Culled by Simon Spurrier. Today I have to revise my opinion. What I thought was good writing is actually overwriting, and after wading through a few more chapters of purple prose, I have my doubts. Also, I’m a bit confused as to the year in which The Afterblight Chronicles are set – the main character mentions that 93% of the world’s population have been wiped out, which comes to 59 billion people. There are only 6 billion people on the Earth at the moment, and the only population predictions I could find online went as far as 9 billion people by 2050. And yet The Culled feels like very near future indeed – aside from a couple of mentions of something called QuickSmog (some kind of air pollution), the book opens in a Boeing 737 and the main character makes an analogy to a sensory experience being like “DVD extra features”.There seems to be an attempt to date it by mentioning that is 400 years since Hiawatha lived, but speculative dates for his existence range from the 12th century right up to the 16th, and taking what seems to be the general consensus of the 16th century, 400 years brings us to the 20th century. Huh. Oh well, I’ll keep reading, if just to find an answer to that. Sure, this is fiction and obviously The Afterblight Chronicles are set in a sort of alternate version of Earth, but at the moment it just looks like the writer got his numbers wrong.

Books: some pages of The Culled by Simon Spurrier.
Comics: On hold until February.

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.

19th January, 2011

Friend and fellow writer Jennifer Williams has a shiny new website, on which she has posted a picture of a big sword which she received as a belated Christmas present the other day. She notes that with said artefact on the wall she feels like a proper fantasy writer.

Which got me thinking about my own office and writing space. It’s at the top of the house, in the corner, and it has a nice big window with a view over the canal (that runs through our back garden) and, beyond that, some fields and woodland. Which is nice (actually it’s more than nice, it’s flippin’ marvellous).

But aside from that, my office is a little… bland. Pale desks, pale wood laminate floor, pale walls. We’ve only been in this house for about three months so we haven’t really got around to kitting the office out properly, but seeing Jen’s sword, I’m wondering what I should have.

I do have some desk toys – an Optimash Prime, a set of DC Lantern Corps rings, a collector’s replica of a G1 Soundwave Transformer, and a King George VI commemorative tea tin. But really these take up room, and what I need is to populate the office, not just my desk, with cool stuff, to make my writing space feel more like a writing den. At the moment I do have three DC Comics covers up on the wall, from the anniversary poster book, but they’re too small. And what I’m really looking for now is, like Jen’s sword, something substantial that kinda represents the work I do.

If money were no object then I wouldn’t have much difficulty – there is just enough room in the corner for a full-sized Dalek from This Planet Earth, but at £2,500 a pop they’re not exactly cheap. Or even remotely affordable, unless Euromillions comes up trumps tomorrow (note to self: get a ticket!). A Revenge-style Cyberman helmet is more within reach, although I’d need some kind of pedestal for it. There are also various steampunky knick-knacks available, mostly in the form of guns, but again the really good ones from Weta Workshop are eye-wateringly expensive and the affordable ones that I’ve seen from other places are a bit cheap’n’nasty.

Tricky business. What represents me as a genre writer? And I say “genre” rather than science fiction, or fantasy, or whatever because I really don’t stick to any particular niche. I like a lot of different genres and styles, and as I’ve mentioned before, genre classification isn’t something that particularly interests me. I write to whatever style or genre the story in question needs to be written in.

If anybody has seen any cool or unusual bits and bobs, let me know!

Writing
Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 993
Words total: 10,536/20,000 (47%)
Total words for 2011: 35,017

Another sub-par day as the day gig was pretty hectic and I still haven’t quite got back into a proper morning routine. It’s not helped by the fact that at this of year it is still pitch dark outside until 8am. Grumble grumble. Also I’ve been plotting out a post-apocalyptic novel which I need to supply a synopsis and sample chapters for. I also need to come up with a codename for it (hey, I like codenames).

Reading
Books: Some pages of The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Comics: On hold until February.

18th January, 2011

Two things. Well, three things.

Firstly, 365-odd daily posts where I just gabble on about word counts will get old quickly. I do want to keep tracking because word count is a useful metric. I don’t take it too seriously, and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s all quantity over quality. It certainly isn’t.

So, keep tracking, but keep it short and talk about other stuff.

Secondly, my word counts are off anyway. Some misalignment of Scrivener and Excel means I haven’t written quite what I thought I had. It’s not off by much, but it’s annoying.

Rather than going back and correcting all of my earlier blog posts, which is pointless, I’ll just draw the line here and present corrected numbers, and then count it all properly from today. Bearing in mind point number one: keep it short.

Thirdly, I’ve had this site for a couple of years now and it’s time for a little redesign. Cue a lot of late nights tweaking the new design and then crying into my cocoa when it doesn’t look right. But you have to move forward! No particular timetable on this, but I do have a design lined up with is pretty sweet.

So to yesterday’s progress:

Writing
Only 1,107 words on The Wasp in the Lotus as I spent some time doing some forward planning on other projects. I think I need a corkboard on my office wall to pin notes to – I can do this virtually, of course, but the thing about a real corkboard is that it’s right there, in your face, all the time.

As far as my word count errata goes, here are the corrected numbers:

Current project totals:

Hang Wire (31,653; 15,882 of those written in 2011)
The Wasp in the Lotus (9,543)
Transmission (8,620; project on hold)
The Gospel of the Godless Stars (15,317; split between me and Kate Sherrod, and no words written in 2011 yet)

Total words for 2011 so far: 34,024 (of a required total by 18th January of 36,000, so short by 1,976 words)

Which means, using the corrected numbers:

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 1,107
Words total: 9,543/20,000 (47%)
Total words for 2011: 34,024

Editing
None today, as I spent the time on project planning instead. I’ve got another sample to work up.

Reading
Books: Some pages of The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Comics: Still on hold. Contemplating a straight reset on this rather than trying to catch up. Maybe 1st 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.

16th January, 2011

Writing
Finally back on schedule with The Wasp in the Lotus. I still have a feeling it’ll be over the 20k word limit, but I’m ready to chop as needed. The primary objective now is just to write it all down!

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 2,058
Words total: 6,423/20,000 (32%)
Total words for 2011: 28,233

Editing
A little done on Seven Wonders, and I really mean a little. I need to stop procratinating and step up to this one. I’m dallying on it because I’m still at the stage where I’m trying to do two things at once – correct mistakes and fix/improve the writing, and improve the story. While both of these tasks have to be completed, on this pass I need to focus more on mechanical correction and just make notes on the good, the bad and the ugly. Improving the story is the purpose of the next pass, once the writing has been fixed.

If I can separate those two things in mind head – and I will, it’ll just take a few days – then I’ll be able to truck on.

Project: Seven Wonders (superhero novel)
Pages edited today: 5
Pages to go: 526

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.

In other news, yesterday I found out that my vampire short from Hub magazine, The Nightmare of You and Death in the Room, is on the longlist of nominations for the 2010 British Science Fiction Association Awards. Now, this is the longlist, and it is rather long and filled with the mighty, mighty names of a lot of authors and artists I really admire. But while my story is gauranteed to vanish from the shortlist, which is supposed to be announced shortly, I’m living in the moment! This is my first fiction award nomination ever – my Sir Julius Vogel Award was for editing rather than writing – and while I have no idea who nominated it or how many nominations it received, I’m absolutely chuffed that someone, somewhere liked the story enough to think it deserved it. That, as they say, is reward enough. But I do mean it.

As a note: yesterday the final longlist was announced and posted in the BSFA forum thread above. As of this morning, the final longlist has been removed and the previous iteration left. My story is still on it, but I haven’t heard any more about why the final longlist was deleted.

You can read the nominated story for free at Hub fiction.