Well, Isn’t That Sweet

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I’m seeing more and more and more writers (they guest-post on Mr. Wendig’s blog at terribleminds.com, which I read) wondering how they can write “while the world burns”. And I’m glad they’re noticing, I really am, you have no idea.

But damn did it take you guys a long time and it being on your doorstep to notice.

I’m sure it’s nice to express your frustration and nice to feel like someone else feels that way and maybe get a bit of backslapping for your “oh god everything is shit” moment.

But too much of this and it’ll just be a circle-jerk. Nobody will do anything, they’ll all be too busy talking about how they have to do something.

If the world is burning then get a fire extinguisher.

If there’s genocide in Rwanda or torture in Russia then write a lot of politely worded very pointed letters to every diplomat you and Amnesty International can think of. (I was six. I was six and the world wasn’t as nice as it should have been, so I repeatedly told it to get better. It might even have helped.)

But waiting until there’s something less bad than genocide on your doorstep and then realising that maybe the world isn’t all sunshine and roses and then wanting to know how to go on alongside that?

You guys always were going on alongside it. You were (probably) there for the genocide. (I don’t know how old you are, but not being would make you pretty young.) But because you didn’t have a front row seat, it didn’t exist. You were there for the clusterfuck that was the invasion of Iraq. You were there for all the other atrocities that happened throughout my life, and that are still happening. People died every day, and still do, but the world wasn’t “burning” because you, personally, thought you were safe.

So I guess it just strikes me as a little self-centred. Which people are, and to an extent have to be, or we’d all forget to eat because we were doing more important things, and would starve. *Insert clip from Look Around You here.*

In fact, that’s about the right phrase. Look Around You. It’s always been this way.

It just wasn’t on your doorstep before.

So please, clear up your doorstep, and then whatever you do do not close your eyes and go back to thinking everything is okay. It’s not okay, it’s never been okay, things only get better if we work at it, if we stay aware of where the bad things are and then do something about them.

And yes, write books too. That’s important. Very important. Other minds and other viewpoints — if people don’t see those, the seeds are sown already.

Writers (of any stripe – book, film, comic, serial, you name it) share thoughts and ideas and strange new perspectives with the world. They make other people laugh and cry and think. Think things they never would have thought otherwise.

Now, as always, we need those ideas.

But don’t go complaining about how the world is worse and suddenly you can’t. It’s not worse, you just weren’t looking before. The rock is lifted. There’s a maggoty badger corpse down there, grinning at you with its half-decayed flesh hanging off the skull. But it was still there before, so… clear up the corpse, or write anyway, or clear it up and write anyway. (That’s what I do.)

Just don’t you dare claim it never existed before.

(But I am very, very glad that you’ve finally noticed it. Now pass me that shovel, because I think the tail’s fallen off.)

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Aliens Used Our Bog Roll – In Wales!!!

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Good evening, everyone!

So what’s all this about aliens? Well, you see, it’s a tale of inexplicable mystery in the night, of occurrences so fantastic and improbable that surely no earthly force could have been responsible. Surely the only explanation could have been something uncanny, even supernatural… or could it?


It’s a fine late evening in a seaside town in Wales. The two of us are out walking along the pier in the night, past the closed shops and rides, while the rest of the party remains in the arcade. I never was much of a one for gambling, and, since I have a gamer’s reflexes, I darn well notice when a machine is cheating me. (It’s happened.)

Pausing to look out across the bay, I can see past the headland of this one and into the next. (Or possibly I can just see England, I’m not quite sure. I know it is possible from here, in good weather.) I spot a really bright light, moving back and forth above the town lights on the shore, and point it out — is that a helicopter?

Pretty cool, then, but not that interesting. We walk on.

I look at the distant shore again, because it’s pretty, and I realise that the light I thought was above the lights of the distant town is actually on the somewhat nearer far headland, moving back and forth as if it’s negotiating a series of S-bends. Which, on a steep face, is reasonably likely. I point it out again, realising it must just be a car on full beam, and I misplaced it while glancing at it earlier. The headlights are close enough together to look like a single light at this distance, and so bright they’re reflecting in the waters of the bay. It weaves back and forth as I watch, presumably rounding the tip of the headland.

We walk on, and suddenly the light darts to the right, so fast it must be going over 90mph. Shocked, I stop again, and as I do it reaches another series of S-bends. Back and forth… but still not seeming to go either up or down.

Is it a helicopter? It couldn’t have got from above the city to the headland that fast, and it couldn’t have flown that fast from a circling start, and all the while it’s been a constant brightness. Now my mind is getting full of crazy things. I think about how bright the reflection in the water is: no way it’s a regular car. Or a regular helicopter. It’s not a plane, because they (mostly) can’t hold position like that. It’s nothing overly loud, or I’d hear it echoing across the gently rippling water, the swish of tiny waves the main sound.

So there’s no known object this thing can be. And what kind of military genius tests cutting-edge technology over a highly populated area?

But it can’t, can’t, can’t be aliens.

It just can’t. That would be stupid.

And all the while this insanely bright light is just weaving back and forth like it’s taunting me.

I look at the reflection again in the vain hope that will tell me something I couldn’t see in the air. Yellow-gold light on black water, it starts illuminating… not all the way to the far shore. At first I think it’s maybe halfway across the bay, then I recalibrate, remembering the rules of perspective. It looks halfway, which means it’s way, way closer than halfway.

Staring into the darkness, I slowly begin to make out something. A shape. A kind of triangle shape, black on black, the light at its tip…

I’m an idiot!

The light’s not bright, it’s just close by, sixty metres or so from me! It’s one of the conical buoys that mark out sections of the bay! I saw them not ten hours ago! But it’s black against black water, black rock, and black sky… and that’s why I didn’t see it.

Seriously, Stop Saying That.

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I don’t know how long this has been getting on my nerves, to the point that I don’t even remember if I’ve complained about it before. But as it gets ever more prevalent, it also gets ever more annoying.

So let’s just stop, okay? Stop with this phrase “content creators”. That. Is Not. What I Do. I’m a writer. I’m an author. I’m a scribbler of random idiocies, if you like! (I’m also a mediocre artist and reasonable songwriter.) But I am not, not, not a “content creator”. And here’s why.

“Content”. What does that even mean? The content of what? It makes the bucket more important than the molten gold pile of jewels er, writing. Here and now, WordPress is my bucket, because I’m busy and still haven’t got around to setting up my website. But WordPress — good as they have been to me — isn’t what’s important. People don’t visit this blog because it’s on WordPress.com. They don’t buy Before the Sun Fades because it’s on Smashwords.com. They do these things to read my writing. (Possibly they later regret it.) I could stop doing this and, yeah, WordPress, Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, and everywhere else wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep over it. But I could also just move it to another site. And that site won’t be important either.

“Content creator” says to me that the bucket is all that matters. It says it doesn’t matter what goes into the bucket, grotty pig vomit or your friend’s cat’s regurgitated hairballs or a giant pile of dust from the vacuum cleaner or the corpse of a bird I found lying on the roadside. (I found one of those just the other day. It was really interesting, it had been dessicated somewhere else and then knocked down to the pavement, so you could see all the structure of the bones under the stretched-parchment skin.) It says, ha ha you sucker, you think what you’re doing is important to anyone? What you’re doing is only important to feeding Youtube’s bottom line.

And maybe it is. (Or at least, maybe my various hosts get more money out of my writing than I do.) But at the same time, it definitionally isn’t.

“Creator” I’ll take. It’s what I do, I make stuff. But I’m not making it for your bucket, or their bucket, or anybody’s bucket. And I think I’ve already proven that if I don’t like the look of the bucket that’s being held out to me, I’ll walk off and find or downright make another one that I like better.

Preorders Are Scary

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I’ve been working on Reclamation for some time, to say the least. Years, on and off; for a while, it was the book I didn’t want to write for fear I couldn’t do it justice. But for whatever reason, these past few months I’ve felt up to it.

Which is why I decided that I could aim to get it finished well before the end of the year.

And I can — that’s not really in doubt. I can write fast, and I can write well, and while I can’t always do both at the same time, I can certainly overlap them well enough. I’ve got months to go and very little else to do in them, since my chance of summer employment appears to have lost my records down the back of the sofa and refuses to respond to my emails. All is set very fair indeed.

But it’s still rather more scary the longer it goes on. For once I’ve actually promised something, with a certain specific date and deadline, something that I can let people down on. And I really don’t want to do that. But who knows if I will? The future isn’t certain, even when I pretend it is. And I have other responsibilities I’m determined to fulfill.

Still, nothing doing — it’s done, and whether or not it’s intimidating, I won’t back out now!

Coming Soon!

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The exam period is just about over, and with it I am freed to go back to writing! (I’d have written an explanatory post, but I didn’t realise quite how busy I’d end up until it was already too late!) Which means… that I am now ready to promise you all a new book! Preorders are now open for Erithenia: Reclamation, the first in a new series that will bring us to the world of Thenia, a modern technological society built in part around a power — sharren — as fundamental to Thenians as gravity. Old tales of gods and monsters are a myth — until the day that a cruise liner runs aground, a seemingly reasonless event that heralds the return of the heroes and villains long since thought to be no more than fable.

Reclamation will be out on the 1st of December, but register your interest now to be sure you get it as soon as it’s released!

And in other writing news… there’s about to be a big sale at Smashwords, and for the whole month of July, the ebook of Before the Sun Fades will be absolutely free! So why not pick it up?

Ambulances and Atrocities

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I came home to find an ambulance parked outside my house the other day. It scared the living daylights out of me.

Ambulances on my road always do. Not anywhere else, mind. Anywhere else, I’m just mildly aware of them and feel a bit sorry for whatever stranger they’re either rushing to help or transporting away. But on my street, they scare me.

This goes back a long, long way. Back to when I was single-digit little, and trying to work out why recent history was the way it was. Why bad things happen and people don’t stop them.

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Venturing Deep

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I wanted to explain what it feels like to me when I go caving. This was my best shot: (actually finished 13/12/2016)

Venturing Deep

The path ahead is cloaked in shadow
Total stillness of the air;
If I speak, my words will echo.
To venture onwards still I dare.
The rock is worn of every edge,
And coming close above my head:
Rushing water carved this path,
But long ago that water fled.
Sinking deep inside the earth
Along the paths I follow now;
Somewhere still that river runs
Its lightless course beneath the ground.

This edge was once a waterfall
Now down its empty side I climb
Wire ladder anchored into rock –
Other hands were here before mine.
Yet in my mind I’m first to walk
Along these silent hidden roads
Though other people stand beside me,
In my head I’m still alone.
Far away from sun and wind,
Beyond the easy reach of man
In these all but untouched wilds
A lone adventurer I can stand.

The rock is not my enemy,
Its cool dark shapes a kind of friend;
Its challenge something deep within me
As I explore to journey’s end.
And round each corner marvels wait
Sometimes subtle or unseen
Sometimes obvious and plain:
Rock veils in hanging filigree.
A sinkhole like an inverse tower,
Water falling from above,
Daylight shining brightly down –
Places like this, too, I love.

Climb down towards the pool below
One last look, then back again,
Upwards to the light above;
Below, this untouched world remains.
The water’s risen in the caves,
Yet still I feel no fear at all.
Retrace my route: I know the way.
In my skills I feel secure.
I test each step on hidden ground,
Or climbing up a steep incline,
As careful on the journey out
As I was when I stepped inside.

I have mastered this dark world;
I have seen the great unknown
And when, in time, I might return,
‘Twill be a new quest all its own.
For now I breathe the open air
And see the sky so high above.
Out to horizons vast I stare
And can’t say what I’m dreaming of.
My journey done, my quest complete,
Adventures new another day.
New memories now mine to keep
Wherever next my path may stray.

Cloud Spaceship

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(*Post backdated to the date I actually wrote the poem. Post posted on 19/04/2017.)

Riding back on a bus from work, I saw this amazing cloud covering the sun and looking for all the world like a plume of smoke streaming from something coming down fast through the atmosphere. Well, apparently I just can’t let something so glorious go unremarked, so I got out my phone, took some photographs, and set my thoughts to, if not exactly paper, then certainly pixel.

CloudSpaceship

Like a plume of smoke, the cloud wisps
Up from the sinking sun
Like a spaceship sinking, burning:
A battle lost or a battle won.
Blazing down through the atmosphere,
Reentry or retreat
Fusion reactor meltdown
An alien or human defeat?
Or maybe just a chance disaster:
Malfunctions are nothing new,
The captain giving orders
As she fights to save her crew.
The sun is slowly setting
And the cloud drifts further away –
Will the crash site be forgotten?
Did the engineers save the day?
The sky has cleared, the cloud is gone
Whether for good or ill
End the story how you want
And imagine what you will.

Sporadic Reappearances

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I’m probably not going to be posting with any great regularity for some time. All for good reasons, but I’m afraid I’m not quite going to promise a regular schedule again just yet. I am, however, ready to announce being at least vaguely back. 🙂

All this absence has been because I’ve been working on the most important story I can create — my own. And it’s all going absolutely wonderfully… but that fact is also keeping me busy!