Writing again

Here’s the first evidence that 2012 is going to be less wall-to-wall overload than 2011: I’ve started writing again.

Pulled out my old fantasy novel manuscript Fell, because several people have told me its the thing I’ve written they liked the most. My amigo Dale, who knows a thing or two about getting fantasy novels published, talked with me about it a couple years back, specifically about the value of a strong opening, and that conversation stuck. And it would be nice to get some joy out of this thing.

Also, hey – it’s an editing pass! That’s a nice, easy way to get the writing muscles firmed up before diving into something completely new. Right?

What this has meant in practice: a few short sessions tapping away. The opening 2,000 words almost totally rewritten. I’m really pleased with what feels like a much stronger opening! But it seems that I now have to completely overhaul the fundamental structure of the ENTIRE NOVEL.

Nice and easy. Hmph.

Back to it…

Dune & Doctor Who

Two interesting projects have come to light today, both on the Bleeding Cool news website. They are both ideas I have talked about several times in the past: “someone should do this,” I have said. Now someone is.

The first is a documentary about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted 1970s film adaptation of Dune. I learned about this film through my interest in the making of the 1979 film Alien, which was in many ways born out of the ashes of the failed Dune project. The designs I’ve seen for the film are fascinating, and the weird visionary style of Jodorowsky would have been a fascinating match for Frank Herbert’s dense science fiction epic. The sheer talent involved alone makes this one of the great untold stories of filmmaking, and one I’ve long thought demanded a telling; but now that I’ve seen this first clip, I realize Dune could have been even more of a game changer, perhaps the only real followup to Kubrick’s 2001. This one promises to far exceed my hopes. I’m very excited about this.

The second one has not been confirmed, but strongly hinted: Mark Gatiss is apparently working on a TV drama about the creation of Doctor Who in the early 60s. I am a lot more cautious about this project. While Gatiss is a huge fan of the show and a highly successful TV creative (best known at the moment for Sherlock), he is… not at his strongest working with female characters. (At least, so argues Andrew(Bartok), quite convincingly.)

This matters because the version of this story I have always wanted to see (and have wanted to write, had I the time and airfare budget to research it properly) isn’t about the origins of Doctor Who at all, but instead about the early careers of two remarkable women: Verity Lambert and Delia Derbyshire. Both of them were pioneers (in television production and electronic music, respectively, although that undersells their impact) and both of them were young women in overwhelmingly male work environments. DW was where their trajectories crossed, and they both had a huge part to play in making the show an icon of British culture. There is plenty of other fascinating incident in the origin of DW, and of course the men involved were all quite singular, but to me the Lambert/Derbyshire parallel story has a potential that the rest doesn’t match.

So I’ll watch for more news of this one with caution.

(The first scene of my version of the Lambert/Derbyshire story pretty much writes itself.)

ICONS: The Mastermind Affair

Warning: this post is about tabletop roleplaying games. Sorry if it makes no sense to you.

Mastermind Affair cover

Just released: The Mastermind Affair, PDF-format adventure for the ICONS RPG. (Written by me.)

It’s a hefty 45-page adventure suitable for most traditional-type Supers RPG settings – I guess it’s a bit more DC than Marvel in its shadings. It has a whole mess of villains, all with that great Dan Houser art – you can see some of them in the preview pages. It has a descriptive character aspect of which I’m inordinately proud, but I can’t tell anyone what it is because it’s a minor spoiler. It’s a neat adventure and if you like Supers stuff, you’ll get a kick out of this.

Best of all: it is only a buck ninety-nine, American. The publisher, Adamant Entertainment, has adopted an “app-pricing” model where everything costs just under US$2. This means you can get ICONS itself, the amazing full RPG game, for $1.99 as well. (Also my older stuff for the same price.) It’s a fascinating and exciting business move, and I think it’s the way all digital products will inevitably go – music downloads, e-books, online newspaper subscriptions, etc will all be getting massively cheaper as it sinks in that the value proposition is different to that of a physical product.

So, $1.99 for a fun adventure. That’s about $2.60 in NZ pesos. If you are of gaming ilk, do consider it.

(Sadly, although the playtesters are credited, their amazing characters are not included. You’ll need to ask them for descriptions.)

Xmas Gift Idea: JAAM 28

The latest issue of JAAM has been out for a few weeks. JAAM is a literary journal containing poetry and prose and varying amounts of non-fiction essays, photos, illustration, interviews… This time it also contains something by me. So naturally, a blog post telling you to buy it. That’s how these things work.

JAAM has been published out of Wellington since ’95, when it launched at the same time as a Victoria University Writing Club – the product of Mark Pirie’s enthusiasm and drive. The club lasted a few years before dissolving into a loose network of friends, but JAAM has published regularly since ’95. Currently an annual publication, edited by Helen Rickerby and Clare Needham (who were both in that original Class of ’95), this issue has the theme of “dance”.

I’m pleased to have a story in there because I really have a lot of love for JAAM, and its relaxed and unaffected sense of style. Also because, as mentioned in my author bio in the issue, I was there in ’95 when the club began and the journal was announced. It took me a very long time to submit something.

The story printed is one of the dozen short pieces I wrote last year in my short story binge. I sort of dread reading it in printed form because nothing makes you see all the limitations in your own craft like being published. But people have been very kind and it did get accepted in the first place, so. (In the JAAM-linked writing group there was a running joke that was also partly serious, where you’d always preface sharing your new work with a comment about why it sucked and you hated it.)

Anyway, even though I talk about me in this post, I’m only a few pages of a wide-ranging and nimble collection. The Xmas gift idea suggestion is a genuine one. This is good stuff, to be enjoyed.

JAAM is (or soon will be?) available at Unity Books in Wgtn and other places like that.

Fruits of Labours

Been working hard the last month or so, and in the last few days there’s some nice outcome of that.

I’ve been working out and writing the launch exhibition for the new Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre. Really interesting building, really nice location. My role in that work is now done, and it goes on to other Eklektus team-members to handle installation and other bits and pieces like that. Very satisfying, and good to develop a new writing skill – writing for exhibition reminds me of teaching crossed with writing for the web. Full opening is October 21st, so if you’re passing through Waitomo after that stop in and see the building and the exhibition!

Also yesterday stopped in at Sidhe, to see a bunch of concept art and a playable prototype for a game we’ve been working on for some time. I am, it must be said, not the most competent player of games but James E was very kind as I flailed about. Exhilarating. Concept art has really stuck in my head too, and I’m scribbling away on the next stage of the project with some enthusiasm.

So it’s nice to see my work translating into stuff in the world. In the news last week was word that Madagasgar Kartz (for which I did spot dialogue) has “been Sidhe’s top seller, with the number of units sold recently reaching seven digits“. Safe to say that’s the biggest audience my writing’s ever reached!

State of Play

Man, I’m looking forward to when that baby gets born so I can finally catch up on some sleep!

No, wait.

Still in the depths of a sustained busy like there has not been since I cleverly arranged to finish my Masters thesis in the weeks leading up to my wedding. Achieved the rare trifecta of working Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Unsurprise: this has severely hindered progress on Day One in the novel vs. baby race. But I am not downhearted. When I get through these weeks I might be able to put some proper time in and make up the deficit. It’s about how much I want it done, innit?

Timely link: Chuck Wendig on how to be a writer. (Thanks to the people who took a look at the opening pages of D1, by the way. Comments v. helpful.)

Right. Back to work.

that writing thing

So in the race of novel vs. baby, I’d say baby has a slight lead at present. I’m 30,000 words in but have had to slow down and go carefully so I don’t miss a corner and run completely off the road. Upside is, I know where I’m going (as much as I’ve ever known where I’m going in this writing thing) and the situation keeps giving me more to write about.

There are speed bumps too – where I start thinking too much about what’s going on subtextually or philosophically. I have a bad habit of just dragging that stuff up into text. (I don’t know that it really is a bad habit, exactly; it feels like a reaction against bad/overinflated “literary” style. But it isn’t always an appropriate for what I’m trying to do, this being a case in point.)

Ultimately I’m just trying to write some characters I care about facing difficult situations. If I get that right, then i have to trust that everything else will fall into place around it.

It’s good stuff, this writing thing.