Against Gravity word count: 6,361.

Just finished writing at half past twelve at night. Got a little caught up in watching Paramount Comedy channel - they put Spin City, Dharma and Greg, and Seinfeld on all one after the other, which is nice, but ... kind of kills the writing impetus. Still, The Book Group is on just now, so I was straight on to Channel 4 for that. Brilliant. Made up for it by writing out of guilt just now, got a good bit done.

I had been going to stick to ten straight chapters, then it occurred to me a nice thing to do would be to alternate present day events with details of what happened to McCowan in the past, at the start of the Big Bang, when he loses his wife and daughter. I also upped the personal tragedy by giving his baby daughter an autism-like disease of the nervous system - in fact, now that I think of it, it makes sense to give Draeger something very closely related to it. Nice one; ties things together very nicely, since I'd been looking for an ailment for Draeger to make him incompatible with the biotech.

Still don't know what to think of what I've got, though. I'll just have to workshop it when the time comes and just see how people react. And I've absolutely no idea how they will.

Great. If I have any one character flaw, there's the one about never remembering anybody's birthday - in the sense of, never being able to remember the exact date, ever. My mum, my dad ... even my girlfriend.

I was looking at the website earlier for the 2003 Eastercon sf convention. I haven't been to one in a couple of years, almost everyone i know is going, and i might have the chance of having some intelligent conversation when i'm not cringing at the sight of egotistical supermarket shelvers wearing cod-mediaevel gear and answering only to the name 'sire'. Ok ... that may be a bit cruel, but conventions can be a touch embarrassing in that respect, at least as far as i'm concerned.

So it turns out the first day of the con, a friday, is the same day as Mandy's 21st ... arse. So obviously I'm not going to go. I don't mind, I get to spend time with my girlfriend. But I _am_ thinking about going down for the rest of the con, though I'd have to leave probably pretty early in the morning on the saturday to get down there in any reasonable time. Still, better than nothing.

Again, I feel silly saying this because I'm nowhere near having anything even resembling a book contract, but I have it in my head - quite possibly erroneously - that going down to a con will in some way advance my cause, or at least help people remember my name in case i _do_ manage to sell a book. And it's the nearest thing I'll have to a holiday this year, how sad is that ...


Against Gravity word count: 4,670

Still no idea of where the writer's circle is going to go, besides plenty of emails banging about the place. And for some reason my emails to my agent are coming through in complete gobbledygook. No idea why. Do you realise this means I'll have to send A REAL LETTER? It's the end of the world, I tell you!

All this full-time work is cutting into my writing. Bah. To my shockMandy is actually out tonight- actually, I"m quite pleased. I get some time to myself, she gets out for a bit. In an act of stunning fiscal generosity - and if you know me, you'll know it is - I gave her a tenner to buy some drinks. Clearly I'm a saint.
Against Gravity word count: 3,952

Well, that's a bit of a bugger. Both the sf writer's group and the local screenwriter's group have been toldthey can't use the glasgow borders books anymore for what seem to be astonishingly flippant reasons. I won't go into the boring details, let's just say we've been done what appears to be a considerable disservice.

Now we have to find somewhere else to go. Arse. We used to meet in a church hall, but I'd prefer not to go back to that. There's always Waterstones here in Glasgow, but there's only the cafe and that can get pretty crowded. Not so good. Where to? I suggested a writer-friendly pub, but we'll see. I'm sure we'll all be talking about it on Saturday in the pub.


Against Gravity word count: 3,068 words.

Definitely thinking about using the tinkerbell motif in the story, plus it's a riff I came up with outside of the original plot. I'll probably deny it in a couple of weeks when things get harder, but at the moment the story feels - somewhat - as if it's writing itself. It still feels strange in first person, and although it allows you greater freedom, still can't shake the feeling what I'm writing is too much rabbiting on, but I'm probably worrying too much. If I have 20,000, say, by the end of March or thereabouts, I guess I'll workshop it.

Definitely feels different in first person, but in a good way.

Went into the Ben Nevis bar across the road for the first time; even though it's about thirty seconds away, I've never been in it, in all these years. Nice, though. Real log fire, too, which is an attraction at this time of the year. Dinky, though. Recommended, if you're ever passing through.
Against Gravity word count: 2,155 words.

Did a little more rewriting, changed it to first person singular. Never really written in first person before, certainly not at novel length, but makes sense to do so since I planned the book out to be seen from one character's viewpoint.

I'll have to think of an official date for when I started the book: it would be Friday, so let's say January the 24th, 2003.

Found this terrific site from which I fully intend and with malice aforethought shall proceed to raid at will for ideas. It's the transhuman lexicon. Some of the terms are clearly by people with just too much time on their hands, some of it is utterly brilliant. I especially love the one about shrinking people down to tinkerbell size through nano and biotechnology so they could live life at a much more accellerated rate with an increased lifespan and accordingly shrunken energy usage. It just cries out to be used. I'm sure somebody already must have, but, like that's going to stop me.


I went shopping in town with Mandy, determined to spend a little of the extra money I'm making, only to get hit by the beginnings of a bad cold on my way out the door. For some reason, I only ever get colds on Saturdays. I don't understand this. To make myself feel better, I bought a hat in H&M, the kind of hat a filmaker would wear backwards over his head, with a scarf and glasses. Naturally, I wore it backwards.

I went back to the first few hundred words of Against Gravity and rewrote it a bit, but still keeping the basic situation and some random descriptive bits I liked. But starting your book with a guy vomiting noisily in a toilet cubicle does, I'll admit, lack a certain .... romance. I spoke with Phil, who scrapped what he's already written for the beginning of his own second attempt at writing a novel, which I've learned he's given the title Fancy. I know the feeling. I ended up prowling through my own bookshelves, looking at the opening paragraphs of random books, thinking about how they began, and how I could use their methods to my own advantage.

I went to see Travis as well, Saturday afternoon, to talk about his calendar, and work on ideas for how he could raise money to print a large quantity of them and, hopefully, sell them by the bucketload. They have a website, www.alienbabes.co.uk, although I just this moment took a look at it and it's very much still under construction. The calendar itself is very well done, and features a variety of more-or-less goth and punk chicks, generally semi- or entirely unclad, heavily photoshopped, and surprisingly tasteful. I think he's right when he says he's got a market for it. In the end I came up with more ideas than I thought I would. I'm fairly sure I've met some of the girls in the calendar, probably from back when I did design work on a magazine called Bite Me, for a very strange woman indeed.


It happened at quarter past twelve on earliest Saturday morning ... I looked at the ten thousand word plot outline/notes for Against Gravity, made a new document, and wrote the first few words. It's amazing the metamorphosis the story has gone through since only two months ago. I could still write the original idea and it would have no resemblance to what I've come up with since.

It's almost the end of January (already? Jesus). Which means I'll soon be emailing my agent Dorothy to see if anything's been happening - yet - with Angel Stations. To be honest, I'm not hopeful. I know it's only been a couple of weeks, but still ... call it a gut feeling. And yes, I know this is ridiculous, since my agent only finished reading 'Stations in early December and then sent it to the publishers.

On the other hand, maybe I'm convincing myself the sky is going to fall down.

For the sake of posterity (har har), here's the first two hundred words of Against Gravity, as I wrote them, hot off the presses, as it were. Expect it to rapidly disappear in less than a week's time when I decide I hate it.

Chapter One
What was it like? When the pain had come rushing over him in the past, like an express train from hell, they had asked, what was it like? The sympathy and worry etched on their faces; Caroline, Stiv and Cody, the two regulars at the Armoured Saint.
Never as bad as this, thought Peter McCowan, gripping the porcelain edge of the toilet. And if he tried to find words, none came, because there were none that could describe the sensation of your nervous system being set on fire, synapse by synapse.
He thought back to his time in Sieracki’s cells, and thought, never as bad as being locked in that tiny room, day after night after day. Because there, you didn’t even have hope to cling to.
The pain subsided like a tsunami passing over a village, leaving the flotsam and jetsam of random thoughts stirring in its wake. The sounds of people talking and drinking came thin and muffled from beyond the toilet door. Peter stayed where he was, porcelain tiles cold and hard against his knees through the thin cotton of his jeans, and let his forehead slide a few inches forward until it tapped against the cool edge of the toilet bowl.
He blinked, focused, looked down. Realised he’d vomited, missed the toilet bowl with most of it. He scuffed his knees back and tried to push himself upright, feeling unsteady as he did so. He felt thin, transparent; like a whiff of thin air, or a ghost. He reached up, touched the skin of his forehead gently, almost as if he expected to find some dreadful wound there. Nothing. Just smooth skin.
The sound of the pub’s customers became momentarily louder then faded again as, somewhere beyond the toilet cubicle Peter was still half-kneeling in, the door to the toilet swung open and someone stepped in.
"Peter? You there? Where the fuck are you?"
"Here," Peter croaked, his voice catching, throat full of phlegm. "Here," he said louder. It sounded like Bill. He hadn’t seen Bill since … whenever. He started to pull himself upright, almost slipped. The cubicle banged open and Bill stared around at him.
"Jesus fuck, what happened to you?" said Bill.
"Attack," said Peter.

So there you go. Very raw, very unedited ... ok, I'll stop apologising now.

Noted with interest my ex flatmate Mike Cobley has the second book of his Shadowkings trilogy due to come out from Simon and Schuster at the beginning of February. Saw the Steve Stone cover for it on the net. It looks beautiful. Bastard.


I can tell I"m busy if it's been a whole week since my last update. Mind you, never said no to some extra cash. I took a look at the Against Gravity outline yesterday for the first time in several days and realised I had ten thousand words of outline and character description. I suspect I'm very close to starting the book.

First writer's circle of the year took place in Borders on Tuesday. There was a conflict, apparently, with the Screenwriter's workshop which meets in the same room but is supposed to do so on alternate Tuesdays. So, looks like a mixup happened. I mention this only as Neil, who currently takes care of the circle's admin, talked to them to get the schedule sorted out. When he mentioned we were a science fiction writer's circle, he was met with several blank stares and an expression of disgust. Racism may be dead, but the negative emotions that fuel the desire to have somebody to look down on are still very much with us.

What I really want to do is go up to the screenwriter's group and tell them I think it's really great that a bunch of people can sit around and talk about ideas without actually being proper writers. How great it must be not having to deal with description, prose, all that arty stuff. My teeth are sharp, my anger is pure. Let me at 'em.


Well, it's a good thing I decided to chill a little on the writing front since suddenly some new work has come my way. I worked a full working day today. How weird is that? It does make me wonder how in the name of the gods anyone manages to write a novel while holding down a fulltime job.

I thought this article was very interesting: Norman Spinrad riffs a little on the sf publishing industry, and just how badly it has been harmed by a concentration on juvenile, semi-literate movie and tv tie-ins in the publishing industry since the end of the Eighties. In particular, it's allowed unscrupulous, accountant-driven publishing companies to scrape the bottom of the corporate barrel rather than actually expend any energy developing or promoting new writers. Mind you, when you find out how much some writers are paid to write those tie-ins, you can hardly blame them for rolling over and playing doggie.

Got a phone call from Travis, singer in a band called Hippykiller. Usually hangs out with chicks in leather catsuits. Has a photographers's studio in his basement with a pair of handcuffs attached to the ceiling. Has a taste for 'art' photography, or so I've heard. Never seen any of it. But he always has lots of little projects on the go, and since I've been involved in publishing in the past, he asked me to drop round saturday to see if i could offer any advice about promoting his 'space babes' calendar. I can only imagine, and I'm curious as hell to see what it looks like. Knowing Travis, I expect doe-eyed industrial girls photographed while behaving in excessively friendly manner towards each other. Or rather, knowing Travis, that's at least my guess. If I'm wrong, I'll let you know.


Looks like I've got something approaching a complete outline for Against Gravity. 'Something approaching' meaning it still needs a lot of tidying up. But I feel quite pleased with myself. Previously I couldn't just sit down and write a skeleton plot/story without actually needing to write the book itself to figure out exactly what it was about. But this time I managed it. I read someone somewhere saying what they did was to make the plot outline more and more complex until all you were really doing was filling in the minor details, but I don't think I'd go that far.

At least this time, I know things I couldn't have before. One: the book will get written. Two: I know how it starts, how it ends, and exactly what goes on at all points in between.

If I get it sorted out fast enough, I think what I'll do is sort of force myself to take a holiday from the writing. Leave the outline for a few weeks until the end of February, start writing the book then. Do those things I hear other people do. Sort of socialising, going places, stuff like that. I hear it's fun.


Mandy went for a job interview yesterday which could turn out to be a good thing. She's been unemployed for the past couple of years after some extremely bad panic attacks and general depression brought about by problems in her family. She was also severely agoraphobic for a while; but now she's out and about so much more than she used to, and I don't get panicked calls from her saying she's somewhere outside and could I come meet her and walk her home.

For some reason, I always seem to go out with girls with an interest in the occult or fortune-telling or somesuch. I'm not sure why this is, since as a person with a strong interest in writing science fiction (as opposed to, say, fantasy) I have little regard indeed for superstition. The world's plenty interesting without having to imagine up spectres and spells. If you disagree, time you packed a bag, chucked your job and went out and did something with your life.

She looks like she'll be working part-time for a fortune-reading hotline, of all things. Apparently it seems very relaxed; you sit there, and occasionally someone calls up your premium-rate number (some appalling amount of money per minute) and you get your tarot read. Yes, I agree, it's a scam, but I could say the same thing about the Vatican, about Mecca, about anything church-like, etc etc etc. But it's good to know she'll at least be making money, keeping busy, and doing something she enjoys.

On book matters; trundling ahead. Perhaps ten chapters outlined. It's coming together - no lack of plot ideas, it just takes time to get everything nailed down in terms of consistency, etc. I've just been reading Altered Carbon, by a local writer; his first novel, and already optioned for Hollywood. Dammit.


Got a letter from an old friend from Germany who I used to share a flat with several years ago; she's a social worker and we had quite the torrid affair at the time, one of those very on-off kind of things where you're not sure you're seeing someone until you actually aren't seeing them anymore. We've remained friends since, but she confided in me some time afterwards that she only started thinking of me as someone she'd like to get involved with after reading a short story I'd written a little while before I met her.

Anyway, through a series of crashingcomputers and corrupted hard disks, i lost that story. It was called 'Love, Sex and Quantum Physics'. She called just before christmas, to say hi and catch up with friends, and I mentioned the story. She still had a copy, and it came through the post this morning. I haven't read it at all in a few years, so it really did feel like I was reading someone else's prose. Very strange. I may tidy it up and put a link to it here.


At the moment, I've plotted out about eight chapters of Against Gravity, with a mind to the book being maybe ten chapters, twelve at most. I remember reading, before I first tried to write a novel, how writing something of 90,000 words or more allowed a writer room to breathe, to experiment and expand on characters, the way they interacted, etc etc. Now that I'm thinking about a third attempt, even a hundred thousand words seems too little. I've sort of made a half-promise to myself to try and keep the manuscript down to maybe 90-100k this time, as a sort of exercise in relative brevity. Ie, keep it punchy, to the point.

So that's eight chapters, mind, with a rough outline of what I expect to happen at the end of the book. So I'm nearer writing it than I thought. I might even be ready by the end of January, but time will tell. And what about a name? Against Gravity is something which might still work, given the philosophy behind the words, but other, more obvious titles spring to mind. Here's some; A Bridge into Heaven, though it sounds quite cheesy. The Omega Point, which sounds too Michael Crichton and poe-faced. Or The Door into Heaven, which I rather like, except it sounds a bit like Heinlein's The Door Into Summer.


Bloody hell. I just came across this article on Wired about Cory Doctorow's new novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which is available for free on the internet, as well as being an actual print book. The article talks about the promotional opportunities of putting your new novel up on the net, and how it (apparently) just does not do your book any harm. Although I suspect the process may be somewhat helped by the fact not very many people have done it yet, so it's still fairly newsworthy. How useful it'll be when you're competing against everyone else who's got a book coming out is another matter.
I've made what I hope is some kind of breakthrough with the plot outline. Primarily, I wanted to find some way to prevent McCowan from hearing what the other biotech-enhanced hear. If he'd been able to hear what they heard, he'd have solved the mystery of where they were all disappearing off to and the book wouldn't have been. So I needed a way to keep him in the dark, and I figured some kind of drug that acts like a block. Except I couldn't figure out just why he'd take it.

Then I came up with the idea of the drug containing nano-level machine viruses that effectively reprogram his internal biotech, a kind of 'trojan horse' that gets inside him and invades. The drug is supplied by Gallmon, and it allows Draeger (for whom Gallmon is working) to make the connection between the biotechs and the Scattered Minds. It also, assuming Gallmon supplies samples of the drug to Sieracki (for whom Gallmon is also working), allows Sieracki to become aware of certain things concerning both the biotechs and the Scattered Minds; and may even be the initial impetus for Sieracki and his people to launch an attack on the Scattered Minds, once they realise Draeger has good reason to believe the Scattered Minds have developed zero point field technology.

On other things: sometimes I think I forget more than I even knew in the first place. I know a lot of people do searches on their own name on Google, but I don't, unless a friend comes round and decides to show me how high his own name ranks. So naturally, by way of experimentation I give it a go, and to no surprise I turn up on various bibliographies and records of short story publications over the past ten years or so.

What I didn't expect was to find my name listed as being amongst a million others inscribed on one of two microchips mounted inside a space probe called Stardust, launched in 1999 with the intention of sampling tail gases from a comet called Wild 2; the probe is expected to intercept the comet in 2004.

So I sat there gaping, thinking when the hell did that happen? Then I remembered. It had been when I'd been working for an environmental and green issues news and information agency back in the mid-nineties. I'd just started using the net (at work) and signed my name up because I thought it sounded cool. I had completely forgotten, until now, like Proust being driven to recall deep-seated memories buried in the unconscious when he scents some food that has strong associative properties for him. It all sprang back, that and a few other things.

So I go to bed and tell my girlfriend my name is stored on a starprobe, and she spends the next fifteen minutes giggling so hard she almost chokes herself. I think, perhaps, she wasn't so impressed.


On writing matters: got an email from Lawrence, a member of the writer's circle, with a link to a website called spacejock, which contains writing software developed by an Australian science fiction writer, specifically for those engaged in writing a novel. I'm sure it'll be no great surprise to you to find that I've downloaded it already and I'll be more thoroughly checking it out once I've finished updating this blog.

Things got a little busier at work, which is good, since I was fretting earlier this week there wouldn't be enough coming in for me to keep a good balance of emergency funds. Therefore I can rest easier.

The police came around to the printers I work at, asking about somebody who used to work there. Apparently they'd broken into his house and found it deserted and empty, all his clothes gone, all the furniture smashed up. My boss told them a bunch of heavies had been round a few days before, looking for this guy, who, they informed my boss, owed them about 160,000 quid. Well, there you go. Apparently this ex-employee has spent the majority of his forty-plus years travelling the world and can speak at least seven languages. So either he's living la vida loca somewhere exotic where he hopes nobody can find him, or he's floating at the bottom of a ditch somewhere. Your guess is as good as mine.

It has to be said, since I started working freelance in the print and design industry, the number of vagabonds and thieves is astonishing. I once worked for a little while at a printers where it turned out everyone else working there were ex-cons. My boss of the time had been sentenced to twenty years for forgery (money), but got off on a technicality.


I know I haven't been posting so much about Against Gravity for a while. Two reasons: 1 - I know how A goes to B to C, but I'm trying to work out how C gets to D while making sense in relation to A. Sometimes the best thing a writer can do is work hard at these details. This is usually best achieved by watching lots of television and eating junk food. Don't laugh, it works. Inspiration is a strange and uncanny beast.

Reason 2: I'm becoming rather fascinated by the world of blogs, and find my own writing mimicking the style and attributes of others. The writing of a novel or novels remains, however, very much at the heart of things. I've done it twice already, apart from pro sales of short stories, so I have at least some confidence in my abilities, given sufficient perseverance and dedication.
Wonders will never cease. I just read on William Gibson's online blog that he'd intended to write a 'species of space opera' after he had completed Neuromancer. Who knows what might have been.

Just saw LOTR: The Two Towers. I used to say I hated it when people said they enjoyed a movie because the special effects were good with blithe disregard for either the acting or the plot. Or the writing, for that matter. So allow me to eat my hat and say the spectacle was a major draw for me. I've never read LOTR, probably never will, beyond the few pages I've scanned. Clunky, leaden prose is not my cup of tea. And I normally hate fantasy - I'm quite at a loss to understand the appeal of orcs, elves, goblins, and the whole dragon thing. Why? He cries, why? At least SF is rooted in the real world - or the good stuff (usually) is.

However, the movie is a tribute to Peter Jackson's genius above all else that he makes these things acceptable to someone like me who thinks that the goblins, with their industrial facilities and a desire to modernise their almost certainly disease-ridden world of interminably short life-spans, just might have a point. The chap who plays Gollum really does deserve an Oscar. Astonishing performance. And I even watched the bits with talking trees without hiding my head behind my hands and grimacing. Now that's Hollywood.


Busier at work today, which is good as busier = more money. Against Gravity is quietly percolating in my brain.

I have a theory.

The theory is that writing a coherent plot outline is a bit like playing chess, where when you start a game the available options for making moves are extremely wide, and it's impossible to predict the final outcome. Right? But, like a plot outline, the further on you get, the fewer the possible moves you can make before checkmate. At that point, you can try and predict the end if you like - somebody's going to win, either way; that's the end. But the difference between a chess game and a plot outline is, exactly which moves you make to get from chapter six of a ten chapter outline to your expected ending can be harder to predict. Or you can make out the vague notion of events, but find it harder to write them since you're constrained by events in the previous chapters.

At least, unlike chess, you can go back and make changes. Try that next time you're playing chess, you'll get a smack upside of the head from your opponent.

I was surprised and really quite delighted to find that William Gibson is now keeping an online blog over at his website. People tend to focus on the cyberpunk elements of his writing, but one of the better reasons for him to be as famous as he is is his undeniable artistry with the language and the evocative imagery of words he uses to describe his created words. This comes out too in the blog. Although one does rather suspect the prodding hand of a publisher eager to make use of currently fashionable promotional tools when he just has a new novel out.

On a local note; reports of a big cat on the loose somewhere in Scotland keep making me wish the BBC could find some wobbly curmudgeon with a knobbly walking-stick and a good line in Hammer dialogue to interview, preferably someone with big bushy eyebrows and a dead deer slung over his shoulder, to interview: "aar, there be beasts in the hills, laddie, and things beyond yer English ken ... and stay away from the auld castle ..."


Well. I went into town with Mandy and stopped off at the local Waterstones Books and got chatting to Graeme, who used to be a fellow employee at Borders. He directed me to this website, which does nothing to improve my opinion of Borders from the time I was working there.

I went along with the vague notion of applying for a part-time job at Waterstones to supplement the income from design work, and with the hope that the overall workload wouldn't be so heavy as to curb my writing. Graeme gave me an address to write to and I probably will, but if I can get a design job I'd almost certainly go for that (as long as they didn't make me wear some smarmy suit and tie. yech.) Although as he pointed out himself, job turnover at Waterstones is pretty low. People like working there. But you never know.

I'm feeling much, much more chipper than I did earlier when I felt depressed at having a bare trickle of money coming in, forcing me to dig hard into my savings. I think I may post some of my short stories in the next week or two, since they deserve better than to fester away on my hard disk.
I had this playful idea (concerning Against Gravity) of one of the main power groups being something called the US Government in Exile, a deposed dictatorship reduced to a small militant hardcore but armed to the teeth, off in some jungle somewhere. This would be within the context of a future US blitzed by irreversible ecological damage caused by industry and bad managent, as seems all too likely, eventually, in real life. Perhaps it would make more sense to say there's more than one US, rather like the US during the Civil War period? Have some gene-engineered disease wipe out half the US croplands, with various groups of States seceding from the Union to form their own separate political alliances. Make this group ultra-nationalist, right-wing, very militant, with an urge to reunite the other States by force rather than because they want to.

Don't laugh, look what happened to Russia. And yes, the Soviet satellite states weren't given much choice in the matter, but if things were bad enough ... after all, no Empire lives forever.
Arse. Got a call from work this morning just as I was ready to go in saying nothing's come in (ie stuff people want to get printed and that needs a computer guy to stick the disc in the Mac and see if it works or not etc), so no point in me turning up today. Which means my bank funds are, once again, rapidly dwindling.

Yes, it's time I got a full-time job. Too many of my favourite writers seem to be full-time University Professors writing in their spare time for me to kid myself I absolutely have to work part-time in order to get my writing done.

After all, I did manage to get a 140,000 word manuscript done last year, and perhaps trying to push part-time to two years is a bit much, after all. It's also partly because it's very boring, just sitting around; yes, I'm supposed to be writing, but most of it's sitting waiting for ideas to come to mind for ways to develop the plot outline for Against Gravity. That actually works better if I'm busy doing something else, something distracting. Like paid work. Plus, I get claustrophobic just sitting around the house.

Time to check the job ads in the papers, I think.


I've now added some links to the bottom of each entry that will allow anyone reading this to add their own comments, should they wish. Er, that's if anybody is reading this, that is ...

A quiet day back at work. IE, I'm still skint (that means poor, if anyone's wondering). Still a grand and a half in the bank though, so I won't starve any time soon. I have a neat idea for a short story, assuming I actually sit down and write the thing - or think of a decent story line for it. In the meantime, I'll just get back to staring at the tentative chapter-by-chapter outline of Against Gravity and see how it's looking.

And look at this writer who sold his internet novel for real money. I'm envious, really I am. Maybe I should put Touched by an Angel up, the same way ...

Funniest thing I've seen all year already: this at the Apple website, but read this first.
I was having a look at this today after thinking about the year and a half I spent working in a local branch of Borders Books here in Glasgow. I couldn't really say I enjoyed my time there, since I rapidly realised the job was absolutely no different from working in a Burger King or stacking shelves in a supermarket. Down the plug went all my previous ideals of how cool it would be to work in a bookshop. As I like to say, substitute cans of beans for the books and the job is no different; the only real winners are the shareholders.

The curious thing about Borders is I can't actually figure out what the worst thing about it was. The staff break room was always like the waiting room for hell. How can I describe it? A malaise, a sickness of the mind, an innately depressing environment.

Actually, I'll tell you what it was a bit like. It was a bit like being back at school. The problem with a place like Borders is they need to hire at least some people who actually read books. That means intelligent, frequently college-educated people. Intelligent, college-educated people and mindlessly tedious jobs stacking shelves and operating tills do not go together. Especially when you remember that some of the people in your local Borders are writers, and writers are, by their nature, not the most typical people, either by lifestyle or temperament. Instant friction.

Here's something else. Here in the UK ( I don't know about the states) we also have the Waterstones book shops around the country. Two people I knew who couldn't stand working in Borders - including one who previously worked in a Dillons - jumped ship to the local Waterstones. There has never been, nor I suspect ever will be, an incidence of someone working in the Waterstone's here going to work in the Borders. I could be wrong, but ... well, I've run into people since I quit a couple of years ago who tell me they won't even set foot in the Borders again. I have to, since the sf writer's circle meets there, but I can't say I always enjoy going in. Scary place.


I have this impulsive need to go out on a Saturday night no matter what. I just have to be out. Somewhere. Even just a friend's house for an hour, I don't care. I normally meet a group of people largely comprised of ex and current members of the local sf writer's circle plus various associated friends in a bar not far from where I live. It was quiet - unsurprisingly - being just past new year. It wound up with just myself and Phil Raines chatting about writing. He's written this enormous 200,000 word urban fantasy about rock n'roll somewhere between China Mieville and James Kessell and he's on the agent hunt. It was a nice talk, and I told him the outline for Against Gravity, which is starting to come together.

My current game plan is this. I should hopefully know one way or the other what's happening with Angel Stations by March. If it doesn't sell, I can either find more fulltime work so I at least have some money while I'm writing, or, if I think I can manage it and the idea for Against Gravity seems sound enough, I can stick to where I am just now, keep on working part-time and spend the rest of the year writing the next book and see if that sells.

I've been a bit reluctant to go too much into the detail of what actually constitutes the plot of Against Gravity as I currently see it, which is probably a bit silly. You should know that a large part of the motivation for keeping this blog is reading Rudy Rucker's page about his book Spaceland at this address. Being able to read what a well-established author goes through to write a book is strangely heartening. So I figured I'd give you some idea of who the cast is.

Pasquale is now Peter McCowan, Scots-American, unwilling recipient of biotech implants.
Max Draeger is a vaguely Bill Gates-like figure involved in the development of that same biotech.
The Scattered Minds are rogue artificial intelligences capable of bootstrapping themselves to higher intelligence.
The US Government in Exile constitutes the remains of a brief right-wing military dictatorship of the US who wish access to the zero point field technology they believe the Scattered Minds have developed, in order to reconquer the United States under their ultra-nationalist flag.
Alvara Sieracki is now the head of the US Government in Exile (some South American country, I suspect, though I haven't really researched it yet), and was the man responsible for beginning the biotech program in the first place.
Kendrick Gallmon is a drug dealer and general shady character with links to both Draeger and Sieracki.
Caroline Vincenzo is McCowan's girlfriend, also an unwilling recipient of untested military biotechnology.


I've been wondering whether or not I should try and go back to fulltime work sometime in the New Year. Professionally I do pretty bog-standard typesetting and design for a local printing company, but I miss the independence and control I had until relatively recently as a self-employed editor. And if you think that sounds cool, well, my experiences deserved an entire and very lengthy blog all to itself. It's a real shame I didn't know about blogging at the time, or I would have recorded it all - and prayed none of the people I was writing about ever saw it. Dodgy, dodgy, dodgy people. The only good thing about editing a disability magazine (Special Needs) and designing a music magazine (no, seriously, it was mental, but not in a good way) was I'm still going out with Mandy, one of the writers.

I have a couple grand in the bank to top up the minimal (500 or so) quid I make a month at the printers, but it's not really that much, and I do have a dream of finally getting a mortgage. I used to think selling a book would help that until I found out just how little first-time novelists really get. And since I've been on holiday (ie the printers has been closed for a couple of weeks so there's no work to go to until Monday), it means I'm even poorer than usual. But this is, to a certain extent, out of choice; I wouldn't have written Angel Stations in the time I did otherwise. 140,000 words in seven or eight months.

My plan was to keep going like this until I got another one written or to see if Angel Stations sold, but I've read interviews with writers who managed to write books while working full time. But I don't know ... I'd rather not take three years to write just the one book ...


I've been wondering about Pasquale's motivation. The only thing that's really driving him forward is a desire to protect himself through anonymity, but that's not really enough - not sufficiently emotionally satisfying - to drive him to leave Earth and chase a bunch of probably insane cyborged war veterans to an O'Neill Orbital that's the site of an ongoing civil war in near-permanent stalemate. It needs something more personal.

Is it just me, or does it ever seem that until a few decades or so ago, ideological conviction was enough to drive a character to do what they did? I'm thinking Jack London's Iron Heel. I'm sure there are others. Norman Spinrad wrote about the negative side of that kind of conviction in The Iron Dream. Now it's much more down to the personal; how can I profit, or how can I save what's personally important to me.

In the rough outline, not posted as yet, I gave Pasquale a doctor girlfriend in Bangkok. I'm wondering if it would make it more satisfying if she was also a biotech veteran. Maybe she leaves first because of the 'call of the silicon'; maybe Pasqale has the added duty of protecting her. It would mean he'd have to go into space to find her, perhaps try and rescue/aid her. Not, of course, that I'd make her any mere shrinking violet or screaming damsel in distress.
I've decided it would definitely make excellent sense to place the Scattered Minds on board the O'Neill Orbital. Not much to report other than that, except my mind is happily brimming with ideas. It's the last thing I think about before I go to sleep, just about the first thing I think of when I wake up (and I'm not nearly as boring as that makes me sound).

On other matters, one or two people are thinking of doing a successor to the Shipbuilding anthology. This was put out by several members of the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle for the '95 Worldcon in Glasgow, mostly paid for by local businesses and the local council. It wasn't perfect - in my opinion, slightly marred by a dodgy cover painting that made it look a lot cheaper than what you actually got, ie a dozen stories, many of which had already appeared in pro magazines like Interzone, including my own - but it was pretty decent. This time they're thinking about doing something with local 'name' writers - Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod and the like, if they're available, and putting a cover price on it (the last one was free. I'm currently reorganising the website with a new address, www.gsfwc.cjb.net, and you'll be able to download a pdf of the book before long). If you put a price on it, that way you get reviewed.

Two particular people seem interested in doing it - Andrew Wilson from the Edinburgh group, and Neil Williamson from Glasgow. Now, I used to be really heavily into small-press publishing, but not any more, since I'd rather write these days. I'm all for it, but I'm not sure what their serious chances are about persuading a publisher to take on an anthology of sf by 'Scottish' writers, since they don't exactly make any money. And I'll have to find out if they intend to pay the writers.

Still no word from my agent Dorothy or the publishers who are reading Angel Stations. I'll be biting my nails by the time February rolls around, though I'm convinced even if they did (!) go for it, I'd still have to do a certain amount of rewriting, particularly on the last thirty thousand words which were, after all, the last to be written, and therefore the least heavily edited.


The book seems to be finally taking some kind of shape. I started writing the last one, Angel Stations, pretty rapidly after coming up with the initial idea, and worked out the kinks in the rough plot I had as I went along. This time, while I'm waiting to hear back from my agent and the publishers who are reading Stations just now, I'm allowing myself more time to work on getting the plot right for Against Gravity. This time I'm making up a dictionary of characters, power groups, central ideas (zero point field, etc). It makes the plot much clearer when you're working it out on paper.

I'm also considering alternative titles. Omega is a possibility, though not as poetic, but it does sum up the entire direction of the story, once you know what the Omega is. Maybe I should take a flick through some of Mandy's poetry books ...

Originally Against Gravity was meant to be this vaguely left-wing polemic against right-wing US sf, but then the whole central 'ship of fools'/L5 orbital idea went flying out the window. However, I've decided to bring it back in, in a reduced capacity. Assuming my AI's are in space, after a war, it makes sense to put them on board a gone-to-hell O'Neill orbital. It would also make a great setting for a more-or-less climactic battle which our hero has to get through to get to the AI's and the other altereds who have been helping them.