I spent Thursday wandering around Edinburgh with MJ, before going to the East Coast writer's group's regular event, Writer's Bloc. It's the first time I've been to one of these, even though they've been going for a while. I don't drive, so that makes it a little harder to get to and back from Edinburgh, which is one reason I don't often make it for this kind of thing.

The event was excellent, consisting primarily of people reading their work. Until recently I wouldn't have expected to enjoy something like this, but what's changed my mind is an awareness that my horror at live reading is partly influenced by unpleasant memories of being forced along with others at school to read stilted passages from dull but supposedly worthy books. And let's be frank, there's a lot of dull people reading dull stuff out there. Writers Bloc, by contrast, was a terrific night.

One reason I attended was the admittedly vague notion I think it would be a good idea to do something like this in Glasgow. I've semi-promised Andrew Wilson from the Edinburgh group I'll be checking out places over here for hosting such an event, particularly if Andrew and the others are willing (and I get the impression they are) to do a Writer's Bloc thing over here. Apart from anything else, it would give me a little extra to do and keep me occupied: even though I have the part-time work and the writing, I definitely need something else to occupy my mind.

Besides, the fact that the East Coasters play up that whole East/Soviet angle just demands an appropriate response from us West Coast authors, don't you think? I keep picturing a flyer in my head for an event with an east/west theme, maybe using that picture of Sly Stallone facing off against Dolph Lundgren (in the sickle and hammer boxing shorts) in Rocky IV - a movie, I hasten to add, I've never seen.

I dropped into Borders the other day and spotted Jon George's new tpb The Faces of Mist and Flame. It looks very smart. I'm holding back on buying it since I'm hoping I can blag a freebie from my editor (since Jon is another Tor UK author) at some point in the near future. What impressed me further was the full-page author photo on the inside of the cover, with a fairly detailed bio.

Full-page pic on the inside cover? Full bio? Rats, how come I didn't get any of that? Sigh. But it would have been nice to have had the full bio I'd originally written, rather than the hacked-down version due to a slip-up at Pan ...

Interestingly enough, the bookseller in charge of Border's sf section had given George's books a good face-out; nice and visible. My next stop was at Waterstone's, where I had a much harder job finding it. It wasn't on display on the new books tables, though quite possibly it had been and simply hadn't been replenished. I finally found it quietly tucked into a bottom shelf, no face-out. Some sense of bond between myself and other Tor UK sf authors made me pick a couple of copies of George's book up, and drop them on the new books tables. It felt like the least I could do.


I got tired of waiting for further inspiration to strike, so I went ahead and started work on the first chapter of The Fracture. The word count stands (I started on Thursday) at just shy of 3,000 words. I thought about doing that whole planning for even more months thing until I had it all worked out, but to be frank I got bored sitting around waiting for any more ideas to come. Much more fun to actually sit down and make the book happen as I write it. What I've got so far feels pretty good. I've learned a lot from the experience of writing Against Gravity, so I know what to expect from myself, and can take certain actions to prevent writing myself into a corner. Also, I'm looking to make this one a little longer, if possible; but that's just a maybe (for reference's sake, both the previous books stand at 130,000 words each).

Of course, I don't have a deal for The Fracture. My deal with Tor UK is for two books. But once I've got some of The Fracture written, me and my agent can see about chasing after a new deal to follow up the current one. Here's hoping.


Well ... this was meant to be a brand new look for the blog, but Blogger done got the better of me. This is partly down to my abysmal lack of understanding of CSS, something I'm seriously considering correcting. It looked fine on the laptop, but when I was doing some freelance work I checked it out on a Macintosh and the page was literally all over the place. And even though relatively speaking very few people use Macs, I'm not going to insult them by using a page design that's literally unreadable on their screens. So back to the old - with one or two adjustments - layout it is. With any luck, this will be legible. Otherwise, it's back to the bare bones original next time and screw the changes/pretty pictures/whatever.

I've been back and forthing with my editor concerning the recently finished Against Gravity. He hasn't finished reading it, but I've basically been given the green light: everything's fine. I can expect some money to come winging my way before too long, apparently. This has also engendered an attempt on my part to write a back-cover blurb for AG. The editor put in some changes, but it's still not quite there for me. Some more bits and pieces here and there, I think, and it'll be good. The cover art will be done somewhat ahead of schedule this time, at least compared to the last time around with Angel Stations, when the cover art was delayed by just the few days necessary to force the publishers to push the publication date back another month to September.

On the other hand ... my agent sent me a press clipping from Publisher's News, which features details of my debut novel amongst a listing of new releases and new authors. The P News entry says the launch date is 1st October ... 1st October??I seriously hope they've just cocked it up ...


Yes, I’ve been quiet, but that’s because I’m thinking very hard about plot outlines for new books. The Fracture just about has a complete working outline. There are still other details to consider apart from that, of course. Planning out some complicated scenes, for instance. Plus, it’s going to take me some time to figure out how some things work out in the scenario I’m creating: to give you a taste, the story involves frequent travel between alternate realities. In some of these universes, time moves faster, in some, slower. In some, time doesn’t even necessarily travel in the same direction. Exactly how characters conspire to interact under these circumstances is something that’s going to take some very, very careful plotting.

I’ve decided on a new look for the blog. It’s not quite complete, since I’m thinking of bringing in some background graphics, gradually, in order to spice it up. But in all – and assuming it looks as good on other people’s screens as it does on mine – I think it’s come out pretty well. Although I feel I must insist that I do not look sinister up there, on the top left. .

Kingdom Hospital: I’ve just watched the new, Stephen King-flavoured version on tv. It’s too early to tell if it’s going to be any good, but I kept feeling like I’d seen it before. Then I realised what felt so familiar: it reminded me – in a good way – of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, the recent early-80’s gore-spoof developed by Channel Four. But … they are both set in a hospital, and it does create a certain – resonance.

There was an explosion at a plastics factory here in Glasgow the other day, a few miles from where I live. I knew absolutely nothing about it until that evening, when I met some other writers in town. Apparently you could hear the building detonating, apparently, from several miles away. When it happened, I was cycling around a park where it was quiet. I wondered if I’d heard it: I have a feeling that if you hear something like that, your immediate reaction is: blown tyre, or something falling off the back of a truck. The kind of thing you hear so often, in some form or another in a city, that you forget about it immediately.
It was nice running into Gary Couzens at the writer’s circle the other night. He’s on holiday at the moment, and I had a look at his short story collection while he was there .Apparently we stalked Gardner Dozois at a Worldcon because we wanted to, er, touch his Hugo (Award). Or something like that – Gary has a better memory for these things, I think, than I do. He mentioned the incident at the time, though my memory is a bit garbled. I first met Gary when I’d managed to place a story in Interzone in the mid-90’s, and he’d just made a sale to F&SF. Gary’s gone on to make considerably more short sales since then than I have, while I kept whittling away at novel-length manuscripts.

I had a tiny scrap of positive news; so naturally, being a writer and generally paranoid in an uncertain industry, I feel driven to place huge emphasis on it. My editor says he’s happy enough with what he’s read of Against Gravity (so far) to ask me for a synopsis, so he can get the cover art and some other details done and dusted. Cripes … hope he likes the second half of the book too …

Here’s something that quite shocked me. I finished a short story recently – it’s called The Sleep of Flesh – and I figured, send it to a magazine. That got me thinking about just how many years since I’ve regularly bought any science fiction magazine regularly – if at all (the noble exception, of course, being Scotland’s own and sadly almost certainly defunct Spectrum SF). Feeling the urge to pick up Asimov’s for the first time in maybe a decade (I stopped buying the short fiction magazines for the same reasons, I think, as anyone else – you just reach a point where you read the articles first, and the period between that and actually reading the stories grows longer and longer until you realise, despite your best intentions, you’re never going to read them).
Guess what? I couldn’t find it – anywhere – in Glasgow. Not even in Forbidden Planet which galls me. Yes, they have Locus, and I’m pretty sure they stock 3rd Alternative and Interzone – but absolutely no sign whatsoever of the US digest magazines. Which is just insane – how the hell is anyone going to find out about short science fiction these days if they walk into FP and all they can see are Lord of the Rings action figures? Yes, I’m aware they’re as driven by market demands – but it’s still a vast pity. Analog and F&SF, curiously enough, can be tracked down in Borders – but no sign of Asimov’s.