Improving Writing Workflows

I changed my workflow a lot this year. The most important alteration was that I started using markdown as much as possible. I’ve talked about the advantages before so I won’t go into them again here. I’ll just say that I love the way I can work anywhere on anything when I am using it. I am using Scrivener less. I know, I know– me saying that is one of the signs of the End Times. In the past I used Scrivener for pretty much everything I could. But all is flux as Heraclitus once said. My workflow is now broken into five stages mostly defined by the program and text format that I use for them. The first stage is outlining which I do in markdown. The second stage is writing the first draft which is also done … [Read more...]

D&D Fifth Edition

Yesterday was the official release date of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. It won’t hit my FLGS for some time yet so I haven’t got my hands on a copy. I did celebrate the release by picking up the Starter Set and downloading a copy of the rules from the D&D website. My recent D&D related experience has been with Pathfinder and the retro-clones of the Old School Renaissance. I was not a big fan of the fourth edition. It pretty much killed my interest in D&D. It wasn’t that the fourth edition was badly done. It had all the usual WoTC virtues of high production values, beautiful art and excellent writing. And it wasn’t that it didn’t work. It did what it did very well. It was just that … [Read more...]

Checklists, Waypoints and Revisions

Back in the mid–90s, long before 9–11, I was a guest on the flight deck of an SAS Boeing 737 flying between Stockholm and Copenhagen. For a man scared of flying this was a revelation. Everything seemed so peaceful and safe. The most reassuring thing about it was how routine everything seemed. One of the things that made it so was that one of the pilots, the captain, I think, sat there with a clipboard. He ticked stuff off on a checklist as the co-pilot performed various functions. It was clear that these guys had a system that made the complex task of keeping the plane in the air routine. This was on my mind recently as I worked out the tip I am about to pass on, a thing so obvious that I am almost embarassed. First some … [Read more...]

Netflix for Books

Over the past few days Amazon has once again shaken up the world of ebook publishing by announcing its Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, a subscription service which allows members (currently in the US only) access to a more or less unlimited number of ebooks and audiobooks for the payment of a $9.99 monthly fee. This is being touted as a Netflix for Ebooks in some corners and it has caused controversy and much fevered discussion among indie authors. Lots of people have expressed opinions about the upsides, downsides and possible strategies for indie authors. For what it’s worth these are mine. Of course, KU is not the first attempt at such a subscription model. Oyster and Scribd are attempting something similar although neither of … [Read more...]

Second Kormak Saga Omnibus Released

The second Kormak omnibus has been released. It’s a three-for-the-price-of-two bargain available at all the major e-book retailers right now. Here’s the blurb. THE SECOND KORMAK SAGA OMNIBUS From the rat-infested streets of nightmare-haunted Vermstadt, to the ruins of the greatest of all Dwarvish nations and beyond, Kormak must battle demons and monsters and the worst evil of all, that which lies within the human heart. The Kormak Omnibus compiles three of Kormak’s greatest adventures into one massive volume packed with action, adventure and magic. CITY OF STRIFE A sinister conspiracy brings the great city-state of Vermstadt to the edge of civil war. A brutal murderer slays the poor and eats their hearts. A … [Read more...]

Ocean of Fear Author’s Notes

With my usual relentless lack of efficiency I have finally gotten round to writing up the author’s notes for Ocean of Fear only two months after the book was released. Here they are now. The tortured girl is dying, slowly and in agony. The brooding stranger who has come across her broken body by the side of the path listens to her tale of murder and rapine with mounting rage. As the girl passes, his wrath explodes. “Men shall die for this,” he says. And you, the reader, know they will. For the stranger is Solomon Kane, the puritan adventurer who has some claim to being the first great hero of the sword and sorcery genre, and when he makes a threat you know it will be carried out. The opening of Red Shadows has stayed with me … [Read more...]

Starting A Mailing List

Every writer should have a mailing list. That’s one of those of those bits of advice that you will get sooner or later if you hang around writers’ boards on the internet long enough. It also happens to be true although it took me a long time to realise it. I started my mailing list a few years back. To be honest, for the first year or so, I made no effort to attract folk to my mailing list whatsoever. And, oddly enough, it never seemed very useful. Then I read Your First Thousand Copies which made a pretty convincing case not only for mailing lists but for using the much-hated browser pop-up to get people to sign up for them. Which is why many of you who visit this site get to see the aforementioned pop-up every couple of … [Read more...]

A False Start

I am on holiday in the very lovely Cesky Raj and I am looking for an easy subject for a blog post. Fortunately one is close at hand. Last week I announced the release of the second Kormak short story, A Cold and Lonely Place, and this provoked some interesting discussions in the comments and emails I received. Among the things that came up was my habit of writing first scenes of short stories that I don’t or can’t finish. The reasons for this are alluded to in the comments of the last post. What I thought I would do today is just show you one of those scenes and then talk about why it was a false start. Most of the post is already written and I get to use some writing that’s never seen the light of day. So here’s … [Read more...]

A Cold and Lonely Place Released

A Cold and Lonely Place, the latest Kormak short story, is now available.     Here’s the blurb. To the world at large, he is a mercenary and assassin, a brutal killer with a deadly blade. In reality Kormak is a Guardian, one of an ancient order sworn to protect humanity from the servants of the gathering darkness. Grimhaven holds a fatal secret as any visitor discovers too late. On a dark autumn evening, as the full moon glares down on the village, a stranger arrives, a man called Kormak, on a mission to uncover what happened to a friend who vanished months ago. It’s a 6000 word tale of Lovecraftian horror and stealthy assassination set in the wilds of Taurea during the Civil War. It retails at $0.99 or the local equivalent at all … [Read more...]

Throwing Away a Book

I’ve been on a voluntary simplicity kick recently. You know the sort of thing – throwing out old stuff I no longer require or use (of which there is a surprising amount), resisting buying new stuff no matter how big the temptation and so on. It gives life a bit of discipline and one of the major effects is that it makes me think twice about buying something new just because I feel the sudden urge to spend and I see something shiny. After all, what is the point of acquiring it if I know there is a good chance of throwing it out in the foreseeable future. The process of stripping away the stuff from my life dramatises this possibility and makes it very real. I started using a method recommended by an article on Lifehacker. I … [Read more...]

Taking Notes with Pen and Screen

A couple of months back I read this article by David Hewson about using an Asus Vivotab Note 8 to replace paper printouts while editing. I liked the idea of being able to carry a whole stack of manuscript pages in my pocket and work on them whenever the notion took me and I am a sucker for a new gadget so I bought one myself. The Note is small and light tablet with a decent 8 inch screen and a Wacom digitiser pen. It uses the latest generation Atom processors and it gets about 8–9 hours of battery life. It comes with a free copy of Microsoft Office 2013 including the very wonderful OneNote, of which more later. I’ve used Drawboard to mark up PDFs of a couple of book length manuscripts and it performs as flawlessly as … [Read more...]

Willpower and Biscuits

Three days a week I go into a shared workspace to get some writing done. On Tuesdays at 4pm, there is a coffee break where the various members of the space get together and chat. At these little meetups coffee, tea and biscuits are provided. Nice biscuits. I would slump on the couch nearest the coffee table with a plate of biscuits within easy reach. Normally I don’t eat many biscuits and I watch my diet but at those coffee breaks, I could not seem to stop myself having just one more. Week after week, I would sit down and despite every effort to stop on my part I would find myself digging in. I’ll just have one or two, I thought, but somehow one or two became six or seven or more. I tried to stop but I could not. I beat myself … [Read more...]

Ocean of Fear Released

Shiver me timbers, Ocean of Fear, the sixth book in the Kormak series, a swashbuckling tale of pirates, sea monsters and ancient curses, has weighed anchor and set sail for all your favourite ebook retailers. Here’s the blurb: The survivors of a burned out village set Kormak and a crew of bounty hunters on the trail of the pirate lord known only as the Kraken. The hunt leads from the haunted ruins of a cursed city to the buccaneer stronghold of Port Blood and reaches a bloody conclusion far beneath the waves of the ocean. For the Kraken is a sorcerer with a deadly secret and he plans to waken the most powerful demon of the ancient world. The book is available at,, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple and … [Read more...]

Ocean Of Fear Preview

I am just putting the final touches to the sixth Kormak adventure, Ocean of Fear. It’s a rousing sword and sorcery tale of pirates, gigantic sea monsters and dark ancient secrets. It should be available real soon now. In the meantime, here’s a preview of the first chapter. FEET THUNDERED ACROSS the trireme’s deck as the crew raced to their battle stations. Drums sounded the beat for the straining oarsmen. Marines strapped on shields and drew shortswords. Crossbowmen wound their arbalests and fitted bolts into place. Sweating and puffing, the engine crew on the sterncastle manoeuvred the ballista to cover the shoreline. Standing at the prow of the warship above the great beak of the ram, the tall greying man watched the … [Read more...]

Books of Kane

Last week I pre-ordered a couple of books by one of my favourite Sword and Sorcery authors, Karl Edward Wagner. This morning The Book of Kane and Death Angel’s Shadow automagically appeared on my Kindle courtesy of Amazon and Gateway. These are books have been out of print for a long time and can usually only be found for hideously inflated prices on eBay. Now they are sitting there on my ereader inviting immediate attention. It is a mark of the age we live in and a huge change from the world in which I grew up. As a teenager I treasured my fantasy books because they only intermittently appeared in the spinner racks of the local newsagents or on the shelves of Stranraer’s John Menzies. If you were a fantasy fan, you just … [Read more...]