Sweet Sixteen

So yesterday I hit 16 posts this month, precisely twice as many as I managed in all of last year. I’m going to give myself a hearty pat on the back for that. I’ll also confess I am a bit stuck for something to write about today so I am just going to talk about recent developments in my writing and travel plans. Bear with me, I am new to this daily blogging thing.

I was very surprised to discover my military SF novel seems to have taken on a life of its own. I sat down to write a few scenes, just sketches to see whether it would work and to try and get the feel of the thing. Before I knew it I had written 15000 words, laughing maniacally all the while. Believe it or not, this is usually a good sign for me although it troubles my wife and anybody else who happens to be in the vicinity.

Robert E Howard used to say that he felt as if Conan was standing at his shoulder dictating his adventures. I know the feeling. So it looks like there will be a cyberpunk space opera supersoldier novel from me in the not too distant future.

This week I am hoping to put the final touches on the latest Kormak short story, a tale of drunken sea-going giants and a demon sorcerer’s palace rising from the ocean floor. I’m also going to have to think of a title for it. So far that’s been the hardest part of the whole process. Since I settled down to finish it, this story has been a blast to write. As you’d guess about a story featuring inebriated giants, it’s a bit less grim than the usual Kormak story, with more of the feel of the early Gotrek and Felix adventures.

Earlier in the week I picked up a ticket to Ho Chi Minh City. I am off late next month. (I would say I am going to escape the snow but it all melted over the weekend.) It’s only for 10 days but it should be interesting. I did a two day trip to California for discussions about Illidan this time last year, so this counts as a long trip by my recent standards. I’ll post pictures here with a view to making all of you stuck in the European winter jealous. I’m nice that way.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print from me this week. Hopefully tomorrow there will be something a bit more coherent.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

Free Stuff for NaNoWriMo

I should have known it was all going to go horribly wrong the moment I got on the plane. It wasn’t just the person on the left of me was snuffling. The person on the right was as well. As was the person in front of me and the person behind. As we took off the sounds of coughing and sneezing drowned out the engines. I could practically feel the cloud of unhealth settle on me. Father Nurgle has blessed me once more.

There was not a lot of NaNoWriMoing done last week. As of yesterday I had completed 36522 words. Looking back at last weeks blog post I can see I had managed 28000 or so. That means in seven days I’ve done roughly 8500 words. In my defence I will say there was a lot of family visiting, a lot of time spent in airports and a lot of time spent walking in the cold rain, cultivating the germs my fellow travellers on the Airbus so helpfully gave me.

This has been a useful reminder that not all drops in word count productivity have to do with writers block or the torture of being a true artist looking for the perfect place to put that so-important comma. This NaNoWriMo I have frolicked through 6000 words in an afternoon. I’ve also had days when 1700 words were trench warfare in bloody mud. The difference being that in the first case I was healthy and in the second case I was a snuffling, gurgling, sore-throated mass of disease spores.

On the plus side, during my trip The Roost Stand and Alphasmart Dana performed exactly as advertised. They were portable, rugged and very useful from an ergonomic point of view.

Writing sprints continue to be the revelation of this NaNoWriMo month. I would never have thought it possible that I could get so much done so easily. I’ve always thought I needed at least half an hour to get myself into a writing frame of mind. I was wrong. Five or ten minutes can be enough if I approach it in the right way.

And now for a public service announcement. If you are reading this on a laptop or tablet, I urge you to consider it not as a useful piece of portable electronics but as the ergonomic time-bomb it really is. Don’t wait until, like me, you are the proud recipient of numb arms, pins and needles and episodic vertigo brought on by spinal compression. Do something now.

I point you to the following bits of free software. I find them useful for forcing sensible practises on me. Both remind you to take breaks at reasonable intervals. Both can alert you to take minor breaks as well as longer term ones.

Workrave is my favourite of the two. Its for Windows and Linux. It looks less pretty than its Mac equivalent but it has more functionality. It plays you little videos showing useful exercises during your breaks.

Time Out is for the Mac and is a lot prettier. I tend to set it so that the over-ride buttons are not visible which forces me to step away from the keyboard.

I have installed these bits of software on all my machines now. They make me take one or two minute breaks every ten minutes and 10 minute breaks every half an hour. This also serves a useful function for timing my writing sprints and pomodoros so it fits in well with my workflow. It takes a little getting used to the way the programs break up your flow but the long term benefits make it worthwhile.

There’s some other stuff to report. I picked up a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 in the airport duty free store. First impressions are favourable but it deserves a review of its own. I also saw Interstellar in the IMAX. That’s three hours of my life I won’t be getting back. It needs an incoherent, spoiler-and-rage-filled rant to do its fractal stupidity (thank you for the phrase, Mr Mooney) justice and I am just too sick. Also I have to get back to NaNoWriMo.

Back next week for my final report on the event.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.

Upcoming Appearances And Other News

It’s going to be a busy old time for me on the travel front by the looks of things. I’ll be at Gamesday on Sunday 29th September, and hopefully will have a copy of Bane of Malekith to wave proudly at people. 

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Next up is the Black Library Weekender 2nd and 3rd November at the Belfry in Nottingham. The last one was a total blast. Hopefully there will be no re-run of the Karaz fiasco this year and Gav and I’s multi-generational dwarf epic will finally get the respect it deserves. 

Because one convention in a week is simply not enough for me, I’ll be at Falkon in Lublin in Poland on the weekend of the 8th to the 11th of November.

And I’ll be spending the weekend of my birthday (6th to 8th December) at Parcon/Fenixcon in Brno in the Czech Republic. Come along and have a chat if you happen to be in the area for any of these.

And finally, here is the very lovely cover for the Czech version of Defiler of Tombs. 

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In the Czech Paradise

I admit it– I have been slacking off with the blog recently. In part it’s laziness, in part it’s because it’s the holiday season and in part it’s because of astounding global warming type heat. We arrived back from Norway in the middle of a heatwave– 37 degrees centigrade/98.6 Fahrenheit– this in a European city and an apartment without air conditioning. I hail from Scotland. In such temperatures the only thing Scotsmen do is melt or turn a bright shade of sunburnt pink and lie on their backs whining (manfully) about heat. Combine hot nights and a sleepless toddler and you have a recipe for lethargy.

This week we escaped into the Cesky Raj (Czech Paradise), which really is lovely and I say this as a man who has just returned from the fjords of Norway. It’s wild land with lots of razor-edged cliffs and huge rock formations, a perfect setting for a fantasy novel and one which I will no doubt use at some point in the future.  It’s the sort of landscape in which it is very easy to imagine being ambushed by orcs or encountering elves. I would show you some pictures but I haven’t transferred them from my phone yet so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

We’re staying in Mala Skala, which sounds like a town from one of David Gemmell’s Drenai novels and which it’s not too difficult to envision Druss strolling the streets of. I am writing this outside a wooden cafe that could double as a Warhammer tavern. I have spent a large part of the last few days walking through woods and along ridgetops, occasionally wearing an Osprey baby-carrier with a baby in it, mostly admiring my wife’s fortitude as she does the heavy lifting. She lacks my considerable body mass which helps with these things.

Today we were walking around Kost castle and in encountered some medieval jousters. I kid you not. I am talking about armoured men on caparisoned horses, looking as if they had just stepped out of Game of Thrones. (In case you were wondering, they were part of some sort of jousting display.) It reminded me that in the unlikely event of me ever having to face a mounted knight I am much more likely to be scared of the horse than the man. Those things are big. As it happened the only injury I faced was a mosquito bite and I showed that bloodsucker who was boss. 

Anyway, that’s enough of what I did on my holidays for the moment. Hopefully normal service will be resumed next week. 

Hunting for Trolls in Oslo

Let’s get the downsides out of the way first. Norway is expensive. I mean eye-wateringly, wallet-numbingly expensive. Let me put it in perspective. Norway and the Czech Republic both use a currency called the crown. Things are more or less exactly the same price in crowns in both countries. The difference is that there are roughly 9 Norwegian Crowns to the British Pound and 30 Czech Crowns. That means things are approximately 330% more expensive in Norway compared to the Czech Republic. For those of you who don’t live in Prague, this translates into roughly £11 or $17 for a Big Mac Meal. Should you drink alcohol, the price differences become even worse because of the local tax regime. The second downside is the trolls, of which more later. 

We arrived in Oslo last Friday and stayed in the Comfort Grand Central hotel. If you’re planning a lot of rail travel in Norway I recommend the place, not only is it stylish, the staff are friendly and it’s inside the Central Station. It is comfortable, and much to my suprise, quiet. When you have finished the ultra-swift 19 minute rail journey from the airport, you can sleep overnight and be 5 minutes walk from the platform for the express to Bergen. It’s also 5 minutes walk from the city centre and the National Opera House, a particularly impressive building.

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Now I know you are looking at my photograph and thinking, Bill, it’s just a glass block sticking out of the side of some white concrete, but you are missing the big picture here, which is the thing I cannot give you because my photograph was taken while walking up the side of the National Opera House. It holds the distinction of being the only iconic building I have ever strode up the side of to get to the roof. The building is like a large concrete iceberg rising from Oslo harbour.

Or perhaps more accurately, with all of its sharp lines and glass extrusion, it resembles an Imperial Star Destroyer partially submerged in Oslo harbour. Let’s face it, this is the sort of architectural statement any modern nation ought to be proud to make. Should Scotland gain its independence I vote that our National Opera House be a concrete (fully operational) Death Star partially sunk in the waters off Leith. We’d just be following a trend. London has already gone this route— once the great burning eye is in place over the Shard, Sauron will have a fine new town house and let’s be honest,  you couldn’t find a better symbol for the City of London financial district.

The National Opera House in Oslo is strikingly lovely, and a great place to lounge on a summer evening. It’s a brilliant setting for sitting on the edge of the water, with the waves coming almost to your feet and boring your kids with tales of your youth misspent around Stranraer Harbour. That’s what I did, anyway. Time well spent.

Next day we headed across Oslo Harbour by ferry to visit the Viking Ship Museum where they have two and a half-fully reconstructed 9th Century Viking Ships dug out of burial mounds by archaelogists along with the grave goods. The oddest thing about the ships is how lovely they are. They are sleek and deadly looking and beautifully carved like big bits of old wooden furniture sitting in the middle of the museum rooms. They are exactly 29 of my paces long and 6 of my paces wide.

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For scale, the picture has a 6 foot tall Scottish Fantasy writer standing in front of one. It is a bit boggling to imagine crossing oceans in one of these, but, of course, that is exactly what the Vikings did. And I’ll tell you something, I would not want a boatload of berserk Norwegians showing up at the foot of my garden in one of these things to the present day. A boatload of trolls now, that’s a different thing…

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Our hunt for trolls was finally rewarded on Saturday evening. We found one, and what a letdown, as you can probably tell from the picture. I came to Oslo expecting a good battle with a monstrous night creature but when I produced my battle-axe it was all over in seconds. The thing didn’t put up much of a fight at all. It must have had some sort of strange mind control powers though because the local shop-keeper called the police as I did mortal combat with the fell beast. And here was I doing him a favour too, freeing him from the troll’s spell. What an ingrate.

I can now report from experience that modern trolls would not last 30 seconds in a Glasgow bar on a Saturday night. And Tolkien got it wrong, when exposed to sunlight trolls don’t turn to stone, they turn to plastic although that’s may be just evolution at work.

Anyway, now seemed like the time to flee Oslo and head out into the wilderness. Next stop, Hoth.

Off To Norway

Number One Son and I are off to Norway to hunt for trolls so there may be no blogging or replies to comments for a bit. It depends on whether there is internet in troll country or not. In the proud tradition of this blog I may put up some photos of the trip in a few months if I remember to. Back soon with some troll scalps.