Monthly Archives: October 2015

Darker. Heavier.

After the metal and fantasy discussion at NYCC 2015 I’ve been thinking about those two things and some of the similarities we didn’t get the chance to explore. If you know me at all, you know I don’t put much planning time into books and absolutely none into blog posts. This will be what it is as it falls out of whatever remains of my brain.

Back in the early 80s I was a clean-cut and quiet kid. I mostly listened to the music my father listened to which meant Pink Floyd, Queen, Elvis, and Deep Purple. To this day those bands still hold a special place in my heart. Somewhere between the ages of 11 and 12 something happened. At a guess, it would be the early sign of teen rebellion and a desire to find music that was mine. I could be way off on that. I certainly have no memory of thinking, hey, I should be rebellious. I was out shopping with my father when I spotted Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind album. Yes, this was vinyl; I am that old.

IMPoM

That cover was so dark, so different than anything I’d ever seen before, I had to have it. I can’t remember whether I convinced my father to buy it for me or if I had my own money. Either way, it came home with me.

Once home I put it on the record player and sat back, wondering what I’d hear.

Where Eagles Dare.

Drum fill intro, guitars heavier than planets, and some dude singing like…well, like an air-raid siren. It was too heavy. I took it off the turntable and put it away. But I kept coming back to it, listening to a little more each time, until I was listening to the entire album over and over every day.

I was hooked.

After that I rushed out to buy their earlier albums. For decades after, each and every Iron Maiden album was an event. Even now I still have everything they’ve ever released including all the live albums.

But that was just the beginning.

Other bands came along and caught my attention. Several times I heard bands that were too heavy, even after Iron Maiden. I remember the first time I heard Metallica. It was so heavy, so fast. And yet, a year or so later I was head-banging to Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning. I think around grade nine I decided I’d never get another hair cut and didn’t until I was in my late twenties.

It seemed like every year I was looking for something a little heavier. Flash forward to today and I’m listening to Sylosis, Hypocrisy, Gojira, Allegaeon, Solipsist, Cattle Decapitation, and there’s no such thing as too heavy. Iron Maiden is what I listen to when I’m feeling mellow.

Alongside this rapid descent into metal madness, another fall into darkness took place.

In grade nine I discovered role-playing and science-fiction and fantasy. Reading about dragons and heroes led to demons and anti-heroes and Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer, and the hopelessness of cyberpunk (the grimdark of SF).

And now I’ve written Beyond Redemption, a story of madness where all of the characters are…well…beyond redemption. It’s dark. Several reviewers have suggested it’s the darkest fantasy they’ve read. Seeing as I listened to the darkest, heaviest metal I could find while writing this book, it’s no surprise it turned out as it did.

I wonder if there is a link between these two quests for something darker, something heavier? Why do we always want something a little more?

Okay I hafta go write a bio now for Grimdark Magazine. My story, At the Walls of Sinnlos is appearing in their January, 2016 issue. Hmm. What insane crap should I make up about myself?

 

 

 

How Did I Get Here?

Disclaimer: I have no idea what this will be about. I’m sitting on my ass-damaged chair and I don’t feel like doing any ‘real’ writing and I’m gonna hafta go meet my daughter at the bus stop soon, but I wanna write something and so…

I have always read books. My earliest memories are of reading Winnie-the-Pooh with my parents. Or more likely demanding they read it to me. In grade seven/eight the school I went to gave out awards to students who read X number of pages in a year; ten thousand, twenty thousand, fifty thousand, etc. They didn’t have an award for the number of pages I read.

I don’t often think about the past. Though those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, those who invent the past…

It’s only now as I sit here wondering what I’m writing about that I realize why I read so much. Escapism. It seems obvious, but to me it’s what I was escaping that’s more interesting. As a child we moved a lot. I was rarely in the same school more than a year or two before we packed up and went elsewhere. I started grade seven as the new kid; I knew no one. I was (and am) extremely introverted, though whether that’s a genetic thing, or the result of moving so often I have no idea. By the end of grade seven I had one friend and he moved away during the summer. Grade eight was a whole new hell. I spent most of the outdoors time secluded in the library and when they kicked me out of the library I sat in a corner of the playground and read.

My memory is pretty shaky, but I believe I was reading a lot of Farley Mowat at the time. Someone had bought me And No Birds Sang, and that set me off reading pretty much everything he wrote.

Somehow, by the end of grade eight, I’d made a couple more friends. During our first year of high-school one of them introduced me to the Role-Playing Club. I was hooked. I stopped reading Farley Mowat and Hardy Boys books and set out to read every science-fiction and fantasy novel I could get my hands on.

IMG-20151016-00565By grade ten I’d become addicted to being the GM (Game Master AKA Dungeon Master) and was creating my own story lines and adventures. From there it went rapidly downhill. At some point my parents took away my RPGshiding them in their closet—in the hopes I might pay more attention at school without that distraction. Or maybe it was a blackmail situation; I don’t clearly remember. It also didn’t much matter as I took all the books (we were paying a lot of Chaosium’s Stormbringer) and left them the emptied boxes.

Thirty years later I still get together with a couple of those guys (and some new friends met during university) to role-play. The stories have become more complex and at some point back in the 90s we wrote our own gaming system (which has also grown more complex), but the magic is still there.

Sometimes it’s escapism; everyone has stuff they need to get away from. It doesn’t have to be something huge and tragic, it can be something as minor as a crap day at work or a looming project. Hell, sometimes you just gotta get away from your kids. Much as you love ’em, they’re insane, demanding little monsters.

But sometimes it’s more than that.

A good role-playing campaign allows us to lose ourselves in the story, to be the villain or the hero. We can topple civilizations, ride dragons, or twist the world with our delusions. I think that’s how I got here. I learned my love of story telling while role-playing. But writing it down—capturing an adventure and making it eternal (or at least lasting more than a few hours) and sharing it with people beyond your half-dozen closest friends—is an entirely different experience.

And it’s addictive.

MASTERS OF UNREALITY

I spent the weekend of October 10th in New York attending NYCC 2015. It was an amazing experience on so many levels. That was the first convention I have ever attended. Ever. And to do so as a speaker, to sit on a panel with the Myke Cole and Peter Orullian, made the experience rather surreal. When I heard I would be joining the two of them discussing metal music and fantasy writing, I rushed out and bought their books. These dudes can write. If you haven’t read them, you’re missing out.

The good folks at NYCC have already posted a video of the panel.

I must learn to stop mumbling.

The convention was a great chance to meet new folks; never easy for an introvert like myself. I also got the chance to meet and hang out with people I’d only met on-line (including many of the awesome staff at Harper Voyager), and sit on a hotel floor and share drinks with Kristopher Neidecker.  Note the classy plastic cup.  Yup, that’s how I roll.

Manhattan-20151010-00557

Which later looked like…

Manhattan-20151011-00562

Cheers!

 

My Writing Set-Up (My Ass Destroys Chairs)

I’ve been asked a couple of times about my writing set up and so I figured I’d share it here.

It is extremely simple: I use LibreOffice for everything. Anything other than a simple word-processor is just a distraction. I write my books in one large document, and that document is kept in the cloud so I can work on it anywhere. Really, the word processor is of little interest. It’s a tool and nothing more. I make use of the Comments functionality and beyond that it’s a glorified typewriter.

Originally, I used to write/build a background document at the same time where I’d keep all my world building material, character information (what colour is her hair?) and assorted plot points I wanted to hit. These days however I keep all that on a wiki, building the wiki as I go so that by the time the book is ready for release, the wiki is too.

I’ve included a picture of my writing space as well. You’ll notice speakers and a sub-woofer figure predominantly. I listen to music—sometimes very loud music…like right now I’m listening to Obscura’s Ocean Gateways—when I write. For the most part I listen to a lot of death metal. I’ll do a post on the why after NYCC (where I’ll be talking about metal and writing with Myke Cole and Peter Orullian

Office

Sometimes the desk is neater, but most of the time it’s even more cluttered. You know what they say: Empty desk, empty mind.

There’s a coaster you can kinda see just above the old Mac keyboard and to the left of the mouse. It was cut from a single piece of aluminium by a good friend. Here’s a close-up. It is the coolest coaster ever. I’ve since mounted it on clear bubble-feet so it appears to hover a few millimetres above the desk.

Coaster4

Coaster1

So…what’s your set-up? Has your ass destroyed any chairs?

Beyond Redemption – The Art

Back when we were still up to our unmentionables in editing  Beyond Redemption, David Pomerico (Executive Editor at Harper Voyager) asked if I had any ideas for cover art and/or artists I particularly liked. We bounced ideas around, discussed a few cool names, and then David mentioned Richard Anderson. After a little googling I freaked out. Richard’s portfolio is amazing and the list of folks he’s worked with is downright intimidating. Seriously, check him out.

Some time later I received an email with three sketched ideas and was asked my opinion. This flew in the face of everything I’d heard about Big Publishing. Being a new and utterly unknown author, I didn’t expect anyone to asking my opinion on cover art.

Here are the three initial ideas:

BeyondRedemption_sketches_05_ra

And…

BeyondRedemption_sketches_04_ra

I liked the above because I immediately recognized Stehlen by her rat’s nest hair.

And finally…

BeyondRedemption_sketches_01_ra

As I recall this one clicked for everyone. The characters were immediately recognizable and it looked gritty and dirty. Being an unthinking twit I wondered why there was so much black at the bottom.

With the choice made, Richard returned to us with this…

BR Original

Grim and gritty and beautiful. The characters leapt out. Look at the way Bedeckt is hunched forward, a man about to crack. You can hear Wichtig’s ridicule as he wheels his horse about to mock Stehlen. Look at her insane hair; you can practically smell her! He even caught the mood of the horses!

Next, the good folks in the HARPER Voyager design department (who I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t yet had the honour of meeting) worked their magic.

And this appeared…

BeyondRedemption

All of a sudden that huge empty space under the three characters made perfect sense. This would be why you don’t hire me to do your cover art. I was ecstatic, blown away. The murky smear of that sky! This was the perfect cover for my gritty little insane novel. Nothing could make it better.

Except…

BR Cover with blurb

An amazing blurb from one of my favourite authors.

Mind.

Blown.

Office wall spattered in brain.