Friday 28 July 2017

My path to the published page...

Twenty years ago having recently turned thirty I signed up for an evening class in creative writing. I went once a week for a ninety minute session on a Wednesday night. The whole thing lasted maybe twelve or so weeks.

Google Earth has found the place for me.

The lessons were in a portacabin in the car park. They ran through January, February and March. I never took my coat off. The structure marked with the arrow in the next shot may well be where they were held, but given the intervening twenty years ... probably not.

Anyway. The teacher was a lady called Ann Palmer and she covered a wide range of basics. All the useful stuff such as point of view, head hopping, info dumping, description, getting to the point etc as well as practical matters such as casing your market.

After the course finished I was inspired. I went away a wrote a bad fantasy book. Then I started writing a lot of fantasy short stories. A few years after that I wrote an OK fantasy book. Wrote a bunch more fantasy shorts, and a then after a few more years I wrote Prince of Thorns.

I discovered Ann Palmer on the internet recently and listened to a podcast interview. She mentioned that she had had a guy in one of her classes that spent the whole time doodling, filling sheets of paper. It was, apparently, the only way he could concentrate on what she was saying.

It set her to thinking about the connection between imagination and imagery, and after some years researching the psychology of the thing she went on to write a book about visualization, imagery and imagination.

I was the doodler. I doodled my way through every meeting, lecture and presentation I've ever attended. It's nice that we both set each other writing books. Though given that I'm incapable of forming mental imagery, it's also rather ironic!

In real life (as Lemony Snicket teaches us) stories have no beginning and no end. I didn't one day out of the blue decide to go to an evening class in creative writing.

In nursery school (age 3ish) I told the other children a story about a crocodile in the toilet and they were too afraid to use it.

When I was in primary school I used to write stories for class. I have a vivid memory of one teacher being very impressed with a story of mine and telling me to read it to the class. I refused, leading to a long stand-off. I guess even then I was firmly in the writers' camp rather than the performers' camp.

In 1977 I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. Before long I was writing dungeons for my friends to adventure in.

 Image result for men and magic

In 1985 I picked up a flier for a fantasy play-by-mail game. I started playing and after I finished my first degree I worked as one of the games masters for the game. There were five or six of us and we worked in a dilapidated office above a garage in the red light district in Southampton.

On the day I arrived a car full of men pulled alongside me in the street and asked if I could sell them heroin. There were prostitutes on all the street corners and some of the houses literally had red lights in the windows.

I wrote replies (turns) to the players in my area, building parts of an interactive fantasy story involving a thousand or more people.

I kept doing this in my spare time for a decade and made tens of thousands of pounds (at a terrible hourly rate). This was the first time I was paid for writing fiction.

In 2001 I moved to America (tripling my salary! scientists are paid shit in the UK) and no longer had time to keep my area of Saturnalia going. To scratch my creative itch I joined some online writing groups and started writing short stories, then wrote that 2nd book I mentioned. Then around 2003 I started writing Prince of Thorns.

I sold my first short story in 2004.

My first book was published in 2011.

I sold my millionth book in 2015.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Sister Paint

Competition Closed!

Microsoft are killing Paint!

In honour of what has been my go-to image software since soon after I first laid hands on a PC in 1984 I am running a Paint contest.

I have three signed copies of Red Sister to give away.

All you have to do is send me a picture of anything to do with any of my books and drawn entirely in MS Paint. That's the software that comes as standard with every PC and can also be used online ... here for example (click "try" no downloads needed).

No imported graphics or images allowed.

Here is my best effort!

Two books will go to the "best" entries, and one will be awarded to a random entry so that everyone has a chance.

Well, many amazing entries! Thanks to all for the effort and skill on display!

Choosing was so difficult that I asked for votes on Facebook and Twitter. All that did was give me a four way heat for the winner and several more close behind them! I've listed the top ten in order and selected two winners with a degree of randomness and much heartache.

Vote winners = #44 #33

Random = #8


#44 Krystal - untitled, but since it was finished at 4:20am we can forgive that!

#33 Mairi 

#35 Adelie - Gorgoth and Jane

#30 Djerri - Chella and friends meet Jorg

#25 Mayticks - Sister Apple

#28 Noah - Jal and Snorri and Tuttugu go to sea

#27 Brad

#21 Keren - Jorg & Nona

#24 Francesca - Sister Apple

#1 Nikolas - The Thorns Family

#11 Jonathan - Let's be friends!


#43 Louis

#42 Vivianne - Jorg + snack

#41 Pavle - Bond. Jorg Bond?

#40 Suman - 

#39 Katherine

#38 Mia - The Sisters of the Rock

#37 Rika - Sister Kettle

#36 Marine

#34 Mark

#32 Sara

#31 Paul - King of Thorns

#29 Shane

#26 Rim

#23 Andreas - Aslaug sows discord!

#22 Livia - Revenge

#20 Petros (non competing entry)

#19 Emma - Jorg

#18 Kurt - Nona's spidy-sense

#17 Ted - Jorg meets Ferrakind

#16 Rachel - The Red Queen's War

#15 Sara - "The dead one tried to show me hell, but it was a pale imitation of the horror I can paint on the darkness in a quiet moment.”

#14 Leah - Almost a Bayeux tapestry!

#13 Mikaela - Nona vs Blade Path

#12 Victor - allegedly there is a spoiler in this one...

#10 Earl - Rike

#9 Uzair - Maical feeding head-cart?

#8 Carl - Abeth

#7 Hiu - Jorg in the thorns

#6 Harper 

#5 Jenna - Red Kent

#4 GRM

#3 Bryan

#2 Nick - Some key Broken Empire moments