November Updates

I finished my NaNoWriMo stuff for this year a few days ago. Three novellas, each around 20k. The first is unnamed, the second is The Entropy of Ideas, and the third is The Book of a Thousand and One Destines. They’re all fantasies of various flavours.

The Book of a Thousand and One Destines has, as you might be able to tell from the title, an Arabian Nights flavour. So I may submit it to Tor.com’s current call for non-European-based fantasy novellas. Since that closes in January, this’ll be my main (though not only) focus for the next month.

 

Soul Food

I’m waiting for the Createspace proof of this, so it’ll probably be out early next year (barring realisations of gaping plot holes).

It’s a detective story with paranormal elements. It came about from a thought experiment regarding the existence and nature of the soul, and in tone is close to what I discussed in my interpretation of cosmic horror.

I don’t have a description blurb worked out yet, but here’s the working cover:

soul-food-small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sin of Hope

This has had a polish and a facelift, for a couple of reasons. Mainly I was skimming through trying to get useful quotes to use on twitter (since I really should try and use it for something), and as usual I can’t do so without feeling compelled to fiddle with the text. It is nearly five years old, and some of the sentence structures really irritated me.

Secondly, Soul Food is kind of a spiritual sequel to it. Different characters, but both detectives in modern, unidentified, settings, who run across what may be paranormal stuff. More explicitly in the case of Soul Food, whereas The Sin of Hope can work fine as a non-fantastical story if you assume some of the characters are crazy.

The cover also started to irritate me, so I’ve updated it. It’s also down to $0.99 for the rest of the year.

the-sin-of-hope-smallSmashword

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

A Sacrifice

The fluttering of leaden butterfly wings scraped the pit of his stomach, causing it to clench. A flapping singularity that threatened to suck him into an oblivion that’d be a relief from this constant distraction.

It wasn’t as though he even knew her. One passing exchange, which had felt so trivial. Of no further thought. Until he heard her speak, so mischievous and fun and alive. And that was enjoyable, but would also pass.

Yet it wouldn’t. No matter that she was far away. He could still learn of her. Follow her digitally, on that den of the lazy stalker, Twitter. Which only served to exacerbate his infatuation, his thoughts refusing to surrender this idealised version of her they were assembling.

And he had the bloody NaNoWriMo stuff to be getting on with, which kind of required a modicum of attention.

So ignore thoughts of her. There was nothing to do about it. It was merely a dream, and not a particularly realistic one. It wasn’t as though he’d ever actually talk to her.

Should he have talked to her more then? Talking to anyone would have been good, but wasn’t a habit he’d ever developed. There were plenty of sociable habits he’d never developed, those things which humans tended to look for in one another.

Could he talk to her again, were they to meet? Realistically not. He had no illusions about his nature by now. Conversation he could at least fake, but he didn’t think he’d ever actually talked properly, honestly, to anyone outside of his dreams.

It wasn’t as though he hadn’t had infatuations before. Attractions. Yet there seemed an almost physical urge to find her. To know who she truly was.

And there are fantasies that spring unbidden of them together. Of a domestic contentment. A kind of life he never saw in his future. A life that fades behind all the harsh realities of geographical distance, obligations, and her being way out of his league.

Would that be contentment? A true connection to the life he only ever viewed from the outside? A life he already knows will never be. Can never be.

The hundreds of practicalities that would interfere swarm his fantasy, threatening to obscure it from view.  A worldview he can never escape. The nihilistic, mechanistic view of reality makes too much sense. There can be no contentment while viewing life through that prism, as a whole that inevitable ends in one thing: Peace. An absence of thought.

There is only this tangled, neurotic, self-loathing, self-destructive existence. Most things of import are our own creations. Constructs to fool our minds into ignoring the chaos in which we function. So did he fabricate the thing that tugs at his chest, making breath hard to find?

Though if nothing matters, and we’ll all die, then who cares about neuroses? Who cares about anything but finding joy where we can, however fleeting?

Or imagining talking to a girl who doesn’t even know you exist.

Maybe their paths would cross again.

 

And he’d still be unable to talk to her.

He had only one recourse. The writer’s response to life. Make art (or a vague approximation thereof) of your suffering. Write it down in case you can use it. (And he had an idea of where parts of it could be plugged in)

And count the words towards NaNoWriMo. And use it as a blog posting, because nothing else has gone there in a while, and it’s unlikely any bugger reads it (and isn’t putting your deviant psyche on display the point of art?).

So make of it a sacrifice to whatever gods are bothered to include literature (or a vague approximation thereof) within their remit. Thoth, are you there?

[Disclaimer: Feelies may have been artificially enhanced for dramatic purposes]

Update, Progress Report, and General Proof of Life

Progress Report

I think we can forget me posting here with any regularity in the foreseeable. I have very few things to share, and plenty of writing to get on with. At the moment, I have in progress:

  • Soul Food, a short mystery/urban fantasy novel. It may veer towards horror. I’m really not sure how to classify it. It’s in a fairly good state, but I’m not sure if it needs more work. The cover’s also more or less done, and I should have enough images to post a cover creation process when the book’s due out;
  • A currently untitled fantasy story I have plotted. Probably a short novella, at best. Just about ready for a first draft;
  • I have the third part of Dwimmerfall (working title) just about worked out. I think it’s been over a year since the first couple of parts were done, and I still only have a rough idea of how the whole thing ends (probably in part four). Still having trouble breaking down one of story strands though, and then I’ll need to plot it out;

And I’ve started actual research for a longer novel, but that’s in very early planning stages.

I’m not sure I have enough in a suitable state to do NaNoWriMo next month. I might start off with the untitled one, then take time off to finish breaking Dwimmerfall into something useful. Given I can generally finish the 50,000 with weeks to spare, it should be doable.

 

The Folly of Miss Harrow

On the publishing side, the novelette, The Folly of Miss Harrow, is now available for pre-order. It’ll be released on the 14th of November.

miss-harrow-smallAn account of Miss Alyssa Harrow, an alchemist of dubious repute, yet impeccable breeding, as she mounts an archaeological excursion on the edge of the empire.

A fantastical fiction in 12,000 words.

 

Smashwords

Amazon.com

 

Pricing

I’ve also fiddled about with the pricing again, reducing the novels back to $2.99. Since raising them earlier in the year, I haven’t noticed much difference in sales numbers, though most sales have been for the lower priced stuff that wasn’t changed. So I’m bringing them back down as we approach the holiday season, not that I’m really expecting much change.

The higher price was mainly to try to give an impression of greater value, anyway. Any profit from having them priced higher may be significant at lower sales levels, but higher sales levels, even at a lower price) are what I need for this to be a career (the ideal situation). So if the lower price attracts even one more customer who then considers buying more of my work, it’s useful.

 

 

 

Publication, and Musings on Lovecraft, Horror and Religion

Monstrum Ex Machina, the third novella in the Grey Revolutions series, is released today.

Inspiration for stories come from numerous directions, and there’s usually more than one needed to construct a decent tale. One of the elements from this story came from considering Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, and how it differs from more traditional horror.

Disclaimers: I don’t have a deep knowledge of Lovecraft’s work, and less of horror in general, but have no intention of letting ignorance hold me back from giving an uneducated opinion. That’s what blogs are for. Also, this might result in some waffling, and anyone of a religious disposition may take offence. So better to stop here if this is you. Unless you want to be offended, in which case don’t blame me.

 

Lovecraft, Horror, and Religion

From the little research I bothered to do, I’m not sure there is a clear definition of cosmic horror. A good part of it is the terror at realising how small and insignificant you are. But associated with this is that the vast horrors to fear are usually indifferent to the harm they cause on something as small as us.

As opposed to a malevolent evil actively intent on doing us harm, so archetypal of a casual view of horror. This malevolent evil often has ties, either explicit or casual, to religious concepts of evil.

I see religion as starting out as folk tales used to explain the otherwise inexplicable world. Over time they’ve come to be considered more than mere stories, and held to tightly as a safety blanket. Of course they can’t be allowed to change over time, or it could disturb the illusion of authority they demand. So they still reflect the times in which they developed.

Times during which there were creatures out in the dark that meant us harm (besides each other). Even if only animals, they were threats. And the stories that built up around them shifted to less known terrors as familiarity grew.

Stories gave the fears form, and by doing so the promise that they could be survived, maybe even bested. But they also maintained the idea of the malevolent force outside our view, to keep the faithful from straying.

By Lovecraft’s time, the dangers in the dark (besides each other) had become less of a true concern. Settlements had grown so vast that a danger lurking outside it was well away from the beds of most in the settlement.

What was within the settlement became more of a cause for anxiety. The vast horde of strangers, feeding feelings of insignificance and isolation in this expanding worldview.

Lovecraft followed scientific discoveries, often using or referencing them. The growing understanding of the vastness of existence, and our smallness within that almost infinite scale, is obvious in his work. His horror was that of recognising one’s insignificance in an indifferent universe. The horror of being at the mercy of mechanisms that may not even register our existence.

Yet religion still seeks to engage people’s fears of malevolent forces, retaining that as the prism through which to interpret the world. Reinforcing divisions of us versus them. Cosmic horror is more about us versus it. Life. Vast and uncaring.

In part that may be why I see religion as archaic. It may once have offered comfort against the things people feared, but now seems to conjure its own boogeymen, oblivious to the true horrors of modern life.

Which can sound dark, but this worldview can also inspire awe (awe in the sense of wonder tinged with fear). And that’s where I feel it’s most interesting. It can raise all kinds of questions, and suggest further stories.

 

Moving On

This became only a minor element in the story, serving as motivation for one character’s agenda. So this shouldn’t spoil much. The spirit probably runs through many of my stories though, especially the one I’m currently working on.

The working title is Soul Food. It’s a contemporary, stand-alone story. I’m not sure if it’s horror or urban fantasy. It starts out as a detective story. I suppose I should try and get better at aiming for a particular genre if I want to get any kind of a proper writing career. Maybe someday.

 

Monstrum Ex Machina

Monstrum Ex Machina smallThe world is changing, in ways it shouldn’t.

Even on the mindscape, things don’t just happen. Someone must think them. So monsters of fable, and haunted houses, must be thought into being.

Theresa wants to arrest those responsible, for whatever their crime is. Alex is happy to have a mystery.

Then things get violent.

Can they solve it before the nightmare plague becomes uncontrollable?

A 34,000 word sf novella.

 

Smashwords

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Monstrum Ex Machina Pre-Order

Monstrum Ex Machina, the third novella in the Grey Revolutions series, is available for pre-order, and will be out on September 1st. It’s currently priced $0.99, until publication day.

Monstrum Ex Machina smallThe world is changing, in ways it shouldn’t.

Even on the mindscape, things don’t just happen. Someone must think them. So monsters of fable, and haunted houses, must be thought into being.

Theresa wants to arrest those responsible, for whatever their crime is. Alex is happy to have a mystery.

Then things get violent.

Can they solve it before the nightmare plague becomes uncontrollable?
 
A 34,000 word sf novella.

 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

 

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

This month Smashwords have their annual Summer/Winter Sale. All my longer works are included, with 50%-75% off (using the codes listed on the pages).

My Smashwords page

Grey Enigmas is free for the month, it’s sequel Monster in the Mirror is half price, and the third in the series, Monstrum ex Machina, is just about finished so will probably be out in September.

 

A Meandering Rant About the State of Britain

I’m so embarrassed. My country (and nation, Wales also voting in favour of stupidity) has decided we should be more isolated from the world. As though that were possible.

I remain convinced it’s an asinine, backwards, decision. But the petitions and calls for a rerun are nonsense. The public has spoken. Sure, now they know much of what they were told were lies – and some seem genuinely surprised by this – but it doesn’t matter. The damage is done. To our economy, our political establishment, and to the EU.

Having had a few days to absorb it all, I’m convinced the main problem is that we didn’t have a proper debate. We simply don’t have the infrastructure to do so in so large a population.

The Labour party is imploding in the wake of the result, as many MP’s who never liked Corbyn (who was elected by support of the actual members rather than MPs) use the opportunity to try to oust him. There have been accusations of him doing little in the referendum, despite him having travelled probably more than many of his detractors to try convincing voters.

The main problem he has is that he’s too reasonable. And that isn’t newsworthy. So while he talks to small groups, the louder, less rational, voices get all the media attention, spreading their hate-filled rhetoric for mass consumption by those who can stomach it. Because, as I’ve ranted about before, the media is a business, which profits by the amount of attention it draws. So of course their going to report on the ‘entertaining’ idiots.

As a result, we got a vitriolic, hate-fuelled campaign that focussed on immigration, a convenient target for so many of the troubles the country is suffering, and one sure to incite passions.

While overpopulation is a problem, and our infrastructure can’t really support our current numbers, this is a short-sighted view, looking for a quick fix, regardless of whether it’ll work. And immigration isn’t what we were voting on.

Not that the Leave campaign necessarily said this would stop immigration (or lead to mass deportations as some idiots seem to believe will happen). They also never said the money saved would go to the NHS (which is now more likely to be chopped up and privatised). But they did manage to imply these, and to paint the EU as the source of all our troubles. And the media were only too happy to spread this.

Also at play was the general sense on impotence on the part of the public, unable to do anything about the forces that are throwing the world into uncertainty and effecting our lives. Trust in politicians is justifiably low, so when we get a chance to change things of course it’s going to appeal to many who can’t be bothered thinking what the change will mean exactly. It’s something we can do.

It looks like many in the Leave campaign didn’t really expect to win anyway, few expressing any clue as to what to do going forward, and most looking stunned that they actually succeeded.

So we’re stuck with racist abuse on the rise on the streets, the economy in the toilet, our neighbours hardly well-disposed towards us, and Farage gloating in the EU about having given them a good thrashing.

Welcome to the new Britain. (Except that you’re not welcome)

Anyone know any good places to emigrate?

EU Referendum

[This is a trimmed version of a diatribe that got even more long-winded. I dropped the detailed discussion because it was fractured and ill-informed. Which isn’t to say that this won’t be.]

 

Here in the UK we’re currently debating whether or not to leave the EU (I won’t use the term Brexit). I say we, but most of the debate comes from politicians, with much of the public bemused as to the facts. Bemused because as soon as one side presents a fact, the other side dismiss it as optimistic, or simply a fabrication.

The campaign has been particularly toxic – or amusing, depending on your point of view. Most of the facts are so flimsy because the truth is that no one knows what the results of leaving will be – despite the conviction on display when they tell you what will happen.

Many of the arguments focus on currently hot topics – immigration playing a large part. They seem to overlook that this is a long term decision, and framing it in terms of immediate problems only makes it look opportunist, focussing on people’s fears to achieve unclear ends.

 

Sovereignty

One issue that could be considered long-term, and the reason the referendum was probably called (mainly because of factions in the Conservative party which have always wanted out of Europe), is sovereignty. Decisions on British law being made by unelected representatives in Brussels.

As a Welshman, I’m used to decisions for my country being taken in another nation (mainly by Saxon immigrants), so this isn’t so much of an issue. It’s not as though any of the candidates to replace politicians are noticeably different from them, so I don’t see being able to vote individuals out as that big a deal.

 

In or Out

Ultimately I’ve heard nothing to persuade me from my inclination to stay in the EU. It may not be perfect, but we’re unlikely to change it from the outside. And in an increasingly internationalised world, where corporate entities seem to be taking power from countries, I don’t see isolating ourselves as being productive.

Building barriers between neighbours only helps reinforce the idea of the other that leads to so much conflict. We need to be engaged with our neighbours, so we can try and deal with our shared problems together, rather than enduring them alone.

Glyphmaster

Glyphmaster, third book in the Glyphpunk series, is now available.

Glyphmaster

Glyphmaster cover smallWar has been averted, the Society’s power diminished, but peace has yet to reach the shores of the Scarred Sea. As unrest spreads, there remain a few finishing touches to making the world as Thjorn wishes it to be. But the hallucination of his dead friend won’t let him work, and others have their own ideas about how things should be.

The final plays are being made, as pawns and players alike are moved into place.

 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

 

Glyphpunk

With the third book out, I’ve made Glyphpunk free on Smashwords. The updated price will propagate to the associated retailers soon, but while I’ve reported the lower price on Amazon I can’t know whether they’ll bother taking notice. I’m not sure yet whether I’m making it permanently free, but it’ll stick at this price for a while.