Rugby and Fantasy Writing and other such favourite things.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

This is a very famous quote and you can see the point, but the thing that’s always worried me about it is that as a child I loved Rugby football and I loved fantasy and science fiction writing. I am a fan, almost a fanatic, and quite unreasonably enthused by both. With the Rugby World Cup upon us and my own fantasy novel published I am so far beyond excited at the moment that only the Hubble telescope can find me.

Does this mean I never put childhood behind me?

nICELY RUGBY

I recently read yet another disparaging dismissal of fantasy writer Terry Pratchett by a critic who had managed to read one whole book of his. The conclusion seemed to be that it was pretty childish entertainment and not a patch on something as funny as ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’, which also gave us insight into the human condition. Now I happen to love ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ and think it is a great book, but liking it, for me, doesn’t preclude loving Terry Pratchett, Tolkien and too many other science fiction and fantasy writers to mention as well. I also think that fantasy books can give us quite an insight into the ‘human condition’ as well, and if it happens to come via dwarfs and elves too that doesn’t worry me. I prefer it from the dwarfs, obviously, as they are much more down to earth and make better detectives.

Interestingly, nobody questions my liking of Rugby, even though I started playing it at the same time I got heavily into reading SFF. Is it that fantasy and SF are just easy targets? Perhaps people just associate elves and dwarfs with childhood and don’t think the subject matter can be treated in a different, more adult, manner.

As far as I know nobody has ever approached Chris Robshaw or Richie McCaw and said to them that they should put the ways of childhood behind them either. There are probably people who think this mind you; I wish them good luck, especially if they try mentioning it to either man over the next few weeks before the final on Saturday the 31st of October. Continue reading Rugby and Fantasy Writing and other such favourite things.

Advice – hard to take, tricky to give.

‘Don’t go out with wet hair, you’ll get a cold!’

My mother always used to say it and I, full of my vast knowledge of science – at that stage mostly gained from SF books and comics – would laugh and go out anyway, hair soaking wet.

Advice you see, it’s always difficult to take when the reasons for it aren’t obvious. Advice, tricky to take and sometimes tricky to give too.

"I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member" - Great Advice from Groucho Marx
“I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member” – Great Advice from Groucho Marx

When I actually gained enough scientific knowledge to put ‘scientist’ on my passport (except you couldn’t by then) I still found myself in a position where advice had to taken. From people with more experience, it made sense to listen, but it was harder when they didn’t necessarily know any more about the subject than you, but were just ‘senior’. Of course, when the advice came from somebody reviewing your research paper, you had to take notice or it may not have been published. Difficult then if you didn’t agree with the referee, so you tried to appear to be bending over backwards to accommodate their advice, while sticking as closely to your own guns as possible. An interesting mixture of metaphors there, I’m sure you will agree.

After becoming a radio and TV comedy writer, the next obvious step after being a research scientist, I still had to take advice. Usually this came from a producer and of course you had to listen to this otherwise your sketch didn’t get broadcast. One, now very famous, multi award-winning, comedy producer once told me to take my sketch away and put more ‘melons’ in it. You can probably guess what type of melons he was referring to. I didn’t want to put more ‘melons’ in it; I don’t particularly like ‘melon-heavy’ sketches. I put the ‘melons’ in it though. It was broadcast and got laughs. (I still think it would have got laughs without the increased ‘melon’ count, but I’m not the one with the BAFTAS).

Now as fantasy writer I still get advice and this time it’s from an editor. So what’s the best approach to take?

Continue reading Advice – hard to take, tricky to give.

If the hat fits…

The difficulty of becoming an author (♂) of SF and fantasy is as nothing compared with the really hard choice of deciding which hat one should wear to complete the image. The problem is compounded if one still has a full head of hair or, indeed, actually is a hat fan and likes wearing different hats, depending on mood and the occasion. This will not do though, oh no!

Above all hat wearing for the author is about creating the right image, unless you’re somebody of the calibre of Terry Pratchett and it doesn’t matter about image because you are so damn good that you can wear a kettle if you so fancy. For the rest of us a few pointers are useful.

But which one?
But which one?

The Black Hat suggests mystery and danger and possibly vampires as well. There is no doubt that with a Black Hat you will be taken seriously – unless it doesn’t fit properly as Black Hats have a habit of doing. With the Black Hat you have to ‘pull-it-off’ if you want to ‘put-it-on’. We better come back to the Black Hat. Otherwise, you could perhaps go for the brown fedora, a good choice the brown fedora. It suggests a certain devil-may-care attitude that says your hero won’t let a little thing like a goblin army get in his way. Enchanted sword at the ready the brown fedora wearer knows his audience and always has a glint in his eye and an ironic smile on his lips. The brown fedora wearer delivers.

Or perhaps the Greek Captain’s hat might be the best choice? The captain’s hat hints of exotic locations and distant shores, maiden’s in diaphanous clothing, unicorns and, of course, sea monsters. It can be tipped back and worn to bed for that ‘lived in’, ‘world building’ look of the writer with maps at both the start and the end of his epics. The Greek Captain’s hat might just require the use of a writing pen name though – Emile Dulcas sounds good to me.

The Panama has stood many writers in good stead for generations; this is surely the hat for a writer! But isn’t it more Catholic guilt than elves and Goblins? Do Panama hats do dragons? Plus its association with the 5-day cricket Test Match doesn’t exactly shout ‘productivity’. Wouldn’t the hero of a Panama hat wearer be likely to forget about his quest while he discussed the merits of The Duckworth Lewis Method over a jolly-up in the Dancing Dragon?

Continue reading If the hat fits…

In conversation – genre and more

Have a look here for a very stimulating conversation with fellow writer Jason LaPier discussing combining genres in fiction writing, and much more. It’s always an interesting subject , because people can get very worked up about their favourite genres.

Superhero with speech bubbleAnd it’s also interesting  to find out how other writers approach their plotting and world building (his book has a great cover too!). Plotting is so important, but can sometimes seem slightly magical. I’m not even sure how I approach my own plots sometimes.

Superhero with speech bubble

Continue reading In conversation – genre and more

Not with a Bang but a Whymper

150 years ago this year England’s Edward Whymper became the first man to climb the Matterhorn. I’m not sure if he did it in tweeds; I’d like to think so though. He did not do it “because it’s there”, that was said by mountaineer George Mallory, of the ill-fated Everest attempt some years later, however Edward Whymper, I’m sure, would have agreed with George.

And now I’m going to make what could be a really, really forced and credibility stretching analogy – because writing a book is very much like climbing a mountain.

It is, honest!

View from the the Top
View from the the Top

Continue reading Not with a Bang but a Whymper

DWARF GIRLS DON’T DANCE

‘Dwarf Girls Don’t Dance’ is the title of the new Detective Strongoak novella and it’s available free NOW in advance of the paperback release of ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’.

NEW DWARF GIRLS big flat

 

Yes, absolutely free! Just like a ‘give-away’ to encourage you to buy the ebook (still only £1.99) or the brand new hard copy. ‘Dwarf Girls Don’t Dance’ gives you the definitive lowdown on dwarf women, as well as another slice of the gritty criminal underworld of the seething multi-racial metropolis that is the Citadel. Plus the coolest, fast-talking, best dressed dwarf Master Detective this side of New Iron Town, that’s Nicely Strongoak to you.

Continue reading DWARF GIRLS DON’T DANCE

Climbing the Comedy Writing Ladder.

I had a mate in Cambridge; well he is actually still a mate – just not in Cambridge. He told me about some people who were putting on a live topical comedy show in small Cambridge venues. They needed some material, so to make a change from what I was doing (worrying and drinking mostly,) I wrote some sketches and they used them.

I was delighted – absolutely over the moon – well stoked!

Well-stoked Terry on his board.
Well-stoked Terry on his board.

Continue reading Climbing the Comedy Writing Ladder.

Free Detective Strongoak Novella coming soon

In order to celebrate the forthcoming paperback release of ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ we will be giving away a free Detective Strongoak novella: ‘Dwarf Girls Don’t Dance’.

Yes, absolutely free!

Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf - paperback release June 18th
Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf – paperback release June 18th

Continue reading Free Detective Strongoak Novella coming soon

Why Fantasy Writing is Like Rocket Science

Fantasy writing can be tricky but it’s hardly like rocket science is it? Why yes it is actually, and I should know, because I’ve done both.

Now let’s get one thing straight. By rocket science I don’t mean the actual science of rockets. Surely we’re pretty good with rockets by now, so how much more does that leave to work out? However, what we do with, and on rockets, is a different matter.

And I once worked on a project funded by the European Space Agency, all to do with growing plants in Space. Because if we are going to have anything like self-sustaining colonies in space they are going to need plants.plant in space Continue reading Why Fantasy Writing is Like Rocket Science