A vote!

So I threatened to interview one of my characters and then I introduced you to the pub where I planned to meet them but here’s where it gets interactive. Who do you want to meet? I’m going to list a few of my characters using descriptions that are not necessarily helpful but which I find humorous.

Who do you want to get to know? You can pick more than one becuase pub banter is better with a small group. Don’t worry about picking people who go together because it’s up to me to make the group work.

  • The “Government Fraud Investigator”. She’s more than meets the eye. She’s got a shotgun in her desk for one thing.
  • The “Witch of the Tower”. Either before or after the tattoos, you choose.
  • The copper. AKA New boy.
  • The priest. He only looks like a famous vampire hunter.
  • The psychic. Just don’t let her touch anything you own if you want to keep your secrets.
  • The IT guy. He’s got an armoured rucksack full of exotic computer equipment and a sticker that says Temporal Engineer – Causality is my bitch
  • The coffee ninja. Don’t hold his caffein based kleptomania against him. He’s a really good manager.
  • The scientist. She’s super impatient, she looks like a tiny drag queen and she’s the biggest fangirl in the Department.
  • The soldier. She’s got an Irish battle Goddess in her head but she’s actually pretty chill most of the time.
  • The spy. I could tell you what’s going on in his head but then he’d have to kill you.
  • The historian. She knows where all the bodies are buried and she’s 100% honest 94% of the time.
  • The thief. He’s also a spy but only in the sense that he knicks things for queen and country.

Stick your answers in the comments, or reply on Twitter or Facebook or Google+


An Introduction to a Transdimentional Pub

A few days ago I threatened to introduce you to my characters. I said I could nip into the pub for a quiet pint and a chat with them. But If I’m going to do that I should probably introduce you to the pub first.

There’s one in every city if you know where to look. It’s always on a quiet side street. It’s not exactly hiding, it’s very clearly a pub, but the eye has a way of gliding across the sign and the name has a way of slipping your mind but if someone actually suggests meeting there you immediately say “Oh JW’s? Of course I know where that is,” and you do.

From the outside it looks quite small but you can tell that it’s one of those pub that’s been carved out of a series of liminal spaces. It will be a labyrinth of snugs, and lounges, and bars, and corridors. You’ll need a map and a compass to find the Ladies loo and the route back to your seat will look so unfamiliar that you’ll be sure you’ve taken a wrong turning.

It’s right in the sweet spot where you can’t tell if it’s a genuine traditional British Pub or a slightly battered chain pub that’s just pretending to be one. There are two large windows with bullseye glass panes on either side of a doorway that’s slightly too narrow for the double doors it has and slightly too wide for a single. There’s a sign above the door. Black with letters in peeling gold paint that say JW’s Cocktail Bar and underneath it Dimensionally Transcendental food and drink. Established 2323. There’s also a blackboard bolted to the wall next to the door. No mention of specials, or discounts or forthcoming events. It just says Your local bar wherever you are ~ Caterers to the Big Bang.

Inside there is always music. Sometimes it’s karaoke, sometimes it’s a band but mostly it’s a jukebox. Well, you assume it’s a jukebox. People claim to have seen it and even to have selected tunes but you don’t know where it is. It must be huge because it has the the most eclectic selection of music you’ve ever heard. Once you heard a Johnny Cash cover of Ace of Spades that you tried to buy later but that doesn’t seem to exist.

So join me there for a quiet pint and some people watching. I’ll be in the room with the knackered red leather booths. You know, the one with the piano. No not the electric piano, the upright chained to the wall with the warning signs and the fake blood stains. Well I hope they’re fake.

The History of Department Y

This is a tricky post to write because I am terrible at self promotion. However it has occurred to me that I’ve been writing for over a year about the process of finishing my novel and querying it and doubting it and wondering if I’ve been concentrating on the right novel but I haven’t really talked about the novel itself. Any of the novels.

I’ve written several, though only one is ready to send out, and most of them share a setting. I don’t really want to talk a lot about the novels. I don’t want to spoil them. I want them to be published and you to go and buy them. But maybe it’s time to talk about that setting.

The novels and stories that I’ve been working on recently all take place on an alternative Earth where the old Gods are real, magic works and stories have power. But it’s all pretty subtle and most people don’t know. It’s so subtle that the history of that world almost exactly mirrors our own.

Just like in our world Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, surrounded himself with sycophants and plunged the world into war. Just like in our world some of those sycophants were occultists and most of them had as weak a grasp of science as they did of morality. Just like in our world the British intelligence services consulted British occultists to work out how to influence the more superstitious Nazis and predict what they might do.

Just like in our world the Germans were using Enigma machines to code their radio transmissions. They believed the Enigma code was unbreakable. Just like in our world the British codebreakers based at Station X (Bletchley Park) broke the unbreakable code. The intelligence they gained this way was called Ultra and it was the biggest secret of World War II.

In real life history the British government went to enormous lengths to disguise the source of Ultra. In the world of my stories they created a fake intelligence agency called Department Y and stocked it with occultists and witches and psychics and Druids and planned to claim it as the source for Ultra. They didn’t tell the people they’d hired that it was fake. Nobody outside Department Y took it seriously until the magic started working.

No one had ever put that many magical experts together in one place before. The pressure of the war and the atmosphere of camaraderie was as effective on occultists as it was on the mathematicians and cryptologists at Bletchley and the physicists working on the Manhattan Project.

Department Y grew throughout the war years. After the surrender of Germany Department Y operatives were active throughout Europe putting down the dark forces unleashed by an unintentional, continent-wide blood sacrifice. Department Y was never shut down and still operates under rules set in a secret section of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act of 1939. When the police, the armed forces or the intelligence services of the United Kingdom run into something beyond their ken they know where to go for help. It became known simply as “The Department” because if you have to ask which department you’re not cleared for the answer.

In the modern world the Department is still around, still doing the same job, still saving the world or at least making sure that it remains interesting but not lethally so.

In the world of the Department.

Science and magic are one.

All the ancient stories are true, even the ones that are mutually incompatible.

The Gods of every pantheon are real, for a given value of real, and they might answer your prayers but not always how you’d like.

The Fae folk are real and just as dangerous as the legends say.

There are witches and druids and shapechangers and dreamwalkers and proper mad scientists and living constructs and AIs and most of them just want to do a decent days work for a decent wage and then go to the pub on a Friday.

It is done!

As I write it’s gone two in the morning* and I’ve just sent off a full manuscript to the agent that requested it.

It feels very strange. It’s half anti-climax and half waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, not quite half. Somewhere in there there’s about 1% of raw excitement that’s fueling the other two feelings.

I hate feeling excited. I don’t trust it. So many times my excitement has only ended up in disappointment. I taught myself not to have expectations for future events beyond preparing for the worst. For years that was good enough to get by on. Then, in 2009, things started to go so badly that I couldn’t prepare for the worst anymore. My definition of ‘the worst’ kept changing. There was no point in preparing for it because there was nothing to be done about it.

I know that I should be pleased. I set out to do a thing and I have done the thing. I just can’t shake the feeling that I haven’t really done it.

Of course it might have something to do with the fact that I can now spend time on all those chores I’ve been putting off. Praise Be! I can finally clean the kitchen. And the bathroom. And the bedrooms. And the living room. And catch up with the laundry. And tackle all those garden jobs I’ve been putting off. Yay! This isn’t sarcasm.** Its just what Scottish people sound like when we’re excited.


*I’ve scheduled the post to go out in a few hours when normal people are awake.

**I lied. It’s totally sarcasm

The good news and the bad news.

I’ve written several times about a pitch event that I applied for and how I was only doing it to get used to rejection because I was sure that they didn’t want me. Only things didn’t go according to plan. The deadline was extended after I submitted my work and that meant I had to wait much, much longer for my rejection.

In the end I got so sick of waiting that I contacted them. I told them that since I’m disabled (true) I have to plan my travel in advance (true) and I was running out of time to do that (also true) and could they please let me know if they wanted me to pitch. They got back to me the next day to tell me that I’m pitching my novel at 12:50 pm on Wednesday 8th June.

Shit. I was totally not expecting that. Now I actually have to write a pitch. Now I actually have to speak to people face-to-face. I have to sell my novel and myself. I also have to get myself to Inverness on a tight budget.

It might seem strange, given my obvious self esteem issues, but I’m actually pretty good at speaking to people. I’m just shitty at selling myself or anything I’ve made. I’ve worked in sales and if you have a product I believe in I can absolutely sell it for you. I’ve represented organisations I love and I’ve done it well. But when it comes to speaking up on my own behalf I really suck.

It doesn’t help that I’ve spent so much time staring at the novel in question that it’s ceased to have any meaning. I couldn’t tell you for sure if it’s in English never mind if it’s well written.

Wish me luck?


I wrote before about my intent to join in with Camp NaNoWriMo this month but also about not being 100% sure what I was going to write for it.  Much to my own surprise I have joined, I do have a project and it is on track.

As late as the 31st of March I was sure that I wasn’t going to be writing.  I’ve been feeling like someone drilled a hole in my head and poured concrete all over my frontal lobes.  That feeling hasn’t entirely gone away and I’m certainly in no condition to be working on the climax of the previous work in progress.  Fortunately that’s not all I have to work on.

So I’m spending April working on an e-book of existing stories from the Department universe.  Most of them will have appeared in some form on the Department blog but there will be re-writing, tweaking and bonus material.  I might even put in parts of the Department Guide to Fieldwork, Cutty Darke’s Guide to the European Witchcraft Tradition and A Taxonomy of the Fae – A study of the anthropology of the Elder Race by Ignatus Doyle.   Plus any other Department-centric reference books.

This is my first attempt at putting together a book rather than writing a novel.  I don’t really know how it’s done so if any of my readers have done it before and don’t mind sharing some tips then I’d love to hear from you.

Once again I feel I should apologise for not writing enough.  I keep falling into the gap between what I think I should be capable of and what I actually am capable of.  It doesn’t feel like I’m doing my best and falling short.  It feels like laziness.  I don’t know if that’s because it is laziness or if it’s because I’ve internalised a lifetime of other people’s expectations of how much I should be able to do.

In other news I’m trying out the Actipatch.  It claims to relieve chronic pain.  I have no idea if the science behind it is any good.  I think it’s probably working, maybe, but the problem I’m having with it is that relieving pain in one part of the body just makes the pain everywhere else more noticeable.  To really work for me I’d probably need 3 to 4 of them working simultaneously and at £20 each that’s not cheap.  We shall see.  Perhaps after a few days of treatment I’ll be able to move the patch to treat another area.



New Plans.

I don’t usually do plans.  As someone once said “life is what happens while you were making other plans” and in my experience whenever I make a plan it seems to attract the attention of life to the best possible way to fuck with me.  However, that being said, sometimes you have to decide in advance what you’re going to do.


  1. I will attempt to finish the Work in Progress (the first Department novel currently called Singularity) before April
  2. In April I will do Camp NaNoWriMo
  3. Assuming I’ve finished the Work in Progress I will use Camp Nano to work on either the second Department novel or on the first in the Dune Sea series.
  4. Between now and April I will decide which thing to work on next.
  5. I will start work on an e-book of Department tales taken from the Department blog but with added new stuff.
  6. Before the end of the month I will write at least one blog post featuring an opinion.

Wish me luck.

Day 25 of emergency editing

And it’s over.  Day 25 was the last day.  The total was 76,693.

On the last day I fixed one of the big plot problems with the final part.  It turned out to be easier than I had thought.  It needed only slight tweaking of a scene that I’d already written to set things going in the right direction.  Well the right direction for me.  Not so much for my characters. [Insert evil laugh here]

There’s a part of me that wants to keep going because that’s what a professional writer should do but I have other things I need to do.  I intend to take a one day complete break from writing. I need to get out of the house.  Do some shopping.  Clean the kitchen.

After that break I’m going to try a new routine. Instead of focusing all my effort on the novel and blogging about the novel I’m going to try to split my writing time.  I want to get back to the story on my fiction blog.  I want to post some other stuff here.  I will continue to finish the novel but I think just one post a week updating you all on progress should be enough.

I’ve noticed that people have actually been reading this thing.  And, judging by your locations, most of you are people who I don’t know in real life.  I’m kind of surprised.  Did you guys get anything from this?  Was it entertaining?  Interesting?  Feel free to say something in the comments because I am half convinced that at least 80% of you are here by accident.

Day 24 of emergency editing

Current total 74,491.  The penultimate day was spent in beginning to deal with another plot problem.  Spoiler warning for Beta readers – you guys might want to skip this blog post, particularly if you’ve already read anything I’ve sent you.  The rest of you should be fine because by the time you read the book these vague hints will have been forgotten.

The previous plot problem is mainly a practical one.  I need to get some of my characters to leave the building they’re in and go somewhere else and it needs to make sense.  I need to decide who is doing what.  I need to loose some characters before the final push.  They don’t necessarily need to die but the need to be somewhere else , partly because it wouldn’t make sense to take them into battle and partly because having so many characters in the scene would make it too unwieldy.

This new one is one of motivation.  I know that my villain is going to do something which will cross the line between well intentioned meddling with a horrific outcome to acts of pure selfishness.  This has to make sense to my villain even while the reader is internally screaming “Don’t do the thing!”

Day 23 of emergency editing

New total  – 73,728.  I didn’t write much that was new just edited some preexisting scenes and added them.

I spent most of the day outlining the final part.  I haven’t solved the plot problem but at least now I have a framework for solving it.

Outlining, editing, moving scenes around – these are all part of the work of the writer. I should probably feel pretty good about my day’s work but there is a part of me that feels like it’s not proper writing if it doesn’t involve furious typing.  I know, intellectually, that part of the process of writing is spending 10 minutes staring at a sentence and agonising about the placement of a single comma.  I also know from experience that the time to do that is some time after you finish the first draft.

The problem with being a fully signed up member of the forward momentum school of writing is that anything other than furious typing feels like procrastination.  But furious typing alone wont get me a novel worth sharing.  It will only give me a bunch of vaguely connected words with a story hiding somewhere inside.