I was very sad to hear the lovely and talented Robert Holdstock died  on 29th November from an E.Coli infection.
Mythago Wood introduced me to Robert's writing, and the worlds he created.  There are very few books that you can divide your life inot the time before your read it and the time after. For me Mythago Wood was one of them.  It is one of the defining English fantasy novels of the modern era, telling a tale rooted in both myth and the modern world, spanning and linking both in ways that feel not only believeable, but almost ache to leave the page and become real.
It's a story I've read several times, and will read again, along with the equally inspired sequels, Lavondyss, The Bone Forest, and more.  Great fantasy creates worlds you wish you could be part of.  Somehow Robert's writing made you feel the same about -this- world, if only you could just see things the right way.
Farewell, Robert, you were an inspiration and a creator of wonders for this reader, and for many, many others. 

We've been running Million Monkeys sessions on Wednesdays for a while now, driven mainly by Tom & Helen, both now agented and writing to deadlines.
Helen's been organising and announcing these meets, and has written a nice blog about the latest session, at the swan-song of the now much lamented Shunt Lounge.

Just for once I managed a Wednesday session and was charmed to be mistaken as an art installation, along with the other five monkeys.

Shunt is closed, long live Shunt!
Dad died just over two weeks ago, at around 01:30 in his sleep.  The last time I saw him was a few hours before he died.  He couldn't speak, so I talked to him for about 15 minutes.  He was 91.

Keith had lived a full, and at times highly adventurous life.  Born in south Wales, he grew up in a world where cars were a rarity, and electricity non-existent.  His father worked as a chemist at the local cement factory, and dad would ride on the footplate of the company steam train as it hauled the trucks to the main line connection.  Fun was tying the axles of two delivery carts together with a piece of rope and watching the horses try to pull in opposite directions.

When WW2 was declared he took a train to London and volunteered for the RAF - he wanted to fly.  They sent him home, saying they had enough pilots, and a few months later he was called up into the army.  As soon as he could he applied for a transfer to the RAF, and again, and again.  The the Glider regiment was formed and he joined that instead.

I'd always known dad as being blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and with limited sense of taste and smell.  He always counted himself as lucky.  These injuries, caused by a crash in the north African desert at night, due to a tow-rope failure, meant he saw no further action and so was spared Scilly, Arnhem, D-Day and all the other actions where so many glider pilots and co-pilots were killed.

After the war he met and married mum (Jeanne), and they went to live in South Africa for around ten years, where my sister and I were born.  Back in the UK in the early 60's we lived in the deepest heart of suburbia, Berrylands, in Surbiton, and dad stayed there, living alone from when mum died 12 years ago, and managing at first splendidly, and then determindley, until his final illness began.

He will be remembered by his freinds as a happy, courteous and conscientious man, and by me as an often remote and distant father who I came to understand much better in later years, one of the many millions of heroes of his generation.

One of the greatest writers in the English language of the modern era, JG Ballard died today after a long illness

I read Ballard from my teens to the present day and will continue to do so. An author whose work I hugely enjoy as a reader, and whose writing skills were second to none.

Bye, Jim. 

Here is an excellent retrospective by Jeff vanderMeer.


Well that was fun!  I survived the Dragons Lair and got to talk to, and thank, most of the panel afterwards.  These included John Jarrold, Pete Crowther, and Gillian Redfearn, and I also met five other nice people, the other finalists.

Eastercon itself was also a whole lot of fun.  I met many people I'd never spoken to before, and cuaght up with several old friends, especially the Milford crew.  It was great to hear about Heather Lindsley's first sale to Asimovs - what a good sale!

So I was roped into David Wake's brilliant play, 'Insidious', stayed up late, did the other thing writers love to do - drink beer and talk about writing.  It all went too fast. 

I'll be back next year and we have plans for three workshops for 2010 instead of this year's one.

Maybe see you there.


Off to Eastercon tomorrow and it's been hectic, with the added bonus of dear old Dad (91) deciding to take the doctors thoughtless advise that he gives up his Meals-on-Wheels food for a week for digestive reasons I shall spare you the details of.  Thanks, Doc.  And thanks also for not bothering to tell anyone else in his care team, nor me, or suggesting any alternatives for his main hot meal of the day.

Calls to social services, arranged for them to cook for dad at no notice whatsover, and I will shop for extra food.  Gosh, how we laughed.  Social Services people are wonderful.  NHS?  Hmmm....

I've been doing loads of reading and prep for the Writer's Workshop my writing group is doing.  3 stories done so far, one left for tonight.  I've also been putting together what I'll need for the Dragon's Lair session - the synopsis, opening pages, plus a few prompt cards. The later hopefully helping me remember my snappy, comprehensive answers to the questions I've tried to anticipate coming from the panel.  As I'm doing a reading too - first ever, but am trying to remember all the rules for public speaking from a course I did some 20 years ago - I've been rehearsing that too.

I've a couple of ideas to make the pitch more memorable and entertaining, but will only do those if the venue looks appropriate.  If you're there, you might see them!


I'm finding this rather hard to believe, but I've just discovered I am a Finalist in the first quarter 2009 WotF competition.

There are 8 finalists, and three will be chosen, so I'm not there yet.  nevertheless:  Wow!  And Woot!


Pounding the mean streets of New Malden last night, I was thinking about why I do what I do when I'm writing a novel, and why it seems to work. 
Now I'm on my third book, The Method is reasonably well established, and boils down to this:
1. Do some world design and character development until it's rich enough that you can't bear not to start writing.  (1-2 weeks)
2. Write until you feel your ideas, which now feel thin, vacuous and trite, can no longer sustain the narrative.  this seems to be about 30,000 words; at my current rate about 10 weeks)
3.  Go back to design
a. Make a list of all your characters - including the new ones which have made bids for fame so far - restate their motivations, objectives and outcomes, and make an explicit list of all the scenes they will appear in - adding any scene detail as it occurs.
b. Put together a spreadsheet of all the scenes in sequence, using what you've written as a start, then add all the new scenes in the correct order.  Add columns for characters so you can see who is in which scene, and highlight the PoV character if appropriate.
(2-4 weeks)
4. Write the book scene by scene, referring to notes so you don;t miss all the cool detail and dialogue sound bites you thought of along the way.

So I started thinking this is like taking part in a play, and you're trying to understand the story and the characters.  First of all someone tells you a bit about it, and you get interested.  Then you read the actual script, just enough to get a feel for they style of the dialogue, the setting, and the characters.  Third I'm actually in the rehersals, trying to get everything perfect, until finally it's show time.

That's the plan.  Let's hope it will be all right on the night.


Finally a piece of good news in the magazine market.  Realms of Fantasy is not closing after all.  The latest announcement is that it has been bought by Warren Lapine at Tir Na Nog Press .
It's great to hear that this good mag is still in business.  Let's hope it continues...


Allen Ashley has kindly made an official announcement of my story 'Fade' being accepted for the Catastrophia anthology on the PS Publishing web site.