My writing process blog hop

Yesterday Dylan Hearn, a writer from my ancient homeland of East Anglia, mentioned me in a blog hop post. I’ve not participated in this sort of thing in the past, but I enjoy Dylan’s blog, and I know it would be good for me to interact with the rest of humanity more, so I thought I’d join in. As ‘joining in’ just means answering some questions about myself and about writing, my two favourite topics, this should be pretty easy and enjoyable.

If you’re interested in reading some well written articles, particularly about self-publishing and indie authorship, then go check out Dylan’s blog.

And in the meantime, here’s some more about me…

1. What am I currently working on?

Oh jeez, so many things.

I’m writing articles on British history for a freelance client. These articles – mostly biographies of British monarchs – will end up on a tablet app. ‘Monarchs’ includes the Cromwells, because lets face it, Oliver was effectively king. Ironically for the writer on such an app, I’m a republican.

On Monday I finished a custom-written murder mystery party. I’m planning on doing more of these, so am working out how best to sell that as a service. Putting my business head on is way less fun than putting on my writing head.

I just started the second novel in a fantasy series set in ancient Rome. The second draft of the first novel is currently with alpha readers for comments.

I’ve got an old comic script that needs fixing for submission, and a short story I’m just planning, as well as half a dozen short stories that need edits before I send them out again. I always have at least a dozen short stories out with magazine editors, and sometimes I edit them between rejections. Remember, the only way to get acceptances is to accumulate lots of rejections, to persist and to learn from them.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For the Rome books, it’s the fact that I’m using ancient history as the basis of my fantasy, rather than the usual medieval mishmash. Plus some exploration of depression and identity, both of which interest me.

3. Why do I write what I write?

Fiction-wise, because it excites me and I think it will interest others. Isn’t that connection, sharing something exciting with people, what writing’s all about?

Freelance-wise, it’s a balancing act between how well something pays and how much it interests me. The more established I become, the more I’m able to pick jobs I’m passionate about, which isn’t great for my bank balance but is great for my enthusiasm and my sanity.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’m a big planner. I usually use Dan Wells’s seven point story structure when planning fiction, not because it’s necessarily better than other structures, but because I need a framework to hang my ideas off. I’ll usually work out who my characters are and what the setting and main conflicts are, with the conflicts personally tied to the characters, then use seven point structure to map out a story dealing with those conflicts. For longer pieces there might be several seven-point structures revolving through each other, and then similar structures within each chapter.

I mostly write in Scrivener because I enjoy the flexibility it provides, in an armchair in the living room, with my monitor projected onto the TV via Chromecast. The slight time-lag is a pest, but it still means that I’m comfortable and looking ahead instead of down.

I organise and motivate myself using HabitRPG. It’s a great motivational tool/game. I’m currently a level 14 warrior riding a zombie panda and carrying a pirate’s cutlass.

My nieces helped choose the outfit.
My nieces helped choose the outfit.

5. Nominate Tell everyone about three other writers

‘Nominate’ felt like an odd word to use here, as if being mentioned on my obscure little blog was some kind of award or honour. But here are some writer-blogger types whose blogs I enjoy, who I think you should read, and who might or might not want to join in with this whole blog-hopping thing:

Everwalker – She deconstructs the art of storytelling in smart, interesting ways, particularly in relation to mythology and fantasy. Also one of the nicest people I know in real life, and not just because I surround myself with the bitter and cynical.

Petros Jordan – While Petros does write, his blog is mostly about interesting and historical maps. I’d be fascinated to know more about his writing if he does following along with the blog hop, and almost anyone will find his blog fascinating. Seriously, old maps are so cool!

The War of Memory Project – H. Anthe Davis’s blog has interesting posts about genre tropes and his fantasy writing. (I keep assuming that H. is a ‘he’ because of the avatar, but that’s off a book cover, so H. – sorry if I’m getting your gender wrong!)

Doorway Between Worlds – I don’t know if Sue Archer actually writes stories, but I do know that she writes fun articles about what science fiction and fantasy can teach us about communication. So she gets to be fourth on my list of three.


Well, that saved me having to come up with a blog topic for today. Thanks Dylan!

Tomorrow, something else entirely.

Necromancy: different angles on a fantasy mainstay

Sometimes the same familiar concept looks completely different from different angles.

Take necromancy, a pillar of fantasy storytelling, usually defined as something involving manipulating the bodies or spirits of the dead. There are so many different ways of exploring and defining this idea, yet we each tend to default to one particular definition. So even though I have half a notebook full of ideas for a novel involving Frankensteinesque science and resurrection medicine, it wasn’t until I found a couple of interesting blog posts this morning that I thought of that as necromancy.

If I'm coming back from the dead, I'm coming back drunk
If I’m coming back from the dead, I’m coming back drunk

The first post, from Michal Wojcik’s One Last Sketch blog, looks at necromancy from a historical perspective – where did this idea come from? what were medieval people talking about when they talked about this? was there some secret criminal cult of priests peddling dark powers for money (probably not, but great idea)?

The second post, from H. Anthe Davis’s The War of Memory Project, looks at necromancy as a fantasy trope, how it’s usually used and how H. uses it in his work. A brief comment conversation with H. got me thinking more about this subject, about why necromancy fascinates us so much, why it works so well as a symbol of darkness.

My current thought is that it’s about taboos. As human beings we have lots of taboos around the disruption of bodies, living or dead. These mostly started as perfectly sensible practices – sticking spikey things in your flesh can lead to infections, as can keeping corpses around. But over time they evolved into customs, then subconscious squirming, then taboos of varying degrees of rationality. It means that stories that prod at dead bodies are likely to hit a very live nerve.

But this is really just a first thought on the subject, and it’s a subject that I’m interested in, on which I’d be fascinated to read your thoughts. What do you think are the great examples of necromancy in fiction? Why is it so appealing, or so repeatedly awful, in our eyes? Care to expand on any of the points Michal and H. have raised? Leave a comment, let me know what you think.


Picture by Diego Torres Silvestre via Flickr creative commons