Tag Archives: Writing

SFSwap – Dream-Downtime Ad-Blocker

In the middle of October I was trundling around twitter when I discovered that @FrogCroakley (he of Daniel Barker’s Birthday fame) was planning on setting up what could best be described as a writer’s cabal. The plan was that we’d all pitch in a prompt for a sci-fi story (no longer than 100 characters.) These prompts would then be randomised, redistributed and we’d have a week to churn out a story based on it. The story hard a hard limit of 1,000 words. Does this sound conceptually familiar? Obviously I was up for it. And thus I became embroiled in the relentless behemoth that would become SFSwap.

After some teeth gnashing and pondering (as my prompt was a real pig) I knocked something out in about an hour and a half. My story has since been posted and can be read in its entirety here. There’s also another 50 or so short stories up there, with perhaps another 14 or so yet to be published. And this is just for “Week 1.”

I also wound up doing a bit of editorial work to help Mister Croakley out, but that’s another story for another time. The pertinent points are that I had lots of fun and wrote something I didn’t hate. If you fancy joining in yourself either visit the SFSwap website or have a nose around the #SFSwap hashtag on twitter. If memory serves the current plan is for “Week 2” to start at the beginning of December.

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Exercises in Verbumancy – Book Release!

Things have been quite quiet on the blog front here at Verbumancer Towers. This is because I has been away being industrious. For the past several months I have been slowly editing, proof-reading, type-setting, and generally tweaking my pictonaut wordascope back-catalogue. Last month, without much fanfare I released the results of my work into the wild.

Exercises in Verbumancy” is a short story anthology which contains all 42 of my original wordascopes covering September 2011 until February 2015, as well as 2 bonus stories which were also posted here during that time. That is a grand total of 44 short stories, weighing in at 60,590 words, and it is yours to download at Smashwords.com for no cost. That’s right, I am literally giving my work away. You will be charged nothing. No money shall leave your possession. It’s free. Devoid of cost. I will receive no remuneration. It is yours to take or not take as you see fit.

I͕͖̘͔̩̩̖T͚̼̜̬͙͈͆̽̇̽ͅ ͉̣͕̽̓I̜̤̤͎̗͋ͧ̂S̻͔̦͉̻̪̓̍ ͈ͪ̑̒̏ͦ͋̚F͇͚̽̍ͪRÈ̲̮̦͙E̦̹ͫ͊ͤ̊ͫ̅͒
͉̠̝̯̙͊̓̿ͅ

john_ebook_cover

I would be filled with sunshine and rainbows if you could download it and have a read. I would also appreciate reviews and comments (it can also be found on Goodreads) even if said reviews are “John, what are you even doing? What the fuck is this shit? – 0 stars.” Obviously I’d prefer it if everyone enjoyed it and thought it was wonderful. (I mean, if I don’t hate it, it can’t be all bad.) But everyone has their own tastes and opinions. Even if they are objectively wrong! (I’m really proud of my book, okay?)


Target Fixation

At this precise moment I am probably somewhere in the deepest, darkest Cotswolds, valiantly trying not to melt. June is rapidly drawing to a close and Summer has finally realised just how late it was running for work. It has been a while since I produced any new word based content for you to devour or ignore. This is a fact which my friend the Lady Tonksington Smythe did not fail to highlight. She requested that June be a month in which I got off my lazy-ass and actually wrote something again. I have used this gentle needling as an excuse to add 1,800 words to a short story which had been sitting unloved, and unfinished in my writer’s trunk for about a year. It represents the 4th instalment in what has accidentally become an eight and a half thousand words long series.

It joins The Starwatcher, the stand-alone piece Orange, and follows directly on from the end of The Watcher of Stars. It sees the (almost inevitable) return of the mysterious Gayane Al-Taftazânî, her hapless friend Almund Skeete, and the strange, wondrous science-fiction world they inhabit. The series was initially based on the famous “Starwatcher” image by the late Jean “Moebius” Giraud, but has since rapidly taken on a life of its own. This is the piece I cryptically hinted at two weeks ago, and it was a true joy to write and I adore every last bit of it. I hope you do too.

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Statistics and a Well Earned Rest

It has been 107 days since I called the Pictonaut Challenge to an end. Since then this blog has remained eerily silent; dead, but dreaming; trapped in an uneasily and restless slumber. This is because I decided that I needed a bit of a holiday from writing. After three and a half years of constant self-imposed deadlines I was getting a little burnt out and my mind had begun to fray at the edges. Writing had become less than easy and less than rewarding. So what have I been doing with myself? Not a great deal that could be counted as productive, that’s for sure. It’s been a delightful spell of general pottering, television, computer games and reading. All without the looming spectre of deadlines and expectations. The rest has done me good, and although I don’t expect to restart the Pictonaut Challenge any time soon it has made any writing I’ve chosen to do a lot easier. Instead of staring at a screen for an entire day, battering my brains out and only having 200 words to show for it, I’ve actually gotten things done. Only last week I managed to knock out 1,800 words over the course of a day without so much as breaking a sweat. It was a refreshing change and reminded me that writing doesn’t necessarily have to be hard. Once I’m satisfied that my convalescence is at and end I might even find the time to finish those bigger projects which have been living on the back-burner for far too long. But in lieu of any actual new content, and being a scientist at heart, I thought I’d dig into some of the statistics from the Pictonaut Challenge.

Full Pictonauts

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Beneath a Square Sun

How quickly January has gone. The passage of time continues to confuse and mystify me. I mean, how can January be over already? Where’s all that time gone? It’s relentless, it never pauses for rest of respite, it just keeps on coming; an unstoppable temporal juggernaut. But gone it has, and the dawn of February will soon be upon us. Tradition dictates that I now talk about the weather. There has been a lot of snow. Most of north-east of America was recently buried under numerous feet of snow. The same is also true for the United Kingdom. Except where I live. I didn’t get any snow. I’m feeling quite bitter about this if I’m honest. I like snow.

If like me you feel betrayed by the weather, please feel free to assuage your sorrows with some short stories.

41 - Jan 2015 - Beneath a Square Sun

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January’s Pictonaut Challenge

The New Year is upon us, and with it comes the advent of new beginnings, of something fresh, vital, brimming with raw potentiality and the opportunities for outrageous shenanigans. But most of all the air is filled with the smell of hope. It smells of soap, and mint and freshly baked bread. The hope that maybe this year will be better than the last, or the hope that we’ll finally get round to doing that thing we’ve been meaning to do for years, or perhaps that this will be the year you “finally get your shit together.” A new year is ever a time of strange, unexplored frontiers and of terrifying unknowns. So strap on your sturdiest boots and prepare to venture into the land Beneath a Square Sun.

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Shaman

It’s time to shut it down, pack it up and box it away. 2014 is done and finished. Christmas is over and there remains only the hurdle of new year’s eve before it is finally over. For better or worse, 2014 happened. There were highs and there were lows. But regardless of a geopolitical shitstorm(s) threatening to swallow us all, I remain resolutely alive. Any day above ground is a good day. I have recently returned from a brief sojourn to the frozen north and once again masterfully avoided the yearly rail meltdown. December has left me tired, strung-out and worn-down. Because that is how December rolls. Yet despite this, there is as always, stories to be told.

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December’s Pictonaut Challenge

The weather outside is not as frightful a popular song might lead us to believe.It certainly isn’t snowing, it’s just a bit damp. Nor do I have access to a fire. My heating comes from an oil filled radiator and the stove is electric. I also have quite a few places to go, like work, or down to the local shops to buy milk. Grossly misleading songs aside, we are no firmly into the realm of the festive season. Out comes the gaudy and functionless frippery, we commence our decking of the halls with symbols of fertility and eternal life, and then ensconce the fresh corpse of a tree in the corner of our living room, assumedly as a warning to other trees and forestall there plans for revolution. But while many of us gather to celebrate this Christian festival, let us not forget its distinctly pagan roots. The height of winter, the fear of the long night and the darkness out there, a time of spirits and mystery. A festival where you did not wait for the arrival of a jovial old man in a red suit, but a festival where you await a visit from a Shaman.

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Midnight Freight

The clatter of keys grows silent. November is over and NaNoWriMo is at an end. A typhoon of tortured tales grows still, their limp and pallid forms lie mewling on the dusty ground, their hurried and unnatural births now over. Deadlines and targets are a thing of the past. Some will be counting themselves as winners, having managed to put together 50,000 words. other will count themselves as losers, having fallen short of that lofty goal. I however, have been up to other things. Spending my evening in quiet contemplation, making soup and watching sci-fi from the early 2000s. When it comes to NaNoWriMo the distinction between winner and losers is at best moot and at worst erroneous. I learnt long ago, that the only winning move, is not to play.

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November’s Pictonaut Challenge

The ghost have been blown away on the wind, the bats are back in their roosts, the vampires are safely stowed away in their coffins and the skellingtons have been packed back into their closets. Now it is November, a time of flame, fireworks and dangerously large amounts of writing. Yes, once again NaNoWriMo rears its bestial and hoary head from the wordy loam in which it has slumbered. It has let outs its keening howl to call writers to arms. It is a call which I have once again responded with: “No! Not again! You can’t make me!” Once is enough. I turned my will upon the task and triumphed once. never again, I am not strong enough to survive another attempt and the looming spectre of possible failure.

That is not to say I won’t be writing in November, I am always writing. It is required. It is mandatory. The Pictonaut Challenge is so much easier to manage, and requires a much, much smaller investment of time. Should you feel that NaNoWriMo might be just a little bit too arduous a task, then you should join me, join me in exploring the wonders and mysteries of “Midnight Freight.

39 - Nov 2014 - Midnight Freight

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