PKD Made Me Do It

It really is all the big guys fault.

My Christmas break has become unexpectedly long. I’m at home shivering and coughing with the third cold of the season. Inbetween boiling the lemsip and sleeping I’ve been scratching a few notes for a short story and wondering how I ever got into this writing thing in the first place.

I finished the majour edits on the BBC story just before X-Mas and just have a couple more i’s to dot before its ready for recording.  Other than receiving two rejections from magazines (Both with very constructive feedback, also both the same story – ‘Horizon’, suggesting it might need a rewrite before going out again.) I took a complete break from writing over the winterval and through most of December as well. After the frantic efforts of NaNoWriMo the break has been pretty essential to help me get my bearings on where I am and where I’m going to. There is a short story I want pull out of the NaNo rubble and a longer piece in a similar style to Cthul-You.

2007 is the year of the novel. Between NaNo and the chapters I did for FantasyCon I did two longer pieces in the second half of last year, totaling about 40k. In both cases I was trying to push myself to write in a much more commercial style than my short fiction. Not just so I can get published and become a millionaire novelist but also because I’m quite aware of the limitations of my short writing style and wanted to find a more adaptable voice that lets me tell longer stories. So my New Year’s resolution is to take all the lessons learned from ’06’s projects, pick a long story to tell and from January onwards turn out 5k a week regardless of any interveneing circumstances upto and including the death of close friends / relatives.

Thanks for getting me into this Phil. Really.

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Red Pen XXX

I’ve started on my first set of edits for the BBC. In all I have to slice a little over a thousand words out of Cthul-You and elimate all swearing. There is so much swearing in this story that my manuscript now looks like it was attacked by a red pen wielding maniac.

I’m debating whether to just edit out the swear words or instead go the Red Dwarf route and make up some of my own. Smeg, frag and frak are already taken. Theres something emminently naff about swearing that doesn’t actualy offend people. As far as I’m concerned if it doesn’t incite middle England it isn’t worth saying. Joss Whedon gets some incredible swearing into Firefly by having it all in Chinese…hmm…

My producers asked if I have any ideas to voice the story. She also threw in that although Jack Black would be perfect, he isn’t available. Now I can’t get the idea of Jack Black reading Cthul-You out of my head and I’m struggling to think of any other people. It can be pretty much anybody excluding A-List Hollywood celebs. They have to be able to do nihilstic, mid-nineties, generation-X, slacker chic.

Come on people, sugesstions!

Anita Blake – Vampire Hunter

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Guilty Pleasures & The Laughing Corpse 

by

Laurell K Hamilton

 I’m a virulent defender of genre fiction and the trash aesthetic. I’ve literally risked life and limb to advocate the cause of all things pulp against the literary establishment. Only last week I stood in a classroom full of A-Level English teachers and proclaimed Alan More the greatest living British writer. Alan Who? They said, sharpening their knives.

lcuk.gifBut even I baulked when I originally encountered the Anita Blake series. As a hardened Buffy fan my first and only assumption was ‘Whedon Clone’. Vampire Slayer / Vampire Hunter. Bare faced theft as far as I was concerned and for many years that’s where the story ended.

Until I noticed the dates. Joss Whedon’s Buffy series hit television screens in 1997. The first Anita Blake tome was published in 1994. Hmmm. Interesting. Theft perhaps, but in which direction? There was still the ill conceived and ill fated Buffy movie (1992) to consider but the chances of anyone being inspired by that seemed so remote as to be non-existant.

Dates aside, it doesn’t take more than the first three chapters of Guilty Pleasures, the first in the Anita Blake series, to realise that Buffy the Vampire Slayer this is not. Other than the occaisional gruesome staking, Buffy is a teen soap opera where the relationships of the ‘scooby gang’ take centre stage before any supernatural concern. Anita Blake by contrast is a female version of the Marlowesque gumshoe – a tough loner and happy that way. All the scary bits in Buffy are handled with a tongue in cheek knowingness. When you stake a vamp in Buffy, they turn into a nice neat cloud of dust. In the world of Anita Blake they spurt blood all over the living room curtains and explode into flames taking the soft furnishings with them. And then of course there’s the sex. In Buffy world when the characters very occasionally stray over into having a bit of hanky panky they are invariably rewarded with a spell in hell or being turned evil. In contrast the Anita Blake series is famed for its full on depiction of a number of quite kinky sexual exploits, particularly in the later volumes.

At their core both Guilty Pleasures and The Laughing Corpse are hard boiled detective thrillers with a supernatural twist written for a 21st Century, predominantly female readership who want their heroines every bit as kick ass as their heroes. When Anita Blake puts on a dress her first thought isn’t whether her bum looks big in it, but whether the two hand guns and combat knife she has holstered under each arm are properly concelaed. When Anita gets into a fight with a vamp she REALLY gets into a fight. Bones are broken. Eyes get gouged. Soft fleshy things get stamped upon. Both Guilty Pleasures and The Laughing Corpse tell tight, tense stories that unfold over just two days and two nights and Anita collects assorted wounds throughout each book.

The stories are a tough, exciting and compulsive read but they aren’t without their weaknesses. They are clearly written quickly and that means the occasional shortcut here and there. A particularly grating device in the first book is the way Hamilton introduces EVERY SINGLE CHARCATER by describing the way they laugh. If laughter was that accurate a judge of character in the real world it would be admissible as evidence in court. A few of the chapters fall dead as they are used to get the story back on its tracks but these are kept mercifully short. Strangely for such compelling reads, the antagonists in both books fall a little flat and don’t manage to develop much into the second dimension let alone the third. But these weaknesses somehow compliment the unapologetically popcorn manifesto that the series champions.

Planet Literary seems to have determined a set of strictly enforced guidelines for contemporary writing. Ideally, all books should be a loosely disguised autobiographical account of a formative experience in their authors life. Actual fiction is frowned upon, unless set in an ’exotic’ locale, preferably a social or cultural ghetto. Under no circumstances should literature have any elements of the fantastic unless intended for children or written with an ironic wink. Above all it must be turgid enough to stop the reader getting beyond Chapter 3 but leave them convinced they have failed to comprehend the work of a genius.

Anita Blake sticks two fingers up at Planet Literary, gives them a severe beating and then blows them away with her .357 hand cannon. Everything that ‘literature’ should be, Anita Blake is not. Which is probably why I enjoyed Guilty Pleasures and The Laughing Corpse so much. If you’ve accidently swallowed one to many Booker prize winners you may find that Anita Blake is exactly the antidote you need.

The Beeb

A few weeks ago now I made a blind submission to the BBC. It was blind in that I wasn’t sure when I sent off the story exactly what I was submitting for. When I did track down the submission guidelines I realised the story I had e-mailed the day before was a little too long, not least because its one of the darkest things I’d ever written and peppered with swearing – not usualy a BBC staple.

It was much too my surprise then when earlier in the week the producer from the BBC e-mailed me to say they wanted to broadcast the story in a slot on BBC 7. Surprised is too weak a word. I need a word that means ‘sat and stared at my computer screen for 45 minutes until my senses returned’ but can’t think of one.

I’ve got some editorial changes too make (i.e. removing peppered swear words) but if things go according to plan the story will be broadcast on BBC 7 in the new year as part of a season called The 7th Dimension. I’ll post more details of exact times when they are confirmed.

NaNoWriMo Accepts My Official Surrender

NaNoWriMo comes to a close today and as the fog of war clears I’m in no way surprised to find myself on the casulaty list rather than the honour roll. I’d like to say I went out in a blaze of glory but the truth is it was more a case of being shot in the back whilst fleeing the field of battle…

The problems emerged at the end of week two. I should have remebered that my own blog is called Don’t Look Down and taken the advice to heart. Note to self – when attempting to write 50k in 4 weeks…NEVER EVER GO BACK AND READ WHAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN! As soon as I started re-reading I also had to start editing, and as soon as I started editing any hope of reaching the wordcount was snuffed out.

I’m going to put aside the 20k I have written for a few weeks and then come back and look at it when I have some distance. There is some really interesting stuff in there that I might spin off into short stories but at the moment at least I don’t think I’m going to finish the whole text.

I’ve gotten a huge amount from taking part in NaNoWriMo this year though, and will do it agina next year. For anybody having trouble getting their writing started I’d recommend it because it forces you to put pen to paper and start generating words. For people writing consistently its a good challenge to see what pace you can manage whilst still keeping a reasonable level of quality in what you are doing.

I’ve taken a few days break without doing any writing but I’m going to kick off a new project soon, picking up some ideas I developed half a year ago for an urban fantasy story. Interestingly I’m thinking about using an episodic structure and publishing the first draft of each episode on my blog, partly as way of replicating the constructive pressure of NaNo even when it isn’t there.

Oh…and sorry Kerry for losing you five quid. I’ll have to get you a beer in recompense.

Momentum and Submission Anxiety

I’ve just got confirmation from John Klima, editor of Electric Velocipede magazine that my short story ‘Momentum’ will be published in issue 13, debuting in November 2007, just before World Fantasy Con. Waiting a year to see the story in print will probably try my patience but knowing that the magazine will be on sale at the WorldCon more than makes up for that. I don’t know who else is on that months line-up yet but will post more info when I get it.

I have four other submissions outstanding at the moment, including ‘Cthul-YOU’ which is with Weird Tale’s. I don’t expect an acceptance from them but the waiting sure is fun!

Tumbling Uphill

Well I’m back. The holiday was fantastic, not least getting to see the sea, which living in Leicester I had begun to believe was no more than an unsubstantiated rumour.

Fantastic but surprisingly hard work. Hills. Rain. Darkness. No sooner had we awoken than it started to get dark. We then had to cycle up some of the worlds steepest hills to get anywhere in the short patch of daylight left to us. We then had to cycle back up the other side in darkness. When we got home it was cold and the only source of warmth was a coal and log fire which took about two hours a night to get going. Strangeley I enjoyed all of this.

More photos coming soon.

Tumbling Downhill

Holiday time. Lydia and I are going to throw ourselves up and down mountains on bikes in Wales. Maybe I’ll break something but probably not. No posts until I return as the welsh hovel has no internet or even a phone. I’m told we will be washing in the crystal waters of a fast running stream. Hmm…..

I’m starting an appeal to support my NaNoWriMo habit. Please give generously to help me reach my target. All sylables accepted. Send your donation to: damiengwalter@gmail.com

And remember. A writer is for life, not just for X-Mas.

Theres a Fiver in it

Learned today that my NaNoWriMo exploits have become the basis illegitimate black market dealings, including the betting of hard cash. I feel strangely invigorated by the idea. Of course need to forget that for every person betting on me, there is at least one other betting against. Given the choice I’m not sure which way my money would go at the moment. I’m well behind the pace but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve yet (Headline – DGW’s odds shortened to 3/1 following ‘Still has tricks up sleeve’ news.)

Must now choose between settling down to another disciplined 1700 words of NaNo or Mission Impossible III…you would think that would be an easy decision wouldn’t you? But no, even Tom Cruise may not be enough to put me off.

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Writer. Story geek. Travelling the world while writing a book.

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