Archive for the ‘updates’ Category

Apologies to my regular readers if you’ve faced any difficulties with the site or feed recently. I’m in the process of changing my web hosts, and even writing this in advance, I know by the time you read it I’ll have mucked something up as I try to learn how to do web things.

There’s a lesson in this for those of us using internet as a means to limited ends, rather than being web professionals. Do your research. When I changed domain a year ago I stuck with WordPress because it was the easy option. It turned out that it was also an option that didn’t do everything I want. Live and learn, that’s me.

Or live and don’t learn, as Calvin and Hobbes said.

bookdesign348No Writing Excuses exercise from me this week, as I’m spending the time preparing to teach some writing instead. In an act that is either terrifying hubris or putting my money where mouth is, I’ve volunteered to give a talk and run a writing workshop at Nerd East, a convention in north-east England on 30 May. This is a return to my old turf of Durham, so my talk will be on what my experiences there taught me as a writer. The workshop is on using seven point story structure to develop a plot, because this struck me as the most practical thing I could do.

If you live near Durham, or are just looking for a fun convention to attend, then I recommend checking out Nerd East. It’ll be a lot of fun.

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On a different topic, the first two volumes of my Epiphany Club series of steampunk adventure stories are now up on Amazon, Smashwords and other ebook stores. The first volume, Guns and Guano, is free, so why not go give it a read?

Lies - High ResolutionI love writing. I love that I get to do it for a living. But even so, sometimes my brain needs a break.

Last year, I was terrible at taking breaks. I didn’t schedule enough time off, and didn’t plan my work to make sure I took these breaks. So this year I’ve made a promise to Laura and myself – a week off at the end of each quarter. This is the first of these weeks, and as this post goes up I’m nowhere near my computer, instead having a nice time drinking tea and seeing the sites of Dorset.

Anything can become an emotional strain, the things you love doubly so because they matter so much. So though it pains me to leave work unfinished, this week off is happening come hell or high deadlines.

There’s no point working if I’m not sane to do it right.

Free Books!

To celebrate my time off, I’m offering up some of my books for free…

A spin doctor forced to deal with aliens who loath lies.

A squad of soldiers torn apart by the fiction in their midst.

A hunting submarine with its dead captain strapped to the prow, the crew promising that one day they’ll revive him.

We all tell lies to get through the day, some of them to ourselves, some to other people. Now read the extraordinary lies of the future in my collection of short science fiction stories, Lies We Will Tell Ourselvesfree on Amazon until Friday. You can read more about the collection here.

And for those who prefer other formats, my short story Mud and Brass is currently available for free via Smashwords and other ebook stores. Thomas Niggle grew up a mudlark, hunting for scrap on the polluted banks of the River Burr. One of the countless poor living in the shadows of Mercer Shackleton’s vast factories, he has dragged himself out of poverty using his mechanical skills. An encounter with Gloria Shackleton, the Mercer’s daughter, offers Niggle the possibility of love, but it also offers something else, deep in the heart of the Mercer’s domain. What hope can the future hold for a boy raised amidst the mud and brass?

So please, go download the free books and enjoy some of my writing while I enjoy a much needed rest. And if you enjoy my stories, please leave a review on Amazon or wherever you buy ebooks – those reviews and ratings are like gold dust to me.

Standing desk, how I love you.

Standing desk, how I love you.

So long, crippling pain. Hello, productivity. A month or more on from setting up a standing desk, I’m seeing huge benefits.

Where I Was At

Working at home, I no longer have a facilities department and HR taking care of my desk and posture, and a few months ago I was really feeling the effects. Bad posture was causing huge pain in my neck and shoulders, which then turned into tension headaches. Despite various experiments with my desk setup, within a week of seeing the physiotherapist I’d be back in pain.

Is It A Desk? Is It A Shelf? No, It’s Superdesk!

I’d long wanted to try working at a standing desk, but couldn’t afford to buy one, both in terms of space and finances. Inspired by my wife Laura, I instead turned a set of Ikea bookshelves into a standing desk, adjusting the upper shelves to put my laptop and a monitor at good working heights.

At first the standing desk was exhausting to work at. I was wiped out after the first day and had to pace myself at using it. The real test was always going to be where I was at a month or two on.

So Very Good

As I’m writing this it’s been over six weeks, and I’m amazed at the difference the desk has made. Despite not seeing my physio in nearly four weeks, I’m feeling almost no pain in my neck and shoulders. I haven’t had a headache in weeks. Having got used to standing a lot, and alternating that with sitting on a tall stool by the desk, it’s improving my fitness rather than exhausting me. I’m the most productive I’ve been in goodness knows how long.

The last few years have been a health rollercoaster for me. Between clinical depression and muscle problems, it’s been hard to get to the place I want to be – working full time at writing. The standing desk has made a huge difference, and I can’t sing its praises enough. After trying it for a decent amount of time I can confidently say that if you work at a computer and suffer from muscle pain you should give it a go.

Wesley Crusher says games are cool, it must be true!

Wesley Crusher says games are cool, it must be true!

One of the frustrations of freelance writing is that I often can’t point toward the things I’ve written and say ‘I did that’. Sometimes even when I can I don’t want to – no-one wants to read three hundred words designed to sell toothpaste. But right now I have a gig that not only has my name attached, it’s about something readers of this blog might be interested in – board games.

I’m currently writing blog posts for a price comparison sight called Board Game Prices. These aren’t in depth, critical analyses – it’s a site selling board games, so I’m focusing on the positives, the things that make me enthusiastic. Fortunately I have a lot of honest enthusiasm for board games.

Not all the blog posts there are by me, but if you want to read the first couple you can see my top tie-in games or read me enthusing about Doomtown Reloaded (again – I think I may love that game a little too much). I’ll have articles going up there fairly regularly, and they’re tagged with my name, so if you’re interested in board games then please go check it out.

Exciting news – I’m finally a comic writer!

Back in 2013 I entered the Top Cow Talent Hunt, in which I was a runner up. Off the back of this, I wrote a short script for Top Cow set in feudal Japan, which after much excited waiting on my part is finally coming out in May.

‘One Man’, a samurai-era story featuring the magical Bloodsword, features in Artifacts: Lost Tales #1, released on 6 May. You can see a few more details here, though you have to scroll down the page to find it.

I’m really excited to get my hands on this. I haven’t seen the art yet, and it’s going to be awesome to see someone else’s talent bring my ideas to life.

If you’re into comics then please consider pre-ordering Lost Tales at your local shop – pre-orders make a big difference to how many copies of a comic get onto the shelves, and so how many people can buy it that way.

Yay comics! (I’m a little excited)

AvastYeAirshipsIn a daring history that never was, pirates roam the skies instead of the seas. Fantastical airships sail the clouds on both sides of the law. Within these pages, you will find stories of pirates and their prey with a few more pragmatic airships thrown in. With stories ranging from Victorian skies to an alien invasion, there is something for everyone in these eighteen tales of derring-do!

Tomorrow sees the launch of Avast, Ye Airships!, a collection of stories themed around airship pirates, edited by Rie Sheridan Rose. It features ‘A Wind Will Rise’, my latest story to feature Dirk Dynamo and Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms, gentlemen adventurers of the Epiphany Club, as they battle a slaving pirate airship over the Atlantic.

If you’re anything like me, you probably love stories about both pirates and airships, which makes bringing them together doubly awesome.

So what are you waiting for, me hearties? Hop on over to the publishers’ website to buy a copy. There be gold in them there clouds.

The full contents of the collection:

Beneath the Brass by Stephen Blake
Maiden Voyage by Jeffrey Cook & Katherine Perkins
Colonel Gurthwait and the Black Hydra by Robert McGough
Captain Wexford’s Dilemma by Ogarita
Her Majesty’s Service by Lauren Marrero
A Wind Will Rise by Andrew Knighton
Hooked by Rie Sheridan Rose
Go Green by Ross Baxter
Lost Sky by Amy Braun
Miss Warlyss Meets the Black Buzzard by Diana Parparita
Plunder in the Valley by Libby A. Smith
The Clockwork Dragon by Steve Cook
Adventures of a Would-Be Gentleman of the Skies by Jim Reader
A Clouded Affair by Steven Southard
The Climbers by D Chang
The Steampunk Garden by Wynelda Ann Deaver
Lotus of Albion by Steve Ruskin
And a Bottle of Rum… by K.C. Shaw