Today I received a cheque for a lot of money from Pan Macmillan and an enormous weight feels like it's lifted from my shoulders. The amount of money I just put into my bank account isn't far from being the same as I made working all of last year working part-time as a graphic designer/mac operator in order to support my writing.

I could call myself semi-pro, which is technically more accurate, since I make only part of my living from my writing (for the foreseeable future, he said, feet firmly nailed to ground). But whatever I call myself, it's a pity I didn't sit down sooner to try and write a book, say in the early Nineties.

I do want to put a big chunk of my cash towards a mortgage, but now that the money is there I suddenly don't feel in so much of a rush. I still like living in the area I live in, very much so. It's just that I can't actually afford to buy anywhere around here. So perhaps what I'll do is just sit back and wait for something really good to turn up. I've got all the time in the world, after all.
The shared entry now looks a little bit better. The burned rubbish is all away, but the walls are still black and sooty. We have an enormous lock on the door to the close now. Much harder to kick in. Ah, Glasgow, where the people are so friendly. Could have fooled me. I may be Scottish, but there's plenty in Scotland that leaves me cold. One time, I caught a train to Edinburgh with a friend on a Saturday afternoon when we didn't realise there'd been a match on between a Glasgow and Edinburgh team. Fuck me, but that's right up there as one of the truly most unpleasant experiences of my life.

I know national stereotypes these days aren't to be taken seriously, but if there's one thing that really gets my goat it's when people are surprised I a)hate football (what's the fucking point?) and b)really, really don't drink much at all. If ever. Do you have any idea how much this surprises some people? It surprises far too many people. Someone I know used to take schoolkids out on bike rides en masse through the Scottish countryside as part of a government drive to promote cycling, and he told me one time how he grew heartily sick of the following conversation.

Kid: What football team do you support?
Dave: None.
Kid: (pause). So do you support Rangers or Celtic?
Dave: I don't support either. I'm not into football.
Kid: (Even longer pause.) You don't like football?
Dave: No.
Kid: (Aeons pass. Eternal night settles over the world) Do you like my bike?

Let it be settled: not all Scots like football and getting permanently pissed. Nor do we dance in fields waving bits of heather and wearing kilts. I only ever wore a kilt once, for about three minutes, before I persuaded my mum I was a lot happier in jeans (it had belonged to my brother, and I'm pretty sure he wore it maybe once to a wedding he got dragged off to).

Otherwise ... hammering away at the edits on the first hundred pages of Angel Stations, which turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. I just slammed at it over a few nights, and gave up tonight a few pages short of the last I've been sent. It's far from over, of course. Only oh, 357 pages to go ...


Well, just thought you'd care to know I nearly burned to death ten minutes after I posted my last blog entry.

What happened is, I went away, called a writer acquaintance to ask what all those doodly pencil marks on the revision copy of 'Stations meant, went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea before starting work, walked back into the hall, smelled smoke.

This also happened perhaps two months ago. I live in a tenement building, with six flats sharing a common entry, three floors. The next door down (or 'close' as we call it in Glasgow) went up in flames back then. There is now a large wooden thing over the entrance of that particular close with a padlock, clearly currently not safe for human habitation. Fortunately there's a fire station about two blocks away. I smelled smoke then because it must have been drifting through the shared attic space. Took ages to get rid of the smell.

This time, I smelled smoke, opened my front door - I'm a floor up - and was confronted with a wall of smoke. Intense, but not impassable. Quick glance down the stairwell, flames belching up from the basement. Where, I remembered, some idiot had cleverly dumped a bunch of old aged furniture some weeks before because the effort of calling the Council to come and take it away was clearly too great.

Shut door, dial 999, gabble down phone. Put down phone after delivering message, open front door again, even bigger wall of smoke, now giving me a 'go on - just try running through me and see how far you get' kind of look.

Go to another room, grab defenceless gerbils (girlfriend's pets), stuff them into a small carry case while they try to figure out what the fuck is going on, go through to the bedroom which looks out over the street, yank window open. See engines walloping up the road, rapidly followed by an ambulance and a police car. Firemen take one look, slap on breathing gear and go in. Fire out in perhaps fifteen minutes - while I stay put - watching from above, gerbils by my side, thinking it's not so far down - one comes to my door, checks I'm okay, tells me to stay put.

Not fun, let me tell you. The close itself looked seriously shafted. Wires hanging down, steps and floor covered in burnt plaster, walls black and blistered from the heat. It's only been a couple of days - everyone's internet/cable tv/phone was down due to melted cables, but all is back again. Very rattled. Went out for drink. Mmm, drink. Still rattled, but fortunately not on fire.

For a bit there, I really thought somebody had committed arson. It is a remarkable coincidence, after all, that the flats next door would nearly burn down just a few weeks before. However, according to the police they don't think it was deliberate. If there's any problem, it's idiot landlords renting property out who just dump their old furniture at the bottom of the stairs. It also happened to coincide with somebody having the fun idea of booting in the security lock on the door to our close - what can I say, it's that kind of town. However, none of the flats got damaged; everything is fine, and the building is getting back to normal.

There is also no more furniture at the bottom of the stairs .. because it all got burnt. And we have a new, good quality security lock on our door now. Were people hurt? Yes, three, so I hear. One girl's apparent reaction upon realising there was a fire in the close was to immediately jump from a window into the back garden, injuring a vertebrae in her back. Now, okay, the building was on fire, but calling the emergency services and waiting a minute or two would have seemed to be the sensible option. And I took one look at that smoke and thought no way was I going through it. Apparently two people disagreed ... and I believe were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation. Here's a tip, kids, next time there's a fire, use your brain and consider your options for at least a second or two before doing something which might turn out to be seriously risky to your life. Then jump out the window.


First revisions for Angel Stations came through today - they're sending them to me a hundred pages at a time. There's a lot of stuff to be done, but it doesn't worry me at all - really, it's no-brainer stuff on a line by line basis. What I mean by no-brainer is, they've made 'suggestions' (ie I presumably have some leeway to disagree with my editors on the 'suggestions', but let's not be hasty now) ... rather a lot of suggestions, in fact. But that's ok, because they're all clearly marked, and all I need to do is sit down at the laptop and work my way through them.

No worries.

Actually, glancing through it, I can see points where I do disagree with some of the comments. One example; on the very first page, there's a line which - in the original version - reads, 'Algorithmic formulae spun through the heart of the machine'. They've suggested 'Algorithmic formulae began spinning through the heart of the machine'.

Now, I'll have to tell you - despite the fact I'm an author with a book deal, my skills with the english language do leave something to be desired in certain departments. Particularly my punctuation skills. I suspect I'm like many writers in that I started reading books before the skill could be taught, meaning I've come away with a lot of ingrained bad habits. Too much staring out the window looking at fluffy clouds.

No, really. That's all I remember. Attractive fluffy clouds while I was in some ... room with people talking. Oh well.

So looking at the line the way I first had it, I think, "oh dear - that really should be ... maybe 'span through the heart of the machine', perhaps?" Or maybe began to spin. Aargh. Indecision. Actually, maybe that last idea is the one to go with.

Apart from that, here's a link to a program I quite like, called wordweb - it's freeware, and I've found it occasionally useful in my writing. This is why I have the word 'lazuline' on the second last page of the book.


Today is a good day. Doorbell rings, sign off for a bag of free books from my publisher Pan. Ah, this is the life. More instant wall insulation for my drafty writer's garret (and that's not entirely kidding, by the way, and did you know - I can't remember where I read this, it was years ago - that books actually do make for excellent insulation? Think about it.).
So what's in the goody bag ...

Jonathan Carroll, White Apples
I like Carroll, but I can only take him a little at a time. Like there are some musicians you really like, but you balk at listening to them too often. Somehow he's a writer who I find I enjoy most when I take time out between reading his books. I sometimes find his style a bit precious, but I haven't disliked a book yet - and at least now he's figured out how to write endings (his earlier books seemed to just sort of trail off).

China Mieville, The Scar
I didn't actually ask for this one because he's more fantasy based, and there's few fantasy writers I can hack - even ones operating on the edge of the genre, so far off the edge they've effectively tipped off. I read Perdido Street Station, and it was ok, but I'm probably not the best person to judge since certain questions always come to my mind when reading anything like this; if there's magic, how the hell does it work? Where are we, this universe, another universe? Where? Where??
However, I have another reason for reading it - I gather part of it is set on a city made up of moored ships. My first (unpublished) nov, which I"m hoping to rewrite one of these days, is also partly set on a city made of ships. Curiously enough, someone mentioned to me recently that my ex-flatmate Mike has part of his second book (written after mine) set on a city of ships ... what a coincidence, eh? EH?? Feh ...
So naturally it's worth checking out anyway, to see if my own ideas would be too close.

All of Neal Asher's books (Gridlinked, Skinner, Line of Polity)
Well, he's by far the closest to the kind of thing I'm doing, so it's worth checking his stuff out (never read him before). 'Specially when I get it for FREE!! Bwa ha ha ha haaa ...

Justina Robson, Natural History
I've got Silver Screen somewhere, so I thought this might be worth checking out - it's her new space opera novel. Looking forward to it.

Jeffrey Ford, The Physiognomy
Smells suspiciously like fantasy, but what the hell, I'll give it a shot. 'Specially since it's .... etc.

Still no sign of the 'Stations revisions through, so another quiet day - only working at my design job for a couple of hours this morning since not much work was coming in anyway. So back home early ... I've been running copies of Against Gravity off for people to crit, which takes a bit of time to do. I've been avoiding looking at it too much, since already I'm spotting loads of mistakes and inconsistencies. But if nothing appears from my editor by tomorrow, I'll probably start going over 'Gravity in order for something to do.


Came home, decided not to write - well, I earned a rest - and immediately the walls started closing in. Felt ... overwhelming ... need ... to socialise.

So off to a coffee shop with MJ for a few hours - Offshore, in Gibson st, quite nice, check it out if you're ever passing that way - and caught up with friend Dave, who's moving through to Edinburgh some time next month.

I will also attempt to not write tomorrow, as well. Unless the first revisions come through.

Heard a wonderful concept today; drive-by management. It refers to the kind of managers who sort of stop by, screw up your working life, and then zoom off, leaving you in the middle of a mess brought about by managerial incompetence while they sail at speed over the horizon, leaving you floundering. A familiar concept, and no doubt a major motivating factor for many writers attempting to escape the nine to five treadmill.

Found this wonderful comment from a UK government site, a transcription of a Lords discussion, discovered via William Gibson's blog; so ridiculous - so Pythonesque:

"Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I totally agree. These statistics on accidents are extremely fascinating; they prove that the British public can use practically anything in this world to hurt themselves with. It is understandable that there are an estimated 55 accidents a year from putty, while toothpaste accounts for 73. However, it is rather bizarre that 823 accidents are estimated to be the result of letters and envelopes. It is difficult to understand how they can be the cause of such serious plight. I agree with the noble Baroness that it would be helpful if people paid careful attention.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, does the Minister agree that sardine tins and anchovy tins are also very difficult to open with their tin-openers?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I think I will just agree with the noble Baroness on that question."

I can't remember the name of the kingdom in the movie 'The Mouse That Roared', but it's very reminiscent of same.

Websites; if you're a writer, you should check out this guy and his blog. Very entertaining. Sometime soon, I'll be putting up some blog links since it's really time I did, and maybe a little side bar explaining just who the hell I am, since I suspect it would probably be a good idea.


Well, today I finished the second draft of Against Gravity. No major structural changes (ie no structural changes) to what I already had, really just trying to tidy up what I already had, which took me just a smidgen under a month to do. Again, I'm too close to it to know how I actually feel about it, so I've emailed it off for a review by the writer's circle, and hopefully I'll get some general comments back before then. I always hate this time - I've got absolutely no idea how well the story will stand up, or if it'll really be any good at all (smell the paranoia), but I felt the same way about Angel Stations and that got me a book deal, so I guess I should shut up and stop worrying.

Still, I think I've got at least two more drafts there. I need to know what people think before I start even thinking about any major changes that might arise out of what they say. I also need to spend time researching my facts and places, and trying to get them right where I haven't already checked them out.

What else? An email from my editor telling me he's working on the line-by-line comments and suggestions for Stations, which he's probably going to email me a hundred pages at a time, so no likelihood of any long rest for me yet. Still, I don't think this will break my back.

Spent a couple of hours today wandering around the centre of Springburn thinking, 'should I buy a place here since there are nice flats going cheap?' and came away thinking 'no, probably not'. Glasgow is a funny place. There are really lovely bits, and there are bits I wouldn't go into without armed guard and a platoon of killer attack dogs. Springburn isn't quite that, but it's a world away from what I'm used to, so I'm inclined to look elsewhere. The West End, particularly if you're me, is the place to be, but unfortunately lots of other people think so too, and the price of houses has rocketed unbelievably in the past couple of years, not helped by plummeting interest rates here in the UK.

Oh yeah - finally gave up on Lord of Light. Got as far as page 150 before I just couldn't take any more. I keep trying to think of something a little more considered-sounding and thoughtful than just saying 'unreadable' ... but that's all that keeps coming into my head just now.


Curious thing. I've been reading Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny recently - sort of one of those sf classics you sometimes let slip by. I got annoyed by how many people were telling me it's such a great book, so I relented and finally bought it. I must admit one of Zelazny's more obscure novels - Roadmarks - is probably one of my favourite novels of all time. Hard to explain why, exactly. I suppose it simply appeals to something inside me. I'd try and describe what it's about, except I learned long ago that trying to describe the plot of your average sf novel gets you nothing but funny looks. This is why I try and avoid going too much into the specific plot details of my books when people ask about them - instead, I stick to vague generalities, or a description of a lead character's motivation.

But the thing about Lord of Light is it felt nigglingly familiar. I remembered last night that a while back I found a link to some set and costume designs for a proposed movie of Lord of Light, the artwork by Jack Kirby, the all-time Marvel comics god of artwork. And then it hit me: Lord of Light reads like a Marvel Comic. Especially one of the ones based around the Eternals, or perhaps Thor the Thunder God. They even speak the same way ...

So I flicked back to the publication info at the beginning of the book; it came out in 1967, just about the time Marvel really hit the mainstream for the first time and got serious attention, and started being absorbed into other popular culture of the time - particularly music. I have a theory - and tell me if I'm wrong - that Lord of Light is a deliberate attempt at writing in something like that style. Not to diss the story in any way, or suggest it's hammy; au contraire, it's a retelling of one of the great Indian myth-cycles in a surreal/sfnal setting.

Interesting. Anyway. Back to writing - should finish the second draft by tuesday/wednesday. Should be at least, I think, two drafts after that, also. But I'll workshop it before the third draft.


Not so bored. Been out. Rec.d first intimations of expected editorial notes in the form of emailed general overview of Angel Stations - what they think it needs, impressions, suggested changes and so forth. Printed it out and checked it out over my baked potato and ravioli this evening. Still no sign of the money, unfortunately, so I can only hope. With any luck I've got at least a week to finish the second draft of Against Gravity, which is about as long as I expect it to take.

And the weirdly niggling thing is ... it's coming out almost too easy. See, when I wrote my first book Touched by an Angel, it took about six months, but that included literally ripping out the first twenty thousand words and completely replacing it with a radically different beginning. With Angel Stations, I had the plot reasonably worked out for halfway through, and then a vague notion of how I thought things should go up to and including the end. At least two chapters were inserted on the second draft to boost the background of the story, and a brand new, deeply central character was introduced at the same time. This is a considerable revision.

On the other hand, with Against Gravity I spent two months working the whole thing out beforehand and then writing it. The only real element of outrageous spontaneity was creating a parallel stream of chapters describing events ten years previous to the main action, giving the background to the main story. That bit, I made up more or less as I went along. The rest, I knew what I wanted, I knew where I had to go. I'm not saying it wrote itself, but it went along a damn sight smoother than anything else I've ever written. So that four months after I started I'm almost done on the second draft of the book, which is a little over 120,000 words, and I haven't inserted any chapters, haven't completely rewritten the first twenty thousand words and thrown out the original text, and haven't spontaneously created any characters who I didn't already know about before I wrote the first sentence.

So why's it going so smoothly? My paranoia light is blinking rapidly in the back of my head. Clearly, someone - or something - is trying to lull me into a false sense of security.

On the other hand, while I was flicking through the editorial notes and getting ravioli all over them at the same time, I was checking out my print-out of Angel Stations, having very deliberately neither thought of it or glanced at it since some time last Christmas. It feels good. Sure, it needs changes, but it does feel good. High five!


Bored, kind of. Been spending far too much time indoors, not enough time going out and ... doing stuff. Social stuff. Naturellement, I spent time at the pub on Saturday night ... and then everybody went home really early, except of course for me, MJ, and David, who has almost as little of a life as I do.

I've been thinking about next-book ideas again. At this rate, I should have most if not all of the revisions on Against Gravity done. That won't be the final draft, really just tidying up the first. Third draft will be tidying up those revisions, and seeing what else I can do to spice up the story, streamline events towards the final showdown, perhaps give the whole thing more of a ... thematic feel. Perhaps. But I've also reached overload, where I stare at the words and they all just blur together ...

What else is going on? Voted on Thursday in the scottish parliamentary elections with no real idea who the hell to vote for. My local labour mp is currently being accused in the press of taking bribes from Saddam Hussein. I worked with Greens in the past, and that experience, combined with seeing David Icke on tv when he lost it first time round (one time sports presenter turned UK green spokesman turned loony in a green jumpsuit who claimed Atlantis was going to rise any day now and the royal family are really alien baby-eating lizards in disguise) puts me off them - a little. I like the SSP main guy Tommy Sheridan, but hold back on the actual party, who strike me as typical humourless Scottish Calvinists with a different religion - which may be unfair, but it's the way they come across to me. Besides, I do feel that if it wasn't for Sheridan, they would be precisely nowhere.

So I ended up taking the soft option, and just voting for Labour on all three votes. I don't support the recent war (while at the same time seriously disliking many of those who acted as spokesmen for the anti-war movement including the aforementioned Galloway), but compared to the rest, they may well be the least scary of the bunch. Which is, in itself, quite depressing.

However, I was interested to note as one or two others did that the results show Scotland really does lean somewhat to the left of everywhere else. This is one of the few things I like about the country I live in.


I've been having one of those got-to-get-out-of-the-house-i-have-no-life kind ofdays. Possibly I've been working a little too hard on the second book, but at the same time I want it out of the way. What also possibly doesn't help is that this far into a book, I am completely unable to judge it in any way - is it good? Is it bad? Somewhere in between? Exciting? Dull? God, don't ask me, I just wrote the thing. If I'd read it, not knowing what was going to happen at the end, I'd have a better idea. But I wrote it, every word, and that's just not the same thing. It utterly screws with your ability to make an objective judgment.

What I wish sometimes is that I could get someone to hypnotise me. Make me think I was reading someone else's book. That way, I'd know what to think of it. Which scenario, should it be in any way be possible or feasible, throws up the distressing notion of reading your own book, not knowing it's your book, and not liking it. Aargh. So very Twilight Zone, so maybe we just won't go there.

Anyway, I've done maybe half the second-draft revisions on Against Gravity, covering at least ten pages a day. I might just stand a chance of getting it done before the Angel Stations revisions turn up on my doorstep from Pan MacMillan. In the meantime, I'm feeling just a touch poor, even though I've got money in the bank. I'm hoping my first cheque for 'Stations comes in soon so I can spend a little of the money I already have. For the past year, year and a half, I've been stuck indoors, hardly going out, hardly doing anything, haven't taken a single holiday outside of one day for the Eastercon and the occasional Bank Holiday when the place is shut anyway. I am now beginning to feel the effect, and am therefore feeling slightly nuts.

Why is it everyone else seems to be going out all the time? Damn. Time to make some phonecalls.