I have the main edits back for Against Gravity. These are the general suggestions from the editor concerning the plot. There's no major changes required, but what changes there are, are going to take some time and effort, at least a couple of weeks effort, possibly more. It means I can put The Fracture to the side for one moment, and come back to it later to see how I feel about it.

Mainly, I need to tighten the middle section of the novel, since there's a little too much to-ing and fro-ing. This means trimming a particular character (not the hero)back a good bit. He appears at several points through the middle of the text, so it's going to take a little ingenuity to work the story around him if he exits the story earlier than I'd originally intended.

Editors are good for this kind of thing since it can be exceptionally hard to get a complete grasp on a book you're writing. It's like not being able to see the forest for the trees. When you're working on any one particular section of the manuscript, you can see that bit clearly. It can be easy to repeat yourself, at different points, and that's one of the main things you (or at least I) can catch myself doing.

Once this is done, and once Tor are happy with the changes, the next thing will be the line edits.


I ran into Tam today. I hadn't realised until recently he lived just a block or so from me. Exactly what Tam does I've never quite been able to discern, but he seems to own about five houses scattered around the city. When I first met him through a friend in the early '90's, he looked either like a roadie for the Rolling Stones or a particularly glamorous mugger. Nowadays, he looks like a middle-aged bicycle courier minus the bicycle. He's a very nice chap, but I still can't make out half of what he says, as he has a particular brand of Glasgow accent which is at times a little impenetrable.

The Glasgow West End Festival featured a live Saturday night performance a couple of weekends ago in the Botanic Gardens by Belle & Sebastian. I was in the area during the afternoon and saw the same thing I always seem to see performing at these things - a group of forty or so women bashing away at enormous drums with more enthusiasm than skill. I could go to Alaska, and I'd probably find them performing on an iceberg. Wherever I go, there they are. But I didn't stick around for B&S, having already enjoyed the experience at the Barrowlands a few years before during my days as a reviewer and designer for a music magazine and not being particularly blown away by what I regard as rather over-mannered fey whimsicality.

ALl of which brings me round to meeting Tam later that evening in a bar I have been known to frequent with other writers. He'd been in the park watching the band, and happened to drop in with some friends of his without realising I would be there. I mentioned I lived near him. He said something like 'Ayethasgoodnlldroproonsumtimnseewhatyruptonall' and I said, great.

So he dropped round this afternoon to ask me to give him a hand working a couple of Ikea wardrobes out of his van and into his flat. His flat is legendary, and I'd never seen it before. The front door is hidden behind a vast metal security grille that wouldn't look out of place in Escape from New York. Inside, is a dentist's chair next to the phone, all buried under tons of musty junk. Three thousand moldering copies of 2000AD are piled up on a ledge above the entrance.

In the living room is a Suzuki motorbike, a guitar, a settee dating from the early 80's, and the skull of a Water Buffalo. I learned today that Water Buffalo have very big heads. I was slightly disappointed, since Tam is in the process of doing the place up in order to rent it: I'd heard skulls of various types used to be everywhere in his home, mounted on small custom shelves around the hallway. Still, as skulls go, it was pretty impressive.

I got my first review. It was in a small publication called 'Outland', which is produced by Ottakars bookshops for their branches. In this respect its a slightly loaded review in that they're hardly going to sabotage their chances of selling the book if their reviewer happens to hate it, but at the same time it read like an honest review in that the review - similar to all the other reviews - came across as fair and balanced, rather than false and gushing in order to boost sales. Still. I liked what they wrote well enough to slap a brief quote up here, which you'll see to your right.

Last weekend I also enjoyed the annual Phil Raines and Craig Marnock joint birthday bash. As always it's an affair with an element of dressing up, and as always I turn up looking exactly as I would on any average Saturday night. I hate dressing up. It's just a thing. Still: excellent party.


I spent something like several hours on Sunday afternoon drawing little diagrams and typing up notes concerning how I want the technology of The Fracture to work before realising a simple solution made about 90% of it completely irrelevant. I don't mind that degree of wastage as much as I used to, since I've now realised that for every 100k novel, there's probably as many words - if not more - in notes, outlines, ideas, and excised scenes. It's still sitting at about 15k at the moment, but I've changed my working method a little since last time. Instead of simply blitzing through to the end and worrying about the details later, I'm trying to quite heavily revise and re-revise this initial chunk, primarily because it's allowing me to work out exactly how the novel is going to progress.

I just finished a couple of sf novels and needed a serious dose of reality, so I picked up a library book by the BBC journalist John Simpson, which makes for illuminating reading, given that much of it focuses around Simpson's experience of Afghanistan. In a roundabout way, it reminded me that I need a holiday. I know one or two people down in London, and I haven't really been away in a good couple of years except for the last two Eastercons, so the temptation to go down south for a long weekend is there. I might check out if there's any sf-related events or whatever happening down there to give myself an extra excuse to go. I am, however, very skilled at procrastinating, especially when it comes to actually doing things.


Worth reading: a short (very short - it'll take you five minutes at most to read it) by Terry Bisson on Electric Story. >link<


Only a couple of replies so far to my request for notification that you do actually read this blog, so thanks to Joe and Rory. I'll give it a couple of weeks and see if anyone else bothers responding.

I'm feeling remarkably chilled since I found out money was on its way to me. I blew the first chunk of the advance buying the house I now live in, and I've been gripping onto part-time work in the belief that if you're serious about writing, you should at least try and live on part-time work so you can spend more time writing. I'm still here, so I suppose it's worked, but it does feel a bit of a struggle at times. I now feel much more financially secure. I'll also be getting another chunk of the advance when the first book finally comes out in September.

I missed the transit of Venus, so I didn't get to see the second planet out from the sun passing in front of same, though I did see a clip of it on morning television. The Glasgow Science Centre is on my route to work, via a footbridge over the Clyde. They'd set up a powerful telescope just outside the front entrance so anyone who wanted to could step up and get a good view of it (the telescope, of course, shielded so whoever looked wouldn't have their retinas fried). Unfortunately, this being Scotland, it was grey, overcast, and a bit wet. Unlike the rest of the country. So nobody saw anything, unfortunately, including me.

I read in the papers that the BBC now have the go-ahead to build a state-of-the-art Scottish hq a few blocks from me. This pleases me mightily, since I'm hoping it'll keep property prices healthy, and might make the area move up in the world a little bit. I know SMG, a local media group, are considering a similar move. The whole project constitutes a stupendous financial and architectural rejuvenation of the old dock area of Glasgow, in effect custom-building a new financial district and centre of commerce. There's a lot happening here, although I suspect it'll be close to the end of the decade before it's all finally finished.

I tripped over this highly entertaining piece on slush piles, and why authors get rejected >>link<<. I've got a considerable pile of them from short fiction magazines. I don't know how many publishers knocked my first book back: my agent knows the answer to that one. A good few, I'd say. But then, nobody actually bought the first book I'd ever written; they bought the one I wrote after that.

I suppose at this point it's worth saying something about that first book, Touched by an Angel. There's bits of it in Angel Stations - bits of the background really - but apart from that, they bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever. WOuld I like to see that first book eventually published? I'm not absolutely sure that I would, to be honest. It was a first book, the kind of thing you write - in retrospect - as practice, to learn how to write a book. I haven't re-read it in a very long time, and maybe I'll change my mind when I get around to reading it again.

I remember workshopping the first 20k of it with GSFWC, writing the rest of it, and in the next draft completely excising the section I'd workshopped and replacing it completely. ALmost a quarter of the manuscript, but it had to be done. I still have that 20k and I read a bit of it recently. Pretty rough. What I replaced it with was far better. The moral of which, I suppose, is that I learned early to be hard-headed about my own writing.

Another thing I've found is that the more you write, the more your ideas about what you want to write change. I'm happy enough to write solid sf for Tor, but as you do, I feel an occasional hankering for other things. Not even necessarily things vastly different from what I'm already writing; just ... different.


I'm happy. I received confirmation today that the next chunk of my advance - for Against Gravity - is winging its way towards me.

I've started editing the first chunk of The Fracture. I had a mild crisis over the past few days over exactly what approach I wanted to take to it, and I'm tempted to give it a bit of a 'new weird' sheen. What do I mean? It's hard to say, actually; it's just a vague sense of how I'd like the story to read rather than anything I can yet clearly put into words, but I'll try. The obvious thing to do is provide some explanation for how some purported alternate reality accessing technology would work, and in fact there's plenty of lucid theory concerning quantum wormholes revolving around just how you might do precisely that. What I'm considering is a fictional situation where I don't in the least describe the means by which people access worlds. It's an attempt to not do the obvious skiffy thing, and do something maybe a little bit different. Or maybe I'll chicken out, and do the straight-up thing. Or, as straight-up as an opening scene featuring a bank heist, wormholes, bottomless suitcases, and the Cheshire Cat can be.

Here's something I'd like to ask you. Who reads this blog? Something got me thinking along these lines quite recently, and it would be nice to know if anyone is reading this on anything even remotely approaching a regular basis beyond the two people whom I happen to know personally. It took me a bit of work, but I managed to get the comments on this blog working at last (I changed from my previous non-entry-specific external comments system to blogger's own, and had to do some tinkering since their comments system was optimised specifically for their new range of templates rather than my semi-homebrew variety).

If you can add a comment below to let me know that you do drop by, even from time time, I'd very much appreciate it.


I've decided to apply to the Scottish Arts Council for a writer's bursary. What this is, is a grant of anywhere between £1,000 and £15,000 to support writers, to contribute to the overall artistic merit of Scotland by providing the kind of support that allows authors to write full-time.

This is a good thing, of course, except that the awards almost always go to literary writers - not genre science fiction authors. I don't know this for a fact, and I'll never know if I don't apply, so I might as well apply.

I got thinking about this the other day when I read a post on the TTA message boards by an author called Laura Hird, and the name rang a bell. She's an Edinburgh author, and judging by things she mentions in her (linked to) web page, I understand she's supporting herself, to some extent, via one of these grants. I get the impression she's very much of a mainstream writer.

I know of two other authors who received these grants who are friends of friends. Alisdair Gray is one, Alex Benzie is the other - he's te author of a very well-received Scottish historical novel called This Year's Midnight.

Some people I've met are a bit uncomfortable with the idea that genre authors might find it harder to get such frequently desperately necessary financial support. Funnily enough, even though it might turn out to be to my detriment, I don't have so much of a problem, simply because the grants make sense if you take them as what they are: a lifeline to people writing what is, by some consensus, work of real literary value - which isn't the same thing as commercial value. Genre writers therefore would tend to get left out in the cold since they're seen as purely commercial by nature. Which is, of course, a vast oversimplification, but maybe it's better to draw a line in the sand than not to draw a line at all, and end up with a situation where nobody gets this kind of help.

I've finished the first section of the next book - about 12k. It involves movement between alternate realities, and I've spent a good few days not so much writing as trying to figure out exactly what kind of approach I want to take. I'm aiming for something that feels a lot more like Zelazny than the stuff I've previously written. One approach I'm taking - and I know some people I know will have a problem with this - is to not be in the least specific about how people move between the worlds. So that if there's an artifact that allows this to happen, to not describe it.

The reason for this is - I'm hoping - to create a strong sense of mystery. There are times when I enjoy hard sf, solid nuts and bolts stuff, but there's a lot to be said for things not necessarily being clearly spelled out. It's hard to get into words exactly what I'm working on in my head, and that's one reason my writing's been gummed up for the past couple of days. I'm also trying to use a simpler prose style, something very clear and lucid.