A Day In The Life Of An Easily Distracted Writer

9.00am: Yay, writing day*, my favourite day of the week.

9.15am: Put load of washing on. Almost out of shirts.

9.30am: Check emails, Twitter – in other words, do those things I keep telling myself I won’t do until I have written my first 1000 words of the day. Still, pleased to see reply from Sydney Padua responding to my previous humorous sally to her re Charles Babbage. Unwisely, devote time to thinking of a yet more humorous riposte. Check Facebook page for Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction. Only two weeks to go!

10.00am: So. Last week, I outlined the final eight chapters of my novel. Now to commence the actual writing, starting with Chapter 17. It’s a new beginning of sorts, with my protagonist and his comrades admitting defeat and moving on, leaving shattered hopes and shattered lives behind. (Never let me write a blurb.)

10.15am: Oh, so that’s what “bounding main” means. Wikipedia rocks!

10.20am: Close down, abjure, put behind me all distracting technologies.

10.30am: Check mail (the physical, in-a-letterbox kind). Nothing.

11.00am: Pleased with how this is going. Stretching out in long passage of descriptive prose.

11.30am: Check mail. Big moment! My contributor’s copy of The Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories has arrived. Cool! It’s a large book. Skim introduction by Paula Morris – looks good. Check contributor’s note. The Walt Whitman-like epic I provided has been trimmed down a bit, producing interesting floaty effect. Still, cool! Set aside to be read later (two books for review to read first).

12.25am: 850 words written. Check Twitter. Yes, I know that’s not 1000 words, but I have reached the end of a scene. Surely that counts for something.

12.30am: It starts hailing. Bad weather from the south, as foreshadowed by Art And My Life, has arrived. Should have hung washing out earlier. Make tentative start on next scene.

1.00pm: Hail has cleared. Time to hang out washing, then have lunch.

1.10pm: Outside conditions surprisingly pleasant. Discuss plot of novel with cat.

1.30pm: Arrive back inside singing theme from Teletubbies: “Tinky Winky, Dipsy, La La, Po”. Have had idea for the blog post I should have written last night.

1.50pm: Must remember to eat lunch when actually ready. Now cold.

2.15pm: 90 minutes till son returns from school. Time to get on with it.

2.35pm: Megan Fox.

2.40pm: Coffee.

2.45pm: Making good progress. Hard to write a dialogue-heavy scene, this far into the novel, in a way that keeps it fresh. Though both the medium and the tone are different, Buffy the Vampire Slayer does this very, very well. Two key principles I have learned from looking at how dialogue is handled in Buffy: serious dialogue can still have a humorous edge, and let the least trustworthy character in the scene be the most truthful. Only problem is, neither of these apply to what I am writing. Cursed mimesis!

3.25pm: 1500 word mark passed. Had been hoping to write 2000 today. Do have some inkling of why I fell short.

3.40pm: Reached end of the second scene. Total of 1777 words today. Will gnaw on thoughts of next scene over next few days. I know what the fourth and final scene of the chapter is, but right now, have no detailed idea of what will happen in the third scene. I know what emotional tone I want it to have, however. Time for backups.

3.50pm: Front door opens: son arriving home from school. Time to find out how his day was, get him fed, check if he has homework, check the washing (and, OK, fair point, put out the rest of the socks), publish this blog post, reply to emails, and cook dinner.

*There are other days on which I write, but Thursdays are the one day of the week I dedicate to writing. Yes, you heard me. Dedicate!

How It Came to Pass: Anarya’s Secret

Anarya’s Secret began with an email message in late 2005. It was from Richard Vowles of RedBrick Limited. He explained that RedBrick had recently taken over the rights to the “classic” version of fantasy roleplaying game Earthdawn from its American parent company, and were looking for someone to write a novel set in that universe. They had found my website, and thought I might be their man. Would I be interested?

At first I wasn’t sure. It had been many years since I had done any gaming. (I was very fond of Runequest – the first edition, set in Glorantha – and had played a little D&D as well.) I had never played Earthdawn, and was worried that this would lead to me inadvertently breaking the rules of the world. What’s more, novels set in gaming universes didn’t have a universally high reputation.

On the other hand, I’d greatly enjoyed many of the Shadowrun novels produced by FASA, especially those written by Nigel D. Findley, and my interest was piqued when I found out that Earthdawn is set in the same universe as Shadowrun, except that Shadowrun takes place in the future and Earthdawn in the remote past.

And just as I wasn’t yet sure that this was a project I wanted to take on, so RedBrick had to be sure that I could do a good job of an Earthdawn novel. So we agreed that I’d write and send in the first few chapters, and we’d see how both parties felt after that.

By the time I’d written the Prologue and Chapters 1 and 2, I was hooked. I had a protagonist, a naive but well-meaning young man called Kendik Dezelek. I had got him in over his head with some dubious new associates, the Turgut brothers. I had taken them to the mouth of an ancient, long-abandoned stronghold. And someone had emerged from the stronghold to meet them – someone with a secret.

Earthdawn is set in a world in which, though magic, the human race has split into many branches – some familiar from mythology (orks, trolls, dwarves), others not. Perhaps the most alien are the lizard-like t’skrang, and I decided that they would play a crucial role in the story. With that decision, the general outline of the rest of the novel fell into place.

So I sent in my few chapters and waited to see what RedBrick would say. They said yes, and I was away. Kendik Dezelek, Anarya Chezarin – the woman with a secret – and the Turgut brothers left the mouth of the ancient stronghold, Kaer Volost, and went on their way. Adventure, as they say, lay in wait. So did guards, wizards, petty tyrants, and t’skrang with a whole slew of hidden agendas. And if you play Earthdawn, you’ll have some idea what I mean when I say that the Scourge has never quite ended.

I broke the odd rule in my early drafts, but Carsten Damm, my excellent editor, was there to point out my transgressions and suggest creative solutions. With his help, I had a lot of fun writing Anarya’s Secret. I hope you’ll find it a lot of fun (and a lot of shock, surprise and excitement) to read.

Anarya’s Secret is available in hardback, paperback, and e-book formats.

Anarya’s Secret Published

My fantasy novel Anarya’s Secret: An Earthdawn Novel was published yesterday. I’ll put up more information about it soon, but in the meantime, you can see more details about the book on the Earthdawn site. It’s available in e-book, paperback, and hardback formats.

You can now read the novel’s Prologue online.

In late 2005, shortly after New Zealand company RedBrick took over the Earthdawn licence from its American originators, they approached me to write a novel set in the Earthdawn universe. And that’s what I set out to do. My hope is that Anarya’s Secret will work equally well as a novel for those who play the game, and for those who’ve never heard of it before. You don’t need to have played Earthdawn to enjoy this book.

In Praise of Editors

Someone once said that a novel is a continuous prose narrative with mistakes. Or at least, I think they did; I can’t find an attribution of the quote anywhere. It’s the editor’s job to find and fix as many of those mistakes as is humanly possible, for it’s never possible to find them all.

In the case of my Earthdawn novel, Anarya’s Secret (see the cover), the novel was written by me in New Zealand for a New Zealand company, edited by a team lead by a German, Carsten Damm (a.k.a. Dammi), and will be physically produced in the USA. After I’d submitted it, a team of six or so readers went through it initially, then Dammi drew all the comments together into one big editing list.

A confession: Dammi’s English is better than mine. Which is a bit of a worry, but hey, he’s the editor, not me!

I worked my way through the 95,000 word manuscript, dealing with all the changes the team had suggested, and then embarked on the even more challenging task of converting the whole thing from NZ English to US English, as that’s the standard for Earthdawn books. It was a chore, but the professionalism and eye for detail of Dammi and his team made the whole process a lot smoother than it would otherwise have been.

The final edits on Anarya’s Secrets have been made, and it’s disappeared off into the production process. That’s good timing, because I’ve recently received the edits to my short story collection Transported – a discontinuous prose narrative with mistakes.

Again, I’ve been most fortunate in my editor, Claire Gummer, who has done a great job of finding errors and making suggestions for improvement. I was a bit trepidatious – is that a word, editors? – about what I’d get back from Transported’s editor, but now I’m looking forward to the next stage of the editing process, when I respond to the changes Claire has proposed. Long live editors, I say!