Looking Back At 2017

This last year has been a tough one. As a family we’ve had a lot of crap thrown our way this year. We’ve lost loved ones, and had issues of health pepper us amongst other difficulties life has a habit of throwing in our paths.

It has been a hard year, it’s not been harder than anyone else’s year. It’s been what it is. We’ve taken each day as it comes and in my opinion that is the best way to take life at times.

These things I won’t go into detail on. They are things that affect my family as well as myself and I don’t think it’s my place to talk in-depth about these events on my public blog.

One moment this year that hit me harder than I thought something of its nature could was the death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Although now I am really out of date with most music, I was a huge fan of Linkin Park when they first hit the scene. Their first two albums are two of my favourite albums ever, I didn’t even listen to that type of music until they came along. It’s music that speaks to me, but I didn’t realise how important it is to me until Bennington’s death this year. I mourned his death in a way that I haven’t for other public figures. I read a lot of Tom Clancy when I was in my late teens. I was a huge fan of Alan Rickman as well, and although it saddened me when they died it wasn’t like when Chester Bennington died. I immediately binge listened to the Linkin Park albums I had, and blitz their YouTube channel. It was only a month or so ago that I’ve stopped getting a lump in my throat when I hear his vocals. I realised a few weeks after his death that I felt like this because it was the first death of one of my icons. Someone who not only did I look up to and admire, but someone who spoke to me. I didn’t know the death of someone I didn’t know would hit me as hard as Chester Bennington’s death did.

I’ve had highs and lows with writing this year. A few projects I put a lot of time into have crashed and burned pretty badly. In particular I was quite demoralised by a zombie story I thought was going to be something good but it just didn’t pan out how I was expecting it too and it kind of gave me a bit of a confidence hit. I had done a lot of outlining for it, characters had been thought out and developed, but it just didn’t go right. I tried to rewrite it for NaNo, and it’s not bad. I’m happier with it now than I was initially but it’s not how I was expecting it to go. I think I can roll with how it’s changing, I just need to do some re-thinking on it.

Something I have learned is that it doesn’t matter whether I write with a pen and paper or straight into a word processor the words are the same. I wrote a first draft of a story I’ve got a lot of hope for by hand but was writing something else at the same time digitally and realised quickly that it didn’t matter how I wrote something, if I was in the mood to write it all came out the same. With this story in particular I’ve got to change a lot for the second draft. Like the zombie story I mentioned it came out different to how I envisioned it. The biggest problem is I’ve written it from only one point of view, and to tell the story I want to I need to do it from multiple POVs. I don’t think it’ll be difficult, but I want to let it sit for another month or two before I return to it. I’d like to get some more planning done for it as well.

The work with Owen is a little up in the air at the moment but I’m expecting to find out what’s happening early in the new year.

The highest points of this year for me have been getting two stories published. Both through charity anthologies from Burdizzo Books. The first one, The Final Charge was in Sparks: An Electric Anthology in October. The second was my take on The Three French Hens in this years 12 Days of Christmas 2017 Anthology. I am incredibly proud of both of these stories. They were a lot of fun to write and knowing the proceeds from both books go to good causes makes it feel even better than it does. The folks at Burdizzo Books are fantastic people as well, along with the group of writers they have around them.

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It’s great to finally have my writing in print and has really fired me up and shown me that it’s not impossible. There is nothing stopping me except myself.

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The last item I really want to talk about are a few of the people I’ve met this year. I attended a book launch for Sparks up in Walsall and met the head honcho and editor Matthew Cash as well as a couple of the other contributors. We later had another launch in my home town as Burdizzo Books’ other editor, Em Dehaney, is from Gravesend as well. Both launch parties were fantastic, I did a reading at both, although with the Gravesend one I was hit with a severe cold a few hours before and was incredibly unwell. I thought I was going to pass out during my reading, but it was still an amazing experience.

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Myself with Pippa Bailey, Matthew Cash, and David Court.

I also went to a few cons this year. Unfortunately DemonCon down in Maidstone has now come to an end. I was pleased to be at the last one in February, but will miss it. It’s the con were I first me Dan Abnett and his wife Nik, who are lovely people. I went to Birmingham Horror Con around that time as well, that was incredibly fun and I got to see my friends Cat and Lynx Raven again as well as Dave from From The Shadows. I also went to EGX with my buddy Stefan from Stefan’s Daily Gaming. Although I’m not a huge gamer this was a lot of fun as well. It was good seeing some great games and a lot of people who were in their element. Bristol Horror Con was my favourite of the year though. Not only did I see CL Raven and Dave (From The Shadows) again but I also went to a couple of panels. I spent a little time talking to Adam Millard and his wife in the VIP room. Seriously lovely people who were very encouraging of my own work and just fun to talk to. I also got the chance to speak to Tim Lebbon as well. Again, another awesome and encouraging person. I just hope the more of these I go to the more at ease I get speaking to all these fantastic people.

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With Lynx and Cat Raven at Bristol Horror Con

The horror community is really welcoming and seems to have a lot of heart to it. It’s definitely a place I feel at home it.

One night in particular that was both fun and tiring was an all-night ghosts hunt I went on with Boleyn Paranormal down at a True Crime Museum in Hastings. It was a lot of fun, very interesting and I met more awesome people, but I’m not doing another all-nighter. I was shattered for a few days after that. Cat and Lynx Raven were there as well, and they popped back to my home to meet my animal army before they returned to Cardiff. En Route to my house we stopped at the site of the Battle of Hastings. Although not far from my home I can’t recall ever going there and it was quite a surreal experience that I’m glad we took the time to do.

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Lynx and Cat saying hello to two of our hens

A massive highlight of the year for me was meeting Scott Sigler and AB Kovacs. I’ve been a fan of Sigler’s work for a decade now and when he announced he was coming to Europe, including the UK, it would have taken the zombie apocalypse to have stopped me from getting there. It was a great evening in a pub in London just hanging out with Scott, A and other fans of Sigler’s work (AKA the Junkies). It was good chatting to them both and seeing the love they have for the fans of the work. Both Scott and A have a lot of charisma and energy and clearly love what they do, and it was one of the highlights of the year.

2017 has had a lot of downs, but its had a lot of ups as well. That’s what I’m focusing on, I’m not ignoring the low points, just choosing to look at the positives. Most importantly I appreciate those important people I have in my life. My friends and family mean the world to me and I’m very grateful having them all.

Roll on 2018…

 

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The Warmaster by Dan Abnett

I’ve just finished The Warmaster by Dan Abnett and wow! What a book! I loved how Abnett put this together and how it was tied into Salvations Reach (of which I’m glad I listened to immediately before embarking on The Warmaster). I’d guess there’s a lot more connections in the books that have lead up to The Warmaster, but it’s been a few years since I’ve read them. (I’m really hoping they come up on Audible because I really want to read them again, and listening is quicker for me as I can listen while at work).

The Warmaster picks up for Gaunt and his Ghosts right after their mission to Salvations Reach, but all is not right with their return.

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Such a beautiful edition.

Now, I am a huge fan of this series of books, this being the fourteenth, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating this one since I first heard about it a little while ago. There was a gap of time between Salvations Reach and The Warmaster, but it was worth the wait. Dan Abnett really turns things up to eleven in this book. He pushes characters into places that I wasn’t expecting, but that said I wasn’t really sure what to expect. With the Gaunt’s Ghosts books it feels like each book goes in somewhat of a different direction. This one is no different. A lot of the events in this book I didn’t see coming or where they were going to go.  A lot of the characters had their lives turned upside down and Abnett wasn’t scared to kill any of his characters. That is something I learnt a long time ago about Abnett with this series. He is not afraid to kill the most beloved of characters, often in brutal and unfair ways. Even in war where people die for what can be the most silly of reasons, some of the deaths in these books have been a huge kick in the gut. Even when a character doesn’t die, but they are pushed into something harsh and tough to stomach it feels the same as when a loved character dies.

That is one of Abnett’s biggest strengths I think. He can write these stories with a huge cast of characters and you either love or hate them, with the odd middle of the road character in between. You get their motivations, you get their mentalities. It all works very well.

This book really opened up a whole can of hell yeah! And it puts so much out on the table for future novels that has left me bouncing and determined to re-read the previous books again in the new year.

There are many reasons why Dan Abnett is one of my favourite writers, the Gaunt’s Ghosts series is one of them. Beautifully written, to the point where you’re almost there when the las-bolts are flying.

***Very Minor Spoilers Below image***

***(Very Minor) Spoilers***

If you’ve read these books you’ll know there have been three characters that have left over the years that had nothing to do with dying, although one did eventually die if I remember right, but the two that always sits in my mind when I’m reading these books are Brin Milo and a scout called Mkvenner (I can’t for the life of me remember his first name). Both these characters went off for different reasons. For Milo, he went with Saint Sabbat, and I’ve heard rumours that Abnett has always intended Milo and the Ghosts to get back to each other at some point. With The Warmaster, the Saint is on the same planet as Gaunt and his Ghosts. When I found this out I was waiting for them to come together, but it didn’t happen. I really hope Abnett does so in the next book, because aside from the return of Mkvenner, that is one of the moments in this series of novels that I am eagerly waiting for.

I think Dan Abnett is setting up to bring this series to a close, to a point where the Sabbat Worlds Crusade is either won or lost.

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Today started fast, with a 1000 words and a digital edit on a short story by 9am. I did this because I woke up in a really bad mood, and writing seemed to be the only thing that made sense. It put me in a good mood before going down into Rochester for a bit of lunch and to pop into Get Ready Retro, a local comic book shop. I managed to pick up the next volume of Wilds End (The Enemy Within) by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard. I really liked the first one and I’m looking forward to reading this one.

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Those thousand words I wrote this morning was on the fanfic piece and the short story is for one of the story submissions I’ve got coming up. I’ve printed it off and will red-pen it tomorrow.

The rest of the day has been spent with my feet up playing video games and binging some shows on Netflix. Aside from having to shoot into work for forty-five minutes, that was my day.

Perspective 

Since last weekend I’ve been watching Hells Kitchen on Netflix. There’s three series on there and I’ve got to admit, I wish there was more. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this show. I think I probably watched the first three, maybe four seasons of the show before drifting away from it, as I do, and as I was watching it last night while I was doing a little editing I realised that to the people aiming to win, Gordon Ramsey is what Dan Abnett and Scott Sigler are to me.

When I used to watch the show it used to amaze me how often they screwed up something they’d claimed to have done countless times before. This time round though, I can Appreciate the pressures they’re under. I’m not going to say I understand it, because I’m not there trying to reach these goals, but I feel I can see how much pressure they have in those kitchens. As I was walking to work this morning I realised that for the contenders working with Gordon Ramsey is a dream come true, and would I be any different if I was working with someone like Dan Abnett or Scott Sigler? I’ve been lucky enough to have met both of my writing idols, and I wasn’t quite a gibbering wreck when I met Dan Abnett but I don’t think I was far off. I would probably have been the same with Scott Sigler but we were in a pub, his business partner A Kovacs was there, along with twenty to thirty other Junkies (that’s what us Sigler fans call ourselves).  And what would I be like if either Abnett or Sigler asked me to work with them on a story! I think I’d be a gibbering mess till it had sunk in, and then I’d be second guessing myself half the time.

If I’m honest I’m not expecting that to happen, but if I am not writing and trying to get my work out in the word then I stand no chance at all. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

Another Update

I finally finished the second (might technically be third) draft of last years NaNoWriMo novella. I’m pretty much going to dive straight into the next draft as I want to try and have it done in decent time.

There’s three main points that I’ve got to work on. Adding a new character to the mix; continuing a storyline that kinda of got forgotten about; and adding some more depth to my protagonist. There’s a couple of seeds I want to plant in the story for storylines down the line, and a couple of other tweaks that need to be added. I’m sure I’ll find more to work on while I’m working my way through.

I got some Beta notes back in the week on a story that Owen and I have put together, and finally had a look at them today. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into them in the next week or so.

Reading wise I’m about halfway through Wool by Hugh Howey. I’m enjoying this novel, and have been surprised by some of the twists and turns in the story. Sometimes I’ll think I’ve got it sussed out, and then Howey takes it in a direction that I didn’t see coming.

The comic I’m reading is volume one of Wilds End by Dan Abnett (writer) and I.N.J. Culbard (illustration). This is a comic with anthropomorphic animals in the countryside of 1930’s Britain. So far the story is pretty captivating, and growing at a nice and steady pace. The artwork has got a beautiful look to it. At my first glance I found it beautiful for its simplicity but as I’ve looked more at it I’m really admiring how well Culbard has managed to put so much heart and character into these characters.

I’ve just started listening to No Worse Enemy by Christopher G. Nuttall. This is the second book in Nuttall’s The Empire’s Corps series. I’m about ninety minutes into it so I’m not fully engaged into it yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series and I’ve got high expectations for No Worse Enemy.

 

What I’m Reading: 4/3/16

Last night I finished reading The Man In The High Castle by Phillip K. Dick. Overall I liked it a lot; the plot was very subtly woven into the lives of the characters. The universe building was done much the same way; everything that Dick needed to get across to the reader was done through the characters.

There’s obviously a lot more to the story than I’ve written so far, but its a story where I think I’m going to be thinking it over for a while. There’s so much going on in it that I don’t think I’ve quite got a handle on yet. I’m thinking about getting it as an audiobook so I can go through it again.

Speaking of audiobooks I’ve just started listening to The Dark Tower, the final book of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I’m really eager to see how King finishes this series. I’ve got a few ideas of how it is going to end; but seeing that it’s a book by Stephen King, and it’s his Dark Tower series then anything is game.

I’ve not got stuck into Deadpool and Cable just yet, but I’m going to try and get into this coming week.

I’ve now got the hard decision of choosing what book to read next. I’m prioritising the books that I got at DemonCon a few weeks ago, but I’m not sure what I’ll go for first. If I’m honest It’ll probably be one of the Dan Abnett ones, but I haven’t decided yet.

 

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Demoncon XI

Today I went to my first convention. A local one called Demoncon in Maidstone in Kent at the Royal Star Arcade. A friend in my local NaNoWriMo group told me about it and as soon as she told me about it I knew I was going to go. One because I wanted to go but also because she said that Dan Abnett was going to be there. Dan Abnett is one of my writing idols. His Gaunts Ghosts series is a series I started reading in my late teens, early twenties when I first started reading and it really blew my mind away. I’d read Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan books, and the Gaunts Ghosts books were so far removed from Clancy’s work and they showed me a whole new world of fiction and how brutal a setting could be. I always liked the Jack Ryan books, but with Gaunts Ghosts I fell in love with all of the characters as well as the setting and the bigger universe that was hinted at. 

So meeting Dan Abnett was a serious life highlight for me (and I didn’t geek out too much). It did help that he is such a nice dude. I was fortunate to spend a good ten minutes talking to him, which was really awesome. I also met his wife Nik Vincent, who is also a writer and they have collaborated together. She is as well, an absoulutly wonderful person and it was a real pleasure talking to her as well.

I also met three other writers, Kit Cox, Miles Allen and Lance Manley (LR Manley). All three of these gentlemen are writers who I hadn’t come across yet and I spent a few minutes talking to each of them about books, writing and other writing related/con related topics.

All three were really welcoming and really easy to talk to. I purchased books from all three and I’m really looking forward to diving into them. I will just mention that Lance Manley does a lot of work againts bullying and that is some that needs to be praised.

I did also buy a fantastic piece of Joker artwork by Phil Buckenham.

I also spoke to Vic Iddstar Hill. She made a short movie called Sincerely, Soldier Bear (search it, or Hat Day Films on YouTube) and I just wanted to praise her for such a fantastic film. It’s such a deep piece of filmaking with a huge message that is very subtle in how she has presented it. It also come across as very innocent in its presentation as well.

I’m very happy this was my first convention. It’s not a huge convention but I found that really welcoming. It had a great atmosphere and those people I spoke to were all fun and engaging to speak to. I often find new things like this quite intimidating but this I didn’t. I felt a little overwhelmed, but the warmth of those I spoke to helped hugely and in the couple of hours I was there I didn’t get any bad vibes. It seemed like a lot of people doing what they like and having fun.

I’m sure I missed a lot but I am so glad I went. I’m itching to go again (the next ones in September) and that next time I’ll know what to expect. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m so happy Demoncon was as much fun as I’d been told.