East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Two writing issues

Yeah, I know, I know… I’ve been told years ago that writers write, they don’t talk about writing.
But you see, I spent some time yesterday discussing with a young author1 about two issues I never considered issues in the first place, when it comes to writing:

  1. Basing the main character on ourselves
  2. Taking responsibility for what we write

I was rather surprised by the responses of my counterpart, and in the end I think he was rather annoyed by my position, so I thought I may as well annoy you guys. Continue reading



English Eerie – a solo rural horror game

What_fearful_shapesI write a lot about games, these days.
English Eerie is a single player roleplaying game written by Scott Malthouse.
Described as a Rural Horror Storytelling Game for One Player, that’s what it does, and it does it quite nicely – using narrative cues to help the player tell a ghostly story in the form of a diary or journal.

Inspired by the works of M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen, English Eerie is a writing game – the player is required to build a story, and write it down, based on a set of details presented in a “scenario”, plus random factors represented by playing cards and a die. Continue reading


The end is nigh

I just passed the 10.000 words mark, and the halfway point in my planned outline.
The end of the story I am writing is finally in sight.
As it usually happens, now that all the pieces are on the chessboard and things should begin to finish, I need a moment to carefully plan the next moves.
What will happen, in what sequence, where.
I need to up the action.
All three major characters will have their big action scenes (one each, carefully mapped and choreographed, and one involving the whole team), the evil plot will be revealed, justice will triumph and the main bad guy will have his just desserts.
Which means roughly 8000 words…¬† Continue reading


Doing research on the fly

No, I don’t mean the study of entomology.

I said I’d keep you posted, so here I am.
I love what I am writing – it’s an espionage thriller, so I’m not completely out of my depths.

I’m currently taking a pause after two hours and some.
I have 2000 words – prologue, first chapter introducing two of the three main characters, and a bit of the second chapter.
Much of the “bit of the second chapter” will have to go – because I’ve just seen a way to write it more dynamically.
But it’s all right, and I am about to award myself a small ice cream.


I could have written more, but I had to do research on the fly.
And so I thought I’d do a short post on the way I handled it.
Maybe someone’s interested. Continue reading


Rough & Cheap

I’ve just left a conversation in which the works of Robert E. Howard, and his Conan stories in particular were described as rough and cheap.
Now, I beg to differ.
Granted, at his worst Howard was basically a competent storyteller, compensating with darkness and pathos his lack of a good story. But at his best, Howard’s Conan was not cheap, and was not rough.


Being notoriously incapable of letting a matter rest when it peeves me, I’ll summarize my points here. Continue reading

1 Comment

Not Exactly NaNoWriMO

November is crawling nearer, and soon the blogs and socials will blossom with news about NaNoWriMo – people posting their wordcounts, their progresses, their pains and their triumphs.
It’s ok, I guess.
I never took part in NaNoWriMo, because when I was a serious university researcher (you are allowed to laugh), writing was a leisure activity and I liked to keep it like that. And now that I’m a penny-less out-of-work researcher trying to pay the mortgage and eat once a day with my writing, my writing is at NaNoWriMo levels (and beyond) already, and it’s been like that since May.


There’s one secondary, backburner-style project that has been on my mind in the last few weeks, and that will be my own personal Not Exactly NaNoWriMo for 2016. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Did this guy ever see a movie?

I’ll ramble a bit, if you don’t mind. This post is somewhat connected to the Things I learned from the Movies post a few days back.
Sort of like a reboot.

Last night we were reading a passage from a novel, me and some friends.
It’s a good exercise, reading aloud, and see what it sounds like. It helps a lot.
Robert E Howard used to speak aloud the passages he was typing, or so they say – and it’s a good practice… well, ok maybe not bellowing out loud each and every phrase, but reading some passages aloud helps.
roastAnyway, the thing we were reading was incredibly bad. But really bad.
This was just some people sitting around a table, having lunch (roast with potatoes, that sort of stuff), and it was supposed to be a quiet naturalistic scene, with some sort of emotional charge underneath.
It was ghastly.
The prose was stilted, the dialogue was made of wood, the whole set up lacked life, rhythm, humor, that spark that brings the scene to your mind’s eye.
It was horrid, and it failed on every point. A disaster.
We laughed a lot, we cringed a lot.
But mostly laughed.


And so it happened that me and my friend Lucy just ended up saying the same thing:

But did this guy ever see a movie in his life?

Which led to an interesting discussion, and it was fun because Lucy is a writer and a movie montage and editing expert1, and I’ll try and summarize it here, for your entertainment. Continue reading