A Brief History of ‘Chill Out’ (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Write My Second Novel)

Some things need to be commemorated. I haven’t been blogging for a very long time (with a lot of effort taken up by my review blog Schizopolitan which, to be honest, is going through a very quiet patch right now). But when something really important happens, I still feel like the occasion needs to be marked – and having just finished my second novel, I wanted to talk about it a little.

(Firstly, the phrase ‘finished’ is a little open here – it’s done enough that I’m sending it to my agent, but I’m fully expecting to be doing some more work on it in a month or so (Hopefully it’ll just be small tweaks, though – I’m really not keen on the idea of having to do even more heavy-duty rewrites, after the stuff I’ve already had to do). Secondly, novels aren’t ever properly ‘finished’ – you just get to a point where you can’t learn any more from working on it, and you know it’s the best you can do at the current stage of your life. ‘Finishing’ a novel has just as much to do with learning when to back away from the keyboard, stop fiddling and leave the damn thing alone.)

Initially, for those tuning in for the first time, I should probably answer a simple question: what actually is my second novel?

Chill Out is a contemporary fantasy story, a mix of weird pulp adventure and emotional drama that could be described as somewhere between Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks, Douglas Adams and the weirder edges of British comic 2000AD. It’s the story of a woman taking her fiance home to meet the family she doesn’t get along with, and how the events of that visit force her to deal with a lot of the issues in her past (as well as putting both her and her family in a ludicrous amount of danger).

It currently weighs in at 178,000 words (which is big, but actually 10,000 words shorter than my first novel, at least), and here’s the blurb:

Don’t call her Chill…

She’s getting married. She’s got a job she enjoys. She’s got a good life. For Jill Baxter, everything should be fantastic. There’s only one problem:

Her family.

It’s eleven years since she left them behind, moved out, and changed her name. She doesn’t call herself Chill anymore – she’s living a normal life, and she likes it. But now that she’s engaged, questions are being asked. Her family want to meet her fiancé. She’s got to take him home for the weekend, to the sprawling country estate where she grew up. And there’s the very strong risk… that he might find out the truth.

The truth is that the world is a much stranger, wilder and more dangerous place than most people ever suspect. Jill’s family know this, and for generations they’ve been living at a crossroads in reality, battling gods, monsters and sanity-bending forces. They’ve travelled to other worlds, other realms, other universes. They’re some of the only people who stand between normality and the gibbering strangeness that lurks just around the corner.

And they’re exceptionally good at messing up Jill’s life.

One weekend. That’s all she’s got to manage – one weekend of keeping her fiancé from discovering the truth, and preventing her family from unwittingly tearing her life apart. But something else is happening, something that threatens more than just Jill’s engagement. Shadowy, terrifying forces are gathering, and before the weekend is out, the girl who used to be called Chill is going to find out that certain things – and certain names – aren’t so easy to run away from…

That’s the book that I’ve just (relatively speaking) finished. And, for those who are interested, what follows are some details on the strange and fairly organic way the ideas for this book developed…

‘Chill Out’ has had a rather complicated journey to the page. It’s a story that has, in certain ways, been lurking around my head since 1997, when I was engaged in a foolish (but weirdly enjoyable) attempt to break into the world of TV writing by a completely unorthodox (and, to be honest, shambolic and rather daft) route. While I was succesful enough to actually get meetings with a few people about my TV series pilot script – an overambitious bit of SF/Fantasy action adventure called ‘Sanity Claws’ – it never went further than that, and it’s probably just as well that it did, as I wasn’t anywhere near mature enough to be a decent writer back then. I did, however, come up with lots of ideas for other potential series, once of which – ‘Chill Out – was planned to be a kind of romantic screwball comedy, with one of its main characters being a punky, bisexual occult troubleshooter in her early-to-mid-twenties, who went by the name of Chill Baxter.

Being someone who grew up with an unusual name, I know the kind of effect it can have – so Chill was defined by her name, the same as me. She was designed to be a wild card, someone who functions outside the normal world, and who’d bounce off the other main character, who was someone perfectly normal dragged into a world of magic, adventure and strangeness purely by a twist of fate. (Yes, alright, a lot of this is influenced by the X-Files era, I’m completely unashamed to say). It was a potentially fun set-up – the wild and crazy girl versus the straight-laced guy – and I honestly felt there was some definite possibilities there for something that was commercially viable.

I just couldn’t actually write the damn thing.

It happens sometimes – you get an idea that seems like it should be dynamite, and yet it just doesn’t come together. In this case, it was simply that I couldn’t quite get the character to catch fire and actually start working – I’d thought all I’d have to do is write ‘punky bisexual occult troubleshooter’ and the rest would write itself, but what I actually ended up with was a character who wasn’t that interesting, and was verging on one-note. I still liked her, and tried her out on a number of stories that simply didn’t come together. It’s tempting to speculate what would have happened if I’d learned one of my most important writing lessons back then – simply, that you actually have to finish things – but after a while, it seemed pretty much that Chill Out wasn’t going to happen, and Chill went on the list of characters who I liked, and would at some point find an actual place for.

It wasn’t until late 2006/early 2007 that I started thinking about the idea again – in this case, it was because I was rewriting my first novel (a lengthy process which taught me a lot) and was trying to think up what I could do next. Various ideas were floating around in my head – and one of the things that my first novel, The Hypernova Gambit, had taught me is that it’s always good to look at things from a different angle. The Hypernova Gambit started out life as a proposal for a Doctor Who novel, and for years I thought it was stuck that way, until I finally came up with a way of taking the Doctor out of the story. As a result, the idea of turning ideas on their head was something that at least appealed, but I was mulling things over, throwing concepts at the wall and seeing what stuck.

What actually made it work was, oddly enough, thinking about my sister. She’s three years older than me, her name is Samantha – and, with a surname of Bullock, you can imagine that her time at Secondary School wasn’t exactly a non-stop cavalcade of blissful fun. We both had a rough time at school in different ways – but what really made me think was the realisation that she’d been through a lot of the kind of things I’d been through, only she’d handled things in a different way, and it had – in essence – made her a different person from me. Not a better or worse person, just a different one. It’s very easy to see the way you perceive the world as the way the world is – for example, my middle name is John, and my parents gave it to me so that if I did get to the point where I was fed up of being called Saxon (they were sensible enough to realise this might be a problem), I could switch, and Saxon could become my middle name. Only, I never got fed up with it, and the idea of changing my name to make life easier for myself and suit everyone around me never even occurred to me, to the extent that I was genuinely shocked and surprised when I found out from my parents (at the age of 16) that this was the reason I had John as a middle name.

So, all this was going through my head – the way I’d grown up, contrasted with the way my sister had grown up, the way we’d evolved into different people and gone down very distinctive paths. And suddenly, like a lightning bolt from the heavens, the idea was there inside my head, waiting for me:

What if Chill didn’t like her name? What if instead of being defined by having such an odd name, she’d actually found it an immense annoyance? What if instead of being punky, bisexual and off-beat, she was actually a ridiculously normal person saddled with a name that’s extremely hard to explain, one that she’d legally changed the minute she turned 18 years old?

That was the key. That was the moment when I sat up and went “Ooohh…”, because suddenly, I had a way of doing a story I’d been trying to write for a long time. I’ve got a very strong interest in characters who dwell on the border between the normal world and the unreal – I’ve spent a long time trying to tell those kinds of story, and I love the idea of treating the offbeat and the insane with a very distinct kind of emotional reality. Trouble is, finding ways of contriving for a ‘normal’ person to get involved in weird investigations and adventures isn’t always easy when your normal character isn’t, say, an FBI agent. I’d tried a whole series of solutions that didn’t work, or didn’t play, or simply felt way too contrived (whether it was ‘They’re flatmates’, or ‘They’re old university friends’ or ‘They work in the same bookshop’), and it was always near impossible to come up with a solution to the question “Why doesn’t the normal character just run like hell the minute weird stuff starts happening?”

And suddenly, I had an answer. They would, but they’re connected via family. Someone who grew up as the normal sheep of the family – someone who was raised around weirdness, and all they wanted to do was get away.

Instantly, you’ve got conflict, and you’ve got something that’s emotionally relatable. I soon realised that I was basically planning a family drama as seen through a really weird lens, and to force these characters together, I figured a nice way of doing it would be a ‘meeting the parents’ set-up, where at least some of the story is based around the central character having a fiance who doesn’t know the truth, and building tension around the risk that they might find out. Obviously, there’d be a threat as well (and it took me a while to find the threat – it wasn’t until I finally found an effective set of bad guys that the story felt like it was starting to work), but the plan was to try and keep the emotional drama (and a certain amount of comedy) going all the way through. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to write it, but I figured I was just going to have to find out. The fact that my agent liked it (and said it was potentially a more sellable idea than The Hypernova Gambit), combined with the fact that the editor who I’d had contact with about The Hypernova Gambit also said she liked it, made me think that it was worth pressing on with, whatever happened.

I’ll be honest here about influences, as well. I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to influences – I’ll grab stuff from anywhere I find it, and as a result ‘Chill Out’ has ended up a bit of an eclectic blend. First of all, there was Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – I’d read it and enjoyed it relatively recently, and I liked the way that it mapped normal emotional problems onto a fantasy story – after all, it’s the tale of a family reunion that gets out of hand, and I wanted to try and do that with the book, combine crazy fantasy with emotional reality so that no matter how weird it gets, it’s always based around something relatable and real. Then, there was Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel by Susanna Clarke – a book I absolutely adored, one of the most immersive fantasies that I’d read since Lord of the Rings, which made me really want to work on the history and size of the world I was creating. I love stuff that feels like it stretches out beyond the confines of what you’re reading, and I adored the convincing background and sense of myth.

Another influence was the comic series Planetary, by Warren Ellis and John Cassady, mainly for the way it explores pulp fiction as history. I’ve always liked the idea of building whole universes, and being able to do stories where anything can happen, and Planetary’s left-field approach to adventure fiction sent me in a lot of odd and interesting directions. There was also – rather more surprisingly – the comedy series Arrested Development, whose energy and oddball setup (the one normal member of a ridiculously rich family tries to keep his relations on the rails) gave me a road map on certain ways I could handle the story. There was the 2008 film Rachel Getting Married – directed by Jonathan Demme, it’s a harshly emotive drama all about family dysfunction with a stunning performance from Anne Hathaway, and there’s one particular scene – where Hathaway’s character is confronted and emotionally torn to shreds by her sister – that had a massive effect exactly how real I wanted to play the emotional side of the story.

Most of all, though, there was Grant Morrison’s head-spinning run on the experimental superhero comic Doom Patrol. Possibly my favourite superhero comic, it’s packed full of energy, ideas and weirdness, as well as being one of the few superhero comics that are genuinely about being a freak – the Doom Patrol are fascinating characters, but they’re also damaged people who you’d never actually want to be (unlike the mostly far more photogenic X-Men). Re-reading stories like The Painting that Ate Paris and the whole bewildering Flex Mentallo saga really gave me a handle on the tone I wanted to go for, as well as showing me what bad guys I should use. (I resurrected a team of bad guys I’d used in various attempts at stories, but – showing that I may have at least learned something – I pared their ridiculously complex motivation down to a one-sentence pitch line, and they’re so much better as a result).

The other influence is more of a general one, and is also more of an influence I was reacting against, than anything else. In short – urban fantasy and ‘paranormal romance’, especially the first-person driven tales of kick-ass heroines who ride the line between mundane reality and wild fantasy. I’ve read a number of these books (mostly thanks to work), and one thing which had always goten to me was the way they were always based around very strict fantasy rules – specific mythologies, specific references – and I liked the idea of trying to do an emotive, character-driven adventure story with a strong female central character, but which also has the kind of anything-can-happen storytelling that appeared in the kind of crazy comics that I grew up with (2000AD being a major touchstone here). I wanted to do something that would play a little on that side of the line, but which would also subvert it and deliberately not go in expected directions. (I’ve also ended up with a novel that features a whole selection of strong female characters, so thinking about what would appeal to a female audience wasn’t exactly insane…)

All these influences came together over the period of around two years – and it hasn’t exactly been easy. I didn’t even know if I could write Chill Out, so I started without having fully planned it out (mainly because it was the only way I was ever actually going to get started). Yes, I got the joy of improvisation, and there’s a lot that happened organically (like the way an off-hand idea about a supervillain trapped in a section of my main character’s house evolved into one of the most emotive threads in the book), but it also meant that I ended up going down a few blind alleys. One thing that I have learned thanks to Chill Out – which confirmed something I was told by an editor in relation to my first book – is that you’ve always got to stay focussed on what the book’s actually about. You can have lots of stuff surrounding your central thread, but that central thread itself needs to be strong and clear. I once again ended up with a book that was a little too busy, into which I was cramming too much stuff – and the end result was that I spent a big proportion of the last 6-9 months doing a massive rewrite, and taking out two characters (one of whom was a minor supporting role, the other of whom was previously a character I’d thought was vital). It was a slog, and I want to avoid doing it on my next book… but Chill Out is stronger because of the changes I’ve made.

It was a slightly loopy choice – to do a book that was part fantasy adventure, part comedy, part intense family drama (something I had no experience whatsoever of writing), and while I am hoping to do more books in this sequence of stories (it’s planned out as a five volume series), the other stories would be extremely different, bigger in scale, and hopefully a little less intense. Because while the initial story was pretty simple, and I kept the action confined mostly to one weekend (with a handful of flashbacks), I still managed to get a pretty damn big book. I’m aiming for my next book to be shorter, by golly – as books these size are a major, major slog to get right (and I want to make sure that I’m having fun while I write).

And yet, I’ve learned a hell of a lot. Pushing myself into unfamiliar areas has actually helped – I’ve had to work on the characterisation of this novel harder than anything I’ve ever done writing-wise before, and it’s made me want to go back and work on The Hypernova Gambit again simply because I want to be able to use what I’ve learned to make that book as good as is humanly possible. There have been plenty of times when this has been an incredibly difficult process – and, to be honest, I also found myself going through some major insecurity issues last year.

Keeping confidence in yourself when writing is hard, especially when you’re working on big projects. Publishing always moves slower than you want it to – and when it got to the point when I realised it had been three years since I’d gotten my agent, and I still hadn’t finished my second book, things did start to get to me a little. I’ve been hanging out on Twitter a lot as well – and while some sides of social networking can be great, there can be something a little dispiriting about constantly, every day, being reminded about all the progress that everyone else is making, and all the wonderfully exciting things they’re doing, while you’re still slogging away on the same book you’ve been working on since the end of 2009. That kind of thing can very easlily feed insecurity – that you’re not good enough, that you’re not fast enough, that your book isn’t sellable enough, and add to that some complicated life changes (like the fact that I moved house last year, and that my girlfriend has been suffering from some pretty major health issues for the past few months), and it’s easy to get downhearted – when the truth is that sometimes, life gets in the way. And that’s okay.

It’s been a hard road keeping myself going on this, especially since the end result is… well, it’s extremely me. I’m very proud of it, though – it’s better than the book that I set out to write, and even if this one isn’t the one to get me published, I’ve learnt even more from writing Chill Out. I’m going to keep going. I’m going to keep writing. And one of these days, I am going to make it.

Anyhow – my current plan is to take a few days to do some practical-related stuff, get a few things sorted, and then knuckle down to some serious work on my next project – a romantic comedy adventure, set in the same universe as Chill Out, currently under the title of Bradley and Hoyle. I’m planning it as a short and fun screwball adventure, something that’s hopefully going to come in at about 120,000 words maximum (unlike the 178,000 word behemoth that is Chill Out’s current draft). I’ll work on that until my agent gets back to me with everything I need to do to Chill Out in order to fix it (I’m expecting the list to be pretty big), at which point I’ll hopefully just have to do a final polish, and then Chill Out will be out of the door – and I graduate once more into the world of waiting to see if the next e-mail I receive is THE e-mail. Once that’s done, I’ll trek onwards with Bradley and Hoyle – once that’s done, my next project is rewriting The Hypernova Gambit. And once that’s done? Well… if by that point I still haven’t gotten a bite (figuratively speaking…), I’m going to take a risk and work on the incredibly dark, female-oriented and sexually explicit fantasy series that I’ve been developing. Because, frankly, the idea of writing it scares me (it’s a pitch-black story), and sometimes I think being scared is a good thing. I guess we’ll see…

But for now, Chill Out is done. It’s been an adventure. And I hope to get to share it with more people soon.

“This cat is no more! It has ceased to be! It has expired, and gone to meet its maker!”

Well, I’ve opened Schrodinger’s Box, and it turns out the cat didn’t make it.


For all those not in a Quantum Mechanic-related mood, I heard back about my novel today, and the absurdly lengthy saga of the Rewrite and the Editor Who Shall Remain Nameless has, unfortunately, ended up with a rejection. And, mustering a bit of the Dunkirk spirit, I may be down but I’m not out. I’m officially giving myself the day off, going into town, eating some nice food and possibly watching some completely nonsensical disaster porn courtesy of Roland Emmerich (The f/x in 2012 look wonderful – whether any of the stuff around it is even bearable may be a completely different story…). In short, I may not have gotten the result I wanted, but I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep on going.


The Hypernova Gambit – The Opening…

Okay, there comes a time when you’ve got to just put yourself out there and see what happens. There’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages on the site, and after talking it over with my agent, I’ve gone and done it. The prologue and opening chapter of The Hypernova Gambit are now online, – and if you’ve been following the long-running saga of my book, this is your chance to find out what I’ve been talking about all this time (For extra info, the blurb can be found here). Hope you enjoy it…

Swings and Roundabouts

Proof that life has an annoying habit of delivering another knock at exactly the wrong moment, I got two book rejections in one go this morning. Both were from US publishers, and neither fell into the category of “Oh well, at least they seemed to enjoy it…” – one thought it was fun, but didn’t think it was their thing and found it easy to put down, while the other seemed to really like the prologue, and from then onwards found it confusing and didn’t like any of the characters. Being already tired, bleary and sliding back down the slope towards depression again, it wasn’t like I was in fine fettle this morning, and this just sucked all my enthusiasm for the day out of my system. I know I’ll get through this, but currently all I want to do is curl up into a corner and spend most of my time crying. Practical work is helping a little – I’ve had a review to work on this afternoon, I’ve still got the website to finish, I’ve got another reading report to do, and I’ve got some proofreading starting next week… but everything outside the window is grey, and trying to believe that this is going to work out okay in the end is getting a little difficult.

Interview (!)

I’ve done my first interview about The Hypernova Gambit. It’s for an online sci-fi e-zine called Concept Sci-Fi, and given that the book still hasn’t been picked up by a publisher I was rather surprised to be asked (the editor had read about it on my agent’s website). Never being one to turn down an opportunity to talk about myself, however, I put on my never-before-worn interviewee hat, and the results are now online here.

Schedule Schmedule

You know when you’re looking forward to something, and it acts as a kind of beacon? You may be having a somewhat crappy (or downhearted) time, but you think to yourself “Well, not long until…” I’m an easily pleased sort – and I was looking forward to finding out what the S4 finale of Lost had in store, especially as it’s a double-sized edition. Plus, I was looking forward to the eighth and final episode of the current chunk of Battlestar Galactica. Turns out that, for reasons completely unknown, they’re airing next week rather than this week. There’s a gap in the schedule for apparently no reason whatsoever, and it’s been officially compounded by having to wait an extra week to see the opener of Steven Moffat’s new Who two-parter.

I am officially vexxed.

In better news, I managed 4,000 words of new (if not particularly brilliant) fiction. It has, however, left my brain feeling somewhat fudge-like. Things will turn around – it just might take a little while to start happening…


A day that could safely be described as difficult. I got another rejection for the novel this morning – and while I’d like to say I was terribly stoic and solid as a result of this negative news, I’d be lying through my teeth. It’s one of those times when I could really do with a gigantic amount of work to keep me occupied and stop the dogs in my head from barking, but fate being its usual self, I’ve got a semi-quiet patch before a serious amount of proof-reading, followed by the Edinburgh Film Festival which, together, will take up most of June. I’m just feeling rather tired and in need of distraction at the moment, like I’m patiently waiting for something that’s never actually going to arrive, and while I know I’ve got to be positive, there’s also a side of me that needs to forget about this and damn well get on with stuff. It’s never good when your usual outlets for relaxing after this kind of thing don’t work, or when you have the bright idea to call someone for a chat and it turns out that nobody’s home.

Anyway- while I may be a little down, I’m not out. And I’m certainly not about to let any of this beat me.

Don’t Stop Believin’

Jet lag has finally left me behind- the world now feels real, and I actually want to sleep at the proper times. Being back in England is strange- it’s surprising how quickly you get used to another environment, and a world of curving roads and green (rather than white) took a little getting used to. And, in the spirit of those thoughts, here’s a brief bit of blogging that I didn’t get the chance to post while I was away thanks to network/computer issues. Imagine that everything is getting that authentic Hollywood-style flashback wibble, and it’s the 1st of March…

Everything outside is white. Powdery snow is sweeping in from above, and covering everything you can think of. 9.20 in the morning (even though my computer is telling me it’s 14.20 in the afternoon- how very helpful of it…), and outside there are flurries of snow being buffeted around by the wind. When I was growing up in Cornwall, I saw a couple of harsh winters, and there’s be a couple of points where the landscape would end up covered in snow- but this is something different. This is serious weather.

I’m sitting in Anne and Jim’s house, in the Sun Room- a lounge with plenty of windows- and I’ve got a fantastic view of the line of jagged icicles dotted along the edge of the roof outside. There have been occasional warm spells (if you can count briefly rising above freezing as a warm spell), but it hasn’t been enough to melt the snow. The entire landscape of the country has changed- even in somewhere as normal as the Mall, it’s impossible to ignore thanks to the sheer volume of snow that’s fallen, and is simply not going anywhere. They’ve taken to ploughing the snow into gigantic mounds at the edge of car parks and roads, making some areas into bizarre hilly labyrinths, and removing some sights altogether (there’s a horse race track that’s now almost completely impossible to see). We’re only a couple of hundred metres from Lake Simcoe, a gigantic body of water which is currently frozen over, and dotted with various huts used for ice fishing.

Possibly the biggest and most fundamental difference was Thursday, and our trip to Niagra. Last time I went, it was the busy season, and it was a rainy day- the falls were still an absolutely spectacular, brain-numbing site, but the sense of damp greyness was a little difficult to escape. This time, however, the world was white, the water was topped by a surface of broiling chunks of ice, and once we got past the falls to the river and valley beyond, the entire river had frozen solid, thawed, and frozen again, creating a landscape full of cracks, ravines and gaping fissures. We even got some sun (creating a rainbow over the ice), and the sense of awesome scale and size was something to behold.

It’s always good to make sure that you’re seeing something new on holiday- and even though there may be a temperature rise scheduled for Monday, along with some wet weather, we’ve still seen enough to last us a long time.

As it turned out, while we got a brief thaw on Monday, with plenty of rain and an easing of the general whiteness of the world around us, it didn’t last for long. Tuesday night, we got home from some serious shopping, and my Aunt Anne’s drive had almost completely defrosted. The next morning, it was covered again in over half a foot of snow- it’s amazing how quickly it accumulates, and getting to stride around in some of the deepest and most undisturbed snowdrifts I’ve ever seen was one of the highlights of the holiday.

One of the other highlights was Sunday’s trip into Algonquin National Park, an area of wilderness that was still covered in snow, and one of the most breathtaking places I’ve seen for a long time. The temptation to simply head off into the woods was very hard to resist (although the survival issues kind of helped…), but the whole area was splendid, and one of the most genuinely quiet places I’ve ever been, a place where all you can really hear is the wind drifting through the trees- no traffic, no aircraft, and very little sign of human life once you get out of sight of the highway. It reminded me of what I loved about going on hikes with my Dad as a teenager- when we’d voyage to places like Dartmoor and Scotland, and we’d reach those places where you could turn 360 degrees and not see a single trace of civillisation. It’s given me a serious injection of wanderlust, and while a return to Canada might take a while, if we do go back, we’ll be seeking out more interesting wilderness, and seeing how far we can get from the noise of the modern world.

We also visited the CN Tower in Toronto, where I voyaged up over 140 floors to the SkyPod viewing area, and got one of the most spectacular attacks of vertigo I’ve had for a while. I’m alright with heights as long as I’m able to distance myself from what I’m seeing and pretend it’s just a really good special effect (I went up the Empire State and the Sears Tower with no ill effects)– but the SkyPod had a matrix of windows that sloped right down to the floor, meaning there looked like there was very little between me and a very, very long drop. As a result, I spent most of my brief time up there hugging the walls, or holding very tightly onto the viewing telescopes dotted around the pod. Even with all that, it was a tremendous view, and I want to be able to find a way of writing that kind of experience, of being able to conjure up the sense of hugeness and scale- I’m just not sure if I’d be in a hurry to go back there.

In short, though, it’s been a tremendous time- my aunt looked after us wonderfully, and I actually found myself switching off and properly relaxing for the first time in a while – an experience I’m seeing if I can stretch further into my ‘home’ time. The flight back wasn’t exactly comfortable, and sleeping on a plane never seems to work for me, but we’re officially back, and it’s been a wonderful rest.

One thing I did do while I was over there was brainstorm some ideas with George for the follow-up to THE HYPERNOVA GAMBIT, and it’s actually feeling like a genuine story now rather than a collection of cool concepts. One of the things I love about George is the fact that she’s able to keep up with my brain and throw in conceptual stuff that I’m not expecting. She’s a fantastic sounding board, and the fact that she’s now desperate to find out what happens next is certainly going to help…

Of course- I am going to have to work out what to do next. The fact that I’ve got a very crowded two weeks coming up (subbing in London, followed swiftly by Eastercon) is going to help keep my mind off things, but I have got to remind myself that just because the most recent bit of the process happenned at a dizzying speed, it doesn’t mean the rest of it is. As of Monday morning, the book will have officially been with publishers for two weeks- and fourteen days really isn’t a long time where publishing is concerned. My natural instinct is to sit back and wait, but I know I can’t afford to. Yes, something fantastic might happen with the book- but I’ve still got to keep some forward momentum going.

Onward, ever onward…

Synapse Synopsis

The next stage is almost here- but I’ve got to get the synopsis right before I can officially leave The Hypernova Gambit alone. I’m working on it, and trying to get it to read well and not simply be a list of ‘and then this happenned’, but getting my head around it is a little on the tricky side. I veer from a kind of bizarre unshakable confidence in this thing, knowing that it’s so OTT and packed with so much life and vigour that something’s got to happen because of it (even if the writing isn’t always consistent)– to getting all negative and insecure and thinking that of course nobody’s going to want to publish it, for heaven’s sake. I am very proud of it, though, and I want the synopsis to reflect that, and to have as much of the energy of the novel as I can fit in– it’s just tricky thanks to the damn thing being so amazingly intricate. The detail is rather scary, but I’m going to find a way of doing this. I haven’t been doing all this subbing for the past few years for nothing.

I might know what I’m doing next, though. My head needs a little clearing, but I have an idea for a teen fantasy– and I think it’s big enough to give me a chance to do some enjoyably crazy stuff. All I’ve got to do is start it, and then keep going no matter what. Here’s hoping…