Yesterday was a double-podcast-drop-day. I show up on the Fictitious podcast and Tim Clare’s Death of 1000 Cuts, talking about THE GUTTER PRAYER. In both cases, though, I also spent a lot of time talking about writing for games, improvised stories, and what insights can be applied from one form of creative writing to another.

A friend semi-jokingly asked me when I was going to transition out of games to focus on fiction full-time. I don’t think I ever will. Gaming is a playground, writing a novel is more like engineering, but you can use lego bricks to prototype anything.


Warpcon Launch Party

The book is officially launched! Many thanks to all those who attended, many apologies to anyone who wanted a copy but was unable to get one (try all good bookshops). Thanks both many and specific to Warpcon for hosting, and Edel for the cake.

Warpcon is the local gaming convention, now in its 29th year. I first attended Warpcon 4; I was involved in organising Warpcons 7 though 12(?), and I’ve run at least one game at every con since 7. (In fact, I’ve written a Cthulhu-adjacent scenario for every Warpcon in the last 20 years…) My writing career started off with those scenarios. It’s the gathering of my clan, the turning of my year. I’m really pleased to have been allowed give THE GUTTER PRAYER a little ceremonial boost in those hallowed halls.

(Not to mention raise a little for charity – although the signed copy I donated was only a small part of the epic €13,500 raised that evening.)

Reviews/interviews/podcasts continue to rush over and around me in great waves. I shall do a round-up soon; ’til then, my twitter feed is a better place to track the madness.

Oh – and I’m pleased to announce that the UK version of THE GUTTER PRAYER has already gone back to the printers for a second run, which is wonderfully gratifying.

Onwards! Let’s see what height can be scaled before Warpcon comes ’round again!

Days in Motion

Things are happening rather quickly now. The UK release date has come and gone, and the books are in the wild. The US release date impends (22nd Jan). Reviews come in waves, eddying back to pool in Goodreads or amazon. The response has been wonderfully positive, for which I am profoundly grateful.

Upcoming events of note:

  • 22nd January: United States release
  • 26th January: Launch Party at Warpcon (5.30, probably in the New Bar.)
  • 9th February: Signing at Waterstones Cork (3-5pm)

In between all those things, I’ll be recording several podcasts, answering interviews, and racing to hit deadlines.

Into the Unknown Country

As a number of people correctly discerned (intuited? wildly guessed?), the cryptic text for the contest was from Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss, one of my favourite books. Copies of The Gutter Prayer shall be dispatched as soon as possible.

Winners (chosen randomly by die roll from the correct entries) are @_acupofcyanide, @RustyLeeMiller, and Beth of https://thebastardgods.com.

We’re into the last week before release, so reviews have started coming quickly now. They’ve all been positive to one degree or another – some glowing, some more critical of parts. It’s taught me a greater appreciation of reviewing, and encouraged me to pay even less attention to the vagaries of the star system on goodreads!

There have also been two print reviews – one in SciFiNow, and one in SFX magazine. I must grab print copies, but for now I’ll make do with scans…

One week to go.

A contest!

Copies of the signed Goldsboro books edition of The Gutter Prayer are in the wild, and reactions have been very gratifying so far.


Certain people – certain people known to me on a personal level, and whose names will be noted – have pointed out that my signature is (a) mostly illegible and (b) did not get visibly more illegible after I signed 700 copies. They have mocked my handwriting.

Now, to be fair, my handwriting could be better. It tends to alternate between “childlike scrawl” and “prescription written by a doctor who you sort of suspect of self-prescribing painkillers”. It is… well, there’s a reason I type everything.

But their mockery can be your gain.

Now that I’ve got some spare author’s copies, I’m doing a little contest. Below, you’ll find a page from one of my favourite books, hand-written by yours truly. To enter, all you need to do is comment and name that book. Twitter messages also work.

(If you don’t know the book, I’ll also accept your best guess at the text).

I’ll pick three winners from the correct answers on the 10th of January.
EDIT: I was somewhat unclear above – my author’s copies are of the mass-market edition, not the hardback. However, as I was as ambiguous as my handwriting, I’ll give away two paperbacks and one hardback on the 10th.

Revision, Revised

This isn’t right. This isn’t even wrong.

– Wolfgang Pauli, allegedly

Revisions continue. Over on Twitter, I said “are these the wrong words, or are they just in the wrong order?”, and I thought I’d quickly unpack this here.

Revision and rewriting isn’t writing. By this point in the process, the book is fundamentally what it’s going to be. You can improve it, you can polish it, you can clarify it, you can remove crap bits or irrelevant bits, and – most valuable of all – you can look back at it and realise what you’ve written. You can’t, however, remake the book.

Caveat – you can, but generally speaking, you shouldn’t. For example, I’ve got to deliver the revised Book 2 by the end of January. It’s theoretically possible, if I ignored every other commitment and deadline, I could write a totally different take on the original concept and deliver that instead, a page one rewrite – but that would be madness and folly, as I’d likely be making a whole series of new problems instead of fixing the ones in the manuscript to hand – and if I blow the deadline, then I’m creating problems for everyone at the publisher. 

(I would say the most important lesson I’ve learned in my career is “don’t miss deadlines”, but the real lesson is “if you’re going to miss a deadline, let people know well in advance. Never go silent.”)

Some parts of the book have to be rewritten. There’s no getting around that.  I know I need to add at least two chapters that weren’t in the original submission, to give substance to one subplot. Other subplots are getting excised, and there are scenes where they crossover with the main plot that had to be scrapped and replaced.

Most of the process, though, is asking the question I started with – wrong words, or wrong order? If they’re the wrong words, they have to go. Usually, though, they’re just in the wrong order. Slide that paragraph up there, and three disjointed interactions A, B, C flow into each other B>A>C, and suddenly you’ve got a clearer emotional arc in the scene. Interweave those two character’s chapters, and you’ve got rising tension instead of the same event told twice. 

Asking yourself “how do I fix this?” implies that the text is a problem, and that the simplest solution is replacing it. Asking “how do I make this work?” makes you think of the text as a machine that’s clogged, or misaligned, and you’ve got to unjam it. 

This morning, I pulled a hideous gunky, dripping clog out of the gears of the plot, and it feels like it’s all spinning out of control. But the fact that it’s moving implies that there’s life in there.

The cloggy words are wrong. 

Most of the other words are right, even if they’re in the wrong order. And I’ve still got a month to patch and polish.

Revision and revision and revision

According to the Word of Word, I’m on page 238 of 653 (word pagination doesn’t match up with print pagination, by the way – Book 2 will be roughly the same length as Book 1). so, about two-fifths of the way through, right?

Well… maybe. On the face of it, no – there’ll be more than one pass through. Right now, I’m in the middle of redrafting parts of the book. Taking out passages and subplots that don’t work, adding in replacements, cutting extraneous sections. There’ll be another pass of sanity-checking, another for style. So, if I’m going to go through the book another three or four times, then I’m only a fraction of the way through the revision process.

Fortunately for me – and even more fortunately, for my deadlines – the really hard part is this first pass. Here’s when the book turns to sand and threatens to fall apart; here’s where I’ve got to hold all the threads in my head at once; here’s where I’ve got to remember which metaphor I’m using, and change things so it’s either sand or thread, not both at the same time. Later on, when things are more solid/knotted together (mem: check this), I can make minor tweaks and beautify individual sentences. Right now, it’s all heavy lifting and major surgery, and I’m mixing metaphors again….