YOU! are the Hero

My review of the iOS version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain seems to have gone up a bit early on Game People, so I thought I’d share this for anyone interested in how you go about writing something that fiddly:

I don’t generally work on paper unless I’m scribbling notes away from my computer, and even then I’m as likely to use the notes function on my phone for note taking as much as paper and pen. I used to do pen-and-paper first drafts of everything, long overwritten rambles that I would hack down while typing up, but I seem to have internalised that initial edit over the years, and can go straight to screen with something that reads as at least professional. (YMMV.)

However, some things require old methods to work out. For my first 40K book (still not announced, but it does exist, promise!) there were a lot of characters and ranks to deal with, so I drew a chart of how all the squads etc fitted together.

Then there was the Warlock review, which was simple but fiddly. I wrote the topic of each section on a piece of note paper, with arrows pointing to which sections the reader would naturally go to next. I then shuffled all of them, with the exception of the first two and the last one, then numbered them all one to ten and filled in those numbers in the go-to lines. That then gave me a framework to fill in the actual words.

I’m kind of hoping this one gets a bit more attention than most reviews I write. I’ve wanted to write a concept review for ages, and this seemed the perfect excuse. I’m pretty happy with the results, and hope that if nothing else readers of the FF books get a nostalgic kick out of it.

Mark

May 6, 2011. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Eight months later…

About ten days after my last post, a little something arrived. A little something that has since evolved into a fully functioning prodigy, solving quadratic equations and reciting the works of Shakespeare in Urdu, from her own translation. This child genius is called Georgina Joan Halliday and now looks like this:

OK, genius may not be quite the right word.I may have exaggerated the extents of her talents.

Anyway, as anyone with children know, life gets busy when they arrive, and something has to give. With more pressing online commitments and other writing to do (see below) it ended up being the blog that ground to a halt.

However, as we approach the end of the wife‘s maternity leave we’re beginning to re-establish some kind of normality, and I’ve got some ongoing and upcoming things worth mentioning, so I’m back. Kind of.

Let’s see if I can manage, oooh, one post a week for the next couple of months. FINGERS CROSSED!

Anyway, what I’ve been up to:

Shiny Shelf, for which I write and edit, continues to grow nicely. A lot of articles in the last year have gone down really well and picked up interest all over the place, and with new things like Eddie’s webstrip Asterix & Obelix we’ll hopefully continue to grow. If you’ve not visited the site in a while, please pop over and take a look. You’ll find new items pop up in the column to the right —->

Over at Game People I’m still writing my weekly Story Gamer column (also on the right —>), which continues to be a really fun gig, albeit with some unintended side effects. Writing a weekly review column means there’s a constant churn of new titles to deal with (I know, I know, it’s a hard knock life) so perfectly good games find themselves neglected after the deadline has been hit. It can be difficult to find time to go back to games that I want to persevere with and finish, because there’s always something new to get on with, especially with titles which are good, fun, but not triple A epic.

For example, I got back to Assassin’s Creed 2 and completed it because it’s an absolutely stunning game, but smaller fry, perfectly good but not spectacular games  like War for Cybertron and Splatterhouse sit around neglected, the poor things.

I’m doing one or two longer Story Gamer reviews a month at the moment for titles that warrant the attention, the first being Dead Space 2 and the next one going live this Monday, and those allow me to go into a bit more depth. In between those longer pieces I will continue to have pithier reviews where I kick various bits of half-arsed shovelware in the face, so there’s no need to worry if you prefer me spitting bile.

So those are my ongoing web commitments. In print, following my story in Fear the Alien (as mentioned here) I’ve been doing more Warhammer 40,000 work for Black Library, with one book already written and a second proposal under discussion with the editors. It’s been a really enjoyable process so far: Black Library’s editors have been enthusiastic, friendly and very tolerant of my non-hobbyist 40K rookie mistakes. They also work well ahead of schedule: I started writing my first novel for them in spring 2010, and it’s still not got a publication date! In some ways this is odd compared to the, hmmm, more hectic deadlines I’ve dealt with in the past, but it’s given us plenty of time to polish the book.

If I don’t give a title for that first book, it’s not me being coy but rather the fact that it still doesn’t have one. At Microcon (see further below) I jokily ascribed this to an ongoing argument with BL’s marketing, but that’s entirely unfair: it’s been a long and polite process of me suggesting titles which were too weak, or became irrelevant as the book evolved. After being relatively successful with titles in the past, I’m finding coming up with suitably bold, 40K-appropriate titles, with even Sanctified (the FtA story) having a couple of previous titles before settling on that. Hopefully we’ll agree something soon.

I’ll update the Bibliography with the 40K book, and the new Bernice Summerfield story I wrote last year, in due course.

Finally, I’m starting to get out of the house a bit and attend events, some of which have been kind enough to let me speak. I’ve been attending Exeter university’s Microcon on and off for the last few years, and they kindly invited me to be a guest this year. I’ll put up the full text of my talk as the next post.

Mark

March 13, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Pod People

Hello. Not posting here much as I’m working on a book (which I’m not ready to talk about), and between that and my Story Gamer and Shiny Shelf duties (see sidebar for latest), I’ve not really got much time for the blog. I’ll post more when I have stuff actually coming out.

In the mean time, here’s something new: Game People’s first podcast.

It’s our first attempt, chaired and edited by GP supremo Paul Govan, and for a pilot it turned out pretty well: a bit of background hiss, and there’s no theme music yet (Rebecca?), but considering most of us hadn’t spoken  before this morning I think it went well.

I play the role of Speech Impeded Northern Git, and I think I made the part my own, although I probably gave away my lack of Zelda knowledge by doing two variations on the same joke about cutting grass. Ooops.

I won’t be in all of these, but the next one is on Resident Evil, so really there would have to be something major come up in the next fortnight to stop me doing that one.

<poker face>

June 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

My adventure with the Escapist

Please take a look at this articleGame People Calling in online games magazine the Escapist today, edited together by Game People overlord Paul Govan from my Story Gamer articles and a bit of commentary from me.

I’m quite excited by this. When I left my day job last year, I had a long ‘to-do’ list of objectives. Some of them were knocked on the head by the current state of publishing – one magazine folded the week I was intending to send some sample reviews to them. Others are ongoing.

One quite high up the list was ‘get something into the Escapist‘. Even leaving aside the fact that it’s the home of Zero Punctuation, I’ve always liked the Escapist‘s diverse approach to games coverage, the very different, personalised approaches by all the authors, video creators, etc.

I’ve pitched a couple of articles to them which were rejected, very nicely and politely, and I’ll definitely pitch again. But in the mean time, working for Game People has resulted in today’s piece, part of Paul’s Game People Calling series highlighting GP’s various writers and approaches.

Seeing my words on the Escapist is a lovely extra perk to what is already a rewarding gig. It’s an exciting time to be writing about games, with lots of great new titles coming out, and a rapid evolution in both the games themselves and the way they are discussed. Both the Escapist and Game People sit outside the traditional games journalism that I’ve been reading since the days of Amstrad Action et al, showcasing personalised writing that goes beyond the old style ‘great graphics, great sound, 7 out of 10’ reviews. It feels like there’s a lot to write about.

Mark

March 21, 2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

RSSitation

See, I told you I’d post again soon.

As I’m not getting to write this blog much (do you like what I did there, giving the impression that some mysterious outside force was stopping me blogging, rather than my own disorganisation?), and a lot of Game People and Shiny Shelf articles are flying past without a single mention here, I’ve dropped a couple of RSS feeds into the right hand column >>>

The Game People one is less than ideal, I know (at least, it isn’t if you’re getting the same coding errors I am), but it’s a quick fix to make sure the new content is flagged up here, and goddammit it’ll do for now.

Quick thanks while I’m here to Julio and Steve for all their work on Shiny Shelf, especially Julio who has a lot of good stuff coming up.

Cheers,

Mark

March 3, 2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.

Story Gamer

OK, one of the things I’ve been working away at recently (as opposed to bothering to write this blog) has come to fruition:

I’ve joined Game People, a group of writers taking different, offbeat approaches to games reviewing. There are haiku game reviews, reviews from a family perspective, and most famously Rebecca Mayes’ song reviews, as seen on Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe last year.

Luckily for the world’s ears, I won’t be singing.

Instead I’m doing Story Gamer, reviewing games from my perspective as a fiction writer, talking about the conscious narratives in games as well as the stories that emerge through playing. It should be fun, and scratch the games-writing itch with more editorial discipline and focus than the epic, unstructured screeds about Fallout 3 I allowed myself here.

Unfortunately, the format of the site requires a profile photo, featuring my many chins. The wife kindly took a few shots last Sunday, with me posing in front of various bookshelves (story gamer, see?). One of the outtakes is my profile photo here, but the one that fit the narrow space properly was posed in front of a load of Doctor Who books. In a rather half-hearted attempt to make it look a bit more varied, I shoved a couple of other books (including one of my own, for sheer narcissism’s sake) and the Ace Attorney games on there as well:

Thrilling stuff.

Marinating myself in my own personal cliches, my first review is of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, a game that has an almost entirely unwarranted status as a sacred text in my poor deluded eyes.

I’ve got a lot more of that kind of thing coming, including games which have no zombies in them whatsoever.

Thanks to Game People editor-king Paul Govan for inviting me to join. This is going to be fun.

Mark

January 26, 2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Comments off.