Andrew Bailey


It’s been long enough since I posted here that this may be an appropriate soundtrack to press play on:

I’m thinking about soundtracks as I’ve just been to Lille and spent the last afternoon in the Palais de Beaux Arts. They’ve got AIR doing some guest curation, which means there’s soundtracks to several of the galleries as well as the generally silent paintings and statues normally expected. It’s powerful, as what they’ve written slots right into the mental space that supports concentration. As a slightly noisy room is easier to talk in than a silent one. As the longer the silence here continues the harder to pick up again. Not yet a thought out response, then, but something other than silence. Also videos from the galleries:



A hedonistic salesman, you say?

So I found a new online toy: rpgsolo, by someone called Mark. I like the ability to outsource decisions. Here’s a speedy go with it:

This tower has stood undisturbed for many years, patient ghosts within it continuing the work of the Sleeper in the solar room at the top. But who comes into view now?

Hedonistic salesman.

A seller of pleasures, then? Yes, she rides her mule-cart stocked with affordable pleasures but false. Is she coming to the tower itself?

(50/50 | 4[d10]) No.

but did she know it was here?

(50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes.

It must be a strange journey for her to be taking a detour to this forsaken cliff top. What bars her usual route?

Worg rider.

That would do it. How many riders are there?

7 = 2[d4]+1[d4]+1[d4]+3[d4]

Seven, a mystical number to the goblins. Are they aware of her?

(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but…

ah, I see, she is about to stumble into one of their charmed alarm circles. There it goes. She claps her hands to her ears, and the mule bucks. Will she turn and make for the tower?

(Likely | 5[d10]) No, but…

when the worgs break the treeline she has little choice. The mule sees them and runs, her wares rattling in their drawers and cabinets. Do the tower doors open for her?

(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but…

as she hammers at the oaken doors two of the ghosts pass through them, above her head, and point menacing fingers at the approaching riders. Are they intimidated?

(Likely | 7[d10]) Yes.

enough to flee once more?

(Likely | 9[d10]) Yes.

and away they go, back into the trees. Is the merchant also scared?

(Likely | 8[d10]) Yes.

of course she is, quivering at a corner she’s made between the tower doors and her shaken cart. Is she right to be?

(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes.

“You have trespassed,” speaks one of the ghosts, “and you must atone. You must pay with blood.” Do they mean enough to hurt her?

(50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes.

and will she do it unquestioningly?

(Unlikely | 1[d10]) No, and…

the request is enough to turn her fear into anger. “No atonement,” she says. “I will give thanks for the fear you have put in the goblins, I will offer you goods from my stock in exchange, but my blood is my own and will stay so.”

Does it cow the ghosts?

(50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes.

They retreat through the doors. Do they open them?

(50/50 | 1[d10]) No, and…

the merchant feels a force pushing her back from the tower, as if an invisible bubble were expanding from its walls. Will she let it drive her away?

(Somewhat Unlikely | 3[d10]) No.

No. She draws a dagger from her boot that glows with a blue, unnatural light, and there are sparks as she sinks it into the magical membrane. Does it work?

(Somewhat Likely | 7[d10]) Yes.

A tear forms below the sparks, crackling light arcing between them, and she steps through. Painlessly?

(Unlikely | 6[d10]) Yes, but…

the blue light fades from the knife. Whatever anti-magical charm was bonded to its surface has failed.

Her mule and its cart are pushed, inexorably, to a spot twenty feet away. She looks at her knife, sadly, and slides it back into her boot. Has she managed to bring anything else through the tear, now sealed behind her?

Wine, Wire, Camera.

Well, that’s something; a valuable wineskin slung over her shoulder, a hank of wire in one pocket, and in the other a mirror enchanted to duplicate what it shows upon parchment pressed to its back. She unwinds a small length of the wire to probe the tower door – does that work?

(Unlikely | 6[d10]) Yes, but…

with a red crash the opening door releases a small but dusty explosion in the merchant’s face. Ow! What’s behind the door?

Unusually tough zombie.

It shambles towards her slowly. Normally, she thinks, you can just outrun these things, but she’s shaken and hurt from the explosion, and with her knife discharged there’s no way through the barrier. She gets to her feet and looks around. Can she climb?

(Somewhat Unlikely | 6[d10]) No, but…

the ivy that’s too loosely attached to climb up is still pretty strong. She runs the creeper across the doorway, and when the creature steps across it, she lifts and tries to trip him with it. Does it work?

(Likely | 3[d10]) No.

The creature’s legs are stronger than the creeper. Curses! it breaks, rather than unbalancing him.

What now?

She must use her advantages, her speed, and chooses to throw rocks at the drooling beast.

She hits him a few times – enough to hurt him?

(50/50 | 10[d10]) Yes, and…

it seems one lucky shot has left him blinded, mashing his one clouded eye. She scoots behind him, leaps, and sinks the blade of her knife into the back of his neck. There’s a long groan as the thing goes down to its knees and topples forward. Is that the end of it?

(Likely | 3[d10]) No.

No, it’s enchanted. As the merchant pulls her knife out, the flesh starts healing over. With all her weight, she pushes down on both ends of the blade, hoping to decapitate the thing. Surely that’s going to do it?

(Likely | 10[d10]) Yes, and…

with its death, one of the tower’s ghosts appears above them, holds up its hands and dwindles to nothing.

She steps in to the tower and looks up.

Image by Perspectiva from http://perspectiva.deviantart.com/art/Fantasy-Tower-318095645, used under a creative commons licence. I found it after the writing part but it’s perfect.

What Pinterest thinks

This is what Pinterest thinks I should be interested in. It’s not wholly wrong.

hedi slimane
christmas stories
silver linings
powder paint
sticky notes
baby llama
wood sculpture
green skirts
funny babies
dark places
being along
wood engraving
book ends
the rock
mama bear
sacred geometry
big eyes
nerd cake
world history
one word


I read a tumblr post by someone I’ve seen being great about trying to remember how to write poetry, about how any first scraps of a draft lead to disgust at the thought that they could even have been considered worth the ink that’s wasted on them, and I identified. I’ve been in a very similar place for months, with only deadlined poems getting done (napo and occasional ones) and even blogging being impossible. Well damn it, I thought, it’s Lent, let’s actively stop. Let’s move from not to do to to not do. It’s a little bit heartening that something within me rose up and resisted that thought, so I’m trying to let that wrestle the monkey mind down. Here’s a link, then, to Geof Huth and writing as a personal urge.

It’s later. It’s like when you break your arm and keep seeing casts, as here’s a tunnel from Shane Jones too. Wasn’t Light Boxes great?

How to Write an Ending that Swerves

A J Bailey:

A tweet from PANK led me to a blog article at Read to Write Stories that led me back to PANK again for a story. Sort of a circle come out of a swerve.

Originally posted on Read to Write Stories:

"Poinsettias" by Myfanwy Collins was published in PANK Magazine.

“Poinsettias” by Myfanwy Collins was published in PANK Magazine .

Sometimes an ending can seem too much like the conclusion of a composition paper. The writer is moved to swerve away from the predictable, to untie the ending from the sense of inevitability that the story has spent its entire existence building. But how?

Myfanwy Collins gives a lesson in excellent endings in her story “Poinsettias.” It was published in PANK, where you can read it now. (Seriously, it’s short and wonderful, and you can read it in three minutes.)

How the Story Works

This kind of last-second-swerve might seem like the famous epiphanies from early Modernist writers. But, it’s actually quite different. To demonstrate, here are two of the most famous epiphany endings:

“Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger”

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In love with a pirate

I was on holiday in an internet-free bit of Exmoor last weekend, and at one point J turned to me and said “OK, let’s try that roleplay thing you’ve been talking about.” “Really?” I said. “Brilliant! I’ll get the dice.”


Scut the Goblin

We played Goblin Quest, a downloadable playtest from Look, Robot at the other end of that link. It describes itself this way:

…a game of unskilled creatures failing to achieve basic tasks in a variety of fatal ways. In a world of orcs, hobgoblins, wizards, war and adventure, you play five desperate goblins (each) in search of fame, glory and honour. You’ll decide on your own Quest – like Claim a Trophy from The War, Steal a Great Treasure, Make a Tasty Meal, Try Not to Die Tomorrow – do your best to achieve it, and mourn the fallen.

What that doesn’t tell you is the part that meant J was ready to play this game: the character generation involves you drawing your little protagonists. This is Scut, one of her characters. I misread his identifier as ‘in love with a pirate’ and that led to the Plan that our goblins set out to achieve: joining the pirate crew.

We set out to find a captured pirate, the enemies that the Great Orc Army were fighting, in the jail beneath the barracks, so we could get directions to the pirate ship where Scut’s love was. My first goblin, from a clutch that are good at hiding in shadows, managed to use that talent to sneak himself and Scut’s brother into the barracks in the shadows, but was so good at hiding that the orcs closed the portcullis fatally on him. On my first roll. It’s that kind of game.

The Plan!

The plan!

At least, it was for me. J’s clutch of goblins benefited from her ability to roll beautifully high for most of the game, so that she only saw one of her goblins die before the closing moments of the Plan. We had found directions from the captured pirates, we had stolen a war-wolf to carry us across the war-torn plains to the coast, and we had introduced ourselves to the Fearsome Bo’sun, who asked us to climb the rigging to prove we deserved to join the ship as Scut and his pirate love demanded. As Scut neared the very cockpit of the ship, J rolled her worst handful of the night and a terrible sea-eagle with pointéd claws carried the poor lovelorn creature off to be eaten. My fourth then made it to the top, proving our worth, and a sad J narrated how the next goblin down in her clutch was identical enough to slot into the pirate’s heart too. Mine clambered down and fell in love with the bo’sun.

Strictly, we cheated – goblins aren’t supposed to leave the compound. Don’t care. It worked out well, in that (a) we succeeded and (b) found a fun story, and there were enough moments where J saw what’s fun about these games to appreciate them, even if not enough to make her a regular player. A win for Look, Robot too, then.

Why NaNoWriMo?

A J Bailey:

I like this post, and not just for the overly flattering reference to me in it. It’s not quite enough to make me actually sign up for NaNoWriMo this year, but the discussion of community and encouragement means that it came closer than I thought it would. The monkey-mind critic that my good writing friend admits to I share, I know the Ira Glass quote well, and the twitter friends I was asking for are also taking part. But still no.

Originally posted on susiecampbellwrites:

Constructing a framework for NaNoWriting Plan

Constructing a framework for NaNoWriting Plan

My good writing friend Andrew Bailey (check out his website here http://ajbailey.wordpress.com/ and his stunning poetry here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zeal-Andrew-Bailey/dp/1907587209) just asked me, via twitter, what I would say to encourage writers who were contemplating NaNaWriMo but who were not yet convinced. This made me reflect on why I am signed up for it again this year and what I think the benefits are.

You can certainly see why NaNoWriMo might not attract writers. The schedule of writing 50k words in a month is quite punishing but also there is the risk that writing so quickly might jeopardise the quality of the writing. I would say, straight out, that NaNoWriMo won’t suit everybody’s creative process. Nor will it deliver either a complete draft (50k words is unlikely to be the final length) or a publishable novel. Most writers respect their readers too much not to want to spend…

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