Sunday 14 December 2008

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #26

pdf | epub | mobi | print UK | print US |

Anatomy of a Failure!

This issue of Theaker's Quarterly Fiction has one of our best ever covers, courtesy of the marvellous John Shanks. It shows the three kings doing battle with a demon on their way to Bethlehem. Eric R. Lowther tells the story in "We Three Kings". In the last of our series of stories by Richard K. Lyon & Andrew J. Offutt, Tiana pays a visit to the "Inn of the White Cat". In John Greenwood's series that never ends, Newton Braddell experiences "The Cruellest Month". And then John Hall tells the chilling story of "The Burrower Beneath". In the last quarter of the issue we have reviews of the latest from PS Publishing, among others. It's a rather shorter issue than usual (we had to hold some material over to next time), but it's a very nice one. The editorial is a bit rubbish – I'm still working through my feelings about losing at NaNoWriMo, so you'll have to bear with me – but if you skip that bit you'll have a great time with TQF#26.

Gutted! I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year, breaking a winning run that lasted four sweet years. I topped out at 23,000 words, just under half-way through. The only other time I’d failed was the year we had our first baby two weeks into the event.

After taking part for six years, now, I know all the kinds of things that losers always say. “This novel needs more than a month.” “I don’t want to rush it.” “Life got in the way.” “My social life is just too hectic.” The actual reason is generally that either they didn’t have time, or that they didn’t make time. For me, it was definitely the latter.

Knowing I had the last five days free to write left me too complacent, and I left myself with too much to do during them. 9,000 words a day from a standing start was just too much. I should have at least left myself with a target that was more easily achievable during a normal working day, so that I could recharge and plan in the evenings. And so I ended up making myself unhappy, really stupidly. I should have been celebrating writing 7,000 words in a day instead of going to bed disappointed that I’d fallen short.

I failed by about the same amount that I wrote at the write-ins last year, so missing most of the write-ins this year clearly had an effect as well. It was just that little bit harder to get away to them when I didn’t have the excuse that I was organising them! Plus, I’m still a bit traumatised from last year, when the cafĂ© that hosted our write-ins got really sick of us on the last day. It made it hard for me to relax this time around; I was just waiting for someone to come up and start telling us off!

Another part of it was that I had a bit of a post-ML meltdown... Previously I felt I had to keep writing to set a good example – this year, not so much! I realise people probably didn’t notice what I was writing in the past; but it felt like part of the job was to show that it could be done.

Another mistake was that, because I knew I wouldn’t be ML-ing this year, I planned to write a novel with a slightly more ambitious plot and a larger cast of characters. But then, even though I didn’t do any planning at all, I still leapt into the same plot, quickly finding out that I had no idea what all those characters were supposed to be doing, or how they were supposed to relate to each other. One thing I’d like to think about next year is the idea of character arcs; I might even add an extra page to the novel-writing handout (which, amazingly, was downloaded over 9,000 times over the last couple of months).

For another excuse, take a look at this issue’s review section – there’s a lot of writing time in there that I should have been putting into my novel! Not to mention a few thousand words of reviews for the BFS, and an editorial for Dark Horizons.

I also spent loads of time reading submissions for Dark Horizons. Oh well. It might have been an avoidance strategy, but I’ve got an issue of Dark Horizons pretty much typeset now, so something good came out of it!

In short, I made a lot of mistakes. I’ve got lots of excuses, but they all amount to one thing: I didn’t sit down and do enough writing. I’ve learnt my lesson: next year it’s back to a sensible 1,666 words a day for me!

Once it became obvious that I wouldn’t make it, the temptation to stop altogether was huge, but I at least pushed myself to do 1,666 words the next day, and and sorted the novel out so that at least I can pick it up again without too much trouble.

All of this will seem awfully silly to “real” writers. And every so often I do think it would be nice to try and do a bit of “real” writing. But then I remember that I didn’t do any writing at all in the years before I started to take part in NaNoWriMo, and even now I rarely write any fiction from December to October. NaNoWriMo is a great way for me to get the writing bug out of my system, leaving me to concentrate on editing the rest of the year round. And anyway, 1667 words a day is very, very little. If I wanted to take my writing that little bit more seriously, I could always take two hours to write them instead of one-and-a-quarter!

The more book reviews I write, the more I become awkwardly aware of how narrow my frame of literary reference is, but I’m trying to improve. From this issue I’ve begun to include ratings out of ten at the end of my reviews. It’s a reflection of my current limitations as a reviewer… My reviews tend to be quite nitpicky: they could easily give the impression that I didn’t like something, whereas in fact I just found I had more to say about its faults or oddities… Until I develop the vocabulary to intelligently say why I liked books, ratings will help out by showing how I really felt about them. – SWT



  • Anatomy of a Failure, by Stephen Theaker
  • Contributors

News & Comment

  • PostScripts Now an Anthology
  • No More Drumming
  • The New Doctor Who?


  • We Three Kings, by Eric R. Lowther
  • Inn of the White Cat: a Tale of Tiana, by Richard K. Lyon & Andrew J. Offutt

Science Fiction

  • Newton Braddell and His Inconclusive Researches into the Unknown: the Cruellest Month, by John Greenwood


  • The Burrower Beneath, by John Hall

The Quarterly Review


  • A Dick and Jane Primer for Adults
  • Chosen
  • The City in These Pages
  • Living with the Dead
  • Moomintrolls and Friends
  • Ship of Strangers
  • Song of Time
  • Vacation
  • Vow of Silence


  • Batman: the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul
  • Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction
  • Hellboy, Vol. 5: Conqueror Worm
  • Rick Random: Space Detective
  • Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders, Vol. 1
  • Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown, Vol. 1
  • The Savage Sword of Conan, Vol. 2


  • McSweeney’s 22


Allow us to introduce those kind souls who have given our Tiny Tim of a magazine so many Christmas gifts…

Eric R. Lowther has made many appearances in the small press since contributing "Rural Legend" to TQF#19 (still one of my favourite stories to have appeared in the magazine). See: Blood Blade & Thruster #3; anthologies from Scotopia (Dark Distortions I, available now) and Magazine of the Dead; Night to Dawn #13, Drollerie Press, Necrotic Tissue, 7th Dimension and All Hallows. He contributes a weekly column written in-character as "Arthur Helms" titled Dead Center for the alternative-present website Zombie World News. He is currently shopping his first completed novel to the industry.

John Shanks is the cover artist of this issue. John previously produced the spectacular cover of TQF#16, depicting a diver pursued by a giant sea creature, a scene drawn from the adventures of Howard Phillips. He has his own website – Homegrown Goodness – from which you can request bespoke cartooning, or purchase his hilarious animal encyclopedias.

John Greenwood has made contributions to most issues of TQF following his return from a round-the-world trip, and was ultimately made co-editor in recognition of his efforts. To this issue he contributes an astonishing twenty-third episode in the life of Newton Braddell!

John Hall is best known as a Sherlockian scholar, and a member of the International Pipe Smokers’ Hall of Fame. His numerous literary interests include Raffles (this one, not this one) and Sexton Blake, and he shares with his friend Rafe McGregor a keen interest in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James. He is the author of Special Commission, a medieval murder mystery. Two previous stories by John have appeared in this magazine: "Shaggai" (TQF#23) and "In the Vale of Pnath" (TQF#25).

Richard K Lyon is a semi-retired research scientist/inventor whose hobbies include collecting pulp SF magazines and writing. He has also published numerous short stories and novelettes. A collection of the latter, Tales From The Lyonheart, is available from Barnes and Noble, etc. In collaboration with Andrew J Offutt, famed author of My Lord Barbarian, he wrote the Tiana trilogy (Demon in the Mirror, The Eyes of Sarsis and Web of the Spider), and Rails Across the Galaxy for Analog. To our magazine they have contributed "The Iron Mercenary" (TQF#19), "Arachnis" (TQF#22), "Devil on My Stomach" (TQF#23), "The Hungry Apples" (TQF#24) "Naked Before Mine Enemies" (TQF#25), and, this issue, "Inn of the White Cat", the last in the series.

No comments:

Post a Comment