Golden Leaves Con 2013

The French have a reputation. There is this notion that they are terrible drivers. Terrible, awful drivers. I wish to state for the record that this is not the case – but only if you exclude Paris.

The Parisians, they of impatience, bluster and hooting, drag down the whole country. Douglas Adams once wrote that the shortest unit of time in the universe is the duration between the traffic light going green and the New York taxi driver behind you hooting his horn. I’d argue that it is actually the duration between you putting a foot on the Champs-Élysées and death.

However, once out on the AutoRoute and skittering along at 130km/h, there’s nothing wrong. They are orderly, well behaved, let you out, let you in and don’t seem to mind that you’re British. It’s almost as if the 100 Years’ War never happened.

All of this changes once you cross the border into Switzerland.

In Basel, you are swept into an impressive tunnel/bridge/tunnel system that sweeps you under the city, clipping Germany and then into the depths of Switzerland proper with barely a whiff of congestion. It is then that something dawns on you. The Swiss are insane.

If you were to take the vehicular nightmare of Paris and stretch it over an entire country, you would end up with Switzerland’s road network. I have never felt so edgy and unsafe in congested traffic than I did there.

Switzerland, despite the mentally unhinged lunatics on the roads, is staggering to behold. It is unapologetically picturesque. Astoundingly so. Roads curve and wind precariously over, around and through mountains, forests, glacial plains, medieval towns, modern architecture, crystal-blue seas, and the Alps.

Golden Leaves Con was the target. The road up from the lake to the venue was precarious, beautiful and spoiled only by my delightful other half shrieking that we were about to die at every corner. I do not drive that fast and the roads were clear. And there weren’t any other insane Swiss drivers around to be driven off the edge by. However, at many points during the uphill wind, the road had no crash barriers, so if you went off the edge, death was sure to follow.

Suicidal Adventures in Fursuits

Nestled on the side of a valley overlooking the Alps, and not far out of Thun, the wooden youth hostel building had the most spectacular view I had ever seen. From the front of the building, you could see all the way down the hill, across the lake, and up into the Alps. Our bedroom was on the rear. The view was a tree, a fence and the back of some cars.

After we had made the obvious jokes about Heidi, Swiss accents, and Nazi gold, we dumped our luggage in our room, flopped out in the main room and had a lovely soup. At this point I let my parents know we had arrived safely.

My very understanding father is not actually an owl
My very understanding father is not actually an owl

Then, it started snowing.

At GLC, there is a tradition of taking the fursuiters out for a late night walk. Enchanting tales of lamp lit processions of anthropomorphic animals winding through the Swiss landscape sounded magical and ethereal. I was positively thrumming with excitement.

As with all conventions, GLC very quickly found its stride with Convention Standard Time. This peculiar time zone exists in a existentially dubious state somewhere between ten and 45 minutes behind where you think you should be and almost certainly five minutes before the point where you attempted to second guess it.

With the snow flurries covering the ground in a neat, white blanket, and the organiser of the walk still woefully under-prepared and under-dressed, I had that sinking feeling that this was going to be a disaster.

33 minutes later and immediately after a headcount wasn’t taken, oil lanterns were handed to the fursuiters and we slowly headed towards the start of the route. In darkness. Uphill.

Let’s consider the madness of this: A fursuiter could be classified as T38 and T13 in the Paralympics. Imagine encouraging a partially sighted person with a limited field of view and impaired physical mobility up a wet, slippery slope in the darkness, giving them a lantern on a stick that doesn’t project light downwards. Then, as the snow continues to fall, guide them single-file through a muddy track in a forest, and down on to a winding road. You wouldn’t do it, you really wouldn’t do it. Not unless you really didn’t like disabled people.

Madness. Utter madness. I’m amazed no-one went missing. Maybe they did. We wouldn’t know because they didn’t do a headcount.

Halfway around, we bailed: it was too dark, cold, wet, slippery and crazy. We walked back along the road as the snow picked up, headed back to the venue and warmed ourselves up.

Fluid Dynamics and Hillsides

The next morning we woke early, devoured breakfast and then performed what was would become far and away the most enduring memory of the weekend: We sat in an outdoor heated pool.

Snow was on the ground, the air was bloody cold, and I could use my nipples to cut glass. A career as a jewel thief was briefly considered until the pleasure of sinking into a hot pool enveloped every single nerve in my body and told me I was in heaven. The British had invaded the pool and by gosh it was marvellous.

The pool had a couple of problems. The first was that it was a little smaller than was needed – feet tangled in the middle. The second issue was to do with placing a pool on a slope. At times, it did feel a little like that whole thing was going to eventually give in to gravity and slide like a warm toboggan down to the base of the mountain. Death was never too far away on this trip.

Once you’d put out of your mind the fear of an impromptu and involuntary journey across the Swiss countryside, the pool was invigorating, relaxing and exactly what we needed. Except for a third issue. There was a certain Austrian fellow that occupied the pool with us that morning that had personal space problems.

At a furry convention, it is pretty much normal to have your personal space interrupted once in a while by someone you don’t know, don’t like or don’t understand. This is mostly offset by the fact that you’re having a good time. That balance is somewhat adjusted when that individual is wearing an impossibly small purple speedo. Alarm bells, ringing violently, exploded into metal shrapnel in my mind as I received a highly unwelcome foot rub from this person.

The pool lost some of its appeal at that point and I shivered my way back indoors, showered, scrubbed the unhappy away and then showered again. Once I felt clean, I dressed, mooched myself back downstairs and spent a rather pleasant afternoon in the company of friends.

Now that I look back on the weekend there, I find that GLC itself was not anything in particular if you didn’t speak German. Events, especially the PawPet show, were geared towards the native tongue, and I can’t claim to be complaining because GLC was the single-most relaxed I’ve been at a convention in a long, long time – not only was there nothing really to do except chat, read, eat, drink, melt in the pool or go for walks, but there was no expectation on me to do anything whatsoever.

In fact, we spent a ridiculous amount of time putting together a thousand piece jigsaw. We were all utterly absorbed.

We Don’t do Fondue

We were well catered for at GLC – with generous portions and a feeding schedule that operated, as expected, on Convention Standard Time. Along with the delightful menu, there was a fully stocked fursuit lounge with a secret supply of Haribo, as many soft drinks as you could consume without suffering from diabetic shock and a wealth of new and interesting people to shout ‘putain’ at during mealtimes (whenever they were).

The only complaint I had about the culinary experience will single me out as Ze Disrespectful Englischer: Fondue. Or, as we dubbed it, Fondon’t.

We, the British, have a reputation for having bland food and a dull palate. This is completely wrong, we have home-grown delights like Yorkshire Pudding, Bangers & Mash, Chicken Tikka Masala, Turkey Twizzlers, and the Pièce de résistance: Micro Chips. All of these dishes are hearty, vibrant, modern meals good for all low-earning families that are scrounging off the state.

However cultured and developed the British palate is, Fondue struck something of a chord with us. One November night in Switzerland, a table full of linguistically challenged furs indignantly turned their collective noses up at the horrifying pots of bubbling hatred that adorned the table. Viewed from above, it must have looked a bit like the world’s slowest game of air hockey – with each person at the long table not wanting the vile cauldrons anywhere near their nostrils.

Everyone else in the hall was happily inserting the cheesy substance into their hungry maws and when an alternative was presented, we as one entity stood, marched to the kitchen with bowls at the ready and gladly accepted our runner-up-prize of pasta.

Once consumed, we made a break for it, for the overpowering pong of pungent scrotum that is the hallmark of Fondue was simply too much to bear. That night, we hid in a little room and drank, chatted and hid from the poison below stairs.

A Vat of Genital Scrapings

That night the other attendees soaked away their over-full bellies in the heated pool, leaving a rather problematic situation. What was once a wonderful escape from the troubles of world became the most foul-smelling water container I’d ever encountered.

All the fondue had seeped out of the attendees and into the water, leaving it smelling somewhat of a gentleman’s undercarriage on a humid day. Sadly, this smell didn’t immediately hit you – after you’d peeled off every item of clothing you didn’t need to be in the water, tiptoed across the frozen ground and slipped into the pleasantly heated pool, it slowly insinuated itself into your nose.

It crept like a whiffy tumour up your nasal passages and into your brain, where it very quietly said: “You remember that time the dog vomited in the car on the way to Devon? I think you can smell that right now. Oh, and by the way, that smell is now on you. You smell like dog vomit. Yes, you”.

Not cool. Really not cool. I couldn’t take it. I shivered my way back indoors once more, showered, scrubbed the unhappy away and then showered again just to make sure I didn’t smell like cheesy effluent. The pool had somewhat lost its lustre.

When is the Group Photoshooting Again?

At some point, we all went mad.

I think the moment was when we heard that the group photo-shoot would be in an hour. A few minutes later, a staff member walked past the table and mentioned that it would be in an hour. Then someone else walked past and mentioned clearly that it would be in just under an hour. A few more minutes passed and then we were politely informed that the group photo-shoot would be in forty-five minutes and that we should not forget.

Not everyone was up, it had been a late night for a lot of people, so it would be a fairly empty looking photograph if they didn’t let everyone know. Sadly, it seemed they were only letting us know. Or maybe that’s just the madness talking. A few minutes later, we overheard someone mention that the group photo would be in half an hour. Time became fairly liquid as we started to giggle at the absurdity of how much we were being reminded to be punctual.

There was a double irony at work here: the first one is Switzerland is home to some of the finest clockmakers in the world and prides itself on always being exactly on time with everything and secondly, that the rest of the convention had hardly been what you might consider to be punctual. Why aim to be so prompt with the photo-shoot? (Which, we were reliably informed, was but 15 minutes away).

I decided to head upstairs to rouse the rest of the Brits – fearing that if we didn’t after such an imperative assertion that we simply should not be late for it, we might all be rounded up and executed at gunpoint. As I opened the door to the room, the Tannoy kicked in and announced “ze group photoschooting vill be in five minuten outzide ze front of ze building. You are advized to be zere for the group photo if you vish to be in ze group photoshooting” there then followed a stream of high-speed, incomprehensible German which was entirely drowned out by the sound of me heaving with manic laughter.

About a good third of the attendees didn’t rouse themselves for the photo. We stood outside in the gently thawing snow and, without any acknowledgement of the irony, waited for the late photographer to take our photo.


On the morning of our departure, we really didn’t want to leave the quiet serenity of the Swiss Alps, the snow-covered roofs or the wonderful shimmering visage of Lake Thun below. And neither did the car, which, after sitting around for four nights covered in snow, decided that the battery was completely flat and spluttered itself reluctantly to life.

It did, as a two-fingers up to the notion of leaving, fart out a cubic metre of foul black smoke and made the entire entranceway of the building reek of diesel.

Still, at least it wasn’t as bad a smell as fondue.

GLC: You should probably go.


There is a high probability that those of you who know me will also know that I am largely responsible for the design and assembly of the ConFuzzled convention book. So far, I’ve been in charge of all of them, and they’ve received mostly positive feedback.

I have a lot of thoughts about this strange medium.

ConFuzzled’s Conbook: A (Very Brief) History

In late 2007 or so I was asked if I’d like to be involved in creating the conbook for ConFuzzled. As someone that works with InDesign daily, it seemed like a natural fit. After much faff and planning, our first book was created. It was a fairly modest affair and when I look back on it now, it seems so terribly dated. It was clear that I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Back then, the only template I had to go from was a collection of conbooks from Anthrocon – the only furry convention I had attended up to that point. So, in the interests of learning from those that had gone before, it seemed fairly obvious to replicate the basic structure of their work. This was a formula I repeated for 2009.

In 2010, we started something we considered to be fairly new. We, a small convention, was asking artists directly to produce artwork – no longer relying entirely on the weight of random submissions. We could go to artists and specify full A3 sized artwork and then sell that art for charity in the auction. The artists would remain the owner of the work and could do whatever they liked, but we simply asked that we could sell a one-off mounted print at the con.

The response to that was positive from artists and also attendees and over the years, we’ve had really awesome and humbling feedback about the ConFuzzled book: from “magazine quality” and “professionally done” to “really well organised”. These comments really please me.

Despite all of that, I’m really not happy with them. Year after year, I’ll pick up the most recent conbook and look at it and cringe (Especially the 2011 one, after a PostScript fuckup causing all the fonts to go walkies). I feel that I can do a better job each year and that’s what I’ve been aiming for.

For the 2013 conbook, I was so fed up of the way it was looking, I binned the entire thing in January and started again. I spent hours on Skype with my deputy bemoaning how I’d fucked up and that it would be a rushed job and would suck. It wasn’t that bad once printed, but so much of it could have been better.

You see, conbooks have a problem that goes back to their very origin.

Hysterical Raisins

When fan conventions (and not just furry conventions) first appeared, it was in the heyday of the zine – a time without wide-reaching broadband internet access. When Eurofurence was started 19 years ago, some people were still dialling into BBS systems to communicate with one another and others were dialling in to their ISP’s modem banks. The key thing here is they were using proper, old fashioned modems.

Compare today’s modern internet access to what you could expect back in 1994: By way of comparison I downloaded the VCL’s list of artists (a single page that checks in at 452kb) – this comes down the wire in about a second according to Chrome’s inspector. However, in 1994, downloading it on a 28.8k modem would have taken about two and a half minutes (I checked using a tool called Sloppy – I couldn’t believe I tolerated those sorts of speeds).

Consider the technological age when the furry convention book was created: distributing artwork and stories over the internet would have had a limited audience due to cost, time and patience. Not only did you have to get your art into the computer somehow, but you needed somewhere to put it online, people to see it and want to invest the time in downloading it.

Compare that with going to one of the first furry conventions and being given a book that had an anthology of work in it. Some artwork, some stories and an events timetable – it was, for some, the only reliable way to get material in the fandom they loved. We, as a furry convention society, have barely deviated from this formula.

Gradually the world changed: you can visit any one of a number of sites and download artwork and stories in the blink of an eye. All your interests and tastes are catered for and the commoditisation of the internet has created a new market for the various niches out there. The conbook can’t compete on those terms. And sadly, it is those terms that the conbook still clings to.

How Things Look Right Now

From what I can tell, the world is split into three camps: those conventions that have continued to keep their books relatively unchanged across the years, the conventions that decided to abandon them altogether and the conventions that acknowledged that the conbook is dying and have made the effort to push the format forwards.

I’m delighted to say that Eurofurence has joined that latter group this year – their book is a remarkable achievement for their new team and they should be proud of it – it’s truly beautiful. It’s great to see others join in with the fun of making this old format new and shiny again.

## What About The Future?
We, the conbook editors the world over, have constantly been referencing the way we’ve always done things – iterating the design year after year. Yes, we’re making full colour lithographically printed books now, and the decreasing cost in digital printing presses have allowed even the smaller conventions to produce beautifully printed books, but that same old cookie-cutter gets used.

Instead of looking at the way conbooks have always been made, maybe we should be looking at what conbooks really should be?

The old anthology format is dead – the internet killed it. We need to present something that only the printed page can do – a custom, bespoke magazine that is relevant because it is part of the experience of being at a convention: _A Convention Programme_.

They are one of the only mementos that everyone who attends is guaranteed to get, so firstly it should be a reminder of good times. And to do that it needs to help people find those experiences that let them be part of the best of the convention. Good maps, clear timetables, accurate information. Once that core is done, the rest falls into place around it. Beautiful artwork, compelling articles, excellent print quality, a nice finish.

Making sure that quality content is present and the finish is properly shiny will create a wonderful keepsake that hopefully people will pick up in future and smile about the good times they had. The websites that provide art and stories cannot yet compete with that – a collected, curated magazine that sums up a weekend of your life spent with good friends and making new ones.

At ConFuzzled, we’ve always had the view that doing something because it’s traditional is an invitation to shake things up a little. We can do better, and I hope that when you hold the ConFuzzled 2014 conbook in your hands, you like what we’ve done.

The Great Furscape 2013

The Great Furscape is a halloween themed weekend at Alton Towers during Scarefest. It includes a day of mucking about, silly fursuit activities, two hours of *exclusive waterpark access*, an overnight stay in the hotel, and then a whole day in the park.

As someone that lives so close, the associated value of the ticket feels weird. Had I lived twice the distance away, it would have felt like excellent value for money, but instead it felt a little bit like having to stay because we’d paid for it instead feeling like it was part of the experience (as with a longer convention). I would probably have felt the same about ConFuzzled if it was only a single night.

Moist Fun

However, pivoting over on the other side of the value see-saw, the waterpark was exceptionally good fun. When you have the place to yourself (and about 60 other people you kind of know), you can have a lot more fun. You don’t have to worry so much about ‘accidentally’ kicking some stranger’s child in the face when you exit the rides, nor do you have to care about being a dick because you’re all acting like dicks and that is a stupid amount of fun.

Aside from the joy inside the waterpark, there is one wonderful selling point: The disappointed children’s faces peering in. The restaurant and bar have windows that look out over the waterpark – and because it’s Scarefest, there are a lot of families with kids staying there. It adds to the delightful feelings of joy knowing that there are children up there being told that they cannot go into the water today. I’m fully aware that makes me a twat, but the sound of screaming children diminishes my enjoyment of things. It feels good to know they are missing out.

On the flip side, there wasn’t quite enough food at the buffet (but apparently this will be discussed ahead of next year), but the food that was there was still very nice. The dance was a lot of fun, and any opportunity to suit is greatly appreciated (thanks, Ceil!).

Ninja Squirrels & Imaginary Breakfasts

The hotel room was clean, well featured and comfortable enough for the four of us. Like all hotel rooms in the UK, the act of opening the window beyond a mandated distance is expressly forbidden. Seemingly, the presence of a Gideons’ Bible is no longer a strong enough deterrent to defenestrate yourself. However, a small sign beside the window informs guests that they should not leave the window open in their absence in case squirrels break in. As Alton Towers is such a cheerful place, and suicide should be far from the thoughts of anyone staying at the mildly careworn hotel, I can only assume the ridiculous restrictions on window usage is to prevent the giant squirrels from Storybook Land from busting into your room and fucking up your shit.

I need to mention my palpable disappointment at Alton Towers’ terribly unfulfilling breakfast – the orange juice was so heavily watered down, it could have reasonably be sold as a homeopathic ‘treatment’. The bacon and sausage tasted of nothing. The pastries had the distinct texture of something having been microwaved and allowed to sit to solidify into a chewy mass. I’ve stayed at a number of hotels – good and bad – over the years, but that breakfast was poor. Anyone that stayed at the Britannia during ConFuzzled 2010 & 2011 will be able to empathise.

Pushing a Heavy Wheelbarrow Around

The park was heaving. 120 minutes wait for The Smiler seemed excessive. However, due to the predictable idiocy of the masses, The Smiler acted somewhat like a turd and attracted flies in their droves. Air, Nemesis, Nemesis Subterra, Oblivion, Hex, Thirteen, and Rita all had virtually non-existent queues at the start of the day. So while numpties decided to stand about waiting to be flung around the newest ride, we had a cracking time.

Also, I shall heavily endorse taking someone with you who is ‘ambulant disabled’. For a £10 fee and a £20 refundable deposit, you get a wheelchair and a ‘Special Access’ wristband. Once per hour they and three others get to jump the queue. Most ride operators don’t care about numbers and they don’t fill in the time sheet, they just see the wheelchair and gleefully let you in ahead of everyone else. I have the utmost respect for disabled people and they get a tough time of it, as do their friends and family. Our use of this perk danced heavily over the ‘abuse of power’ line but for those that have a disabled friend or family member, it really does make up for pushing them around the park all day and a hearty reward for sticking with them.

I have to give kudos to the staff at the park, they are always happy to help and really appreciate you saying thanks to them. Working a theme park is an annoying, dreary and thankless job that pays very little. Show them a bit of love next time you go to one.

Fine, Dining

I assume that Alton Towers is somewhat on the back foot now that horse meat is not so easy to smuggle into beef burgers. Whatever it is they’ve decided to replace it with in their Woodcutter’s Bar, they certainly haven’t used beef. It is a strange patty of flavourless absence. Remarkably, the bun tastes of bugger all too, leaving me convinced that a food scientist has worked long and hard at engineering a salty meal with absolutely zero flavour. It’s an amazing feat. Almost recommended for the curious novelty of it all.


The Perks of Wearing A Poncho

After lunch, the predicted rainfall started to hit, with a steadily increasing downpour, things took a turn for the miserable. The rain increased to the point where you could barely see 30 metres in front of you and rides were halted, the call of thunder put a stop to fun fairly promptly. However, those annoying flies that had been circling The Smiler at the start of the day had made their way to our location and were delightfully having their fake tans stripped away by the lashing rain. Never before has a human being felt so smug wearing a poncho.

After clearing a throng of velvet-tracksuit wearing scrotums, we decided that calling it quits was the best bet. Heading towards the exit, we were pelted by massive clumps of hail until we took refuge under trees and behind a pop up stall. That was that, we squelched out of the park, squelched to the monorail, squelched to the car and some of us squelched to the waterpark again and I, with a few others, squelched our way to the waterpark bar and unsquelched for a few hours.

Behind Bars

There is a pool table in the bar. It has balls and cushions and costs a pound to play. Unfortunately, Alton Towers has seen fit to replace the pool cues with unfeasibly bendy plastic batons. They’re something you expect to see riot police wielding rather than be able to play a game of pool with. Every few shots, the stick bends and you end up scuffing the top of the cue ball, bollocksing up your shot and granting your opponent a free turn. This is arse. Utter, utter arse. Tut tut and shame on you Alton Towers.

Another baffling concern is that it is not possible to purchase alcohol at the bar unless you are a resident of the hotel. Considering how delighted Alton Towers usually are at stringing you up by your ankles and shaking you for all you’re worth, it seems suddenly quite bizarre that they have a sudden outbreak of morals over this one point.

After we’d regrouped at the end of the day, we decided the park was a washout and headed off to a pub to gorge on food that tasted of something. You can gripe about the variable standard of food at a Wetherspoon, but the Wheatsheaf in Cheadle serves gourmet delights that Alton Towers just can’t compare to.

The End

All told, The Great Furscape is a fun but knackering weekend with a few great highlights. It is, however, missing a moment of finality and closure. I can’t help but feel that another night after the day at the theme park would put an end to the gentle dissipation of attendees at random points throughout the day and give you a nice spring in your step before everyone floats away home.

You should probably go next year.


Just how do you write a two act theatrical production for puppets?


Back in 2009, I was asked if I would help out on the writing of the Pawpets UK show. This might have been the single stupidest thing I ever agreed to do.

What was only supposed to start out as chipping in with a few gags here and there, became a primary writing role and eventually ended up with me cast as one of our main characters. It is a major time-sink.

This Year

We’re already well into this year’s script. Unlike last year, where we struggled to incorporate aspects of the theme into a powerful and emotive story and ended up copping out with a Frank-Invents-A-Thing jaunt (again). This year, we’ve come up with a deep and moving tale involving the hidden past of one of our characters. If I say any more than that, someone will kill me.

Writing the show involves four main people, but an ever-changing group of satellite people will orbit and chip in ideas. We sit down, write a rough outline, break it down into scenes and then each of us take a scene and start to write a quick draft.

Brainstorming The Outline

Large quantities of snacks, caffeinated drinks, cake, biscuits, bombay mix, junk food and Capri Sun are assembled into a room with the writers and we shout out stupid ideas at ever increasing volumes until the loudest person gets their way. Sometimes these ideas are written on to a whiteboard, but usually silly pictures or defamatory comments are scrawled on it.

At some point, someone has the good sense to start hammering out scene summaries and giving us a rough idea of plot.

This process is actually fairly fun and by the end of it, we usually have enough material to at least start Act 1, and have an idea how the whole show will end.

Writing It Down

Each of the writers will (after having tea or a cigarette) pick a scene and then vanish to a quiet corner with their laptop and headphones. The ideal sounds to hear during this process is frantic typing followed by sniggers and you know when things are going badly when there’s sighing, silence and swearing.

Writing the scenes is a fairly solitary affair, where a single writer will focus themselves on their scene for a few hours. There’s a wonderful hush that descends during this, especially when things are going well. You can usually get a good feel for how well the show will be received when this feeling is around – if the writers are engaged with what they’re producing and the work flows easily, then usually it’ll be a good show. Contrast with last year: writing the show was painful and we fought the story.

Reading Through It

Once a first draft of all the scenes has been nailed down, we all assemble with large quantities of snacks, caffeinated drinks, cake, biscuits, bombay mix, junk food and Capri Sun and read through the script together. We identify parts of scenes that feel clumsy or fall flat and then once it’s done, we each pick one of those scenes to tidy up, lengthen, shorten, improve etc.

This process of writing, reading and editing repeats until we all get too tired, drunk or someone puts a meal in front of us.

The next day, we get up and do it all again (unless there’s F1 on).

Peer Review

Once our weekend is over, a message goes out to the cast and crew to read through it and provide thoughts. Usually most people don’t, but one or two will come back (usually those on crew who have to technically perform something – either lights, stage management or sound).

During the few weeks between sessions, any feedback or new ideas are jotted down and we go through them at the start of the next session. Then we repeat the process above until the whole show is written and technically detailed enough to begin backdrop planning, working out light and sound cues in more detail and working out how any new puppets should look.

When your writers and crew are scattered all over the continent, it can be tough to do any more than one meet-up a month. So, the pressure is on to make sure you’re happy with what you’ve done before you all part ways on the Sunday.

It’s a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t call it easy.


Last October, I started fleshing out and planning an idea I had for a novel. I had begun with the intention of doing [NaNoWriMo](, but I got so swept up in my story that I decided to just go for it. At the time, I was staying with a friend in the Netherlands and had the mental space to actually dig into the meat of the story. I abandoned the notion of following the NaNoWriMo rules and began. In the space of a week, I’d nailed down 12,000 words, and was pretty confident that I’d be able to actually make it to the end of a first draft.

A year later, I’ve only just pipped past the 34,000 word marker. Which, I’ll admit, is a little disappointing.

What happened?

Long story short, my various obligations kicked in: My work is incredibly mentally consuming, especially as it consists of me doing lots of typing and staring at monitors. When I get home, the last thing I really want to do is stare at a screen and type. Then I have obligations to [ConFuzzled](, the conbook being the primary one, but there’s also a lot of other printed materials that I was helping to create. Also, I’m a writer and performer in the Pawpets UK show, so there’s a certain amount of time taken up with that.

As a backdrop to those things, I’ve been trying to maintain a regular gym schedule (and failing), I moved house and I had a brief dalliance with depression over the Christmas and New Year window. And yet, through all of that, **I could have just made the time to write 600 words a day have already finished the first draft**.

Writing is hard.

The truth I found out was that writing is both calming and stressful (often at the same time) – those same emotions I felt when other artists would draw a picture in mere seconds rose up again when I saw other writers just banging out pages of fiction relentlessly.

Like all things you’d like to be good at, they take practice – and lots of it! But more important than being good at art or writing or laying bricks or playing the guitar or whatever else, is practicing to be disciplined. Discipline also takes practice and is perhaps the most important pre-requisite to the learning of any other creative skill.

It can be hard to refuse the social call from a friend, or flick on the TV when you collapse on the sofa after a day of work. Those artists you see churning out pictures every day and can just doodle that perfect sketch probably aren’t naturally talented in that way – they are just determined. They’ve been doing this instead of having a life, watching TV, playing video games. Maybe you see them now, having friends and socially engaging but still drawing amazing things – but that’s the reward for their sacrifice and discipline all those years ago.

No quick fix.

So, if I ever want to be a writer, no matter how good, I have to make the time. I can’t just amble my way through this and present a half developed manuscript and expect anyone to find it any good. I’ve got to put in the time, the effort and be disciplined about it. I need to listen, develop it, learn and keep working.

I’ve already cleared a lot of things off my plate, given ConFuzzled obligations to other people and made time for myself. I have to challenge myself to say “no” to things, so that I make the time to actually write this book I’ve got so many ideas for. A good method is to surround yourself with other writers; have a writing group. The area in which I live is not hugely populated with such things, especially furry writers, but I decided to create a channel on [Furnet]( **#writers** – if you’re interested in writing and want others to bounce ideas off, come in and say hi. It’s a mostly quiet place right now, but if it helps you write even one more line, it’s probably worth visiting.

Alas, next month is NaNoWriMo and there’s another Pawpets UK script to help write. I get the feeling my novel might never get finished!


I’ve had this domain for a number of years and have never really done anything with it (and for the majority of that idle time, it was just a collection of loosely formatted links held together with a clock made from stolen javascript). Now, I’m going to use it to try to talk about and show off the various things I’m working on (of which there isn’t an awful lot to show right now).

When I decided to start writing fiction, I figured that was probably a good reason to set up something with which to talk about it all. But what? Blogging platforms already exist (LiveJournal, Google+, Blogger etc) so why should I bother putting up my own? I think the irritating demise of Google Reader galvanised the thought in my head that maybe I should run my own site – no matter how infrequently it is updated – simply because the fickle overlords at any one of a number of potential blogging sites might decree that enough is enough and they’re shutting down and to hell with you, dear user (I figured Blogger’s days are numbered, as Google attempts to centralise all of its services under the Google+ banner).

As I’m already paying for hosting and a domain, I might as well make some use of it. For now, all that exists is a rough skeleton of a site, and until I have more information to share on the various projects I’m working on, you can consider this site a work in progress (or, for those of a Geocities disposition, under construction – I shall spare you the animated gif).

At least I know what I want to do with it now.

For those of you that came here because you heard me burbling on about my writing, I’ll try to prepare a summary of the work I’m doing soon. I guess I’ll make some fart on Twitter about it when the time is nigh.


The beginning of another dead-on-arrival adventure?

I’ve been toying with blogging my progress on various things. This is the start of that.

Maybe there’ll be more, maybe I’ll get bored. Who knows?