Tuesday, 6 December 2016

How to Run a Company (Novel Finished)

Well, at least the first draft is done.

In case you have no idea what I'm on about, I have been writing the first draft of my latest novel over the past few weeks and now it is finished. And the novel is called "How to Run a Company" to completely get rid of any lingering confusion. It ended up a few words over 85K, it's original planned length so I manage to stay on course. Of course that may change when I revise it. I could find it needs a whole bunch of changes that could add or subtract huge swathes of text.

The book is a bit of a satire on modern business; albeit I hope in something of a gentle way. I don't want to portray being massively against capitalism or globalisation. My personal view is that these are inevitable but they do need a little policing. Let capitalism run riot with no restrictions and it will destroy itself and take us all with it. But restrict it too much and no progress will ever happen. You want life to improve then it will take capitalism.

For all the perfect world dreams of once you remove greed then people will work for the benefit of others and to improve conditions for our whole species, it would never happen. Change will happen but it will happen because someone will benefit, and not just in the way the advance helps all. Inventors might well exist who can create the next generation of devices that will make your life and mine easier but we will only see those devices if capitalism does its job. If you could manage to get your idea into mass production without it we would think of Antonio Meucci when asked who invented the telephone not Alexander Graham Bell.

Anyway, I digress; back to the point. Whatever your feelings of big business (or even smaller businesses), most people I think would agree there is plenty of room for some ribaldry when it comes to them. Just think of Ricky Gervais' sitcom the Office and you'll see the kind of scope for it. Well, my book is another such mocking of business; albeit of a much, much company that that of the Office.

And as of about twenty minutes ago it is also finished; or draft one is. It needs a fair bit of polishing and that will happen in the future. But right now I'm done with it. That's novel number eight written. So now I need to figure out what the next project will be.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Department of Wilful Obnubilation

It's been a while since I've last blogged. I'm sorry to anyone who actually enjoys reading blogs in the age of the YouTube vlog channel. I've been going through one of those periods of wondering why anyone would want to read anything I write. And so I've not been doing it.

It's kind of an odd thing. You see I've been getting back into my writing (novels etc.) pretty well after a brief hiatus and am now a little over 58K into my latest novel. I probably should tell you something of that and might in a while but I want to keep things a little more general first.

I started this writing malarkey some years ago and concentrated entirely on non-fiction articles and short stories. I wrote and sold hundreds - mainly book and film reviews I admit but sales are sales so I take them all. I even managed to compile and sell a bunch of horror crossword and other puzzles. It was going well.

And then it wasn't. Something in me changed. Literally overnight. I stopped writing. Completely. I even stopped reading and when you consider I used to inhale novels it was a shock. I didn't do anything with fiction for over four years; no writing, no reading. Nothing.

I didn't stop reading all together. I read a lot of non-fiction; mostly history. I read fascinating book about Count Axel Oxenstierna and King Gustav II Adolph of Sweden for one. And then there were the large number of scientist biographies. I think my favourite of them was one about J. Robert Oppenheimer; interesting man. But I didn't read a single word of fiction for years.

Well that ended. I read fiction again; just not the same kind as I used to. I kept a few favourites from back then. I still read Stephen King. I still read Zoran Živković. I hope I always will. Those are two of my favourite writers; especially Živković. But I've added some different ones into my pantheon.

I was always a mad science fiction fan. Now, it's less so. I still read some. I read the latest two Mike Resnick novels and enjoyed them. But I've added authors like Max Barry and Magnus Mills onto my list. And Magnus Mills is a true joy. For me he's up there rivalling Zoran Živković in my literary affections. And I am also writing again. You know this of course if you read any of the earlier blog entries.

Since returning to writing I have been successful in terms of completion of project even if not in sales terms. I have finished nine novels or novellas and a few short stories and the current WiP is two thirds done as far as a first draft goes. Sales wise though I've not been as successful. I've sold three short stories. That's it.

I've had four offers for publication on the novels/novellas (two each for novel Mr. Stinky and novella he Intersection) but none of them were ones I could take. But as yet the total number of readers I have had for my fiction is four. They have seemed to like them but they don't have any power in getting things published.

Actually I should increase this. I have had personal emails from a few literary agents who had read my work and they claimed to enjoy it, referencing characters and plot twists etc. that convinced me they had read the books. But in each case they said they did not think what I had written was what the publishing world would pick up at the moment.

So I started to consider whether things were worth doing and the inevitable happened. I stopped writing. Fortunately I didn't stop reading this time. A few months went by with only the occasional half-hearted attempt at recommencing and I was thinking that maybe I was done with it again for a while (or possibly for good). I began to reconcile myself with that position.

And then the ideas started to come again. And so to where I am...

My current WiP is not science fiction, fantasy or horror... or even weird. I'm writing a satire about capitalism. It's called "How to Run a Company" and I'm having fun with it. And it's this last though that is my new ethos. I quite like writing. It's enjoyable. Or at least it's enjoyable when the pressure is off. So I have taken the pressure off. I'm not trying to write to a schedule. I did that during NaNoWriMo last year, thinking quite reasonably that I was writing at a schedule ahead of the 50K per month target they have anyway so why not sign up. I'll tell you why not; or at least why not for me. The pressure of trying to keep up with the schedule to get to 50K stopped it being fun.

I finished the month a little over a thousand words short. But worse I finished the month not having enjoyed writing. It was the start of my slide. I did complete that novel, and another afterwards but my fourth Ben Williamson novella stalled. As did the four novels I tried immediately afterwards.

So now, as my pinned tweet on twitter says, "Think I'm starting to get my head around what I should do with my writing. I'm going to write the stories I would want to read."

And as I am reading Magnus Mills, Zoran Živković, Max Barry and Johan Jonasson then it might just be my muse is going to take me in this direction. Of course all the ideas that are brewing up would be back in the old direction so who knows? This might be an aberration. I don't care. I'm writing.

I'm going to write when I feel like writing. And if I don't feel like it, I'm not going to force it. And I'm not going to try to second guess the market as to what might sell. I'm going to write what I would want to read. And then when it's finished I will decided whether or not I want to submit it anywhere. My previous novel, a young adult ghost/demon story called "The Stairs Lead Down" has been read by my wife (who said she enjoyed it) and by no one else. It might stay that way. I liked it so much I'm not sure I want to sully it with a long list of rejections from publishers and agencies.

This might seem counterproductive. After all why write if you're not going to seek publication? It's a good point. Well, I'm going to argue that it's because I get the enjoyment out of the writing. Why spoil it?

Of course this is likely to change in the future as there is still a large part of me that does want to hold a book, a physical book, that only exists because I wrote it and someone else thought it was worth publishing. (Yes, you can read into that that I am NEVER going to consider self-publishing.)

And talking of enjoying writing, much as it is enjoyable writing this blog entry, it just isn't a patch on writing fiction. So I am going to head back over there and get back to it. And I will admit that I never did fulfil my promise of telling you something about the current novel (I made the promise in paragraph two) I just want to write the next scene in my story.

And listen to some more good music as I do.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Saturday and... you never know (writing)

My recent run of brick wall after brick wall continued. I went back to my earlier attempt Tithebound, a fantasy novel set in an industrial revolution period world, and tried to get it going again. I managed about 3000 words and then it stalled again; for the same reason it stalled originally. I am not in the mood to write it.

I like the idea of the story. I like the main characters, especially the obligatory character you're designed to hate, and think the plot has quite a bit of originality in it as well as a decent enough story. And the setting appeals to me. I can't think of many fantasy stories set in an industrial revolution period. The closest I can get is some of the Shannara books but that are set in a post apocalypse world so having some tech is more a case of rediscover than invention. It strikes me writing this that maybe Gormenghast might be a better comparison (oh, if only I could compare my writing in terms of quality).

When I started that book I had the beginning few scenes and the characters all sorted. I know what the main plot would be and the subplots (there are two) and how it was all going to end. The problem I have is one of tying two bits of it up. You see being 13K in means I've done the beginning. I've hinted at what will be the plot, I've introduced the first of the two subplots and all of the main characters. Okay one of the main characters has only walked through a scene but I know he's there. He's going to enter the plot more and more as it progresses and have a pivotal influence on how things are going to go.

So all sounds good. Apart from the one problem I knew the book had before starting. How do I join the beginning to the main plot? I've started books like this before and as the first few scenes had unfolded the characters had told me how they would handle the junction. This time they didn't. Part of that is that the main character is, as yet, totally unaware of what she is and how important she is (yeah, I know it's a typical fantasy thing to do this but it does help me explain the world by having the girl discover everything for us). In not knowing what is going on she's going to be dragged along for the ride offering no direction at all as it happens. Which means she's not given me the means of doing it. I'm going to have to let it all sit in the back of my mind until the answer comes to me.

Then maybe I will finally have the bug for the story. I know it could be a good tale; I just need to feel it. When that happens I will NEED to write it. I won't be trying to. That's what it's been recently. For all my good words about writing what I like to write I've still filtered it into what, of the ideas that fill my notebooks that I might enjoy reading, would have the best chance to sell. It's a pointless endeavour because all that does it stop my actually writing. And in not writing I'm never going to sell anything.

So the solution is Ben Williamson. I have written three novellas featuring Ben Williamson so far. Two of the publication offers I have had were for one of these. I like the character even though he is entirely unremarkable. I just like doing odd things to this everyman of a character. And I had a wonderfully silly idea of how to torment him. So that's what I've started today.

So far, just over one hour since starting, I've written three scenes for a total of 1,834 words. That sounds like time for a short break. Then the first bit of weirdness will start.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Catchup

I can't believe it's been a couple of weeks since I last posted a blog entry. Time flies like an arrow (in the way fruit flies like a banana),

I have been writing a little. I started a new novel a little while back - I blogged something to this effect back on the 24th July. Well it's a sf novel and I'm about 14K into it. The only problem is I'm just not feeling it. I might hand it over to my test reader after the Olympics and see what the feedback is.

Or to put things another way I'm not getting out of my funk. I mentioned this before about not having finished a story for a while. I get so far and just... well... stop being interested. And if I'm not interested in it I can't see a reader being interested. It's a complete bugger.

I like writing. It gives me a sense of satisfaction, but it's dried up a little. I think I need some time to go away and plot out a story for a week or two and get the whole thing onto paper in a notebook like I did for the first few (completed) novels. That way I might find the writing of it a lot easier. Who knows. They might peter out as much as the others. Well, I suppose it's worth a try

Away form writing I have been reading some. I finally got around to reading Kevin J Anderson's The Dark between the Stars, Mike Resnick's the Prison in Antares, Stephen King's Finders Keepers and be about a third of the way through Stephen King's End of Watch.

The last way I am concerned about. I really enjoyed Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers. They featured a central core set of characters I have enjoyed spending time with. They also featured no supernatural stuff which I found kind of refreshing. The horror in the stories was entirely human in origin - people being evil bastards basically. I liked that. It's different to the spooky stuff and being different is occasionally good.

Well book three, End of Watch, seems to be bringing in some Mulder moments and I'm not sure I like the thought of the characters I've grown fond of now subjected to ghostly goings on. (BTW that's a phrase for general paranormal-ness. There doesn't seem to be any ghosts.) I wanted more of the same - give me a new evil bastard then set about making sure whatever he/she wants doesn't come to pass. Round of the trilogy and let the characters rest with a job well done and everything mundane in origin. Only that's not what's going to happen. The end of book two hinted at "powers".

I'm going to read it. I like the characters too much to not spend a little more time with them but I feel more than a little trepidation at where this might be going...

We shall see

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Old books - collecting update

I collect books. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read one of my previous postings. Well a week or so ago (and sorry for the delay in posting this - other things like writing took priority in a busy week) I went into one of my favourite second hand bookshops (in Polesworth, near Tamworth) and bought a few books. And, being the type, I thought I would share some details. The books were (all are paperbacks)

Saul Dunn - the Coming of Steeleye
Saul Dunn - Steeleye - the Wideways
Saul Dunn - Steeleye - Waterspace
Frederik Pohl & Lester del Rey - Preferred Risk
James Blish - Midsummer Century
James Blish - ...and All the Stars a Stage
Bob Shaw - Nightwalk
Robert Silverberg - Vornan-19
Poul Anderson & Gordon R. Dickson - Star Prince Charlie
Poul Anderson & Gordon R. Dickson - Earthman's Burden
Lin Carter - Time War
Christopher Anvil - the Day the Machines Stopped
John Morressy - Starbrat
Jack Vance - the Pnume
Leo P. Kelley - Mythmaster
Jack Williamson - Seetee Shock
Jack Williamson - Seetee Ship

That was a little over a week ago - yes, I've been that remiss in blogging. I will have to do better in future. And to make my shame worse I have even bought more books since then, although not this past weekend as I was at a friend's wedding. I popped to a bookshop after work this evening and added two more to the list

Frederik Pohl - the Gold at Starbow's End
Robert Silverberg - Sundance

I'll probably take some cover shot images in the next few days and post them on my Tumblr feed. That or set up an Instagram account for them. It might be better than Tumblr - might reach more people. You never know.

BTW - later I might blog about writing (or maybe politics/economics). We shall see

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Perhaps a change of direction

A couple of weeks ago I started writing a new story. It's called "the Writer, Writing". I've mentioned it on here before - comparing it to one of my favourite authors in terms of subject matter (although I will stress again, not in terms of quality). It is a nothing story - a quirky little idea that appeals to me. But I've always had a fondness for stories where the lead character is an author/writer; as well as a fondness for stories where, when you think about it, nothing actually happens.

Well I handed the first few parts of it (a little over 21, 000 words) to my number one test reader and I have my first impressions of what someone thinks about it. On the flattering side she said she liked it and wanted to know where it was going. On the downside she said this was a Stephen King book 30 idea. From earlier conversations I know exactly she means by this.

You see (and I know this depends on how you count but trust me this is the not all that relevant bit) the 30th book Stephen King released was "the Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon". It's not a typical Stephen King book. It's good but it doesn't really fit with the others he's done. But if you've released 29 bestsellers before it then you can pretty much do what you like. For one book anyway; I'm sure if he went off on mad tangents released obscure book after obscure book his readership would disappear but one here and there he'll get away with. (And yes this is a good book in my opinion.)

So the quandary I've been wrestling with for the past day or so is do I continue writing a book I am enjoying writing but can only agree is not a commercial book from everything I've read and heard; or do I shelve it and try something else? It's a tricky one. You see recently I've shelved one or two projects and it's becoming a habit; one I don't want to add to unnecessarily.

I think I am going to follow the advice though. I write because I enjoy writing. That is paramount. This is not my job; I make very little money from writing. If I'm going to sacrifice my spare time to sit in front of this keyboard I have to enjoy what I'm doing. But more than that I have to feel it has purpose.

So far I have finished

Adam's Death
(horror novel - nowhere near publishable)

The Day before Tomorrow
(sf novel - likewise)

Mr. Stinky
(horror novel - okayish - did get a couple of offer so publication on this but ther ewere issues for me with the offers)

Against the Fall of Empire
(alternate history novel - long- okayish)

A Second Life
(weird novella - needs a rewrite if I'm to submit it)

The Patternmaker's Daughter
(fantasy novel - book one in what I would imagine to be four books. I think this is the best I've done so far)

The Intersection
(weird novella - I like this and I did get a publication offer on it - just not good terms so I didn't accept)

<>
(weird novella - this I think is the best of the novellas)

No Man's Land
(bawdy sf comedy - I like some of the ew-factor jokes)

The Town, the Company
(weird novella - could do with a new ending)

The Stairs Lead Down
(supernatural novel - could be start of a series, maybe two series)

The problem is that last of these was finished about three months ago and all I've done since is start stories, then leave them abandoned. I have

Kiss Like Judas
(weird novella - 6,333 words - intended 32K)

I Had to, Don't You See?
(weird novella - 2,424 words - intended 30K)

A World out of Balance
(conspiracy theory sf - 6,597 words - intended 90K)

The Church...
(sf novel - 11,736 - intended 110K, first in a series)

The City and the Mask
(dark fantasy novel - 2,881 words - intended 85K)

Tithebound
(fantasy novel - 9,621 words 0 intended 85K, first in a series)

The Writer, Writing
(nothing novel - slightly weird - 21,413 words)

I've written a fair bit in terms of word count but not finished a single project. For different reasons in each case, they have stopped. Now one or two I can understand. The two weird novellas feature a character and situations that would only make sense if the Intersection had already sold and people knew what was going on. My test reader has read all four of the weird novellas and loves how they interconnect and I love writing them but if I'm not selling them it feels futile to carry on writing them; even if one lets me revisit my university days (at least in my head).

BTW - I have to admit one thing; the central non-plot point about the Writer, Writing relates to this recent activity. It's exploring how novels don't get written and how ideas peter out (for many reasons). I did say it's an SK30 book.

So my issue now is do I go back and re-read the first part of any of the unfinished stories and see if they appeal enough for me to commit further time right now or start something new.

The latter is tempting; especially as I have an idea for a new sf story. And yesterday I came up with a working title - usually the thing that makes me want to write it even more; because I can give the word file a name. I do not like have "unnamed sf novel july 2016.doc" on my hard disk. This story, and the notebook that contains my notes, now has the title, An Avoidable War.

I think it's pretty much inevitable what I'm going to do. I'm going to go fetch the notebook with this story's plot, characters etc and I'm going to start something new despite all the unfinished works I already have. I'll just have to hope I'm not about to add to the number.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

A quick few thoughts (writing)

A few day's ago I wrote a blog entry that was a bit of a meandering passage through some of the my thoughts entitled "Writing and politics, odd bedfellows". In it I talked a little about the new novel I had started writing and compared it in content terms to one of my favourite writers - Zoran Živković.

Well, much to my immense pleasure and great shock he obvious saw it and posted a reply to the posting. As you might imagine I've been a little in shock at it. I'd never expected him or anyone else I've blogged about to see my postings. And to reply to it, well that was incredible. I was probably a little insufferable for a while after that.

Now, a few days later, I have had a chance to fully absorb the thought and I'm still fairly shocked. If you are wondering why just go read some of the man's writing and you might well understand it.

Added to this I have to say I feel relieved. I've encountered one or two of my heroes before and it's not always gone as well as I would have liked. There is one writer I have always admired. His books have been ones I have eagerly anticipated every time I hear of a new release and quickly devour as soon as they arrive in my mailbox. I encountered him some years back and had more than one exchange with him finding he was almost my polar opposite when it came to political opinion and belief. It was a huge disappointment. I still like his books but I can't approach them with anything like the relish I had once.

Thankfully this doesn't seem to be the case this time. Posting on my blog was gracious. It gives me the feeling he is quite a gracious man (confirming some of the things I've read about him). Now all I need is a release of one of his more recent books in English - I think there are three I've not had chance to read as they are only available in Serbian. I might speak one or two languages other than English but Serbian is not one of them. And in any case if I did have a copy in either French or Italian I think the effort of translating it into English as I read would take away the enjoyment. Looking up a word or two every sentence is probably going to spoil the flow of the narrative. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed someone puts out an English edition soon.

Onto another matter. I am writing again. I've written three scenes for my new novel adding about 2K to the total bringing it up to 9K. It's the first time I've written anything since last Saturday. It might even be the first time I've switched on my PC since. I should probably explain this a little. A little while ago I slipped on a wet floor and since my back has been a little...well, wrong.

I'm managing the situation, hoping it will eventually go back to normal, so it means on work days I am not all that keen on sitting in front of my home PC and typing when I've spent all day in front of my work PC. This is cutting down on the progress of the novel but I do have to put the day job (the one that pays the mortgage) first. I'm rather happy with how its going so will be keeping this brief so I can get on with writing it.

There is of course another reason I've been absent from the keyboard. About a week ago, on a whim I downloaded the first episode of the Channel 4 black comedy Misfits. For anyone who hasn't seen it a group of young offenders are doing their community service when a mysterious storm hits, striking them all with lightning and giving them super powers. Only these aren't your normal super powers and these aren't your normal heroes. And they're not the only ones with powers. It's dark, definitely not PC and definitely not family viewing. Bad language, sex and violence abound all in a wonderfully sick comedic manner.

Well a week on and we've just watched the 2nd episode of season 4. Yeah, I'm hooked. So another thing getting in the way of writing. If you add in the Tour de France having started and its an unholy trinity of obstruction to any desire to write.

On that note I should stop this blog being a fourth. I'm headed back to the novel. A cow is about to turn up.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

A post entirely about writiing

I'm hoping tonight means I have my writing mojo back. With my wife out at a gig I thought there was no point in not giving writing a go. So I loaded up a new document in Word and started typing. It probably helped that I had filled several pages of my notebook with a first draft version of chapter 1 before starting. It certainly didn't hurt to have this kind of head start.

Well, nearly six and a half hours after starting I have 6,935 words of a new novel written and I quite like it. It's different from anything I've written before, in mood and subject; although I will have to admit a fantasy style subplot has taken root in it.

I've had one or two days in the past when I've written more words than that but it's always been in the middle of a pattern of writing. To do this out of the blue, days removed from  previous writing efforts pleases me exceptionally. I'm hoping it means I'm back on track to writing regularly.

Right now I'm not going to overthink it. Instead I'm going to take care of backing the files up and head upstairs to start handwriting the next section. That kind of head start is invaluable.

More expense? Necessary? Well spent?

I've just read a news report on the arrival of the RAF's first two stealth fighters. Apparently each plane costs over £70million. There are plans to buy 48 of these by 2023. Now forgive my crude maths (I only have a university degree in the subject) but that's £3.3billion. Eventually the aim is to have 138 (9.7billion). Am I the only one who says what the...?

Now I am not totally against maintaining a strong military to defend the country but who are we going to fight that would mean we need 138 of the latest generation of warplane? All the countries that come to mind when thinking about that question own nuclear weapons so war with those nations is insanity anyway.

I realise that there have been plenty of small skirmishes we were involved in the last few years and that there will be many more instances when Britain needs to stand up and play its part in ensuring the safety of others in the years to come (and hopefully not many instances of the war mongering we've seen in the past - none would be nice but I'm not that naïve.). But do we really need 138 of these incredibly expensive planes? Are the enemies we are going to face possess weapons advanced enough that we will need them? And need that many of them? I can't see it..

Now I know I might be being naïve here but I'm not sure this is the best way of spending money in the difficult times ahead. You may have already got this idea of my feeling from an earlier blog posting when I argued against spending an estimated £50billion (more likely in my opinion to be in excess of £10billion) on replacing Trident.

Now I am not going to come out totally against military spending. I happen to believe that the 2% of GDP target for NATO members is not unreasonable. What I'm arguing against here is how nearly £10billion is being spent. Are these planes worth their cost? Well, when it comes to technology and military effectiveness I have no doubt these are cutting edge but there other ways we could spend money - many of which would see the spending stay in the UK. These planes are made in the USA and so its money going out of our economy. There are ways we could maintain our commitment to NATO without just shipping billions out of the country.

For one thing there is the size of the army. We now have less than 90,000 regular soldiers in the UK army. Now modern warfare is different to the wars fought in the past but I've heard many military people say this number is too small. Increasing the size of the army would be one way of keeping our NATO promise and would benefit the economy as a good deal of that expenditure would not leave these shores.

Likewise there is the fact we could develop our tech internally. After all the Eurofighter, for all its delays, is a great aircraft. Surely we could produce another one in Europe, one that would mean more money into the coffers of British businesses.

I feel we have to look a little more inwardly when it comes to future spending. I'm not suggesting we build a metaphorical wall around our shores. My suggestion for developing a European plane in a similar way to the Eurofighter implies cooperation. That plane was built by the UK in conjunction with Germany, Italy and Spain. But just going outside our borders and buying that many American made planes doesn't make total sense to me.

And before you think I am anti-USA let me assure you I am not. I consider the special relationship Britain has with the USA to be incredibly important to our future. But you can maintain such a relationship without neglecting your own industry. And we need that industry going forward.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Writing and politics, odd bedfellows

I've tried to get my head back into things post the EU referendum. It's not been easy as I fear for the future of my country (and for my own future - I do not have the luxury of independent wealth to ease me). Watching the Last Leg on television last night helped. If you've not seen this program you should give it a try. It's a comedy show featuring Josh Widdicombe, Alex Brooker and Adam Hills that takes a look at current affairs, often from the point of view of the disabled and other minorities (both Brooker and Hills are disabled).

Last night I laughed so hard at one of their sketches (a puppet show that explained the recent Tory Party shenanigans) that I was finding it difficult to breathe. I needed that release. So if any of the three presenters ever read this (or any of the behind the camera staff) I would like to thank you all. Since watching that I have felt a whole lot better.

So much so I got the writing bug back. Just as well I did as I have the whole evening to myself tonight. My in-laws are on holiday and my wife is at a gig with the jazz band she plays with (baritone saxophone in case you were curious). So I had seven hours to occupy, hopefully productively. The only problem I was having was that the current WiP (as of yesterday) was stalling a little. After a bit of reflection it has one the way of a number of others into the "Maybe at some point in the future" pile. This pile has grown in recent times, fuelled by a growing disillusion I've been feeling (and that I've blogged about before).

Fortunately I had an idea for a story appear and last night as I lay awake I started to write down an opening. Eight pages of A5 later, with my hand in severe camp, I had about half of an opening chapter. Tonight I've converted those handwritten pages into typed up pages - and then added another section meaning I now have 3,682 words of a new novel on the page. One more scene and chapter one will be done. And then all I have to hope is that I can keep the momentum going to the point where the novel takes on its own life and cannot be stopped. I find they tend to do that at around the 20K-25K mark. I've certainly never got that far into a book without finishing it.

Now the interesting thing with this novel is it is not science fiction, fantasy or horror. It has a little bit of weird running through it but not excessively. It's certainly not heading for Neil Gaiman or China Mieville territory. Bizarrely I'm finding myself after nearly five decades of being almost exclusively a genre reader (obsessive?) I am writing a mainstream novel. And I'm enjoying it.

I suppose I should mention the title. It seems only fair. I've called it "The Writer, Writing". I know it's hardly original to have someone writing a novel about being a novelist. After all Stephen King has done it several times. But the idea doesn't work with my central character being anything other than a writer. The closest comparison I can think of in terms of content is Zoran Živković. I stress this is in content terms. I am not intending to compare myself with Zoran Živković in terms of quality. I find the man one of the best writers I have ever read. He's up there with Umberto Eco and Salman Rushdie for me.

He's probably why this kind of story came to mind. Having read every book of his that has, so far, been translated into English I guess I should expect him to influence my thoughts when it comes to my own writing. All I can do now is keep typing and hope that the novels finds its own life before distractions occur.

Back to politics (it's never far from my thoughts), I've found some of the events of the last week interesting - if a little troubling. There is a continuing disquiet on the EU referendum. There are many, many people who are angry at the result - or rather the manner of how it was won. And I can see reason for the feelings many have. After all it was only hours after the announcement of the LEAVE result when some of the campaigners seemed to be distancing themselves from the claims made in the campaign.

Today there were the first demonstrations against the result in London and York. I wouldn't be surprised if these were not the last. I think the summer might see many of them and they could grow much, much larger. And is the claims that seem to be fuelling them. On the report on the BBC website you can see a photo of one protestor holding a sign saying "No Goodbyes Based on Lies". And it's not a young woman holding it. My guess would put the sign's holder into her fifties.

I feel a great deal of sympathy were their feelings. I would have preferred a vote to REMAIN. I have been passionate Europhile as long as I can remember. I go further than many pro-EU people I know too. I feel humanity has many problems that we will only solve by working together for a common good. But I've never wanted to push anyone on this. After all the only thing I could see resulting from such an argument was a further entrenchment.

Well such holding back on my part I feel is no longer necessary. Although going in detail is not all that relevant even if restraint in expressing these views is not needed.. We have voted LEAVE and unless these protest grow to a level which cannot be ignored (and one which I do not believe will be achieved) than we are going to be leaving the EU.

So to put it another way it is time to just get on with things and make the most of what we have and build the best future we can from this point forward. Then if the protests do succeed in reversing public mood then I can rejoice but I won't be wasting the time in between waiting for the unlikeliest outcome.

There is one other thing about these protests though that I fear is not a good thing. After all this whole referendum process has proven divisive in the extreme. Cracks in our tolerant society have widened. We need to seal them and heal ourselves and remember all the things that bring us together rather than those that force us apart. We need to return to the time when you could disagree with your neighbour, brother, partner, colleague or friend without the disagreement resulting in anger and hatred. After all as I heard one politician (a reflective REMAIN campaigner) say, we are all BREXITEERS now. And we need to work together.

But more than that we still have to work with our neighbours and we will rely on much goodwill to be exchanged in all our future dealings to make this happen. Which is why I found Nigel Farage's words in the recent EU parliament session particularly distressing. For one thing the worst thing in the world, in my opinion, is a bad winner. Everyone talks about bad losers and there have been one or two of them, but bad winners trump them (up to you to decide if there's a pun in there) by several factors over.

Farage's gloating to the members of that parliament I found extremely distasteful. And I consider them amongst the most poorly judged I have ever heard form a politician.. All I can hope is that now the UK is leaving the EU that a one policy party like UKIP fades into obscurity. We need people who can bring us together now not drive the edge in further. After all this is a shared planet and we need to work together to take care of it. You just have to look at the recent climate change data to realise just how serious it is we build consensus and cooperate on a global basis - if we want to ensure the species has a future anyway..

The EU was one such step towards this. There was much wrong with the organisation (I wasn't blind to its faults) but at least with 28 countries pulling together then I felt there was a chance to get others to follow.

Seeing it at risk of disintegration (with Frexit, Nexit, Italeave, Grexit and Oexit (Austria) all now seem to be new portmanteau words that are popping up here and there) distresses me. Add in the similar growing sentiments in Germany, Sweden and Denmark and you can see a worrying nationalist trend appearing all across this continent. So far the mood in these countries has not gone as far as it had in Britain - but we always have been a little bit apart from our neighbours, believing that narrow sea somehow makes us different.

I just hope our decision does not lead to the end of the EU. Giving a good kick up its collective arse might not be a bad thing; but not breaking it up. Britain's exit might end up being the best thing for all concerned. If the EU restructures itself and concentrates on what it was set up for (the common market) and rids itself of the bloat factor and wastefulness then it might become something we would want to join again in the future.

Anyway back to writing. It is what I'm supposed to be doing after all.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

More about the UK and the EU

Writing is taking a bit of a back seat at the moment. Being a passionate Europhile and form believer in the benefits we in the UK have reaped through membership in the EU I have been a little bit down and finding my mind a little torn in other directions than writing. Sorry for anyone who wanted to get updates on my writing but it's just not happening at the moment.

Well after nearly a week since Brexit the falls in the FTSE 100 have been reversed; in fact the FTSE has closed higher today than it was before the referendum. The FTSE 250 too is seeing a fairly impressive rebound although it is still considerably below where it was. But I fear this is not indicative of our future merely that the markets are playing a let's see. I'm sure we are in for more turbulent times in the future.

Now I'm not going to go on about how I consider this to be a wrong decision. I'm not going to bemoan my fate. After all whether or not I consider the decision right or wrong it is now the ONLY decision. This is the world we are now living in and we need to just get on with it. I just hope that all my fellow UK folk now get over it and remember we all have to live together in this country.

Of course I'm not sure that's going to happen any time soon. Since the vote I've seen reports of many, many racist incidents from around this country; a country I previously liked considering as being very tolerant to others. I'm hoping this is the usual effect of a 24 hour news media needing to find things to report and that these incidents really are as rare as I would hope. After all it is entirely possible that the seven or eight incidents I have seen (of men wearing T shirts telling foreigners to go home for instance) are all that there have been. I fear this is not the case but I can dream can't I?

Anyway we are moving towards a new age. We will have a new Prime Minister in weeks; maybe we will have a new leader of the Opposition if Jeremy Corbyn doesn't weather the current storm within the Labour Party. Hopefully this can all settle down so that our politicians can start giving us the kind of leadership we are going to need as Brexit becomes a reality rather than just a referendum result. After all it is what we elect them for.

Some years ago (about twenty if I am honest) I was involved a little in politics. I walked many pavements delivering leaflets through letterboxes and campaigning on the doorstep. I was part of campaigns that saw three councillors elected so we must have been doing something right. But when it came to it I didn't really feel I was cut out for a life in politics. I had the chance. One or two of the others I knew back than were sure I would make a decent candidate for a future election I just wasn't so sure. You see I have a habit of answering questions when they are asked of me and answering them honestly. I don't try to evade things. I don't try to spin things to my advantage and I own up to my mistakes (not something that has always helped my career).

Looking back on it from this position I am beginning to feel a little regret for not staying in the game - even if it had continued to be a backroom capacity. But I didn't. So my only outlet for my thoughts is this blog - one that I believe is read by ten or so people at most. I guess I should have considered doing a VLOG if I wanted more people to listen to me - reading seems to have become so passé. Not sure I want to put my face in front of the camera though. It's possibly why I like the idea of writing novels; that I can do without anyone seeing me and without the need to dress up or anything. (Although I would actually like to stress I am always fully dressed when at my PC; and never in scruffs. I am wearing a shirt, collar buttoned down, as I type. I don't earn tee shirts or shorts. I just like feeling well turned out.)

I'm meandering again. The point of this was to say we, all of us in the UK, are where we are and it's pointless bemoaning a single part of it. What is done is done and we should instead be concentrating all our energies on the future and making the best of it we can.

We are a incredibly diverse nation; we have along history of accepting incomers and absorbing them into our society; taking influence from them. If you doubt this try Googling how many chicken tikkas were sold in restaurants last year. Once you've done this go back to Google and type in Mo Farah and click on images. You'll see a mass of photos of Mo Farah draped in the Union Flag holding the medals he won for this country. Mo Farah was born in Mogadishu, Somalia but is British. Sir Bradley Wiggins was born in Belgium; his father was Australian. Three of the England cricket captains were born outside this country (Nasser Hussain in India, Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen in South Africa). I could go through many other fields, other than sport, and find so many examples of people who have come the UK and enriched it with their presence. I hope we never pull up the drawbridge.

And even if we don't look at such high profile people the vast majority of incomers have been a benefit to this country. You see in purely economic terms we need them.  The native population of these islands is aging. The bargain the government made with them (a lifetime of tax paying for security in old age) needs to be kept which places a larger benefit on the younger members of society (of whom there are comparatively fewer due to decreasing birth rates since baby boomer times) and so incomers, most of whom are of working age, are needed to boost tax revenues.

And as for the NHS, one of the central footballs kicked around in the recent campaign by both sides, can you imagine how it would cope without the access to overseas skilled workforce.

Now I know it has been suggested that we adopt an Australian points based system to control immigration but I don't think this is the best way of handling things. For one thing we need a high number of unskilled manual workers, not just the highly skilled. Just talk to a farmer who needs a large workforce of fruit pickers for instance.

The case for the benefits of immigration needs to be made as we are almost certainly going to have a fair degree of freedom of movement for workers. I wish it had been made twenty years ago but it wasn't. Never mind; no point fretting on that now.

The future is uncertain. But one thing is certain. We need to become whole again. We need to mend the wounds that have been opened up in the last few weeks/months. And then we need to start building new bridges to our friends in Europe. We need to work with them whether we are in the EU or not. Hopefully we can all collectively grow up, calm down and get on with it.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Goodbye HS2! Goodbye Trident!

We are not going to be a member of the EU for all that much longer. As a result the UK economy is going to suffer a negative impact. As is the norm in times like this government incomes are likely to fall at the time when expenditure is likely to rise. This will mean an extension to the austerity this government have been running for the last few years. And in my opinion it should also mean the end of some of the large projects they have been planning which have dubious return.

Or to put it another way, can all you politicos please cancel the HS2 and Trident programmes. Doing this will commit the UK government to £100billion less spending - and yes I know this is a figure that would have only grown so in truth it will save far more.

Now this will cause a few job losses in and of itself. I live near Derby, a city which would have seen some benefit from Trident as it is home to Rolls Royce and potential some through HS2 as it also has a large Bombardier presence. But I am not advocating a complete pull in the purse strings and don't spend any of this and to heck with anyone who loses their job.

But these overblown projects are just vast unnecessary money pits. In all the years since I first heard about HS2 I've seen argument after argument in favour of it flounder when analysed. And as for Trident... Well, we don't need Trident at all. After all if we are ever in a position to need to use it, the whole planet is screwed anyway. That really is pissing billions up against a wall spending.

Not spending all that money on these two projects will either result in our having £100billion less to find in tax revenue or borrowing or us having the money to spend on more targeted schemes to improve the lives of the people of these islands. We could certainly start to see some of the leave campaign's pledges, such as extra NHS spending, come to happen if we don't waste it on a never to be used nuclear arsenal or a train system that is already out of date before we start building it.

Yeah, that might be part of the point for me when it comes to the train thing. The tech is not pushing any boundaries. I think they would have had more luck in persuading me this project ha merits if it meant the UK had to develop a new form of train technology that we could then sell around the world. Then I might start to see some return on this enormous investment. But then, we probably would have paid the Japanese and Germans a small fortune to develop it for us and then watch them reap the benefits of selling on their super hot tech. (And if it had happened I would wish them well.)

Okay - I should stop now and I will. Hopefully the government will do likewise with their plans to finance these colossal white elephant projects.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

An apology to the people of Europe

I've been umming and ahing about how to write this blog entry since I saw the result on Friday. I'm still not totally sure I know what to type here. I just feel I need to.

As anyone who knows me, or anyone who's read this blog over the past few weeks/months, will know I am a passionate supporter of the European Union. I don't consider it perfect. I'm not blind to its imperfections but I have faith in it. I hope I still can even if the UK is no longer a member as looks inevitable.

I have watched the EU grow over the years and celebrated each new accession. I have been happy to see people from all member nations come to Britain, believing their arrival has improved my country both financially and culturally. I have visited several EU countries, even learning an amount of French, Italian and Dutch to make this a more immersive experience. (BTW - I am not claiming to be a good speaker of any of these languages.)

But on Thursday most of my fellow Brits and UK resident Commonwealth citizens did not share this sentiment and our referendum resulted in the nightmare scenario of an exit.

This is where I need to start my apology. For this is going to have an impact beyond just these shores. This could cause pain across all member states. And this is not just financially. This could impact the growing sense of brotherhood and sisterhood between the 500+million citizens of the 28 countries. Similar demands for referenda in other countries are already being heard. I hope these do not lead to a disintegration of something as wonderful in spirit as the EU is.

I never wanted this referendum to take place. And I never expected this result even though I feared it was possible. After all for politicos who have spent two decades and more using the EU as a convenient target to kick to score a small, temporary upswing in their popularity to all of a sudden claim they are in favour of remaining doesn't ring true all that easily.

And I feel it goes much deeper than this. I think there is next to no trust in the political classes in this and many other countries at the moment. From sexed up dossiers through expenses scandals and a growing feeling that our elected officials are form a different breed to the working man and woman and lack and connection to them emotionally, spiritually, culturally or financially can we be surprised when some of the electorate rebel. I just wish they hadn't chosen this moment. Putting up protest candidates in the next general election would have been a better idea.

Anyway, I came to my keyboard today to try writing some more of my novel. I really need to get back into writing. Over the last few months I've lost my way (see earlier blog entries about the weight of so many rejections) and I was hoping to get it back. I'm just not sure today is going to be that day. I'm going to try though. I just wanted to say all this before I opened up the novel file.

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Dear European Union citizens,

I am a UK citizen. I am an EU citizen. The first will remain always (maybe). The second, alas, will be coming to an end soon. It is wrong. I wish it didn't have to be. I certainly cast my vote hoping to prevent it but not enough of my fellow countrymen and women felt the same way as me. I am not trying to remove myself from the blame. I didn't do enough I know to persuade others.

I am a UK citizen. And I am poorer (spiritually) since Friday. I can no longer count on a future of considering you all to be my brothers and sisters. I have a very heavy heart.

I am a UK citizen, but for the first time I am a little bit ashamed of the fact.

I am a UK citizen and I am sorry.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

I hate the word "great" (An EU blog)

Okay, maybe hate is a little too strong; I don't really know if there is anything I really hate. I dislike a lot of stuff; who doesn't? But hate? Anyway - enough of semantics. I really do feel a need to type and it's not on my novel (much as I do want to work on that a little more).

It's the EU. Obviously it's the EU. With it being four days away from a referendum in the UK how could it be anything but the EU Referendum. I feel passionately about the EU. I don't blinker myself to its faults, of which there are many, but I believe that it is a tremendous force for good in the world. And that world includes the UK. I think we have benefitted enormously from being a member nation over these past 43 years. And this isn't just a fat cat big businessman benefit. Yes, being in the single market does make a lot of cross border business easier (even given some of the bureaucracy it adds) but it extends beyond that. It affects us all and in a mainly positive way.

Just go google how many workers' rights we all enjoy (mandatory minimum paid holidays, maternity leave, paternity leave and so much more) and you'll see this interfering nannying that some people complain about isn't such a bad thing - and c3ertainly nowhere near as intrusive as I've heard claimed. A lot of the stories you may have heard over the years that make it seem this way don't really stand up to fact checking. We've all heard about EU regulations on the size and straightness of bananas - just try to find an actual regulation.

So, yes there are problems with the institution but these are fixable - and from my travels in Europe I know there are common feelings about making it all better in most member countries. David Cameron managed to get a number of amendments to policies and practices earlier this year. Keep at it and I am sure a number more may be achieved. And we will get these by working with our partners not by pissing them off with all the rubbish we've been hearing.

(Okay time to state a couple more personal things so you judge my words against my politic views. In the last election I did not vote Conservative. Thinking back I would guess that there are maybe two or three times ever I've voted anything other than Lib Dem or Green. Next thing is I am focussing my previous statement about rubbish towards both sides of the argument. This needed to be an informed discussion detailing the truth of the choice we all have to make, not a campaign of lies and scaremongering.)

I'm going to mostly ignore the $350million per week we pay into the EU. All I'm going to say is it patently untrue. This has been said over and over again and yet it still hasn't gone away. I really think I'm going to start telling people that there are a race of intelligent humanoid creatures on Mars building canals and fighting to manage the dwindling water resources on their planet. This idea was thought to be true in Victorian times and has long since been shown as false but what the hell - why not try to keep it going? (Okay maybe that was a big paragraph for something I'm ignoring.)

Onto other things. There's one claim that I don't understand. There is a claim that VAT could be removed on household fuel bills if we leave the EU. It's true. We could. But I don't see the benefit of it. After all it seems to be acknowledged by many, many people (even some of the leave brigade) that leaving would cause the pound to drop against other currencies. As all of the fossil fuels are traded in dollars wouldn't that make fuel more expensive? Unless the fuel companies chose to not pass on the rise in oil etc to us all on our bills I can only see this cancelling out (at least) any benefit from a cut in VAT. And even if this is a net zero effect it only affects household bills. What about the petrol/diesel we all put in our cars. That would go up. Food process would go up (we import a large percentage of the food we eat and what we produce would be affecting by those annoying higher fuel prices). And this would only be the tip of a rather large iceberg of price increases.

Then there's the complaint I hear over and over about the strains on our services (the NHS, Schools etc) from immigrants., Why should this be an issue? After all the more immigrants that come here and work, the more the government tax receipts go up which means the more money there is to provide better services.

Swap quickly to the other side of this argument - that immigrants come over here just to take advantage of our benefits system. Well I don't see any truth in this - not really. And I don't think I need to add any real evidence other than the contradictory claims I've often heard that immigrants
 - come over here and steal our jobs
 - come over here and sponge off the state getting benefits for doing nothing
The two sentences don't really sit well together side by side.

Then there is the second fact that the migrant population is almost always of working age. Given the increasingly aging native population in the UK we need an increase in the working population to pay for all the pensions etc of the retired people. And no, I am not dissing anyone who is retired as spongers. Our system is built on the presumption that you will be taken care of in your old age as a kind of reward for working hard you entire adult life. To do this the government needs tax revenues and to get these revenues we need workers. Or to put it another way foreign workers in the UK are a boon to our economy.

There are a number of other issues on which I could give an opinion (ease of movement across 28 countries - no visas for holidays is one and the kind of oft forgotten fact we're more likely to avoid warfare of we work together as a family of friendly nations). I'm not going to though. I'm going to add one last thought. And it is about the word "GREAT".

You will notice if you talk to me I always call my home country the UK; the United Kingdom. I will not use Great Britain. For one thing it is because Great Britain excludes Northern Ireland but this is not the main reason. Great implies the wrong meaning. If you hear the word and I ask you for synonyms I would imagine that some of the following might figure - super, fantastic, incredible, wonderful, best. In truth Great in Great Britain means nothing like this. Great Britain is the name give to an island; the name of the largest island in the British Isles. It means nothing more than physically largest.

Being an island nations already gives a sense of separation from our neighbours that countries with land borders just don't have. Add in GREAT and we think we're better than them too. Well, we're not. I'm not sure I can think of a single way I would consider the British best in Europe - well except maybe at cricket but that's not exactly fair as we invented the game and most European countries don't play it. This is why I said I hate the word GREAT at the top of this blog.

We have four days until we all have the chance to vote on our future and at the moment it is neck and neck in the opinion polls. I hope enough of us realise what we have to lose is far too valuable. We must stay in.

And whatever happens can we please remember that the day after we are all still countrymen and women. This campaign has driven divisions between us. I have a feeling it will not be easy to repair these going forward. I can see the losing side accusing the other of dirty tricks and so on for months/years to come. I can see demands for a second referendum to change the decision from some; especially if the result is as close as the polls suggest it might be.

I guess all I can do is hope.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Book collecting update

On Saturday just gone I happened upon the book stall in Derby market. It's a good little stall, one I've visited often, and my hopes were high. I was not disappointed. You see, fairly recently, the stallholder bought a collection of old science fiction books and many of them were on the stall. So I had a bit of fun sifting through them - and buying several. So I am here to brag a little about my finds and to list them (I do like a good list). There might be one or two you've not heard of....

Ray Bradbury - The October Country (okay maybe this isn't one you won't have heard - bear with me)
H. Beam Piper - Gunpowder God
Jonathan Fast - Prisoner of the Planets
Christopher Priest - Real-Time World
Gardner F. Fox - Warrior of Llarn
Barrington Bayley  - The Fall of Chronopolis
Joanna Russ - Picnic on Paradise
John Russell Fearn - Conquest of the Amazon
Philip Jose Farmer - The Wind Whales of Ishmael
Philip Jose Farmer - Inside Outside
Judith Merrill - The Tomorrow People
Keith Laumer - Galactic Odyssey
Robert Moore Williams - Vigilante 21st Century
Brian Aldiss - The Interpreter
Andrew Lester - The Thrice Born
Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth - The Wonder Effect
Karl Klyne - The Last Galaxy Game
Mark S. Geston - The Day Star
ed, Martin Greenberg - Men against the Stars
Mack Reynolds - Tomorrow Might Be Different
Marion Zimmer Bradley - City of Sorcery
Daniel F. Galouye - The Lost Perception
Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey - The Face of Chaos
James Blish & Norman L. Knight - A Torrent of Faces
Mack Reynolds - Space Pioneer
A. J. Merak - The Frozen Planet
Walter Moudy - No Man on Earth
Jeff Sutton - Apollo at Go
Philip E. High - Speaking of Dinosaurs
Kenneth Bulmer - The Hunters of Jundagai / John Glasby - Project Jove (ACE Double)

Now that's what I call a good book hunting day. Fingers crossed there will be more to come. The guy at the stall mentioned he hasn't brought all the collection in yet so there could be another huge purchase to come. Well, there might be if you lot don't go and get there first. If you do, you do. At least it means a book seller will get some good sales and hopefully keep going a while longer

More about writing later....

There is a new novel underway

Friday, 10 June 2016

Back to writing

My wife is out tonight playing a gig (for anyone who's not read my earlier postings; she's a saxophonist in a 40s style jazz band). This means I had plenty of time to give some writing a try. And fortunately I also had a novel idea I wanted to work a little more on and the mood to do it.

So after three CDs of listening (Metallica, Paul Simon and the Smiths in a wonderfully eclectic mix) I have written four new scenes totalling 2,911 words and brought chapter one to and end on 4,347 words.

I am relatively happy with it. I also have a couple of sketches of what will become chapter 2 on paper. Hopefully I will get time to work on this a little more in the next day or two. I like the idea of this story.

To give you a quick précis - the story follows a 12 year old girl as she enters holy orders (in a religion where there are thousands of Gods). She is a devotee of the religion believing in it totally. Of course she's going to get a quick course in reality and some dark things are going to happen, events of which she will find herself squarely in the crosshairs. Should be fun Let's hope I can keep the determination going.

It does have one or two things to overcome. I've mentioned the growing feeling of negativity over my writing. All those rejections have begun to take their toll. So much so I've not even revised the last completed novel or thought about submitting it anywhere. I enjoyed telling it. My wife (biased though she almost certainly is) enjoyed reading it but it has little beyond that. I just don't want another tale to be tarnished quite so quickly with rejections. At the moment it might just be perfect.

Instead I have given it to a friend of mine who has recently finished a course that included copyediting. He's going to give it a read and come back with some feedback. Maybe with some help from him I might be able to get a step closer to an acceptance I can take up. Would be nice.

In the meantime though I am just going to tell a story I want to tell. And if the only person to ever read it is my wife well, I will make do with that.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Holland

I've been quiet. There is a reason. I was in Holland; on holiday.

If you think this is strange; I can understand you. Holland is not top of many people's list when they think of where to go. Spain and Greece might be several leagues higher. I suppose I've never been normal.

For one thing I don't like beaches; or crowds for that matter. I have a fondness for history; for old buildings; canals; art; and coffee shops. Or to put it another way; old European cities. In the past we've visited many Italian cities; Rome; Venice; Milan; Turin; Verona; Brescia; Asti; and so many more.

About four years ago we rented a cottage in Northern France and headed across the border into Belgium once or twice and instantly fell for the country. So much so we rented a cottage in Belgium the following year; as well as the year after that. And on one of these trips we drove into Holland; score another obsession.

This year we rented a cottage in Oosterhout. I would tell you the details so that the owner might benefit from some extra custom but we were the last ever holiday rental he accepted. He's converting his cottages for long term renting - months at a time. So it was our last time in this wonderful town. Not that it will be the last time in Holland - we're already thinking of where we might go next year.

Well you can rest assured I'm not going to bore you with excessive details of the holiday. There is no chance you would want to see my holiday pics. Instead I'm going to tell you a little of what's relevant from the trip - to the writing.

Whilst there I had time to think about my writing. For one thing I was thinking about whether I should be doing it at all. I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of years tapping on the keys of this keyboard writing novels and novellas and sending them off to publishers and agents and then waiting for the rejections to flow in. And boy, have they ever.

I suppose I'm to blame a little for this because when I go submitting I go for it in a big way. After all to have received hundreds of rejections means you've made hundreds of submissions. So I am just setting myself up to be shot down over and over and over. And they are taking their toll on me.

Even with a reasonably thick skin I am starting to feel that this level of rejections means I'm not quite as good at this as I felt I was. I'm a big reader. Over the years I've read hundreds, possibly thousands. And not all of the ones I have read have been brilliant. I've read (or part read in some cases; abandonments are not uncommon) a lot of poor books. And the one thing all of them had in common is they were published. An author sat down and typed the words. They were sent in to agents and publishers who thought they were good enough to see print.

I consider my books to be better in quality that a number of these and, even given the natural bias I might have to my own creations, I had hoped I might have had more success. Now I know I'm not going to be alone. And yes, I know I have had offers of publication that I've turned down so you might think I'm being melodramatic. And you have a point. I have had offers, Both my horror novel Mr. Stinky and weird novella Intersection have seen a contract fly my way. There were just issues with them both which meant I couldn't progress. In some ways having these offers is probably making it a little worse for me. Anyway suffice it to say I've been having a bit of a downturn in writing drive,

So the holiday probably came at a good time, After all I couldn't write being away from my PC but I could think and sketch down notes in my notebook. And I certainly did that. Pages and pages of notes for a new fantasy novel.

A little while ago I would have described this as a young adult fantasy. The lead protagonist is a 12 year old girl. However a recent email from an agent about my first attempt at YA fantasy, the Patternmaker's Daughter, contained a little feedback. In it she said my book had an adult voice, not a young adult voice. This being true, and with it being her job to know this stuff I'm not doubting her, I am not sure how to change the way I write to qualify as young adult. So if I'm going to write this next one I'm just going to call it fantasy.

I'm going to give it a go; ignore all the rejections (if possible) and get on with writing. I can worry about all the rest later.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A new direction

A little while ago my writing stalled. There were a number of factors involved in this; some of which I will spare you but I will confirm they included a slight question in my mind about the story I was writing. You see I was writing a science fiction novel set in a future version of Africa which I just wasn't getting. Now I still think that somewhere inside the idea is a good novel, I just need to rethink some elements of it and maybe do a little more research first,

So I have spent the time since I stopped writing doing a little thinking. I keep notebooks wherever I go in case ideas come to me and I want to make a record of them before the flit away. So I sat down and read through a dozen or so of them (yes, I am kind of obsessive) in the hopes one of the ideas might jump out and demand to be written.

After a while I narrowed the list to three of the stories and let my brain wander through each of them to see which one grew enough meat on the bones to be the one to go with. And of course the answer was none of them but not because I felt these ideas were substandard or that my brain was refusing to do the writing stuff. No, it's because my subconscious mind came up with an entirely new idea. And this one grew flesh at such an alarming rate that I simply can't ignore.it. Without doubt it is my next novel project.

I'll give you a brief outline - it's another YA fantasy story set in a land controlled by an oppressive church and our lead character - a 12 year old girl at the start of the story - will become embroiled in a battle of good vs evil in the classic kind of way. And before you accuse me of being anti-religious, you might not be right in thinking the church is the bad guy. I might be an atheist but it doesn't mean I'm going to spend every hour I'm awake arguing down religion. The church dominated society is crucial for one element of the story to work. It's just going to be a story about people - oh and maybe demons and magic.

Anyway I have a new notebook underway with pages and pages already covered in story ideas and I'm about to give writing the first chapter a go. I'm not going to be writing this regularly for a little while yet; I haven't filled in enough of the plot to do that yet but I am fairly happy with the start and want to find the mood of the story. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Referendum Blues

[Sorry for getting political but I just can't steer clear]

It's less than six weeks until the EU referendum in the UK; six weeks until we know just how screwed we are all going to be.  Yeah, I'm rather fearful that the people of the UK are about to vote to leave the European Union even though all common sense tells me that staying in is the only sensible option. And this covers all ends of the political spectrum.

You see being in the EU is good for Britain's businesses. We have full access to the European single market making trading within its borders much easier. This has many benefits - for one a lot of investment is drawn into the UK from outside because we have this access. Take that away and this money could well end up going to other nations like Germany and Ireland.

But it's not just the business types that should be in favour. The ordinary worker, you and I, have all benefited from the UK's membership. Many of the workplace rights that you have originated in the EU. The right for paid annual leave and fair treatment of part time workers are just two of the benefits we have that are down to the EU and whilst we stay in these rights cannot be eroded. Leave the EU and they're fair game to the whims of politicians.

I've seen an awful lot of utter rubbish about the EU over the years - misinformation and downright lies about its interference with the UK's sovereign affairs. And as for the old perennial about the effects of mass migration to the UK being a drain on our resources and services, give me a break. The migrants that have come here are net contributors to our system. They are far, far less likely to be unemployed than British born people and when they are they do not have the instant access to government money that a UK citizen does so the benefit tourism argument is bunkum.

Now I'm not saying the EU is perfect. There are many things that need to be improved and hopefully there will be a mood to make these reforms in future but us leaving is just nonsensical. And you don't just have to take my word for it. Most of the major INDEPENDENT economic organisations and think tanks have come out and said leaving would be bad for us. Just this last week the Governor of the Bank of England and the head of the IMF both described the negative impact an OUT vote would have. They should have some clue of what's going on.

All I can put it down to is a feeling of small islander, anti-foreigner sentiment, There is a lot of it in this country I am ashamed to say. I don't get it. Being English isn't being superior. (And by the way I am deliberately saying English. The Scots and the Welsh seem to have a far more sensible outlook and seem to have a majority of IN support)

I think I know a large part of what this is. It's our history. Britain has a history of being a world power; for a long time we were the major world power. Well people, that was in the past. We are definitely not where we were. And before you call out that we are still the fifth biggest economy let me tell you this is not a right. We are not  guaranteed to hold this position going forward and if we leave the EU I think we will be ensuring that we begin a long slide downwards.

And then there is the issue of the other side of our history. Through most of the last few centuries we've not exactly been best buds with France - the Entente Cordiale is only just a little over a hundred years old - go back just a century before and you'll be in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, Set it on rewind much more and you'll see war after war between us and France. History though is just that; history. We should not forget it because it can teach us many lessons and stop us making the same mistakes all over again but we cannot us it to build or foster prejudices.

Moving beyond France and we get to Germany and we have more history - more recent than that with France too. I'm not going to go over and over this but again - get over it. The Germany of today is our ally; one of our closest. If you've been to Germany you will know (or at least should) that the Brits and the Germans are very similar people.

But it's exactly the same outside the EU. If you say we should cosy up more to the USA then according to the rules of letting history cloud your decision making remember we had a few wars with them back in the 1700s and 1800s. Not that that should colour our opinions of Americans today.

Anyway I'm meandering. The core principles of this EU referendum are mostly going to be missed. We should be considering what will be best for all of Britain going forward. A lot of people are going to completely ignore this and just go with fears and resentments. After all why should Brussels tell us how we should live our lives? (Not seriously asking this you understand.)

One final thought before my meanderings end. We live in Great Britain. (Well, except if you are living in Northern Ireland but that's a matter for another time.) This is another part of the problem for me. It's the word Great that's my problem. Not that I don't think that the UK is a great country. I'm British and patriotic so of course I do. But having the word Great in the name gives you the wrong impression.; one of a superiority we have not earned and do not deserve (not to the level some people think.

Great in this sense is just a geographic term. Great Britain is the name of the largest island in the British Isles. Great means largest, physically, nothing more. We need to remember that and remember that for all our self importance the UK is a very small country. If you doubt my words go check out the stats on Wikipedia for largest counties. I did and we barely make the top 80. Do the same thing by population and we come in at number 22. That's a far bit higher but still not anywhere near the top.

We used to be important. We controlled the largest Empire anyone on Earth has ever seen. But those days are gone. In the future we will only survive through cooperation with others. So it's about time we got humble, realised our place, and started doing it.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Funk over or a temporary blip

Not sure if today was an exception or a new writing norm. After all it's not exactly possible to judge after a single day's endeavour is it? The fact is earlier today I sat at this keyboard and tried to write the next part of my new Ben Williamson novella and nothing happened. So I gave up, opened up this blog and started writing an entry. I figured if I'm not writing I might as well get back into the feel of typing sentences. Couldn't hurt.

Well I wrote a blog entry. You might have read it. I posted it, tweeted a link to it and closed down the browser expecting to head off to watch some TV. Underneath was the Word Doc I'd so completely failed to add much to. I reread the single paragraph I'd written, decided it was terrible and deleted it. I then thought it might be worth another go at getting at least that paragraph done. Sixty words or so is better than nothing. So I did. This time it worked a little better. And when I got to the end of it I had an idea of the next one. It kind of lead to an entire scene being written. Not one of my best I know but at least it progressed the story in roughly the direction I wanted. So I headed off at least happy I'd done that.

A little while I came back to check my email. The Word doc was still there and I found myself writing a second scene. Not bad too - even if that's only my opinion. And this evening I've added a further three scenes. In all today I've written 3,572 words. Not a bad day. And the novella now stands at 6,333 words.

Is it going to continue tomorrow? Who knows. I know one thing for sure. My intended book hunting at the car boots is not going to happen. I'm very much a fair weather car booter these days. I have no need to go to them after all - just a desire to add more books to my collection. And mud is a definite put off now. In years gone by I would have gone out anyway. But in years gone by I ran a side line business selling superhero comics and science fiction collectables and the boots were a good source of decent stock.

Not so anymore, so tomorrow my alarm will not sound. I will wake naturally and maybe do some more writing. I will see how the mood takes me.

By the way - one reason for my nonchalance regarding the car boots must be the fact I managed to find seven books when I was in Ashby this morning. I will detail them at some point in a future blog entry. I might even talk a bit of politics - the EU referendum is getting closer all the time so it is very much on my thoughts.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Doldrums

I've been in them for a little while now. I've written on only two days in the last four weeks. I'm hoping this doesn't continue but I can't say for sure. I'm giving it a try today but my head is just not in it. Even the decision to give up writing the science fiction novel I started at the beginning of April to try my hand at another Ben Williamson novella has not got my juices going again.

It's annoying; especially as I think the science fiction novel I stalled on, the Church, could well be the most original idea I've had for a story yet. Of course that's pretty much irrelevant if I never write it. I guess all I can do is remain hopeful it will come back in the future and try not to get too down about it.

I am still having ideas though so I guess things are good in that respect. The other night I went for a walk around the village where I live with my wife (one of the ways we are trying to maintain at least a modicum of fitness as we get older). During the walk as we passed the old mill all we could hear was Bird Song and Church Bells. Those five words struck me as a rather good title for a story and so I added them to the notebook I keep potential story titles in. As soon as the thought came into my head my brain quickly fleshed out a basic story to fit it. If you know me at all you will not be surprised to find out the story is anything but the gentle tale of a tranquil village the title might suggest. I don't think I could ever write one of those - even if I would love the idea of writing and English version of Dandelion Wine (one of my favourite books).

If I can get back into this scribblings thing then it might feature in future; although a lot of that will be dependent upon the market. I still have in mind the words of advice one agent gave in her email response to one of my submissions regarding what is selling and horror ain't it. Ah well.

Anyway I'm going to give writing another go. I know what I want to happen next in the current Ben Williamson novella - all I have to do is make it so.

Monday, 2 May 2016

An original phishing email and then politics

I receive dozens of phishing etc emails each day. I'm sure anyone reading this, or, for that, anyone who goes online, receives similar quantities. It is one of the curses of the digital age. So every day when I download my emails I start off by deleting all the crap (I'm including the spam and Facebook updates in this).

Mostly these unwanted emails only attract enough attention to trigger the autonomic right index finger depressing the delete button action. Today though it was different. I actually stopped long enough to read one. Now please don't think I was going to be fooled into doing something truly stupid like opening the zip file or clicking on the link. I'm not that daft.

The reason I hesitated before just deleting was I'd not seen this particular variant before today. I received an email purporting to be from the International Court of Justice in the Hague. It even had the correct address. I recognised it as I've actually been there. (Only as a tourist I stress, I'm not either that evil to be tried there or important enough to be called up in some supporting role.) The rest of the email was pretty accurate too. (I'm mainly on about spelling and grammar - often these spam emails are horrendous at both.)

And as you would guess there was an attachment that the text urged me to open to get more information on how to get to the court for my required appearance. Yeah, I'm going to give clicking that a bit of a miss if you don't mind.

Now receiving this started me thinking; and more specifically remembering. A little while ago (three or four weeks) I was in a conversation about the EU with a Pro-Leave person. If you know me you will be very much aware of just how Pro-EU I am. Now this person was adamant in their position that the EU was bad for Britain in every way imaginable and I will go so far as to agree that it is far from perfect and in some ways can be a little bit of a burden on us but overall I believe we gain so much more from it than we give or lose to it.

So the conversation hovered around the much bandied about £350 per week we pay in (even though we don't as the rebate is applied to that number before we even start), immigration controls (or the lack thereof in the other person's opinion), security risks (fictitious risks) and many other EU specific topics before it was moved on (not by me) to the subject of Justice.

This section of the conversation started okay(-ish). The first gripe of my debate opponent was the European Court of Human Rights. Now I will concede that this is a European body but as for having anything to do with the EU, well... it doesn't. It was set up by the Council of Europe; different thing altogether. Here's a quick clue. I'm going to list a few of the members of the Council of Europe and you can guess how many are in the EU.

 - Iceland
 - Norway
 - Turkey
 - Switzerland
 - San Marino
 - Liechtenstein
 - Andorra
 - Georgia
 - Azerbaijan
 - Russia

Yep, none. Not a one of the countries listed above are in the EU. There are others but I got bored typing the list.

So one completely rubbish argument in the bag the person still adamantly trying to dissuade me from my REMAIN vote moved onto the biggie. She included the International Court of Justice as a problem of being in the EU. I sincerely believe this was a slip and not that it was a firm belief that this is a body under the control of the EU.

I know it is located in an EU country (the Netherlands in case you didn't know) but it is most definitely a part of the United Nations.

Now this is an extreme example and one, as I've said, I believe was a slip of the tongue (mind?) but it is typical (albeit in the out there) of a lot of the arguments I hear on both sides (although to me it feels skewed towards the LEAVE side). There are a lot of false facts or spun facts. The £350 million per week is one of them. It's just not accurate when you look at it in detail; especially as I've heard people claim that this entire £350 million (that still doesn't totally exist) could be spent on the NHS.

I want the UK to stay in the EU. But equally I want the people of the country I was born in and have lived for the past five decades to make an informed, rational decision rather than an "I hate foreigners" kneejerk, shoot yourself in the foot, idiotically bigoted shitfest.

If you are eligible for this referendum please vote. But please do it after finding out as many of the facts as you can and make a reasoned decision and not one out of ignorance.

And one final topic; why is it that 16 & 17 year olds cannot vote? Isn't this going to affect a significantly higher proportion of their lives that anyone who can vote? I'm never sure why an extra day means you are now capable of responsibly exercising your democratic right. Surely all that should count is being fully aware of what your vote means? I know people in the fifties and sixties I would much rather disqualify from voting than teenagers. Prove to me you know you understand the issues and I am happy for you to vote - I wouldn't care if you were seventeen or even five if you knew why you were going to do when you enter the voting booth.

Anyway rant over. I'm now going to go and spend the next few weeks hoping my fellow Brits get over the fact we added Great to the start of Great Britain. The meaning isn't that we're totally super or anything bigheadedly crass like that. It meant large. Great Britain is called that because it is the largest single island of the British Isles. We need to stop thinking as though having that name gives us any more right to consider ourselves above anyone else in the world than if we been known as Shitty Cold Island.

Note to self - step away from the keyboard. (Is there an equivalent of the mike drop Obama so wonderfully recently did when blogging? Sadly not.)

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Another weekend, another book hunt

Today I had the opportunity to pop into Chesters, a second hand book shop in Polesworth (just outside Tamworth). It's a real old school used book store. I've not been there for quite some time which is a real pity (and comes with no small amount of shame). The shop is on two levels, both filled with rabbit warrens of shelves all packed with thousand upon thousand of books on all subjects imaginable.

I did buy three books while I was there

Gerard Klein - The Day before Tomorrow
Bob Shaw - Ground Zero Man
Bob Shaw - The Two-Timers

Strangely the first of these shares its title with the second novel I wrote (one of the two I have deemed should never see light of day - not without considerable rewriting anyway). I can't remember ever having heard of this title but I can't say for definite I hadn't ever. Maybe it just sat at the back of my subconscious until a suggestion for a book title was needed. Thankfully the story is nothing like mine so I can't berate myself for stealing the plot or anything like that - it was just a coincidence of title.

It's a great shop - you should go if you're ever anywhere near.

But that wasn't the best bit. Many years back I used to visit Burton on Trent periodically (this was back before I lived close by; today we just pop into town as it's the nearest to us other than Ashby or Coalville. On each of these years ago trips I used to find a few minutes to pop around the corner and visit Needwood Books.

Sadly this wonderful shop is many years closed but today I met up with Chris, the guy who used to run it as he was in Chesters and had the opportunity to have another of our rambling discussions. We always used to meander around all kinds of subjects albeit mostly books and politics. Chris is getting on in years (I hope he won't mind me saying that) but his mind is as sharp as ever. Good times. I'm going to have to make sure the next time is not too distant in the future.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Return of the Collector

It's been a while since I had any real success out on the collecting trail so today has come as a welcome change to the norm. I went into Ashby and then Derby and have a few to boast about - some of which are just my kind of thing. Anyway here is the list of the new additions to the collection. (All are A format paperbacks unless noted)

Shaun Hutson - Shadows
Ian Graham - Monument
Karen Miller - Innocent Mage
Brian Aldiss - The Primal Urge
Philip K, Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep HC
Jean Jules-Verne - Jules Verne: a Biography HC
John Farris - The Uninvited  HC
Gardner Dozois - Strangers
Hal Clement - Cycle of Fire
Barry Malzberg - Overlay
Norman Spinrad - The Men in the Jungle
A. E. van Vogt - The Changeling
Eando Binder - Menace of the Saucers
Jack Bertin - The Pyramids from Space
Hilbert Schenck - A Rose for Armageddon
Lindsay Gutterridge - Killer Pine
Edmond Hamilton - What's It Like out there?
Frederik Pohl - The Gold at the Starbow's End
Avram Davidson - The Island under the Earth

And then there were the gems of the find - some old Ace Doubles
Damon Knight - The Rithian Terror / Damon Knight - Off Center
John Rackham - We, the Venusians / Fred Saberhagen - The Water of Thought

The odd thing with that last one is I found two copies of it - the second being in far better condition, hence buying it even though moments before I'd bought the same book.

Photographs will be posted at some point to my tumblr feed I'm sure

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Thursday - a few quick things

My wife is out every night this week. She is a musician and plays in the band for a local musical theatre group. And this is show week. So in theory I have lots and lots of time to get huge amounts of writing done.

Problem is it hasn't quite gone like that. For one thing I finished my last novel at the weekend just gone. So I went into the week of much time without a current project and no real idea of which story I should tell next.

Well that last part is now behind me. I spent three days not writing to clear out all the places, characters and plot points of The Stairs Lead Down. This involved watching an awful lot of comedy clips on YouTube. I have a fondness for the Scenes We'd Like to See segment of BBC comedy panel show Mock the Week as well as for George Carlin.

Head cleared and decision made I started in on chapter one of a new novel - a science fiction novel set in a future Africa on a very changed world. I'm calling it the Church. Of what I'm not going to say online as, should it get published, I would like the full title to have an impact.

I'd written the introduction to this book some time ago, around the time the idea first came to me. I'd wanted to get the voice of it down on paper. I managed to stop once that was done and not take time away from the on going project of the time. Now though I am on it properly and the novel is now past the 4K mark.

I'm not sure how long this one is going to go. There are sections of it I am hoping will come to me as I type. I have a number of milestones written up in my notes but have left it a little more flexible than the last novel. I was curious how I would write under such conditions. We shall see.

Other than that the only thing to report from today was an unexpected addition to the book collection. I had to pop into Ashby late on and nipped inside a charity shop to find a Robert Rankin hardcover I didn't own - the Brightonomicon. Here's a picture


Anyway - late in the day so I need to go get some sleep so I'm good and refreshed for tomorrow at work (and then at the keyboard to continue writing in the evening)
 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Return of Book Hunt

It's no secret to anyone who knows me or reads this blog that I collect books; mainly science fiction, fantasy and horror books. I've been doing so for nearly four decades and do not intend to stop any time soon,

Well I've not done much of it in recent weeks. Weekends have seen me doing other things - lots of writing for instance. Yesterday though I had to go into Derby with my wife do I made the most of it. While she was safely ensconced in a coffee shop reading her latest book I headed around all the charity shops Central Derby has to offer. And I came away with ten new books for the collection

David Weber & Steve White - Insurrection ppb
James Tiptree, Jr. - Ten Thousands Light-Years form Home ppb
Juliet E. McKenna - Northern Storm ppb
Richard Laymon - The Midnight Hour ppb
David Gemmell - Bloodstone ppb
Robert E. Howard - The Conan Chronicles Vol 1 (part of Fantasy Masterworks series - book 8) B format
Michael Marshall Smith - What You Make It B format
Guy Gavriel Kay - Under Heaven B format
Neil Spring - The Ghost Hunters B format
Jack Ketchum - Off Season (Trade format)

Here's a picture of the haul


It's good to be back