Sunday, 31 January 2016

And the trippers of the light fantastic

Despite being a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy and a Terry Pratchett fan since Strata for some reason I'd never seen the adaptation of Colour of Magic. Well being ill today and not writing has given me time to actually watch the darn thing.

Now I'm not going to say I'm glad to be ill. That would be insane but making the most of things I've enjoyed this TV miniseries. It's very well done; well acted, well directed and thoroughly well made. Good show

Of course from a writing perspective this weekend has been a bit hit and miss. Yesterday my brain was working. So much so I added about 3000 words to the current novella. Today though, in contrast I've added barely 200 words and they were to complete a scene I'd started to write yesterday. Sitting upright and thinkng weren't things that coincided much today.  My two blog entries have been written on my iPhone whilst lying down.

I've had my usual luck with illnesses. I always seem to be unwell at weekends or during holidays. The only time I had flu I came down with it on XMas Day and was fit and well by Jan 2nd and the return to work. I suppose it's good in one respect. I've never had much sick time but I do occasionally feel aggrieved - not seriously though.

So January is over and I've written barely half of December's word count. Here's hoping February is better and you never know, one of these submissions may prove successful.

Sorry for the slightly incoherent nature of this blog. I hope that normal service will be resumed soon.

Rush Retirement

I've had over a month now to ruminate on Neil Peart retirement announcement. Even if Geddy Lee's clarification of him only having retired from touring is true it's still pretty final. You see, I've been a Rush fan almost as long as I've been a music fan.

Way, way, way back in the pre-Internet dark ages, before Britain had even 4 TV channels (yes, I'm talking about the 1970s) a school friend and I found a copy of 2112 in his elder brother's record collection. (Not sure if his elder brother knew we were rifling through his record collection but 35+ years later he would probably forgive us.)

Well the album worked it's magic on both of us and a few weeks later I had my own copy; something I'm sure my mother was deeply happy about. So this band is one of the longest in terms of service of my personal listening and they are still in the top 3 favourites and if pushed I'd probably put them at #1.

So for them to not be a thing any more is a downer. But maybe all hope is not lost. After all if Geddy Lee is right and some Rush activity is possible in future there is a chance of another album. Now with many artists this might not be the best of news. After all I've bought some late career albums in my time and rarely play them, preferring to stick to the classic stuff that made them famous and me a fan.

With Rush though this is different. Their last album, Clockwork Angels, is one of my favourites. Some of the songs on it are superb. If it does prove to be their final release they can be proud of it. I hope it isn't though, because it proves to me they still have it as songwriters.

But if this is it I can't hold it against them. They've entered for over four decades. They created some of the best music I've ever heard and I will always have those songs and albums.

Thanks guys

Writing progress resumed

Despite feeling pretty lousy (don't be too sympathetic - it's just a cold. We all get them) I have managed to get a good amount of writing done today. I'm at 2,806 words for the day. It's the second most productive day of January. Not much of a boast to be honest. It's not been the best month for writing.

I think I've got less written this month than any month since restarting this writing thing. With one day to go I'm on a mere 21K for the month. Just think two months ago I was bemoaning falling 2.3K short of the 50K mark. December managed to hit 42K without aiming for any special target. That's twice what I've achieved this month. Scary.

Now I could point to the fact I've now been ill twice in the month but I'd probably just be finding an excuse there and I'm not a liker of excuses. I know I have been doing a lot of revision of the bawdy scifi novel No Man's Land. I'm not far off the second revision of the book. All but six chapters are now in 3rd draft. Two of those are marked up ready for corrections/additions. All of that took time.

But the truth is I've not been feeling it this month. And I think it was down to the novel I started to write on the 2nd. I had this idea for a secret society paranoia story - a bit like a Philip K. Dick story in my head. It started well enough. On day one I wrote 3.7K. That's much more like me.

The problem was as soon as I told someone about the story it was pointed out to me that the plot and setting I'd come up with sounded like a Dan Brown book. That floored me a little. You see it hadn't occurred to me.

You see I've never read Dan Brown. I've seen one of the movies but that was focussed around the Catholic Church. I had the impression that's what he wrote - conspiracy stuff centre on Catholicism. I guess I was wrong. So it put me off my own story. I decided to take a break from it and revise the book mentioned above.

Ten days later I had not written another new word of fiction. Okay I had revised a fair few chapters and added about 1.5K to the length of No Man's Land but I wasn't writing anything new. So I made a decision on the15th. I had this idea for another Ben Williamson story and I was going to write that instead. It should help clear the palate so to say.

So the Town was started only to see output on that fall far behind previous Ben Williamson novellas. I analysed the third novella (still not going to mention the title here). On average I wrote 1,626 words per day on that book. So far with the Town I've only averaged 769 words per day.

Now 769 words is still progress so I shouldn't complain. One of my friends went several years between writing anything at all. Even now he is barely creating a single short story (c. 3K) in a month.

It's likely to change in February. You see I have some time coming up. My wife is a musician - I may have mentioned that. In Feb she is playing in the band for a pantomime. That will mean six nights in a row when I will be on my own. Leading up to that there are a number of rehearsals - more time on my own.

It's these times when I get my writing done. You see I actually like my wife and enjoy her company. If she's in the house I would far rather be with her than in this office writing. Sorry anyone out there eager to read my next Magnum Opus (or magnificent octopus if you're a Blackadder fan) she's my top priority.

That said I am hopeful I will get the novella finished before the end of February and back to a novel length project. You see these Ben Williamson novellas are great fun to write but have limited potential when it comes to sales. There just aren't that many markets out there for novellas. (BTW - if you hear of one, please let me know)

Novels are an easier commodity to hawk. Of course that might change if I do manage to get a book published. Having some kind of track record behind me might well convince publishers to look at these shorter works. One of my goals would be to get PS Publishing to release one of them. I have dozens of the novellas they've put out over the years and have enjoyed almost all of them. (No one has a 100% record.)

So I really should stop writing these Ben Williamson novellas until I manage to get selling. After all once this one is done I will have four. And although the full manuscript has been requested for the second of them, the Intersection, I am not hopeful of finding a publisher who will want to repeatedly put out my latest idea for torturing my middle aged, middle class everyman.

So I have two, maybe three, weeks to decide what the next novel project should be. Should I go back to the secret society tale? I have thought up a bit more plot for it and it twists and turns like a twisty turny thing (more Blackadder quoting). My wife likes the sound of it so it may well win out.

But I have notebooks full of story ideas; many of which have already been elevated to their own book status. There are two amongst these that would stand the best chance of making it to WiP status and both are focussed in on teenagers so I guess you would call them YA. They're both dark fantasy too.

One is contemporary - set in modern day Ashby de la Zouch. I guess as my life is also set in modern day Ashby de la Zouch this would come under the heading of write what you know. The other is set in the late 15th Century in a fictional version of a city I know well and love. They are both contenders. I think I could enjoy them both.

Well that's all for the future. For now I need to concentrate on my two on going tasks - revising the scifi and finishing the novella. I'll just have to consign any new ideas I get to the notebooks. And I will have to try to force the idea I had this afternoon to stay there. This one appeals to me a great deal. The only problem is it would result in Ben Williamson's fifth outing and I really should stay away from him and write something that has a better chance of selling.

Let's see if I can manage it.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Getting some kind of focus

I've been serious about this writing lark for about ten months now. In that time I've written four novels and three novellas plus a few short stories. One of my friends, a published fantasy author, is jealous of this volume of output. She shouldn't be. I'm jealous of her. She has three published novels. I may have completed seven book length stories and revised them to 3rd draft (except for one of the novellas) but none have yet passed the crucial test. None have got that nod of acceptance from a publisher or agent.

Not that I'm downhearted about it. I've come close. I've had somke very complimentary things said about my writing. One agent said she thought my horror novel good enough to be published but that the UK publishing market wasn't in the mood for debut horror writers and she wouldn't be able to sell it.

She's the reason I've mostly stopped trying to write horror and have been focussing on science fiction and fantasy. See the titles was accurate - I am discussing focus.

Focus is something I have to work at. My brain has a tendency to want to do a hundred million things at once. I often find myself reading a dozen or more books at a time. In my work life it's been useful as it means I can juggle all the different parts of my job and not go too insane.

Writing though, and writing novels in particular needs focus. One project, two at most, is all I can afford to have as current if I want to finish anything. From the output mentioned above you know I'm succeeding at it but it takes effort.

You see after all these long years as a reader and all the hundreds/thousands of books and short stories I've read my brain keeps inventing new story ideas. I keep notebooks everywhere I go so I can sketch them out so I don't forget something that may turn out good. So far I have 46 of them. They're not all full so don't think I'm too insane. If a story starts to take hold I give it its own dedicated notebook - most of those ones are about a third full at most. Doing it this way I can, for the most part, put off wanting to write the new idea immediately.

But oddly enough this isn't the exact part of focus I was thinking of when I start this blog entry. I was thinking about genre focus. My four finished novels comprise one horror, one alternate history science fiction, one YA high fantasy, and one bawdy, hopefully comedic, space opera detective mashup. The three novellas bridge the gap between science fiction and weird.

I'm currently coming up on a third the way through a fourth weird novella only this time more paranoid and without much SF element. Once that's done the next is a secret society story with hints of science fiction and urban fantasy. So you might say I'm jumping around a bit.

The thing is these are the genres I've spent my life reading. I like them all. The ideas come to me and I pick the one that feels best to write at any given time.

I do wonder what this flitting around does to my chances of a sale. Hopefully it will give me more of a chance. I can have subs out there in all genres.

The one thing I'm fairly sure of is I don't think I could force a particular genre into focus if it's not one I like overly. You're not going to get a romance from me. But out of the areas listed above you could get anything.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Comparing TV series

If you've read any of the previous entries in this blog you will know I like European drama. I've blogged about a number of shows like the Bridge, 1864, the Killing, Salamander, Unit One, the Protectors and others.

Well some more have been in my viewing crosshairs of late. And I'm going to compare a couple of cross border shows; Crossing Lines and the Last Panthers.

We watched the first two seasons of Crossing Lines in good binge watch style and the show was fantastic. The show featured a pan European team featuring members from France, Italy, Germany, Holland, the UK and the USA. Each week they took on a crime with cross border elements and headed off for another part of Europe (or the USA). Okay, not entirely fair; there are some two parters in there and a bit of a running thread running through the whole.

This second series, the Last Panthers, is a little different in one key regard. It's less of a crime of the week type show instead doing the Killing style single story across a season. The Panthers are a group of criminals whose day is very much behind them; they are mostly dead or imprisoned. One of them is still at large and forms a new group to carry out one more heist - stealing diamonds in France and heading back to Serbia.

Now the basic story is good. The acting is good. The locations are good. The only problem I have regards its focus.

In Crossing Lines the focus is on the cops and the characters that make up the Squad are sympathetic. You care for them. You invest in them. You want them to succeed. And you want to keep watching them.

In the Last Panthers the focus is more heavily skewed towards the diamond thieves; and one of them in particular. Now I'm not against the idea of focussing on the bad guys in a story; it's a perfectly valid angle for a story. It just has to be done well and this isn't done well enough. It's certainly not done well enough for me to want to root for the bad guys.

So we turn to the good guys and they come in two flavours. Firstly we have the French police, and one you policeman in particular. The character is a familiar one; the young cop keen to try anything to solve a case and rubbing an older cop up the wrong way in the process. But it's done in a way that doesn't feel too contrived. The actor playing him is good too. I'd like to see him do something else. My problem is he's just not on screen long enough for me to be able to connect with him well enough.

And this is because there is another set of investigators - these being from the insurance company (or so it seems from the point of view of where I've watched up to. It wouldn't surprise me if they turned out to be something different.)

Now the lead character, a former UN peacekeeping soldier form the flashbacks is played completely unsympathetically. Neither of us liked her character in any way. Even the brief scenes with John Hurt, as brilliant as he was (as ever), rescued this bunch. I don't like them. I would have far preferred a two pronged attack to the story - thieves vs cops. With three it just felt unbalanced. As a result we've stopped watching it (in very disappointed mood).

Boo! Hiss!

There are a couple of ups though to viewing. Because not only are all the regular shows in the process of coming back in (Grimm, Elementary, Arrow, Agent Cater, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. etc) but there's another European crime show on - 100 Code. And this time it's spot on; even the cross border element is done brilliantly.

Essentially a New York cop has chased a serial killer to Sweden. The New York cop is an irascible bugger and not at all inclined to playing nice with the locals. He wants their help but he doesn't want to share with them. Of course it changes and we head into the usual buddy-buddy cop story on the trail of a serious sicko.

Now this show does have characters you can sympathise with - even if it is essentially the cop bromance story from the first Lethal Weapon film. I need to see more of this.

So here's the point; a lesson I guess. If you want to make a cop show focus on the good guys and their inter-relationships. If you want to make a story focussed on the bad guys do it Sopranos style. Don't stop somewhere between the two - not if you want me to watch passed episode two in any case.

The weekend starts here (as if)

It's Friday. It's half past five. Theoretically the weekend starts here. Well except it doesn't. At least not in the sense of partying. I'm a bit of a sicky. For anyone reading this who is female, yes I have man-flu.

It's not too bad; I mainly just feel cold. As a result I intend to do next to nothing for the next two days, beyond maybe some TV watching and a bit of writing. My plans to finish the revision of the bawdy scifi and send out a bunch of submissions might take a bit of a hit - might not. I'm just going to see what I can do.

I remember last time I was ill. I found writing pretty easy - but the reading part of revising not so much. You never know how these darn bugs are going to hit you. Whatever happens I'm probably going to be fine to go back into the office eon Monday. It always seems to happen that way for me. The only time in my life I had flu I came down with it on Christmas Day, the first of ten continuous days of not having to be at work and was ill straight through the holidays, recovering just in time to...

...Yep, to go back to work.

Ah well. Anyway tonight I would imagine will see some more episodes of House of Cards being watched - well you have to don't you?

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Midweek madness

Well, another week is already more than halfways done (work wise anyway). Time goes far too quick for my liking (I guess for anyone's). More worryingly this is the last week in January. Come Sunday night and we will be at the end of the first month of 2016.

Now I know time is a constant (unless you start moving really fast or get too close to a black hole but that's a different matter) but still this seems fast. It's a perception thing. The older I get (and hence the less time I have left) the more time seems to speed up. I'm not after sympathy by the way. I know I'm not alone in this feeling and to be honest I don't fret about it. What's the point, I can't do much about it. Well let's move on to something other than a morbid fascination with time.

Writing seems the best place to go. I have had a bit of a stop/start writing month. Since starting of the month by finishing the first draft of my third Ben Williamson weird novella with a reasonably credible 2,339 words I've not managed to maintain a consistent writing pace.

There have been reasons. I have spent a good deal of the month re-reading and re-reading the bawdy scifi novel No Man's Land making endless corrections with my trusty (Dutch-bought) red pen. I'm up to chapter 15 in 3rd draft with chapters 16 & 17 marked up awaiting updating the Word Doc.

I started a Secret Society story just before this revision buzz kicked in (which by the way is because there is one publisher I want to sub it to who is open for submissions until Sunday) so I put it aside. The problem with putting anything aside is it's the time when another idea can pop up. And guess what happened.

So the Secret Society novel, a World out of Balance, is sitting there, plotted to be about 90-100K with the first 6.5K written and my head is full of another novella storyline which is now at about 7K in length (bar a few dozen words).

Still once I've got the revision of the scifi out of the way I should be able to concentrate on the novella full time (or full spare time - I do have a day job to do after all). Fingers crossed if that goes well I might be finished with the first draft by the end of Feb so I can get back to the Secret Society story. Of course I will then also have two novellas to revise. Must be more disciplined next time. I think this novel could well be a good one to sub around - especially as it has some crossover appeal - it's not just a pure science fiction story like other tales.

So why if I'm trying to get all this sorted am I blogging? Shouldn't I be writing the novella? Well there is a balance. Part of the thing about trying to get this authoring malarkey up and running is to grow some kind of presence online. I'm choosing twitter, tumblr and blogging as my main routes. I do have a Facebook page for my writing endeavours too but I find Facebook annoying. It's too easy to get bogged down in cat videos and pictures of people's dinners there. I must get over this though and try to add lots of funky content there and try to get people linking to the page. A matter for future weeks methinks.

For now though I am going to shortly call an end to this rambling blog entry and get back to writing. I'm going for at least 1,000 words tonight so should crack on.

One last thought - I've had five responses back from submissions from my YA fantasy the Patternmaker's Daughter all of which were rejections. BUGGER

Anyway, Toodle pip

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Quick writing update

Today has seen me writing again. It's been a while - I was feeling under the weather for the last few days and getting through my work days was proving taxing enough brainpower wise so writing hasn't happened much. I have done a little revising of the bawdy scifi and a blog entry or several but generally nothing much was happening fiction wise.

That changed today.

I turned another four chapters of the bawdy scifi No Man's Land into 3rd draft and wrote a further four scenes to the fourth weird Ben Williamson novella. It total I added 2,244 of new fiction to the slate today. Not too shabby.

Anyway, weekend is nearly over and I have to go get ready for work again in the morning. Boo! Hiss!

I should get a bit of time this week to do more and providing I have the brain capacity spare I'm going to try to catch up and put some decent writing sessions in.

More later.

Book collecting upate

Yesterday was a Saturday and we had some free time so we popped into Burton upon Trent for a couple of hours (just because it's nearby). Well the inevitable happens - there are charity shops that have books so I go for a quick trawl.

Well yesterday wasn't the most successful but I did find a few. so here's the list

Dan Simmons - Hyperion (B format)
ed. Ben Bova - Exiles (3 novellas by Poul Anderson, Eric Frank Russell and Isaac Asimov)
Michael Moorcock - Blood
Julian May - The Many Coloured Land / The Golden Torc Omnibus
Michael Scott Rohan - The Lord of Middle Air

Here's a photo of them



I have copies of the first four of these books already. I'll probably keep the Hyperion, as I have an A format not this larger edition and I like the cover, and the Moorcock as I have it in hardcover only and he's one of the authors I'm getting a little completest about.

The real pain was the one book I didn't previously own - the Michael Scott Rohan. Charity shops often put stickers on the covers of the books with prices on and they rarely use low tack stickers. this normally results in time having to be spent to carefully remove these stickers without damaging the book and then, often, removing the sticky residue they leave behind.


The only problem is that every now and again, no matter how much care I put into the removal of the sticker, one will rip the cover and yesterday it, annoyingly, happened on the only "new" to the collection title I bought. Here's a close up of the damage.


And the really annoying part. They didn't even need to put the sticker on it - all the books were exactly the same price. It would have been easier for them to just put a label on the shelf.

So if anyone is reading this who might be in a position to be stickering books in such a shop - don't. Think of the people who buy them. Some of us are collectors and want our books in as good condition as we can get them.
 

The thing about writing

Back in November, during the height of NaNoWriMo season I hit a few days of not writing - damnable bad timing.

I put it down at the time to putting too much pressure, too much expectation, on myself. After all 50K in a month would be easy.

Well this last week I've had another such writing free time; only this time for a different reason. I was feeling under the weather.

Now in and of itself that wouldn't have been a problem except for the day job part. The mental energy I did have was used up there leaving little for writing. I did read through another 3 chapters of my bawdy SF novel making red pen corrections but no new words.

I think this is the way it's always going to be unless a miracle happens and I not only sell a book but it earns me enough that I don't have to have a day job. That's a pipe dream though.

I have been scribbling in my notepads though. There are more notes on my 4th weird Ben Wlliamson novella and on the secret society paranoid SF novel so I could claim some progress.

There's also another story idea sketched out - an alternate history story set in the 1980s which I am going to have to fight to keep away from WiPdom. I must finish at least one of the ones started - and finish the revision so I can submit the bawdy novel.

This week I'm hoping for decent output. My wife is working on a panto as musical director and is busy today daytime, Tursday and Thursday evenings on that; and has a rehearsal Weds eve for a gig next Saturday. If I don't make good use of the time I need shooting.

Let's see if I can get back into the swing of things.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Attitudes change (some trivial, some not) Ends with a bit of politics

This is something about the world I have noticed over the past decades. People's attitudes to things change and one generation has dramatically different attitudes to the ones before. It's natural I know, but it just got me thinking. And the more I thought about it the more examples I could recall. So I thought I'd type a few thoughts down here.

I'm going to start on somewhat safe grounds - comics. When I was a kid I loved superhero comics. I had this thing for Spider-Man, the X-Men and others. It was mainly a Marvel thing although there were a couple of DC characters/titles I liked. Think of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern tie up for one.

Now back then I got a lot of snide comments from people for liking comics. I didn't care overly. It wasn't the only thing they thought was odd about me. I didn't care then; something in me actually liked being a bit different and it wasn't as though they could do all that much about it. On my twelfth birthday my height was measured at 6'7" or 2.01 metres. I was also powerfully built and played rugby. I was in no physical danger. And fortunately I had one or two friends who shared my interests and so we could happily have hours-long geek outs and we were happy.

(A quick aside; of the group of us who used to sit round reading and talking about comics, and then later reading and talking about science fiction novels, every single one of us went post grad at University. All those comics obviously rotted our brains every bit as the idiots back then claimed.)

Cut to today and go look at the highest grossing films of all time. (For the purpose of this blog entry I'm using the Wikipedia page on January 23rd 2016. This will change. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_films#Highest-grossing_films)

As of this moment in time three of the top ten films are comics based
 - Avengers (5)
 - Avengers: Age of Ultron (7)
 - Iron Man 3 (10)

It's safe to say that these films wouldn't have reached those heights if they had to rely on the comic readers alone. You see comic book characters have got trendy. No one is going to look down on you if you're wearing a Batman tee shirt these days.

Okay it's a fairly trivial example but there are so many other ways you can see this phenomenon.

In 1967, one year before my birth homosexuality was still illegal. In Scotland it still was until 1980. You could be arrested and imprisoned in the United Kingdom for being born gay. I can remember when AIDS started to spread a number of commentators would claim it was God's punishment for a gay man's sins against nature. I always found that a bizarre attitude.

After all in terms of AIDS spreading sexually a promiscuous heterosexual was more likely to catch the disease than a monogamous gay couple, and lesbians would be even more unlikely. Add in a few people who contracted the disease via methods like infected blood transfusions (my favourite of all time author Isaac Asimov died because of one such transfusion) and the argument is shown up to be rubbish.

But today attitudes have finally become sensible and same sex marriage has been legal in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014. 47 years between being gay was illegal to full equality with heterosexuals. It's one change of attitude that should be celebrated. And it's not the only one.

Slavery used to be considered a good thing. Even after it was abolished discrimination based on skin colour was widespread and no one thought anything of it. Recently on TV here in the UK one channel showed some TV from the 1970s and it was shocking to see some of the things considered okay within my lifetime. Just Google Black and White Minstrels if you want a bit of a shock.

I'm sure you can think of dozens more.

However there are a few that I find worrying. You see I'm interested in politics and have been following the American Presidential race from a distance. It's a fascinating circus every four years and goes on for virtually half of every presidential term.

(Right - if you don't like politics stop reading here. It's only going to bore you from herein.)

The problem this year is it is showing a regression on some of the attitudes I thought were long changed for the better. Xenophobia seems one of the driving forces of the whole thing. And it's not just in the US that I see this.

There is a growing anti-EU sentiment in the UK (and to a lesser degree in other parts of the Union). The only hatred (or at least mistrust) of Johnny Foreigner is being stirred up by a number of politicians and campaigners.

The worrying thing is emotional rhetoric always ignores much of the reasoned argument that should go into making this level of decision. In the UK there is a real chance that we will vote to leave the EU. And many of the people who will vote to leave will not have thought through the full consequences of such a move.

In truth I'm not sure anyone has. The UK is in a relatively strong position within the EU. We are one of the largest economies and benefit from trading within and as part of this bloc. Yes there are some problems with the Union but they can be worked on.

If we leave we become smaller. As part of the EU we are a united half a billion people. Alone we are 64 million. If you measure GDP, the EU clocks in at $18.5 trillion or so, the UK alone more like $2.7 trillion. Now that sounds like a big number until you look at the top two.

The US is virtually the size of the entire EU at $17 trillion. China is $9.5 trillion. If we step onto the world stage united with our European partners then surely we're going command a good deal more respect than if we stand isolated and alone.

Ah you say, the UK is the fifth biggest economy in the world so surely we'd be okay. That argument has a certain something going for it until you consider what's likely to happen in the future. There are countries not far below us in the list with far more resources available to them to grow their economies. It's not going to be long before India moves above us.

Trust me in the future as more and more resources become harder to find and more expensive being part of a unified trading bloc, especially if they would start negotiating as one, will be a great advantage.

I believe being in the EU is beneficial to the UK. I believe it could be far more beneficial to the UK and to every other country in the Union if all the politicians saw sense on a few issues and gave it a better purpose. The Union should exist for no reason other than improving the lot of every one of its citizens. It does a lot of this already but gets caught up at times in trivial matters. And then it has its issues an institutions hijacked by those who would undermine them and break us apart.

And its structure is a bit weird. For some bizarre reason it moves around. It has sessions in Brussels and Strasbourg. To me that's always been a colossal waste of time and money. Pick one and stay there and spend the money you save doing something good. Then there's this Commission thing. Now I am not against an assembly of the capable running things per se but democracy is the big thing in Europe.

If you have a non elected group of people proposing legislation and generally running a whole bunch of stuff a lot of people are going to get pretty pissed off. They'll see the sovereignty of their internal elected parliament being usurped by some faceless guys far away who the people have had no chance to vote for. It makes perfect sense.

Well, until you think that the people are perfectly free to elect a complete gibbon of a candidate to a position of power and every now and again do. A meritocracy actually sees people in charge who are capable of doing the job. Just a pity about that lack of accountability thing. And no one (or virtually no one) in Europe is really going to be completely happy with the idea of unelected rulers. And that's an attitude I don't see changing anytime soon.

So much as the Commission might do a truly amazing job (which, by the way, I'm not claiming - view it just for the purpose of an argument) I don't think it is a structure that will ever gain respect in the minds of people here in Britain; especially as a good number of those council members are (brace yourself) foreigners.

Cue a quick chorus or two of patriotic songs like Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory (I could go on) and we'll march our way into political and economic uncertainty. And think of this - one year on from a Scottish referendum that saw our neighbours to the north vote to stay in our own internal Union, we might be voting to leave another. And the SNP may well, no make that SHOULD then, seek another referendum to break from the UK. It is enough of a change to circumstances in my opinion.

And here's one last thought. If we do leave the EU and the SNP get another chance to vote for an independent Scotland so they can rejoin the EU I might be tempted to move myself lock, stock to north of the border and vote for independence myself. Than again, I might miss the cricket too much.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

In the TV doldrums

I am not a big watcher of TV. I like music too much and spend a good deal of my time on my PC writing so TV is not a constant. However I like good TV drama (and science fiction - can't forget science fiction). The thing is at the moment there's not much of it out there.

And I'm not complaining about the quality of the TV shows being made at the moment. There are some extremely good shows about - as well as some that are okay but for some reason just appeal. The kind of thing I'm on about can be found on the below list.

The Bridge
Game of Thrones
Grimm
Super-Girl
Arrow
The Flash
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Crossing Lines
Agent Carter

That's just a sample - there are others.

Anyway the point when I get to it involves something that seems to have come into UK TV viewing of late and that thing is the mid season break. This is a weird thing. It's one of those US/UK culture things.

Now I understand why we are starting to get it in the UK. The American schedule has these breaks in their season and UK broadcasters want to put the episodes out as close to the US air date as possible. A number of them even use it as a marketing tool - only a day after US transmission, that sort of thing. I guess part of the thinking is also that it is an attempt to cut down on the numbers of illegal downloads.

After all if you don't have to wait the weeks for UK broadcast as in days of old then you're likely to not hit the interweb and find a streaming site. They keep their viewing numbers up and hence can ask more for the advertising slots. All good business sense.

The downside is times like now. Of the shows mentioned above four of them are on mid season breaks and will be returning "soon". The other three are finished in their current (shorter) runs so don't really count.

Now I'm not a fan of mid season breaks. I don't like the disruption. That's just me and I realise hoping that the world changes to suit me is pointless. And I think this is only going to happen more.

I think what I need to do is store up the second tier shows - the ones that are okay (some of which might be in the list above) and fill in these gaps from my stored (or purchased) complete series.

Of course all of this might be becoming moot with the new streaming services dumping entire seasons onto their subscription sites in one go. Yes I am getting rather tempted to sign up to one of these, be it Amazon Prime, Netflix or whatever, as there are some shows I seriously want to watch. The Marvel shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Mr. Robot and the Man in the High Castle tempt me.

Ah well.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Quick writing update

Not got much time so this is a brief highlights (or lowlights) package

Yesterday and today have both seen two rejections for my YA fantasy novel the Patternmaker's Daughter drop into my inbox. Bugger.

I have been splitting my available writing time between revising and writing a new Ben Williamson weird novella. The bawdy scifi novel is in third draft up to chapter 11. Chapter 12 & 13 are now covered in red ink and await the write up of these changes into final copy.

The weird novella saw one section written on Sunday (521 words) and two more tonight (1360 words).

It is now up to 3060 words and I fear it is not going to let me get back to the Secret Society novel until it's done.

Anyway I'm off now to spend some time with my wife and she will read the new bits of the novella so I will get some quick feedback

Told you this was quick

Frank Zappa and stuff

Before I get to writing (next post will include some writing stuff) I thought I should mention my re-igniting my liking for the music of Frank Zappa.

Several years ago I had a number of vinyl albums (several thousand) featuring a great deal of sixties/seventies psychedelic/progressive/etc rock. Then a sequence of things happened.

Firstly we were burgled and the thieves stole my hi-fi; or rather they stole most of it. I would have actually preferred it if they'd taken the lot. But they didn't. In the process of making off with all the separates that made up my music system them dropped my turntable - my beautiful Linn turntable - smashing it into pieces on my floor.

Not long after this I had surgery on my left ear which left me with permanent (if low level and a little intermittent) tinnitus and a reduced hearing range. So I didn't buy a new separates system even though my love of music was undiminished. After all why spend the thousands of pounds to rebuy all the kit I had if I couldn't hear it well enough to make it worth while. Instead I bought a portable CD player and spent the insurance money on upgrading the security of our house (alarm, better doors/locks etc)

I had not bought a turntable by the time we moved house a few years later and when faced with the prospect of carting all the records up to our new home filled me with dread. (I did still have to sort all my books out for moving.)

With this in mind I did the unthinkable - I sold the lot. It almost brings me to tears thinking about it now.

Now I had a lot of Frank Zappa albums on vinyl back then but none whatsoever on CD so I was bereft of Zappa music. I put it a fraction right soon after by being a couple of Zappa compilations but it wasn't the same.

Well in recent months I have finally started to fill in the gaps. And today two more CDs turned up in the post - Zoo Allures (playing as I type) and Shut Up n Play Your Guitar (which I'm sure will feature later in the evening).

I am going to gradually work through them again so I can have a complete set once more. My life needs Frank Zappa's music; for those moments when I need a change from Tom Waits. And you never know it might help inspire more writing in future times.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Some TV thoughts

Should I be writing? Possibly but Saturday night (unless my wife is playing a gig somewhere I cant go to which is reasonably often) is a non writing night as it's family film night; even if it doesn't always include a film.

If you've read any of my previous blog entries then you'll know we are fans of Nordic noir and have watched the genre beyond the standards like the Killing and the Bridge. Well this week the first episode of a new Norwegian series  called Occupied started. We recorded it and saved it for tonight and we were not disappointed. It's good fright from the off.

The basic premise is a geopolitical one. Move into the near future. The middle east is shut down with civil wars, the US has gone all self sufficient and exited NATO. Norway in the middle of it all announces it is ceasing oil production. As you would probably imagine this isn't gong down well in the rest of Europe. It's a gripping story and I want the next episode now. Unfortunately I'm going to have to wait until the next one airs.

Which leads me onto another issue when it comes to TV watching. There is a revolution going on in TV-dom. It has been underway for years; we've just not noticed or not cared. The first part of it isn't going to be news for anyone. Maybe all of it isn't.

TV shows have been, since the dawn of the television age, broadcast to a schedule. You tune in at 9pm Wednesday, remain glued to the set for the full hour and then have to wait a further six days, twenty three hours to know what happens next.

Video/DVD/Blu-Ray box sets started to destroy this model years ago. Many times since their emergence on the entertainment stage I've bought a box set of a series I've not even seen (or seen maybe one or two episodes of) and then binge-watched it through. It's a method I enjoy and I've viewed many shows this way - including many other Nordic Noirs like the Protectors and Unit One and other European series like Salamander (in French and Dutch).

These Sky+ or TiVo boxes or whatever others are around allow us to turn the still weekly broadcast shows into our own Box Sets. It takes just a little patience - allow the show to build up on the hard drive and start to watch when you have all the episodes.

Believe it or not this is actually what we did with the first two seasons of Game of Thrones. Can you imagine that? We left it for a full ten weeks then blitzed through in a single weekend. By season three though we were so desperate to see the next episode we watched them nearly live. (A favourite tactic to avoid ads is to start watching at twenty past the hour with the remote control on standby to fast forward at hyper speed through people trying to sell me life insurance and diesel powered cars.)

Things have moved more towards this end with the satellite and cable channels as well as the various online streaming sites supplying box sets you can access with the click of a remote control button or mouse. And in recent times these services are now even moving into their own content generation, still all available in one batch without the horrendous week in between each. And I can watch them on my phone in the middle of a field if I have a strong enough signal.

Is this what we want? Everything now, no delay? Well I can't deny that it is.

Over the past couple of weeks we've watched the first two seasons of European crime drama Crossing Lines. The only limit to our watching being the limited amount of free time we had to sit in front of the TV. I do still want to commit a good chunk of my time to my writing after all and my wife has her music.

And tonight we pulled out another of the DVD box sets and began watching from season one. This offering was the US version of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey. We've now seen the first three episodes and all four of us (me, my wife and her parents) are all hooked. It's just a pity that the next time we will be able to make another go at the series will be Wednesday. I would want to start on them tomorrow but there are things to do (and on Monday there's work so that's out - that mortgage doesn't pay itself).

I realised of course I've missed out the whole idea of user generated content - a bit poor for a blogger. I'm doing precisely this at this second (the one in which I'm typing, unfortunately not the one in which you are reading it - unless you are looking over my shoulder and that would just be creepy).

Just go onto YouTube and see how many channels there are on there now. I watch a number of videos, vlogs and other such on YouTube.

Here's some I check out from time to time. Some are a bit serious, some are not and are for entertainment only. You can guess which is which (I hope)

Richard Dawkins Foundation
https://www.youtube.com/user/richarddawkinsdotnet

Emily Hartridge
https://www.youtube.com/user/emilyhart

Screen Junkies
https://www.youtube.com/user/screenjunkies

Neil deGrasse Tyson
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQk5m254knkg4vbneXdMbgQ

Real Time with Bill Maher
https://www.youtube.com/user/RealTime

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
https://www.youtube.com/user/LastWeekTonight

There you go - make of that list what you will. I'm sure you'll think I'm probably mad for that selection. Anyway back to the ramblings.

Life has changed a great deal during my lifetime and although it doesn't compare with my grandfather's life time. He was born during the reign of Queen Victoria at the height of the British Empire. By the time he died in the mid 1980s just think what he would have seen. First powered flight, two world wars, jet aircraft, atomic weaponry, space missions, men on the Moon, probes sent to others planets and so much more.

My example above about how watching TV has become easier and fits around my life more than it used to is rather insignificant in comparison is it not? Never mind, it's what I have so I'm going to go with it.

So what's next? Can TV go any further? Is user generated content or user interaction going to go further? Defiance tried one interesting thing a while back - alongside the show was an online game. Can't say I ever played it but I found the idea interesting. Could we see shows where each user can choose where the action goes next like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books?

For anyone who doesn't know what these are - here's the link to the Wikipedia page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choose_Your_Own_Adventure

Technology is taking entertainment (and all the actually useful things about life like healthcare) in new directions seemingly every day. The next few decades are going to be a ride and a half.

It does leave me with one or two thoughts though. Have a chosen exactly the wrong time to try to make it as a novelist? Are people going to want to read books in the years to come? Depressing thought but it might be that the age of the novel will be passed in the very near future. I hope not but I am not going to claim its place in our hearts is eternal.

And the second relates to vlogs. Should I create one? Would I want to be in front of a camera speaking my mind to anyone inclined to click on a link and listen? Would it reach more people than just a blog, my twitter account and tumblr? And would I want to be seen? I do rather like privacy. Although being honest I can't see this last one being a problem even if I did vlog. I'd be amazed if I ever got more than a dozen views and most of those would probably be accidental with the person quickly realising their error and heading elsewhere. (The other would be me checking the upload had worked.) Who knows?

Anyway I've wasted enough of my life writing this (and yours if you are still reading). I'm going to put us all out of our misery and stop typing now.

OK, time to 'fess up

Today my plans (once I was done with going out this morning and actually getting some life in) was to concentrate solidly on the revision of the bawdy science fiction novel No Man's Land. Well you know what they say about best paid plans.

The problem with it was the trip into Ashby this morning. Ashby has a main street (Market Street) with all the shops and two smaller parallel roads, one either side where the car parks are. I tried the car parks on the nearest and found them full so headed across to the far side and had no difficulty whatsoever - unless you count paying in the first machine but it giving me no ticket which was annoying.

Anyway to get to the crux of the point - these two parallel roads are called North Street and South Street. I'm not going to tell you which way round they are.

On the drive back a new Ben Williamson novella idea popped into my head and wanted to be told. I tried my best to put it off. I even managed to a degree.

No Man's Land is now in 3rd draft up to the end of chapter 9 and I've made revision notes for chapters 10 & 11. The thing is, in amongst this the new story has been started. The first day is written, comprising two scenes for a total of 1,179 words. I have a horrible feeling I'm going to struggle to put this out of my mind so I can finish the revision of No Man's Land and get back to the conspiracy novel I started (called A World out of Balance if I haven't mentioned it before).

I'm going to head off after finishing this blog entry and write the plot down in one of my notebooks to see if that will get the story demons to allow me to get back to my original plan.

The second thing to note here is the details of that trip into Ashby. I did my usual trawl of the charity shops and found a few things. Here's the list

Anne Rice - Violin HC
Patrick Moore - On the Moon HC
George R.R. Martin - A Dance with Dragons part 1
Philip K. Dick - Mary and the Giant

Not a huge amount but four books I am happy to own.

 

The weekend starts here (or 12 hours ago)

Before you ask it's not like I've only just surfaced. Contrary to popular belief amongst some people I do exist before 12noon on a Saturday and Sunday. It's one of those myths I don't get. After all come the summer months and most weekends will see me wandering around a car boot sale (US = swap meet) by about 7am on the hunt for old science fiction books.

Today though there are no car boots - probably due to it being both dark at that time in the morning and sub zero. It is January after all. Anyway, writing; that's what I decided this blog should be about. So I'd better get on with it.

After yesterday's mostly lazy day (and a quick visit into Derby) to celebrate, or better put as ignore, my birthday; I am now back determined to write, or rather, revise my (hopefully) comedic bawdy science fiction novel, No Man's Land.

To that end before I'd even showered this morning (so a bit stinky) I read through chapter 8 and covered the pages in red ink; one more ready for draft three write up. In a few minutes I am going to head upstairs to do the same with chapter 9 and maybe chapter 10. I'm hoping by the end of the afternoon I will be over halfway through the revision to draft 3. I'm eager to get submitting this so need to have it done.

The only problem is I seem to have thought up another really vile thing to do to my novella victim of choice, Ben Williamson, and I want to get writing it. I have to try to be strong for many reasons. Firstly I need to complete the revision. And when that's done I still have the revision of he previous Ben Williamson novella. I should write enough of this idea down so I can come to it later and get on with the job at hand. Yes, I SHOULD. Whether I will..

Anyway, the test of my willpower is still to come but in the meantime I have a couple of bits of writing news to report on. Nothing major unfortunately.

Let's get the less pleasant bit out of the way first. My horror novel Mr. Stinky received another two rejections. The first was a submission I had given up the ghost on as it was past the period for consideration stated on their website. So you might say no worries it was already considered a no but there's something a bit final about actually receiving the email with the NO in it. The second was sent off in mid December so not a bad turn around time, well within the stated 8-10 weeks. Unfortunately neither represent science fiction or fantasy so I've nothing I can send to them now. Maybe if I ever get the conspiracy / secret society thing sorted they might consider it but it will be having a big science fiction reason behind it so maybe not.

Okay - the nicer news. I received my copy of the Literary Hatchet issue 13. This one contains my short story. It's a good feeling to hold something in your hand that contains your writing.

I know I've posted the images of the magazine before to my tumblr account but I had to do it again with photographs of the actual item in my hand. And for good measure I'm posting the images here.



Years ago when I first gave this writing thing a go I wrote mainly short stories and I did sell a few. This time around it seems all the ideas I'm getting are novella length at the minimum. So I'm writing what I have. The three stories I've sent out into the world since restarting were rewrites of ideas I had five years ago. I polished them a bit, changed a few things about the stories but essentially the stories were there.

I guess if I was having short story ideas I might have more success like this - selling novels is harder. But I am not going to try to fit my novel and series of novel length ideas in to shorter form just to try to get sales. For one thing I don't think it would. The ideas fit the length they are intended for and would feel rushed if I cut out most of the words needed to tell them. They are what they are. It was nice to hold the copy though. Now I'll go put it with the other magazines and anthologies featuring my stories I have in the library.

Then I'll get on with the revision of No Man's Land (and not the new Ben Williamson novella idea). Or at least that's the intention. Let's see if I can hold myself to it.
 

Friday, 15 January 2016

Some quick thoughts on revising this bawdy scifi novel

Point one relates to the heading of this blog entry. I have had conversations with a number of science fiction fans over the years about the shortening of the genre's name. Many of them hate scifi or sci fi or sci-fi or however you want to space it. Asimov didn't like it - I seem to remember reading that in his autobiography.

Well, personally I don't care. And it's listed as sci-fi in too many places now to really stress over it. It's just a name - as long as they are no denigrating it then all is good as far as I am concerned.

Okay - onto the blog itself. As anyone who has seen any of my tweets over the past few weeks or reads this blog in detail I wrote a bawdy scifi novel I called No Man's Land. I even wrote it as my attempt at NaNoWriMo which was probably a mistake. Again - detail on that has happened already.

Well I did the fairly quick skim through to correct the obvious issues a little while ago - mainly fixing grammar and spelling and making sure no character changed name. When I did this I noticed the longer the book went on the more inventive I was getting with the euphemisms and the more settled the euphemisms became.

This gave me the problem that I had to look to thoroughly revise the first few chapters to make them fit in. Well with chapter six I think I have found out when the voice became right. It took far less time to revise that chapter than earlier ones.

Here's hoping that the previous schedule of one chapter a day can be thrown away as history - tonight I have typed up the handwritten notes (admittedly scrawled down on earlier days) and have a third draft of chapters 5 & 6 and it's only just turned 8pm. Some of that was helped as I worked from home today so I could do some work on the revision during my lunch break; not an option I have on most days in the office (any day to be fair - I am pretty conscientious when I'm in the office).

So I am going to head off for a while - leave the keyboard alone and go back to paper and the red pen and make notes on the next chapter or two. Hopefully the novel will be in a decent enough state to submit it to a couple of agencies by the end of next week.

More later

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Watching 80s B-Movies - started me thinking

Back in the 1980s I developed a rather bad habit. Together with a school friend of mine we would regularly head to the local video store and seek out the least rented VHS tape (as long as it was science fiction, fantasy or horror) and take it home to see why no one had rented it before.

We saw some completely awful movies doing this - Mutant Kid springs to mind as particularly appalling. Had a lot of fun doing it but sat through a ton of serious rubbish - stuff that wasn't even bad enough to be funny.

The problem with it long term though is it sets you off on a dangerous path. Because of the great (new definition) 80s straight to video fare - films like Trancers, Enemy Mine and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. I will admit when I first saw the last of these I did rather like Molly Ringwald. Now before any of you think I'm a bit of a perv as she was fifteen when she made the film, I was fifteen when I saw it. We're almost exactly the same age. I had the same reaction when I saw her in the Stand TV Mini-Series.

What this early obsession with trying to find the gem of a low budget movie has left me with is a lifetime of watching bad movies on the off chance I'll recapture those moments from my youth. It has happened from time to time but generally it just means I watch rubbish films.

To alleviate this we invented a game that we played with horror movies other necessary props included alcohol, although not for me, and pizza) called B-Movie Bingo.  Somewhere - I will try to dig it out sometime - I have a list of horror movie stereotypes, lazy plot points, monsters, sayings etc. We split these into bingo cards, give one card to each person and start watching bad movies. If something happens on your list you call it out, pause the film, and justify your claim on ticking an item off your list. First to finish their card wins.

Anyway to get to the point I watched a film recently from the I haven't seen before. It's called Dollman and was made in 1991. What shocks me about not having seen it is it stars the lead guy from Trancers, Tim Tommerson, so I have no idea why I didn't watch it then.

Well, having watched it I can report it's terrible - although in a thoroughly enjoyable way. Bad effects, bad dialogue, bad idea, bad acting, dreadful music - but I loved it. I'm glad I have Dollman vs Demonic Toys on my to watch shelf.

But in addition to this something was going through my head about horror films. There are an awful lot of them that use medical science as a trigger or big bad. The one that started me thinking was the Eye (with Jessica Alba). I saw it as a trailer on a DVD I was watching (BTK if you're interested).

This film had a scientific breakthrough - eye transplants - as the pivot to the plot. now this time it wasn't specifically the medical stuff that was the evil. We're not talking about evil doctors here. But the operation causes Alba's character to see things and it all goes a little bit wrong. But often the doctors or scientists are the bad guys. Do we as a species really distrust science and scientists that much?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. (And I'm not BTW.) After all the very first science fiction novel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein had the genius scientist creating the monster. That set the tone right from the off.

Now normally I wouldn't have any issue with science as bad guy in movies - it can be highly entertaining. Stephen King's the Stand is still one of my favourite books and the pandemic is science caused at the start.

My worry at the moment though is that it's not just Hollywood that sees science as a fall guy. Too many others do too - and when a lot of those are politicians it's worrying. We need science. There are far too many problems around at the moment that we need to resolve and because scientists are the ones highlighting some of them a lot of people are denying there's even a problem.

Are we ever going to grow up? Hopefully we will in time.

Sorry to get gloomy on you. Next time I will go back to my normal nonsense, I promise

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Midweek meanderings

I posted a stream of consciousness blog with thoughts about modern life compared to when I was a kid, concluding it was just different; not saying better or worse. It's had a remarkable life in the last three days when compared to my earlier posts.

Generally a post of mine gets into the teens when it comes to views and takes a couple of weeks to do that. I guess this blog isn't all that exciting. Ah well.

Not Sunday though. Sunday's blog entry has had 33 views - more than any other I've done by a way. Considering it was long and mostly irrelevant to anything it surprised me. Maybe that's what I should always do. Anyway - this one is going to meander a little but it will mostly cover some writing and then a couple of odd thoughts about life

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I've not tweeted for two days - and I've not written a single word of new fiction. I've been concentrating on getting a third draft of the bawdy science fiction novel No Man's Land completed so I can submit it.

I'm currently halfway through converting chapter 4 into third draft. It's tough going. I have pages of print out annotated with red pen all over and I'm redoing huge sections. It will make it better and a little (little?) smuttier but it's tough and slow going. I think if I manage to sort out one chapter a day (into final copy) I will be doing well. And there's no chance I'll be able to do this every evening. I do have a marriage to maintain after all. Tonight though my wife is out doing her music thing so I have some time.

On another submission note I received an email today from a publisher who like the sound of my horror novel Mr. Stinky and wanted the full manuscript. So that's duly sent off. That mean each of the books I've been submitting has had at least one full ms request. I guess they can't be totally awful.

Celebrating by keeping the music to an M theme. Lots of Magenta to start the evening and now moved onto Magellan. Yes, I will admit they were next to each other on the shelf so when I put the Magenta back I only had to slide my hand a few CDs across to find the current one playing - Impossible Figures.

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Chapter 4 of No Man's Land is in 3rd draft. Boy that was tiring. It was harder to revise than it was to write it in the first place. I have notes for chapter 5 written up but that's a matter for tomorrow.

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Here is an observation on life; or rather on a rather specific little detail of modern life that is known as IMDB. I don't watch all that much TV. Tonight for instance we watched one episode of Crossing Lines (a pan European crime series based out of the International Criminal Court in the Hague - or den Haag if you prefer the Dutch name).

Anyway at the weekend we were watching an episode of a show that I will not name (not because it is embarrassing but because it might give away something about the plot). This is another series we are catching up on, having completely missed when it was aired originally.

Now we saw a character turn up in this show that we both liked and who, it seemed, was being hinted at as becoming a regular character or at least a regular irregular. Now being impatient we headed straight for IMDB to see if the actor was going to appear in more than the two part story we were watching.

Up pops the good news. The character is in many, many episodes. However then there was the bad news. You see it listed the number of episodes that the other actors feature in and one of our favourites only has two more episodes to go before they hit the number listed.

This then led to two completely different reactions from me and my wife and it kind of ties into a science thing I read about different people.

My reaction was to then avoid anything else that could give something away about the next two episodes. After all I might know they are only there until the end of this season but I know nothing about how they are to leave. I like the surprise. My wife though, heads onwards to read the synopses of the episodes and has less surprise coming.

So, how does this relate to science? Well, the study I read about discussed spoilers and it seems there are many people's whose enjoyment is increased when they have an idea of what's coming. Heightens the anticipation or something like that I guess. Or maybe they just like being the one with the extra bit of knowledge that others lack.

Whatever it has been shown to be a real thing. Interesting. It's still not going to make me stop avoiding spoilers. I like the surprise. Even if I do guess the ending more often than not.

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Onto another part of my psyche; the part that makes me collect things. I collect old books. Mostly science fiction, horror and fantasy books but I have been known to pick up other stuff. And I'm not counting my reference library. I keep books I think might be useful - they don't count as collecting. I'm on about buying purely to collect such as my desire to own every cover of Fahrenheit 451 or Asimov books in every language.

I've been keeping a tumblr account for a little while and I tend to post old book covers on it. If you want to go check it out it's at

http://edmundlester.tumblr.com/

Right - are you back? Let's get to the point then.

I have gaps in my collection. Let's take the Clifford Simak section for an example. I've just put Simak into an eBay search and it's return over 400 matches. Many of these I would like to own. There's a really nice copy of City in the Prism cover series I love. I have the book - I want it again if I find this cover. Have I mentioned before I might be a little mad? I should've if I haven't

Anyway I could buy it. Likewise I could buy Highway of Eternity in Prism cover. I don't even have any copy of that, no matter one in my favourite cover. But it feels a little like cheating. To me collecting is as much about hunting for things as just buying them. Typing in a few words into an internet site and entering my PayPal details seems to be more about possessing than collecting.

I want to find these books. I want to go to a second hand book store (if I can find any left) or into a charity shop or round a car boot sale, or a jumble sale, a book sale, etc, and find them. That feels like collecting to me.

I will use online stores to buy books. Today my copy of Robert Charles Wilson's Affinities arrived (an early birthday present for me). New books seem okay to do this and some of the rarer books do too. My copy of Isaac Asimov's Annotated Don Juan was ordered online.

But regular science fiction paperbacks, such as my beloved Mayflower/Panther/Granada paperbacks of the 60s, 70s and 80s I want to find.

Like I said; I might be mad.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The world is stranger

I mean it. I remembered when I was a kid  - and by kid I'm thinking teenager - everything seemed a lot simpler. And this is despite the fact I was at University studying astrophysics.

Now before you go any further I want to let you know something. This might verge towards sentimentality and is probably best avoided so if you choose to read any further I am not accepting any responsibility. I'm also going to meander as I' not sure where all this is going. To quote a good friend of mine, this is about to go a bit stream of consciousness on you.

Now my brain is an odd thing. It thinks about stuff. Tonight I gave it some decent stimulation to go thinking. I finished watching a documentary on the Jam, an English pop band who in their (too) short career went from a punky style outfit on In the City, through mod inspired for All Mod Cons, Beatles influenced on Sound Affects to end with a Soul album par excellence with the Gift. I loved each and every one of these albums and still do. (As well as the ones I've not mentioned, the Modern World and Setting Suns.)

So once it was done I started to remember what like was like and simpler was the one word that cane to mind. And no I'm not going to end this with saying it was better. There are many, many things I like about today's world (and a lot I don't but that's a different matter) so my point is going be it's different now.

I did my degree before the internet. I studied by going to a library, finding books and reading them; then checking the references in those books and going off to find yet more books. Wikipedia would have made this so much easier, even if there is always the nagging fear in my head of quoting something from the internet that turns out to be incorrect.

I read something that might be real, might be urban myth about an article being made up online, a j
journalist finding the piece of information that the made up article included and using it in a piece that is then published, resulting in the original (and still fictitious) online article having a citation added quoting the journalist's article. It's a bit circular and freaky but possible. Not sure I believe it though. And then I consider the fact that just because it had been printed in a book back in the 80s doesn't mean it was true then. Hmm.

I was pondering my life - taking the last few days as a segment in time example of it. I have interacted with so many different media that just did not exist or were very underused in comparison to today's world since the start of this year it's unbelievable.

The documentary I mentioned was on Sky Arts - a satellite channel. I could have watched the same either online on Sky's website or via a cable TV service. I've watched YouTube videos on this computer, on an iPad, an Android pad, an iPhone, a Windows Phone (forget the type) and a Samsung
S6.

If anyone cares these YouTube videos were either music from bands like Tangerine Dream, They Might be Giants, Rush, Dream Theater, Kansas, Queen, Genesis and a few others or Screen Junkies / Honest Trailers or a vlogger I actually don't mind called Emily Hartridge who does a show called 10 Reasons Why. Oh and I've watched a bit of Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and other science/atheist types - I tend to do that.

And then I come to the other stuff. I've sent and received emails, tweeted (find me at https://twitter.com/ielester), blogged (self evident this one), played an annoying word game on my iPhone, used Facebook (sparingly), tumblr (I post mostly book covers - if you want to go see http://edmundlester.tumblr.com/). I've sent text messages, had conversations on my mobile while walking around Tesco, sent a Skype message or two, downloaded TV shows to my Sky Box and many other such techno things I'm not remembering.

And I've even managed to find some time in amongst all this technology using to read an actual book. That was something I definitely did a lot more of back in my youth.

Like I said earlier. I'm not going to say it was better back then. It wasn't. I like all this new tech, especially the stuff that could help us all live longer and healthier. And I like being able to look up the name of an actor playing an obscure part in a Danish TV show I happen to be watching because I think I may have seen him play an equally obscure part in a different Danish TV show I watched earlier.

IMDB, like SatNavs in my opinion, have saved us from many arguments over the years. So that in and of itself is a good argument for today being better than the simpler time I was remembering.

It's not all good though. I still miss vinyl being the main way you got music. I know I can still go out and buy vinyl and I have started to buy old vinyl again after many years of regretting selling my collection. But there was a time when I was a younger teenager, so still at home living with my parents, when pretty much every Saturday involved catching the bus or train from where I lived into Birmingham where all the record shops and book shops were and buying that week's new prized possession.

Now before you start to think I was a spoilt kid whose parents just gave me money, I was not. Okay they did the pocket money thing but that was always saved to be used as spending money on holidays. The records were bought with the moneys I earned working before school, or a couple of evenings during the week, or later on Saturday mornings in the local Supermarket collecting trolleys or stacking shelves - like many other teenagers I'm sure. This was the source of the record and book buying funds.

I was voracious. A good week would see me come home with a new LP by a band like the Jam (where we started above), the Kinks, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Small Faces, the Beach Boys or, to move away from mod music, Yes, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Fairport Convention, Deep Purple, Beatles, Blondie, or god knows how many other bands I bought.

That sentence went on a bit so I stopped it before mentioning the books. Authors I was rushing through in those days included Isaac Asimov, Michael Moorcock, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Edmund Cooper, Lester del Rey, Stephen Donaldson, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Graham Masterton, James Herbert, Stephen King (obviously), and again I could go on.

Today I am spared the need to have to go find all this. I can go online and order them, either to arrive through my letterbox or, if I abandoned my love of the physical, downloaded onto my devices. Is this better? I'm not sure. I miss the days when you would sit on the bus on the way home and could see the other people who'd just bought themselves and you'd talk to them - common interests and all that.

The modern equivalents, Amazon recommendations and Look Inside instead of browsing and the various communal sites that allow people to interact through their keyboards and webcams take care of the random encounters you would have on buses and in the stores themselves. Like I said, different.

I said at the top of this I wasn't sure where it was going. I'm still not. I don't think I'll be any the wiser by the time I hit Publish. It probably doesn't matter.

I find myself as I grow older becoming more liberal. I don't pine for the old days and decry anything modern as inferior. Try living through school holidays of endless rain when the three (yes, only three) TV stations all closed down during the day, there were no games consoles or video recorders (precursor of DVD/Blu-Ray for anyone too young to remember BETAMAX or VHS) and then tell me it was better.

I miss some things about the past and the joy I had at finding new (to me) music is definitely one of them. I still get that joy when I find something new and exciting (it still is even though I am getting dangerously close to entering my sixth decade) but I have heard so much now it happens rarely these days. Listening to good music, even if for the eight hundredth time is still uplifting but nothing beats that new discovery.

I've just tried to think who the last artist was I discovered and I'm struggling to remember who it was. It's probably a decade ago. I've bought odd albums by new artists in that time and thought they were good, but nothing has lit that fire in me that made me go buy everything they'd done. The last time was probably when I discovered the Flower Kings or Ayreon. Maybe 2016 will be the year I hear something I didn't previously know.

It's different with writers. although I read far less these days, possibly due to having written four novels and three novellas in the last year which has taken up a lot of the time I might otherwise have been reading, but I have continued to discover new writers. Authors like Zoran Živković and Max Barry have come into my radar view in that time and I have acquired everything they've written - or with the former, everything so far translated in to English.

I've also had one other joy that the modern world has enabled me to have in that I discovered the wonderful world of Nordic Noir, in film and TV form at least. I have read one Nordic Noir (Dragon Tattoo) and can see why it is so highly rated but it is TV shows like the Killing and the Bridge that have been my thing. Without the explosion of TV channels from the three, which didn't broadcast for much of the day) of my childhood, to the hundreds with 24 hour coverage showing programmes from all over the globe. How else could I have enjoyed the Norwegian black comedy of Dag without satellite channels?

I like modern life. I like its convenience but I miss the simplicity we had before it all existed. Was life really so bad before Instagram or SnapChat? No. Is it terrible now we have it all? No. It's just different.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Return of the book collector

We had to go out today - winter is finally giving it a go here in the UK and I have lost my gloves so...

Whilst out I took advantage of the opportunity to try hunting down some more of those elusive book things. I found a few - although many were duplicates. For completeness sake here are the details

Michael Marshall - The Lonely Dead HC (dupe - already given to someone)
J. M. Dillard - Star Trek: First Contact Novelisation HC
Francis Spufford - Red Plenty HC (not a sf novel)
Philip K. Dick - Minority Report HC
Michael Moorcock - The Nomad of Time
Philip Jose Farmer - Gods of Riverworld (dupe)
David Eddings - Pawn of Prophecy (dupe)

This last one is very important to me. You see, I thought the Belgariad was one of the best fantasy series I've read. And this is book one. I already have books 2-5 and the complete Malloreon in my dupes pile that I've wanted to give to a friend to read for some time but was missing the first book. Now I have it I will be giving her the full set of ten next week.

All keepers already filtered into the library. Good times

It's difficult getting back into things

The first week back in the office after the Christmas break is done and it's now Saturday. Hurrah for that - maybe.

The thing is I'm not totally in headspace wise with what I want to be writing. I have started a new novel (A World out of Balance) which is a bit Dan Brown in flavour. My wife thinks this is a good idea as the genre is still a bit trendy so it might have a chance of selling. That's not a driving force with what I write but I will admit I like the idea of seeing a book published so I can see the attraction in it.

But the problem is I'm not feeling the story as much as I do with the other stories. It's not that I'm forcing it or anything. I don't write like that. I have to have the idea down in my head to a decent level before I can start writing. This one I have to a decent degree. I have the first five or six chapters nailed. I have the world set up - characters all sorted, concept fully formed, ending fixed, a few issues to sort on the way. All sounds good. The problem is I'm not convinced with how to join some of the bits up just yet.

So I'm giving it a little break and sorting out the revising of the Bawdy Science Fiction Noir Detective Space Opera (my now official sub genre) novel No Man's Land. It needed a bit more smut in the first few chapters as well as the usual fix ups. Having finished read through it surprised me by being a little more together than I thought it might be. I really thought it might be a little problematic in structure - I'd spent a lot of effort sorting out how to be excessively rude in a host of creative ways without using the harshest of swear words. I'm aiming for smut not obscenity after all. (In that previous sentence I had originally typed obscenity wrong - as obscenTITY. I was tempted to leave it as it's in keeping).

Anyway I have revised the intro and chapter zero. I have annotated notes included a few more bawdy euphemisms, some of which involve bumblebees, which will be fitted in from time to time and one or two more yucky bits for good measure.

Some more of that will be done later.

For now I'm going to go watch a little TV. We started watching Crossing Lines last night (I'd recorded them weeks/months back) and it's superb. Need some more of that.

More later - my wife is out being musical again so there will be time.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Decisions, decisions

I faced a quandary writing wise in the last couple of days. I've recently started to write a bit of a paranoid science fiction conspiracy novel and I've got two completed first drafts of other stories that need to be relooked at.

So I made a decision. I've started to revise the bawdy science fiction novel I finished a month or so back (No Man's Land). Having read through the first few chapters I have noticed one thing. The voice that I'd settled into by the end of the book was far from a finished article at the start. I need to rewrite the introduction and the first couple of chapters a bit more than I had anticipated.

Here comes decision number two - what style to rewrite them in. I had a couple in mind. Change the voice so it matched the rest of the book or convert the introduction and pretend it was written by someone other than the narrator. Either would work.

Well after conversing with test reader number one I'm opting for the former. So I am going to be heading away to re-read (again) the novel from paper and start to make some notes in the margins.
It will make them considerably better but it will keep me away from the new novel for a little while. Needs must, eh? It will be worth it but I will miss actually writing.

Anyway - it's not going to get done if I continue writing this blog so I'm going to cut things short and go get revising

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Wow does that hurt

Okay, second day back in the office is now done. It won't be long until I get back into the swing of working life fully but at the moment it hurts every time the alarm clock goes off. I mean, who in their right mind wants to wake up before 7am? I don't I know that. But I need to pay the mortgage so I need to do the work and that means an early start.

Of course if I sell a few novels (and they sell well) and everything might be different. Of course that's all mere pipe dreams at the moment. Even if I do sell a novel at some point I am well aware that making a living from writing alone is not likely. I've probably made it worse by heading straight for the nerdy genres like science fiction.

Anyway as I may have (did) mentioned in a previous blog entry I have started a new novel. I can't report it is going all that quickly at the moment. I could blame it on a number of factors - going back to work, and starting to revise No Man's Land amongst them. But in truth it's mainly die to just being tired and not wanting to sit at the keyboard and type. This isn't the most comfortable way of spending time - doesn't even compare to the cosiness of lounging on a sofa watching good TV - or even bad TV.

I am going to write some tonight although I'm not expecting all that much. If I can add one section I will be satisfied. It will be better than nothing. So I had better get on with it.

LATER UPDATE
I write one section of the novel tonight - 710 words.
It completed chapter 2 - 2,916 words
Novel now up to 6,597 words

More to come

FINAL UPDATE
First rejection of the New Year arrived in the Inbox - for my YA fantasy novel the Patternmaker's Daughter. BUGGER. Still at least I have the full manuscript for this in with one publisher so you never know.

Will have to find time to finish revising the bawdy scifi No Man's Land so I can have a fifth book out there in submissions land. Then of course the other Ben Williamson novellas. That would make thing all the more fun (or painful as it will probably result in more rejections). Ah well

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Last Day of Christmas Break

I would like to start this blog entry with an apology. I realise there many people who went back to work immediately after Christmas, and some who didn't even get Christmas off. I'm thinking of a police officer friend for the last one - so, sorry Sarah.

I though have had ten days off. Thoroughly enjoyable it's been but tomorrow I will be heading back to the office to begin a new work year. Darn it. Maybe this year will be the one in which I find the secret of independent wealth. Maybe I'll sell and book and then get that phone call from Mr. Spielberg that I'm sure isn't coming. Yeah, I doubt it too.

Well I have managed some writing in and amongst the compulsory festivities and, as you by now cannot possibly be surprised I'm going to give you the stats on it. Inevitably really wasn't it? I do tend to be a bit of a stats freak.

25th December - January 3rd (10 days)
21,079 words written
Daily average 2,108 words

January 3rd
month to day - 8,134 words
daily average - 2711.3 words

Let's see if I can keep this average going.

And one final writing related piece of info - another submission of the Patternmaker's Daughter has been sent out. Fingers crossed as always
 

A new novel

During the last few days of writing the third <> Ben Williamson novella I was mulling over what should be the next project. I like to have the next one ready to go before finishing. The problem was although I had a favourite from all the possible options I didn't have enough of it to start writing and I was finding it hard to get going.

So much so that I even wrote a second section of the comedy horror I intend to write at some point and that's in even worse state than my intended next project. all I have of that is a setting, a bunch of half sketched out characters and the opening murder. I have no idea where it's going to go yet. But as I knew what I wanted the first couple of chapters were going to be it was as good as anything to write a few hundred words of yesterday afternoon whilst I had time.

Today though carrying that on just would not do. So I decided to not even switch on my computer at all until I knew what I was going to do. I as going to sit down and listen to music and see what came into my head. A lengthy conversation with my wife while we were driving earlier also helped. She always knows the kind of questions to get me thinking about things.

By half seven or so I had the plot sketched out. I knew how I could get from the setup idea I'd had to start this all off to the ending I wanted. And I had the first five chapters in detailed notes. That's enough for me to go for it. I can fill in the details of chapters 6-25 (the intended length) as I write the first five. I don't usually like to go into small details of the later chapters until I know the first few work. Having enough key markers along the plot is good enough to get going.

So I came down opened a new Word document and started - at almost exactly eight o clock this evening (8:06pm if you want to be exact - I checked the time of the tweet I sent as I was about to type in the title). And then I started writing.

Four hours and nine minutes later and I am sitting here typing up this blog entry with the first chapter written. It ran to five sections and a total of 3,682 words. That's a productivity level I am happy with. Hoping to equal it tomorrow as I start writing chapter two.

Of course after that my production average will drop as I have to go back to my day job. It cuts down the amount of hours I have free to write a little (or rather a lot). Still it does pay the mortgage and I do have a job I find interesting (and work for a company I like) so I'm not going to complain.

Maybe one day I will have sold novels (panacea) and not have to work at anything else but that's always going to be unlikely. So I will just do the best I can with what time I have and hope that what results is liked by those who read it. And of course hope that those who read my novels will soon expand beyond my test readers and the submission slush pile readers at the agencies and publishers I send my submission off to.

Anyway - I probably should tell you a few teaser snippets about this new book. The title I can actually tell you for this one. It isn't important to keep it a secret prior to publication as it was for the novella. It's called 'A World out of Balance'. And the plot; well I can tell you a little.

It's a borderline science fiction thriller that seems to be headed for Dan Brown territory. It does have a Secret Society at the core of the plot, albeit more of the Philip K. Dick variety than a Dan Brown one. For one thing they have some actual science fiction style powers.

I'm hoping it goes well - and that I do a decent job of paying some kind of homage to both the aforementioned authors. Whatever I think I might enjoy writing it so that's half the battle.

Now for the OCD boring bit of my blog. If you don't want the nerdy writing shit - stop reading just about now.

I'm going to end each of these blog entries with a monthly writing progress indicator. Part of the NaNoWriMo inspired thing I mentioned in a previous blog.

So here goes. (Last chance to back out if you don't care.)

January 2nd
month to day - 6,465 words
daily average - 3232.5 words

Friday, 1 January 2016

2015 - the Year of an Aspiring Author in Review Part 3

So where were we? Oh yes, nearing the end of October with the Patternmaker's Daughter done and dusted. It was a little over a week until NaNoWriMo was due to start so I needed a project. Fortunately one had occurred to me - back to science fiction. This time it was the setting that came to me first - a vast space station with its own character. The story is named after the space station - No Man's Land.

I slowly added a detective story to the setting, then characters started to coalesce and off I went. Three chapters in I realised something. I realised the voice of the narrator was completely wrong. His character was much more coarse than I'd started, much more colourful. So I change tone. It does mean I will have to rewrite those three chapter when I revise but I was going to get the first draft done before worrying about it.

NaNoWriMo started well for me. Now for those who don't know what this is, it's a yearly event that encourages writers to actually write by setting this 50K word target for one calendar month. Given my speed at cranking out the words on previous projects I felt pretty confident. And at first it went quite well but then my narrator started to slow me down..

Not that the narrator is no good; far from it. My test readers have liked what they've read. It's just he speaks in his own unique way, with his speech filled with creatively colourful metaphors and euphemisms. The problem is the more you've written, the harder it is to think up the next one. So My initial daily writing average (target needs this to be 1667 per day) was at 2,118 after 10 days but had declined to just 1,591 at the end of the month). I ended the month 2.263 from my target.

It was an interesting experience and one that my twisted mind has decided to maintain throughout my writing. I kept a similar writing log through December and even including all the interruptions for Christmassy stuff and the revising of the Patternmaker's Daughter for submissions I managed an average of 1,360 words per day or a total of 42,187 for the month.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to the writing. No Man's Land was done by the 6th December (1st draft - not revised yet) and I had an idea for a third Ben Williamson novella - one I could crank out by year's end. I failed, as I may have mentioned already, adding the final 2.3K today. Not far off so I'm okay with that.

Obviously neither of these stories have been submitted anywhere yet - that's to come in 2016. As are many other stories I hope. The coolest thing would be to have continue one or both of the book 1s I did last year.

Anyway here's the output stats. I'm not including either of the first two novels in this - one was written entirely in 2014, the other across the years - but neither are good enough to consider so they are excluded. The part finished horror novels are also not included as you can't sub an incomplete work.

Mr. Stinky - 96,187
Against the Fall of Empire - 122,127
A Parallel Life (Ben Williamson Novella 1) - 34,118
The Intersection (Ben Williamson Novella 2) - 30,597
The Patternmaker's Daughter - 87,957
No Man's Land - 89,705
Ben Williamson Novella 3 - 28,259 (finished today at 30,598)

That's 483,950 words of fiction written in a calendar year (including only completed works that I consider close to publishable). Or an average of more than 40K per month. If I added the others in I would probably be adding another 120,000 words. A little more with the short stories I've not detailed here - some of which have even sold.

Now to the non-boasty bit. I did say one was coming. For all this effort I have had four positive responses, and these so far are only to the point of a manuscript request. So far acceptance count for novels and novellas is sitting at zero. (Oh, and I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me. I'm not that sort. I'm just trying to be even in my reporting.)

Golly - I've just realised I've spent two hours typing up these blog entries and over 2.5K words. Sorry if I've bored you. I should probably go now and do something a little more productive.

Here's to 2016