Thursday, 24 March 2016

The reason for this absence

I have a bad back at the moment. It came on about two weeks ago. It's not too bad so I am not going to spend a lot of time bemoaning my fate and I'm certainly not looking for sympathy.

As a result I have been limiting my time at the keyboard a little as just sitting upright to type is uncomfortable and I do have to maintain this position for my day job after all. I've cut down on my writing over the last two weeks so it can have a chance to recover and stayed away from blogging almost completely. I've tweeted a little but as I can do that from my phone while lying down it doesn't count.

So why am I blogging now you might ask. Well it's just so I can explain myself. I'd been a regular blogger and now nothing for quite some time. It's only right I make a kind of statement on it.

Golly, that last sentence made me sound very pretentious. I can assure I'm not; or at least not too much. My wife will probably disagree although she'd probably opt for the word pompous. She's probably right.

Anyway I should give you a brief update on the writing front.

I've had another offer to publish one of my stories - the weird novella the Intersection this time. Unfortunately, as with the previous offer on Mr Stinky, it was with a small press American publisher. Now this on the face of it is not a bad thing. And the company I am sure would have done an admirable job of it. The problem is it would not have earned me much money; certainly not enough to cover the cost of processing the US tax stuff. I might not be in this to make a fortune but I do not want to lose money being published.

Aside from that I have had another batch of rejections - five I think since my last blogging. It's probably going to diminish in number as I've not submitted all that much recently (see above about the bad back). Mind you that is likely to change soonish.

My YA Supernatural story the Stairs Lead Down is approaching its end game. It's up to 65.5K and is targeted at around 80K. The next chapter will start the final battle of good vs evil and all that. Hoping to have it finished by month's end. Once it's revised a couple of times I'll send out some submissions and then the rejections can come flooding in again - yippee

Anyway, enough of blogging; it's time to write some more.

More later

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Re-assessing Star Trek

I have been a Star Trek fan as long as I can remember. I started watching the show back in the 70s when it used to be shown on BBC at about 7pm. This was back in the days of just three channels in the UK, not the hundreds you get now.

In this vastly under-populated media world there were a few gems - Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and Survivors spring to mind. But for me Star Trek was always at the top of the pile. So as you can imagine the news, when it came a while back, that there was going to be another Star Trek series in 2017 I was overjoyed, although just a little nervous. After a 12 year gap I am worried they are going to mess it up and put an end to everything Trek wise for good.

Hearing about the new show started me wondering just how long it was since I last watched an episode of Star Trek. I'm not counting the new films - I cannot say I've particularly liked the reboot movies.

So I headed for my DVD shelves and flicked through the Trek series and for some odd reason picked Season 4 of Enterprise, the last season of Trek made so far. It wasn't the show I expected to choose. I'm glad I did. The opening two parter, Storm Front, is excellent and the standard doesn't let up much after that.

Like most of the Star Trek shows Enterprise took its time to get going. Okay, you could say Voyager never really did. I won't argue. That show had a few okay episodes but generally never quite cut it. Enterprise did manage to rise up and I'm sure would have started to match the other shows if it had had time.

It was something I never expected to say when the show was announced. Back then I wasn't exactly fond of the idea of going backwards. I wanted to know what would happen next; after the war with the Dominion. I never got to find out. There's still time. Maybe they will set the new show after the events of Deep Space 9 / Voyager. I'm hopeful but not expecting it. I know there's been no announcement either way but somehow I doubt I'm going to get what I want. I can't see why they wouldn't want to continue with the universe of the reboot.

I'll watch it in any case. I'm enough of a mad trekker type to be completely unable to do otherwise. After all the years since I last watched an episode of Star Trek this viewing session of Enterprise has confirmed that. I am forever lost to it.

So I guess it's not so much of a re-assessment as promised in the title of this entry than a confirmation of previous beliefs. Roll on 2017 and the new show.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Weekend catchup and a mood filter

I intended to write this blog entry yesterday but never managed to get enough time, or to be honest I preferred the idea of spending the whole evening with my wife and not on this keyboard. I may have this writing bug but it doesn't trump that - it never will. Prior to the evening I did have a decent amount of writing time while my wife was working on her music.

It was successful too. I had my second most productive day of 2016, adding 5,289 words to the YA Supernatural novel I've been working on for the past month. That last statement by the way was telling. I started writing the Stairs Lead Down on February 6th. As of yesterday it is one month old. In that month I have written 48,496 words on this novel.

It could have been more. I wrote the introduction to what might be the next novel while it was in my head. That came to 1,495 words. If I were to add that in I come up 11 words short of 50,000. That sounds a little suspiciously like the NaNoWriMo target I missed back in November. It's kind of strange. Back in November I put so much pressure on myself to reach that figure that I missed it.

This past month on this novel I did it without trying - and that's with 8 days of not writing at all thrown in. I don't sweat it these days. I learned that from November. Write when you have the time and try to remember to enjoy it. Writing can be fun. Having ideas pop into your head is a thrill. I have to admit it. It just is. Getting them down into some kind of logical, readable form takes work but there's a satisfaction there too. Seeing it all down on the page, seeing the word count increase, to get closer and closer to that final "The End"; it's a slog, but an enjoyable one.

I get the occasional time of self doubt. I lose confidence and think that no one will ever want to publish my novels. But I guess anyone would. Not having had a book published yet makes this all still a little, well...out there. It's an, as yet, unreached goal. Will it ever be reached? Well, I hope so.

I've had some positive feedback. Some of the publishers and agents I've submitted to have replied with more than just a form letter with very complimentary statements regarding my work. Unfortunately these have all come with reasons why they would not be taking my stories. One went as far as saying it was good enough for publication but I'd chosen to write in a field that is not selling at the moment. (She said that twice - once for my horror novel and once for my alternative history novel.)

But without a YES. Without an offer or a contract it can be hard to maintain commitment. You start to wonder whether you are just wasting time. After all I'm not getting any younger. Should I be spending quite this much time alone with just a screen and a keyboard inventing fake lives and non existent places and events if no good might come of it?

Compelling argument; I have spent a lot of time at this already. But the dream is still just about winning the internal debate. My wife also helps boost it a little. Without her I really would be nothing. I probably drive her insane with all my angst and self-doubt. Fortunately she hasn't throttled me yet. It might just be because she would have to deal with the spiders on her own if she did. If it is I am grateful to each one of their eight legs for keeping me alive.

I'm rambling. I'm aware of it. I do this often as anyone who reads this far in each blog entry will know. For all my hiding behind pseudonyms I don't seem to have a problem opening up here. Anyway the point is I am optimistic still. I am filled with a drive to get this novel finished and to get the next written, and the one after that and so on. Might even throw a novella or two in there as well. I have enough ideas of how to torment Ben Williamson I could release one a month until 2020.

That's an odd last statement. People will think I have something against my recurring character. I don't. I just wanted an everyman around whom I could have weird things happen. A 48 year old accountant from the Midlands of England seemed a perfect candidate. He's not based on anyone in particular, although I do recognise certain of his traits from old friends and former colleagues. They weren't deliberate copies but I guess you can only invent from your own experience so I must accept they are likely inspirations. If they ever find out I will have to apologise. Maybe they might find it complimentary. Who knows?

Anyway, I'm still on track to get this first draft done by the end of the month or so. I need to do another 32K according to the plan and my wife has a good deal of music to write/rehearse/play in that time so I should have a shot at making it.

Wish me luck. (In submissions as well as word count targets).

More soon

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Oh blog, how I have neglected you

This week has been a bit of a blur. I'm not sure.where any of it has gone. I guess that happens sometimes. I know as I get older it seems to happen more and more. The perception of time I have now  is so different to how it was for me years ago.

I managed to achieve far less in terms of the word count on the current novel than I might have hoped but considering the ending I now have plotted is so much better than before I don't begrudge the loss of actual writing time to sketch it into my notebook.

This weekend should see progress, albeit not today. I pretend to a social life and will be out with friends this afternoon and the evening is reserved for family film night. Saturday nights whenever possible (when my wife doesn't have a gig) are always designated family film night. Not sure what tonight's choice might be. We have enough options. Maybe something Scandinavia in flavour.

The word count was always doomed. The huge daily average of this book was artificial as I only had every evening free during the time my wife was playing in the pantomime band. But things have gotten worse for the output this week. Writing had a new enemy in the battle for time; TV.

Anyone who knows me, knows one thing about me. I do not vegetate in front of the TV. I watch the programmes I want to watch and don't just settle for the best that's on. A lot of people will put the TV on for background noise. If this is all I want I prefer music. TV needs to justify itself. So I use websites like geek town to find out what's coming up that I want and set the recorder.

TV is incredible but it can kill writing time if you let it. My rule - be specific and never watch live TV. even with such a regimen you can stil spend a lot of time in front of it but at least I feel I'm not wasting too much of it.

This meandering might get somewhere eventually. Apologies for the stream of consciousness style but I've woken up at 7 on a Saturday and my brain is not fully ready for the day yet.

Ah yes, TV. The reason it's started eating into time a bit more is the mid season break is over for a lot of them. Blacklist has been back for a while but now it's been joined by Flash, Arrow and a new kid on the block Legends of Tomorrow. Elementary,Agents of SHIELD and AgentCarter too I probably should add. And then added to them a new mini series of X-Files. Much more time in front of the box.

Fortunately it's mostly enjoyable - even if I'm not totally sure of the point of the X-Files return. There has only been one show we've stopped watching. We tried the Heroes reboot and didn't even make it to the end of episode 1. Too much of it reminded me why I'd stopped watching it the 1st time.

Despite all this I'm going to setmyself an ambitious target. I'm 43k into this book. Finished I think it will be 80k. I'm going to try to finish draft 1 by the time my wife's next show starts first week in April. 4 weeks to write 37k or so. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Writing: a new ethos?

I enjoy writing novels. It's interesting to see where my mind will take a scenario. Okay that part is usually the planning phase but it always leaves something for the actual writing part. Things change - just as they did tonight.

I had an ending for this YA Supernatural story sorted. It was done and dusted nearly a month back when I planned this story out. And tonight it changed. For some reason my mind just through that original ending out and filled its place with one I think is a huge improvement. When it came to me I was actually excited by it.

It's made me think a little. Should I go for it a little looser planned in future? I read about the ways of writing stories and there seems to be two distinct camps. Some people plan, some people go for it, seat of the pants time. I've always been more towards the former. In everything I've written so far I've had the scenario, the characters and the ending pretty much sorted before writing the first word. I leave a bit of wiggle room in the middle but having that aim at the start, the this is where I need to get to bit, keeps me on the straight and narrow.

But does that mean I have to be the same each time? Would it be all that bad to come up with the characters and setting and the initial bit of the plot and just go for it? Would I be happy writing like that? I'm not sure. I think I might have to mull it over. I should have enough time. I'm not expecting to get this novel finished (first draft) until the end of the month at the earliest. The one I want to write next is pretty much plotted out - the ending has to go the way I've put down as it leads into a potential sequel that I think could be fantastic. It will certainly give me the chance to mess with the head of anyone who might read it.

Anyway, that's all a matter for the future. I should mention a few other writing related things.

Firstly I have been interviewed on the Author Interviews blog (March 1st entry). Here's the link
Edmund Lester Interview at Author Interviews. I hope you enjoy reading it. Or should that be I hope you don't get too bored reading it. That might be a more reasonable hope.

On the writing itself I am a day or two late but here is the report for February

Total words written - 42,658
Daily average - 1,471

Not too bad when 10 of February's 29 days saw no writing at all. There are times when I want to spend time with my wife. She's far more important to me than maintain a higher average.

February also saw a few submissions go out the (electronic) door

No Man's Land - 14
The Patternmaker's Daughter - 9

Not enough I know. I need to make some more time to send more. It's a necessary evil. You spend an age formatting a file to the exact requirement of an agency or publisher with the knowledge that the chance of it receiving anything other than a rejection or no response at all is next to zero.

Still without sending any I guess I would never get published.

Rejections for February
The Patternmaker's Daughter - 4
The Intersection - 2
Against the Fall of Empire - 2
No Man's Land - 3
Mr. Stinky - 1

First March writing happened tonight - 1,220 words added and a new ending plotted.

More to come