July 31

Around July my writing tends to become a bit gluggy, my process a tad unfocused. The clear and definite goals from January have broken down, targets have been missed, desires is waning, enthusiasm is flagging. And lo! it is that time of year, and it has come to pass.

The effect was intensified earlier this week when I sat to look at my novel and discovered I can’t find the last eighteen thousand words. Yup, somehow I’ve lost half of what was written. I’ve lost the pirate base scene (well, most of it); all of the scene with the bowser, the spy, and the missile attack; the approach to, arrival at, and descent to Mars is lost; everything that happens on Mars is gone. Curses.

Normally I keep several back-ups, indeed after a writing hiatus (which my novel had been on), I tend to start a new file and go from there in the new section, importing the previously written as a single chunk that can be referred to as needed. I have the previous folders for such but am unable to locate the last one.

Very, very, frustrating.

So I gave myself the rest of the month off.

The options were: 1) Scream; 2) Delete everything (and throw the computer out the window);  3) Hate write the scenes again; 4) Forget the whole thing and start something new.

I chose 1 & 5.

5) Goof off for a few days, then restart on August 1.

After all, I know the bones of the scenes that were lost, and it gives me a good focus for August. I’m even going back to writing a little every day and using a separate page for each day’s writing. If I break on through with this I may even get the damned draft finished. And that was a primary goal for this year.

So here’s to July, and the six months preceding, and here’s to August and the four months to follow. May they be productive, successful, and fun.

Another thing that starts in August is my road to cycling 100-miles. According to Strava, I haven’t registered a ride since December – and that was only about 4-miles. Now, I love cycling. There’s something about the movement that really works for me. And I’ve done 100-mile+ rides before. One was a loop from Crieff, Lochearnhead, Loch Tay, Perth, Crieff. The other was Crieff, Perth, Inverness. Of course, both of those were nearly a decade ago, and I didn’t have ME. But I’m not planning on jumping on my bike and trying to hammer out the miles next week. There’s a training plan I intend to follow and the aim is next years Ride London mass event which takes you round the majority of the route used in the 2012 Olympic road race. The ballot for entries opens August 6th. If I don’t get in on the open ballot then I will need to apply to one of the linked charities for a space. I hope to get in on the open ballot as I’d like to raise money for EDS-UK. Ehlers-Danlos is the condition my wife has.

Other than that, it’s a lovely sunny day. I’m going to get some washing on the line, measure the space that we intend to build cupboards in, and reformat my daughters old iPad to sell on eBay.

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July 18

It’s two weeks since I de-twittered. What a strange couple of weeks. I’ve read several articles about social media’s addictiveness, how it molds its users, changing their identity.

Of course, everyone believes it doesn’t happen to them. Same way no-one believes advertising is effective in their case. This, of course, is not true. If advertising was ineffective companies would not pour millions into promoting, or having specialist companies promote, their products. The truth is we are all affected by the things we interact with, whether we realise it, accept it, it or not. And our personality, as well as our level of interaction, determines to what extent we are affected.

For me, social media is not a healthy thing to be around or to become addicted to. Having removed it I feel the urges to respond to news or snippets in the way my brain has become used to, that snippy, hopefully witty, or insightful epithet or rejoinder. What I’ve realised is how limiting that is to the overall thought process. Having flashed a response and communicated it to the world the matter was sidelined, no further thought or consideration. Now I find myself taking longer to think about a story, about its ramifications and potential impact. So that’s all good.

On the writing front I’m part way through revision of a 1k word story written for the Codex Flash – Saviour of the Universe 2018 competition. No details, as we write under pseudonyms during the competition period. However, From a base story of just under one thousand words, I’m up to about 1700. I need to finish it asap – the next round starts on Friday.

Also, I’m still mid-story with my return to the cycle of US state stories. Tennessee is the target of the tale and I have the full story arc sketched out. It should have been written by now, but holidays and the competition above have got in the way. Still, it’s good to have things bubbling away.

My ME is playing havoc with my sleep patterns at the moment. A few hours here, some overnight, a couple in the afternoon. I’m not sure if it’s been amplified by the muggy evenings, but it’s frustrating.

With regard to the weather, how great is this heat? So delicious!

July 4

I got rid of Facebook a while ago, twitter as well. I remained away from Facebook but drifted back to twitter. I’m leaving again.

It’s a terrific tool and some people work it really well. For me, it’s mainly a distraction, a time-stealer that I allow to freely access my horde of daily minutes – to my detriment. Thus, I’m departing it again.

I will not, however, be leaving Codex. This site continues to be invaluable for helping me persist with my writing. There are frequent writing challenges, numerous writers at all levels of expertise and knowledge. It is a wonderful community and, if you meet the criteria to join, I recommend coming aboard.

As we’re past the halfway point of the year I took look at my statistics for the year. I’ve made 72 submissions of 32 different stories and poems to 56 different markets. I’ve had 3 acceptances.

One of the things I hope to do with my reclaimed time is more reading. I have a welter of books to start, or finish. I’m starting tonight.

April 30

Yesterday I met with fellow writers.

My head is still woozy. My limbs are aching.

Beyond that, I met the writers of two of my favorite writers in the last five years.

Wooooohooooo!

First of all the details. We organised a meetup of Codex authors in the South-West region. Codex is a website for speculative fiction writers with at least one professional sale (my entry was a 400-word sale to Daily Science Fiction).

In the end, five of us made the meetup, and two of us relied on the fact that we were mutually dependent.

The five who made it were, me (naturally), GV Anderson, Natalia Theodoridou, Lulu Khadim, & Anthon Rose.

Those first two have written my favorite short stories of the last five years. First, Natalia. Listen to it here. Next, Gemma. Listen to it here. I think I managed to not fan-boy the meetings too much. Thank goodness for being aspergers!

We had a really relaxed day chatting over stuff. Some of it was WIP, and other writing-related, chat. But the best bits were off the wall. IE, which writer would you hobble? (as per Kathy Bates in Misery). And, which animal we would utilise in an animal/coffee/bookshop. We discussed cats, puppies, pigs, and tigers (mainly I suggested tigers  – the others thought I may be the main focus of feeding in a me + tiger scenario).

Anyway, we all split feeling much pleasure had been enjoyed, and it would be good to do again. Natalia and I even suggested we’d be willing to support each other in meeting up, despite both of us preferring to not interact with others all that much IRL.

All in all, it was fun.

Apart from when Natalia & I got back to the carpark and there appeared to be a barrier down!

I’m not sure how Natalia coped, but I was running through a mantra that went ‘DONT PANIC UNTIL YOU KNOW FOR CERTAIN’ when we got within sight of the multi-story, and there were locked gates visible! Thankfully it wasn’t our part of the carpark which was locked, and a scant hour or so later Natalia was home, or close enough she was comfortable to walk. It took me another 2 hours to cover the last fifty miles as I had to have a caffeine break, went via the ferry, and missed one by 2 minutes!

All in all, a jolly fun day was had by me, and all others.

Actually, possibly all. Mainly because we were focused on sharing, experiencing, and having fun. I think we have a template for the next and all future meet-ups.

 

April 26

Three months since my last maundering entry into the blog. My longest hiatus to date.

In the meantime, I’ve celebrated the anniversary of twenty years of marriage to my wonderful SO – you would not believe how life-saving (literally) our sole pre-nuptial has been. It goes like this, ‘I promise not to murder you, or arrange to have you murdered.’

To celebrate we went to Madeira for two weeks. This was the first time we had been abroad together (only my second trip outside the UK in all). What a lovely island Madeira is, and very friendly people.

I was also diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes. This was somewhat of a blow. I took a few weeks to assimilate the idea and followed that up with independent research to complement the handouts provided by the doctor. My research suggests a vegan diet can be effective in reversing this, predominantly, lifestyle induced condition.

The idea of becoming vegan took a little while to get my head around, being a confirmed carnivore with a love for all things cheese. But I developed a mantra to help: Nothing tastes as good as well feels.

So far so good. Four weeks since changing diet I am fourteen pounds down, and lighter than at any point since moving to Cornwall two-and-a-half years ago. I look forward to losing more weight.

How has any of this, alongside the ongoing ME, affected my writing?

I determined that this year would be a year of finishing things. This I am doing, though somewhat slowly. Right now I am halfway through a novella/novelette which is the middle of a cycle of three. The first was completed three or four years ago. The third has a couple of thousand words of a start. But the middle one was only a few rough ideas. Strangely, or not, finishing the third couldn’t happen as I needed to know key details that occur in the timeframe of the second. So I’m finishing the second.

When completed this will give me three novellas/novelette’s with an anticipated combined word-count in the region of forty-five thousand words. At which point I will try and find a publisher, while considering how to set a novel in the same world.

One thing that I have definitely been better at so far this year is submissions. Fifty-seven so far this year, with one acceptance so far.

Thanks to George Wells and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry for publishing in 1942, a stream of conscious prose-poem. This is my second appearance at Zetetic.

Hopefully, there is more to come.

Lastly, I’ve revamped my Acceptances page, with a chronological list of accepted pieces, and links to where they are available. Go have a read!

10th January

New month, new year.

Did you make resolutions? Have you kept them? Broken them? Pretended to forget about them?

Last year I started with a shiny spreadsheet and plans of what I would aim for. This year was going to be the same. But… Well, I didn’t succeed last year – life got in the way. An unexpected move with little notice and a hit to my health left me struggling.

I didn’t want to leave myself open to the same issues this year. Beyond that, I realised that last year I started a lot of new stuff, some which I finished, some not. I’ve too much stuff that isn’t finished. Above that, I’ve lot’s that is finished, but unsold.

So, what to do?

This year is the year of the rewrite, the completion, the edit, the stocktake.

First off I started with some stocktaking. I’ve pulled a whole load of completed stories into a 2018 folder. These are stories I’ve submitted, but not sold. Time for fresh eyes on them. The first two were an eye-opener. First up I checked a story I describe as ‘Murder She Wrote’ in a wintery Nebraska, with fairies, elves, and vampires. It’s a story set in a world akin to ours but without us boring, standard, humans. As with every time I look at a story, there were some tweaks, but only individual words, or shuffling a sentence around. I really like this story as it is, and want to sell it as is.

Then I opened up my ‘Robinson Crusoe in Space, with dead aliens’ story. This is a story which I threw a lot of time, effort, and ideas at. I thought it worked. After a year or so not looking at it I was awestruck by how poor it is. All those pretty ideas are there, right there, just lying in the dirt ready to be picked up, polished, and put in the right setting. And wow, what a bunch of dirt they are lying in. Poor exposition, tedious first person POV, clunky everything, just everything. I’m looking forward to pulling this story apart and making it the bog-standard SF tale it should be.

Elsewhere in my near future, I have 1 novel; 3 novellas; lots of short stories. One of the novellas needs to be finished, the other has deep structural issues, the third is only just about started. The novel requires lots of work. First, it needs to be completed; secondly, it needs re-writing, with the adjustments I already have in mind; then it needs re-written again, and again, and then sent to an agent. Damn, I hate re-writes. And writing novels is boring because it’s like waiting for the next season of Sherlock, or Firefly.

But all success is boring. Sitting in the saddle and battling up mountains, through rain, and down vale is boring – but it’s how you get to wear the maillot jaune. Spending seven, eight, nine, hours a day potting balls in a dim snooker hall while all your buddies are at the beach, or the football, or a club, is boring – but it’s how you become a snooker world champion. Going to bed at nine pm every day, instead of partying, is boring – but it’s how you become an Olympic ski champion.

So this year I intend to bore myself silly. I will finish the incomplete novellas, novel, and stories. I will re-write stories that require such, I will submit, and submit, and submit.

I will not compare myself to others (that’s clearly a lie). I will not begrudge my buddies their success (also a lie, but I’ll hide it behind effusive congratulations that they really deserve). I will remember that my main job is caring for my chronically ill wife, epileptic son, autistic daughter, and the household in general (yeh, pretty much a lie too – especially as I missed out my ADHD daughter and my ME).

Last year I sold/placed 3 stories (have you read them? Ugh, really? It’s less than 10k words in total. You could, really, you could (#desperate).

In conclusion, expect more maudlin posts, at random intervals.

Happy New Year

14th December

Moving into the dying days of the year. The nights are long and cold, the days short and grey – well, short, we’ve had some glorious sunshine even as parts of the country have suffered through the couple of inches of snow that would have a Canadian pulling out deckchairs and calling for a barbecue.

And it’s been a funny old month storywise for me. After nothing all year I’ve had three stories released in two anthologies in the last week or so.

The first is in The Infernal Clock and is called The Green Man’s Fête. A reporter at a local spring festival isn’t all he appears to be, but then the festival isn’t all it appears to be either. This is available as either a download or hard copy. I’d recommend considering getting the physical book, the cover is absolutely glorious. Apart from my tale there are 15 others to revel in, and a wide variety of writers demonstrating their skills.

Secondly is Afromyth. This is a collection where the focus of the story is on people of African or African descent, and non-caucasian. My first story here is Fishing Lake Tanganyika where a man takes up fishing to feed his family after being made redundant. Will his grand-mothers belief in his abilities be enough to sustain him in trying times? Later on in the anthology I have The Black Birds of White Oaks. Set in a southern US state  some-time after the civil war it tells of a young Boston woman on a trip to collect folk memories from ex-slaves. What she discovers stretches across the atlantic, into the Anti-Atlas mountains, and all the way back to stories of Prometheus, Zeus, and a portion of human existence glimpsed only through the veil of myth. With 10 other stories from a wide variety of writers this powerful collection will set your imagine whirring.

I hope you take time to read not just my stories, but all who have tales in these two exciting anthologies, and more than that, add a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Of the three stories I am proudes of Fishing Lake Tanganyika. Realistically it could be a story without a fantastical element, and it would still hold together, because it is firstly a story about a person, and personal interactions. Of course, all stories must contain these, but they are rarely the focus of something I write. Asperger’s tends to make that personal level of interaction difficult for me to negotiate on the page but I think that I’m reaching a point where I can do it with more confidence, and for me this story is the current high spot.

So, with three publictions, and a feeling of improvement having been made, why did I recently sign up to be mentored by Gareth Powell?

Because advancement is incremental, because – while I’ve written lots this year – I don’t have an awful lot of finished material, and even less that has been picked at and polished until it is suitable to be submitted anywhere.

We had our first session together a few days ago, and it was most heartening to hear Gareth’s assessment of the writing portion I’d submitted. Now I’m working on internalizing the advise recieved to allow ongoing writing to incorporate it organically.

I’m also perservering in trying to finish draft one of my novel. This is the novel that a month or so ago I declared to be a novella. What changed?

Earlier this month I was at a How To Be Published day run by Writers & Artists (thank you, Juliet Pickering, for the ticket). We had a series of talks, followed by Q&A sessions. The session by Cally Taylor discussed story structure and, as we went through it, I wrote down the sections, then matched them to what is already in my story. It helped clarify that the bones of a proper novel are there. This was heartening because I’d begun to think of the story as an amorphous amss of words lumped together in a hopeful, yet random order (despite me having a pin board with the scenes, sequences, and characters all mapped out).

Seeing the parts of a novel written down, and seeing my extant work marrying up to these parts, has reinvigorated my desire to finally get that first draft complete. It should have been completed by now, but that slipped, and now I’m aiming for the end of the year.

What happened?

My ME, and the house. For a while now my ME has been quite bad. The time I’ve had to write is in the evenings, but by the time I sit an enervating fog has fallen between my ears. Holding a single cogent thought in my head is difficult, manipulating that thought to amend, increase, expand, develop, or otherwise work it has been nigh on impossible. Much easier to sit and scroll through twitter while having a film play in the background. This hasn’t been helped by the chaos of us moving things around in the house so that there is not an area I can lay claim to as my writing spot, no calm, quiet, zone I can retreat to and work in.

Some may look at this and think it is just an excuse. It may be. But it’s a debilitating confluence of explanations for me. One alone I can work with, I have so in the past and will in the future. But together, it is a real writing killer.

Meh.

By next week there should be some order in the house, and then the wife and children go up to Scotland for a couple of weeks. This should allow me the time to clear my head, clear the decks, and get ready to hit 2018. Plans for that to follow when I see how the next week or so goes.

 

 

November 29

Aaaaaaaannnnd I’m back. Today.

I think the blog this year has reflected where I’m at. It’s unfocused, with some recurring themes, but a lack of any purpose or clarity.

I’m happy to put that down to the unexpected move earlier in the year, and that the house we moved into was smaller than our previous one. The one aspect we have in our favor here is a more certain tenancy, but allied to that is the need to do more to make the house our home.

For most people that wouldn’t be a huge issue, but as I’m the family carer (Wife: Ehler’s-Danloss & Fybromylagia; Son: Epilepsy & Aspergers; Daughter: ADHD & Joint Hypermobility; Daughter: Autism) & I was diagnosed last year with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, then it becomes a bit difficult.

When we moved into our last house did extensive work in the living room, and the landing. Each took me a 7-10 days. The bookcases my son and I have made took nearly three months – 90 days – for some bookcases! Now, to be fair, they are handmade from reclaimed timber and designed for the space they are in, still 3 months?

That being said, it’s lovely to have some books out.

I mean, really lovely, to have some books out.

I’ve even been re-reading some I’d nearly forgotten I owned. Oh, I love some of my books. I hope the rest will be in the boxes as yet to be unpacked, as opposed to having been lost in the moves.

 

On twitter there is a ‘Round up of the year’ thing going on. In truth, it hasn’t been a good year for me. Nothing published so far, which I put down to the upheaval of the previous move (550 miles), and the diagnoses of ME. I do have 3 upcoming credits but, until I have publication dates, I’m holding off on further details – though I’ve sent back final edits, and received confirmation on them.

The paucity of return has made me ponder somewhat on my activity. I have finished stories this year, and even submitted them. But not all. Some of them aren’t ready yet – eg, my mid-year novelette set in a near-ish future with genderless pronouns – others are just not good enough.

And ‘not good enough’ appears to be the theme of the year. I’ve had several ‘Close, but no cigar’ rejections this year – or, to put it another way, personal or tier 2 rejections.

Having realised that I tried to figure out what to do. The first thing was to step back from First Reading duties with Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. That was a blow. I’ve really enjoyed this, and Charlie offered good feedback on the stories I was able to submit as a First Reader. Secondly I’ve signed up with Gareth Powell for one of his mentored Patreon positions. I’ve recently had my first lot of (very helpful) feedback, and look forward to discussing it together.

Maybe, if I work hard, and write nicely, then I’ll approach the foothills of the mountains scaled by my virtual buddy, and recent WORLD FANTASY AWARD WINNER, G.V.Anderson. Did you note that she WON the award! How freaking awesome is that? She is da’ bomb. Well done buddy!

So, in short, for the next year, I’m gonna do better. Better.

If you’ve had a bad year, and are freaking out about the next, then aim for ‘better’.

 

October 8

I’ve never kept a diary. It goes back to an episode of Taggart I once saw. Mark McManus, playing the eponymous lead character, tells a teenage boy, whose diarized confession of infidelity have led to murder, “If you don’t want people to know things, don’t write them down.”

And, my chaotic personality tends to shy away from anything as regular, or staid, as penning thoughts or experiences in a diary.

Which is why this blog is the exercise in tardiness it is.

But two months is too long a hiatus.

I shan’t bore my few followers with all things that have happened, because that would be boring, and I have no record of them, because I don’t diarize… Hang on, that’s getting a bit circular.

First off I’d like to start with thanks and apologies. Both to the same person: F E Clark. A talented artist from north-east Scotland I came across the artwork on twitter. I was interested in using one as a book cover. We had a DM conversation on twitter about it, and I was appraised of the reality that my buying a piece of artwork did not afford me the rights to reproduce as I saw fit. I would not own the copyright.

That was great.

A couple of months later, preparing a collection of Sci-Fi stories for self publication, I remembered the art, and the artist, but completely forgot the conversation. I went to etsy, started looking for a piece which intersected subject & price, and purchased one. Happy with my purchase, and excited by the upcoming release, I tweeted about having found artwork for the cover.

Well, the artist saw the tweet. Clocked the purchase, and put two+two together. I received an irate (justly) DM from the artist, and a link discussing the copyright issues. I’ve apologized, and learnt a lesson. This is by way of another apology, and a thank you. Without your awareness, F.E.Clark, I’d be in breach of copyright.

The incident shook me somewhat, and self publishing the collection went on hold.

 

I have been writing. Not much, but enough to keep forward motion. One of these projects is a novel, a space operetta. It’s been underway for several years, though it was on hiatus for quite a while. It’s a strange process because I have file cards of what scenes are to happen, but working through each one is taking several months. I’m hoping to get draft one finished by the end of the year. Really hoping to. Because next year there is a different plan in place.

I have had the idea in place for five years or so. It’s a story set during the cold war, and not speculative in any manner. I’ve sketched out the main sections to be written, and  have been reading core material for the project. Once my book-cases are complete, and I’ve unpacked my extant research books I’ll look for the secondary and tertiary sources needed to provide background and atmosphere information.  I’m not sure I have the chops to produce the book I intend, but I can produce the first draft.

 

And that’s enough about me. Before I go I want to big up G.V.Anderson. A while back I was lucky enough to critique a story for her. I can’t remember any suggestions I made, I’m sure they weren’t significant, but I remember the hell out of the story. I enthused about it to friends, and told them to look out for it at a pro-paying market. The story, Das Steingeschöpf, was published last December in Strange Horizons.

Then, it was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

In a short while this talented writer will be on a plane, don a recently purchased frock, and sit nervously waiting to find out if the story has won the award. If it does, I for one won’t be surprised. Fingers crossed.

And that’s it for now.