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.

 

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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.

5th August

And now it’s August!

I really want to do a nice long post. I want to tell you about my friends wonderful story that’s up for an award, about my novel, my novella, my attempt o be writing , and fear that I can’t, that the words written mean nothing. I want to tell you about my buddy’s wonderful ‘break the twitter’ post that’s flooded my feed with positivity for the last couple of days.

And instead my arms ache, my throat aches, my groin aches. All the physical signs of my ME being bad. And my head is full of cobwebs, fog, marshmallow, cotton wool, and lethargy, and ennui.

So, sorry.

That’s it for now.

July 16

How swiftly do six weeks pass?

They are an exhalation, the space between breaths, the dream forgotten in the moment of wakening. And other such excuses for to having written a post in that time.

Why? Rinse, wash, repeat various reasons from other posts since the start of the blog, and choose your favorites. But I’m here now, dammit!

And with such news and tales and the like as will make your eyes sparkle, your ears tingle, and that funny bit of skin on the inside of your arm itch like you have hives.

First news. SIGNED CONTRACTS!

I submitted three stories to calls by Afrocentric for their forthcoming anthologies. Two have been accepted, two!  Now the anthologies are being collated by Jem McBride, who I don’t personally know, but have been reliantly informed is opinionated and not scared of sharing such. I’m really proud that my writing has stepped are enough out of my limited experience to be considered for inclusion in the anthologies. I really look forward to reading the other works chosen.

Secondly: EDGE-Lit 6

I was at this event yesterday. My first such venture. What an incredible day! First off I got to meet IRL a couple of people I’ve only known visually (Matt Dovey & Dion Winton-Polak). Both were as charming IRL as online – which meant I had to pretend to be the same.

Then I got to meet new people. I was going to create a list, but FB algorithms have decided I don’t need to see the most helpful post from over the weekend (The Friday night meet-up one). So, I’m going for a blanket thank you to the people who made a newbie feel so welcome and included.

One thing that really impressed me was the panels. Not all middle aged white males. Not all run my white guys. Not dominated by men when the discussion was ongoing.

 

I was going to write more. But I’m tired, and trying to find people I met on Twitter and FB.

But no writing tonight. Not even rubbishy first drafts with plot holes the size of spaceships (which I totally can write now – in theory).

June 1

Moving head speed towards halfway through the year.

The weather is wet, but deliciously warm, and I’m enjoying that. I wish the ME wasn’t wiping me out so comprehensively at the moment.

In writing news my novella is no longer the least loved in the group, and I’ve had my best ever finish in Q1 of The Writers of the Future – I got to the finals. Annoyingly, I think I may have a revision of the story that would have taken me all the way. Never mind, heh.

With regard to the novellas, I’ve been reading the other entries. Two of them stand out for me so far. One is just a nicely constructed story, to the extent that I completely ignored how little I enjoy the non-human characters and world element. The other is absolutely exquisite and I’m pretty sure I know who the author is (all stories are subbed and read anonymously). If I’m correct, then this person already has one beautiful story published, and a new one is upcoming in F&SF magazine

We’ll see if I’m correct later in the month.

Right now, apart from reading novella entries, I’m trying to hammer an alt-history steampunk story into shape. It’s set on the world’s first trans-continental railway, the Dakar-Djibouti. The opening of this service is a proud moment for the Ethiopian Empire. Unfortunately, the French ambassador is killed within hours of the journey starting. Will head of security, Yakob Nefolou, be able to solve the case, prevent a war, and keep his job?

Currently, I don’t know. I’m stuck, 😀