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’.

 

Advertisements

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, 😀

 

27th May

Haven’t written anything new since entering the novella comp.  I have tinkered with another couple of stories, one of which is now on hold for potential inclusion in the WotF annual anthology. That’s mighty exciting, Inclusion would grant me flights out to the annual week long writers workshop. Of course, that’s my Q1 entry. Q2 & Q3 are already in, and Q4’s entry is underway. I may yet gain entry as of right. I can hope.

Beyond that, what?

I was reminded recently that this is my hobby, not my career. Sure, I want a The Martian breakout, because of the financial security it would bring. But writing is not the most important thing in my life. Not close. I love it (well, kind of, curse it), but it’s not the most important thing I do, not close.

Which brings me back to turning off social media. No Twitter; No FB. This has been a shock. Realizing how much time I spend on the two, understanding the waste of time they have been for me, has been salutary. How distracting they have been from what is most important to me has been worrying. Some of my friends can use social media as the part time tool it can be. As a ‘hey, did ya’ see I did this?’ announcement system. Not me. So the step back continues. E-mail is now my default access route. Which means I have to be better with the blog.

I’ll see what I can do.

Fundamentally, it’s not important. Unless you make it so.

May 19

Wrote a novella draft.

Longest single story I have ever written.

Man, it’s bad. Soooo many typos. A main character who changes sex, a secondary character who changes sex and name. An ending that is like ex-lovers handing over small boxes of possessions in a pub carpark.

But, over 18k on a completed story.

Never done that.

I really like the story. It has some good lines in it. What I need to do is go back and relook at it with dispassionate eyes, in 3 or 4 months.

 

The other thing that’s happened is a huge step away from social media. More a divorce than stepping away. No FB, no Twitter. Have you seen those posts of lovely locations with a tag line of ‘3 months here with no internet – tag if you like’. Well, I live in the beautiful location. I have work to do in the new house, I have family to care for, things I want to write, and lots I need to revise.

So, no social media.

That’s all for the moment.

30th April

End of the month.

I’ve written a new story this month, about 1,800 words.

I’m 6,500 words into a novella that needs to be 11,000 words longer by May 15th.

Which would be fine, at 733 words per day. Trouble is I’m struggling with writing. Partly it’s the ME, but mainly it’s my personality doing its best to screw things up. My longest work to-date is about 11k words long, still unsold. So hitting 17,500 is a step up, and I’m conscious of the step.

Wish me luck.

Speak with you in May.

14 April

I’m fully moved. In the new house, old one closed out. Still loads of boxes lying about, but we’re getting there. Wish my ME didn’t make things hurt quite so much.

I received my first story acceptance of the year yesterday. Much joy. And a story I sweated blood over when writing it.

Now I’m trying to see a way to complete the novella challenge that I’m part of. 2 weeks in, 4 to go, and 0 words written. I came in with a strong start, but the story refused to go in the direction needed and for the challenge I’m involved in I neither wanted to force it, nor run in the direction it has turned. It gets to sit on a back burner again, and later in the year I will write the sweet coming of age story that it is striving to be.

Secondly I turned up a flash story I’d enjoyed and wrote it out from 400 words to about 1600. It gave me some very useful ideas, but the alt-earth noir just didn’t feel fresh enough to run with.

So, now I’m on my third attempt. I’ve written a sketch for the intro, and half of the 1st reversal. I’m trying to get things clear in my head, so that I can hit the ground next week with 3 weeks to write 18k+ words.

I have survived the move.

I will overcome the ME.

I will write this novella by the deadline date.

17 March

I don’t normally do book reviews. Which is bad of me. Letting a writer, especially if their a buddy, know what you liked about their work (or where you struggled with it) is a cool thing to do. However, today, I’m doing a book review.

The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

I’ve looked at this book for a while. I loved the sumptuous illustration on the front cover. The idea of a post-oil world, where technology hasn’t managed to secure a fix, was intriguing. It’s just I always had something else I was reading, or needed to read. Not this week! & I got it at a steal because I’d collected enough stamps on my Waterstones card to get a free book.

Diving in was a pleasant experience. Detailed passages of the heat, sweat, moisture, odor, and noise immersed me into the setting (and gave me more valuable tips on how to take time to do the same in my work).

However something nagged away at the edge of my consciousness. Taking a break from reading to drive home allowed chance to consider what nagged me. The issue was it all felt very colonial. The characters are well portrayed, and the portrayal is of non-white people having weird rites and practices, while the white man from overseas is providing the only real valuable work locally.

Having identified this I carried on, mentally adjusting to see where things may change as the story unfolded.

And then I got to page 48. Here we meet the first meaningful female character, Emiko, who is the Wind Up Girl of the title.

Here I’d like to digress a little. Others have written about the recent explosion of titles with ‘Girl’ as part of the title. My personal view is it a chauvinistic thing to do, unless the said character happens to be a girl. But in none of the titles I’ve read, or considered reading, has this been the case. The characters have all been women; mature, adult, women. Why refer to them as youths? Because it’s a patriarchal clamp on agency. It posits ‘here is a weak, defenseless, person in need of a man’. Not all of the authors proceed down those lines, but the set up is right their in the title. There is no correlation in fiction about men, apart from maybe O Henry’s 25 year old Cisko Kid, and when that was written, a 25 yo was still considered a kid in many quarters. Maybe this dislike of ‘Girl’ as part of the title fed into my previous excuses for not purchasing the book.

Back to reading it. Having met the titular character on page 48 and discovering that she is a sex worker, we come to page 51. Starting on page 51 Emiko is raped. Graphically. She is raped by another woman for the pleasure of an audience of paying men. And the author spares us no details over 4 pages.

I recoiled. put the book down and tried to fathom the purpose of the scene. Maybe it was to show us how the character, as a bio-engineered human, had no rights, no agency – indeed, though raped and in distress, she has biological response akin to pleasure. This was the only conclusion I could draw.

I tried to read on.

By page 60 I gave up.

There is a possibility that this is a wonderful novel, full of redemption, freedom, self-sacrifice, and a depth of human spirit that reflects the very best of the human condition. Starting out with the graphic, and gratuitous, degradation of a main character isn’t going to lead me to find out.

Using rape in writing, even when blurring the boundaries by making it part of an act, on a not-quite-real human, is a thing to be undertaken with much forethought and consideration. Generally, after all that thought, it should still be left out. Is that to say mention or depictions of rape should never appear in books? No, of course not. But writers, especially male writers, need to be aware that what is written as a fantastical event in a non-real setting is an experience many women, and men, have gone through. Depicting the act without probing the ramifications, or using the act as a scene or character introduction, demonstrates a lack of understanding and consideration for those who have experienced such bodily violation.

In short. I do not recommend this book.

 

In other news I’m now about halfway through our move. It’s taken a lot out of me physically and the ME is bad. This means writing has gone by the wayside. I do have 2 stories that need urgent exists for end of month submission, and I have one I’m trying to get written by months end so I’m still on track for 12-in-12. Beyond that, I’ve been putting thinking time into the novella competition that starts April 1. Yesterday I managed to sort out a kink in the sequence of some scenes, which is good.