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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

1 March

Meant to do this yesterday, but I didn’t.

We’re away to pick up the keys for the new house in an hour or so. Thankfully it’s not far away and, because our current landlord insisted on on a full months notice from the next rental period (first landlord I’ve ever had do that), we have this house until April 9th.

That’ll give us time to do a bit of decorating in the new house, empty this one, and do the fiddly touch up jobs that will be required. And the keys do not go back until the 9th.

So with all that going on I finished 2341 words shy for my February target. Still, it was a successful month in other aspects. I completed and submitted 2 flash stories, completed and submitted an article to a magazine touting for occasional columnists, and finished draft one of a story.

Hopefully I’ll remember to jot some stuff down before next month.

*Addendum

Well, we have keys for the new house. Later I will even be doing some writing in it – I’ve got a delivery coming, so will sit sans internet, and write.

There are a couple of other bits that could have been dealt with earlier, but I was a bit brain dead. The M.E. does that. Sometimes it’s like trying to drive in torrential rain with the windscreen wipers on slow, periodic flashes of clarity but a lot of blur, and moving very slowly for fear of accident.

I’m mid-way through an OT course for help with the ME. A good chunk of the info is not new, and not very relevant to someone who doesn’t live by themselves. But one of the things discussed last week was goal setting. Now I already do this, indeed have written goals for my writing for the year, including on total writing, and submissions. One of those written goals was to attend a Convention.

I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but have always made an excuse to not follow through. That’s more to do with my Aspergers than anything else. But I have signed up for EdgeLit6 in Derby on Saturday July 15. I’m a little excited. Ticket is paid for, hotel is paid for. Now all I need to do is go.

On the writing projects front I have two entries to submit to Afrocentric’s anthology calls. The first one, for Afromyth, is written, though it’s the roughest first draft I have ever produced. The second, for Afrosteam, is underway, but already I’m having to trim the scope to have fighting chance of staying within the word limit.

The anthology guidance for Twisted Earth 2 & 3 are out, and I’ve looked through them, and the Twisted Earth bible, and I’m re-reading the first anthology (love my Kindle Unlimited). There are at least three different ideas percolating, I just need to settle on one.

Lastly my almost local buddy G V Anderson mentioned in her recent post that there is a Novella Challenge starting April 1. I’ve thrown my hat into the ring. Right now I intend to go with a short story that has been languishing in the unfinished folder because of its attempts to mutate into a longer piece, but I’m also tempted to do something new that would be a final story in an alt-timeline civil war series, or the middle of three stories in my non-earth steampunk-ish world. I’ve got a month, I may do something else entirely.

February 15

Things are a bit strange atm. We will be moving again (Thanks to the govt. abolishing tax relief on rental properties our landlord is raising  the rent, and we are already near the top of our budget). I’ve started a 7 week course on dealing with my Chronic Fatigue, and I became a qualified First Aider.

Writing has been a struggle. As of yesterday I’m 2500 down on target for the month.

On Monday, at my CFS course, I had a moment of realization that has consumed a lot of head space. At last I’ve been able to move something into the ‘it’s past, it’s gone’ section and move forward without it hanging like a millstone. It’s quite an emotional thing to happen because the clarity with which I saw how I had been affected, and how that had impacted others, was upsetting. But it’s gone now.

As for moving, what a bind! However, there’s a potential property close by which would be convenient, we’ll know about that by the start of next week.

I’ve had some nice first reader and critiquer comments on my writing, including one from someone who didn’t know I was a Brit, while reading my weird western story.  And I’ve submitted my first piece for the month, only 4 to go.

Now, it’s sunny for the moment, we may go down to the beach and watch the waves for a bit.

December 29th

It’s a beautiful sunny day. The early mist has lifted from the lake and the customary ducks and swans are bobbing about. There are a few people out walking, dressed up as if we were in the midst of a cold snap instead of another mild December day. It’s the perfect time for a spot of reflection on the year.

I’ve just paid the yearly renewal for the blog. WordPress have been chiding me to do this for about six weeks but I just wasn’t sure if it was the thing to do. It’s not been a very active blog over the past year, over the middle months I scraped in one post a month and I’m kind of bored of saying the same thing: I wrote stuff, I submitted stuff, it got rejected.

meh

So what will I write about next year? Probably much of the same. Writing’s hard, and words don’t flow easily for me, they need hewn from the rock face. Allowing self doubt to not be crippling is difficult and weirdly, I find it even harder when I’ve received any sort of recognition.

2016 has been another year that I’ll forget about, but it’s another brick in the wall of my life. For next year I’ve set some targets that are physical, emotional, and tied to my health and happiness.

I’m mid forties, overweight, and drink too much with a family history of heart issues. So the booze and fat need to go, maybe I’ll let some insecurity go with them.

November 3rd

WANTED!

Reviewers. All comments welcome, just be willing to leave a review!
As I mentioned, in my last post, This United States  -Volume I is now published.

But I really need some reviewers.

It’s 11 stories, its about 33k words.

As a reviewer I’m not looking for ‘Oh My Gunderwalt!, Give this guy a Pulitzer.’ Just honesty. If you read all eleven stories and didn’t enjoy them, give it a low rating and say what you didn’t enjoy. If you only love one story, say that in the review. But please, please, review it.

Now, to sweeten the pot, not only will anyone who responds to this post with a “Sure, I’ll give you a review” get a free .mobi or .epub version of the book, the first person will also get a subscription to Gamut, the new new-noir speculative publication that opens in January.

It’s not so much me begging (which I am) as using naked bribery. C’mon, have a read.

And while you do, I’ll carry on with NaNoWriMo. Which is madness. I wasn’t going to do it, having failed three times previously (though signing up last year, when I was moving 600 miles was stupid). Infant it was 18 hours into November before the madness struck. After 2 days, I’m on target!

The result will be a very rough first draft for Volume V of These United States. Yup, the last one will be a novel. It will follow the format of moving from state-to-state, which will make the story episodic in nature, beyond that I’m not 100% sure. The first episode is in Alaska, and there’s a mountain climbing accident. That’s all I know so far. There is already a steampunky element involved, though steampunk isn’t really the correct word. maybe it’ll become the hippypunk story I wanted to try a few years ago – if Stormville Epsilon D’vore becomes a character, it definitely will.

Beyond that, I’m still editing stories for an SF collection, and I have further stories set aside for a darker, gorier, collection. However, there is much editing to do. Some of these tales have significant flaws in structure. It’s the reason I’m doing NaNoWriMo, it’s a distraction/displacement activity to prevent me spending real thinking time on fixing the issues.

The reason for that is two-fold. 1) I’m a lazy oik who’d rather not think hard. 2) My ME is bad at the moment. I’m losing words mid-sentence, my arms feel like they have lead instead of muscle, ten hours of sleep leaves me needing another ten, my eyes look like I’ve spent three days partying and am auditioning for the role of Death in a remake of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

That’s a reason though, not an excuse. So, I’d better get on and do it.

Oh, by the way, are any of you artists or graphic designers? Fancy having your work on the cover of a book? Money is an issue, but I promise we’ll come to arrangement where ‘exposure’ is not you’re only reward. Hit me up. I need two book fronts by the end of the year and, as you can see from These United States – Volume I, I’m no artist.