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.

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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.

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.

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.

31 January

How’s your January been?

I’m going to stay firmly on writing and health.

I started the month by putting together a spreadsheet which allows me to tabulate Submissions – both currently out, and what was sent monthly – and word count. I set myself the target of 5 submissions per month, and an average of 500 words per day. And I joined a 12-in-12 group, where the commitment is to write and submit a new story each month.

How did that go in January?

13 submissions

15,781 words written

I have 11 stories awaiting response, 2 that have been passed for further consideration, and received 7 rejections. I also have one story where I submitted the wrong file, and need to resubmit.

One story was completed, and submitted.

All in all that is a pretty successful month activity wise for a hobby writer. Which is important for me to remember. This is not my job. I’m fortunate (If a family suit of ill health ranging from Ehlers-Danlos through autism to epilepsy can be described as such) that I have the time to do as much as I do, and hopefully by the time I do need to be working again, I may have a pipeline of paying work.

Its also not bad considering I’ve had First Aid training, been to London twice (500 mile round trip) and my chronic fatigue is going through an extra bad spell.

Let me tell you about my new story. It’s called In Eldad’s Well, and is a weird western. A man returns to a town where he killed a man, and it’s deserted. He bunks down and wakes up to find it non-deserted. The town is suffering from the action of nearby ranchers, who happen to be centaurs. That’s all I’m saying at this point. But it was fun to write.

I also had three stories looked at by Charlie Finlay (it’s a perk of First Reading for SF&F). Wow, talk about helpful. One of the stories (A sword & sorcery blast that may be the first of a series) I completed in December. I’d had comment from a beta reader that the opening section didn’t work for them. I did look at it, and indeed tweaked it, but it does things that are important for the later story. Charlie gave solid suggestions on what to consider, and why. In explaining that he also provided tools that I can use in future stories.

And that is January.

Next month I’m aiming for the 5 submissions, average 500 words per day, 1 new story written and submitted. I also intend to create a spreadsheet of markets. I already use duotrope, but I need something that works in the way I do.

I’m also considering aiming to complete the writing portion of my target in the first 15-20 days (I managed 7 days of 1000+ words, that gave me over half the months total) and use the rest for re-writes. But we’ll need to see how that goes.

January 11th

I’ve had a lovely Occupation Therapist here for the last hour discussing my ME. I now get to partake in a seven week workshop on the issue (only 2 hours per week). That’s the most I’ve discussed my diagnosis since it was diagnosed in the middle of last year. The asperger part of me is dreading these group sessions, the writer part of me is excited.

Talking of writing, I’ve been doing some. There’s a flash piece for a CODEX competition, and a longer story I’m working on for a call by Afrocentric for their Afromyth anthology call. I submitted to the Afrofuture anthology and my story is on hold with them until the call is closed and final decisions on inclusion are made. I was also invited to submit to the Afromyth and Afrosteam calls.

This was most heartening. The story on hold is about a Nigerian-American woman in a round the world yacht race (time travel & whaling ships also appear). The anthologist is, coincidentally, a Nigerian-American woman. To have written a story she’s decided to hold for final consideration makes me immensely proud. It means I, to a worthwhile degree, have managed to write a character other than myself. I hope it wasn’t a one-time deal.

In other writing related news I’ve set up spreadsheets to track my writing and submissions for the year, and set myself goals for both. I’m currently tracking for submissions, and about 1700 words down on writing, though the ME has been bad and the concomitant brain fog has combined with self-doubt and starting-a-new-project fear to slow things down. I think I’m seeing a form for the Afromyth story, I’m currently trying to wrestle the idea into shape, and hopefully this will shift the logjam.

One of the ways I’m doing this is by using a writing formula. That sounds kind of dry and boring, but it seems to help. I first used it on a story that is currently finished, and being studiously ignored for a month or so. Under a provisional title of Stormville and the Coup (sword & sorcery in a Conanesque manner) the story started with an opening paragraph written about eighteen months ago, and then forgotten about. When I re-read the fragment I really liked it, but wasn’t sure what to do with it so on a piece of paper I wrote:

Introduction

1st reversal

small victory

2nd reversal

denouement

twist

Then in each section I wrote a rough idea for what should happen. The finished story does not follow that plan exactly, indeed the nature of the MC changed from the start of writing to the finish to the extent that I had to do a re-write to consolidate her. But the main thing is this gave the story a structure for me to follow and, I think, I’ll be using it more. One thing I found is this gave me a story of about 10k words, and could easily have been more. I think a 5-7k story will need a tweaked version.

Now, time to go make Cornish Pasties with my daughter.

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.

28th October

An auspicious day.

I pressed publish on my first collection of US state stories. Eleven obsessed over pieces of me presented to the world to be generally ignored (though ideally I’d like about 250,000 paying readers 😀 ).

These United States – Volume I will shortly be available on pretty much every major reading platform.

Naturally, there was a typo in the blurb (now corrected – thanks, Cheryl), and I’m sure I’ll have missed some in the text. Ho, as they say, hum.

Now I expected to be full of cheer and bravado on this, but all I have is trepidation and doubt. I was ready to press publish a couple of days ago, and couldn’t do it. I needed the time to reflect on what it means for me. This all makes it sound like I’m laying claim to deep meaningful work of immense importance in exploring the human condition, while one of the stories is about alien invasion, and another is about spies. But that doesn’t mean the stories don’t mean something to me. They represent hours of research, writing, editing, proofreading, and formatting. One of these stories was the catalyst for a recent relocation.

What I’m saying is, these are part of me. My worry is not about whether they are read, nor is it trepidation of poor or non-existent reviews. It is worry about letting them go instead of holding them close and continuing to gnaw them, like a troll with a femur in a dark hole.

We’ve been having a clearcut at home recently, moving out things which are liked, beloved even, but not used or useful in this house. There is an element of catharsis in such action and I hope to get the same from putting these eleven stories out there. It’s time to do new research, think new thoughts, explore new states, write new words. Volume I has been three or four years in the making. My aim for Volume II is four to six months (I have 3 stories ready).

Publishing has been done with Pronoun. What a joy! Getting a hang of the formatting interface would have been easier had I read the friendly tuition guides up front, but that’s on me. Everything has been provided. I really love the fact that the release will be done across Amazon, Apple IBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Whatever your device, you can get my book!

I look forward to building a nice virtual bookshelf of published works over the coming years.

Next up will be a collection of my SF stories, but there’s still a chunk of editing work to do there, so it might be December before that’s ready.

Lastly, if you would be willing to provide a review (good or bad, just the truth) then hit me up for an advance copy.

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