Thanksgiving week meant all my time went to family things: cooking and cleaning mostly, but a lot else besides.

I took the week (actually more like ten days) off from pretty much everything else. I was already behind with my self-imposed schedule of posting here at least once a week, so that took another hit, and I deliberately avoided social media – as a result, I have pretty much no idea of what’s been going on in the news. The only thing I’ve used any computer for in the last few days has been playing games (The Talos Principle and Sir, You Are Being Hunted) and watching Netflix (I watched Cloud Atlas and Rogue One yesterday – the first pause all week where I was able to sit down and relax properly for a few hours).

Starting today, I’m getting wound back into the world. I took a few minutes earlier to send an email to my editor-in-chief to ask if there’s any news about the status of copy-editing on The Artemis Device, and whether she’s accepting Phantasms & Magicks for publication, and also to update a couple of pages on this site. I caught up a little bit with Twitter (and learned that Rance Howard died yesterday) and Mastodon (which I just started using a couple of weeks ago).

On the actual writing front, I’m planning on splitting the rest of today between doing some timeline work on the Untitled SF Project, and also writing a few notes for another project idea that I had a few days ago (it started as a short story idea, but as I thought about it it became bigger to the point where I think it’s likely to end up being a full-length novel).

On that note, I need to wrap this up; I have a couple of errands to run (the first time I’ll have left the house in three days) and then I want to get on that writing work.

Until next time…


It’s that time of year again. The month when many writers do their damndest (is that a word?) to slam out fifty thousand words in just thirty days.

I’m not even going to try. Not that I wouldn’t if I could spare the time, but I can’t. Fifty thousand words in thirty days means averaging almost two thousand words a day. That’s perfectly doable – but only if I took a month off the day job. Trying to pull a nine-hour day (that’s my average, Monday to Friday) then follow up with several hours’ writing (for that’s how long it would likely take me to get a couple of thousand words out) would kill me in less than a week, probably.

And there’s the prep work I’d have to do ahead of time. I can’t just spout out a story, you see. I must have a plan. (If you’ve seen my book Finish Your Book you’ll know something of the planning I do before the first words are committed to paper or pixels.) And given that it usually takes me around three months to go from first ideas to a completed scene-by-scene timeline, I’d have to start prepping around the beginning of August to be ready to start the actual writing on November 1. And that would cut into work on other projects, and I can’t afford for that to happen. Those other projects are just too important to put to one side.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that you, dear reader (and writer) shouldn’t have a go. I’d never try to stop a writer from writing, ever.

But I won’t be doing it. Not this year, at least.

Not The Droid I’m Looking For


My Chromebook had an OS upgrade last night, and when it rebooted it tooks pains to tell me that I can now install Android apps on it. In fact, it went ahead and installed a couple for me. Great! I thought, I can run my favourite Android apps. Then I thought again. This morning I thought about it some more. Then I flipped the switch to disable it.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like Android. I have an Android phone and an Android tablet, and they’re terrific.

But the thing is this: all the apps I really need on the Chromebook are already there. And the only Android apps that I could possibly want would only duplicate Chrome apps I already have. For example I don’t need the Google+ Android app because I already have the Chrome app for that. The same goes for the Google productivity apps (Docs, Sheets. etc.), Netflix, Twitter, and so on.

And then there’s the screen-size question. Many Android apps are designed to run on small, portrait-layout screens as found on phones and tablets; I read that many just don’t scale well to a full-size (well, laptop-size, at least) landscape-layout screen.

So I switched it off. I really don’t need another Android platform, at least not right now. If it turns out that there’s an app I really need on the Chromebook, and there’s only an Android version of that app, I’ll take another look. But right now I just don’t have a use for it.

Phantasms & Magicks

I’m sitting here at the car dealership, waiting while they service my car. And of course I have my trusty Chromebook, so I have time for a quick post, which is actually an announcement.

Which is this: the story that had a working title of Smoke & Mirrors is now going to officially named Phantasms & Magicks. The plan is to get that out, self-published, before the end of this year.

(And as I wrote that, the guy came to tell me my car is ready. Time to go.)

Change of Direction (Also: Artist Needed)

I’ve put the as-yet-untitled SF novel series on the back burner for a while. Here’s why:

I sent out queries to agents for Smoke & Mirrors a while ago, but I was waiting on one particular agent because there was a note saying she was closed for submissions until September. I’ve been checking her agency’s web site every couple of days but it’s now mid-October and there’s no change. Last weekend I made the decision that if she still wasn’t accepting after another week (i.e. yesterday), I’d forget it and self-publish.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Starting today, I’ll be compiling all the individual chapter files into one manuscript, then I have to get it formatted to Smashwords standards. I’ll also have to create a second version of the same file for Kindle Direct Publishing (that copy will have slightly different legal text in the front matter), and a third version for print (which will have the page links replaced and it’ll have headers, footers, and page numbers added). It sounds easy, but actually getting everything correct takes quite a lot of work. I expect it to take a few days at least.

But that’s not all. For one thing, I still have to decide on a title. Smoke & Mirrors was always just a working title (not least because Neil Gaiman has a book with the same name). I have another title that I’d really like to go with – but unfortunately it’s very similar to the title of a collection of SFF stories by a well-known author. On the other hand, it’s not exactly the same, and that story collection is close to fifty years old. I’ll be checking into the legalities of that before I can make a decision.

The other thing it really, really needs is some good cover art. I have a couple of ideas for the kind of thing I’m looking for, but I’m no artist so I need to engage a pro. Someone who can read the story synopsis and maybe come up with an image that captures what the book’s about. So I’ll be getting to that sometime in the next few days, too.

Back to the subject of the as-yet-untitled SF series…

As I mentioned in the last couple of posts, day-job work has been frantic for the last two or three weeks. It finally (we hope) came to an end Friday night, when the last of the code changes had all been tested and the whole package got pushed out to the public-facing production system. Unless someone spots something wrong with it over the next couple of days, we’re done with it. But the real problem from my perspective is that spending ten-hour days on it meant that I didn’t have anything left when it came to working on my own projects. As as result, while I did make a little bit of progress on the timeline of the first story, I pretty much lost my momentum.

To be honest, spending some time on the mechanical process of getting Smoke ready for self-pub will actually be a chance to catch my breath and recharge a bit. By the time that’s done I’ll be ready to get back to the timeline with some fresh energy.

Enough for now; time to grab a fresh coffee and make a start.

Until next time…

Day Job Woes Again

Sort-of continuing from last week…

I was right about Monday hitting the reset button on the technical problems my team has been working hard to put right. Again, I don’t want to go into detail. In short, it’s taken another week of ten-hour days, plus half of Saturday, to get to a point where it looks like all the fixes are in and working. We won’t know for sure until tomorrow (Tuesday) when the whole thing gets an end-to-end test, which might reveal that we still have a little bit more to do. But I really think the worst is behind us.

Now, since today is Columbus Day, I get a three day weekend (actually a two-and-a-half day weekend, thanks to Saturday morning). And that means I’ve actually had some time to work on the timelines for the SF series (I really must think of a working title).

Well, ok, I have to be honest: I have spent some time playing Astroneer. And I’ve been catching up with the huge pile of laundry in the basement.

But I’ve also been making some progress with the timeline of the first story in the series, so that’s good, right? I took a break to write this, and I need to update the WiP pages while I’m at it, then I’m getting back to work.

I might just mention that today we had the first snow of the season here in our part of the world. It’s still falling; the forecast says we could have six or eight inches built up by the end of the day.


On that note, time to update those WiP pages real quick, then it’s back to the timelines.

Until next time…

Day Job Woes

Before I begin, a word from our sponsors: my Steampunk adventure Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is just $1.99 for Kindle right now.

Promo spot over; back to the plot.

My regular readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Epping Forest) will have noticed that I’ve kind of broken my own rules for the last couple of weeks. I’d been making a point of posting here at least twice a week, and things had actually been going pretty well.

And then came the day job problems.


Thanks to a problem that came up, the other developers and I have been in all-hands-to-the-pumps mode, making urgent updates to a bunch of web applications. I’m not going into more detail than that; it’s not that important or interesting.

As a side-effect, my regular work has had to take a back seat—but it still has to be done, so that’s meant I’ve had to work an extra couple of hours every day during the week. This morning (Saturday) I worked five hours to catch up some more. Right now I’m at a point where I can actually catch a breath, although I know Monday is going to hit the reset button and it’ll be back to panic mode.

The point being that my other work—writing, and other things I like to do—got pushed right off the cliff.

So: no blog posts the last couple of weeks. No work at all done on the timelining I’ve been working on for the SF book series. Basically I’ve been too tired to focus on anything that requires use of the brain.

Instead, what time I’ve had has been spent watching TV (Doc Martin, Dark Matter season 3); playing games (I just bought Dishonored and it’s a blast—one of the best I’ve played in a while); and reading (I’m partway into A Voyage to Arcturus, and I don’t want to hear any snide comments about it).

One other thing: I think I mentioned that I’d been watching a gentle British comedy called Detectorists on Netflix. It stars Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones as couple of ordinary guys who also happen to be (surprise!) detectorists—that is, they spend their spare hours out and about with metal detectors, finding bottle caps and ring pulls. And occasionally, cash, and parts of WWII German bombers. And sometimes, gold. Watching the show reminded me as a teenager I’d wanted a metal detector to mess with.

So I’ve bought one. Nothing fancy or expensive, but perfectly fine for the hobbyist. I haven’t had a chance yet to get out with it—it’s actually been raining almost every day for the last couple of weeks here in Colorado, and in any case I really need to get a cheap pair of headphones and a small shovel before I go detecting. But I’m looking forward to getting some exercise and fresh air, and you never know, maybe finding the odd trinket I can sell on eBay. Depending on the weather, I might get out with it for a bit tomorrow.

Now, as for the rest of today, I have a free afternoon, so I’m about to grab a coffee and get back to those timelines. I have something like five hundred scenes to timeline and so far I’ve done nineteen. There’s a long way to go. Time to get busy.

Until next time…