Bad Days, Good Days

THE last couple of weeks have been really heavy going at work, which is the main reason I haven’t had a chance to throw out any updates here. We’ve been moving a few of the web applications to new host machines, and it’s one of those jobs where ninety percent of the work is easy and takes ten percent of the time, but then you hit the ten percent that’s all hurdles and problems and means you can’t just finish it up and get it done. As I write this it’s Sunday morning, and tomorrow I have three, count ’em, three system moves that are stalled waiting on things.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, writing work has all but stopped, which is very frustrating. I’m working on a story I want to write, and I’ve been stuck at the planning part for something like a month. I have a character, she has a name, and she has an interesting past that’s given her an ability, if you can call it that—sometimes it’s going to be a lifesaver, most times it’s a curse. And I can’t say more about that without giving too much away at this early phase. The big problem is that I still don’t have a solid story, and I just can’t seem to get the time to think my way past that.

The day-job work craziness been part of that, of course—among other things I’m so tired at the end of most days I just don’t have the energy to get into writing, and in any case there are home/family things that take up what little time I might have had—but there are other things too. For example, I now officially work at home and hook into the office over VPN; I rarely need to go in. It’s great, but one definite downside is that it’s caused a complete change of routine. I used to use the drive time between home and office to think about story and characters; Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was planned and plotted and all but actually written on that daily drive, as were The Artemis Device and Smoke & Mirrors (more on status of both of those shortly).

But I don’t drive in any more, and my writing time is suffering badly for it. I need to change my routine to give me some of that time back somehow.

OK THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT. It’s not all doom and gloom. Time to focus on some of the positive.

One thing that’s taken away some of the writing time is that I’ve been catching up on READING, and that’s not something I consider at all bad. I mean, seriously, I went through a period of several months during which I hardly read a thing. Not good. So I kicked myself in the pants and told myself to shape the fuck up.

Rod Duncan’s The Custodian of Marvels came out Tuesday and I’ll be starting on that just as soon as I’ve finished reading Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles; I’m almost through Trapped (which I think is the fifth book in the series). But wait, there’s more: the eighth book, Staked, just came out and we went to Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins on Thursday to meet the author and get a signed copy. Really? I hear you say. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. Okay, then:


There you go.

Now, last points: I mentioned I’d give a couple of status updates, so here they are:

  • The Artemis Device is still with my copy editor at Xchyler Publishing, but as I think I mentioned she got married recently, and then she was dealing with a book release (Ben Ireland’s Kingdom City: Revolt) and now, as I found out just a few days ago, she’s off on honeymoon. So I don’t expect to get back any editing notes in a hurry.
  • Smoke & Mirrors is still looking for an agent or a publisher. A publisher in England had an open submission period last month, so I sent them the first couple of chapters. The web site said it could be three to six months before I hear anything, so right now patience is the word.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .


What I Did On My Holidays

THIS is more of a diary entry than anything else. Most pro writers agree you should write something every day. And so…

Dear diary…

I took extra days off work to bridge the gap between the Labor Day weekend and the next, so I have a nine day break, of which I have three and a half days left. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Writing Stuff

ON Sunday I went through a three-and-a-half hour editing marathon that finished the long-running first pass of The Artemis Device at long last. That went off to my editor the next day, so now it’s just a matter of waiting until she gets a chance to look at it from her side and start feeding back suggestions for improvements. Not holding my breath, as I know she has at least two other projects on her plate right now.

So the plan is to get started into my own self-editing pass of the next project, Smoke & Mirrors. I’ve deliberately taken a breather before I get on with that, but now I feel ready and I’ll probably get to it tomorrow or even (time permitting) later today.

I’ve also been writing a series of blog posts about Google Chrome. You might have seen them. I have a couple more written and scheduled to auto-publish over the next few days.

Bought a New Printer

OLD printer was old. It kept getting clogged print heads and was having problems feeding paper. So I took advantage of a Labor Day special at Office Depot, and got a nice new printer for $50. It’s wifi so we can set it up pretty much anywhere, and thanks to Google Cloud Print we can print stuff directly from phones and tablets from anywhere we have an Internet connection. Nice.

Watching TV

NO vacation would be complete without some actual rest, and in my case that means lying in bed and watching TV. I watch quite a bit on my tablet using the Netflix app. Recently I’ve been watching The 4400, which despite being more than ten years old, I’d never heard of until recently. I’ve also been re-watching Warehouse 13. Fun show, that. I actually wanted to watch The Dresden Files again, but it’s disappeared from Netflix (why? WHY?), so I’ll have to see about buying it on DVD, if it’s even available.


CHUCK Wendig’s Miriam Black books, a book about writing (The Snowflake Method), and Ian Watson’s God’s World (which is SF, by the way, not a bible tract).

Pest Control

THE warm weather brought with it an influx of insects. Earwigs (which seem to have died down without help from me), and tiny little red ants which (thank you, Internet) I was able to identify as grease ants. I bought some stuff from Home Depot that took care of that problem in two or three days, and they haven’t come back. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

That’s enough for now. Until next time . . .

Free Signed Books!

FINALLY, after too many months of delays and problems and other work-hurdles, I just finished a major editing pass of The Artemis Device. Let loose with Woot! and Woohoo! and other celebratory sounds! Do the I’m-done-for-now Happy Dance!


In celebration, I’m giving away something for free. I have three, count’em, THREE first-edition paperback copies of Mr. Gunn and Dr. Bohemia just waiting to be signed and sent out. Want one? All I’m asking for is a promise that you’ll put an honest review on Amazon when you’ve read it.

Go to my blog at and click the Contact link at the top. Fill in name and email address, and a short note to say you’d like one. DON’T put in a mailing address just yet. Since I only have three, the first three replies get the goods, and I’ll contact you via email to get a mailing address and ask how you’d like me to sign it. I’ll even pay postage, so to you it’s 100% free (apart from a little of your time to write a review when you’re done).

And don’t forget, it’s available in e-book form for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc., as well as print, from Amazon and others: CLICK HERE for details.

[UPDATE: Brad Plaskett in Ohio gets signed copy #1. Two left!]

[UPDATE: Gary Webster in Seattle gets signed copy #2. One left!]

Editing “The Artemis Device”, and Wattpad

A short post, since I have only a few minutes.

A milestone: I just finished an editing pass on The Artemis Device. In that pass I fixed a good number of grammatical and other typos, but more importantly I’ve put in markers show where new scenes will go, and also marked places where a certain amount of rewriting will be needed.

The next pass, then, will see those scenes written and the other changes made. Since I now know exactly what scenes are needed and how they fit into the timeline, writing them will be that much easier.

My plan is to take a day or two away from Artemis before I get started on that next pass. Among other things I have some ideas for a new story and I want to get those written down while they’re fresh. Also, I’ve been looking into Wattpad a little bit, and it sounds interesting. I want to spend a few hours researching it to see if it lives up to the hype.

Until next time . . .

There Will Be Blog

I’VE been having trouble with editing Artemis.

The first problem was that what I had to do seemed overwhelming. I’d be looking at the typescript and thinking, I have to think up and write these new scenes to add more backstory to this character and that character, AND I have to have to look for and change bits where I see problems, AND I have to fix the grammar accidents AND mop up the odd spelling mistake, AND I have to do ALL THAT in a single pass and OH MY GOD MY BRAIN IS MELTING DOWN. And then I’d stare at the page like it was the headlight of a freight train coming along the tunnel to turn me into meat-splat. Well, I think I found a solution to that problem: don’t try to do it all at once. So, what I’m doing now is reading back through the ‘script and as I go along, I make simple changes only—obvious spelling mistakes, missed or doubled words, in-yer-face grammar fuckups, and so on. Anything needing more work than that, I mark for later. I might hit a part where I can say, this needs a touch more dialogue to foreshadow something that comes later, or I might spot the ideal place for a new scene that’s needed. So for those things that need some actual wordage, I slap in a comment to say That new scene I need with rabid wombats goes HERE, or I’ll highlight a sentence and add a comment like, Alice remembers the man who shot her brother with a Nerf gun filled with lemon custard. It seems to be working; I don’t lose the momentum of the read-through, I have the right places marked up with the right changes, and then later, when I’ve done every chapter, I’ll gird my loins for the actual writing of new scenes, etc., knowing exactly what I need to write.

(As it happens, a couple of days after making that decision I read something along the same lines in Chuck Wendig’s book, The Kick-Ass Writer, to the effect of, editing needs a plan just as the actual writing does. Well, there’s a plan that works for me.)

The second problem is finding quiet time. The last few days have been particularly bad on that front. Last Monday, I made the above decision about how I’d approach the editing, and a second decision, which was I Will Edit At Least One Chapter Every Day. Tuesday, the second part was already in tatters; that morning I did an hour of day-job work then had to head out for several hours for an appointment, then in the evening we had tickets to see Seether and 3 Doors Down, and we didn’t get home and to bed until 2:15am. Four hours later, up and back at the day-job . . . and then I found out that the family who were expected on Friday had arrived two days early, so off for an evening visit we went, and bed was after midnight again. Thursday, day-job was followed by a barbecue with just-mentioned family, and at the same time I was on the work laptop helping out with an emergency release of a web application. That night, bed happened sometime around 1am. By Friday (yesterday) after day-job I was so exhausted I could barely think straight; editing was not an option. I read a book for the thirty seconds it took for my eyes to feel like they had lead weights on them, then basically died.

Oh, well. At least I got a good night’s sleep last night and today I was able to edit two chapters, which makes me feel a whole lot better. And I came up with another damned good idea, which revolves around the fact that a few weeks ago, in preparation for the visit of aforementioned family, I cleaned up the basement and made it into what is essentially a second living room. And it is a place of light and wonder. Being underground, it is cool, and because the windows are small and face the back of the house instead of the front, it is also quiet—no noise from a motorbike left idling in the street for twenty minutes at 5am (curse you, evil neighbour), no banging and clattering of garbage trucks. There is no TV, or radio. And so, when the family has left for home, I will be making that excellent room my personal Fortress Of Writerly Solitude. Awesomeness will follow.

Until next time . . .

Various Sundry Items

I haven’t written anything here for ages… Since March, apparently.

No excuses. Yes, I’ve been really, really busy at the day job, and that hasn’t left a lot of time for much else. But if I’m honest, I could have probably found a few minutes here and there to put a post or two together. I have most definitely been remiss. But anyway, things have slowed down a bit, so—at least for the time being—I do have a bit more time. And so…

Writing Progress

WORK on The Artemis Device was going very slowly until recently (same reasons—not enough free time) but the last week or so has seen a change in that. I finished a related set of new scenes that I’ve been bashing my head against for a while. I have notes in place for seven or eight more, yet to be written, and I’ll be getting into those soon. Under normal circumstances I’d be doing that over the weekend, but there are other things around the house that I really must take care of: there are boxes in the basement and garage that need to be unpacked and reorganised, and I’m planning a big push on that tomorrow. If I can hit my targets, I might be able to spend some time Sunday working on writing. Fingers crossed on that.

I also did find some time to do a little bit of editing work on the Smoke and Mirrors project. Mostly just reading it back through, looking for obvious mistakes. That one is on the back burner for the foreseeable future, though.

Well, it turns out this is going to be just a short post. It’s Friday afternoon, I’ve just finished the day job work, and now I have to go and run a few errands. But I will be making more of an effort to post here more often. I promise.

Until next time…

The Artemis Device

I’VE been working on The Artemis Device, or at least trying to. The day-job has again been taking much time, including biting into my weekends, but at last things seem to have calmed down a bit on that front.

Still, I have managed to make progress of sorts. As I’ve mentioned, the first draft typescript of Artemis went off to my copy editor a few weeks ago, then I stepped to one side for a bit to finish the first draft of Smoke & Mirrors. In the meantime my copy editor read the Artemis draft and came back at me with a a couple of suggestions.

As part of this she pointed out that the last third of the story all happens too quickly. Now, on my original timeline, that was intentional. I deliberately paced the story so that there’s a major turning point at about the two-thirds mark, leading into the last third of the book as something of an epic battle happening on three fronts.

But here’s the thing: I realised there’d been a niggle at the back of my mind while I’d been writing that whole back third, telling me the same thing my editor was telling me, but I’d ploughed on and ignored it. It’s all very well saying to yourself, I learned a lesson there—but when the lesson involves trying to remember to listen to niggling, almost subconscious, voices from behind the curtain in the back of your head, it’s not quite so easy to put into practice.

Well, it’s just the first draft, after all, so some major rewriting is not unexpected. The published version of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is pretty different from the first draft, for example—it had a lot of stuff that needed improvement. Of course, as a writer I dream of a day when I can write a first draft so polished that it needs only minor edits to get it into shape for publication (and thanks to people like Susanne Lakin I know it’s possible to do that, but easy it is not—it’s a lot of hard work), but right now it’s just that—a dream.

So the work that’s been going on with Artemis over the last few weeks has all been in the form of thinking up ways to make that back third of the story become the back half of the story, without just throwing in junk to pad it out. In other words, that major turning point will happen at the half-way mark of the story (my editor and I agree that what leads up to that point doesn’t need anything like as much work), but from that point there’ll be a lot more new material.

The question becomes, what new material? At first that wasn’t easy to see. But the thing is, as my editor pointed out, there’s a lot of opportunity to expand on conflicts and side-plots based on the back stories of the characters I already have. A couple of the characters began as very much secondary characters, but took on a bit more life of their own as things progressed. I’ve been working on those characters to explore their back stories, and that leads to conflicts and little dramas that I hadn’t even dreamed of in the original story development. There are one or two characters that are just too perfect, and that’s just not realistic. One in particular has a turbulent family background that in the real world would, I’m sure, give rise to a much more flawed and complex character. That opens up some interesting possibilities.

The thought of writing thirty or forty thousand new words is exciting, and at the same time scary. The thought that I might have to dump and burn ten or fifteen thousand words of what’s already there fills me with dread, but if that’s what needs to be done, I’ll do it.

And on that note, gentle reader, it’s time for a late lunch and then to get on with more of this. Until next time . . .