How To Change Direction By Slamming Your Head Into A Wall

IT’S official: the sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is on hold for a while. I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing it and I’ve been putting the blame for that on the disruptions generated by our recent house move, but after sitting back and doing some soul-searching I finally realised the truth: I wasn’t happy with the story I’d developed. Let me qualify that a little bit. I was, and still am, enthusiastic about the story’s Big Picture. The problem is in the details—the subplots and the “flow” of the story as a whole. I can’t explain how it went wrong—possibly that house move thing was part of it, possibly not—but the upshot is that the timeline needs some serious rethinking before I write another word. Seriously, I don’t even want to look at the current timeline in case it pollutes my thinking. So I’m going to start over from clean. But that’s not going to happen right away. I need time away from the project so I can order my thoughts. In the meantime I’m working on something else.

A couple of years ago I wrote a full-length story with a working title of The Artemisia Chronicle. It got put to one side when I started focussing on editing Gunn & Bohemia, and then after G&B was published I got pretty much straight into thinking about the sequel, so my other projects stayed on the shelf. Now that I’ve decided to mothball Gunn & Bohemia II for a bit, this story has been dusted off and is back in play. Today I finished reconstructing its timeline by skimming every scene and summarising it in a spreadsheet. The next step will be to review that timeline and fix a handful of problems (for example, there are a couple of early scenes that happen impossibly close together in time). Once that’s straightened out I have some work to do to fix a subplot that doesn’t really do anything, and then the ending needs some work to give it a bit more cowbell.

Once I’m happy with that timeline I’ll be editing every scene. In some cases that might mean a complete rewrite; there will almost certainly be new scenes needed, and it’s more than likely that certain scenes will be trashed. That’s the way these things go. The end result will be a shiny new story, ready to be submitted to my publisher. And because it’s already been written once, it won’t take a very long time to write it again. Depending on the publisher’s schedule it might even be on shelves before the end of the year.

Watch this space.


THE aftermath of the house move continues . . .

We’re still basically recovering from the move. (Yes, I know, it’s been well over a week. We’re taking our time, and in any case after several weeks of back breaking work followed by a killer weekend—see the previous post—I think we deserve to go at our own pace. That’s our excuse and we’re sticking with it.)

Bathrooms have been cleared of boxes and fully usable pretty much since day one, except for one that’s waiting for me to hang a new shower door. The kitchen is, as of last weekend, fully usable. The master bedroom is usable but still has a lot of boxes on the floor; much the same is true of the office. The living room is still a bit of a disaster area, although it’s not as bad as it looks because there’s a sofa and love seat hidden under the boxes—so there aren’t as many boxes as it appears.

As a result of all that, writing is still suffering some. I’ve managed a couple of hundred words on the Gunn & Bohemia sequel, and that’s all. The problem isn’t really that the house thing is taking time away from writing (it is, but not too badly) so much as that it’s been really, really hard to get my writing momentum back. I need to just write—any old thing at all will do, whether it’s a blog post or a throw-away few hundred words of fiction or an idea for a story. Hence this blog post.

A while ago I mentioned that I need to write something every day. The house move killed that. I need to resurrect it.

Until next time . . .

Is This Thing On?

Back On The Air

I haven’t had time to catch my breath, let alone write even a short blog post, for a couple of weeks. I haven’t even found time for Twitter. My laptop was packed up, and there were some problems getting Internet up and running in the new place (but that’s nothing next to the problems I had getting the phone working; I won’t go into that here). However . . .

The House Move Thing

THE house move is OVER.

Or at least, the worst part—the actual moving of all our stuff from the old place to the new—is all done. We still have piles of boxes cluttering up just about every room, closet, and hallway, waiting to be opened and emptied into cabinets and onto shelves, but that can be done at a relatively leisurely pace.

Relative to what? The answer to that centres on the fact that the last week has been a nightmare. It became obvious that going the way we were, trying to pack and move just about everything on our own just using a car, was going to take weeks. So we called around and found a moving company that could help at short notice, and with their help we got all the larger things and a lot of the packed up stuff moved over. (I’d already loaded a three-seater sofa and matching two-seater love seat onto our rented truck single-handed; not bad for someone as out of shape as I am. I really need to get more exercise.)

That still left a LOT of smaller things. We worked—and I mean worked, hard—for forty, count’em, forty, hours, with only the shortest breaks for food and drinks. By around the thirty hour mark I was so tired I was hallucinating; my eyes made people out of shadows, I kept thinking I could see men in the corners of the rooms and under the truck. In my whackedness I managed to cause a shelf unit to overbalance and fall on Kate’s shoulder, then I couldn’t get a grip on the damned thing to lift it off her.

I finally got the last things out, and locked up the old place, just before midnight Sunday. Then I went to the new place, climbed into the bed, and died. (I truly expected to sleep for at least twelve hours, but woke up after about six. I still don’t feel like I’ve had enough sleep the last couple of days.)

And now, as I mentioned, we have a lot of unpacking ahead of us. The kitchen and living room are basically unusable because the floors are covered with boxes. My office desk was that way, too, until circumstances this morning forced me to do a rush job of clearing enough space to set up the work laptop. But I have to say that, even with the remaining clutter around me, working at this desk (I’m sitting behind it right now) is a dream. A few more days of organising things, then I think I should be able to allow myself some time to get back to writing. And about time, too.

One good thing for now is that I have some time for blogging, Twitter, and so on, so expect to see more activity there.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .


Now Is The Time . . .

IT has been far too long since I posted here. Basically the house move—which I thought would be behind us by now—has taken every spare moment. Today I’m taking a rest break from the moving, because frankly I’ve had enough of it today, on top of day job work. And I need to write something, before I die of writing withdrawal, and a blog post is just the thing.

The House Move Thing

AS noted, we are STILL moving house, but the end is in sight. I could go ahead right here, right now, and say we’ll be in the new place by this time next week . . . but that would probably be the kiss of death, tempting providence, and things of that nature. So I’ll just say that I hope we’ll be in by this time next week. There’s still a chunk of work to take care of, but it’s really not so bad.

The floors were done some time ago, and a whole bunch of cleaning and fixing up has been done. Desks have been built. Clean, new appliances have been installed, and dirty old appliances have been removed. Bookcases are in place and books are on shelves. And three quarters of the basement in the old place has been cleared—some of the stuff having been moved to the new place, some stacked up as trash to be disposed of, and some items marked for donation to our local Habitat For Humanity place. (No, I don’t donate to Goodwill since I read that every penny they make from sales of items given to them for nothing is pure profit—they don’t actually give anything to charity.) One more room in the basement to take care of, then three rooms on the ground floor. Then the final step—call in professional movers to take care of the big stuff I can’t manage myself, such as sofas and beds and the fridge, etc.

Why has it taken so long? Simple: we’re doing most of it ourselves. In other moves we’ve done, we’ve had professionals to load our stuff onto trucks at one end and unload at the other, and everything’s been done in a matter of hours or maybe a couple of days. This time, the old place and the new one are but minutes apart, so I’ve been able to shift a lot of stuff just using my car. But that’s meant I’ve had to do it after work and at weekends, and time is limited—as are other things, such as the number of arms I have, the amount of space in my car, and the number of hours in a day.

The Writing Thing

ALL of this has meant that everything not related to house moving or the day job has been pushed to a back burner that’s so far to the back, it’s actually over the hills and far away. That includes blogging (until now, of course), writing, gaming, and even Twitter (which might seem insane—you’d think I’d be able to find time for the odd tweet, but honestly I’ve been so absorbed with everything else that most times it hasn’t even occurred to me to tweet anything at all).

So I’m behind schedule with writing work on the Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia sequel. But once we’re in the new place, I have a brand new (and might I say, awesome) desk in a room that’s our dedicated office, and working in there is going to be a dream. I can’t wait.

The Day Job Thing

ACTUALLY, I was going to say a few words about what I’ve been up to at work. Frankly, I can’t be bothered. Admit it: you don’t really care anyway, and unless you’re a Java web application developer I might as well be writing in Swahili. So enough said about that.

The Smoking/Vaping Thing

THE last time I lit a real cigarette was June 10, so if my arithmetic is correct, today marks thirty-six days without burning tobacco. Hoorays and cheers are in order, I think.

The Gaming Thing

AGAIN, as noted above, I haven’t had time to play any games. And that, just like not having time to write, is getting me twitched-up. I long to spend a couple of hours playing Freelancer, or Sir, You Are Being Hunted, or Unreal, or Serious Sam, or Half-Life, or Portal, or any of a dozen other games. Maybe if I make some good progress with moving stuff to the new house over the next three or four days, I’ll reward myself with a game break. Got to get those priorities right . . . but then ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY. (For some reason I have an urge to write that again a few times.)

The Competition Thing

A few posts back I announced a contest in which readers had a chance to name a character in the Gunn & Bohemia sequel (see that post for details). Well, one or two new reviews popped up, but nobody contacted me so there’s no official winner. However, since I’ve no time to work on the book at all, I’ve decided to extend the deadline. You’ve got until July 31. Get yourself a copy of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, post a review on Amazon, and send me a note through the Contact page (link on the tabs at the top of this page), and you’ll get your chance. Go on, you know you want to.

Until next time . . .

Competition: Name A Character In My Next Book

WOULD you like to have a character in a book named after you? Well, now’s your chance! One lucky person gets to choose a name that I will then use for one of the characters in the forthcoming sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia. You can choose your own name, or a family member, or a friend . . . the choice will be yours—well, within reason; I’ll get to that shortly.

Here’s how it works. Just follow this simple set of instructions:

  • First, get hold of a copy of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia in the format of your choice. See this page for a list of stockists.
  • Read the book.
  • Post a review on the Amazon page here. The review must be at least 100 words, but the content is all yours, and you can be honest—in fact I’d prefer it. If you think the book’s only worth a one-star rating and you really didn’t like it, say so. Giving a glowing review and a five-star rating won’t change your chances of winning the competition.
  • As soon as you post the review, come back to this site and use the CONTACT form to send me a note (the link is at the top of the page). Don’t delay, do it right away, because the first person to do that is the winner (the contact form sends me email, and the first one in my mailbox gets it). Include the following information:
    • The name you’d like me to use for a character in the book. As I mentioned, it can be your own name, or that of a friend or family member, etc. However, it must be appropriate for a nineteenth-century person (if you’re using a real name, that shouldn’t be a problem). I can’t use Twitter handles like BuzzGrrl999, for example. And please don’t use famous names; I can’t really have a character called Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or Kim Kardashian. I’ll be the final arbiter on whether I can use the name.
    • A link to the Amazon review you’ve created. I need enough information to be able to find it, so a URL is probably best.
    • A contact email address, in case I need to get in touch. I will not share this email address.
  • The winner will be announced on this blog on July 1, 2014.
  • I will choose the character that gets the name based on how the name fits. For example, if the name you choose is German-sounding (or at least fits a German character), then I might attach it to a German secret agent. So bear in mind your character might not necessarily be one of the good guys. And your character might end up dying a nasty death. But hey, that’s actually a pretty cool thing to tell your friends, right?
  • You’ll also get a mention in the acknowledgements at the end of the book.

That’s all! Read it, write a review, let me know. What are you waiting for?

I Don’t Always Write Blog Posts . . .

. . . BUT when I do, I try to make them interesting, and mention at least a little about what’s been going on since the last post. However, I’ve noticed that recently—according to my WordPress stats—I’ve gained more than a handful of new followers. If you’re one of the new followers then Welcome, gentle reader. For the new readers I’m going to put a little more background than usual into this post. And don’t forget to explore the other pages through the link tabs at the top. In particular, take a look at the Social page and consider following me on Twitter, too.


The Day Job

BY profession I’m a Java web application developer. A few months ago the company I work for had a little bit of an unintentional downsizing, by which I mean that several of our other developers, by coincidence, all gave notice at about the same time—and as a result of that, my workload more than doubled as those other guys’ project work was dumped in my lap. So for several weeks I was working late nights and weekends, catching up with all the outstanding bug fixes.

Several weeks on, just about all of those bugs have been fixed, and so I’m back to regular maintenance on all those various applications. Which means I’m back to normal hours without the late nights and weekends. I’m even getting time in some of my lunch breaks to manage a little bit of writing.

Now that all the urgent work is done, I’ve also been spending some time evaluating some new software—web application frameworks, to be specific—to see what the next generation of our software should be using. For what it’s worth, we evaluated JSF (JavaServer Faces) and found it wanting; next up, I’m writing a small application using Apache Wicket to see how that goes, and so far it looks promising—at least, it gets away from JSPs (JavaServer Pages), which can only be a good thing.

Moving House

WE bought a new house, and we’ve been moving a few things in and getting the place ready to take the bigger furniture. Right now there’s not much we can do until some of the flooring has been replaced—but that’s just a few days away, now, and then we can get ourselves properly into the new place. And I can’t wait.

What I’m Writing

NOT that I should need to say, because it’s plastered all over this site, but I wrote Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, a steampunk action adventure story that was published last year. Now I’m working on a sequel, which—with a little luck—should have a first draft complete by the end of August (at least, that’s the target I’ve set myself). The timeline, which is a scene-by-scene version of the story from beginning to end, is complete; that gives me a plan to work to. The first few scenes have been written, but progress has been slow. The good news is, the pace is picking up and I expect to get back to full momentum on that within a week or two, especially when the house move is behind us.

What I’m Reading

RIGHT now I’m reading Kingdom City by Ben Ireland. I’m only a couple of chapters in, so far.

What I’m Smoking

IF you’ve read back a few posts, you’ll have seen the post about how I’ve been switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. On that, just a quick update: it’s going very well. Thanks to the e-cig as a way to stave off the craving I was down to about three “real” cigs a day. Then came another milestone: I haven’t smoked even one “real” cigarette in the last three days. Very pleased with that.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

LAST word: I play some computer games as relaxation. I used to play World of Warcraft a lot (although I haven’t played in months now), and I’m also a big fan of the Half-Life games and their close cousins, the Portal series. Recently I found out about a game called Sir, You Are Being Hunted, which is variously described as steampunk and tweedpunk (is that a new word?). It’s a survival-stealth game, which under normal circumstances would have put me off because I’m not a fan of that genre (I tried playing Thief once, and detested it), but I’m finding Sir to be more than a little bit addictive. I mean, killer robots wearing country tweeds and smoking pipes. What’s not to like?

Until next time . . .

Things Are Coming Along A Bit

The House Comes Along A Bit

I spent most of today organising some storage in the basement of the new place, putting together some shelves I bought a few days ago. Good shelves, too—we bought one a year or so ago so we knew what we were getting. They’re metal, and each shelf can hold up to three hundred and fifty pounds. The only problem is that each shelf is basically made of wire, so to finish up I bought some quarter-inch sanded plywood to lay on top. That was all finished up just a little while ago, so now we have five racks ready to take stuff from the basement in the old place. Tomorrow I begin moving things over.

In other house news, we bought some used furniture from a charity thrift store: a big hutch, an armoire, a chest of drawers, a dresser, a small cabinet and a two-seater sofa that was in such great shape that it was just too good to let pass. Most of the stuff is in the garage and once the flooring is in place on the ground floor we can move it into position.

The Writing Comes Along A Bit

NOT as much as I hoped it would, but I managed a couple of hundred words on Gunn & Bohemia II—the most I’ve managed in the last few weeks, what with everything else going on. Going forward the plan is to reserve some writing time every day, even if it’s only half an hour. Some progress is much better than no progress at all; no progress makes me twitchy and irritable, and being able write even just a few dozen words makes a big difference.

I also got a little bit of news from my publisher. A few weeks ago I sent them the first few thousand words from The Artemisia Chronicle, which is a full-length novel I wrote a while back and put to one side, to see if they might be interested. Well, it took a while because they’ve been really busy getting Terra Mechanica and then Tomorrow Wendell (a novel by RM Ridley) out of the door, but I got an email the other day saying they were interested. Next step on that is for me to fill in a submission form, which (with all the house and day job business going on) I haven’t had time to get to. Soon, though.

Vaping Update

SINCE the post about vaping a few weeks ago I’ve been continuing on with using the Vuse, with good results; I still get the urge to burn a real cigarette, especially when I’m feeling a bit stressed, but I’m averaging something like three real ones a day. Some days I’ll smoke four, and a couple of days I managed to get through with only two. And I’m very happy to report that last week I went one whole day without a single cigarette. I feel really good about that.