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.

Kindle, or No?

I thought I was being so clever, having an Android tablet. After all, why buy a Nook AND and a Kindle, when you can buy one device and download the Nook and Kindle apps (and Kobo, and Diesel, and a bunch of others) for free?


Well, in hindsight it really wasn’t that great an idea. Your mileage may vary on this, but for me it turned out that every time I felt like reading (to be more accurate, whenever I got time to read, which hasn’t been that often recently), I would pick up the tablet only to find that the battery was flat. Even just sitting there not being used, the battery only lasts a couple of days—and actually using it to read, you get a few hours at most before having to plug in the charger. Hardly what you’d call convenient.

And so a couple of weeks ago I went down to the basement and dusted off my Nook Simple Touch. It had been sitting there for months, and yet still had enough charge in the battery to be able to use it. It’s back in daily use, and I’d forgotten just how great it is to be able to read every day and not have to worry about charging it more often than once a fortnight.

In any case, how many different e-readers accounts do I really need? I have Nook and Kindle accounts; I also set up a Kobo account, but I never used it. At this moment I don’t need more. So right now I have the Nook, and I have the tablet I can use for Kindle books (unfortunately there are quite a few books available for Nook that you can’t get for Kindle, and vice-versa, hence the need for both). And the tablet’s battery is dead again, so I can’t read Kindle books until the tablet’s charged, which takes a couple of hours.

So, the question: should I buy a Kindle to solve that problem? I see the basic model is down to about $70, which isn’t bad at all. So I’ll definitely be giving that some thought.

On the Writing front . . .

Some status on the various projects:

  • The Voyage of Valerie McGrath: This went for final approval a couple of weeks ago. No word back on any changes, and the anthology will be on shelves fairly soon now. I imagine I and the other short story authors will receive an ARC for final proofing before it goes to press, and that’ll give us all a chance to check each other’s work for last-minute mistakes (and it’ll be fun to read their stories, too—I’m looking forward to that).
  • Gunn & Bohemia II: Great news to report here—I finished the timeline and sent it off to my content editor a few days ago. Subject to her comments and requests for changes, that means I should be able to start actually writing the first draft within the next few days, or a couple of weeks at most. Which means, if all goes well, I could have a completed ‘script before September. Don’t hold me to that, though—I’ll be writing and editing at the same time, and that’s not something I’ve done before. I don’t know how it’s going to work switching back and forth. Still, it means the first draft will need less work to get into publishable shape (Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia took months, because the draft I submitted needed a lot of editing work).
  • Top Secret Writing Project #1: Well, it’s not really that much of a secret now. I have a full-length first draft I wrote the year before last, and I’ve been editing it as a background project. Two chapters done, twenty-eight to go. It’s a sort of gothic/sci-fi/steampunk mix inspired by ideas from Gormenghast and Dark City and one or two other things. Fellow author Craig Hallam got a sneak preview of the first chapter way back and was kind enough to critique it.
  • Top Secret Writing Project #2: Another story that’s been sitting in the pile for a while. This one is another steampunk story but with a twist (don’t ask; I don’t want to spoil the surprise). I have half a first draft, and the plan is to edit what I have so far then continue on through the existing storyboard and get it finished. But that is most definitely at the bottom of the stack, and won’t see any work done on it until I’m done with TSWP#1.

Enough for now. Time to settle down for some telly, I think. Until next time . . .

Worries I Can’t Mention

I didn’t get around to writing a post last weekend, because something happened the Thursday before that really had my wife and I worried, and kept us worried right through the weekend and into the early part of last week. And while I know you’re dying to know what that was, I can’t say. Not yet. Expect a post dedicated to that story sometime in the future. All will be revealed.

For now, though, I am able to report that things on the day-job front have settled down significantly in the last week. The Inherited Project From Hell is up and running in a production environment, and should soon be completely live (if you’re into river boating in the north-western states, you might even brush up against it indirectly). The other projects seem to be well under control.

What of writing work? Well, GB2 has had little progress made (last week’s worries meant I wasn’t able to focus on writing work at all—I spent much of the time playing computer games to take my mind off things). The plan is to get a couple of hours in on that over this weekend. The Voyage of Valerie McGrath has cleared line editing and gone to final approval. And the Top Secret Writing Project has had nothing done to it at all.

And so the plans for today: get some tea, and spend a little while on the GB2 timeline. Time to get to it. Until next time . . .

Feeling Better, Thanks

I’m just about over the worst cold I can remember having in quite a while. Normally I don’t get sick—or to be more accurate, I don’t get knocked flat by the symptoms as badly as most people do—but this one has been a doozy. It hit me Thursday, got worse Friday (which was also my and Kate’s wedding anniversary, so my plans to go out for a nice dinner went sideways), then pretty much laid me out Saturday—I spent most of the day in bed. Does a cold cause fever? I didn’t think so, but my temperature hit 102°F at one point; maybe it wasn’t just a cold.

This morning I’m feeling a lot better. A little shivery, and occasional dizzy spells if I stand up too quick, and I feel tired despite sleeping well—but no more sneezy, drippy stuff. A few people on Twitter sent me some get-well wishes, and I appreciate it; thank you to all.

One more rest day and I should be fine. And that’s good, because tomorrow I’m going to need my strength. The inherited project from hell, even though it now appears to be working adequately, still needs more work. But enough of that for now; I don’t want to even think about it today.

What I do want to think about, and actually make some progress on, is project codename GB2, the sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia. My content editor sent through some more comment markups on the timeline, but thanks to the day-job overload and then the bout of illness I haven’t had a chance to take more than a little look. In a little bit I’m going to get busy reviewing those. And so without further ado, it’s time to grab a coffee and get geared up. Until next time . . .