Books Are Good For Your Brain

Something I’ve been told I don’t do often enough (tooting your own horn feels wrong, somehow): promoting my books. You can find all the links here:

https://petefordwriter.com/books

That’s it for now (the day-job is keeping me too busy to do more at the moment). In a future post (soon . . . very soon) the plan is to promote some books by other lesser-known authors. Watch this space.

Dear Diary . . .

MY regular readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Epping) might have noticed that every now and then I post something here that’s more like a rambling journal entry than an article about something specific.

This is one of those. Day job and household chores took over things for the last couple of days; I did find time to get a few things done, though, and now I feel like rambling a bit. Let the rambling begin . . .

On books and writing:

As I mentioned in the last post, I uploaded a correctly-formatted version of Finish Your Book, and now that should be what gets downloaded by readers. I tested it and it looks the way I intended the first time round.

I also re-published Pavonis, which was the first full-length story I ever published. It was originally self-published in 2012, but I took it down after Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was published professionally, the reason being that after going through the whole pro publishing process with G&B, I realised that my self-editing left a lot to be desired and I was no longer happy to have a flawed work out there. So I had sort-of planned to rework much of Pavonis with the help of a professional editor (and cover artist—the cover pretty much stinks), and come up with a better title (because Pavonis doesn’t tell you anything about what the book’s about). But after much consideration, I decided I’d rather focus on new works than try to fix old ones. And anyway, quite a few people liked the book despite its shortcomings. In the end I decided to just put it back out there. I might at some point upload a new version that fixes the known spelling errors and some formatting problems (a few passages display underlines and italics that weren’t in my source text), and I’m considering paying an artist to come up with better cover art. Maybe.

Meanwhile on the writing front, I’m building up the story line for the currently-untitled SF book I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of months. I’ll probably be getting back on that this afternoon.

Also, I did some tweaking of the web site to rearrange a few things and update a couple of pages. I think it’s looking pretty good.

On TV:

We’re saving Game of Thrones on DVR, with the intention of binge-watching when we have four or five episodes recorded. Reason: last year we watched the first episode of season six the night it showed—and at the end we were like a couple of addicts, craving more and cursing HBO for forcing us to wait a whole week for our next fix. So, not this time.

Meanwhile I’ve been re-watching season two of Dark Matter, and when I reach the end of that I’m planning on watching the available episodes of season three on on-demand.

On games:

I was given a new video card—a GTX950 to replace my older GTX560. I installed it yesterday afternoon, but wasn’t able to do anything with until the evening. I played some Serious Sam – The First Encounter and it did seem to be smoother. I’ll try it with something a bit more demanding on the video later; maybe No Man’s Sky. (I noticed NMS has had several patches since I played it last; if they fixed some of  the shortcomings that bugged me most, I might start playing it a bit more often.)

That’s enough for now. I need coffee and maybe I’ll watch a little TV before I get back to that SF story I mentioned.

Until next time . . .

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:

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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 . . .

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!

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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 petefordwriter.com 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!]

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 . . .

Achievement Unlocked: Artemis

A few minutes ago I finished a major (i.e. several weeks’ worth of work) editing pass of the typescript of The Artemis Device. That’s a working title, by the way, but it’s also not bad as a real title and so the final product might very well end up being called that.

The original first draft was written waaaay back, I think before Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia had been started. (Don’t quote me on that, though; I was juggling three or possibly four writing projects around that time, and I really don’t remember which order things got done in.)

Completing the original first draft was a major achievement, that much I remember. This time it’s even more of an achievement, really, because my publisher has already expressed serious interest. Right now my copy editor is busy working on, I think, two other projects from other authors, so she’s not quite ready to start looking at Artemis. That’s ok, though, because it needs just one more pass before it’s ready for anyone else to look at. (You want details? Ok; I need to read it through one more time, comparing it against my timeline spreadsheet, to make sure the scenes are all there and in the right order, and to give me another chance to spot and correct any formatting, spelling, and grammatical errors I might have missed. I might even find some places where  things are inconsistent—that happens sometimes, when I make a change to some part of the story but miss one or two places that the change should impact.)

As for the book itself, it’s a kind of gothic adventure story with steampunk and science-fiction elements. It was inspired to a degree by other stories like Gormenghast and Dark City (the 1998 movie starring Rufus Sewell—one of my all-time favourite films). In it, a small group of people uncover a secret that threatens the lives of everyone in their city, and this is set against a background of royal family intrigue and murder. And that’s all I’m saying about it at this point.

Since it’s barely on my publisher’s radar at the moment, I have no idea how it’s going to fit into their publishing schedule. As such I have no idea when it’ll be out on e-shelves. If I had to guess, (and without trying to second-guess my publisher), I’d say sometime in the first quarter of 2015.

I just uploaded thirty-one files, one per chapter, to the cloud for safekeeping. On that note, it’s time for me to wander to the bedroom and relax with a couple of episodes of Person Of Interest.

Until next time . . .

One Third

THE editing of Artemis is coming along. Not quite as quickly as I’d hoped—many distractions and interruptions—but all the same, it’s not doing too badly. I had problems with chapter nine, mostly because I marked up a bunch of comments on the timeline about certain things that needed adding—several bits of foreshadowing, mostly, for things coming in later chapters—and then during the actual editing I forgot to refer to those notes, so they didn’t get put in and I had to go back and fix things afterward. Not once, or twice, but thrice. And then when I was editing chapter ten, I astounded myself by doing the same damned thing again, and had to go back to fix that one up, too. It wasn’t as bad as chapter nine, but it still took extra time.

However, as of last night, chapter ten is done and I’ve made a dent in chapter eleven. Given that the entire work is thirty chapters long (at the moment; that might change when I realign chapters to even up the lengths), that puts me right about a third of the way through. And that, I think, isn’t too bad at all.

One thing I’ve noticed while doing this editing is that something like half of the actual edits and rewrites affect just the first handful of paragraphs of each scene. I think I know what’s happened, and it’s down to my writing process. When I’m writing the first draft, I look at a scene description in my timeline, then I think about how to turn that short description into the actual written scene. That thinking time can be anything from a quarter of an hour to several hours, depending on a lot of factors. When I’ve got the scene in my head in detail, I start writing. And I think what happens is that while I’m getting the first few paragraphs onto the page I’m still warming up, and the words aren’t flowing as well as they do later.

I’ve also noticed that I have a tendency to re-cap what’s gone on with the primary character just before the scene takes place. I’ll say things like, “She’d been to see her boss, who’d told her something important”. That’s a bad habit. I didn’t notice this so much during the editing of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, but that’s not to say I wasn’t doing it—my editors spotted it, and had me fix it. I guess I’ve learned that lesson, because now it stands out like a sore thumb when I read it. (And bear in mind that the Artemis first draft was written around about the time Gunn & Bohemia had been submitted, so at that time I’d never had the advantage of a professional editor looking at my work; as a result, it looked all right to me. Reading it a couple of years on, it’s most definitely not all right.)

So I now have a new step in my process, which is: when I’ve written a scene, I’ll go back and read the beginning and fix it if it needs it. (One day I’ll write this process down, for my own reference.)

Yesterday wasn’t so great on the progress front; I managed a little bit in the morning but then a whole bunch of other junk intervened and took up most of the day. I wasn’t able to get back into it until the evening (but at least I got some work done then, so it wasn’t all bad). Today, now that those errands and other junk have been done, things are looking a lot brighter. I do have a couple of small jobs to take care of—but those are the work of minutes, not hours, and don’t involve driving all over town like yesterday’s time-sponge.

And so, without further ado, the time has come to switch on the coffee maker and get properly wound into chapter eleven. I’d really like to get four chapters done today—that would get me up to halfway done, which would be a milestone to be proud of—but I doubt that’ll happen. From memory, I think I have at least two new scenes to write from scratch for chapter twelve, and maybe another one for chapter thirteen. All do-able, if I can work without distractions, but the chances of that are slim to zero. On the other hand, you never know.

Until next time . . .