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 . . .

Happy New Year!

Hello all! And a Happy New Year to all my followers.

Yes, I know I’m a few days late with that. The holiday ended up being a break from pretty much everything that didn’t have a direct connection to Christmas-related family things, right through from the day I wrote the previous post here, until New Year’s Day. So I was cooking, and helping with tidying and cleaning the house, on the days leading up to Christmas Day itself, then doing other things such as entertaining visiting family for the following week. That included driving number-one-son down to Denver to buy computer parts, and taking a long walk along the Devil’s Backbone (if you follow me on Twitter you might have seen the pictures I posted).

When the holiday was officially over, Thursday, I was back in the office and of course that meant I was immediately swamped with the backlog of work that had built up while I was out. And on top of that, I’ve been helping a new guy get started, since he’ll be taking over from me on one of the projects I’ve been involved with for the last few months. Thursday and Friday ended up being pretty hectic because of all that. Then yesterday it was time to take down the tree and do some other cleaning up that took my wife and I until around 1am—so we don’t have to worry about any of that today, but it did mean that my plan to get some book work done went out the window.

So I’ve had little time for Twitter, Facebook or Google+, and no time for blogging, and I’ve made no progress at all—not so much as a scratch—on the Gunn & Bohemia sequel, beyond a few scribbled notes about a few changes I want to make to the timeline, for the last two weeks.

Today I begin getting wound back into all that. I have those notes about the timeline changes, and I’ll be getting busy with that shortly. Also, beginning this week, I’ll be doing more to promote Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia—although I’m not quite sure yet how I might do that. One thing that’s for sure is to try to get readers to post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and so on.

Before I sign off to get started on the timeline, though, I do have one piece of excellent news to report: The short story I wrote for Xchyler Publishing’s Around the World in 80 Days anthology competition was accepted! Yay! I received the contract papers just the other day. I expect to be able to begin editing work on that shortly, and it should see the light of day in early Spring, I think.

On that note, then, it’s time to refresh my tea mug and get busy. Until next time, gentle reader . . .

Getting Your Book on Shelves, and An Interview

Interview

Gentle readers, I did an interview! J. Aurel Guay asked me a bunch of questions about my past, present, and future writing. Enjoy! The page is here.

Consignments – or, Getting Your Book On Shelves

A tip for writers: you’ve seen those shelves in your local bookshops that say Local Author (or something similar). Wouldn’t it be cool to see print copies of your works there? Of course it would. Here’s how:

  1. Find your local indie bookshops. You might already know them, or some of them. Do a web search and make a list.
  2. Next, check each of those shops’ web pages. What you’re looking for is the magic word, Consignment. It might be on a Local Author page, or marked with something like How To Get Your Book In The Store, or perhaps there’s a listing under FAQs.
  3. If the bookshop offers consignment packages, you’re almost there. Read the conditions. Check to see what packages they offer. Then simply follow their instructions.

How do I know all this? Because I just went through the process myself. I have three indie bookshops in my area, and all offer several consignment deals. One was far too expensive—five times the price, for much the same package that the other two offer. Those other two, though, have just what I was looking for: for a small fee, I get print copies on a prominent shelf, and a mention in the shop’s newsletter. As I write this, Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins has copies of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia on the shelf, in the public eye. And if all goes well, another indie bookshop in Denver will have copies available in a couple of weeks (more details on that when it happens).

So, if your book is out there, and you have a box of print copies, what better way to get the word out than have them on display in a bookshop?

That’s all I have time for today. Until next time . . .