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 . . .

Some Progress

Things are still busy on the day-job front—I’m still playing catch-up with the work that didn’t get done during the government shutdown. But the worst seems to be over. Today I got the code I’ve been working on to a point where I can’t really test it any more by my lonesome; that’s now in the hands of another guy who’s writing the code that will send data in for processing.

So, I’ve finally been able to spend more than a few minutes on some writing work. I was able to finish a short story and submit it. And I have to report that Smoke & Mirrors—the novel I was working on before Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia—has been put back on indefinite hold. It’s like this, you see . . . I was working on it, going through the scenes I’d already written, polishing them and in some cases tearing them out completely, and making notes of new scenes to be slotted in. But as I was doing that, I was also thinking about ideas for Gunn & Bohemia II. And the more I thought about that, the more obvious it became that I would have to stop work on Smoke to get those ideas written down before I forgot them. Those few notes became the beginnings of a timeline, and so on.

The upshot of all that is that I’m now working on G & B II pretty much exclusively. I have the backbone of the main story, and the beginnings of some side plots. I’ve met my characters, and although some can be considered old friends there are some new faces I have to get to know. And I even did something I don’t usually do at such an early stage: I’ve written a scene. I couldn’t help myself. This one scene has been rattling around in my head for a week or more. It wanted to be written. No; it demanded to be written, and it wasn’t going to let me rest until it was done. So I wrote it. Now, it can sit quietly until its time comes, and then it can be edited and slotted into place. Or torn down and rewritten, or torn out completely, if it doesn’t fit in by the time the rest is ready to be written.

And so, work continues, not rushed but steady, as I figure out the various threads of the story and get them down in note form. It’s going to be a while before I’m ready to begin the real writing; based on the time it took me with my other full-length stories, it could be anything from six to twelve weeks, depending on how much time I get during lunchtimes, evenings and weekends. It’s times like this that make me wish I could pack in the day-job and write full time. Perhaps one day, eh?

Which brings me to a few words about Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia. It’s had a couple of good reviews, and I expect to see more over the next couple of weeks; press releases have gone out, which—fingers crossed—will spur a lot of interest. Sell sheets are out in a handful of places, and I’m planning on hitting up a few more. And one thing happened that was pretty big from my perspective: I actually signed my first paperback copies! Two of them, in fact, within a few minutes of each other. The feeling that invokes is difficult to describe.

And so . . . it’s 9:30pm on a Monday night, and I have a 5:15am start in the morning, so I’m going to wrap this up and watch some TV. I was working to the sounds of Pandora earlier today, and The Lord of the Rings soundtrack was quite heavily featured. To the point that I now have an irresistible urge to watch all three movies, special edition length. Without further ado then, it’s time for The Fellowship of the Ring.

Until next time . . .

Busy, busy, busy . . .

Time for a few updates on where I am right now . . .

Day Job Stuff

When I got back to work from the shutdown, I expected my project deadlines to have been pushed back a bit. Wrong! The project I was working on when everything stopped had an end date of last Wednesday—and that didn’t change. Which meant I had about four days to complete a job that was originally scoped for three weeks. It was a tough few days but, thank goodness, I hit no serious roadblocks (apart from one technical problem, which was quickly sorted out thanks to a colleague who’d been down that same road before). Effort estimates usually include some wiggle room in case of problems, and this one was no different, but everything came together on the last day. It made for a pretty stressful start to the week, but I was able to put that behind me on Thursday.

Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia

The book seems to be doing well. I know I’ve made some sales (I won’t know precisely how many for a while), and I’ve seen a couple of reviews on Amazon (one on the US site, and one from the UK). So far, people are saying good things. And I haven’t even got into any real promotion yet. I’m barely started into arranging some things to get the word out—a blog tour is a strong possibility, as well as a signing or two locally. I’m hoping to get some progress in those directions this afternoon.

Around The World In 80 Days

The short story I wrote for Xchyler Publishing’s Around The World In 80 Days anthology contest is complete, as of a few days ago, and in shape to be submitted, as of about an hour ago (I started an editing pass last night, and finished up this morning). It is good. Without wishing to sound all conceited about it, I have to say it’s definitely one of my better short stories. I just hope it’s good enough—each of Xchyler’s contests seems to get more and better submissions.

Smoke & Mirrors

The next full-length story is coming along apace. This is the one I put to one side in February or March, and now Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is out there I’ve been able to get back to it. I’ve redone the timeline somewhat, and I’ve been editing the scenes I’d already written, working forward to the point where I’d had to stop. I’ve recovered the momentum, and the voices and personalities of my characters, so when I reach that point (which won’t be long now—I’m almost there), I should be able to carry on and pound through to the end. My plan is to have a first draft no later than the end of November, and get it into shape to submit sometime in December. Fingers crossed.

Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia II

Yes, a sequel is in the works. I have the basics of a storyline, but I’m still thrashing out details. That’s about all I can say at the moment.

That about wraps it up for now. I have my weekly online chat with the family coming up in a few minutes, so I’d better grab a coffee and get settled. Until next time . . .