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 . . .

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.

Terra Mechanica Release and Afterthoughts

The Release Party

THE party went really well, I thought. Although I was pretty tired from a day (a whole week, in truth) of working on our new house, I was able to keep up with the Facebook traffic, and I had great fun to the point where my half-hour question/answer/contest session was over before I knew it. The other authors did a fine job, and the joint was jumping for the almost four hours I was online. (I had to bail out a little early, unfortunately, but going back over the Facebook page it looks like things stayed lively.)

Now, I would be remiss to write this without the shameless plug for the book. It’s available for Kindle, Nook, and in paperback (and keep an eye open for other formats such as Kobo).

A Question That Intrigued Me

ONE question that came up during the party: What I want to know is how do you write such intriguing female characters?

My answer to that is, I really just don’t know. It’s not something I give conscious thought to as I’m writing—I just write the characters’ actions and dialogue in a way that’s right for that person, in line with how I see them in my mind. But the question bugged me all day yesterday, and I got to thinking about it while I was working on the house. I think I might have an answer.

I’ve never thought of women as being “like men, only less.” For me, women are “like men, but a bit different in some ways.” I think it’s daft not to acknowledge that men are, on average, physically stronger than women. And I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone if I suggest that women think about things in a different way. Not a wrong way, or an inferior way—just different. I suspect that’s a biological difference.

And women—on average—tend to be more expressive when it comes to emotions. In my view, men can be just as emotional, but we tend to keep things inside more, the result being that women might seem weak in that regard, in the same way that men who wear their hearts on their sleeves often seem weak to the macho men. I tend to think this is more from cultural pressures than biological imperatives.

The point is, I don’t think of women as property, or skivvies, or as some kind of appendage dependent on men. Psychologically, mentally, women are in general at least as strong as men. They can be just as determined, just as assertive, and more. And that, I think, comes across when I write the words and actions and thoughts of my female characters.

Is that the answer? I don’t know for certain, but I do know I’ll continue to write my characters—male and female—in the same way, because honestly I don’t know any other way to write them. I’d have a hard time writing female characters that had no substance to them, mere shadows cast by the light of men, dependent and submissive. Some of my readers might be old enough to remember a certain series of science-fiction/fantasy books that began in the sixties and is still, unfortunately, going strong; books that objectify women and portray them as enjoying or even needing to be treated that way. I made the mistake of reading one once.  I’m not about to mention it by name because while I’m not in favour of censorship, I think misogynistic tripe like that should be marginalised and forgotten in this, the twenty-first century. I can’t imagine myself writing anything like that.

The House Move

THINGS are coming on, if slowly. We can’t begin moving our stuff in until the floors are done (we’re having the carpet in the living room replaced with hardwood, and getting new carpet in a couple of the other rooms because what’s there is pretty old). In the meantime I took most of last week off so that I could do some other work—painting the garage and porch, fixing door handles and locks, cleaning the carpet in the basement rooms, and a bunch of other little things. I have shelves to put up in the basement, and I’ll be doing some of that this evening (and mowing the grass again). Once that’s done we can begin moving some things in; stuff we don’t use often, that’s currently in the basement in the old place. Then, at last, it’ll begin to feel as if we’re making some real progress.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .

We Bought A House . . .

. . . which is why I’ve been so lax on the writing, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, and google-plussing (are these even words?) front over the last few days. Since we closed the deal and got the keys last Friday, it’s been all hands to the pumps—mowing grass, cleaning, painting, and doing some small fix-ups like fixing a broken door handle and getting the sprinklers working. So this is just a brief note while I sip the last of my coffee before I head back to the new place and carry on painting the porch. But I’m planning on being a bit more active on the Twitter front at least, while I do some more odd-jobbing. There might even be photos! Follow @PeteFordWriter as I take on the second coat, and maybe even scrub the garage floor. Go on, you know you want to.

Tech Blecch

We’ve had a couple of days of technical awfulness. Allow me to regale you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Our cable carrier had been pressing me for several weeks to replace the old cable modem with a new one, which would give us access to their new, higher Internet speeds. I simply hadn’t had the time to deal with it, though, and let it slide. That changed Monday night, when the digital cable on the living room TV died. If I have to fix that, thought I, then I might as well get the modem sorted out while I’m about it.

Tuesday was my last day at work before my break. My plan was to make sure everything was rolled up, no loose ends, before I took off. So much for the plan, though. I ended up having to fix a critical problem on one of the production systems, then while I was at it fix three other not-so-critical (but still important) problems. That left no time to deal with the cable problems in the evening.

So that began in earnest yesterday morning. I drove down to the service centre to pick up a new modem (they didn’t insist on me taking the old one in first, thank goodness), then replaced that. Easy job—just switch the cables over, power up the new one, make a phone call to activate it, and all was happy.

Well, actually, not quite. The cable TV in the bedroom was working, but the WiFi router wasn’t, so we had no Internet. I tried resetting it; no soap. I think it was just plain too old and didn’t want to talk to the new modem. And I’d been meaning to replace it sooner or later, anyway, so off I went to buy a new router. Got home, installed it—and then we had WiFi. Which was of course a good thing, but meant that I then had to set up every WiFi device in the house to use the new connection. Which took something like an hour, because it turns out that we have twelve such devices. Amazing how much we’re getting to rely on WiFi these days. Even my desktop PC uses WiFi—it doesn’t have an Ethernet port (I was told that very few do, these days).

And then . . . my wife told me there was no dial tone on the phones. (Yes, we still have a land-line phone, even though we both have cellphones. Don’t laugh so hard, and stop giving me funny looks.) I checked wires, reset the modem, tried a few things, including calling customer service. No good. I scheduled an appointment for a tech to check it out, then left it alone.

Next step: fix the cable TV in the living room—and replace it with an HD unit, since the old one was SD despite being hooked to an HDTV, and at the same time replace the DVR unit in the bedroom with a new one, since the old one wasn’t always recording when it should. So I yanked those out, added them to the old cable modem, and drove down to the service centre. Half an hour or so later I was back, and a short while after that we had HD cable in the living room and a new DVR in the bedroom. Other than the non-working phones, all was well. Internet seemed to be stable and faster than before, and the TV pictures were definitely improved, too.

Until this morning. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7:30am, bleary-eyed and woozy, I was  informed by my wife that the bedroom TV was showing nothing but a message to the effect that we were NOT AUTHORIZED. I checked the living room TV; same thing. So before even making the first tea of the day, I was on the phone to customer service. And they told me that somehow the new cable boxes I’d picked up weren’t showing in their system. I can give you the serial numbers, I said. That won’t do, she said, the bar codes have to be scanned. Total B.S.—the bar codes are there to make entering the numbers faster and foolproof, but you can do it by typing the number in, too. But she wouldn’t have it, and insisted I take the units back to the service centre.

So I did. And the guy there told me there was something funny going on—the labels had been scanned, but now the system didn’t show them. So he replaced the DVR with a fresh one, even though that wasn’t strictly necessary, and replaced the HD box from the living room with a second DVR. And so far, they seem to be working just fine.

Last step: the phones. The tech came along as promised, checked a couple of things, made a couple of calls on his own phone, and fixed it. Turned out the guy I’d spoken to the day before had missed a code number in the system, and as a result the line hadn’t been activated. He had it working in twenty minutes or so, and now at last everything is happy, and that means I’m happy.

So, enough of the tech blecch. Time for tea, then back to work on my timeline. Until next time . . .

Floods and Book Progress

First of all . . .

To those who asked about how the floods affected us, thank you! We’re lucky, in that our place is on ground that’s a little higher. As such, although there were some problems on the roads, and it looks like the wet got into the electrics in the garage and took the fridge down (fixed by running an extension from another room), we got off lightly. Please spare a thought, though, for those not so fortunate, and make a donation if you can. Right now we have blue sky, but the forecast is saying there’s more rain on the way, and we’re still getting flood warnings on the telly. It’s not over yet.

Book Progress

The last couple of weeks has seen a big burst of stuff going on with Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, in that a whole herd of different jobs all came to a close at roughly the same time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we now have cover artwork, back-cover blurb, bio, acknowledgements, and dedication all done. Yesterday we finished the proofreading of the individual chapters—another milestone! The next step, I think, is for those chapters to be compiled into a single mock-up, which will go off to various people for a semi-final reading to spot remaining problems. That should be happening just about now, in fact, if I understand things correctly. I should be getting my copy pretty soon. On the publicity front, I’m expecting the official release date and the cover artwork to be revealed sometime in the next week or two, and there’ll almost certainly be a Facebook release party announced for the big day.

Loose Ends

Which means, by the way, that right at this moment I’m at a bit of a loose end. It’s a bit after 2pm Saturday, and just for once I’m not writing, or editing, or proofreading. After months of spending weekends and evenings on G & B, it seems weird and alien. So, I’m doing what any writer with time on their hands would do: I’m thinking about the next writing project. To be a little more accurate, I’m thinking about five writing projects, and deciding which of them is going to be next. Two of them are definitely not in the running for now. At this moment it’s a three-way toss-up between:

  • a steampunk short story for Xchyler Publishing‘s next anthology;
  • Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia II: The British Empire Strikes Back*;
  • getting back to work on Smoke & Mirrors, the full-length story I put to one side six or seven months ago.

There’s plenty of time to decide; whatever I do, I won’t be starting in earnest until G & B is wrapped up and ready for release.

On that note, I think I’ll whiz out to the store and grab a chicken for dinner. Until next time . . .

* Chance that there will be a sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia: 99.99%. Chance that it will have that title: 0.00%, even though I’m a big Star Wars fan.

Going Round The Bend

For the first time I can remember in something like five months, I actually have no writing work to do—and it’s driving me nuts.

Weekends are, for me, the best days to write. Saturday and Sunday mornings are usually quiet, and I can slam through a couple of thousand words pretty easily, or focus on editing for a long stretch without interruptions and distractions. Recently, I’ve been working on editing Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia, and that’s been keeping me busy pretty much every weekend (except last weekend, of course, since we were at the Salt City Steamfest). It’s been so long since I did anything else, I’ve got used to spending weekend mornings doing that.

Today is different. I looked at the tracking sheet I use to keep up with where things are—and there’s nothing for me to do. Nada. Zip. Of the twelve chapters, two are with my copy editor, and the other ten are with my line editor. Until I get something back from one of them, I’m stuck. I want to move, do something, edit, edit, edit. But I can’t.

As Leon said, nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch.

I have other writing projects. There’s Smoke and Mirrors, which is, right now, a half-written first draft that was put to one side several months ago to make way for Gunn & Bohemia. But that’s a big job; I need to completely rework the timeline, for one thing, and then almost certainly rewrite—or at least edit, pretty drastically—every scene that’s been written so far. That’s not something I want to get into until I can work on it exclusively. That means not until G & B is ready to be unleashed. Now is not the time.

There’s the fantasy short I’ve been working on here and there, for Xchyler’s Back To The Future anthology contest. It’s partly written, and submissions are open until the end of the month, so there’s time. The trouble with that one is . . . well, to be honest, it’s boring. The story is complete, and I’m partway through the writing, but it’s too plain. It needs something—a twist, a surprise ending, some whiz-bang. As it stands, everything is too obvious, too easy. I need to think of something to make it stand out. If I can come up with something, perhaps I can really get that one going.

In a little while, there’s Xchyler’s release party for A Dash Of Madness (see my previous post for details and links), and I’m planning on being there at least part of the time. Another Saturday tradition is an hour or so on Skype, chatting with family. And the front lawn needs mowing; I’ll be taking care of that later. This is also the last weekend of the Colorado Renaissance Festival, and we were planning on going—but Kate’s sick with something and not up to the trip. Oh well; next year, maybe.

There are gaps to fill where the editing used to be. Editing drives me crazy at times—but not editing is driving me crazier, quicker.

I think I need coffee.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .

[Update, Sunday morning: three chapters came back from my line editor yesterday afternoon. I am editing. My day is complete.]

What A Week

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy week; I haven’t had the time.

On the writing front, I’ve been trying to work on line edits for Chapter 2 of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia. I had a few minutes here and there, but not enough time to really get into it until yesterday, when I was at last able to finish the first pass—that’s the one where I take care of the minor rewording and punctuation fixes; it helps built up some momentum for the second pass, where I deal with the bigger (but also, thankfully, far fewer) changes that require heavier rewriting.

So, right now, that’s where I am with Chapter 2: warming up with a blog post while I wait for tea to brew, then I’ll be getting into that second pass. I have every intention of getting that finished and back to my line editor today.

On the everyday stuff: Monday I took off sick (fever; no idea what brought that on), Tuesday we drove down to the INS in Denver to take care of some papers, then Wednesday it was back to day-job work—which is under a tight deadline, so I wasn’t able to get into the above-mentioned editing even during lunch breaks.

Today, we’d originally planned to go to the Colorado Renaissance Festival down in Larkspur—but we ended up watching Breaking Bad (for the first time) on Netflix until 2am. So now it’s coming up to 10:30am and I’m barely awake, and in any case the weather doesn’t look so good. So I think this is going to be an easy day at home. In a little while, once my eyes are properly open, I’ll get back into the editing.

Once that editing’s done and the chapter’s in shape, the next thing I have planned is an hour or so on the still-as-yet-untitled fantasy short story. On that one, I’d reached a scene in which the two central characters have just met, and there’s a certain amount of dialogue—but on reading it back, the conversation comes over as forced. That needs some work, then it’s on with the story. Submissions open in ten days, and it’s not likely that I’ll be finished in time to submit on day one, but I have all of August; it will be completed in time.

Another thing I want to try to take care of today is a little bit of Twitter maintenance, spurred by a post on the Xchyler Publishing blog. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a follower-farmer; I don’t do the thing where you follow a boatload at random, hope they follow back, dump the ones who don’t, rinse and repeat. I don’t see the point. I follow people who have something interesting to say—or at least, that’s the intention—and I try to read all their tweets, so that limits the number I can follow (currently that’s about a hundred and forty). But it turns out that I’m following some people who really don’t say anything beyond marketing their book (or another person’s book), and perhaps retweeting in bursts (I’m talking about individuals here; I also follow publishers, and I expect them to be marketing—that’s their business—so that’s ok with me). There are also a few who I’m following purely because I followed them back in the days before I realised what was going on with the boatload system, and I never got round to cleaning that up. It’s past time to prune that particular bush, methinks.

Next weekend, we’ll be at Salt City Steamfest! The plan is to be there all day Saturday, so come and find me—I’ll be the one not wearing much in the way of Steampunk gear (I really don’t have any just yet, and I won’t have time to get any before the show). I’ll likely be at or near the Xchyler Publishing booth most of the time, and I’ll probably be on a panel to answer a few questions at some point. It promises to be great fun, and we’re looking forward to it.

Until next time . . .