What I Did On My Holiday

Not a lot, actually. I took Friday and Tuesday off from the day job to give me a five-day weekend, and I had intended to spend some of that time working on the SF stories, but I ended up not doing much on that. Monday was pretty much taken up with prepping stuff for the grill—chicken and smoked sausage, mostly—and then actually grilling and eating. Nevertheless I did manage to make a little progress on the writing—specifically, I figured out how to get round one particularly knotty problem with the fourth and last story. On that front, the plan now is to focus on getting the high-level structure of that story nailed down so that I can get on to building the timelines.

Given that I didn’t do any day job, and only did a little (if important) bit of writing work, the rest of the time was spent slacking, by which I mean binge-watching TV and movies: The Martian (again), Interstellar (again), and The Expanse (season one; I’m part way into season two).

Today, back to the day job and as usual on the first day back after a break I’m whacked. So the plan is to take a little break then pull up the spreadsheet for SF story the fourth and do a bit more work on it.

But first, time for tea.

Smoke & Mirrors

FRIDAY was a nightmare at the day job. An eleven and a half hour day with no breaks except when I forced myself to go to the kitchen to get coffee. (Warning: technical details ahead.) The biggest problem was trying to get two applications talking to each other over a secure connection—and even when I packed it up at around 7pm I still hadn’t got it working. The answer came to me this morning and so—even though it’s Saturday—I fired up the work laptop and fixed it. Normally I’d have left it until Monday, but it was bugging me.

With that out of the way I was able to focus a bit on some writing work. Not Artemis, though, because (wait for it . . .) Artemis is DONE. Well, the first draft is done, as much as I can reasonably do. It’s ready to go to my copy editor for her first pass.

So I’ve dusted off another script I was working on before Gunn & Bohemia. The working title on this one is Smoke & Mirrors, and it’s kind of a shame that I can’t use it as the real title when the time comes, because it’s a perfect fit. (Curse you, Neil Gaiman, for picking all the best titles.*) I’ve mentioned before (and on my WiP page) that this one is “steampunk with a twist” but that I couldn’t say much more than that without giving it away. For now the details will just have to remain secret.

I was under the impression that I’d already written about half of the first draft before editing work on Gunn & Bohemia took centre stage. It turns out I did quite a bit more; of a hundred and twenty-nine scenes on the timeline, eighty-seven are already done, putting me at two-thirds.

Over the last few days I’ve been taking a good look at what I’ve written so far (the first time I’ve looked at it for something like two years) to refresh my memory and get back into the swing. Very soon—quite possibly tomorrow—I’ll pick up where I left off. Forty-two scenes to go. That’s a good number; thanks to Douglas Adams, an auspicious number. I have a good feeling about this.

Now, though, it’s Saturday evening and time for some relaxation. I feel like watching movies; earlier I watched Cloud Atlas (for about the sixth time, I think—it’s most definitely in my top ten films of all time), and I’m seriously considering watching it again. I really can’t think of anything else I’d rather watch right now.

So I’m off to grab a cold beer and do that. Until next time . . .

(* Just kidding about the curse thing. Neil Gaiman: if you’re reading this, I loved The Ocean at the End of the Lane. And American Gods. And Stardust. And Good Omens. Etc. I haven’t read Smoke & Mirrors, though. Sorry.)

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 . . .

Just Say NO To TV

JUST a short one today, to mark the fact that I’ve realised that I’ve been NOT READING because I’ve been watching far too much TV in my relaxation time. Over the last few weeks I’ve re-watched every episode of Firefly. And season 4 of Fringe. And season 5 of Fringe. And most of season 6 of The X-Files, with the intention of getting into seasons 7, 8, and 9. And Carnivàle. And other stuff I can’t even remember, senile as I am.

Meanwhile I have a Kindle and a Nook, both of which have a bunch of books on them—some of which have not been touched, and others that I’ve started reading but didn’t finish. Yet. I haven’t abandoned them, or given up. I just haven’t put aside ANY time for reading. And as an author that’s pretty damned bad. I NEED to be reading. I need to see how other authors write. I mentioned in an earlier post (in April, I think it was) how Keith Roberts’ Pavane wasn’t just writing, but poetry, painting mental pictures with words. It’s influenced my own writing, and it’s not the only writing that has. Stephen King is not alone in saying that authors must read.

So, a decision. I’m going to make a point of splitting off time from watching TV and using it to read instead. For example, if I want to watch a 45-minute episode of The X-Files, I will spend 45 minutes reading before I allow myself to do that. (And anyway, the chances are once I start reading I won’t want to stop just because the clock says 45 minutes has passed; I know I’ll want to carry on.)

On that note, this blog post ends here. In a few minutes, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Until next time . . .

Half Day? Not So’s You’d Notice…

The day job has been driving me pretty batty the last few weeks. Among other things I’ve been putting in some long hours to fix problems left behind by people who’ve left. To be more precise, most of the problems were left by just one guy, who left a project in such a messed up state that the only real way to fix it would be to throw it in the trash and start over. Unfortunately that isn’t an option. I’m stuck with patching the thing up with the software equivalent of duct tape. Right now it’s clunking along like a wagon with square wheels, and every day another problem shows up needing fixing.

Three or four weeks ago I put in about twelve extra hours, so I’d planned on taking the following Thursday afternoon and all day Friday off. It never happened; the problems just kept coming, and I had no choice but to continue working on them. This week was much the same—I’ve worked an extra four hours, so I’d planned on working this morning then having an easy afternoon (or rather, spending a few hours editing The Voyage of Valerie McGrath). I should have known better. It ended up being an eleven hour day (thanks to which I’ve missed another release party for one of the other Xchyler authors, damn it), and somehow I also got myself signed up to put in some more hours over the weekend. I must be nuts.

What’s really crazy about the whole situation is that I’ve been working on a design for this whole thing that would solve all the problems. It’s modular, it’s clean, it’s efficient and would be easy to maintain—and I could probably develop the entire thing, end-to-end, in no more than three or four weeks. So far, keeping this steaming pile clunking along has taken more than that, and there’s no end in sight. Please, dear employer, if you’re reading this, consider letting me build the thing so we can dump the current train-wreck in the garbage where it belongs.

I should get into some editing now, but it’s 8:30pm and I’ve had enough. My brain is fried. I need tea, and to watch a movie (Sherlock Holmes, with Downey and Law, methinks) then get some well-deserved sleep. Tomorrow, on with short-story editing.

I’m looking forward to a day when I can write a blog post about writing, and editing, and story lines, instead of day job concerns that are dogging my every waking moment. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. This can’t go on much longer . . .


The timeline for the sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is coming along, slowly but steadily. I have about fifty scenes down so far. It’s surprisingly hard work. Each of the story elements in my rough outline gets broken down into a sequence of scenes in my head, and I start writing them in. But then there’s quite a bit of shuffling things around—deciding which character’s point of view is going to be shown for any given scene can be tough, and sometimes it’s easier to break a scene in two, so that part of the action is shown for a different character. And all the time I’ve got the side-plots buzzing in my head, and I have to think about how I’m going to slot those in. I’ve been at this for something like four hours, on and off, and to be honest I think I need to take a break and watch a movie, or something, and do a bit more later.

On the subject of movies, I had an urge to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies back to back. In the end I watched them in chunks of an hour or so at a time over the last few days. I reached the end of Return of the King last night (fast forwarding over that sappy part where Bilbo and Frodo leave with the elves—the only part of the trilogy that I find unbearably yawn-inducing). What next? I thought. And I already knew the answer: dig out the Oblivion DVD. So I hunted high and low through our DVD collection. Couldn’t find it. Which just made things worse—the more I couldn’t find it, the more I wanted to watch it. And I still want to watch it, so when I’m done with this post I’m going to search again. This time I’ll hunt low and high; maybe that’ll make a difference.

Since I’m here, a quick update on Gunn & Bohemia: I have to say I’m a bit disappointed on the review front. The reviews it’s had so far have been very good—One five-star, one four-star, and a couple of five-star ratings—but I’d expected to see a few more come in over the last few days, and there’s been nothing. I’m probably just being impatient. The book’s only been out a month. Calm down. Breathe.

I also found a local independent bookstore that will put a few print copies of the book on their shelves. It’s something they do for local authors only—northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, and that’s it. Next step on that front is to get some print copies (which I was hoping to have organised already, but, well, circumstances beyond my control and all that . . . I should have it sorted by around the middle of next week). They also do signing events for local authors (same constraints on the area) but they’re booked solid on that for something like the next three months, so I won’t be able to arrange anything until at least February. Oh, well.

[That’s weird, now that I think about it. A few months ago I’d have have been all knotted up inside at the prospect of being on display in a bookshop, and relieved at there being a delay. Now I’m actually disappointed that I can’t do it right now, damn it. Strange how things change.]

That’s enough for today. I really want to watch Oblivion. Time to go on the great DVD hunt. 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 . . .