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 . . .

How To Change Direction By Slamming Your Head Into A Wall

IT’S official: the sequel to Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is on hold for a while. I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing it and I’ve been putting the blame for that on the disruptions generated by our recent house move, but after sitting back and doing some soul-searching I finally realised the truth: I wasn’t happy with the story I’d developed. Let me qualify that a little bit. I was, and still am, enthusiastic about the story’s Big Picture. The problem is in the details—the subplots and the “flow” of the story as a whole. I can’t explain how it went wrong—possibly that house move thing was part of it, possibly not—but the upshot is that the timeline needs some serious rethinking before I write another word. Seriously, I don’t even want to look at the current timeline in case it pollutes my thinking. So I’m going to start over from clean. But that’s not going to happen right away. I need time away from the project so I can order my thoughts. In the meantime I’m working on something else.

A couple of years ago I wrote a full-length story with a working title of The Artemisia Chronicle. It got put to one side when I started focussing on editing Gunn & Bohemia, and then after G&B was published I got pretty much straight into thinking about the sequel, so my other projects stayed on the shelf. Now that I’ve decided to mothball Gunn & Bohemia II for a bit, this story has been dusted off and is back in play. Today I finished reconstructing its timeline by skimming every scene and summarising it in a spreadsheet. The next step will be to review that timeline and fix a handful of problems (for example, there are a couple of early scenes that happen impossibly close together in time). Once that’s straightened out I have some work to do to fix a subplot that doesn’t really do anything, and then the ending needs some work to give it a bit more cowbell.

Once I’m happy with that timeline I’ll be editing every scene. In some cases that might mean a complete rewrite; there will almost certainly be new scenes needed, and it’s more than likely that certain scenes will be trashed. That’s the way these things go. The end result will be a shiny new story, ready to be submitted to my publisher. And because it’s already been written once, it won’t take a very long time to write it again. Depending on the publisher’s schedule it might even be on shelves before the end of the year.

Watch this space.

You’re Invited to a Book Launch Party!

Mark it on your calendar: May 31 is publication day for Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology! There’s going to be a Facebook party and the authors of all the stories in the book (including yours truly) will be there to chat and answer questions. Sign up for the party now, and say I sent you: CLICK HERE

TerraMechanica

The Day That Became Steampunk

This is a repost of an article I wrote on my old blog. From September 8, 2012, I bring you . . .

The Day That Became Steampunk

We just had the weirdest day.

We’d set off from home intending to visit Shambhala Mountain, a Buddhist place up near Red Feather Lakes. We never got that far. First, Google Maps gave us a route that was definitely not the most direct. Still, I followed the directions and we were at least heading the right general direction.

As we came to a tiny place called Masonville, Kate started to feel a bit queasy (she sometimes gets motion sickness in the car) so I pulled over so that we could take a break. We looked around this little outdoor museum kind of thing for a few minutes then decided to check out the general store across the street. There’s a picture of the place here. And inside we found a wonder. Right there in the middle of nowhere, Colorado, in a place that looks like it has a two-digit population and that doesn’t even have mobile phone service, the general store sells STEAMPUNK STUFF. Well, not just that; they also have Victorian period style replica clothes and a bunch of other things – but hell, Steampunk things in such an out-of-the-way place?

IMG_20120908_143806Clothes. Jewellery. Hats. Goggles. Monocles. Even bridal wear. The place is way bigger inside than you’d guess from a look at the front.

IMG_20120908_144726

(This hat here? I’m ordering one in my size.)

So I took some pictures – which I couldn’t tweet because of aforementioned lack of phone service – and I bought some stuff. (I’m only sorry now that I didn’t take more pics. However we’re planning on going back and I’ll make a point of taking a bunch more.)

IMG_20120908_144836

And the lady that runs the place mentioned that quite a few people go there for this stuff, and asked us whether we were planning to go to the Steampunk Convention in Denver that we’d never heard of and is happening in just a few weeks. (I did a search and the only thing I can see for about the right date is MileHiCon; if anyone reading this has better information I’d like to hear it.)

IMG_20120908_194459

So it’s all very strange in hindsight. If Google had given me the most direct route, or if Kate hadn’t started feeling odd when she did, or if we hadn’t decided to go and take a look in the store, we might never have known about this place. Weird.