Dear Diary . . .

MY regular readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Epping) might have noticed that every now and then I post something here that’s more like a rambling journal entry than an article about something specific.

This is one of those. Day job and household chores took over things for the last couple of days; I did find time to get a few things done, though, and now I feel like rambling a bit. Let the rambling begin . . .

On books and writing:

As I mentioned in the last post, I uploaded a correctly-formatted version of Finish Your Book, and now that should be what gets downloaded by readers. I tested it and it looks the way I intended the first time round.

I also re-published Pavonis, which was the first full-length story I ever published. It was originally self-published in 2012, but I took it down after Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was published professionally, the reason being that after going through the whole pro publishing process with G&B, I realised that my self-editing left a lot to be desired and I was no longer happy to have a flawed work out there. So I had sort-of planned to rework much of Pavonis with the help of a professional editor (and cover artist—the cover pretty much stinks), and come up with a better title (because Pavonis doesn’t tell you anything about what the book’s about). But after much consideration, I decided I’d rather focus on new works than try to fix old ones. And anyway, quite a few people liked the book despite its shortcomings. In the end I decided to just put it back out there. I might at some point upload a new version that fixes the known spelling errors and some formatting problems (a few passages display underlines and italics that weren’t in my source text), and I’m considering paying an artist to come up with better cover art. Maybe.

Meanwhile on the writing front, I’m building up the story line for the currently-untitled SF book I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of months. I’ll probably be getting back on that this afternoon.

Also, I did some tweaking of the web site to rearrange a few things and update a couple of pages. I think it’s looking pretty good.

On TV:

We’re saving Game of Thrones on DVR, with the intention of binge-watching when we have four or five episodes recorded. Reason: last year we watched the first episode of season six the night it showed—and at the end we were like a couple of addicts, craving more and cursing HBO for forcing us to wait a whole week for our next fix. So, not this time.

Meanwhile I’ve been re-watching season two of Dark Matter, and when I reach the end of that I’m planning on watching the available episodes of season three on on-demand.

On games:

I was given a new video card—a GTX950 to replace my older GTX560. I installed it yesterday afternoon, but wasn’t able to do anything with until the evening. I played some Serious Sam – The First Encounter and it did seem to be smoother. I’ll try it with something a bit more demanding on the video later; maybe No Man’s Sky. (I noticed NMS has had several patches since I played it last; if they fixed some of  the shortcomings that bugged me most, I might start playing it a bit more often.)

That’s enough for now. I need coffee and maybe I’ll watch a little TV before I get back to that SF story I mentioned.

Until next time . . .

Ranting and Reading and TV, Oh My

THINGS have been… well, hectic is the first word that comes to mind. I’ve been working ten-hour days and seven-day weeks on the day-job project for a few months. Hence: no blog posts, little Twitter activity, and so on. Most days after finishing work I’ve been too tired to do anything more than watch TV until I fall asleep.

At last, that’s coming to a close. Today is the first Saturday I haven’t had to work in quite a while (well, almost; I did about an hour first thing to tidy up a couple of little jobs). And so, time for a blog post. Whee!

So first, let me get the obligatory Trump rant out of the way. Yes, I’m worried. I’m concerned for the twenty million or more people who could lose medical insurance cover (including the people who voted for Trump thinking he didn’t really mean what he said about repealing the ACA… you silly people, you), and I worry about what the impact of a bigoted administration on minorities is likely to be, and I’m scared half to death about the long-term damage a cabinet-load of shit-for-brains climate change deniers will be, and I’m really worried about what a thin-skinned “president” with the maturity of a twelve-year old and access to the nuclear arsenal could do if someone slights him and sets him stomping his little feet.

Whatever happens, the country (and the rest of the world) is in for a rough ride, but there are a few glimmers of hope: there’s still the chance that the Electoral College will do their duty come December 19 and reject Trump the Chump; if they don’t, there’s the possibility that he’ll do something incredibly stupid and illegal that’ll get him impeached (I can kinda see that happening before this time next year, to be honest); meanwhile there are plenty of sensible people on both sides of the aisle who’ll oppose him and his Bizarro-world cabinet of defectives, hopefully enough to be able to stop some of the worst from coming to pass; and then there are the activists like the ACLU and others who’ll be doing their level best, too. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but the alternative is ulcers, and having had one of those I’m trying to stay hopeful.

RANT OVER.

Now to other things. As I said, I’m back to something like normal on the work front, and that means more time for other things INCLUDING GETTING BACK TO WRITING, YAY! The Artemis Device has been sitting there since, what, April? waiting for me to edit it so that it can be published. I actually did some work on it today. After so long away from it, I’m rusty; I still haven’t finished chapter 1, even. But I’ll do some more tomorrow and I plan on setting some time aside on work days, too, to get more done. The more I do, the more momentum I’ll get built up and the easier it’ll get. I’ll be glad when it’s all finished, because I have two other writing projects I want to work on but I’m not allowing myself to get sidetracked until this editing is done, done, done. But boy, today was kinda rough.

What else?

Reading: I’m about 80% through Abaddon’s Gate (book three of The Expanse). Damn, these books are good.

TV: I admit it, I can be a terrible binge-watcher at times. I’m finally watching the last couple of seasons of The X-Files (for the first time ever). I watched both seasons of Carnivàle (don’t you hate it when a damned good show gets cancelled because, hey, good TV don’t mean nothin’ if the advertisers aren’t making their pile). I’ve been watching Fringe again, and I’m part way into season 4. Things on my list that I haven’t got to yet: Westworld and Twelve Monkeys.

Enough blog post for now. I call beer o’clock, and time for dinner. Meanwhile, here’s Vixey the cat to keep you company:

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Until next time, gentle reader…

Reading List, TV List

THANKS to a two-week break over Christmas and New Year I was able to spend a bit more time catching up with my reading list. And there’s been some seriously good TV on, too.

As a result, here’s a short list of some books and TV I’d like to recommend.

Books

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan: (I posted a review of this a couple of weeks ago.) Steampunk/Alternate History. I couldn’t put it down. As I write this, it’s on sale for $1.99 in the US Kindle Store.

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Dammit, why does this thing keep putting pictures sideways?

Unseemly Science by Rod Duncan: Sequel to The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, and again I couldn’t put it down. In Duncan’s alternate-history Britain, the International Patent Office stifles scientific research that they consider “unseemly”—but medical research is an exception, and is never unseemly. Or is it? Elizabeth Barnabus, our hero from the first book, finds herself following the trail of a surgeon who’s up to no good. Also on sale in the US Kindle Store at the moment. A third book is coming out on February 2 (eBook and US release; February 4 for UK paperback), and I have that date marked in my calendar.

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Planetfall by Emma Newman. I started into this yesterday and I’m about two-thirds through. A must-read for sci-fi fans. [UPDATE: finished it. Damn, this is a good read.]

[More updates: I knew I’d forgotten a few things:]

The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. This is a series of urban fantasy novels about a two thousand year-old Irish Druid living in Arizona. Now, I’ve never been big on urban fantasy in the past but these books (and Chuck Wendig’s (see below)) have changed all that. These aren’t your dad’s fantasy stories, all heavy-going plodding stuff. These are fun reads you’ll find hard to put down. Trust me on this.

The Miriam Black novels by Chuck Wendig. More urban fantasy; darker and grittier stuff than Iron Druid. Miriam Black just needs to touch someone to know how and when they will die. That takes a terrible toll on her; she’s definitely damaged goods, but you can’t help being on her side. Three books to date, with a fourth out at the end of February 2017 (yes, you read that right. 2017.)

TV

(Actually I watched these online—my cable provider has an on-demand feature that means I can watch TV shows in a browser, and some shows are available online before they air. In case you’re wondering.)

The Expanse: On Ceres, a police investigator is trying to track down a missing heiress, and meanwhile someone’s trying to start a war between Earth and Mars. Oh, boy. I can’t say much about this without risking spoilers, so I’ll just say that if you haven’t seen it then you should. I’m five episodes in and can’t wait for the next one. (Aside: I’ve always liked Thomas Jane and his performance in this is, I think, the best he’s given.)

Outlander: Right after WWII, a woman is transported back to mid-18th century Scotland. The entire first season had aired before I started watching, so I’ve been catching up. I’m nine episodes in and pretty well hooked. And I want to punch Black Jack Randall right in the face. (One thing, though: as an Englishman with one-quarter Scottish blood, I can’t help but wonder if English soldiers of the 18th century, as depicted in shows like this and numerous others, were really that nasty and evil. It seems to be generally accepted without question that they were. I’d really like to know how accurate that is.)

Colony: Alien invasion story—which maybe has been done to death, especially recently, but there’s always room for something if it has fresh ideas. Is this that show? I can’t say yet—only the pilot episode is available online as I write this, so it really hasn’t got itself up to speed yet, I think. Still, I found the pilot compelling and I’ll definitely be watching more.

Mr. Robot: People have been saying good things about this, and even though I’m only halfway through the pilot episode I can see why. I’ll be watching more of this, too.

Now, I’d really better get back to getting some work done on the Artemis sequel. (Evenings are more TV and book time for me.)

Until next time . . .

2015 Wrap-up

LET me begin by saying I hope you all had a great Christmas, and I’d like to wish all my readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Pahrump, NV) a Happy New Year.

So 2015 is all but gone, and 2016 is just around the corner. Will it be any better? In hindsight I don’t think ’15 was all that bad. ’16 could end up being a lot worse, but I’m optimistic. On the political front, I really don’t think the GOP has much of a chance; if having a lying, bigoted misogynist like Trump as front-runner really means that he’s about the best they can offer, then as far as I’m concerned they’ve already lost. My money’s on Sanders this time around.

But enough of that. I want to keep this short because, well, The Expanse episode five isn’t on yet, so I’m in the middle of binge-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (I only ever saw a couple of episodes when it first aired) and I want to get some dinner and watch some more. So:

On the writing front: I’m still working on the storyline for the Artemis sequel. With the week before Christmas being taken up with all the prep for the big day, I got maybe fifteen minutes in on that. This week’s been lighter so I’ve made a bit of progress but I still have quite a way to go.

On the subject of Artemis, I’m expecting some editing work to be coming my way from my copy editor, but with the holiday I have no idea when that’ll hit. I’ll update the WiP page when I have something.

And on the subject of works-in-progress, so far no luck finding an agent for Smoke & Mirrors. What I did find was a publisher that usually doesn’t accept unagented submissions, but has an open submission period through ’til the end of January. For them, I have to boil my six-page single-spaced synopsis down to no more than three pages of double-spaced. Basically all I can do is slice out more and more detail and compress what’s already there, and hope what’s left still does the story justice. It might sound easy, but it’s surprisingly hard.

Tomorrow I’ll be getting back to that and hopefully finish it in time to get it out before New Year’s Day. Not that that’s important, but it gives me kind of a mental target to hit.

That’s all for now. Time to get some grub and get back to ST:DS9.

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 . . .

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 . . .

Storytime

It’s been a while since I posted, and since that last one—despite what I said about getting properly back to work on the Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia sequel—I haven’t been able to find as much time as I’d hoped. Until today, that is. Today I was able to spend several hours tweaking the timeline and putting in some changes that I’d made notes about. I’m very pleased that I’ve been able to make some real progress at last.

(Now, a small confession: I’ve been watching Breaking Bad some of the time when I could, and should, have been working on the story. I can’t help it that the show is addictive. But we watched the last episode of the final season yesterday, so that won’t be happening again.)

There’s good news, though. The timeline is in fact mostly complete, in that all of the major story elements are in place. (And for some of this I give thanks to my editor, who scanned an early snapshot of the timeline when I got stalled, and asked some questions that highlighted places that needed work, and so helped me get moving again.)

Most of what I was doing today involved working out when each scene takes place and making sure that things fit, and making corrections when they didn’t (for example, I found one scene with two secondary characters going to the theatre when everyone else would have been eating breakfast). I’m a little bit short of halfway through that process, and I expect to get finished tomorrow. After that comes another pass of the story to make sure everything makes sense and that questions raised in early scenes get answered by the end. And I know that the ending scenes need some work—what’s there now seems rushed, with too much happening in just a couple of scenes. Those need to be broken up and spread out a little so that it doesn’t all come across as too abrupt.

So although progress is slow, the pace is picking up and I really think I’ll have a good draft of the timeline fairly soon. At that point I’ll share it with my editor, and then I can polish it until we agree it’s time to begin the actual writing.

Meanwhile, some small news about Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia. I already mentioned that Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO was stocking print copies of the book on their shelves. To that I can now add that Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver has copies at all three of their locations. I’m planning on running by Old Firehouse, and Tattered Cover’s Colfax Avenue store, some time next week. With a camera. Pictures of the book on the shelf will be posted online. There will be rejoicing.

And talking of pictures, I’m giving serious thought to adding a Readers’ Gallery to this blog, rather like the one Craig Hallam set up on his blog. Have you read Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia? If so, and you’re up for sending me a selfie, use the Contact form (the link’s at the top of this page) to let me know. If there’s enough interest, I’ll set that up and get back to you.

Now, a parting note on the subject of the title of this post. Storytime is an apt title for an author’s blog post—but in this case it also has a special meaning, in that it’s the name of a song by Finnish symphonic rock band Nightwish. The song is on YouTube, and it’s really rock-yer-socks-off stuff. I’ve been listening to more of their songs while working, and I’m most impressed.

And on that musical note, I’m off to do a little more work on the timeline. Until next time, gentle reader . . .