Bad Days, Good Days

THE last couple of weeks have been really heavy going at work, which is the main reason I haven’t had a chance to throw out any updates here. We’ve been moving a few of the web applications to new host machines, and it’s one of those jobs where ninety percent of the work is easy and takes ten percent of the time, but then you hit the ten percent that’s all hurdles and problems and means you can’t just finish it up and get it done. As I write this it’s Sunday morning, and tomorrow I have three, count ’em, three system moves that are stalled waiting on things.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, writing work has all but stopped, which is very frustrating. I’m working on a story I want to write, and I’ve been stuck at the planning part for something like a month. I have a character, she has a name, and she has an interesting past that’s given her an ability, if you can call it that—sometimes it’s going to be a lifesaver, most times it’s a curse. And I can’t say more about that without giving too much away at this early phase. The big problem is that I still don’t have a solid story, and I just can’t seem to get the time to think my way past that.

The day-job work craziness been part of that, of course—among other things I’m so tired at the end of most days I just don’t have the energy to get into writing, and in any case there are home/family things that take up what little time I might have had—but there are other things too. For example, I now officially work at home and hook into the office over VPN; I rarely need to go in. It’s great, but one definite downside is that it’s caused a complete change of routine. I used to use the drive time between home and office to think about story and characters; Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was planned and plotted and all but actually written on that daily drive, as were The Artemis Device and Smoke & Mirrors (more on status of both of those shortly).

But I don’t drive in any more, and my writing time is suffering badly for it. I need to change my routine to give me some of that time back somehow.

OK THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT. It’s not all doom and gloom. Time to focus on some of the positive.

One thing that’s taken away some of the writing time is that I’ve been catching up on READING, and that’s not something I consider at all bad. I mean, seriously, I went through a period of several months during which I hardly read a thing. Not good. So I kicked myself in the pants and told myself to shape the fuck up.

Rod Duncan’s The Custodian of Marvels came out Tuesday and I’ll be starting on that just as soon as I’ve finished reading Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles; I’m almost through Trapped (which I think is the fifth book in the series). But wait, there’s more: the eighth book, Staked, just came out and we went to Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins on Thursday to meet the author and get a signed copy. Really? I hear you say. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. Okay, then:

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There you go.

Now, last points: I mentioned I’d give a couple of status updates, so here they are:

  • The Artemis Device is still with my copy editor at Xchyler Publishing, but as I think I mentioned she got married recently, and then she was dealing with a book release (Ben Ireland’s Kingdom City: Revolt) and now, as I found out just a few days ago, she’s off on honeymoon. So I don’t expect to get back any editing notes in a hurry.
  • Smoke & Mirrors is still looking for an agent or a publisher. A publisher in England had an open submission period last month, so I sent them the first couple of chapters. The web site said it could be three to six months before I hear anything, so right now patience is the word.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

Terra Mechanica Release Only 90 Minutes From Now!

It’s not too late to sign up, or in fact you can just show up! The party’s on Facebook, and you’ll find it HERE. Meet the authors! Prizes!

In the run-up to the release of Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology—coming to e-book and print outlets on May 31—the authors of the nine short stories in the collection have written blog posts about their work. You can read them all on the Xchyler Publishing blog, HERE.

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Terra Mechanica Release Blogs: Nine

In the run-up to the release of Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology—coming to e-book and print outlets on May 31—the authors of the nine short stories in the collection are frantically writing posts for your edification and delight.

Our ninth and last author is S. D. Simper, who gives us a some background to her story Priority Passage, and tells us a little about her writing process. Read all about it HERE.

And don’t forget, gentle reader: the release party for Terra Mechanica is happening on Facebook TONIGHT! Go HERE right now and sign up!

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