Some quick updates

Back on the 1 January I wrote my to do list for the year.

I don’t intend to give regular updates, but I thought, in lieu of anything else to blog about for the moment (other than ranting about politics), I would give some quick updates on where things are at after the first couple of weeks. (Some of the first few weeks has been spent getting older, part of which included going to see the play of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – it was very good, and I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it already and you can get to it before it closes in the West End.)

  • Edit and publish a novella and short story

The novella is currently being read by someone. I’m awaiting their feedback, but assuming it isn’t in too bad a shape, I’m still on track for getting this out maybe around the middle of this year (final point on the to do list not standing).

The book that will contain these two stories is hopefully the first of several books that will pop up between releases of the main The Vasini Chronicles novels. This one will deal with some happenings that occurred either side of The Silver Mask.

  • Edit and try to work out how to publish a long novel

While I’m waiting for feedback on the novella, my editing time is being spent on this long novel, which may get published at some point in the future (there’s various complications with publishing it independently, but hopefully they can be overcome).

I’m kinda pleased with it, but there’s still a way to go before it’s in a shape to publish.

  • Finish writing and then edit The Vasini Chronicles II

As I write this, the first draft currently sits at a few words shy of 128,000. The first draft (as always) will be somewhat longer than I expected. The end of the first draft is still a little distant, but is now at least within sight.

  • Write some more things (not all of them Vasini related)

This will have to wait until I’ve finished the first draft of The Vasini Chronicles II, but there are a couple of ideas percolating for what I’ll write next.

  • Read at least 26 books and cut down my backlog of unread books (now over 300 thanks to Christmas presents)

With impending parenthood, I decided to set myself a target of 26 books this year (despite having read 61 last year). I’ve read nine so far, so well on track to get to 26. However, most have been presents or more recent purchases, so I’m not quite getting through actual backlog.

If you’re interested in what I’m reading, you can check out my Goodreads page.

  • Hope that the bad decision making the world seemed prone to last year doesn’t have as much of an impact as it could and try to play my part in counteracting said bad decision making

I’ve always been a bit sceptical of writing to my MP. However, I finally managed to overcome the sense of futility and wrote to my MP this week. I shall await their response with the hope that my scepticism was misplaced. I suspect it will be the first of several emails over the coming weeks and months.

  • Become a father (at which point my to do list will likely be much longer and quite different from the above)

Everything’s still on track with this (*touch wood*).

Thank you

The New Podler Review of Books have announced their choice of the very best independently published books from amongst their 2016 reviews and, it appears, The Silver Mask is in their top three.

Feeling somewhat chuffed. Thanks guys.

http://thenewpodlerreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/the-best-of-2016.html

And thanks to everyone else who has taken a chance on The Silver Mask (and The City Between the Books/The Bridge People).

And so it begins again…

Happy New Year all. I hope 2017 has started well for you.

It’s just after 1.30am on New Year’s day as I start this. No doubt it will be finished at some other point as, hopefully, I’ll finally get tired enough to fall asleep.

Another year has passed. As with any year, it was a mixed bag. There were many good things that happened, but there was some bad decision making that has lead to bigger, badder decisions being made than perhaps we’ve made in recent memory. Decisions that will impact everyone, not just those who made them. 2017 will, of course, be where we begin to feel the impact of those decisions in full.

In everyday life, when making decisions, there always seems to be the ability to rethink, to change your mind when more information comes to hand. It does not seem at this moment that the world will be allowed this luxury. But we can hope.

And that’s the great thing about the New Year. Despite being an arbitrary line in the temporal sand, psychologically the slate is swept clean. We’re allowed to hope for something better, that this year will be better than the last. We take stock, give ourselves a moment’s pause to assess things and change direction. Of course, as January progresses, reality sets in and things take a suspiciously familiar track. But for these few hours, we get the hope of a blank slate, a course yet to be written. And maybe, just maybe, we can just nudge things in a slightly better direction.

For me, with impending parenthood (a good decision of 2016), my year is very much going to be divided into two halves. From a writing perspective, the hope is to get out a novella and short story in the first half of the year and then use what time I have available in the second half of the year to edit The Vasini Chronicles II (I won’t make any promises yet on when that will see publication). From a personal perspective, the year (and all future years) are going to be written by my child. Who knows what they have in mind.

To do list for 2017

So here’s my to do list, as it stands, for 2017:

  • Edit and publish a novella and short story
  • Edit and try to work out how to publish a long novel
  • Finish writing and then edit The Vasini Chronicles II
  • Write some more things (not all of them Vasini related)
  • Read at least 26 books and cut down my backlog of unread books (now over 300 thanks to Christmas presents)
  • Hope that the bad decision making the world seemed prone to last year doesn’t have as much of an impact as it could and try to play my part in counteracting said bad decision making
  • Become a father (at which point my to do list will likely be much longer and quite different from the above)

Some last little bits from 2016

  1. In the end I managed to get through 61 books last year. I managed to complete The Secret History of Twin Peaks (along with sneaking in Sage Volume 4, Revolting Rhymes, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 1), but not Dragons of Summer Flames.
  2. For those who may not have seen the link on Facebook or Twitter, The New Podler Review of Books reviewed The Silver Mask here.

Something like nostalgia

This past week has been something of a nostalgia trip for me.

Obviously there was Rogue One on Wednesday night/Thursday morning (and again on Thursday afternoon – and probably again on Monday). Like for many, Star Wars has been with me for as long as I can remember. I’m just slightly too young to have seen a New Hope on its original release, but watching it on TV is one of my earliest memories. It informed so much of my creative endeavours in early childhood (along with Doctor Who). It was how it was discovered I was colour blind – I coloured in my Chewbacca drawing green. I won’t go on about Rogue One for fear of giving out spoilers, but suffice to say I really enjoyed it. It’s a great prologue to one of my all time favourite films and adds another layer of context to A New Hope.

Outside of the build up to Rogue One, I’ve been reading The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost’s book that acts as a lead in to the new Twin Peaks series due out next year. I vaguely remember watching Twin Peaks when it was originally on. I think I must have come to it quite late – possibly after the reveal of Laura’s killer – as I only seem to remember watching the later episodes on BBC Two. A friend re-introduced me to the series just before I went to university. It lead to some very weird dreams over my first year at university, and when I was awoken by a fire alarm one night, my half-awake mind immediately went to the scene of Bob in police station and the sprinkler system going off. Not the most pleasant of thoughts to awaken to. The book – presented as a secret dossier on the town that was recently recovered by the FBI – is enjoyable and, again, provides an extra level of context around the happenings from the original series. At the same time, I’ve been re-watching the original series and am now impatient for the new series to start.

I’ve also been reading Dragons of Summer Flame. The first time I came across the Dragonlance setting was in the form of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons adventure module DL8 Dragons of War. It was the very first AD&D module I ever owned. I’ve no idea why I started with DL8, other than perhaps it was what was available at the local hobby shop. I ended up collecting the complete DL series of modules, although I never got to run the complete campaign. At some point, I also stumbled across the Dragonlance Chronicles novels as well, which I devoured along with the Dragonlance Legends series and a handful of the other novels in the early part of my teens.

I’ve been playing tabletop RPGs off and on since I was about 8 and, even though I don’t get to play regularly at the moment, I still enjoy reading the sourcebooks and about the potential worlds there are to explore. I’m also a regular viewer of Critical Role – the weekly D&D game of some nerdy voice actors broadcast by Geek & Sundry. So although I might not be actively playing, I’ve still been getting my RPG fix. However, it felt like time to dip my toe back into Dragonlance fiction. The main challenge so far has been trying to remember everything I used to know about the setting. Not that not knowing detracts hugely from the story so far, but simply because there’s this constant sense of having a fact or bit of background on the tip of my tongue and never being able to quite remember it. Fortunately, I still have my old sourcebooks and modules and, if they fail me, there’s always Wikipedia and the Dragonlance Wikia.

Anyway, enough rambling.

Happy holidays and, if I don’t get to blogging before the 31 December, all the best for the New Year.

52 and some other things

52…

Books 50 (Superfreakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt), 51 (Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson) and 52 (The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric) have been read.

My initial impressions here pretty much held up.

Superfreakonomics was interesting, although, having heard several of the ideas from the book on the Freakonomics podcast and being a sequel, it didn’t quite have the same spark, the same sort of joy at the quirky insights that the first Freakonomics book did (Think Like a Freak, the third book, is on my bookshelf to read at some point).

Death’s Daughter was good fun and had certain charm to it. I’m certainly going to try the next book in the series at some point (once I’ve cut a little bit more into my backlog).

The Book of Human Skin, while not a bad book, didn’t quite shine for me. I had a couple of niggles with it, mainly stemming from the book being made up of five first person accounts that seemed to be presented, at least in my reading of it, as written accounts. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the approach, but there are some oddities with it. The main one for me being that one character is a semi-literate valet from Venice. As semi-literate his account is full of phonetic spellings and misused words. Yet why would an account that would be supposedly originally written in Italian and then translated for the reader into English be full of English phonetic spellings? It’s also written with a tone of voice that invokes more the traditional portrayals of Victorian English lower class. So it just ends up creating a dissonance between what’s presented and what its supposed to be. Perhaps if I’d read it at a different time I would have enjoyed it more, I wouldn’t have noticed the oddities, or maybe I’d have noticed them and discarded them without a care.

…and more

I said those were books 50, 51 and 52, but I managed to slip in another book between them so they ended up being book 50, 52 and 53.

Book 54 of the year is Blaze by Richard Bachman/Stephen King and 55 is La Prisonneire by Malika Oufkir and Michelle Oufkir. Book 56 is a secret for the moment as it’s research for the next Vasini Chronicles novel.

Based on my current reading rate, I could end up hitting 58 books by the end of the year. Which means that the 293+ unread books on my shelves may get read in 5 years rather than the 5 1/2 years it was looking like was going to take.

Arrival

We went to see Arrival at the weekend. Really enjoyed it. I had been a little sceptical going in, but the movie sold itself to me.

Between this book…

The City Between the Books & The Bridge People has been out for two weeks now. If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at them, you can find the book for the low, low price of 99p on iBooks and Kindle.

The sample on iBooks is from The City Between the Books and the one on Amazon is from The Bridge People, so you can get a flavour of both stories.

And the next

As I write this section at 12.45pm on Monday 28 November (with Twin Peaks Episode 17 playing on the TV, should you be interested), Scrivener is telling me that I’m 95,397 words into the Vasini Chronicles II, which means that I ‘only’ have 44,603 left to write of the first draft (assuming I keep to my revised target).

The final book won’t be 140,000 words. It will be shedding many words in the early edits. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to write words to get to the words that will actually be in the book.

I seem to be picking up a little steam with it, but whether I’ll be able maintain my current rate remains to be seen. Either way, the hope (and I stress the hope) is to have a draft finished by the end of January. Wish me luck.

Welcome to the city between the books…

Don’t forget to wrap up warm and remember your emergency spoon.

They’re here…The City Between the Books & The Bridge People – my two new short(ish) stories – are now available to buy as an eBook on Kindle and iBooks. (As always, for those outside of the UK, please try your local Amazon or iBooks store.)

In The City Between the Books, Lex’s time at university isn’t going well and, on a cold November morning, things get worse. Searching the stacks of the university library, Lex finds that the books can lead to strange places, places that are maybe better left unexplored, especially if she wants to finish her essay on time.

In The Bridge People, Hannah’s summer holiday has been spent exploring the woods and learning games from her grandparents. However, when her mother falls ill, Hannah goes on a quest for chicken soup in the hope that it will cure her. But, to get the soup, she’ll have to cross the bridge to the shop. And there are things beneath the bridge. Horrible things, worse than any of her fairytales, who scare even her mother.

For those who haven’t had a chance to read The Silver Mask, you’ll find an excerpt from the novel in the eBook as well.

the-city-between-the-books

The Three Rs

(Or rather two Rs and a W.)

Note: I originally started writing this post on 3 November, and that’s the date you’ll see at the top of the post. I’d intended to finish writing the post on 3 November as well. However, my memory had other ideas. I’m traveling about a bit this weekend – visiting people and doing my nerdy pastimes. Unfortunately, I managed to leave behind the cable to my laptop. A quick rush to an Apple store on Friday morning to invest in a spare cable (one that can live in my suitcase and travel round with me when need be) has rectified the situation and I’ll be able to do some writing. It does mean, though, that this post that is claiming to be from 3 November will have been written in stolen moments over the weekend while nerding it up.

Reading

Over the next two weeks, I should finish reading my 50th (Superfreakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt), 51st (Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson) and 52nd (The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric) books of the year. Given that I’d originally planned to read only 26 books and there’ll still be a little over a month of the year left to read some more, it’s not bad going. At the very least, it will mean I’ll have cut a little bit further into the 300+ unread books that were sat on my shelf at the beginning of the year.

So far Superfreakonomics is proving to be interesting (although I’m familiar with some of its contents thanks to listening to the Freakonomics podcast). Death’s Daughter is entertaining and – as I’m only a handful of chapters in – I’m looking forward to getting deeper into its story. The Book of Human Skin is tending to be a bit more of a struggle than the other two. I find that books tend to set their own reading pace, and this one’s pace is a little slower than others I’ve read recently.

(W)riting

Work on The Vasini Chronicles II is progressing. I’m about 80,000 words into the first draft. This draft will likely end up around 140,000 mark, but will need to be cut back quite severely. There are some parts that I already really like, there’s other bits that will need some work, and there will be some bits that are likely to disappear very early on in editing and will never be heard of again.

I’m also editing a novella set in Vasini. It will, if all goes well, make an appearance around the middle of next year alongside a short(ish) story also set in Vasini.

Releases

And speaking of releases, don’t forget The City Between the Books & The Bridge People – two short(ish) stories – are available to pre-order as an eBook on Amazon and iBooks and will be available to buy from 14 November. They’re also accompanied by the first chapter of The Silver Mask, all for only 99p (in the UK. For those outside of the UK, please check your local US, Australian, New Zealand or EU-based Amazon or iBooks store for pricing.)

Horrors from the distant past

Some years ago now, I wrote a horror/action short film. Although filmed*, one of the DV tapes – the one with the big reveal – was corrupted (possibly down to some eldritch power summoned by the filming). It meant that instead of a 10-minute short film, we ended up with a trailer.

So in honour of Halloween next week, here’s the trailer to Cryptic Writings, a film that never was.

Directed by Bill Thomas and produced by Savage Media.

* At the Cyfarthfa Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, where, apparently, many of the cannon and cannonballs for the British side in the Battle of Trafalgar were produced.

I have a problem

I’ve just counted how many books I have on my shelves that I have yet to read.

293.

And that’s just the ones on the main bookshelves. No doubt I’ll uncover others hiding in corners at some point. I might even uncover that copy of Anansi Boys that seems to have runaway.

I always knew it was quite a lot – I’d estimated about 100 or so – but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be that high.

It’s been going on for years. I’ll buy a handful of books and then only read some of them before I buy the next batch. Add in presents and those that I’ve rescued from friends and family who were about to get rid of them, and you start to well…end up with 293 unread books on your bookshelves.

The Japanese apparently have a word for it: Tsundoku.

I don’t seem to have the worst case of it. This BBC article references a forum that requires a person to have over 1,000 unread books on their shelves. But if I keep to my current reading rate – 43 books so far this year and on target to read 52 by 30 December – then I should be through them in just under six years. Although this raises another issue: even if I keep to 52 books a year, I’ll only read 1,560 books in the next 30 years. It’s thoughts like this that make me feel sad when I spend too long in a bookshop – what about all the books I won’t get to read?

I’m still attempting to put together a list of all the books I’ve read over at Goodreads (minus those that I’ve used as research that might hint at future plot points). Once my memory runs dry, I’ll start adding all the unread books sitting on the shelf.

PS – I’ve just been sent a link to this Barnes & Noble article. Personally, I think there’s only one question you need to ask as to whether to keep a book or not: do I want this book on my bookshelf? But then again, I quite like the thought of living in a library.

The City Between the Books & The Bridge People

The City Between the Books & The Bridge People – my new little ebook of two short(ish) stories – is now available for pre-order on Kindle and iBooks.

You can find it here http://tinyurl.com/zozezbk (Kindle) or here http://tinyurl.com/jug5ezl (iBooks). (As always, for those outside of the UK, please try your local US, Australian, New Zealand or EU-based Amazon or iBooks store.)

It will be published on 14 November.

In The City Between the Books, Lex’s time at university isn’t going well and, on a cold November morning, things get worse. Searching the stacks of the university library, Lex finds that the books can lead to strange places, places that are maybe better left unexplored, especially if she wants to finish her essay on time.

In The Bridge People, Hannah’s summer holiday has been spent exploring the woods and learning games from her grandparents. However, when her mother falls ill, Hannah goes on a quest for chicken soup in the hope that it will cure her. But, to get the soup, she’ll have to cross the bridge to the shop. And there are things beneath the bridge. Horrible things, worse than any of her fairytales, who scare even her mother.

For those who haven’t had a chance to read The Silver Mask, it also contains an excerpt from the novel.