I’m heading this way

Happy New Year.

We’ve crossed that arbitrary line in the temporal sands once more. Time to stop contemplating the past twelve months and to start planning for the coming year. So here’s my annual To Do List. Much of it is the same as last year’s, but with the cunning twist that some more of it might get finished by 31 December this year. Here’s hoping at least.

Edit and publish The Theatre of Shadows: The Vasini Chronicles II.

This is the top priority for the year. It’s currently sat in a virtual draw while others read it. Maybe around February, I’ll take it out and start work on the next draft. I’ll then push through so it’s in a point to publish in the second half of the year. All being well.

Edit a novella.

This is The Signal (working title), the sequel to the novelette The City Between the Books. I hope to get around to editing this just before I start back on The Theatre of Shadows. Given its shorter length compared to everything else – around 44,000 words – it shouldn’t take as long to edit it to the point where it can be published.

Edit Tales From Vasini II.

The two stories that will make up Tales From Vasini II have a (current) combined length of about 64,000 words. The plan is to start editing this while working on the next draft of The Theatre of Shadows. We’ll see how long that plan lasts. Should the plan go better than planned (unlikely given the nature of plans), the stretch goal would be to publish it by the end of the year. I suspect, in truth, it will be 2020 before it’s published.

Write The Vasini Chronicles III.

Come tomorrow, I’ll start work in earnest on outlining the third Vasini Chronicles book in more depth. When I start writing the first draft proper will depend on what happens with the next thing on my To Do List.

Write Tales From Vasini III.

I believe this will be three stories set in the lead up to The Vasini Chronicles III. I’ll be outlining them in depth alongside The Vasini Chronicles III and then I’ll launch into writing the first draft.

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

This is the third To Do List this has appeared on. The difference this year is that I’m working on it and will be until I pick up The Theatre of Shadows again. I’m hoping (there’s a lot of hope in this To Do List) to get the next draft completed in that time and then I may be in a better position to think about how and when I’ll publish it.

Read at least 48 books and cut down my backlog of unread books to less than 270.

I’d expected to read only 36 books last year and ended up reading 60. I’m not convinced I’ll hit 60 books again (especially given the list of things to do this year), but 48 seems reasonable (although, as always, it will depend on the length). Given that my continued aim is to cut down my backlog of unread books (currently 314 books) – always a challenge given it keeps on getting topped up with new books – I’m also hoping (there’s that word again) to reduce the backlog to less than 270. That means to achieve both parts, I’ll have to read at least 45 books that are already on my bookshelf and only buy three new books.

Last year saw me write my first review on Goodreads. Although, I’m not going to make it habit, I will try to write a few more reviews this year.

Blog more

I managed to write a grand total of six blog posts last year, most of which were updates on my 2018 To Do List. I’m not the most prolific blog writer, but that was pretty rubbish. So I’m going to try to blog a little more often. I’ve set myself a little timetable that should mean I’ll post at least once every two weeks. To try to make me keep to this, I’ve started to write a number of holding posts that will be set to go out automatically as a threat to myself to write the proper posts. Let’s see if it works.

 

So that’s the plan for the year. But lets not call it a plan. As I try to remember, plans never work. Plans can be too binding, make you think you have to do things in a particular way and to a particular timetable, and make what you have achieved seem like a failure just because it wasn’t in the plan. Better to have a direction of travel, something that allows for changes and for detours, for side quests and unexpected challenges. So let’s say this is the direction I’m heading in, and I’ll get there given the right amount of time.

Anyway, all the best for your next set of 365 days.

That was 2018

We’re very nearly at the end of 2018, so time to wrap up the year’s to do list and try not to despair at the things left undone.

Edit and publish The Theatre of Shadows: The Vasini Chronicles II.

At the beginning of the year I said:

It’s written. I’ll likely wrap up the second draft in January. It will then be a year of more and more drafts until it’s in a shape I’m happy to publish. The hope is to publish it by the end of the year, but there’s a chance that it may be early 2019 instead.

Hope is a wonderful thing until it meets messy reality. The editing continues. As I mentioned back at the beginning of November, it’s currently out with others who will take a look at it before I work on the next draft. It won’t be early 2019, but it will be published as early as possible next year.

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

This was the one thing on my 2017 list that I failed to do, so it’s back on the list to do this year. Maybe as things progress with The Theatre of Shadows, I’ll be able to invest more time in this.

This is a supernatural noir novel that had been floating around in my mind since I was 17.

I was kind of expecting to fail to do anything with it again this year. Turns out I was wrong. Although it had to wait until the last few months, I’ve finally managed to turn my attention to editing. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed the characters and story. Hopefully, hopefully, I can get some more work done on it and it might even end up being in a place to be published. One can hope.

Write and edit the next Tales From Vasini.

I’ve written one of the novellas that will make up the next Tales From Vasini book, there’s one more to write before I can start editing and then publishing it.

It’s taken longer than I’d hoped, but I finally finished writing the first draft of the second story for Tales From Vasini II today.

I won’t say too much about it at the moment, other than that one story is based in the Outbounds – the not-so-safe farm belt around Vasini – and the other one (the one I just finished) is set within the Wildlands between the city-states, the wild and dangerous lands, filled with the ruins of the civilization of those who worshipped the deities.

Finish writing and then edit a novella.

I’m currently working on a non-Vasini related novella. Fingers crossed, I’ll finish it around the end of January. Then onto editing it and deciding how and when to publish it.

This is the sequel to The City Between the Books currently under the working title of The Signal (it will likely change titles, possibly more than once, between now and publication). I’ve done some editing on it. There’s some more to do. It will appear at some point. Probably sooner than other things on this list.

Write The Vasini Chronicles III.

So after I’ve finished the novella I’m currently working on and the second novella for the next Tales From Vasini book, it’s back to writing The Vasini Chronicles.

Although I never got to actually writing The Vasini Chronicles III, I have been doing research in preparation for both The Vasini Chronicles III and Tales From Vasini III. Come the New Year (or maybe a little bit sooner), I’ll start outlining the both of them in more depth, so hopefully I’ll actually start writing it in a few months time. It’ll be the Tales From Vasini III stories up first as they’ll be set before The Vasini Chronicles III.

Read at least 36 books and cut down my backlog of unread books (now at over 340 books).

Last year I originally planned to read 26 books, by the end of the year I’d read 62. However, only 24 of them were after my daughter was born. Based on this, I should be able to get through 48 books. However, given there a few 800+ page books amongst those I’m planning to read, I’m going to aim for 36. This may still be quite ambitious. It does mean that, based on this target, it will take me 10 years to get through my backlog (as it stands).

I ended up declaring 60 on Goodreads with another eight read that I didn’t list on Goodreads. That’s less than last year but more than the 2016. I even managed to get round to writing my first review on Goodreads, something that I may do more of (although I doubt it will become a habit).

The better news is that my backlog is now down to 308 books. I may get through the entire lot in another five years or so.

The highlights have been Saga Volumes 8 & 9. With Saga now on hiatus, though, I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to reading most this year.

Time to rest and let things go ready for the New Year and a fresh resolve, even if the 2019 To Do list isn’t as fresh and new as I’d hope.

Happy holidays. I hope 2018 has treated you well and you’ve managed to do everything you wanted.

Two months later

Okay, let’s see if I can actually finish this post before something else happens.

It’s been two months since my last post. I never intended it to be that long. Life, however, has not played along and other things have required my attention for the past few weeks. Nothing critical, nothing too bad, just a lot of low grade interruptions and irritations that by themselves would have been fine and nothing exceptional, but they all seemed to come along in a steady stream. When they haven’t required my attention, I’ve been trying to focus on writing a novella and editing The Theatre of Shadows: The Vasini Chronicles II.

What was going to be

Before I took my forced hiatus from here, I did manage to write a title and a sentence of a post:

Misprints

I’ve recently finished reading The Complete Maus – Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel retelling of his father’s experiences during the Holocaust.

I’d intended to write about how, though I’d found to Maus to be compelling, I’d discovered that my copy – that I’d received as a present several years ago – contained a misprint. A section of pages were repeated and, in turn, the final pages were missing. So, technically, I hadn’t finished reading it and won’t until such time as I can find a copy to borrow to read those last few pages.

I then planned on writing about other misprinted books I’d owned, including:

  • The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower by Stephen King, where a third of the way through the book I’d discovered that a section of pages had been repeated and that it then skipped ahead 20 or so pages. I’d bought the book in hardback and given the time between buying it and discovering the misprint, I’d figured that I wouldn’t be able to exchange it. I decided to set it aside with the intent of buying the paperback when it came out. Of course, I ended up getting distracted by other books, and when I finally went back to it, I’d forgotten about the misprint until I reached it again. I ended up buying the eBook (the first Kindles were three years away when I started reading the book), but only used it for the bit that was missing.
  • The first misprint I can remember coming across was in my first copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition. I was twelve at the time and had been saving pocket money since buying the Player’s Handbook a month earlier. We were visiting my grandparents, and I popped down to the hobby shop where I bought nearly all of my role-playing game books and dice for the first few years of my gaming life. The book was wrapped in cellophane and I didn’t get a chance to open it until I was back at my grandparents. After eagerly unwrapping it, I became very confused when I discovered that although the illustrations and the headings were there, there was no actual text. My brain tried to come up with an explanation for why the elements that were there were perfectly printed, yet the majority of the book was blank. The best I could come up with was that I was supposed to fill in the gaps in someway, that TSR as it was then, would release the content through some means and I was supposed to copy it into the book. By the time I’d admitted that it was a misprint, the shops were closed and I was forced to wait until the next week to swap it for a copy with the actual words.

Other things

So that’s what I’d intended to write about back in January. Since then I’ve been concentrating on, slowly but surely, editing The Theatre of Shadows. It’s coming along, not as quickly as I would have liked, but editing 180,000+ words takes time. The hope remains to publish it by the end of the year, but there’s an increasing chance it may be early 2019 instead.

The non-Vasini related novella I’m working on, after an initial splurge of writing has settled into a slower, more steady pace. I’m likely to finish the first draft (all being well) by the end of March. I tend to guess at what the final word count will be for each story I write. Lately the final word count has ended up 50% over my prediction. This time it looks like I may only be 10% over.

Back towards the end of January, I was happily surprised to discover that The Winter Fayre from A Divided River: Tales From Vasini I was shortlisted in the Best Novella category of the Subjective Chaos Kind Of awards – a group of bloggers who have got together to have some fun judging their favourite books of 2017. You can read more about their endeavours at Bethan May Books and at The Middle Shelf.

Anyway, here’s hoping that the interruptions are over and it won’t be as long until my next post.

And so it begins yet again…

So we’ve crossed the arbitrary line in the temporal sand again. Time to hope that we can wipe the slate clean and set off on a better course, before reality sets in and things take a suspiciously familiar track (much like this post).

Where as last year was very much split into two halves – pre-parenthood and parenthood – this year is likely to be all about the new normal as my life continues to rearrange itself and settle around having a growing daughter.

To do list for 2018

My ‘To Do’ list for 2018 will be somewhat familiar as a lot of it is based on what happened in 2017.

  • Edit and publish The Theatre of Shadows: The Vasini Chronicles II. It’s written. I’ll likely wrap up the second draft in January. It will then be a year of more and more drafts until it’s in a shape I’m happy to publish. The hope is to publish it by the end of the year, but there’s a chance that it may be early 2019 instead.
  • Edit and try to work out how to publish a long novel. This was the one thing on my 2017 list that I failed to do, so it’s back on the list to do this year. Maybe as things progress with The Theatre of Shadows, I’ll be able to invest more time in this.
  • Write and edit the next Tales From Vasini I’ve written one of the novellas that will make up the next Tales From Vasini book, there’s one more to write before I can start editing and then publishing it.
  • Finish writing and then edit a novella. I’m currently working on a non-Vasini related novella. Fingers crossed, I’ll finish it around the end of January. Then onto editing it and deciding how and when to publish it.
  • Write The Vasini Chronicles III. So after I’ve finished the novella I’m currently working on and the second novella for the next Tales From Vasini book, it’s back to writing The Vasini Chronicles.
  • Read at least 36 books and cut down my backlog of unread books (now at over 340 books). Last year I originally planned to read 26 books, by the end of the year I’d read 62. However, only 24 of them were after my daughter was born. Based on this, I should be able to get through 48 books. However, given there a few 800+ page books amongst those I’m planning to read, I’m going to aim for 36. This may still be quite ambitious. It does mean that, based on this target, it will take me 10 years to get through my backlog (as it stands).

I feel exhausted just looking at that list. It’s ambitious – it involves writing something like 160,000 words and editing 450,000 words – and doesn’t include the big to dos, like being a dad, being a husband, and doing all the other things in my life other than reading and writing.

Anyway, happy New Year. I hope 2018 proves to be a good year for you all.

The final state of the To Do List 2017

I started writing this post on Wednesday and was originally going to say that I’d just completed my Goodreads reading challenge for the year – 57 books (plus 11 that I didn’t add to my Goodreads list for various reasons plus many, many of my daughter’s books). However, between starting to write it and posting it, I’ve managed to finish off another three books.

Either way, it seems appropriate, especially with the end of the year so close, to do a wrap up on my To Do List for 2017.

In some sort of order, here’s how things panned out.

Reading

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

Done.

I started with a target of 26 books. I ended up reading more than double.

According to Goodreads, of the 60 I listed on there:

  • The shortest was The Play That Goes Wrong by Henry Lewis at 80 pages and the longest The Terror by Dan Simmons at 936 pages.
  • The average length of the books I read was 303 pages.
  • In total, I read 18,186 pages.

Despite having now read most of the hardcopy books that I’ve bought or have been given to me in the past two years, and having read 16 books that have been on my shelves longer (since my teens in at least two cases), my ‘To Be Read’ pile has continued to grow. According to Goodreads, it now stands at 327 books. I blame the likes of Humble Bundle and their providing a means to support charities while getting a load of cheap eBooks.

My favourites I’ve read this year have been Saga Volumes Five, Six and Seven by Brian K. Vaughan (given that it’s the story of two parents struggling to bring up a child in a universe that is hostile to them and their child’s existence, I discovered Saga at just the right time as I entered the realms of parenthood myself – although my life is far less dramatic and I’m not trying to escape an interstellar war) and Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (I always feel more intelligent and knowledgeable after reading a Neal Stephenson book – whether I am or not, I’ve no idea, but I feel it).

Writing

  • Edit and publish a novella and short story

Done.

A Divided River, the first of the Tales From Vasini books, came out in July.

A Divided River eBook cover

Done.

The Theatre of Shadows has been written. I’m editing it.

ToS Title

There’s a hint as to what the story may be at the end of A Divided River. At the end the hint says:

ToS Date

Although the intention remains to publish it late next year, there is always the chance it will get delayed. If it does get delayed, by damn, I’m going to make every attempt to get it out early 2019.

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

Done.

A longish non-Vasini-related story was written. What was meant as a longish story but turned into a more full-blown novella set in Vasini (or rather just outside) was written. I’m working on a non-Vasini related novella at the moment.

The Vasini-related novella will be part of the next Tales From Vasini book, along with another, yet to be written, novella.

The novella I’m currently writing will end up being published as and when its finished and been edited to a point I’m happy to release it.

I’m not quite sure what to do with the longish non-Vasini related story at the moment. It could go with the novella, but they don’t really fit together. It’s probably a little bit too short to publish by itself, so may have to wait a little while to see the light of day.

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

Not done.

With everything else, this has fallen by the wayside. I’ve dabbled with it, but haven’t been able to put in the hours on I’d have liked. Which sucks, as its one of my favourite things I’ve ever written and has taken years to get to this point. Maybe 2018 will offer more of a chance to work on it.

The World

  • 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’ll say that this has been a bit of a mixed bag and (mostly) leave it there.

For those who may be interested in different approaches to politics, I’ll draw your attention to More United, a UK-based attempt at (as they put it) “a new way of doing politics, making it less extreme, less tribal and giving you more power to make an impact.” Rather than supporting a particular party, they support candidates who agree with their principles from across any of the political parties.

If you’re interested, check them out, if not, don’t.

Life

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

Done.

She’s awesome.

 

Happy holidays and all the best for the New Year.

Cinematic Incidents III: The Last Jedi Incident

I like Star Wars. I like Star Wars to the point where I’m one of those people who takes time off and spends most of the day in the cinema watching the latest film back to back…and then goes back to watch it a few more times over the next few weeks. After all, the chances of getting to see each one on a cinema screen are limited to a few scant weeks and months.

With a six-month-old baby, this year was always going to be a little bit different. I knew – and didn’t mind so much, given that the time I wasn’t at Star Wars I’d be with my daughter – that I’d likely only get to see The Last Jedi in the cinema once, at a midnight screening. I’d be able to pop out, watch it and come back while everyone else was asleep.

Circumstances, though, seemed to want to conspire against me seeing it at all.

On Tuesday, when I went out to the car, I found the windscreen heavily iced over. I thought, through a combination of hot water and scraping, I’d managed to remove all the ice from the screen and around the wipers.

I was wrong.

Hitting the switch to wipe away some of the now water from the screen, my wipers protested, moved a few inches and then refused to do anything else, regardless of how many times I tried it.

Checking with the garage, it turned out I’d managed to snap something, which meant ordering a replacement part…which would come in on Thursday…after I was due to see The Last Jedi.

My car was now – especially with changing weather conditions – out of action.

Not only was watching The Last Jedi under threat, but I was due to take some time off the afternoon before the screening to do some family activities which required a functional car.

So I decided that I’d try to get a rental car last minute.

The booking went in, it was accepted and it was confirmed. I’d have a rental car delivered to me Wednesday morning. Everything was back on track, although a little more costly than I’d anticipated.

Wednesday morning came.

A message appeared on my phone. Please could I call the local branch of the car hire company, there were issues.

Apparently, despite accepting and confirming my booking, they: a. didn’t have a car available for me; b. didn’t offer a delivery service from that branch.

After an hour or so of calling between various parts of the car hire company and repeatedly explaining that “no, a car at 4pm wouldn’t help, I need it before then” and “no, I can’t collect it from the branch. I’m not able to get there, mainly because I don’t currently have a car I can use, hence the need to hire one”, I admitted defeat.

Plans for that afternoon were changed to ‘at home’ activities, and a taxi was booked to take me to the cinema at 11pm, assuming something didn’t happen to it and I ended up walking to the cinema.

At 10.55pm, the taxi showed up. Things were looking good.

I was at the cinema by 11.15pm. Things were still good.

I sat down, enjoyed a hot chocolate, bought my film snacks and at 11.45pm, I went up the escalator and into the screen.

The audience waited.

The adverts began.

The Black Panther trailer started.

Things were a little distorted.

The trailer was in 3D.

I had my 3D glasses on, but everything was in double.

They were old glasses. Maybe they’d been damaged over the years and were no longer functioning properly.

Others were complaining though.

Maybe they just needed to adjust the projector. These things happen. Things are left set up for a previous film, they don’t realise and they just need to adjust things. Everything would be fine for –

A cinema staff member was calling out, apologising for the issue. Things sounded more serious.

Apparently, the projector wasn’t set up for 3D showings. They had no capacity to adjust it.

Dread set in.

They would cancel the showing. My opportunity to see The Last Jedi on the big screen would be lost. My chances to avoid spoilers before seeing it would disappear.

They were going to issue free tickets so we could see it at a later date as compensation.

In the normal scheme of things that might be fine. But this was likely my one chance to see it.

But he continued talking.

They were going to move us to another screen. We’d see it. In 2D, but we’d see it.

They’d skip the trailers. Just go straight in.

We’d see it though.

The audience poured out of the screen.

We poured into the next screen along.

We took our free tickets.

The film began.

Visions Of A Dragon

I’m guessing it won’t come as much of a surprise that I’m something of self-professed nerd.

Amongst my nerdy pursuits is LARP (or Live Action Roleplaying – see here if you don’t know what it is).

Some years ago now, I was a plot writer for the LARP system I was involved with, and, as part of a plotline, I produced several nursery rhymes, which were recorded – with suitably disturbing child-like voices – by a friend, Phil Callan.

In 2010, Phil decided to produce his first ever album – Visions Of A Dragon – a collection of folk songs inspired by celtic traditions and stories from LARP. Phil and another friend, Michelle Cleland, adapted one of the nursery rhymes I’d written – Hurry Now, Make No Sound – into a song for the album.

Phil has since started his own independent music and audio production company. He’s recently re-mastered Visions Of A Dragon – including my little nursery rhyme, and, more importantly, a load of awesome songs by talented musicians – and made it available for the general public to purchase.

You can find out more about the album and its history here on the Red Banner Studios website.

The album is available to buy on Bandcamp here.