Blog offs and hidden books

It’s been over a month since my last blog. I had intended to blog sooner, but with new parenthood, writing, editing, a day job and so on and so on and so on, things got away from me a little.

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SPFBO

A little while ago The Silver Mask became a semi-finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO).

For those who, like me until a few months ago, have never heard of the SPFBO, it’s a competition for self-published fantasy authors run by Mark Lawrence (author of The Broken Empire trilogy amongst other things).

300 books are divided up amongst 10 bloggers, who whittle their selection of 30 down through whichever method they decide to one book. This one book is put through to the final. The 10 finalists are then read by the 10 bloggers who together decide on the winner.

The Silver Mask was sorted into Fantasy Book Review’s group, who are whittling their group down to a set of semi-finalists from which they’ll select their finalist. You can read more about Fantasy Book Review’s approach here.

You can find out more about SPFBO, see what other books have been entered and follow the contest on Mark Lawrence’s blog here.

So why, if this started back in May, am I talking about it now? Partly because there hasn’t been much to talk about from The Silver Mask’s perspective, but, to be honest, mostly because I didn’t want to encourage the inevitable irony of me talking a lot about the competition and then The Silver Mask being cut immediately afterward. Of course, irony could now strike and I could be cut at the semi-final stage. So lets just say, if I never talk about the SPFBO again it’s because things didn’t go so well.

Hide a Book Day

Yesterday was Hide a Book Day, a joint event between Goodreads and The Book Fairies.

I’ve always been tempted by the idea of leaving copies of my books around the place for people to find and this provided the perfect excuse.

Three copies of The Silver Mask have been left around the place:

In Lakeside, Thurrock:

 

The Spectrum Centre, Belfast:

 

And Manchester Piccadilly:

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I can’t promise they’re still there if you go searching for them.

Thank you to my two ‘book fairies’ – Alison and Claudia – who helped deposit the books and possibly made it look like I was travelling around the country.

Ellingsen’s Third State of the To Do List

Given that we’re now over a month into the second half of the year, and quite a bit has happened in the past seven weeks or so, I thought it was time for a ‘To do list’ update.

Edit and publish a novella and short story

A Divided River: Tales From Vasini I has been out for three weeks now. The handful of reviews that have appeared on Goodreads have been really positive.

Should you be interested in having a read yourself, you can find it on Kindle, iBooks and in paperback.

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

With everything else that has been going on, not much has happened with this. Hopefully, I’ll get some time to work on it in the coming months.

Finish writing and then edit The Vasini Chronicles II

If you’ve already A Divided River, you’ll know that the next The Vasini Chronicles book is called The Theatre of Shadows and you will have seen a couple of clues about what it will be about.

I’m deep into editing the first draft and have lots of notes about what needs to change for the second draft. A lot of it at this stage is shuffling around events into a more coherent order and getting rid of sections that blatantly don’t add anything to the story. I’m tempted to make some of these deleted scenes available on my website at some point in the future, but we’ll have to see.

The Theatre of Shadows is the second longest story I’ve ever written (the longest in the long novel mentioned above). Overall, I’m quite happy with it. There’s a lot of work still to do on it, but, for the moment, I’m feeling positive.

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

I’m coming towards the end of a Vasini-based story that was originally going to be a long story, but is now hitting novella territory.

Beyond that there’s a non-Vasini related novella that I’m looking forward to writing more and more.

After that will be another Vasini-based novella and then I’ll probably start work on The Vasini Chronicles III.

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

At my last ‘To do list’ update, according to my Goodreads page, I’d read 32 books. In the 14 weeks or so since then, I’ve managed to finish another 13 for a grand total of 45 books read this year. I’ve pushed my target up to 52 books.

Unofficially, though, I’ve already read 55 books as I’ve slipped in some books for research purposes.

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

No comment.

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

Parenthood achieved. My daughter was born in June. Some things may be taking a little longer to do, but I have an awesome daughter.

Things fall apart

The fear of the white page is talked about often by writers. The fear conjured by sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper/screen, attempting to conjure something out of nothing is likely to be a familiar tale to anyone who has read about writers.

For me, there is a greater fear: the fear of re-confronting the white page; the loss of what you have written and having reconstruct what you have already created. The wasted effort. The need to dredge from memory everything that you’ve done, hoping that you can at least recapture some of what you’ve lost.

You’d think then that I would be more careful about making backups. Apparently not.

So when I tried logging into my laptop last Wednesday and discovered that my keyboard wasn’t working, panic began to set in as I realised that I hadn’t made a back up for a month.

Fortunately, thanks to a Bluetooth mouse I had laying around, I was able to get the keyboard working again and was able to make a backup.

For a day at least.

The next day the same problem occurred, and my fix from the previous day didn’t work, leading to a milder panic that I might have lost the 800 or so words I’d written the previous day. Fortunately, a quick purchase of a Bluetooth keyboard allowed me to make another back up.

For the short period before I got the Bluetooth keyboard, in an attempt to keep on writing The Vasini Chronicles II, I found myself without notes trying to remember where I was and what was going to happen next, and writing longhand with pad and pencil for the first time in several years.

Anyway, the laptop has now been fixed and everything seems to be working fine with no data loss. Panic over.

As a result of all of this – as well as promising myself I’ll make back ups more often – I’m now using the Scrivener app on my laptop and iPad, which should at least mean that I can continue writing, to some degree, without interruption should this happen again.

Although all of this has been delaying me finishing the first draft of The Vasini Chronicles II, it shouldn’t impact the publication of A Divided River, the first Tales from Vasini volume, which should still appear over the summer.

In the end, I’m just grateful that I have the flexibility in my life at the moment to deal with this sort of – in the scheme of things – minor nonsense without it becoming anything more than a frustration.

Slow news day

It’s been a month since my last post, mostly because a weekly statement of “I wrote some words and read some books” doesn’t quite provide the word count to warrant a blog post. There have been other things happening, mostly those annoyances that come with everyday life (like the central heating boiler breaking down, the car leaking coolant and a radiator in the house springing a leak), but nothing of real consequence.

Any’hoo…

The Vasini Chronicles II is coming to the end of its first draft. Hopefully it will be wrapped up by the end of March (and won’t spill into April). It will then be told to sit in a corner and behave for a little while before I start the year-or-so’s work of editing it. It’s already way longer than I expected, although it will get shorter as I clear out all the bits that don’t need to be in it. I won’t reveal anything about the set up or what happens just yet. There’s plenty of time to do that.

A Divided River, the first of the Tales from Vasini (the companion series to The Vasini Chronicles) is coming together. It’ll contain two stories (a short story and a novella) and is on track to be out over the summer.

I was putting a draft of A Divided River into a storage box yesterday when I came across an early draft of The Silver Mask that my wife had marked up with some comments. When she reads a draft, along with her thoughts and corrections, she usually adds some doodles as a reaction to what’s happening in the story. At the end of the Chapter 12 of The Silver Mask, I received this:

Cankera

It’s the first and, as far as I’m aware, only drawing of a cankera.

Cinematic Incidents 2: The Jackie Incident

A quick update to my post about random incidents at the cinema.

Today we went to see Jackie at the cinema. A good film that may have been overshadowed slightly by two incidents – at least for somebody who collects random cinema incidents.

First off, we were slightly late in getting to the screen. Fortunately, it hadn’t started, so counting ourselves lucky, we took our seats and waited. And waited. And waited.

Of the 15 or so people in the screen, we were the only ones who seemed to have noticed that the 12.40pm showing still wasn’t showing at nearly 1pm. So I headed off to find a member of staff – who asked whether it was okayed if they skipped the trailers now that the screening was running late – and about 10 minutes later the film actually started.

All was well and good.

Then at the end of the film a voice piped about explaining what happened to Jackie and Bobby Kennedy after the events of the film. At first, I thought that it was a narrator on the film. Then I realised it was a guy who had stood up a couple of rows down who had taken it upon himself to provide a short lecture on the Kennedy family.

Given what happened with Black Swan, should I just start to accept that something random will happen at films involving Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky?

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*).

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.

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.