119 days in

We’re a third of a way through the year, so time for an update on the 2018 To Do list.

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

I’ve finished editing the first draft. The second draft is currently sitting on my laptop waiting for me to go back to it after enough time has elapsed that I can see it with fresher eyes.

Although I had hoped to publish it by the end of the year, it’s increasingly likely that it will be the early part of next year before it’s ready.

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

Frustratingly, I’ve yet to do anything with this. This novel has been floating around my head since I was 17, it took years to get to a point where I was willing to put pen to paper and then to get to a point where I had a complete first draft. It looks like it will be some more time before it’s finally finished.

Write and edit the next Tales From Vasini.

I’d written one of the novellas that will make up Tales From Vasini II last year. I’m currently working on the second. The writing is slow going at the moment, but fingers crossed it will pick up speed as I go and will build up some momentum.

Finish writing and then edit a novella.

The non-Vasini novella I was working on at the beginning of the year has been finished. I’ll probably start editing it after I’ve worked on the next draft of The Theatre of Shadows.

Write The Vasini Chronicles III.

I know the basics of the story and how it relates to The Vasini Chronicles as a whole. I’ve been doing some bits of research. I may plow straight into after the novella I’m currently working on, but there may be an associated story it may be better to write first. We’ll see.

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

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 25 books so far this year. If I were to keep up my current pace that would mean I’ll have read 75 books by 31 December. Somehow, I doubt I’ll read that many. The main reason I’ve read 25 books is that several of them have been novellas or even shorter.

The good news with regards to my backlog is that eight of the 25 have been on my bookshelf waiting to be read for over two years, and in the case of at least one – War of the Daleks – since the late ‘90s.

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.

54 and counting

Back on 1 January, my to do list for the year included “Read at least 26 books and cut down my backlog of unread books (now over 300 thanks to Christmas presents).”

As of last night, according to my Goodreads profile, I’d read 54 books. As I’ve stated before, the actual figure is about 10 or so higher as I don’t list on Goodreads any books that I’ve read for research for risk of spoilers about what may happen in my own books in the future.

Book 53 was Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. A book that I’d received as a present back in my teens, which had continually been pushed back on my reading list thanks to my tendency to buy more books than I read (hence the backlog of a few hundred unread books). I enjoyed it. I suspect, I’d have enjoyed it more back in my teens though.

Book 54 was The End, the conclusion to A Series of Unfortunate Events. A Series of Unfortunate Events really lends itself to being read aloud, convenient as I had been reading it to my daughter when she was in utero, and have continued since she came into the world. We both seem to have enjoyed the series. With A Series of Unfortunate Events now complete, we’ll be moving on to the complete works of Lewis Carroll.

Although you’d think from the numbers that I was making a dent in that backlog, 42 of the books I read this year were bought in the past two years. Three of the books – the aforementioned Dragonflight, Macbeth and The Survivor by James Herbert – have been on my bookshelves since my teens, so at least I’m finally getting through some of the oldest books.

Of the 54, 14 books were read after the birth of my daughter. It’s more than I predicted I’d read in the second half of the year. It’s probably down to the majority of the books being quite short, although having four (now five) books on the go at once may play a part. I tend to read when I’m doing something else that I don’t need to concentrate on and leaves my hands free. I usually have a book for in the bath (always a paperback), one for when I’m on my exercise bike (usually a hardback), one for reading aloud at bedtime (see A Series of Unfortunate Events above) and one book for all other times (usually a paperback that has graduated from the bath). These have now been joined by an ebook that I can read on my phone late at night and, apparently, while I’m brushing my teeth.

Having read more than double the number of books I’d set out to at the beginning of the year, my new target is 57 books. I should make it, but how many more I’ll read after that is anyone’s guess.

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.

He shall, from time to time

Back at the beginning of the year I posted my To Do list for 2017. As it’s been a few months since my last update – and there’s been some activity recently – I thought it was time to do another update on some of the points.

Edit and publish a novella and short story

For those who didn’t see the announcement – and cover – A Divided River, the first of the Tales From Vasini books, will be appearing as an eBook and in paperback in July.

It’ll contain two stories: The Mudlark’s Tale (a short story); and The Winter Fayre (a novella).

Keep an eye on the blog, Facebook page and/or Twitter over the coming weeks for more information.

Tales From Vasini is a companion series of short stories and novellas to The Vasini Chronicles novel series. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, don’t forget to checkout The Silver Mask – the first of The Vasini Chronicles – either on Kindle, iBooks or in paperback.

Finish writing and then edit The Vasini Chronicles II

The first draft ended up taking longer than expected, mainly because the word count ended up being much (like 50%) higher than expected and a little bit because of technical difficulties over the past month. As always with these things there’s bits I like and bits I know I’ll definitely be changing. There are many words I’ve written that won’t make it through to the published version. It’ll sit on my computer for a little while before I get round to doing any serious editing.

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

While I get the required space between the first draft of The Vasini Chronicles II and starting the second draft, I’m having fun writing a short story that’s been floating around in my head for something like seven years. It definitely doesn’t involve zombies.

There’s another non-Vasini story, and probably two Vasini-related ones as well, I want to write before I plunge on into writing The Vasini Chronciles III.

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

According to my Goodreads page, as of finishing Chris Wooding’s The Black Lung Captain (good, fun adventure), I’ve read 32 books so far this year. Unofficially, I’ve read 39 books as I’ve slipped in a couple of books for research purposes. My new target for the year is 46. Given the next item on my To Do list, despite a strong start to the year, I may not reach my new target.

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

Fingers crossed, all is going well.

Twenty Six

At the start of the year, I set out to read at least 26 books. In someways this was an easy target given that I managed to get through 61 books last year, but with impending parenthood I figured that I’d match last year’s pace for the first half of the year and then be lucky to get through a handful more. What I hadn’t counted on was my reading pace picking up and getting through, on average, two books a week.

So here we are coming towards the end of March, and, with Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves finished, I’ve already read all the books I thought I would for the year.

Seveneves – a story of humanity trying to survive the destruction of the moon by escaping into space and what happens afterwards – was great by the way. I have yet to read all of Neal Stephenson’s back catalogue, but all the ones I have read have left me very happy that I invested the time in reading 800+ pages. Normally, when I come away from reading a good book I get a little emotional and creative surge. With Stephenson’s books I also get to come away feeling a little better informed about how the world around me works and what may be possible, scientifically and technologically, within it.

I discovered Neal Stephenson’s novels in the early days of developing what would become The Silver Mask. I was discussing the ideas with a friend and, given the presence of alchemy and the 17th/18th century influences on the setting, he suggested I try Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle. I’m not sure how much they influenced or benefited The Silver Mask, but I did get to start reading Neal Stephenson’s novels, which I count as a win.

Seveneves was also a pleasant relief from a short string of books that didn’t quite work for me. After indulging my nostalgia for the Dragonlance series with Dragons of Summer Flame, I thought I’d try Tanis – The Shadow Years – a prelude story for Tanis, one of the main protagonist from the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy I’d enjoyed in my teens. After Dragons of Summer Flame it was somewhat of a disappointment. For me it didn’t really embody the setting of the Dragonlance novels nor the character of Tanis. There were even moments that seemed to unnecessarily contradict established elements of the setting – moments that weren’t essential to the story and didn’t seem to care that they went against established canon. In the end, it was a somewhat frustrating read.

It probably wasn’t helped that the previous book I’d read was Julian Barnes’s Love etc, a book I found difficult to enjoy because I didn’t want to spend time with a number of its characters. It was kind of similar to the experience I’d had reading his novel The Sense of an Ending, so it seems like he might just write about people I don’t have much sympathy for nor want to spend time reading about.

Overall though, the remainder of the 26 have proven to be enjoyable. Saga, the graphic novel series, has been a particularly good find over the past year, and I’m looking forward to getting Volume 7 when it appears in April. I’m not sure whether it’s, in part, down to it resonating for me with my impending parenthood.

One other book to note. I’ve finally read my copy of Macbeth, the book that has been sat on my shelves waiting to read the longest. I bought my copy when I was about 11, after watching Blackadder torture two actors by repeatedly mentioning the play by name in Black Adder the Third*.  It’s followed me to at least five different homes since then, patiently waiting. I’ve dipped into it over the years, but now I’ve finally read it from beginning to end. It’s not bad.

What has reading 26 books done to my backlog? Not a lot to be honest. It would have amounted to a little under 9% of my backlog as it stood last year. However, that was before receiving presents and buying more books. Of the 26  I’ve read, only six books had been on my bookshelves longer than two years.

D’oh.

Anyway, with my first reading target hit, I suppose I should set myself a new one. Based on my current rate, it would be tempting to say 104, which would mean keeping up with two books a week. I think that would be a little too ambitious, so I’m going to say 46. That’s roughly one every two weeks, which is probably more sensible as it allows for things to slow down later in the year. You can keep track of how well I’m doing on my Goodreads page.

* Apparently the alleged curse that comes with speaking of Macbeth by name isn’t really a thing. Back in the day, when a repertory theatre’s latest production wasn’t drawing the crowds they’d end the run and put on Macbeth (certain to bring in an audience) instead.

Hot potato, off his drawers, pluck to make amends! *squeezes nose*