The Cities Beyond the Signal

I’m excited to announce that my new novella, The Cities Beyond the Signal, will be released on Kindle on 8 October 2020.

It’s already available for pre-order here.

(For those outside of the UK, please try your local US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand or EU-based Amazon store.)

What’s it about? Well…

It has been three years since Alex travelled to the city between the books, that cold, bleak place haunted by the monkey-beast. Three years and it has become a dream, a hidden memory that is easily passed off as make believe.

Now graduated from university, Alex is struggling to find a job. Until she receives an enigmatic email inviting her to an interview, but with no information on who the job is for and what it involves.

Desperate for employment, Alex feels she has to go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

But a cryptic radio signal is going to draw her into a new adventure. What started in that cold, bleak city is going to lead Alex on a rescue mission through stranger and more dangerous places.

The Cities Beyond the Signal is a novella-length sequel to the story The City Between the Books.

How long has it been?

Hello, all. I hope you’re keeping well.

I started writing a post back in April, but for several reasons never got to post it. I tried again in July, but it still didn’t happen. So now, in September, I’ve salvaged some of what I originally wrote and put together a short update on where I’m at with a couple of things.

When I was writing the original post back in April, it was our seventh(?) week of being housebound. In many ways, not much changed. My day job means that I work from home on a regular basis. Tackling childcare while working proved a challenge, but rather than deal with the stress and put my daughter through the nonsense of her parents working while she wanted our attention, thankfully we were in a position where I could take some parental leave which made things easier.

Of course, tackling all of this, living in a situation so disrupted from the norm did mean that other aspects of life were getting disrupted. There was less time to read. At times, less inclination to write as my mind was full of processing what was (and still is) going on and working out how best to get our next load of shopping. But things moved along, just more slowly. Sometimes very slowly. Yet, with any situation you acclimatise to the new norm. Things started to speed up. I found the gaps in my day that allowed me to read a bit more and, as you’ll see later, I’ve even managed to write and, more importantly, edit.

It’s been great to be able to have my family around me more though. So much time can be lost not just to work, but to getting to and from work. And there are a couple of things that the disruption has let me do thanks to my daughter settling down earlier at night and not having to get everyone up at 5am in the morning so they can get out of the house in time to head to work and nursery. The main one was getting the chance to play Dungeons and Dragons for the first time in a decade.

Yes, I could probably have written more, but, truth be told, my mind, for the first few months, wasn’t in a place where it could concentrate for that long, too many distractions in the real world. One shot D&D games though were just plain fun. Limited thinking required, just focused on enjoying some time with friends and acquaintances with no pressure. To be honest with you, the release from what was going on probably allowed me to go on and do the writing I did do.

The Cities Beyond the Signal

I’m getting close to putting the finishing touches to the novella I’ve been working on under the title of The Signal (now called The Cities Beyond the Signal), the sequel to the novelette The City Between the Books.

That means I should, fingers crossed, have some news soonish about when it will actually appear in the world.

The Theatre of Shadows: The Vasini Chronicles II

Although The Cities Beyond the Signal will be released before the next Vasini Chronicles book, much of what time I’ve managed to get to write over the past few months has actually been spent on The Theatre of Shadows. Things are progressing well, there’s still work to be done, but it’s getting closer and closer to being ready.

Tales From Vasini III

I’ve actually managed to finish the first draft of one of the novellas that will make up Tales From Vasini III.

It needs work, and I still have the two other novellas that I need to write to go with it, but it’s a start.

Reading

I’ve already hit my Goodreads goal for the year of reading 48 books. It was mainly thanks to having bought the entire main series of The Walking Dead graphic novels via Humble Bundle. I managed to get through the two-thirds of the series I had yet to read thanks to not being able to concentrate on anything too text heavy.

Blogging

With the release The Cities Beyond the Signal on the horizon, expect me to start blogging a little more frequently over the coming weeks. Whether it will turn into a more frequent think in the longer term remains to be seen.

Anyway, keep safe and well. Wash your hands (do you remember when the advice was just wash your hands properly?), wear a mask, keep two meters apart and stay inside as much as you can.

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.

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.)

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.

Sunday Night Insomnia 3: Reading and re-reading and re-reading and re-reading…

I’m in the final stages of preparing The City Between the Books and The Bridge People – two short(ish) stories that will be published jointly as an eBook in November (you can see the front cover in my previous post) – meaning that I’ve hit the most anxiety inducing stage: the final proofreads.

Over the next while I’ll be making sure that all the typos are picked up, there are no rouge elephants (as once appeared in a draft of a friend’s history book, and is still my favourite typo) and that it at least appears that I have some rudimentary understanding of the English language.

It’s not about content at the moment, it’s about finding the stupid mistakes. The ones that are honest typos, but which my mind insists that if a reader discovered them would mark me as an idiot to them.

Of course there will be some. At least one always gets through. Even writing that has had a dozen or more people scouring it to make sure it’s perfect will have the odd typo in it. It’s the way of things. They’re sneaky those typos, able to camouflage themselves amongst properly spelt words and correctly placed punctuation.

And that’s just the typos.

There’s always the risk when you’re doing the proofreads to second guess yourself, to start thinking that you should have written things a different way.

Sometimes, maybe, those thoughts are worthwhile. The second guess may actually be better. But most times – at a point when you’ve read it over and over, and others have too, and that sequence on page 17 was perfectly good all of those times before – it really is just anxiety and just needs to be sent to sit in a corner.

Yes, the next few weeks are going to be, well…yeah.

I’ll see you on the other side with a brand new something for you to read.

Between the books

Although The Vasini Chornicles novels will be consuming my writing life for the foreseeable future, they won’t be the only stories I’ll be working on. I will be – at least I plan to be – making some short stories and novellas available between each installment of the Chronicles. Some will explore the wider world of Vasini, others will be completely independent of the setting.

To that end, this will be making its way out into the world in November:

the-city-between-the-books