A little way in the right direction

We’re now over three months in to 2019, so time to check how far along I am with my To Do List.

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

Back when I made my To Do List, The Theatre of Shadows was sitting in a virtual draw while others took a look at it, with the thought that I might start work on the next draft in February. In actuality I’ve only just started on the latest draft. I’m a little way in, but what I’ve gone through so far is looking better than I thought it would, which is promising. More importantly, I’m enjoying it.

Assuming there aren’t any surprises on the way, The Silver Mask should have it’s sequel out in the world by the end of the year.

Given that I may refer to it a bit, I’m just going to call The Theatre of Shadows ToS for the rest of the post. Hope you don’t mind.

Edit a novella.

I had thought that I’d get round to editing The Signal (working title) at some point before I got to ToS. That didn’t happen. It’ll sit in the virtual draw a little longer — until I’ve finished the next draft of ToS at least — based on feedback I’ve received, hopefully there shouldn’t be too much to get it into shape for publishing.

Edit Tales From Vasini II.

According to my To Do List, I was planning on editing this at the same time as ToS, but that’s been put on hold. I don’t want to distract myself from work on ToS and I know there’ll be a lot of wok to do on the two novellas that make up Tales From Vasini II, so they can wait for a bit.

Write The Vasini Chronicles III.

I’ve outlined the third Vasini Chronicles novel. There’s still some more in-depth outlining (and maybe a bit more research to do). Given that I need to work on ToS and that I need to write Tales From Vasini III first, I won’t be getting to this anytime soon.

Write Tales From Vasini III.

I’ve started writing it. I’m only a few thousands words into the first of the three novellas that will make up the book, but I’m already enjoying being with the main character and writing something new about Vasini, which makes the writing easier. (You could ask why the hell you’d write something you didn’t enjoy writing, but that doesn’t seem to be the way the writing compulsion works at times — there’s a difference between wanting to tell and enjoying a story and the process of actually writing it.)

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

This was what was delaying work on ToS.

The draft is done. It’ll go to someone to look and sense check some of the changes I made, then it’ll have to wait in line for its next draft.

I’m missing it already.

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

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 18 out 48 books, which isn’t bad going. Unfortunately my backlog is still at 306 books. It should be down to 296, but between presents and me buying more books, I seem to be maintaining the status quo with the size of my To Be Read pile.

One thing that may help is that I’m planning to read/play my collection of Lone Wolf adventure game books over the next few months (you can read about my attempts to complete the set over the past twenty years here – as an update to that blog, I’ve managed to get my hands on Book Seventeen, so I’ll be reading Books One to Eighteen). That alone will drop my backlog to 289 books.

Blog more.

With this post I’ve managed to exceed the six blog posts I made last year. I had intended to blog at least once a fortnight. Based on that, I’ve missed two posts. But, much like everything else, although I may not be quite as far along as I would hope (we are, as species, always far too optimistic with what we think we can achieve with the time we have, that’s why all those public infrastructure projects run late and go over budget), I am at least going in the right directions. In another few months I’ll be a few more steps along, a few months after that a few more steps, and I’ll keep on going until I get to where I need to be.

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.

Inside Vasini 5: Rasah, Goddess of Obligations, Promises and Contracts

Before the fall of the deities, Rasah was the goddess associated with obligations, promises and contracts. The youngest daughter of Shen-ak-Vhah, she was depicted as a young girl made of brilliant white marble with contracts and obligations carved into her. In honour of her form, and as part of their worship of her, followers of Rasah would tattoo contracts with the goddess onto their own bodies.

Since the fall, some city-states, including Vasini, have outlawed tattooing certain body parts (none have outlawed it entirely), to ensure that it isn’t the “covert” worship of the goddess.

Law on Tatoos stage 2

A Divided River giveaway

As I write this on Tuesday, I have still yet to enter the realms of parenthood. By the time the post is actually published on Thursday morning (UK time), who knows what the situation will be.

Anyway, UK-based people, I’m running a Goodreads giveaway for the chance for you to win one of five signed paperback copies of A Divided River: Tales From Vasini I ahead of its release on 21 July. You can enter the giveaway here. You have until 6 July to enter.

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And here’s the copies of The Silver Mask from the last Goodreads giveaway just before they were posted on Tuesday.

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Gone Quiet

Any moment now I’m going to become a father.

I say any moment now, it will be any time within the next few weeks, but after nearly nine months of waiting it feels like any moment.

Although you may not notice, at some point I’ll go silent for a while as I finally get to look after and play with my child (I’ve already been reading to it).

Before that though…

My Goodreads giveaway for The Silver Mask has now finished. Thank you to everyone who entered. I’ll be sending out the copies to the lucky five within the next few days.

Ahead of its publication on 21 July, I’ll be running a Goodreads giveaway (open to UK-based people) of five signed paperback copies of A Divided River. It’ll start this Thursday and end on 6 July.

For those outside of the UK or who don’t do the Goodreads thing or those who prefer their books on electronic devices, you can pre-order A Divided River on Kindle and iBooks.

Catch you all after I enter the land of parenthood.

Tales From Vasini

Back in February I talked about how some people had assumed that The Vasini Chronicles was going to be a trilogy, but it was likely going to take six novels to tell the story of Doctors Marcus Fox and Elizabeth Reid.

As I said then, early on when I was developing the ideas for Vasini, I realised that there would be scope for more stories than just The Silver Mask. Although most of those stories focused on the exploits of the good doctors, I kept on wanting to explore other aspects of Vasini, the bits where they either didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t go. Vasini, after all, is a city of a million people, there’s more going on there than what an ex-alchemist now inspector and an apothecary/adherent-to-a-philosophical-path would experience.

That’s where Tales From Vasini comes in. It’s a chance to explore the wider world and travel through those city streets and places outside of the city where Marcus and Elizabeth don’t go. To meet some of the people who may not play a big role in the story of The Vasini Chronicles but are still facing their own challenges and having their own adventures.

So, in truth, although the story of the good doctors is six novels long, the story of Vasini itself is much, much bigger.

A Divided River: Tales From Vasini I is now available for pre-order on Kindle and iBooks. It’ll be available in paperback as well, and will be published on 21 July.

(As always, for those outside of the UK, please try your local US, Australian, New Zealand or EU-based Amazon or iBooks store.)

You can read more about it here.

The Silver Mask giveaway

UK-based people…

I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads.

There’s a chance for you to win one of five signed copies of The Silver Mask, the first novel of The Vasini Chronicles, ahead of the July release of A Divided River: Tales From Vasini I – the first of a companion series of stories to The Vasini Chronicles.

Details, terms and conditions etc. can be found here https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/236034-the-silver-mask.

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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*