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.

Book 19 is missing

I did it. Well, all but Book 19.

This time last year I decided to finally sit down and start reading/playing Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf adventure game books after I’d been trying to piece together a complete collection since the late ‘90s. You can read the story behind that here.

A year on, and I’ve come to a (temporary) end of my read/play through.

In the end I managed to get through the first eighteen books in a reasonable time — about one a week for eighteen or so weeks. I managed to pick up Book Seventeen (one of the few missing from my collection when I started the read through) for a not too unreasonable price. However, Book Nineteen remained (and remains) elusive (at least at a price I’m willing to pay). So I broke off from the read through in what must have been August last year.

A week or so ago, I finally gave up on waiting, and read Book 20 — The Curse of Naar — completing, with that one exception, my read through.

Was it worth the effort of collecting and the wait to play it all the way through in (almost) one go?

Probably.

Having grown up on standalone Fighting Fantasy books, it was kinda fun playing through an ongoing story. Certainly the first story arch of five books played well. They’re fast paced, fun reads. After that though the books started to become harder going. Not only did the pace seem to slow and it take longer to get through them, but they felt more and more linear, with the decision points not being about choices over a course of action but about what you had done in previous books or which skills you’d chosen at the start. There was a strong sense that it was almost essential to have read at least the majority of the books in sequence just to make sure that you had all of the prior knowledge and all of the equipment you needed to succeed.

Did I cheat to complete them? A little, although a lot less than I have with certain Fighting Fantasy books.

In other news

I’ve completed another draft of The Theatre of Shadows – The Vasini Chronicles II. I’m actually feeling quite positive about it and it seems that I’m getting that much closer to being in a position to publish it. Fingers crossed I’ll still feel the same when I go back to it in a few weeks time after its obligatory time in the virtual draw.

Until next time, keep safe and wash your hands.

That was 2019

It’s that time of year when I take a look back at what I thought I was going to do in 2019 and say “Well, that didn’t happen.”

Looking back at what I intended to do is frustrating. On the surface it looks like I’ve done little to nothing. In truth, though I may not have ticked off much from the “To Do List”, I need to remind myself what I said on 1 January:

…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.

And although I may not have finished much on the list, I have moved in the right direction and the time left to when it will be completed is shorter.

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

Well, part of that happened. I’ve edited it. But, I’m continuing to edit it – I’m on the fifth draft. As I said here:

The good news is that it’s a lot closer to being out in the world, to the point where I’m so tempted to turnaround and say it will definitely be out next year. The problem is that I’ve been burnt by my own expectations twice now, so all I’m going to do is keep it vague and say it’s ‘coming soon’ with no clear definition of what soon really means.

I hate doing it (not being able to get this out into the world as quickly as I want and not being able to say when it will actually appear).

It sucks.

It [INSERT MORE SWEAR WORDS OF CHOICE] sucks.

I’m not sure I’ve got anything more to add at this time, other than to say it’s closer still. I’m enjoying it (which makes working on it fun and worthwhile and keeps me motivated to finish it, even if the amount of time it is taking is a source of frustration). Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it too when you have the chance to read it. When that will be though, I’m still not quite in a place to commit without the risk of getting burnt again.

There’re some scenes from the novel that I’ve excised, at least one of which I may well post to my blog at some point. It’s inconsequential to the story – hence it getting cut – but there’s a little anecdote in the scene about the Ranters and their attempts to secure a chance to vote that I want to share.

Edit a novella.

Aka The Signal (working title), the sequel to the novelette The City Between the Books.

In the gaps between rounds of editing The Theatre of Shadows (ToS), I’ve been working on this. Given that it’s a quarter of the length of ToS, despite being lower on the priority scale, it could find itself finished and ready to publish before ToS.

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 and I haven’t touched a word of them thanks to editing ToS and The Signal, which have a (current) combined length of around 230,000 words.

Given that ToS needs to see the light of day before these, then editing Tales From Vasini II is low down on my priority list and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Pity, as I want to get stuck back into them. They’re somewhat different to the other Vasini-based stories as they take place entirely outside of the confines of the city and it was great exploring the wider world of the setting and see what happens beyond Vasini’s rain-drenched streets.

Write The Vasini Chronicles III.

The Vasini Chronicles III has actually been outlined in rough, as mentioned here and here. It won’t get written for a while.

Write Tales From Vasini III.

This will be three novellas set in the lead up to The Vasini Chronicles III. They’re all outlined. I started writing the first of the novellas back in March. I’m coming up to being about half way through the first draft, as I’m only getting to write scraps around editing ToS.

And writing this post is now getting me down with the simple scale of the backlog that has formed. I so want to be moving forward with all of these stories, I want to be telling them to myself and then putting them out in the world for you and others to read, but…but I only have the time to work on one thing and that one thing, now, has to be ToS. I need to keep reminding myself what I said at the start: things are moving, I’m heading in the right direction and it will get done, every page, every paragraph, every word written or edited takes me one step closer to the end. In time it will appear and then everything else will follow. It will happen…It will.

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

I was working on this at the beginning of the year. It still needs work. It will continue to need work until ToS is off my plate.

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

Well, I managed to do this. Kind of. 50 books read, although a lot of them were short and/or graphic novels. I finally got round to reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman, almost certainly my favourite of the books I read this year.

My backlog of unread books, though, sits at 286. That’s, admittedly, 28 books less than at the start of the year, but that means I broke my self-imposed rule of only buying three new books by some margin.

I did manage to do another review on Goodreads, doubling the total number of reviews I’ve written to two.

Blog more.

Technically, I succeeded. I only wrote six blog posts in 2018, this year I managed a grant total of 11 (including this one). Granted, several of them were holding messages rather than proper blogs, but, given the general lack of completing other things, lets call this a success and quickly move on.

And in terms of moving on, in 11 days time it will be 2020. My annual To Do List will look very much like the one for this year, almost identical in fact. But, despite appearances to the contrary, I do need to remind myself that things have moved on. Even if the big final goals have not been achieved, I’ve moved in the right direction along the path – I’ve taken a lot of the tiny steps that need to be taken to get to the end. Just not all of them quite yet.

Here’s hoping that 2020 will bring some closure to some of the above and maybe the chance to start on some new paths.

Best wishes for the holidays to all of you. May the end of the year bring you rest, goodwill and good times with those you want to be with. And may the New Year take you further along your own paths towards where you want or need to be.

Insert swear words of choice

Given it’s been four months since my last proper post, I would hope I would have some good news to share, but apparently not.

A bit over a year ago, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t going to get The Theatre of Shadows, the next Vasini Chronicles novel, out by the end of 2018. I desperately hoped that I’d be able to get it out into the world in 2019, and, at that point, it looked possible. Then, at the beginning of this year I hedged my bets with the comment:

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.

I’m now at stage where I have to admit that it won’t go out into the world this year.
[INSERT YOUR PREFERRED SWEAR WORD HERE]. And a hundred or so more swear words on top.

The good news is that it’s a lot closer to being out in the world, to the point where I’m so tempted to turnaround and say it will definitely be out next year. The problem is that I’ve been burnt by my own expectations twice now, so all I’m going to do is keep it vague and say it’s ‘coming soon’ with no clear definition of what soon really means.

I hate doing it (not being able to get this out into the world as quickly as I want and not being able to say when it will actually appear).

It sucks.

It [INSERT MORE SWEAR WORDS OF CHOICE] sucks.

I’ve prioritised The Theatre of Shadows to the point where I haven’t really worked on any of my other writing. There’s a novella part written, and a novel and three novellas that need editing. All — barring the odd ten minutes here and there — are likely to sit in their virtual draws until The Theatre of Shadows is done.

It sucks. Not because I’m not enjoying working on The Theatre of Shadows — I really like the story, the characters, the setting — but because I want to share it with you and I want to share the other stories as well and that’s not going to happen for some months yet.

[SWEAR WORD OF CHOICE]

Anyway, time to remind myself to take a breath, to have a little patience, that these things take time and, so long as I’m working on it, the end — and its release into the world — is getting closer each day.

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.

Outlines and Edits II: More Outlines, More Edits

Phew. I managed to blog this time. It was kind of inevitable that I was going to miss a blog after setting myself a blogging schedule, but I’d hoped it wouldn’t be so early in the year and only after four posts.

Oh dear.

Anyway…where was I…

Ah, yes…I was editing a supernatural noir and outlining The Vasini Chronicles III and Tales From Vasini III. 

I still am, although very close to finishing both.

On the supernatural noir side, I should finish editing the latest draft in the next week or two. I had thought I was a lot further in to the edit, but in the past couple of days, I’ve admitted to myself that I really need to cut back one character’s presence in the story. It’s going to be painful. I really like the character and in many ways they bring a great additional perspective on the story. The problem is they’re not who the story is about and as interesting as that perspective can be, it isn’t essential and just gets in the way at a vital part of the story. They won’t disappear completely, but they won’t be playing quite as prominent role in the later stages of the novel. Once I’ve recovered from that I’ll be switching my attention to editing The Theatre of Shadows: The Vasini Chronicles II. 

The rough outlines for all three of the Tales From Vasini III novellas and The Vasini Chronicles III are done. I’m mostly finished with the more in-depth outlining of the first novella in an attempt to avoid any notes that just say ‘They find a clue’. Once that’s done, I’ll start writing. The outlines for the other novellas and The Vasini Chronicles III will get a little more work on them as I write and get a better grasp on the first novella.

Until next time.

The steps so far

It’s 31 January, the date by which if I’d made resolutions they’d have fallen by the wayside and if I’d made plans I’d already be down on myself for failing to reach some arbitrary deadline. Instead, as stated here, I’m trying to think more in terms of a direction of travel, giving myself the opportunity to celebrate what I’ve achieved rather than berating myself for what’s been left undone.

And, though I may not be far along (after all, we’re less than 9% of the way through the year), there has been progress:

  • Goodreads tells me, I’ve read seven books so far (and am four books ahead of schedule, assuming I’m to read 48 books this year). Although they are all books I started off reading last year or graphic novels.
  • I’m well into outlining The Vasini Chronciles III and Tales From Vasini III. The initial phase is putting together a broad outline on index cards (completed for Tales From Vasini III and about half way there for The Vasini Chronicles III) and then I’ll move on to fleshing out those notes and then onto writing an actual draft.
  • I’m a little over half way through editing a long supernatural noir novel.
  • I’ve had some feedback on The Theatre of Shadows (The Vasini Chronciles II) and will start editing it again once the current draft of the supernatural noir is complete.
  • And, so far, I’ve kept up with my attempts to blog more.

All in all, a reasonable start to the year.

Outlines and edits

Woo’hoo. I remembered to blog before the automatic “I didn’t get round to blogging” message went up.

Outlining on The Vasini Chronicles III and Tales From Vasini III continues, as does editing the supernatural noir novel. It’s kind of relaxing not working on a first draft at the moment, having some time away from the daily press to fill white space with coherent sentences. Instead I’m collecting together and structuring random thoughts and working with words that have already been written.

At the moment, outlining consists of getting all of my initial thoughts and all the scenes and random bits I know I want to do in the story down onto index cards and then working out how they all link together. After that it will be structuring it properly and fleshing it out. Hopefully, this time I’ll remember not to stick future me with the oh-so helpful note of “They find a clue”. Seriously, past me can be annoying. What clue are they supposed to find? Tell me past, Chris. Tell me.

I’m not a slavish outliner, I like to be able to explore the characters and story as I write and see what comes from it. But it is useful to have a rough outline as a prompt for that exploration, to make sure I know in which direction I’m ultimately heading and in what the next step in that direction is should I get lost.

On the editing side, as I’ve said before, I’m enjoying being back in the world of my supernatural noir and with its characters so much. It feels comfortable and although I know the story so well now, I still get excited by it.

Anyway, let’s see if I manage to beat the automatic “I didn’t get round to blogging” message on 31 January.