Writer problems; unexpected inspiration

Last night I had a flash of inspiration, which now has developed into a full concept for a new fantasy/horror novel.

Now I just have to deal with the struggle of fighting down the urge to start developing this new idea further, as I’m already well into my next novel and have at least two more already on the shortlist for the one after this.

So, notes have been made and stored, with each idea written down safely. Now to let it percolate in my subconscious while I get working on the next one in line.

I guess I can’t complain that I have too many ideas for novels. It’s still a pain, though.

The Æther Collection Cover Reveal!

We’re almost there!

The story is locked down and I’m now just waiting on my last two copy editors to finish running through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Once that’s done and I’ve gone through it myself one final time, The Æther Collection will finally be ready for publication!

And, in honour of this, I thought it was time to officially reveal the cover art, provided by my wonderful designer (and sometime organ-donor) Emily.

cover 1

Eagle-eyed followers may well have spotted this image before, as it’s been going up on my various forms of social media recently, and has actually been the banner for this website for a couple of weeks. But this is the “official” launch, so take a moment to enjoy it.

Now begins the painstaking task of completing the manuscript and getting it published. This weekend has been spent sending things out to agents, but while I am waiting on responses the process of preparing everything to self-publish will begin. So, barring an agency picking this up and taking the tasks of publication out of my hands, or any unforeseen events that might cause further details, The Æther Collection should be out in August.

So, if anyone out there is interesting in maybe getting their hands on an early review copy, now’s the time to let me know.

 

I’m getting ahead of myself

So I’m sitting on the bus this morning, listening to one of my writing podcasts, and an idea for a future book pops into my head.

Cue the remainder of my commute being spent constructing the entire thing in my head; the structure, themes, everything. The concept and conceit slipping into place in my mind almost without trying. It’s simple. It’s clever. It’s interesting. And above all it’s going to be a lot of fun to write.

Having an idea drop into your head fully formed like this is one of the most wonderful and exciting experiences a writer can have.

And now I sit back and realise that first I have to finish off The Æther Collection, then I already have my next project planned and ready to go, meaning it’s going to be at least a year before I can start working on this new idea.

Damn it!

2015: Looking back, then forward

Happy New Year, folks. How was your 2015? I think I can safely say that mine was definitely one of the more eventful years in my life.

2015 and things that have been

So, looking back at this year, was there possibly anything that kept me a little too busy to get as much writing done as I would have liked?

Oh yes, my wife going through a kidney transplant. That was it.

It has to be said my family started off 2015 on a bit of a stressful note. On February 9th my wife went through a transplant to receive a kidney from my sister. Understandably, this took all my focus and energy for quite a while. Between the build up, preparations, the stress of the day of the operation itself, visiting them both in hospital and then looking after Frankie during the recovery period, I think I can say the first 3 months of the year were a write off, writing wise.

And then this autumn I’ve had a massive project at the day job that completely absorbed all my mental energy. I’m not complaining as such. I like my day job, and bigger projects means more responsibility means more chance of advancement. But between working through lunch breaks and coming home exhausted I essentially lost another couple of months of writing time.

So I think I can say I lost at least five months of 2015 for writing. That’s not to say I didn’t get anything done in that time. It’s just that I had other things on my mind that had to take precedence.

One thing I did get done was producing the paperback edition of The Serpent’s Eye. Like the e-book, putting this together turned out to be one hell of a learning curve, but I’m happy at how it turned out. Especially as I had very little idea what I was doing. There are a couple of small things I would like to tweak, but they’re tiny in the overall scheme of things. But my designer tells me there are a couple of little things she can see now it’s a physical book she would like to fix, so there may be an updated version sometime in the future if we get around it it. And at the moment that’s a big if, as there are plenty of more important things to get done first.

Short-story wise, it wasn’t a prolific year. The thing with so much else going on simply did not have the time to work on any independent projects. I had to prioritise. Annoyingly, the anthology with which I was involved, with Thomas Hill Publishing, fell through, so that story is now looking for a new home. However I was included in Verto Publishing’s Halloween Celebration. Those of you who caught it were able to read the first story in The Æther Collection, complete with a wonderful illustration from P. Emerson Williams. It’s still up, so head over if you want to check it out.

The rest of the year got taken up by working on The Æther Collection. 

And I feel I do have to mention that this year we lost possibly one of the greatest English writers, and the man who got me into reading; Sir Terry Pratchett. I’ve written about my feelings on his passing here, so I won’t go into them again. But it’s sad that 2016 will be the first year since I was born that there won’t be a new Discworld novel to look forward to.

Terry&Death

I will keep you all updated on my sister’s campaign/project to get a permanent statue of Sir Terry erected in Salisbury. I think we can definitely call it a project now as everyone involved seems onboard. Watch this space for updates.

2016, and things that are to come

So the big project for this year is, of course, completing The Æther Collection. At the start of last year I had hoped to get this done for Christmas, but obviously with everything going on it has been pushed back. I do have the first full draft completed and with my Alpha Readers (you can read more on that here) and should hopefully have notes to begin redrafting by the end of January. I’m not sure how many more drafts it’s going to need, but my gut is telling me a least four more; one from readers notes, another just from myself, a second round of notes, then a final polish and copyedit.

The Æther Collection - 4th Draft

Of course, now I’ve said this, it will take far longer. At this point I’m hoping for a June release at the latest. I want to have time to get it out to agents and small press publishers, but I will put this out myself if this process takes too long. June would be two years since the original release of The Serpent’s Eye, which would be nice timing. But of course I don’t want to rush anything. Watch this space for more updates.

Outside of this main project I do have other plans. I would like to get a couple more short stories done this year and get them into anthologies. I have one I’m finally getting to finish at the moment, and at least two more in early draft stages, waiting for their turn. Possibly these will be palette cleanser projects between drafts of The Æther Collection. I would really like to get these done early in the year and start submitting them, but we’ll see. The Æther Collection has to take priority.

I’m also beginning to get annoyingly excited about my next big project. It’s a haunted house story, filtered through the views of an adolescent girl trying to fight to discover her place in the world while insisting that she shouldn’t have to fight for it. Over the last couple of months various ideas have begun to slip into my mind, fleshing out the main concept and I’m ready to start writing. This is great, but not quite so much when I need to get the previous project completed before I can get started. But hopefully I’ll have a least a first draft of this done by this time next year.

I’ve had a great little break over Christmas. I’ve kept away from the keyboard almost completely to allow my brain to rest. Now I’m itching to get back to work.

See you all in 2016.

boot-inn-new-year

2014: Looking back, then forward

So 2015 is almost upon us. It’s been an interesting year, with lots of things moving forward in my career. And in the spirit of the New Year I thought I would have a look back at where I was a year ago and what I have planned in the future.

So you know, a New Years update. Groundbreaking, I know.

2014 and things that have been

So at the beginning of the year I was unemployed, and so therefore in the wonderful position of being able to write full time. At this point I was focusing on two things; working on building up The Æther Collection and the final polish of The Serpent’s Eye. I also had a couple of short stories out into the submissions cloud, but so far I had nothing published.

The Serpent’s Eye became available to download as an ebook in July. This is my first published work, and I’m very please with how it has turned out. I’ve had some great feed back, some from friends I trust to be honest with me, and some from total strangers which in a way is better that they’re not going to care one bit about my feelings.

I have discovered that putting together and self publishing an e-book is not a simple process. At least, not if you want it to be any good. You can write the best story in the world, but if you give it crappy production values people are never going to give it a chance. I’ve been very lucky that I have a sister who is an artist and designer, meaning I was able to get an excellent cover done for free. But even with that I had to teach myself how to actually format and produce all the necessary files and upload them correctly to the necessary websites. Honestly, it took me several evenings to get everything right on this before it could go up.

The Æther Collection slowed down a lot this year. Mainly this was due to my getting a full time job and my writing time being slashed. I have to really prioritise my projects at the moment, and unfortunately this has had to take a back seat. Still I’ve managed to get a couple of stories up, and I have at least two more almost finished.

Part of what has taken up my time are other short stories. I’ve been trying to get my work out into the world, and one of the main routes is getting my short stories into anthologies. This year I have finally managed to reach this goal, with my story ‘Nice, or Naughty’ being included in Dark Holidays. I have also had another story, ‘Hielora Road’, accepted in a new horror anthology from Thomas Hill Press which will be coming out in the New Year.

2015, and things that are to come

I have always planned to release The Serpent’s Eye as a physical book, but it has taken me some time to get around to finalising this. I had originally intended to get it out for Christmas, but as it was taking me more time that I planned I decided not to rush it. Deciding on a printing service and making sure all the layout is perfect is very time consuming for someone who has never done this before. I’ve been working my way along the learning curve, and am now doing one last proof read while I wait for my sister to complete the full cover art.

I was always aware that with an ebook I could always fix any errors that came up, but with a printed book I can never make changes if something slips through. I want this to look as professional as possible, and as much as I put effort in for the presentation of the ebook, but I’m being doubly careful. I am fully aware I am not the greatest proofreader of my own work. I know I’m going to miss some stupid mistake, but I’m doing my best to make sure it’s not so glaring and obvious that it ruins the whole thing.

At the moment I’m looking at a February release date, but I don’t want to commit to a time frame for fear of hubris. Having never done this before I have no idea how long it will take or what delays there might be.

Once that is done, my main project for 2015 will be completing the Æther Collection. This has been unavoidably on the back-burner for a while, but I want to get it completed and out to buy by the end of the year at the latest.

The main question I am trying to answer right now is how long do I want to make it. I currently have 9 stories written, and 1 more ready in my head for a first draft. That gives me 10 stories coming in around around 55,000 words. Ideally I would like a bit of a longer word count and a couple more stories. The problem is that so far stories have simply been added to the collection as they have come to me. I’ve had no real plan on how many there will be once it is completed.

So once of my tasks will be sitting down and having a long think about this. I need to decide if there are any more stories to be told in this collection, then I need to decide on what order to put them in. There is obviously the choice of chronological order, but I’m not yet convinced that this will be the best way. I have a feeling there is a thematic way to arrange them. I just need to find it.

One other thing is that I don’t think I will be publishing them online once completed anymore. As much as I want you all to read them, the original object of having them available up on my site was to have something up there for visitors to look at and comment back to me on. But now that is less of a priority as people can find my work elsewhere. I may actually take some of them down. They still need polishing, and I would like for at least some of the collection to be new to the reader. So expect some of them to disappear over the next couple of months so I can work on them in peace.

I also still fully intend to produce more one off short stories for publication. I have several in my mind that I really want to get done and a couple actually half written. The problem at the moment is time. With a real life job and real life family issues taking up a lot of my time, writing it limited. Short stories are a great palette cleanser between big projects, and also great fun in their own right, but often I have to leave them simmering in the background for longer than I would like. I then even when they are finished it can take time for them to get accepted into collections, and then however long for that collection to come out.

So that is the coming year. Hopefully 2015 will show an increase in my workload and publicity. I know that the next stage in my writing career involves an increase in marketing, but this is something way out of my comfort zone. I have never been any good at promoting myself, so it’s going to be an interesting journey trying to make it happen.

But it’s definitely going to be fun.

See you all in 2015.

Getting back to it

One of the most basic tenets of time management in your personal life, which I have heard mentioned in more than one writers “How To” guide, is: “You always have the time. You’re just using it badly.”

The idea is that if you find you don’t have time for something, in this case writing, then you have to look at your life and see what you are doing with that time instead. There are things you have to do; eat, work (if you have a real life job), look after children (if you have any), etc. The rest is free time.* So if you don’t have time to write, what are you doing with your time instead? Are you not getting writing done because you are always playing computer games? Then cut out playing computer games. Are you not getting writing done because you spend all evening with your family? Bite the bullet and put aside half an hour every evening or morning to write, no matter what.

I’m not saying it’s always easy. It all comes down to how much you want to write, and how much you are prepared to give up to do it.

And this is what I’ve had to face for the last few weeks. I have had other temporary commitments. In June, Purple Theatre Company put on their production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, and I was Stage Managing. This meant that for the last few weeks more and more of my time was taken up with planning. I had set to design, and costumes to find, and so many other things to sort and arrange. And time I spent planning on the show, I couldn’t spend writing.

Now this has been causing me some distress. I wanted to write, but had a commitment I had to fill. I wanted to be part of this show. It’s not like anyone forced me to do it. But that meant writing took a back seat and I had very little free time left. What writing I could get in had to be on my main project, finishing The Serpent’s Eye, and so short stories and blog posts took a back seat.

But now I’m free. The show is over. This means that a huge section of my time has been freed up again! Writing is once more my pastime of choice, and I am able to take the time to face what I have in the pipeline.

I have short stories that need finishing. I have one story I was writing for a specific submission deadline, which I ended up missing. But I love the story and feel it will fit in most places. Once I get it polished up I can start to submit it around, and hopefully you’ll all get to read it soon.

I also have two stories for the Æther Collection that need finishing, and a third in my head ready for a first draft. I’ve let the Collection slide as a priority, and I’m angry at myself for that. I meant to have it completed by now, but let it sit on the back burner. I mean to fix this. I now have more time, and my main project, on which most of my time has been spent recently, is now complete and I am free to work on other things.

That’s right, The Serpent’s Eye is finished, finally coming in at 42,590 words. Now I am in the stages of making sure it is all formatted correctly and setting up the methods people will have to buy it.

And let me tell you, formatting this thing was no easy job. Scrivener is an amazing programme and has made the process so much easier, but it’s still something I’ve never had to do before. It’s taken a frustrating amount of trial and error to get it right.

But more on that soon. I am determined to get the ebook on sale before the end of the month, at the latest. Keep your eyes open.

So that’s where I’ve been. I will keep this blog updated more often from now on. I promise.

 
*If you can examine your life and in all honesty say you have no free time, and that everything you do between waking and sleeping is essential, then you have issues that may need addressing. Everyone needs free time.

Working hard, or hardly wor… no, definately working hard

So yes, there’s been a bit of lapse between posts. Sorry about that. I really don’t like leaving so long between updates, but sometimes life gets busy.

The main reason I’ve been this lax is that I’ve got a new day job. I’m not complaining. As much as I enjoy getting to write full time, until I can start earning proper money through doing so I need a dayjob. And this one is great, and so if I can’t be writing full time I’m glad I’m doing this instead of some terrible wage slavery.

However is does mean that the amount of time I have for writing has plummeted. From as much time a day as I wanted, I now have little more than an hour a day. And that’s if I don’t have something come up that takes up my lunch break.

So what does that mean for my current plans. Well, I’m definitely not going to stop writing. I’m still going to be working on The Æther Collection. I fully intend to finish that collection, but there will be a longer gap between them now. I have one story waiting for a final draft, and another two all planned out in my head. They will come, but currently they are on the back burner.

The reason for this is that I’m currently working on the latest draft of The Serpent’s Eye. My last alpha-reader got back to me with some very interesting notes that have lead me to do a little bit of rewriting. It’s not a massive change, just smoothing out a couple of points to make the story flow a little more organically. And it has meant breaking up some sections and reordering them. This has meant more effort and restructuring than I was planning at this stage, but it’s all worth it. Before, when I was writing full time, I probably could have got it all done in a week, two at the outside. Now it’s taking a little longer.

And of course this means that there are fewer updates coming up onto the website. I’m looking forward to working on short stories again. With my truncated writing hours, the short story format is a very appealing form to me right now. Shorter work means it gets done sooner, and I can post more updates.

But the novella is my main focus right now. I really want to get this out in the next couple of months. My sister has put together an amazing cover design, and I’m excited about having it in its finished form and getting it out there.

But things can’t be rushed. There is no point in sending stuff out before it’s ready. There are so many terrible, half finished books being self-published these days, and I refuse to let myself join the ranks of wannabe authors with no quality control.

So my apologies for the delays, and please keep reading.

Where I’ve Been

So it’s been a little while since I’ve updated. OK, a long while. I’m sorry. I really didn’t want that to happen, I wanted to make sure I always posted something new at least once a week. This ambition hasn’t quite worked.

The thing is, there is only ever a certain amount of time in the day and I have to be honest with myself about how best to spend it.

I heard a valuable piece of advice once; If you think there isn’t ever enough time in the day to get something done, you are wrong; you just spent that time doing something else.

This was phrased as a piece of advice for writers with real lives and jobs that got in the way of their writing dreams. Essentially, if you find you don’t have time to write, then you need to make time by cutting out something else. If you need to cut out computer games or television time, then so be it. If you find you need to cut out family time then that might be harder, but you have to decide how much you want to write.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I have a reason I haven’t posted in a while. I have various projects I’m working on, as well as real life, and I have been dedicating my writing time on these, rather than the blog.

So what am I working on. It’s probably only polite to tell you.

My main project over the last couple of months has been my novella; The Serpent’s Eye. I’ve been working on this for about six months now, and I’ve got to the point where I’m sending it out to Alpha Readers to get outside opinions. But at the point when I last posted, I decided to concentrate my time on pushing out the latest draft. I didn’t want to spread out my time on various projects for a while.

Hopefully I’ll get the final draft done by the end of this year. I’m looking to e-publish this one myself, rather than attempt to go the traditional route. I wasn’t confident to do this with The Breaking Land as it was such a big project, but with the smaller scale of The Serpent’s Eye I am more confident of judging the final quality myself. I will post updates as I go.

My other current project is a selection of short stories, which I’m tentatively entitling The Æther Collection. It’s a collection of horror tales, with a slight sci-fi twist, based around the central theme of the fictional element of æther. I say fictional; there were various different ideas of what æther was in classical science. What I have done is take various ideas I’ve found and formed them into something to play with. I’ve been having great fun with this, and so it kind of distracted me from blogging for a while.

My plan for these is to get them put up on here, and then published as a collection once they’re all done. I’m aiming to try and get at least one story completed a month. Hopefully this a self imposed deadline will stop the project slowing or faltering. The first couple of stories will likely go up soon, so keep checking in.

I also have real life issues to deal with. As much as I enjoy writing, until it can support me financially I have to find a job, and so that search has had to occupy me. There are also some health issues occurring in my family right now, and so sometimes I just don’t have the energy to expand into writing

But I am going to try and be less rubbish in the immediate future. I will try to keep people updated, and to start posting more regularly.