Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Department of Wilful Obnubilation

It's been a while since I've last blogged. I'm sorry to anyone who actually enjoys reading blogs in the age of the YouTube vlog channel. I've been going through one of those periods of wondering why anyone would want to read anything I write. And so I've not been doing it.

It's kind of an odd thing. You see I've been getting back into my writing (novels etc.) pretty well after a brief hiatus and am now a little over 58K into my latest novel. I probably should tell you something of that and might in a while but I want to keep things a little more general first.

I started this writing malarkey some years ago and concentrated entirely on non-fiction articles and short stories. I wrote and sold hundreds - mainly book and film reviews I admit but sales are sales so I take them all. I even managed to compile and sell a bunch of horror crossword and other puzzles. It was going well.

And then it wasn't. Something in me changed. Literally overnight. I stopped writing. Completely. I even stopped reading and when you consider I used to inhale novels it was a shock. I didn't do anything with fiction for over four years; no writing, no reading. Nothing.

I didn't stop reading all together. I read a lot of non-fiction; mostly history. I read fascinating book about Count Axel Oxenstierna and King Gustav II Adolph of Sweden for one. And then there were the large number of scientist biographies. I think my favourite of them was one about J. Robert Oppenheimer; interesting man. But I didn't read a single word of fiction for years.

Well that ended. I read fiction again; just not the same kind as I used to. I kept a few favourites from back then. I still read Stephen King. I still read Zoran Živković. I hope I always will. Those are two of my favourite writers; especially Živković. But I've added some different ones into my pantheon.

I was always a mad science fiction fan. Now, it's less so. I still read some. I read the latest two Mike Resnick novels and enjoyed them. But I've added authors like Max Barry and Magnus Mills onto my list. And Magnus Mills is a true joy. For me he's up there rivalling Zoran Živković in my literary affections. And I am also writing again. You know this of course if you read any of the earlier blog entries.

Since returning to writing I have been successful in terms of completion of project even if not in sales terms. I have finished nine novels or novellas and a few short stories and the current WiP is two thirds done as far as a first draft goes. Sales wise though I've not been as successful. I've sold three short stories. That's it.

I've had four offers for publication on the novels/novellas (two each for novel Mr. Stinky and novella he Intersection) but none of them were ones I could take. But as yet the total number of readers I have had for my fiction is four. They have seemed to like them but they don't have any power in getting things published.

Actually I should increase this. I have had personal emails from a few literary agents who had read my work and they claimed to enjoy it, referencing characters and plot twists etc. that convinced me they had read the books. But in each case they said they did not think what I had written was what the publishing world would pick up at the moment.

So I started to consider whether things were worth doing and the inevitable happened. I stopped writing. Fortunately I didn't stop reading this time. A few months went by with only the occasional half-hearted attempt at recommencing and I was thinking that maybe I was done with it again for a while (or possibly for good). I began to reconcile myself with that position.

And then the ideas started to come again. And so to where I am...

My current WiP is not science fiction, fantasy or horror... or even weird. I'm writing a satire about capitalism. It's called "How to Run a Company" and I'm having fun with it. And it's this last though that is my new ethos. I quite like writing. It's enjoyable. Or at least it's enjoyable when the pressure is off. So I have taken the pressure off. I'm not trying to write to a schedule. I did that during NaNoWriMo last year, thinking quite reasonably that I was writing at a schedule ahead of the 50K per month target they have anyway so why not sign up. I'll tell you why not; or at least why not for me. The pressure of trying to keep up with the schedule to get to 50K stopped it being fun.

I finished the month a little over a thousand words short. But worse I finished the month not having enjoyed writing. It was the start of my slide. I did complete that novel, and another afterwards but my fourth Ben Williamson novella stalled. As did the four novels I tried immediately afterwards.

So now, as my pinned tweet on twitter says, "Think I'm starting to get my head around what I should do with my writing. I'm going to write the stories I would want to read."

And as I am reading Magnus Mills, Zoran Živković, Max Barry and Johan Jonasson then it might just be my muse is going to take me in this direction. Of course all the ideas that are brewing up would be back in the old direction so who knows? This might be an aberration. I don't care. I'm writing.

I'm going to write when I feel like writing. And if I don't feel like it, I'm not going to force it. And I'm not going to try to second guess the market as to what might sell. I'm going to write what I would want to read. And then when it's finished I will decided whether or not I want to submit it anywhere. My previous novel, a young adult ghost/demon story called "The Stairs Lead Down" has been read by my wife (who said she enjoyed it) and by no one else. It might stay that way. I liked it so much I'm not sure I want to sully it with a long list of rejections from publishers and agencies.

This might seem counterproductive. After all why write if you're not going to seek publication? It's a good point. Well, I'm going to argue that it's because I get the enjoyment out of the writing. Why spoil it?

Of course this is likely to change in the future as there is still a large part of me that does want to hold a book, a physical book, that only exists because I wrote it and someone else thought it was worth publishing. (Yes, you can read into that that I am NEVER going to consider self-publishing.)

And talking of enjoying writing, much as it is enjoyable writing this blog entry, it just isn't a patch on writing fiction. So I am going to head back over there and get back to it. And I will admit that I never did fulfil my promise of telling you something about the current novel (I made the promise in paragraph two) I just want to write the next scene in my story.

And listen to some more good music as I do.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Saturday and... you never know (writing)

My recent run of brick wall after brick wall continued. I went back to my earlier attempt Tithebound, a fantasy novel set in an industrial revolution period world, and tried to get it going again. I managed about 3000 words and then it stalled again; for the same reason it stalled originally. I am not in the mood to write it.

I like the idea of the story. I like the main characters, especially the obligatory character you're designed to hate, and think the plot has quite a bit of originality in it as well as a decent enough story. And the setting appeals to me. I can't think of many fantasy stories set in an industrial revolution period. The closest I can get is some of the Shannara books but that are set in a post apocalypse world so having some tech is more a case of rediscover than invention. It strikes me writing this that maybe Gormenghast might be a better comparison (oh, if only I could compare my writing in terms of quality).

When I started that book I had the beginning few scenes and the characters all sorted. I know what the main plot would be and the subplots (there are two) and how it was all going to end. The problem I have is one of tying two bits of it up. You see being 13K in means I've done the beginning. I've hinted at what will be the plot, I've introduced the first of the two subplots and all of the main characters. Okay one of the main characters has only walked through a scene but I know he's there. He's going to enter the plot more and more as it progresses and have a pivotal influence on how things are going to go.

So all sounds good. Apart from the one problem I knew the book had before starting. How do I join the beginning to the main plot? I've started books like this before and as the first few scenes had unfolded the characters had told me how they would handle the junction. This time they didn't. Part of that is that the main character is, as yet, totally unaware of what she is and how important she is (yeah, I know it's a typical fantasy thing to do this but it does help me explain the world by having the girl discover everything for us). In not knowing what is going on she's going to be dragged along for the ride offering no direction at all as it happens. Which means she's not given me the means of doing it. I'm going to have to let it all sit in the back of my mind until the answer comes to me.

Then maybe I will finally have the bug for the story. I know it could be a good tale; I just need to feel it. When that happens I will NEED to write it. I won't be trying to. That's what it's been recently. For all my good words about writing what I like to write I've still filtered it into what, of the ideas that fill my notebooks that I might enjoy reading, would have the best chance to sell. It's a pointless endeavour because all that does it stop my actually writing. And in not writing I'm never going to sell anything.

So the solution is Ben Williamson. I have written three novellas featuring Ben Williamson so far. Two of the publication offers I have had were for one of these. I like the character even though he is entirely unremarkable. I just like doing odd things to this everyman of a character. And I had a wonderfully silly idea of how to torment him. So that's what I've started today.

So far, just over one hour since starting, I've written three scenes for a total of 1,834 words. That sounds like time for a short break. Then the first bit of weirdness will start.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Catchup

I can't believe it's been a couple of weeks since I last posted a blog entry. Time flies like an arrow (in the way fruit flies like a banana),

I have been writing a little. I started a new novel a little while back - I blogged something to this effect back on the 24th July. Well it's a sf novel and I'm about 14K into it. The only problem is I'm just not feeling it. I might hand it over to my test reader after the Olympics and see what the feedback is.

Or to put things another way I'm not getting out of my funk. I mentioned this before about not having finished a story for a while. I get so far and just... well... stop being interested. And if I'm not interested in it I can't see a reader being interested. It's a complete bugger.

I like writing. It gives me a sense of satisfaction, but it's dried up a little. I think I need some time to go away and plot out a story for a week or two and get the whole thing onto paper in a notebook like I did for the first few (completed) novels. That way I might find the writing of it a lot easier. Who knows. They might peter out as much as the others. Well, I suppose it's worth a try

Away form writing I have been reading some. I finally got around to reading Kevin J Anderson's The Dark between the Stars, Mike Resnick's the Prison in Antares, Stephen King's Finders Keepers and be about a third of the way through Stephen King's End of Watch.

The last way I am concerned about. I really enjoyed Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers. They featured a central core set of characters I have enjoyed spending time with. They also featured no supernatural stuff which I found kind of refreshing. The horror in the stories was entirely human in origin - people being evil bastards basically. I liked that. It's different to the spooky stuff and being different is occasionally good.

Well book three, End of Watch, seems to be bringing in some Mulder moments and I'm not sure I like the thought of the characters I've grown fond of now subjected to ghostly goings on. (BTW that's a phrase for general paranormal-ness. There doesn't seem to be any ghosts.) I wanted more of the same - give me a new evil bastard then set about making sure whatever he/she wants doesn't come to pass. Round of the trilogy and let the characters rest with a job well done and everything mundane in origin. Only that's not what's going to happen. The end of book two hinted at "powers".

I'm going to read it. I like the characters too much to not spend a little more time with them but I feel more than a little trepidation at where this might be going...

We shall see

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Old books - collecting update

I collect books. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read one of my previous postings. Well a week or so ago (and sorry for the delay in posting this - other things like writing took priority in a busy week) I went into one of my favourite second hand bookshops (in Polesworth, near Tamworth) and bought a few books. And, being the type, I thought I would share some details. The books were (all are paperbacks)

Saul Dunn - the Coming of Steeleye
Saul Dunn - Steeleye - the Wideways
Saul Dunn - Steeleye - Waterspace
Frederik Pohl & Lester del Rey - Preferred Risk
James Blish - Midsummer Century
James Blish - ...and All the Stars a Stage
Bob Shaw - Nightwalk
Robert Silverberg - Vornan-19
Poul Anderson & Gordon R. Dickson - Star Prince Charlie
Poul Anderson & Gordon R. Dickson - Earthman's Burden
Lin Carter - Time War
Christopher Anvil - the Day the Machines Stopped
John Morressy - Starbrat
Jack Vance - the Pnume
Leo P. Kelley - Mythmaster
Jack Williamson - Seetee Shock
Jack Williamson - Seetee Ship

That was a little over a week ago - yes, I've been that remiss in blogging. I will have to do better in future. And to make my shame worse I have even bought more books since then, although not this past weekend as I was at a friend's wedding. I popped to a bookshop after work this evening and added two more to the list

Frederik Pohl - the Gold at Starbow's End
Robert Silverberg - Sundance

I'll probably take some cover shot images in the next few days and post them on my Tumblr feed. That or set up an Instagram account for them. It might be better than Tumblr - might reach more people. You never know.

BTW - later I might blog about writing (or maybe politics/economics). We shall see

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Perhaps a change of direction

A couple of weeks ago I started writing a new story. It's called "the Writer, Writing". I've mentioned it on here before - comparing it to one of my favourite authors in terms of subject matter (although I will stress again, not in terms of quality). It is a nothing story - a quirky little idea that appeals to me. But I've always had a fondness for stories where the lead character is an author/writer; as well as a fondness for stories where, when you think about it, nothing actually happens.

Well I handed the first few parts of it (a little over 21, 000 words) to my number one test reader and I have my first impressions of what someone thinks about it. On the flattering side she said she liked it and wanted to know where it was going. On the downside she said this was a Stephen King book 30 idea. From earlier conversations I know exactly she means by this.

You see (and I know this depends on how you count but trust me this is the not all that relevant bit) the 30th book Stephen King released was "the Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon". It's not a typical Stephen King book. It's good but it doesn't really fit with the others he's done. But if you've released 29 bestsellers before it then you can pretty much do what you like. For one book anyway; I'm sure if he went off on mad tangents released obscure book after obscure book his readership would disappear but one here and there he'll get away with. (And yes this is a good book in my opinion.)

So the quandary I've been wrestling with for the past day or so is do I continue writing a book I am enjoying writing but can only agree is not a commercial book from everything I've read and heard; or do I shelve it and try something else? It's a tricky one. You see recently I've shelved one or two projects and it's becoming a habit; one I don't want to add to unnecessarily.

I think I am going to follow the advice though. I write because I enjoy writing. That is paramount. This is not my job; I make very little money from writing. If I'm going to sacrifice my spare time to sit in front of this keyboard I have to enjoy what I'm doing. But more than that I have to feel it has purpose.

So far I have finished

Adam's Death
(horror novel - nowhere near publishable)

The Day before Tomorrow
(sf novel - likewise)

Mr. Stinky
(horror novel - okayish - did get a couple of offer so publication on this but ther ewere issues for me with the offers)

Against the Fall of Empire
(alternate history novel - long- okayish)

A Second Life
(weird novella - needs a rewrite if I'm to submit it)

The Patternmaker's Daughter
(fantasy novel - book one in what I would imagine to be four books. I think this is the best I've done so far)

The Intersection
(weird novella - I like this and I did get a publication offer on it - just not good terms so I didn't accept)

<>
(weird novella - this I think is the best of the novellas)

No Man's Land
(bawdy sf comedy - I like some of the ew-factor jokes)

The Town, the Company
(weird novella - could do with a new ending)

The Stairs Lead Down
(supernatural novel - could be start of a series, maybe two series)

The problem is that last of these was finished about three months ago and all I've done since is start stories, then leave them abandoned. I have

Kiss Like Judas
(weird novella - 6,333 words - intended 32K)

I Had to, Don't You See?
(weird novella - 2,424 words - intended 30K)

A World out of Balance
(conspiracy theory sf - 6,597 words - intended 90K)

The Church...
(sf novel - 11,736 - intended 110K, first in a series)

The City and the Mask
(dark fantasy novel - 2,881 words - intended 85K)

Tithebound
(fantasy novel - 9,621 words 0 intended 85K, first in a series)

The Writer, Writing
(nothing novel - slightly weird - 21,413 words)

I've written a fair bit in terms of word count but not finished a single project. For different reasons in each case, they have stopped. Now one or two I can understand. The two weird novellas feature a character and situations that would only make sense if the Intersection had already sold and people knew what was going on. My test reader has read all four of the weird novellas and loves how they interconnect and I love writing them but if I'm not selling them it feels futile to carry on writing them; even if one lets me revisit my university days (at least in my head).

BTW - I have to admit one thing; the central non-plot point about the Writer, Writing relates to this recent activity. It's exploring how novels don't get written and how ideas peter out (for many reasons). I did say it's an SK30 book.

So my issue now is do I go back and re-read the first part of any of the unfinished stories and see if they appeal enough for me to commit further time right now or start something new.

The latter is tempting; especially as I have an idea for a new sf story. And yesterday I came up with a working title - usually the thing that makes me want to write it even more; because I can give the word file a name. I do not like have "unnamed sf novel july 2016.doc" on my hard disk. This story, and the notebook that contains my notes, now has the title, An Avoidable War.

I think it's pretty much inevitable what I'm going to do. I'm going to go fetch the notebook with this story's plot, characters etc and I'm going to start something new despite all the unfinished works I already have. I'll just have to hope I'm not about to add to the number.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

A quick few thoughts (writing)

A few day's ago I wrote a blog entry that was a bit of a meandering passage through some of the my thoughts entitled "Writing and politics, odd bedfellows". In it I talked a little about the new novel I had started writing and compared it in content terms to one of my favourite writers - Zoran Živković.

Well, much to my immense pleasure and great shock he obvious saw it and posted a reply to the posting. As you might imagine I've been a little in shock at it. I'd never expected him or anyone else I've blogged about to see my postings. And to reply to it, well that was incredible. I was probably a little insufferable for a while after that.

Now, a few days later, I have had a chance to fully absorb the thought and I'm still fairly shocked. If you are wondering why just go read some of the man's writing and you might well understand it.

Added to this I have to say I feel relieved. I've encountered one or two of my heroes before and it's not always gone as well as I would have liked. There is one writer I have always admired. His books have been ones I have eagerly anticipated every time I hear of a new release and quickly devour as soon as they arrive in my mailbox. I encountered him some years back and had more than one exchange with him finding he was almost my polar opposite when it came to political opinion and belief. It was a huge disappointment. I still like his books but I can't approach them with anything like the relish I had once.

Thankfully this doesn't seem to be the case this time. Posting on my blog was gracious. It gives me the feeling he is quite a gracious man (confirming some of the things I've read about him). Now all I need is a release of one of his more recent books in English - I think there are three I've not had chance to read as they are only available in Serbian. I might speak one or two languages other than English but Serbian is not one of them. And in any case if I did have a copy in either French or Italian I think the effort of translating it into English as I read would take away the enjoyment. Looking up a word or two every sentence is probably going to spoil the flow of the narrative. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed someone puts out an English edition soon.

Onto another matter. I am writing again. I've written three scenes for my new novel adding about 2K to the total bringing it up to 9K. It's the first time I've written anything since last Saturday. It might even be the first time I've switched on my PC since. I should probably explain this a little. A little while ago I slipped on a wet floor and since my back has been a little...well, wrong.

I'm managing the situation, hoping it will eventually go back to normal, so it means on work days I am not all that keen on sitting in front of my home PC and typing when I've spent all day in front of my work PC. This is cutting down on the progress of the novel but I do have to put the day job (the one that pays the mortgage) first. I'm rather happy with how its going so will be keeping this brief so I can get on with writing it.

There is of course another reason I've been absent from the keyboard. About a week ago, on a whim I downloaded the first episode of the Channel 4 black comedy Misfits. For anyone who hasn't seen it a group of young offenders are doing their community service when a mysterious storm hits, striking them all with lightning and giving them super powers. Only these aren't your normal super powers and these aren't your normal heroes. And they're not the only ones with powers. It's dark, definitely not PC and definitely not family viewing. Bad language, sex and violence abound all in a wonderfully sick comedic manner.

Well a week on and we've just watched the 2nd episode of season 4. Yeah, I'm hooked. So another thing getting in the way of writing. If you add in the Tour de France having started and its an unholy trinity of obstruction to any desire to write.

On that note I should stop this blog being a fourth. I'm headed back to the novel. A cow is about to turn up.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

A post entirely about writiing

I'm hoping tonight means I have my writing mojo back. With my wife out at a gig I thought there was no point in not giving writing a go. So I loaded up a new document in Word and started typing. It probably helped that I had filled several pages of my notebook with a first draft version of chapter 1 before starting. It certainly didn't hurt to have this kind of head start.

Well, nearly six and a half hours after starting I have 6,935 words of a new novel written and I quite like it. It's different from anything I've written before, in mood and subject; although I will have to admit a fantasy style subplot has taken root in it.

I've had one or two days in the past when I've written more words than that but it's always been in the middle of a pattern of writing. To do this out of the blue, days removed from  previous writing efforts pleases me exceptionally. I'm hoping it means I'm back on track to writing regularly.

Right now I'm not going to overthink it. Instead I'm going to take care of backing the files up and head upstairs to start handwriting the next section. That kind of head start is invaluable.