Saturday, 30 April 2016

Another weekend, another book hunt

Today I had the opportunity to pop into Chesters, a second hand book shop in Polesworth (just outside Tamworth). It's a real old school used book store. I've not been there for quite some time which is a real pity (and comes with no small amount of shame). The shop is on two levels, both filled with rabbit warrens of shelves all packed with thousand upon thousand of books on all subjects imaginable.

I did buy three books while I was there

Gerard Klein - The Day before Tomorrow
Bob Shaw - Ground Zero Man
Bob Shaw - The Two-Timers

Strangely the first of these shares its title with the second novel I wrote (one of the two I have deemed should never see light of day - not without considerable rewriting anyway). I can't remember ever having heard of this title but I can't say for definite I hadn't ever. Maybe it just sat at the back of my subconscious until a suggestion for a book title was needed. Thankfully the story is nothing like mine so I can't berate myself for stealing the plot or anything like that - it was just a coincidence of title.

It's a great shop - you should go if you're ever anywhere near.

But that wasn't the best bit. Many years back I used to visit Burton on Trent periodically (this was back before I lived close by; today we just pop into town as it's the nearest to us other than Ashby or Coalville. On each of these years ago trips I used to find a few minutes to pop around the corner and visit Needwood Books.

Sadly this wonderful shop is many years closed but today I met up with Chris, the guy who used to run it as he was in Chesters and had the opportunity to have another of our rambling discussions. We always used to meander around all kinds of subjects albeit mostly books and politics. Chris is getting on in years (I hope he won't mind me saying that) but his mind is as sharp as ever. Good times. I'm going to have to make sure the next time is not too distant in the future.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Return of the Collector

It's been a while since I had any real success out on the collecting trail so today has come as a welcome change to the norm. I went into Ashby and then Derby and have a few to boast about - some of which are just my kind of thing. Anyway here is the list of the new additions to the collection. (All are A format paperbacks unless noted)

Shaun Hutson - Shadows
Ian Graham - Monument
Karen Miller - Innocent Mage
Brian Aldiss - The Primal Urge
Philip K, Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep HC
Jean Jules-Verne - Jules Verne: a Biography HC
John Farris - The Uninvited  HC
Gardner Dozois - Strangers
Hal Clement - Cycle of Fire
Barry Malzberg - Overlay
Norman Spinrad - The Men in the Jungle
A. E. van Vogt - The Changeling
Eando Binder - Menace of the Saucers
Jack Bertin - The Pyramids from Space
Hilbert Schenck - A Rose for Armageddon
Lindsay Gutterridge - Killer Pine
Edmond Hamilton - What's It Like out there?
Frederik Pohl - The Gold at the Starbow's End
Avram Davidson - The Island under the Earth

And then there were the gems of the find - some old Ace Doubles
Damon Knight - The Rithian Terror / Damon Knight - Off Center
John Rackham - We, the Venusians / Fred Saberhagen - The Water of Thought

The odd thing with that last one is I found two copies of it - the second being in far better condition, hence buying it even though moments before I'd bought the same book.

Photographs will be posted at some point to my tumblr feed I'm sure

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Thursday - a few quick things

My wife is out every night this week. She is a musician and plays in the band for a local musical theatre group. And this is show week. So in theory I have lots and lots of time to get huge amounts of writing done.

Problem is it hasn't quite gone like that. For one thing I finished my last novel at the weekend just gone. So I went into the week of much time without a current project and no real idea of which story I should tell next.

Well that last part is now behind me. I spent three days not writing to clear out all the places, characters and plot points of The Stairs Lead Down. This involved watching an awful lot of comedy clips on YouTube. I have a fondness for the Scenes We'd Like to See segment of BBC comedy panel show Mock the Week as well as for George Carlin.

Head cleared and decision made I started in on chapter one of a new novel - a science fiction novel set in a future Africa on a very changed world. I'm calling it the Church. Of what I'm not going to say online as, should it get published, I would like the full title to have an impact.

I'd written the introduction to this book some time ago, around the time the idea first came to me. I'd wanted to get the voice of it down on paper. I managed to stop once that was done and not take time away from the on going project of the time. Now though I am on it properly and the novel is now past the 4K mark.

I'm not sure how long this one is going to go. There are sections of it I am hoping will come to me as I type. I have a number of milestones written up in my notes but have left it a little more flexible than the last novel. I was curious how I would write under such conditions. We shall see.

Other than that the only thing to report from today was an unexpected addition to the book collection. I had to pop into Ashby late on and nipped inside a charity shop to find a Robert Rankin hardcover I didn't own - the Brightonomicon. Here's a picture

Anyway - late in the day so I need to go get some sleep so I'm good and refreshed for tomorrow at work (and then at the keyboard to continue writing in the evening)

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Return of Book Hunt

It's no secret to anyone who knows me or reads this blog that I collect books; mainly science fiction, fantasy and horror books. I've been doing so for nearly four decades and do not intend to stop any time soon,

Well I've not done much of it in recent weeks. Weekends have seen me doing other things - lots of writing for instance. Yesterday though I had to go into Derby with my wife do I made the most of it. While she was safely ensconced in a coffee shop reading her latest book I headed around all the charity shops Central Derby has to offer. And I came away with ten new books for the collection

David Weber & Steve White - Insurrection ppb
James Tiptree, Jr. - Ten Thousands Light-Years form Home ppb
Juliet E. McKenna - Northern Storm ppb
Richard Laymon - The Midnight Hour ppb
David Gemmell - Bloodstone ppb
Robert E. Howard - The Conan Chronicles Vol 1 (part of Fantasy Masterworks series - book 8) B format
Michael Marshall Smith - What You Make It B format
Guy Gavriel Kay - Under Heaven B format
Neil Spring - The Ghost Hunters B format
Jack Ketchum - Off Season (Trade format)

Here's a picture of the haul

It's good to be back

Saturday, 2 April 2016

March ended on a low note

I have a few issues when it comes to confidence; at least as regards my writing. I'm pretty good in my day job. In the office I can make decisions quickly and with great belief in my abilities. It doesn't translate to my writing. In this endeavour I feel a lot more exposed and a lot less sure of myself.

It's why this week has mostly been a washout writing wise. I did write a scene on Tuesday evening but when I came to the document today I reread it, highlighted the lot and hit the delete key. It just wasn't any good.

The reason for it is an email I received for a submission of my alternate Earth science fiction novel Against the Fall of Empire. I submitted it to a number of agencies last year and received a number of rejections, mostly pro forma style. I chalked these up to par for the course for a wannabe writer and carried on.

Then the miracle happened and I received an email that was different. Admittedly it was still a rejection but it contained a personal response. In it the agent I had contacted said how she liked my writing, the idea for the story and the characters. I'd just chosen a sub genre that wasn't selling at the moment. So even though it was a no, it was a positive no.

So I carried on and worked through a number of further rejections and then one or two acceptances. Yes I have had offers of publication. I wasn't able to accept them unfortunately due a variety of factors but it was nice to get them.

Then on Tuesday the agent who had been the first to respond positively to me sent me an email. Last August I sent in my original submission and within a month received a request for the full manuscript. I sent it off immediately and went back to waiting. By end of 2015 the period she quoted on the website for a response had expired and I chalked it up to a NO. Never mind - on we go.

This week though, more than three months later I received an email. In it she was very gracious and very apologetic for the time it had taken to review my manuscript and then went on to reject it. Not a problem in and of itself except she went further than a pro forma and in a way that threw me.

She said one thing that was nice, describing it as having an interesting premise/ Good start. Then it went a bit downhill. The judgment was it would require a lot of editing and that she didn't love it enough to commit the time to it. I headed off and gave it a bit of a reread.

Now I have been a science fiction reader for more than four decades. I have no idea how many sf books I've read in that time. I know at one point it was three or four a week (I had more time back then and was concentrating on the 1950s/1960s books which are usually around 150 pages each) so it could be quite a few. I know at one point I got hold of a book of the 100 best sf novels of the 20th Century and then proceeded to read all of them - every single one.

So I am a reader so I tried reading my novel as a reader and not as its author. It's not an easy job but I gave it a go. It had been a few months since I last though about the story so I thought I might have a chance at realising what she meant. Only I didn't.

I couldn't see anything majorly wrong with it. Okay, there were a couple of things I was tempting to go fix but nothing huge. Nothing that would require "a lot of editing". I just don't know what she would mean by this. I thought it was okay. My kind of story (it would be; I wrote it) and easy to read.

That got me worried. Does that mean I can't see the problems with it? And if I can't see the problems with that novel does it mean I will be just as blind with any others I write? Which, with my overthinking brain and tendencies to negativity, started a bit of a spiral and kept me from writing completely for the past few days.

It was likely to continue for longer except that I forced myself to get back to it tonight. It's been a struggle but I have managed to get three new scenes added totally 1613 words. I am hoping to go back to it once I've finished this posting.

I'm only about 2,000 words from done on this story. It should be finished tomorrow. And that's when the real problem will occur. You see I think I managed to force my way back into this because I've spent the last two months living this story. I know the characters and like them. And I'm writing an epilogue really as all the action is done and dusted. But will I have the courage to open a new document; see that blank page and began typing?

I make it sound as though I'm a complete no hoper. After all it's nothing arduous? I have a comfy life and here I am moaning about my hobby. Let me assure you this is not the case.

Were I to never write another word of fiction I would still be happy. I would simply find another diversion to spend my spare time. I'm not the sort to just sit and vegetate. I might try learning a new language (spoken or computer). I might go back to doing some trading of antiques and collectables - I'm quite good at that.

But I wanted to hold a book that I had written. I have a collection of some 16,000 books. I've been hunting them down seriously since I was nine. I've told the story of my first Asimov a hundred times and more but in a nutshell...

 - wet family holiday in Great Yarmouth
 - sheltering from the rain in a newsagent kiosk on the seafront
 - saw a think paperback in a carousel and liked the cover
 - picked it up and read the back cover
 - persuaded my mother I wanted to read it and wasn't just buying it because I was bored (due to weather)
 - read the four stories in the book and wanted more
 - spent four decades buying and reading more and more

So after all this time I want to have one of my books (hopefully many, many more) on the shelves alongside the books by Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Simak, Robert Charles Wilson, Mike Resnick, Stephen King, Eric Frank Russell, Robert Silverberg (imagine list goes on and on) and of course Edmund Cooper and Lester del Rey from where I chose my pen name.

I still want this. I just hope I have the determination to keep going and make it happen.