Short story collection is out!

It’s out! After missing so many targets for releasing my short stories, I gave up setting them, but I can now reveal the collection is finally available on Amazon. The paperback version sells for £6.40, and the Kindle version sells for £1.99 in the UK. Prices are an equivalent amount in other currencies.

The book is called ‘Ape to Astronaut’ and consists of nine short stories ranging from the dawn of mankind through to the far future.

The Price of Fur – Winter is coming. Food is becoming scarce. The priority is to kill an animal large enough to feed them till spring. But there are newcomers in the area, with an altogether different objective.

Vicious circle – In a future where misdemeanours are punished by the erasure of all memories to create a ‘new’ reformed individual, a young girl’s reprogramming begins to fail.

Incident on Sibson-4 – The off-world prison colonies are a success story, as far as everyone on Earth is concerned. But a darker side to their existence exists, which needs to be exposed.

Oh no, still one more story to do

Having finished what I thought was the last story for the short story collection, I generated a table of contents for the book and counted the number of stories. Eight.
My original plan was to have nine. The cover blurb says there are nine. On the back cover, I’ve included a brief synopsis of three of the stories. One of the three is the missing story.
So, I have a choice. Change the cover, or include the ninth story. I gave it a quick read, and it needs quite a lot of work. At the moment I’m working through it to see how much needs to be done.
The trouble is, I don’t have much time in the next month to devote to editing, and I still want to go through all the other stories again to check for any last minute changes.
I would like to include the ninth story, so I think I’ll see where I am in a couple of weeks. If it looks like there is too much to do then I’ll switch to an eight story collection. With eight, the page count is 188. Including the ninth story increases it to about 220 (depending on how much I change it).

Why I’ll never be a prolific writer

I still haven’t finished my collection of short stories.

Too many things seem to get in the way of my writing.

We’ve just returned from a trip of over two weeks, visiting children and old friends in various locations across the UK. A lot of driving, but very enjoyable, and for the most part, exceptional weather for the time of year. Only downside was no writing done.

At home the garden is a never ending distraction, particularly when it is left unattended for 17 days. I normally restrict this activity to after lunch. This year I’m doing some landscaping, so I’ll need to find extra time to spend outside.

This year also, a couple of rooms need redecorating. Painting doesn’t take a long time, but the moving everything before, and putting back afterwards will probably take even longer.

My involvement with the local dog club continues to takes up a significant amount of my time. I’m the chairman, and I run the dog agility section. In addition, I produce all the posters, the newsletter and do a lot of the club’s typing, as well as helping with the club’s accounting. I run the club blog and update it as infrequently as I do my own!

I’ve been doing my family history for many years now (since I was 15), and every so often I have a surge of enthusiasm in this direction. More and more information is becoming available on the internet, so the job will never be finished. A friend recently gave me some notes someone had given him on his family history and asked if I could corroborate the information and maybe find anything else out for him. I rose to the challenge, forgetting I was trying to get my short stories completed. I handed a 20 page document to him this week with far more information than he already had. Anyway, now that’s out of the way I have returned to the short stories. Still just the one to complete, but at least I’m working on it now.

The cover design is almost complete. We just have to wait for the final story to be incorporated so we know the width of the spine.

Then I need to work out how to get the book up to Kindle as a paperback. With my previous two books, I have created the paperback version first on CreateSpace and then uploaded a version to KDP to create the Kindle version. As KDP have taken over the function of CreateSpace, I’ll need to take some time over the set up of the paperback this time, to make sure I get it right.

And then, when that’s all out of the way, I’ll get cracking on the final instalment of the Supremacy trilogy. At least I have a good idea where the storyline is going. All I need is to be able to devote large chunks of time to it.

Times of the Changes out now on Amazon

Well that took a long time.

I thought I was nearly finished just under a year ago. Seems I was nowhere near. To be fair, I haven’t spent much time on writing related pursuits recently. The garden seems to have taken priority!

Anyway, doing a bit here and a bit there, I’ve finally arrived at the point where I can release book two of the Supremacy trilogy – Times of the Changes. The Kindle and paperback versions are now both available on Amazon.

Before I start on book three, I want to get my short story collection out. Now Times of the Changes is out, I can concentrate on this project now, when I’m not taking advantage of the weather to be out gardening.

I’d like to think the collection will be out this year, but given the length of time that elapsed between me thinking I was in that position with Times of the Changes, and now, I won’t make any predictions.

 

For the Love of Sci-Fi, and other things

A couple of days ago I went over to Manchester to the ‘For the Love of Sci-Fi’ convention. Three of us left Bangor at 7.15am on Sunday morning, arriving nearly two hours later in the queue to get in. Fortunately it was quite fast moving. There were horror stories of overcrowding the previous day, but we were lucky; Sunday wasn’t sold out.

I’ve never been to one of these before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have to admit, one of the main reasons for going was to see William Shatner’s talk in the afternoon. Gareth spent most of his morning queueing, first to get Dolph Lundgren’s autograph and then his photo, while me and Kevin wandered round the various stalls becoming a bit bored with it all. We went to see Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars) on the live stage and sat a long time before someone came out and said he was having trouble with his voice and wouldn’t be appearing. Disappointing. So we killed some time going round the trade stalls before watching the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra rattling off some sci-fi tunes.

Who you looking at?

After finding Gareth, complete with photo, we went for some lunch and spent forever in a queue waiting to be served. We were annoyed to discover we could have been watching David Hasselhoff. Not that any of us are big fans; he just seems a very interesting character; a larger than life character. Instead we got cold queueing, then our food got cold as we tried to eat quickly before going back inside. Cold nachos with chilli isn’t as nice as when it’s hot.

Another thing I wanted to see were some Daleks which were supposed to be there, but they weren’t. We searched the hall for them but no Daleks. I wanted a photograph of myself with them. Oh well. We decided to go into the Live stage area and grab seats ready for William Shatner. We couldn’t get as close to the front as we would like to because it was already filling up. A magic show was in progress which was quite entertaining. Then Billy Dee Williams (Lando in Star Wars) came on stage for a Q&A session. He seemed very slow, and perhaps not as with it as he should have been (he is 80 after all). He seemed to suffer from memory problems and needed the occasional reminder and prompt. Shame really.

When I grow up I want to be a dalek!

What we couldn’t understand was why some people got up to leave after his session, with William Shatner due on stage five minutes later. The hall really filled up for him and I don’t think anyone was disappointed. For an 86 year old he was still quite sharp. There was the occasional slip, such as referring to Stephen Hawking as Peter Hawking once, though he didn’t repeat the error when naming him again. He also mixed up a few astronomical terms but the gist of his talk was clear and interesting. Then he did a Q&A session. He was very comfortable talking about himself (which we thought the Hoff would be as well). The time flew by. If he didn’t point out he’d overrun, the session could have gone on for hours. He was a very good talker and seeing him more than justified the cost of the ticket. I really enjoyed it.

Would I go to another one? That depends. In the morning me and Kev agreed it was probably a once in a lifetime event and this was that occasion. After seeing William Shatner I think I’ll reserve judgement and see what guests are lined up.

Plus points: William Shatner

Negative points: no Daleks (which were advertised) and no Ian McDiarmid

As you can tell, I’m a Star trek fan (more so than Star Wars, though judging by the costumes people were wearing it would seem more people were fans of Star Wars). Someone asked William Shatner what he thought of the new Star Trek (Discovery), and he said he hadn’t watched it. I have to agree with some of the criticisms of it from the audience – shallow characters and disjointed episodes. I’m hoping for better things when the series resumes in January now the Discovery (and all its advanced technology) has been shuffled off to wherever its gone (parallel universe perhaps). I found it hard to reconcile the fact that it was supposed to be set ten years before Captain Kirk went boldly where no-one (including, presumably, the Discovery) had gone before. He would have loved the technology of the Discovery on board the Enterprise. Can’t wait for it to resume.

With regard to my writing, I’m working on the comments I’ve received back from it being read. Several chapters have been rewritten, but, of course, this all has a knock on effect on the rest of the story. I’m less than a hundred pages from the end now. Releasing it this year won’t happen now. Hopefully it wont be too late into the new year. I’m still waiting for the cover design to come back, so I couldn’t have gone live with it yet anyway.

One of four draft copies printed for readers to comment on (temporary cover)

The short stories haven’t progressed. I’ll finish the two remaining stories once I’ve finished Times of the Changes.

Finding time to write is a problem. You would think, having retired, I’d have lots of time. It’s true what they say – I don’t know how I ever found the time to work. I think the problem is you fill your life with lots of other stuff – writing is just one of those things. Another is the local dog training club. I somehow seem to have not only become a member of the club, but get elected to the committee, and then become the Chairman. I’ve also taken on most of the computer based functions (apart from the Facebook side of it, which my wife handles), and I organise the Agility sessions as well – Nantlle Vale Dog Training Club, if anyone is interested (I’m as bad at putting entries on their blog as I am on my own! OK, perhaps not quite as bad.)

Instead of writing this, I could have been editing. Doh!

Book 2 almost there

At last my second novel, Times of the Changes, is out being read. When I finished it and looked at the page count, I couldn’t believe I’d written exactly the same number of pages as in the first book, Betrayal. If I don’t radically change the page count during editing, I can use the same dimensions for the cover design, which will speed up the whole process.

I’ve had some ‘work in progress’ feedback already which has enabled me to be editing while the readers are still reading.
Isn’t it strange that no matter how many times you read and re-read your own work, you fail to pick up on some quite silly errors. I guess, because it’s our story, we read what we thought we wrote and not what is printed on the page. That’s the advantage of having a few others cast their eyes over our scribblings.

Another advantage is that they pick up on inconsistencies. A big problem I suffer from is chopping and changing events and then not catching all the dependent pieces of text. As the writer, when I read the story, in my head I also know some of the deleted or changed backstory, and I don’t always pick up on the fact that it’s no longer there when a reference is made to it. I assume it’s there because I remember writing it. I don’t always remember I then removed it, or changed it.

The feedback so far indicated a certain amount of confusion when reading chapter 7, so I re-visted it, re-thought it and have now re-written it to make it easier to understand.

I’m still hopeful it will be released this year.

In the meantime, I must get restarted on the book of short stories. I have two left to finish (one is an old story and one is a brand new story), then it will be ready to go. This will probably end up being released early next year now.

Happy New Year

Good riddance to 2016. Hoping 2017 will be better.

Editing of Times of the Changes ground to a halt over the Christmas period but should be back on track from tomorrow. I’m working to a tentative target of having it pretty much finished by Easter, and available within the first half of the year.

No further progress on the short stories. I did want to put the collection out at about the same time as the novel, but it’s going to have to come out later. Think the novel is late enough, after all the interruptions last year.

Happy new year to everyone reading this and hope it brings what you want.

Back on track

It’s taken a while, but I’m back on track now. Using the individual chapter documents I used to build the main document (the one I lost), I’ve recreated chapters 1 to 4, and re-edited them.

Except it is not quite what I had before. I remember being quite pleased with the editing I had done. This time I’m not so happy. It’s not the same for a start. It was so frustrating reading the unedited version and recognizing where I had changed things, but not remembering what I had changed it to. To a certain extent it coloured my re-editing because I was concentrating, perhaps more than I should, on the areas I remembered changing.

Anyway, I’ve got the first four chapters edited, and though not entirely satisfied with the result, will now press on with the rest of Part One. I’ll come back to them when I’ve finished recreating the entire document.

The annoying thing is, it’s taken over a month to redo a weeks worth of lost work. There’s a lesson for us all.

Over the course of this weekend, I’ve edited chapters 5 and 6, and incorporated them into the main document. I’m now faced with a problem. The chapter document for chapter 6 also included a version of chapter 7. In addition to this I have four other files for chapter 7. I remember not making use of the most recent one, which was experimental. It’s a long chapter so I guess I’m going to have to read them all and try to decide which I like the best, and which fits more into what follows in chapter 8 and 9. Perhaps I’d better leave chapter 7 for now, and come back to it when I know what has to have happened.

Taking a month to recreate a weeks worth of edits seems rather a long time, but admittedly, I have also changed laptops during that period. It’s taken a while for me to get familiar with Windows 10 and customize it so I’m happy with it (sort of). The process involved, amongst lots of minor changes, upgrading from Open Office 3 to Libre Office 5 (and trying to convince Windows I don’t want to try Office), setting up Mozilla Thunderbird to replace the Windows Live Mail I used on Windows 7 (the Windows 10 email client is not a patch on the Windows 7 one), replaced McAfee antivirus with a free one (AVG)(Mcafee isn’t straight forward to remove and I’m still not sure I got it all).

I don’t like the lack of colour customization within Windows 10, compared with 7. I prefer something easier on the eyes because I spend so much time looking at the screen. I used to have pastel colours, and the brightness turned down. (Last Windows 10 patch whacked the brightness back up to 100% – what’s the point in giving us the option to change it if they overwrite our changes?) With regard to the colours, at least Libre Office lets me set a better colour scheme for its applications, and I spend most of my time in it.

When did a program become an app?

One reason for changing laptops is that the old one kept running out of memory (I used to have lots of windows open, and lots of IE tabs going). It had become quite a problem in the last few months, causing me to reboot more frequently that I would normally.

The other reason was, I’ve been using it daily for 7 years. The C drive kept filling up, necessitating lots of tidying up to keep things running.

And the keys were losing their letters. See the photo. People used to complain about my keyboards in the office when I was working because I’d rubbed all the letters off the keys. Must have acid fingers or something!

img_4879

Think I need to make more use of the q, w, y. j, k, z, x and v keys. Prepare for some characters with some strange names!

Here’s a lesson for you all

Having finished the draft of the first part of the novel last week, I’ve started from the beginning again, doing a readability and sense check. On Sunday night, having completed chapter 4, I saved my work and closed up my laptop, pretty much as normal.

Yesterday morning when I opened my lap top, instead of resuming Windows as it normally does, it informed me the previous run hadn’t been shut down normally. I selected the normal start option. This happens occasionally.

I think you know what’s coming here.

Usually, Open Office flags up documents which were open, and goes into recovery mode, On this occasion it didn’t. So I went into the folder and clicked on the document. It presented me with a panel headed ‘ASCII Filter Options’. Strange. I’d never seen this before. It contained a number of options which seemed to suggest it was importing from an ASCII file, rather than opening an Open Office file. Whatever option I selected, by the time it opened the document, all that could be seen were #’s. 204K of them! (It also thought the document was locked by an unknown user, so I could either open it in read-only mode or as a copy. The copy didn’t work, so I had to select it as read-only)

I spent yesterday trying to get out of this problem, before reluctantly having to say goodbye to my document. I even tried software which searches the disk for deleted copies in the hope it might find a version deleted by the word processor when it saved a newer version.

No joy.

From googling the problem, it seems the file is corrupt and the only way out is to resort to a backup.

Guess what. I had no recent backup.

With everything that’s been going on this year I’ve not been very good at doing the house keeping. The most recent copy I could find was on an external disk, written in early May. Ironically, I had been thinking it was time to do a backup on Sunday afternoon. I wish I’d followed up on the thought at the time, but somehow the editing seemed more important.

Fortunately, on this occasion, it’s not as bad as it seems. I have been extracting a chapter at a time into a separate document, editing it and then pasting it back in to the main document. So with a bit of work I can get back to where I was at the start of last week. I know I did a few tweaks to the text after putting some chapters back, so I’ll have to look out for them when I go through it all again. The only stumbling block here is that as I did the editing I created multiple copies of each chapter document, so I need to figure out which versions to incorporate.

By doing this I should be able to come up with a fairly recent copy. When I started the readability checks, I did so against the main document, so all the changes I made – and there were a lot of them – have been lost. On Sunday night I had just completed chapter 4, so at least I don’t have too much to do, but a couple of the chapters are quite long.

I’ve rebuilt the first four chapters of the book now, and while the changes (might) be fresh in my head, I intend to do the readability check now before rebuilding any more of the document. This unfortunately spoils the continuity of the editing process. I don’t think I’m going to end up with the changes I was happy with before, so I have this sneaking suspicion I will feel less than happy about chapters one to four, no matter what I do to them from here on.

So, the lesson to you all, is never put off doing a backup because you think the more interesting stuff is more important.

What is really ironic is that when I was working as a Database Administrator, I was so diligent about backup and recovery routines. Losing someone’s financial or planning data wasn’t something I ever wanted to experience. Yes we sometimes ‘lost’ data, for instance with disk failures, but we were always able to recover it from backups. Funny how other people’s data seems more important than your own.

I’ve learned a lesson here the hard way and intend to change my method of working. As a temporary measure, I will backup to a memory stick before closing the lid, to cover me between backups to external disk.

Take backups seriously.

Writing Again

After everything that has happened this year, I’m pretty confident about saying I’ll miss the two targets I set for myself during 2016. Both the second volume of the Supremacy Trilogy and the short story collection are unlikely to be out this year. The good news, however, is that I’m getting back into the swing of writing.

I’m editing the first part of Times of the Changes, the follow-up to Betrayal, although I’ve still got to write a few connecting chapters near the end, to tie it all together.

At the same time, I’m working on the short story collection. Five stories included so far. I want at least 8 stories, so 3 more to go. I was editing an old time travel story, but after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to put that one hold for a while, and am now writing a new one for inclusion.

Outside writing, my mum’s injury appears to be responding to treatment. The nurse who changes the dressing twice a week seems happy with the progress. I’m also back at the agility, wearing an ankle support, and running round the field trying to control the dog over/through all the obstacles. I’m still taking care, however. Don’t want to reverse my recovery. We’ve also had two long weekends away during September which meant no writing: one at my son’s place in Derbyshire close to the Peak District, the other at my uncle’s in the Yorkshire Dales. My relatives live in some nice places! Visiting them is the kind of distraction I don’t mind having.