Category Archives: Writing

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.

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!

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.

2016 – not a good year so far

2016 hasn’t been a good year for writing. As if I hadn’t had enough interruptions to my writing schedules already this year, I am now nearly two weeks into recovery from a sprained ankle (done when I fell doing agility with the dog). Yesterday was the first day I’ve managed without a walking stick, so I’m on the mend, though it is still a bit sore and reminds me of its presence every time I forget it and overdo things a little.

You might think that all that extra time confined to a chair might provide the ideal opportunity to do more writing than normal. Wrong. My wife has been away for two weeks, first at her daughter’s who is struggling with her second pregnancy, and then visiting her mother who has gone into hospital again (this visit being somewhat open ended). I was forced to ignore medical advice. So many things needed to be done. The dog needs exercise (she’s a collie), so I was going out in the garden every few hours to throw a ball for her, in lieu of taking her for walks. The chickens need cleaning out and eggs collecting. Things had to be done in the garden – broad beans, peas, blackcurrants, gooseberries and red currants all had to be picked, or we’d lose them. Greenhouse needs watering everyday, and sometimes twice a day. And of course if I want feeding I have to do it myself.

Overall I have had more time sitting down than I would normally get. But keeping my ankle elevated has made writing difficult. It’s not a comfortable position in which to use a laptop. It has been getting easier as the ankle recovers.

Now, to compound the problems, I had a back tooth taken out today. Afterwards, I checked up on the internet about after-care. Seems there’s so much I shouldn’t be doing. On the first day I should be resting (yeah – with a lively young collie!!). So now I have discomfort at both ends of my body. Hardly conducive to concentrating. I need to get the next couple of days out the way so I know the gum is going to heal properly. It’s quite frightening to read what can go wrong and how painful it can be. Yes, I’ve spent too much time researching teeth rather than writing, just like I did with ankle research two weeks ago. Sometimes the internet can be such a distraction.

I think I need to revise my target dates. The way things are going, it’s possible that both books, the follow up to Betrayal and the short story collection, may not make it out this year after all. It’s all so disappointing to have set targets only to see them continually being moved further back by events beyond my control.

Boat Trip

After the euphoria of becoming published, I’m now knuckling down and working on book two of the Supremacy trilogy. My target for its completion is around the middle of next year.

I’m also working on a collection of old short stories which I had hoped would be ready by the end of the year, but this will spill over in to next year now, as it’s taking rather longer than I expected to edit them. So far I have completed one, about the appearance of a velociraptor in modern day Utah, and am currently in the process of editing a second one about time travelling hunters collecting furs.

So, it’s busy times as I try to get the two books ready for publication.

Anyway, a break from the writing today as we went on a power boat trip from Beaumaris (about 35 mins drive from home), on the Isle of Anglesey, in North Wales. We were supposed to go out to Puffin Island, on the eastern tip of Anglesey, and around it, but the sea got a bit choppy and the ride became a bit bumpy. And we were beginning to get wet, so rather than risk going round the island the captain decided to take us up the Menai strait to look at the two bridges crossing from the mainland to Anglesey.

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We spent nearly two and a half hours in the boat, and saw many of the things with which we are familiar from a different angle. The trip was enhanced by the information supplied by the captain, who is also the town mayor.

It was a bit cold, but fortunately we were well wrapped up, and were the only ones to have come kitted out in waterproofs, so although I said we got wet, we didn’t actually get wet, but the other passengers did! It’s the wrong time of year to see puffins on Puffin Island, but we saw plenty of cormorants, and a few razorbills, a lot of herons and oyster catchers, and more egrets in one place, on a tiny island in the strait, than I have ever see together. A number of seals slept on the shore of Puffin Island, undisturbed by our presence in a noisy boat – they’ve probably see it so many times before – What? Another boat? Yawn.

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Viewing the bridges from beneath was interesting. It must have been dangerous work building them in the early nineteenth century (although the modern Britannia bridge replaced the original which was burned down in the late 1960’s. I remember that event and the fact there were no mainline trains to Holyhead for years afterwards, until the replacement was built which utilised the original stone parts of Stevenson’s bridge.

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The trip was paid for by my son, who bought the trip as a birthday present earlier this year. So thanks to him for a wonderful experience. Also thanks to Seawake Anglesey Boat Trips and our Captain, Jason, for an interesting trip.

What do the tax people do?

Way back, on the day when I made my entry of June 13th about having to make changes to my novel as a result of reader feedback I received a letter from the IRS in response to my query of May 10th. It was basically an acknowledgement letter saying they were working on it and I could expect a reply within 45 days.

Today I received the reply. They have passed it on to another office and I will be contacted within 30 days. Why couldn’t they have done this when they first looked at my letter? They had to look closely enough at it to get my name, address and tax code to send me their first reply. Surely they could have seen then that it needed to go elsewhere. They could have saved themselves the cost of sending a letter to the UK by sending the letter I received today instead of the acknowledgement letter. I wonder how many other times they have done something similar.

It’s good to see that the UK tax office isn’t the only one that seems to work with independent left and right hands.

Anyway, I’m not ready to make use of the tax code yet. I have done a substantial re-write of part one of the novel to iron out some of the problems with it, and have just about completed it. I hope to have it completed by the end of next week, or soon after. Then I need to start parts two and three. Hopefully they should be quicker than the first part, although there are a few chapters which need to be re-thought.

I have tentatively set myself a deadline of the end of August to complete it. That might be a bit ambitious, but that is when my wife returns from an extended holiday in New Zealand. She is currently over there to help out with her first grandchild, who is expected imminently (like sometime in the next week). I’ve got to prove I’ve been doing something during her absence besides playing with the dog! But seriously, there is a lot to do outside at the moment. I’m trying to clear a piece of garden which over the years has become a bit of a dumping ground for anything that doesn’t go anywhere else. I want to turn it into a stoned area with herbs. That might be some way off at the moment, but as we’re actually experiencing a summer this year it’s going to be a bit of a distraction while the weather is so good.

Talking of distractions, I might make an entry about them. It’s so easy to be distracted from the writing, like making this blog entry instead. But I’ll discuss that in the future.

Some Beta Reader Feedback

Well I have had the comments back from my current reader.

He provided me with an 8-page summary of his comments as well as a marked up copy of the story with just about something on every single page! It felt a bit like being back at school and having my homework essay returned with ‘not good enough’ written on it. I have to admit that my first read through of the comments was a bit disheartening and I began to think that I may have bitten off more than I can chew in trying to write a novel. But isn’t that the whole point of having someone else cast their eyes over the story before rushing to publish it?

I guess I’m lucky that I have a friend who is capable of being open about what he thinks and is not afraid to tell things as he sees them. Yes, his critique made uncomfortable reading, after all none of us likes our best efforts to be found wanting. I think the amount of rewrite that might be necessary to address his concerns did get me down. But if he raises these comments then so too will others and let’s face it, I’d rather read those criticisms from a well-meaning friend than in an anonymous, and potentially damaging, review on Amazon.

Without going into too much detail, the main criticism he put forward concerned the technology I describe. In his opinion it is too advanced for the story which leads to several awkward unanswered questions (for those with a questioning mind). Fixing this is going to require a substantial rewrite. At the moment I’m analysing it to determine how much of it I can rescue by offering better explanations about why it is the way it is. Also some of the questions he poses about it are answered in the second book, so maybe I need to rethink that one as well and somehow incorporate bits of book 2 into it without giving away the plot of that book. Unfortunately the follow up books rely upon this technology being the way it is so I need to retain it as much as possible.

He also picked up the fact that the novel was originally three separate but related novellas. Although he didn’t specifically mention that, he pointed out out that a five year gap between parts 2 and 3 didn’t sit well with the flow of the rest of the story as a novel. My conversion to novel format didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I need to do something to bridge that gap.

As well as the above he also noted a number of other points including some inconsistencies in characterisations and a couple of plot holes which I will try and address.

So having slept on it, I have picked myself up and come up with a plan. For the next week (or maybe longer) I will be in planning mode using good old-fashioned pen and (lots of) paper in an attempt to iron out some of the inconsistencies and those awkward questions about the technology. Then I reckon on a couple of months maybe to do a rewrite. My estimates may be way out but the important thing is I now have a focus. As a start, I created a document listing the main points and then without re-reading the story tried to address them with my knowledge of the world I had created. It was interesting how this brought home to me vital elements which were missing in the written work.

The point it proves to me is that sometimes we can just get too close to our story and we fail to see the bigger picture, particularly from a reader’s perspective. It’s no good being able to explain certain events verbally when challenged about them; the explanations should have been in the story itself.

I hope at the end of all of this I end up with a stronger story much more worthy of publishing.