Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Andromeda Spaceways #43 Sort of Mostly Out

I know that Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine issue 43 is out because I physically possess two copies of it, and it's real and I can prod it and everything.  Since my copies arrived all the way from Australia, I believe it's probably been out for a couple of weeks.  But since ASIM's website still has #42 listed as the current issue, I'm not sure if it's actually possible to buy it.

I was going to wait until it was purchasable before posting, but as anyone who knows me will testify, I have all the patience of a toddler with a sugar rush.  So ... ASIM #43, including my story The Painted City, is almost entirely out.  Frankly, even if I had a bit more willpower I'd still have folded when my copies arrived because it's really kind of fantastic.  The cover, as you can see, is lovely - who doesn't dig demonic walrusses?  There's also plenty of nice art inside by the same guy, Greg Hughes.  My one small complaint regarding the last issue I was in, number thirty, was the flimsy paper cover that suffered in crosscontinental transit, but that's been thoroughly addressed by the shift to perfect-bound format.  And this being ASIM, the quality of the fiction is pretty much a cert.

I know I've said this before recently, and I don't doubt I'll say it again, but The Painted City is one of my personal favourites from amongst the stuff I've had out.  In this case, I guess it's more because I can switch off my author brain and actually enjoy the story.  It's a grand, galaxy-and-decades-spanning tale told from multiple perspectives, and somehow it all fits neatly into under 6000 words.  I doubt I could pull it off again, but I think I got it right this one time.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Funland: Week Three

Not much to tell this week; I'm still on target, and even though I'm taking most of Monday off I still have high hopes of hitting 40'000 words by Friday.  I'd say that generally I've enjoyed things this last week more than the last two, I'm starting to shuck off the habits of the day job and write in a pattern that actually suits me.  It's still tough going, but at least I know now that I can do the 2000 a day if I just push myself hard enough.  The biggest problem is still getting going, I worry that my self-discipline is slipping a bit (especially when it comes to getting up in the morning!) and that if it slips too far I may suddenly find myself missing those all-important targets.  So next week's resolution is to get my days back to a more regular pattern, and see if I can't stay away from the internet a little more - well, except for researching obscure facts about American gang culture, that is.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Funland: Week Two

The fact that I'm posting this today rather than yesterday as would have been logical is actually a good indication of how well last week went.  That is to say: not well.  I came down with a cold on the Monday or Tuesday, and by Wednesday felt ill enough that the thought of a day writing held no appeal whatsoever.  I soldiered on, and got over it pretty quickly, (and frankly it would probably fall firmly in the category of man-flu anyway), but I did slip a little on my targets,and it certainly wasn't much fun.

Partly because of that, partly because I misjudged, and partly because some sections ran on longer than they perhaps needed to, I discovered that the first part wasn't going to end where I'd intended.  The plan is for the novel entire to break down into five novella sections of about 20'000 words each, and I was determined to get the first part done.  In the end I scaled back some of the wilder things I'd had planned, which I suspect was a good move anyway, the original ending would have been so lengthy and over the top that it would have overshadowed everything that came after.  It finished up at about 21'500, which meant I was still going at half five on Saturday.

After a lazy one-day weekend, however, most of my enthusiasm is back, and I'm still on target.  Another benefit of binge-writing like this is that the sense of achievement and reward is fantastic - knowing I'm two weeks in and I've written a fifth of a novel is a great feeling, and makes it that bit easier to keep pressing on.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Newbie's Guide to Publishing Book

I recently finished ploughing through The Newbie's Guide to Publishing Book by J. A. Konrath, which is available for free e-book download here.  It's no criticism to say that it's something you have to plough through rather than read: a vast collection of posts collected from Konrath's blog of advice for aspiring writers, mixed up with details of bookstore tours, library visits, conferences and other assorted ramblings.

Konrath is the author of the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series of police / horror thrillers, as well as a number of short stories and novellas and, recently, the horror novel Afraid under the pen name of Jack Kilborn.  He freely admits to receiving over 500 rejections with not a single acceptance before he landed a six-figure contract for the first in the Jack Daniels series, Whiskey Sour.  He attributes this success primarily to his taking an approach that ignored much of the traditional logic of submissions.  He's hugely outspoken on this and a number of subjects, most frequently that of authors publicising their own work - something that Konrath has gone to quite staggering lengths to do.

I agree with a lot of what Konrath says, and agreed with more by the end than when I started.  I'd certainly get behind his central point that as writers we have a responsibility for getting our own sales, and that there's no point (and very little chance of success) in relying on others to do it for us.  I also disagreed with a lot.  At one point Konrath states that he's spending 70% of his time publicising compared with 30% writing, which strikes me as bad business in any field.  Still, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone that they take a look, and really the disagreeing is half the fun.  It's kind of the reading equivalent of a night in the pub arguing with a really opinionated mate.  That aside, Konrath is hugely inquisitive and informed about the industry, and has no qualms about sharing what he's learned, warts and all.  If you're serious about a career in writing then there's a wealth of information here, much of which the majority of industry professionals would probably rather be kept quiet.

Be warned though, Konrath doesn't sugarcoat things.  In fact, by pretty much ignoring the small (and indeed, the mid-range) press, he probably makes them look worse than they are.  So if you have any doubts, or just want to quietly write for fun or minimal profit, you might want to stay well clear!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Funland: Week One

As should be obvious from the wordometer doohickey, I've reached the end of week one not only on but slightly ahead of schedule at a hair's breadth over 11'000 words.  I'm trying to gain a little leeway so I can have a long weekend off in a couple of weeks, so actually that makes me dead on target.

How's it going?  Well it turns out writing full time is kind of hard work.  Who would have thought?  As the week wore on, those 2000 words came less and less readily.  It's a fair target when you know where you're going, but writing three or four scenes that you only have a vague handle on is far from easy.  The last six hundred words or so, dredged up with excrutiating slowness on Saturday morning, were no fun whatsoever.  The other thing I'm noticing is that I simply don't have time for my usual approach, which is to redraft what I just wrote before I start a new section.  Without that, I'm never entirely sure if I'm just churning out rubbish or not.  That, coupled with the fact that I'm dealing with plenty of unfamiliar subject matter and pretty much reinventing my style as I go, is making the whole process a little more stressful than I'd like.

Positives?  There's a lot to be said for the freedom of having a whole day (and indeed, a whole week) of writing time on your hands.  I can start sections safe in the knowledge that I can come back to them in a few hours, for example.  Also, I don't think I could have written something like this around work.  I've already got about twenty characters (quite a few of them viewpoint characters) and half a dozen plot threads on the go; if I was going to be picking up those threads in months rather than days I suspect the whole thing would unravel pretty quickly.

Anyway, early days yet.  Let's see how week two goes...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Funland: Day One

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was working full-time on my second novel while I look around for another IT contract, and that I'd post progress updates in the interest of science and other interested parties.  I can't, after all, be the first writer to have considered such an approach.  If it turns out to be hugely productive then I'm sure someone somewhere will find that information useful - and likewise if I end up living on the streets in a house made out of the faded, pee-stained pages of my 'masterpiece'.

I'd actually planned to start this yesterday, but I ran out of time, making that title completely inaccurate and misleading.  The plan, then, is to write a novel of around 100'000 words, provisionally called Funland (a quick search of Amazon will tell you why that's only a working title), at a rate of at least 10'000 words a week.  Since I don't want to pull down seven day weeks, I've broken that up as 1800 words a weekday and 500 each on Saturday and Sunday, or 2000 words a weekday if I know I'm going to be busy on the weekend.

The good news is that I finished my first day at about 2150 words.  Turns out 2000 isn't such a big deal after all.  Today I've just broken the 4K mark and I plan to do a bit more before I clock off.  Perhaps more importantly, I'm pretty happy with what I'm turning out, the concentrated time doesn't seem to be equating to a drop-off in quality.  So not a bad start all told.  But ... I have this early stuff pretty well planned out.  Whether I can keep that rate up for scenes that I'm less clear on is a whole 'nother question.

 As for mental and physical health, it's a little early to tell, but I made it to the gym yesterday and had a walk round the block today, and I haven't had any real desire to chop my ears off or start barking like a dog. I'm listening to lots of jazz, as a fairly unobtrusive means of breaking the silence.

Of course, that may be a sign of craziness in itself.  I hope I don't turn into a beatnik.

Finally, I've also added a little wordometer thang over on the right there.  It's just sad how proud I am to have figured that one out...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Survivor Guilt up at Variant Frequencies

My sci-fi / horror (and I hadn't really noticed how much blood and guts get spilled until I listened to it with my mum!) short story Survivor Guilt is now available to listen to or download at the multiple Parsec Award winning Variant Frequencies. I've gone on so much about this here and particularly here that there really isn't a huge amount left to say, so I'll just add that on a second listen I was even more blown away by what a great job the Variant Frequencies team have done.  I'd really recommend taking a few minutes to give it a listen.

That is unless, like my mum, you get squemish around spilled rat guts.