All posts in Oh Mummy

17th January, 2011

Yesterday was one jam-packed day filled with good bits and bad bits.

On the plus side, my steampunk horror novella The Devil in Chains began a five-episode run on Dark Fiction Magazine. Narrated by the dulcent tones of Emma Newman, you can grab an episode a night all week. The Devil in Chains features airships, a voodoo deity masquerading as a Manx fairy, plenty of stiff-upper-lipness, men in uniform, and a talking mongoose. If any of those things take your fancy, go check it out. If they don’t, check it out anyway.

On the not-so-plus side, my vampire short The Nightmare of You and Death in the Room failed to make it to the British Science Fiction Association 2010 awards shortlist. I should say that this was entirely expected, and the shortlist this year is very strong indeed. Many congratulations to those who made it, and I certainly know where my votes are going! And thanks again to whoever nominated by story.

Also yesterday codename: Oh Mummy! got a rejection. So it goes. I can reveal the actual title is Transmission, and it’s a zombie horror novel featuring cadavers possessed by the spirits of dead celebrities, hidden stations on the London Underground and a secret society sworn to protect them, and the resurrection of an Ancient Egyptian pharoah. Oh, and mummies.

Rejection stings of course, and over at Terrible Minds Chuck Wendig offers some excellent advice on what to do with a rejection when you get one. As he points out, rejection is the default state of a writer. You must expect it, and expect it often. How you deal with it is what’s important. I recently read some comments on someone’s Twitter stream about how they had just had another rejection (the latest in a long line of them, from what I could work out), and they said they when it arrived they didn’t feel anything at all. Personally I think that’s a little worrying – you should be upset and disappointed, because it means you really want it and the work is important to you. Like great performers who suffered nerves before walking on stage/the director shouted action (Lawrence Olivier being sick in his dressing room before a performance; Patrick Troughton visibly shaking between takes in Doctor Who) – if the fear and disappointment isn’t there, something is wrong. Well, I think, anyway.

So after my I’m so sad, so very, very sad moment my first thought was: dude, you gotta step up your game. Transmission is fully outlined and I have the first three chapters written, so I’ll file it away for a while and when the time is right, I’ve got a headstart on a new novel sitting right there. But, more importantly, along with the rejection came an invite to submit something else. The invite was for a totally different type of story, and as it happens I have already had an idea floating around that fits perfectly. The key now is to make that submission better than the first.

Progress continues on The Wasp in the Lotus with 1,992 words added. However, something is awry with my wordcounts for the year, and after a tally-up yesterday the numbers I have been reporting here are all off slightly. I haven’t been able to work out what’s gone wrong, but there is a clue in yesterday’s count. My daily target is 2000 words, and I worked on Wasp in two sessions. In the first, I wrote 1,000 words exactly. In the second, I wrote 1,015. I tracked this with the Project Targets function in Scrivener, which allows you to see goals for a writing session and then pops up an alert when you have reached it. According to the Project Targets tracker, I wrote 2,015 words. And yet the total length of the project is only 1,992 words longer than yesterday.

There’s something fishy going on. For the moment, I’ll do an audit of all my projects this year and see where I am really up to so I can update this blog properly. Also I’ll clearly have to track the word counts differently, so I’ll make up a couple of Excel sheets and keep a log that way.

Project: The Wasp in the Lotus (steampunk/clockpunk novella)
Words today: 1,992
Words total: 8,415/20,000 (32%)
Total words for 2011: 30,255

I hit the end of chapter two of Seven Wonders, yesterday, and after the action-packed (and difficult to edit) opener I’m now starting to pick up speed, focussing on fixing the writing and taking notes on story problems.

Project: Seven Wonders (superhero novel)
Pages edited today: 20
Pages to go: 506

Books: Some pages of The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Comics: Still on hold. Too much else to do, although I am looking forward to getting back into it.

11th January, 2011

A slight delay in updating today as I had to be up and out the door at the crack of dawn. It was still dark’n’everything!

Yesterday was one of those peculiar writing days. Sometimes you sit down to write with a cup of tea and some tunes selected, and you start typing, and then after a little bit you take a break and check your wordcount and find you’ve done 2,000 words. And the tea is still hot. And you haven’t even got to your favourite song yet. These days I like.

But sometimes you sit down to write, and you hammer away at the keyboard for what feels like a hundred years, and the tea either gets cold or you finish it too soon, and your iTunes playlist hits the end. So you take a break, check your wordcount, and find you’ve managed 375 words. These days I like not so much. The really strange thing is that it’s not like you just sit there staring into space – when this happened to me yesterday I don’t recall any particular decrease in my typing speed, and I seem to remember typing just as much as on a good day. Certainly felt like it.

So it goes. Fortunately I experienced that particular twilight zone of writing sometime in the afternoon, so I was able to pick it up in the evening and hit the required count.

Project: Hang Wire (superhero crime novel)
Words today: 2,003
Words total: 30,969/100,000 (30.9%)
Total words for 2011: 19,795

And there Hang Wire must pause, with my poor protagonist Ted Hall trying to unravel the mystery of his blackouts and lost time, about to meet up with someone who left a note under his apartment door signed off with an ancient Korean symbol.

Argh, the suspense.

However, from today (Wednesday) I need to focus on another project which has a fixed deadline. It’s plotted and ready to roll, so the theory goes anyway, so I’ll be able to tell you tomorrow how I got on.

Seven Wonders took a break yesterday as I wanted to focus on codename: Oh Mummy! All of my beta-reader returns were in, the chapters were very well received indeed (phew!), and after a few thankfully minor changes and another couple of read-through, they were sent off. After this I did some beta-reading of my own and sent back notes and edits. The plan for today includes taking a proper look at Seven Wonders along with the editing schedule I’ve given myself. Once I’ve checked it over and made sure that it is realistic, I’m sure the pages will start to fly by!

It’s no secret – in fact, it’s bleedin’ obvious! – that I’m a Stephen King fan, and as one with nearly his entire output to read for the first time I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. I still need to do a mini-review of The Long Walk (add it to the list!), but in the meantime I’m 150 pages into The Dead Zone and absolutely loving it. This feels like a slight return to form, as I haven’t been this excited about one of his novels since ‘Salem’s Lot. The Shining is too long and a little flat, and while The Stand is excellent the version I read (the 1990 extended edition) is likewise too long. The Dead Zone, so far at least, feels right on the money.

Books: Some pages of The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Comics: Reading on hold until the weekend. Still need to update my checklist.

9th January, 2011

“This day shall not be wasted”, as the internet meme goes, and Sunday certainly wasn’t. My new routine of blog post first thing then everything else seemed to have paid off.

After a couple of wobbles (the traditional, even compulsory WTF-am-I-writing-this-for? moment that comes at some point in every book for every author, I think), Hang Wire is back in business with 2,260 words added. Part of the problem might have been the need for a couple of chapters which are more setting the scene for future events and filling in some background on a couple of characters, rather than featuring much action. These are the kind of chapters that you know are necessary, but the first drafts are rarely that interesting to write (and consequently to read). I’ll wager the second drafts of these will be cut probably by as much as 50%, but for the moment it’s a case of spewing it all out onto paper (or at least into a Scrivener file), covering everything that needs to be covered even if the end result is inelegant. But I’ve talked about this before. The first draft of a novel is really not even that, it’s draft zero, the vomit draft. Get all the words down then start moulding it into shape on the second run. Scott Sigler had a great analogy that I still remember – “you’ve got to get the clay on the wheel”. That is quite true.

Project: Hang Wire (superhero crime novel)
Words today: 2,260
Words total: 26,580/100,000 (24.32%)
Total words for 2011: 15,406

A double-whammy on editing. I gave codename: Oh Mummy! another pass and split the long chapter two into chapters two and three, and then sent it off to my beta-readers. The plan is to submit this sample this week.

I also made a start on Seven Wonders, and kicked the crap out of seven pages. That may not sound like a lot, but there was a lot of red pen involved, which is a good thing. Also the erasable red ink, as I mentioned yesterday, is genius!

Project: Seven Wonders (superhero novel)
Pages edited today: 7
Pages to go: 551

I’m only 50 pages into The Dead Zone, but already it is shaping up to be another great Stephen King novel. This book is slightly unusual in that I know a fair amount about it as King talks about it quite a lot in his writing guide/memoir, On Writing, the audiobook of which (read by King himself) I’ve listened to several times. So I know the basic story idea, but not much of the plot itself I guess.

I also need to get back to 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, which I received for Christmas (currently sitting on its very own coffee table in the lounge, so gigantic is this book) and I also want to start The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, another beautiful hardcover which arrived this morning from Amazon, where I snagged it for a ridiculously discounted price.

My stockpile of unread comics gets larger, but I’m going to take a tally today and plan out my catch-up.

Books: finished up The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Comics: Backlog grows but I’m making a list and checking it twice.

7-8th January, 2011

Okay, trying a new tactic. Rather than attemping a blog post at the end of the day, and then just running out of time and being unable to do anything other than collapse into bed, I’m going to do a morning post summarising the day before.

Right? Right. As well as ensuring I actually do a post a day, it’s also a good writing exercise for the early morning and will, I hope, help me wake up more quickly so I can then do something productive.

As it stands, I do have some catching up with regard to all three of my 2011 resolutions: writing, editing, and reading.

Friday’s efforts were not too shabby considering I was out for the evening (and went to see The King’s Speech, which is a brilliant film – I highly recommend it!). I added 1,479 words to Hang Wire. True, it’s not the regulation 2,000, it’s more than I had at the start of the day. Hang Wire is also approaching one-quarter complete, which surprises me. Although I’ve dallied here and there on this book, it seems to be coming together quite quickly, which is good.

Unfortunately I didn’t write anything yesterday, as I was focussed on editing.

Project: Hang Wire (superhero crime novel)
Words (Friday 7th January): 1,479
Words total: 24,320/100,000 (24.32%)
Total words for 2011: 13,146

This was the main focus yesterday (Saturday 8th). Having completed two long chapters of codename: Oh Mummy!, I started editing and rewriting, and hit a good third draft. I want to get this out to my beta readers today (Sunday 9th) and then sent off early during the week, so today I need to give it another read-through and possibly find a place to introduce another chapter break, turning into three.

My Lulu copy of Seven Wonders arrived, and looks fab. Ta-da! I had a flick through it and read a chapter or two, and while it needs work I got caught up in it a little, which has to be a good thing.

While out at the movies I popped into a WH Smith and found what looks to be the ultimate editor’s pen, a Pilot erasable rollerball. It writes like a fine-tipped ink pen, but it has a rubber eraser on the end like a pencil. Remarkably, it actually works – the ink is completely, cleanly and easily removed! Given than every other red pen edit I have done has become covered in crossings-out and scribbles, and plenty of STET, this looks like the pen of my dreams!

I’ve finished my first book of 2011, and the first book of the 2011 Stephen King challenge! I must say that The Long Walk was longer than I anticipated, but was excellent and very disturbing. As per the rules of the Stephen King challenge I must post a review of some sort, so look out for that shortly.

Following The Long Walk I was going to take a break from King and read Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King (no relation!), but I wasn’t able to find it at either Waterstones or WH Smiths while out at the movies, so I’ve had to order from Amazon. I normally do buy my books from Amazon, but the lengthy delays with Royal Mail at the moment mean Death’s Disciples could show up on Monday or not for two weeks. Huh. I grabbed a few short books from the shelves to fill the gap, as it were, but after a couple of false starts I’ve ended up heading straight into the next Stephen King book, which is The Dead Zone.

My comic backlog continues to grow, but as I’ve said before I’m planning a catch-up readathon on those shortly.

Books: finished up The Long Walk by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman) on Friday 7th; started The Dead Zone by Stephen King on Saturday 8th
Comics: Backlog grows but I’m making a list and checking it twice.

6th January, 2011

Today was a good day for writing, even though it was Thursday (Thursdays don’t usually work out) and I ate a gigantic, and unpleasant, pizza for lunch. The box promised a lot but, let’s face it, you get what you pay for. And for £1.25, that’s not much. Moving on…

I worked on two different projects today. Firstly I wrapped up the first draft of the second half (bear with me here) of my sample of codename: Oh Mummy!, clocking that one in at a total of 6,744 words. Tomorrow it’ll get an edit and that word count may go up or down, but it’s feeling pretty good and will be off to my beta-readers for a kicking before getting another edit over the weekend.

Work on that came in at 1,488 words, which left 512 to spare for today’s word count. I spent this on Hang Wire, my superhero crime novel, which I haven’t looked at for a few days. Reading back over the last chapter, I noticed I’d made the teeny-tiny, insignificant, microscopic mistake of changing from first person to third person. Hey, easy to do, right? Erm, perhaps not… anyway, it’s first person, so I completed the chapter in first and will go back and fix the rather alarming error later.

Project: codename Oh Mummy! (zombie horror novel, sample chapters)
Words today: 1,488
Words total: 6,744 (no particular target)

Project: Hang Wire (superhero crime novel)
Words today: 714
Words total: 22,841/100,000 (22.84%)

Total words today: 2,202
Total words for 2011: 11,667 (just 323 short of target!)

Given that splitting my writing today between two completely separate novels, and that my trade paperback of Seven Wonders hasn’t arrived from Lulu yet, I wasn’t too worried about any editing today. Kate sent in her next chapter of The Gospel of the Godless Stars (chapter 5 out of an anticipated 40), which I reviewed and suggested a few changes to, so I guess that counts. Tomorrow’s plan includes editing Oh Mummy!, although if Royal Mail are on schedule I should be able to get stuck into Seven Wonders as well.

Reading? Don’t ask. Again. Seriously, I’m not listening. I’m heading towards the end of The Long Walk (which is starting to feel a little long) but comics will have to wait until tomorrow.

Books: some pages of The Long Walk by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
Comics: Pardon? Sorry, I didn’t catch that.

4-5th January, 2011

Four days in and I hit the first snag. Oh, 2011, how I have failed thee!

Ahem. I’ll be all right in a sec. *sniff*

I should have seen it coming, but I sort of didn’t. Tuesday was the first regular working day of the new year and as the Mrs toddled off to work, I settled in to wait for day gig work to arrive and work on a few bits and bobs. And at 9am exactly, the plumber arrived to rebuild our entire hot water system. A very necessarily job, of course, as we’d been hit by a number of leaks over December and were running at reduced pressure to stop any more problems. The currently system was a dog’s breakfast and he was going to put it right.

And put it right he did. It took all day. He worked from 9am to 5pm, without pause. He hacksawed, hammered and welded in the corridor right outside my office. And if it wasn’t the noise, it was the smell. I presume it was from the weilding, although I’m not sure, but the house was filled with a very strong chlorine odour. Not the vague whiff around swimming pools either. I’m talking properly suffocating. I know what real chlorine smells like, as one of my favourite hobbies in the sixth and seventh form was the make the ghastly stuff in the school’s chemistry lab by adding concentrated hydrochloric acid to potassium permanganate, something I’m sure you wouldn’t be allowed to do now. One time I overdid it a little and flooded the classroom in the stuff, necessitating our swift exit and evacuation of half of the entire block as the (very!) poisonous green gas rolled around the corridors.

Ah, happy days. But I digress. The plumber did an amazing job and working for eight hours without break (although with swearing and tool throwing) kinda put my own work ethic to shame. But it was distracting, and being a person who works from home entirely alone most of the time, I didn’t cope too well.

As a result, my wordcount for the day was a whole entire 383 words. Pathetic and entirely my fault.

Recognising the the problem with Tuesday was inside my own head, today was much better and I’ve managed a much more respectable 2,456 words. Add this to yesterday’s tally and it comes to 2,839 words, which is 1,161 words short for two days. However, I’m not going to beat myself up about it too much, and I can make up the shortfall over the next few days.

Hang Wire, however, is taking a break for a bit as my writing focus is now on Oh Mummy!, as I have codenamed my secret project. Having produced a sample chapter which tickled the fancy of my beta-readers, I then decided to keep going and write the second chapter as the first − good though it may apparently be − does not feature my main characters. I personally think this is fine − I didn’t write it as a prologue, but more like a ‘pre-credits’ sequence. Erm, or… prologue. Anyway, a sample chapter has to not only show the writing off but the characters as well, so with the scene set in chapter one I’ve moved to introducing the protagonists in chapter two. There are actually four heroes, established as two pairs. They stay apart for most of the book and come together somewhere fairly close to the end as their respective subplots reach a head, but in chapter two important stuff happens to both. The end result, I hope, is a much stronger sample.

Project: codename Oh Mummy! (zombie horror novel, sample chapters)
Words today: 2,456 (+ 383 for 4th January)
Words total: 5,256 (no particular target)
Total words for 2011: 9,475

Looking at that total wordcount for the year so far, at an intended rate of 2,000 words/day I’m actually only short by 525 words, which isn’t too bad.

Reading? Don’t ask. I’m planning a comic catch-up later this week, but in the meantime I’ve just managed a little more of The Long Road.

Book: some pages of The Long Walk by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
Comics: zippo. Insert sad face emoticon here.

3rd January, 2011

Oh brother, today was tough. I like routines, and especially now the Christmas and New Year holiday is drawing to a close, I have to get back into a regular rhythm. Today was going to be the start of that, but thanks again to the iOS bug, the alarm on my iPod touch failed to sound. Bandits. I’ve deleted it and made a new one, and it works, so we’re all set for tomorrow.

Ideally, I need to be writing as close to getting up as possible, allowing for breakfast and tea and generally feeling sorry for myself for a half-hour or so. When I worked in an office, I managed it, because I had a limited time before I had to get dressed and get ready to head out. I still work, of course, but now that I work from home that motivational factor has gone.

The idea behind writing early is not just because it means your obligation for the day is done as first priority (which is important for all writers, as many will tell you), but that no matter what happens during the working day, no matter how crazy the day gig is or what disasters (work-related or otherwise) occur, you can still get your writing in. That time early in the morning – for me, 6 to 7 am – is always yours to do with what you will.

So goes the theory anyway. Let’s see what happens tomorrow anyway. Today I started writing way too late – about 7 pm – and my allocation of words was hard-won.

Project: Hang Wire (superhero novel)
Words today: 2,038
Words total: 22,137/100,000 (22.14%)
Total words for 2011: 6,636

Today’s editing project was something I’m going to give a codename of Oh, Mummy! to. With Seven Wonders on the way from Lulu, I did a final check on a sample chapter of which may or may not feature mummies on the London Underground and sent it to another of my beta readers. As it happened, the reader loved it and sent a rather nice critique back, so I think with another pass tomorrow just to be sure, this sample chapter will be ready to send off to the publisher. Note for writers: having someone tell you they love your writing is good for the soul. This is why we do it and what makes it worthwhile.

Also today I tried and failed to finish The Long Walk. For some reason I thought it was a short novel, when in fact it is something like 350 pages long and I am less than halfway through.

I’m starting to dig the new Power Girl, however. I love modern interpretations of Golden Age characters, especially when pitted against Bronze/Modern Age ones, so Power Girl (Bronze) at the mercy of the Ultra-humanite (Golden) is a blast.

Book: some pages of The Long Walk by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
Comics: Detective Comics #755 (2000), DC Legacies #3 (2010), Zatanna #3 (2010), Power Girl #3 (2010), Green Lantern #78 (1970)