NaYesWriMo 2018

I've decided to give NaNoWriMo a go this year. Hoping I can make enough time to do it It's one of those things where you've got to keep going at it, as 1667 words a day sounds fine but if you miss a couple of days you've got 4800 words to find, so it can suddenly get quite daunting if your not careful.
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I've only tried once before and I found it okay with a relatively straightforward format. It was totally linear and in effect by compartmentalising it I could write it in ten bite sized chunks as if I was writing ten 5000 word short stories. I managed it anyway and 'Fergie Time' exists. I've had a couple of people read it and it largely held together pretty well considering it was written in a month. It does have fundamental issues though - it includes real people in imagined situations, which may have legal issues... Anyway, we'll see I do intend to finish it, even if it only every gets read by a few friends and family. But in the meantime I have NaNoWriMo 2018 to be getting on with.

This one will have only fictitious people and venues (albeit in real cities) so I shouldn't have any of the potential legal considerations this time. I had a couple of options for running with including Project Jaipur and Project Sarah Hughes or even expanding the short story from the recent DeadCades short story into a full length story. In the end I've opted for Project Jaipur now as 'To Hull and Back: A Wobbly Odyssey'. It's set as an epic comic odyssey across seven towns and cities and in some ways can therefore be similarly compartmentalised into effectively 7-10 sections or short stories.

So now I'm in the process of planning the chapters and set pieces and identifying the main characters, though once the story telling gets going next month heaven knows where it will arrive.

Here's to 50,000 words in 30 days. And a fun time.

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A Wee Flash Outing and Some Thinking

As the days grow colder and shorter and the grey cloud blanket envelops the days we must enjoy the rare blue autumn days when they come along. This week that was Wednesday. And now Friday is upon us and the weekend is almost here we are in for rain and wind, or wind and rain, apparently. I suppose it makes you appreciate those moments of low sun beauty all the more, but a fifty-fifty split would be better than 1 day in 7 please.

In the early hours of this morning the wind began to whip up, getting especially loud around 6am, waking me up on my day off. It was bound to happened for I am working Saturday and Sunday and today is therefore my weekend. I normally pick one day of the weekend to have off and try and coincide it with the Liverpool game (which 8 times from 10 is on the tellybox), but this week there is no Premiership. Yes, it is the second worse two word combination in the English language: 'International Break' (the most dreaded being 'Rail Replacement'). The day hasn't got any lighter since 7am this morning yet and the forecast suggests it won't. I'm hoping Saturday and Sunday will be slightly better than this for work. I can but hope.

Today I've done a Microcosms (300 word) challenge, which is the first time for quite a few months I think (though time seems a more fluid concept than usual at the moment).

I am going to try and write every day of the remainder of the year and whilst this is only 300 words it's a start. I've also to consider whether 30 of those remaining days will include doing NaNoWriMo and, if so, which of the ideas to run with. Got about two weeks to decide and get some plans in place. I know I've been watching TV too much lately and an hour or so less of that (if the plans are defined enough) should provide the time required to write the 1667 words a day (or a good proportion of those).
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Giant's Farewell

I was off on Friday so took the chance to go hunting for Xolo and the young boy Giants in Liverpool's 2018 Giant Spectacular: Dream.

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These humongous marionettes are something else. It's difficult to describe how good they are if you haven't seen them for yourself (a bit like trying to describe what Glastonbury Festival is like to someone who's only ever been to V or Reading). The point is they are incredible and the who shebang that goes with it makes it seem more than the sum of its parts. Liverpool is lucky enough to have had three visits now from these wacky French guys and of course we had La Princesse (the amazing spider) too.

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Last time they were here was the summer and a ridiculous hot opening day, which meant that they ended up running very late. This time the weather was cool, grey and overcast and so the running was not delayed at all. My tardy arrival meant that I got there with a requirement to play catch up and I did over toward the Anglican cathedral. At that point I only caught the rear end of Xolo bouncing up the road and then waiting for the young boy who was travelling up in an open car. He only started walking again further up the road on the way to Prince's Park. After that it was breakfast, reading and writing and a couple of beers before catching them back on the way down.

In the afternoon I caught up with them on Duke Street. I stood on a bit of street furniture for a better view and this time caught Xolo and the lad. Xolo at one point running past before going to investigate a group of people sat atop a container. The controllers of these marionettes do a brilliant job of animating the character out of them. It does really do the movements you'd expect of a dog (giant or otherwise). Once more the boy was sat in the back of a car, but just after he passed me he was hooked up on the following contraption to begin the walk down the lower half of Duke Street.

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The crowds were enthralled and I met and chatted with people who'd travelled from all over the UK to see them. The hotels and restaurants must have had a boss weekend.

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Yesterday I was working (and had a horror of a day). The pictures of the crowds on the Strand looked incredible, but have made me have second thoughts about going down to see them this time - I'll never get a spot like I did last time they were here and in any case I'd have to pop away pretty early to get to a pub to watch the Man City match. So unless I have a last minute change of heart (or the company does and they return) then on Friday I saw the last of these wonderful creations. Incredible art and entertainment for the young and old. Thanks to all involved for this year and all the previous ones. Wonderful.

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The Weekend Starts and Ends Here

I've got me a one day weekend. Back in tomorrow. So will be out for beers later in Liverpool for a wee crawl, after buying a few bits and bobs, then it'll be time to catch some footy. Should be another great game between Liverpool and that Chelski shower with a quick retribution in mind following Wednesday night. May even catch some of the Mancs match. Expect I'll get to five or six top hostelries - you'll have to check out Twitter to see how I do.

Started beta-reading a FlashDog novel this morning. Up to the third chapter and it's really good so far. I shouldn't be surprised by now that there are such accomplished writerers within the FlashDog community. After meeting everyone via the very short stories we composed in Flash Fiction Friday and Angry Hourglass it is with great respect I see all these guys stepping on up and out to novels. Hoping to finish the book this week and get my comments out by next weekend.

In the meantime it is anticipated that 'DeadCades' will be released this week. Exciting stuff. And releasing a horror book in October... seems like it's almost by design. Many thanks to Steph and David in advance for all their work on getting to this point. Definitely top dogs (in a good way).

Went to the PO earlier to pick up a parcel from a couple of weeks ago. Er, I'd been sent me some cheese and biscuits. I wish I'd known I'd have made an effort to pick it up earlier. Not sure if the cheese is supposed to be this stinky. Will report back later... many more thanks for the surprising gift! You know who you are ;-)

Apparently it's World Guitar Day - who the hell makes all these things up? - perhaps I'll strum a little later. Made me think who are some of my favourite guitarists. It's a tough call, and if I thought longer or on a different day, my top picks (no pun intended) would no doubt be different and just as defendable. Here's today's top four anyway: Ry Cooder, Chuck Prophet, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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Jimi SRV


As for guitars, I have two; a lovely dark green Telecaster (I know three of the four above are on Strats, but hey I love a Tele) and a Takamine 363 semi-acoustic.

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Reviews, Reviewing and Deleting

Had feedback from two of the Flash Dogs on Fergie Time and have made the decision to finish it based on their comments. Thanks to those guys for their time. Once I've finished it I will have to develop the tightest disclaimer ever to protect my ass if the story is ever to be released to the wild (look these guys are real, they're obviously in a parallel universe very close to own but clearly not our own etc).

And to repay the grace of these Flash Dogs I've volunteered to review a book from another Flash Dog. The Dogs are really producing stuff right now, aren't they?

Memory

Talking of reviewing I'm getting around to going through the photographs on my computer, the damn things are clogging it up. I had over 54k photos on it, and you can see above the effect on my Hard Drive. Have deleted 2k today, but I'll need to get on top of it and aim to at least knock a third off. I mean I can't even need 30k photos can I? The 52k photos apparently equates to 195GB. It'll take ages to go through it. If I can knock it down to 150GB in the first instance I'll have doubled the free space on the HD so it's got to be worth the time.

Reading Challenge 9

With respect to reading I've managed to catch up with a few books over the last four weeks and have gone from 6 to 3 books behind schedule so maybe I could achieve my original goal. That would require me to read about a book a week or more. That could be affected of course by reviewing and writing myself and maybe NaNo if I chose to go for it. Right now I'd be happy with reading 32 or so probably. After finishing another Pratchett yesterday I've moved on to another classic writerer with a Philip K. Dick, another Oxfam buy - 'Confessions of a Crap Artist'.
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Owl Canyon Comp

Results for the Owl Canyon Hackathon came through last night and I was unsurprised not to be on the shortlist of 24.

To be fair the way in which I completed it, writing a third of it from about midnight on the day of entry, it was to be expected. Of course that is not to say I'm not disappointed. Nothing wrong with expecting rushed genius.

Next time though I am going to finish before the last hour of acceptance.

The winning three writers were:

FIRST PLACE: "The Biggest Salmon Barbecue in the Galaxy" by David Greenson
SECOND PLACE: "Half of What You See" by Lorain Urban
THIRD PLACE: "Birds of a Feather" by Julie Hall

Congratulations to the winners and all those shortlisted and thanks too to Owl Canyon for the competition.

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Maybe, Just Maybe

Thanks to Scrivener I managed to quickly and easily convert a document into Kindle format. Woo hoo! I had chosen the NaNoWriMo effort from 2016, 'Fergie Time' for no particular reason other than it was formatted in chapters and pretty substantial (50k+). It certainly wasn't the aim to do anything with it. I hadn't looked at it for ages, but seeing in on the Kindle it looked better than I expected and reading the first couple of chapters at it with fresh eyes after so much time made me think that maybe, just maybe, there is something there.

Talking of fresh eyes I made a shout out to several Flash Dogs to see if anyone would read the first few chapters and feedback whether it was worth working on to finish it. Within about an hour each said they'd look at it and almost as quickly - these Flash Dog types are super fast and super friendly - I've already got feedback and far from disheartening too. It wouldn't have been the end of the world if it had been all negative given it was effectively written over a single month. I'd really enjoyed writing it, but with the time gone since looking at it I don't feel overly invested in it at this point. Perhaps that is about to change.

Each Dog has carried on reading beyond the first two or three chapters, which must be a good sign. The humour seems to be okay. Though some of the pointed barbs maybe need to be less pointy. And I probably need to make it less blokey. I know everyone says writing humour is hard and I get that, getting the level right for the story and not putting in funny line after funny line or throwing things out there just for a punchline to come along, or then again not having enough fun in it so you forget it is supposed to be funny... well it's not something I've really tried before.

I wrote it back in 2016 and maybe I didn't think about it enough before hand, for my story is chock full of real people i.e. named football players, managers and pundits (as well as Mary Berry and Sue Perkins). Let's face it the clue is in the name of the book. But I hadn't considered any legal issues of having real people in a fiction story. It could kill it dead in the water in terms of publishing it.

So I was in a bit of a quandary as to whether to finish it anyway, whether or not it could ever get published. Or I could spend that time on a fiction with all fictional people in it. Bearing in mind it's 50,000 words long and I reckon it'll take another 10-20 to finish it I'm minded to finish it for my own sake. Maybe I'll end up with a book that can't be used but I'd have a complete novel length story and know that I can do it. And there may well be lines, passages and ideas I can use in other projects.

The genesis of Fergie Time goes back beyond 2016 to an idea I had years before which I presented at the Writing on the Wall 'Dragon's Pen' event at the Bluecoat in 2013. The panel consisted of AL Kennedy (writer), Kate Haldane (agent), Esther Wilson (playwright) and Gordon Wise (literary agent) and it was one of the scariest things I've ever done in public. I got good feedback from them and from the audience despite my wobbly legs, but never progressed it until NaNo.

So it's gone from a Writing on the Wall project (2013), to a NaNoWriMo project (2016) to maybe just a reopened current project (2018).

Anyways, I now need to finish reading it all myself and get a notebook out whilst I do. Maybe my NaNo 2016 will bear more fruit than the 'Winner' sticker at the end of that month. Maybe I'll properly finish a whole book. Maybe just maybe.



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Will It Ever Be Fergie Time?

Getting 'Fergie Time' on to my Kindle was great. Both in terms of seeing how to do it with Scrivener but also in revisiting the NaNoWriMo story from almost two years ago.

Scrivener makes it so easy to get a Kindle copy sorted anyway. Let's face it the last thing you want to do is spend lots of time messing about with formatting and importing and exporting and effing and blinding. Unless you are a sadist you want your time spent on the creative bit.

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Going to read the thing on the Kindle over the next few days and send to a couple of canny volunteers just to see if the story idea works and whether there is any mileage in revisiting and finishing it. Or whether I should just concentrate on one of my other projects and leave it as a NaNo experiment. Not expecting them to read the whole thing just the first two or three chapters.

Talking of NaNo who's doing it this year? Doubt I will. But we'll see.
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Kindling

Last night I finally got Kindlegen to work so that I could save something I've written in Scrivener direct to Kindle format and hence on to my Kindle. A few things of note here;

1) I'd downloaded the Kindlegen app to my Mac then spent a day wondering why I couldn't find the .zip file I needed. Schoolboy error; Safari automatically unpacks the files and so the folder I was looking in (for the zip file) was actually the folder of unzipped files! ('These are the files you're looking for')

Anyway then it was just a question of saving these files in the Applications folder then pointing Scrivener to where it was. Simples!

2) I saved the story to the Kindle format with a single press of a button. Huzzah!

3) Now it was a question of dragging the file into the Kindle. Well it would have been if I'd known where it was - I haven't been using it this year. Looking at Goodsread only one of the twenty one books I've read this year has been on the Kindle ('Heart of Darkness' back at the beginning of the year). Found it eventually and of course the battery was drained. So it's on charge now and once it's got some juice in it I can put the file on it.

Seeing how little I've used it made me look back on Goodreads to see how that's changed and the result was: not as much as I thought lately. I found that last year I only read two of forty eight on the Kindle, four of forty one in 2016, two of fifteen in 2015, and eight from twenty six in 2013 (I'm not sure where the records for 2014 have disappeared). Oh my, so much data there. Only read fifteen books in 2015? Clearly in 2013 I read a lot more on it with almost a third of my reading on the device. I'm surprised at how few books I've read on the Kindle overall in recent years I used to use it a lot more. Mind you I have targeted reading more books from my shelves, that have been hanging around for years, and I do keep popping into second-hand book shops both of which pushes back the requirement to read from the Kindle. The other thing is I've not been commuting on trains and buses or traveling much in the last few years. When I was the Kindle was ideal.

Anyway, now I'm ready to put my writing on it I can use it for reviewing something old and substantial I've written, rather than printing out 120 pages, carrying that weight around and requiring the consideration of carbon offset and chiropractor.
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Reading, Writing, TV, Same Old

Finished 'The Honorary Consul' by Graham Greene this morning. I must say I really like all his stories they do evoke a time and place very effectively as well as involving some sad and interesting characters. Recommended. According to my GoodReads tally it was my 19th book of the year and I'm fully 6 books behind my 'schedule'. Ho hum.

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I can't put my finger on why I'm so far behind where I was last year. I can only think I'm falling asleep quicker in the evening, not reading quite as much in the morning before work or maybe I'm watching more TV. Maybe it's the latter - I've spent far too much time blindly following the Trump presidency for a start. I need to turn the TV off and get an hour a day minimum reading. Doing that getting to the 40 books can still happen and it'll save my tired neck muscles from my regularly shaking head. Reading more rather than watching the news channels will have the happy side affect of making me feel better too; a little escapism rather than the sad realism of this last couple of years.

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On top of that I didn't succeed in doing two blogs or more this week. But I did update the Class Song of the Day with all the Neil Young songs earlier on in the week and made significant formatting changes to the Publications page - which was worth doing more than a blog. The larger images are much better for this page than the previous version. Looking forward to getting the cover and link up for the DeadCades book in the next month or so.

So I'm going to give myself an hour a day to read, right? Well we'll see, but what about the writing? Is there another hour I can find for that? Maybe. Finding reading time is much easier as you can just take five minutes here or there whereas writing requires bigger, if fewer, blocks of time to get in the zone.

I'm still unsure whether it is best to set a target of 1000 words a day or maybe 5000 a week. I'm edging towards the latter, given inevitable constraints in time on certain days. It really is a question of getting in a groove and seeing what works. I was pleased to do 1450 words in a day the other day. On that basis do that three or four times a week 5000 is very hittable and surely you can fit an hour or two into three or four days a week? The other thing you need is the actual writing goal itself i.e. what will those words be for?

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Back to the Future

I realised today that I've been away from Facebook for over 5 months now, how that has flown. The only tenuous link I still had was my GoT avatar which I have grown used to, but I think it is time to go back to the pre-FB avatar; to my very own Liver bird with Pen which I so painstakingly created. So farewell Tyrion Lannister 'the Imp', hello again Liver bird 'the Pen Wielder'.

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It's also a little nod to getting back to some more writing. That's the hope at any rate.

At the same time I've moved on from the artwork from Weird Ales (Vol.1) to a photo I took some time back in Snowdonia. So it's all change on Twitter but in a back to the future kind of way.

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Unwanted: Dead (Questionnaire) Time

Today started badly. Up for work then get a text saying 'there's not enough routes, stay at home'. Been promised work for rest of week, so not the end of the world - just like to pick my weekend (today's my Sunday I guess (after last Sunday was my Saturday)). The damn gig economy.

On the positive side it's given me time to get my Infernal Clock Questionnaire finished and sent of to Steph ready for DeadCades. It'll probably need more editing than the actual story did - sorry Steph.

It'll also give me time to type up my edits from the weekend for Project: Jaipur - yes, Jaipur is still alive, write a blog or two (including this) and get stuck into more writing (probably on Jaipur) and yes, I will manage a bit of guitar strumming.

Last night I rushed out a quick Fantasy Footy team, naffly named the Anfield of Dreams. May have time to revisit it today to swop a few players - and maybe rename. Starting point anyway is:

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Keeping faith in Salah and Firmino though think it'll be hard for them to repeat last year's heights. Not a Man Utd player in sight - which is nice.
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Writing and Strumming

A week on from looking at playing the guitar more and how am I doing? Well, not brilliant but not all bad either. I've printed off some of the songs from the first twelve and have had two days from the last week when I've played at least an hour. Which isn't great, but it's better than I've done for many a month (year). So onwards and upwards. I will get more regular at practice.

I will.

Over the last couple of days I've not been playing, I have been writing. Following the completion of the second draft of my Infernal Clock 'DeadCades' story it is time to move on to something else. The first thing I did was edit an older Infernal Clock story originally written for 'CalenDark' which is worth considering for using for some other submission. That is all boxed off and now it's a question of keeping an eye out for a potential home for it.

Since editing that I have not written anything fiction though (other than VSS365 of course), but I have over ten pages of planning and ideas in my BuJo. It will be used to focus my next project. Maybe something more substantial - giving me a chance to stretch Scrivener a little beyond the 5500 words.
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Dead Reckoning

Last week on the evening before going to Bishop's Castle I finally sent out the draft of the DeadCades story to the editor, Steph. It was great to get it out. I was given a little kick to do it when I saw Shake's Tweet that he was close to getting his done - and let's face it I didn't want to be the last one.

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Awaiting edits sometime over the next week or two. And then I can look forward to getting my hands on the book in the months ahead. With all the great authors in it (and me) it's definitely going to be a doozy.

The first two books of the Infernal Clock trilogy (the Infernal Clock and Calendark), which I am proud to have been included in, are available from that Amazon behemoth if you ain't already got them.

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A Saturday of Some Limited Successes

The sunshine in the north west has continued solid for a couple of weeks now and yesterday was not to prove an exception. I was down for working but had one overdue issue; the courier's bane: balding edged front tyres from all those damn curbs we climb up on. It had got to a point which was borderline a potential losing argument about legality. After failing to get them sorted on Tuesday I finally got it booked in for yesterday (doing about a thousand miles a week tyre issues can quickly change from borderline to "what rubber?") This meant an increased likelihood of yet another unwanted day off, but better a few quid down that a £1000 and 6pts on the licence.

At least it meant I had the chance to take a walk in the early morning sunshine and go get a breakfast, albeit in a County Road kind of way. I had a piece of writing I wanted to work on for a competition Owl Canyon Press were running. The closing date was yesterday and I had been working a little on it on and off over a couple of weeks. Needless to say that I was only half way through but if I had to take the day off I could at least work on it and get something submitted however rushed.

Two phone calls later. A route in Altrincham if you want it; over 140 stops with a very late start? No thanks. Second call. A miss-sort route, ready now. OK. 21 drops spread all over: Liverpool city centre, Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port, Wavertree, St Helens, Warrington, Timperley, Lymm, Kirkby. Ended up being a bit of a late finish with the delayed start (and actually 168 miles), but less tiring than 140 stops in that sunshine. Oh, and driving on new tyres was a lot more relaxing not worrying about pulling up next to the rozzers or parking next to one in a car park. And relax...

Driving around whilst listening to the exciting France v Argentina match was good. Normally you can't hear much as you're in and out of the cab so much you miss more than you catch, but with 21 drops there was more driving than delivering. Huzzah! Whilst it meant I missed watching a great game there was the Portugal game to come - Suarez vs Ronaldo. So I got to watch that. And the joy of watching Ronaldo knocked out of the World Cup at this early stage made it a mildly joyous evening.

So a quick bit of reviewing at breakfast had been overtaken by work and left me fifteen hundred words short of the story with the deadline of the competition looming quicker than a German exit from the cup. The closing date was 30th June, but it was an American competition so there were more hours to play with from Blighty. By midnight I'd printed it out. Read and edited. Made the changes and uploaded by 1.30am. Yay! I got it in with over 5 hours to spare. Result. 5,500 words. All the right ones, just not necessarily in the right order etc etc.

Memo to Self: Don't leave it to the last minute next time.

Reply to Memo to Self: Yeah, right!



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Not Visiting Church, A Wardrobe and Not Tyres

Yesterday I saw a church virtually on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere and was intrigued. I took a shot from distance. In retrospect I wish I'd spent twenty minutes walking to and around it. Looked it up when I got back home and found out some interesting things. It was Llangelynnin Church, which is 12th or 13th Century and even has a holy well along with loads of interesting features. Next time I'm up there I'll definitely take at least a quick look.

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Been reading C.S. Lewis 'That Hideous Strength' the last couple of days. First thing I've read of his since the Narnia books when I was a kid. Really enjoying the story - another one that's been on my shelf for a while (I think I got it in an Oxfam in Lancaster a year or two ago). I just thought of him as a children's writer I'm glad to have found out differently. It is the third of his 'Space' trilogy and I haven't read the others. Plenty of reviews (and the preface itself) says it's fine to read as a stand-alone and I concur. Looking forward to seeing where it goes and how.

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...and also whether anybody or anything will climb through a wardrobe.

Not quite gone to plan again today. Took day off to go and get tyres sorted and told "Oh, no. You can't just ruck up. It'll take a few days to book something in." Can't I just turn up at an ATS or similar? "Nope. A man will be in touch and he'll tell you a garage you can go to." What's the bet it's and ATS or similar I could have just turned up to anyway? Grrr.

I have my two writing projects to get on with, which both have deadlines this week. So that's another couple of hours to work on them then.

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Some Writing. Some Bull.

Bit of a bulshit day today. Was told to go in late for work. Then told. Ah, sorry there is no work for you. Enjoy the day off. Bull.

Anyhow, meant I could do four things a) do some writing b) update the website c) catch some of the World Cup and d) get my haircut.

I have a writing project I'm working on which is due for finishing over the next week so I've got stuck in with that. This afternoon I've eeked out 1700 words on it, which means I'm about 1/3rd through and have sketched out a little where the story will go. Have been using Scrivener for it, along with another 5000 word project. I must say I do like the writing environment and also the appearance of the finished product. Once I've finished these two medium sized (for me) projects then I'll get stuck into a larger one and see how Scrivener really works with though. Doesn't need any bells and whistles for a short story.

Have got the song buffering up to ten again for Class Song of The Day and updated the website with this week's songs from the Beatles - and then this blog of course.

Just watched Belgium ease past Tunisia in a quite enjoyable match. Now it's time to print off today's story as it stands and go get my haircut.

And maybe catch up with some more footy later. Maybe? Of course I bloody will.

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A Malenky Bit of Reading

Well it's only ten days short of six months and I've read 17 books this year now I've just finished 'A Clockwork Orange'. With all the quasi Russian speak in it, it was definitely the time to read it during the World Cup. Now I'm a malenky bit confused that according to Goodreads I'm only one book short of where I should be if I'm going to hit my aimed for 40 books this year. So in the next nine days it's expecting me to complete two books? I think not likely - and doesn't add up, surely I am at least two books down?

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That said, I've a few smaller non-fiction books which I could read to get me back on track (if it is all about the numbers, which it isn't). However I've got some serious writing to sort out over the next week or so which need to take some sort of priority. So we will see.

Reading June18

Today whilst looking after a mates poor foster dog I intend to do some editing of a story and maybe work on another. And now's the time for that, since I've updated the #ClassSongOfTheDay page with the Beatles pic and written this wee blog.

Onwards and upwards, my horrorshow droogs.

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Am Writing/Am I Writing

This morning I managed to scramble out a swift 1450 words to add to the Memoirs piece I had started on Turkmenistan. So 1450 words is good right after a week with barely a jot in the Bullet Journal (yes that is still going)? To be fair it's now a 2300 piece and I'm not at all sure it will hold up that well as it's been written in two ad hoc moments from various smashed jar fragments.

I've printed it off now and will give it a proper read and see about editing it - so don't be surprised if you see another blog saying Turkmenistan memoir finished. It'll be deja vu all over again. Maybe get it down to 2000, then again if it deserves more then really it is more about structure and telling a story. Last week I finished reading a book about writing fast. The key take-home from that was planning the pieces you write. Er the exact opposite of what I've done with this one. Ho hum. You live, you learn, you forget (or ignore).

For the next bit of writing (fiction) I have started planning. We'll see how that goes shortly.

Have to decide too - once I'm happy with the Turkmen story - what Memoir piece to write next. I'm thinking maybe a Russian one given the World Cup coming up there next week.

Expect colourful (okay maybe black and white) views of Moscow, Perm, Vogograd and er... Yefremov.
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Dirty Ole Tunes

So far this week has been very poor for writing. Hoping to get an hour or two done this weekend - at some point.

Finished reading Neil Gaiman's 'Fragile Things' which of course was excellent - and makes you realise how good short stories CAN be. Now I need to get more practiced at it. Pen to paper, mate.

Been an odd week with a few things. But whilst writing and reading has been a bit limited I have at least managed to update the website a little, especially getting Class Song of The Day up to date. So far Year 2 has been a breeze. As well as 'Buffering' the next ten songs I've selected the following 32. I'm keeping up with keeping up.

This weeks songs have been from The Pogues. Let's face it, who doesn't like them? An easy job for me then. Now get yerself drunk crooning, no need to remember the words just grunt along folks.

Pogues

Next week is one of my fave singer songwriters and underrated guitarist... but I won't spoil the surprise. You'll have to wait until Monday for #ClassSongOfTheDay on Twitter
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Sunday Morning

Today's plan is based around my normal 'Ideal Day' type:

  • Coffee
  • Read a bit
  • Write a bit
  • A couple of ales

We'll see how I go.

After waking up early I got to the bit coffee early doors. Eventually I prised myself away from Twitter to get a whole hour (whoopee-do) of reading. Currently reading Neil Gaiman's 'Fragile Things' (a short story collection). I am still behind in my reading this year, but getting some done. Onward and upward.

Next up was looking at updating some Class Song of The Day stuff. Selected another couple of artists and sorted the picture for next weeks band, which I'll upload onto the 'CSOTD: Year 2' page shortly. It's a band I was well into back in the 1990s and have seen in a few places - whatever the venue invariably there was chaos with this lot.

Next up there was this little blog update. It's important to keep it a little bit alive, isn't it?

Following this the remaining plan is a wee bit of writing. Maybe 1000 words? Got a competition piece to consider as well as getting back onto the Infernal Clock story. I've also got to finish of the Turkmenistan memoirs piece for the Memoirs section (it's been half finished now for an age) and also type up 'The Origin of the Carbonatite Magma'. But that's not for today.

After completing some writing I'll be rewarding myself with a pint and meeting a mate in Liverpool centre.

I'll report back how the writing, and the imbibing, goes. Laters ...

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Have Laptop Will Travel

It was time today to get some writing done. I thought I'd nip out for a few hours into town and give it a go in a few places and see what worked in terms of getting a fair chunk of the Deadcades story progressed for Infernal Clock.

I had just under 1400 words already written and the ultimate aim for these stories are around 5000 words. Having given the initial 1400 words a re-read at the weekend I am pretty happy with them. Although it has started as a police procedural largely and horror is yet to surface (if you don't include simple dead bodies as horror). My aim for today was a minimum of 1000 words.

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I first headed for the coffee shop downstairs in the Liverpool Central Library - I was in need of some caffeine before starting after all. That went really rather well. In just over an hour whilst perched on a soft comfy sofa with my Americano I got 1000 words done in one sitting. Jeez. But I was on a roll so it was time to go onwards and upwards up to the Picton Reading Room after bladder emptying (those medium coffees really are quite large aren't they?).

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The cafe had been busy enough downstairs but the Picton was packed with largely university aged (children I tell you!) boys and girls filling all the central tables. A bit of a shame as I've always liked working on those tables. Anyway, needs must and all that so I ended up getting one of the single seats around the periphery and plugging in my laptop there. It really is a nice environment to work in - even if again I had the laptop on my lap rather than a table. An hour and twenty five later and I had down another 1400 words. Bloody hell, flying!

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It was now time to redeposit some more of that caffeine and then pop out for some lunch. I couldn't avoid the unbeatable All Day Breakfast at the Shiraz on Williamson Sq. I'm a sucker for it. Then it was time for at least a little more of the writing whilst on the roll. This time I went to somewhere where it may prove a bit more difficult (beers and music) but it had some advantages (tables and plugs) - I headed to The Head of Steam on Hanover Street. And yes, bang! Another 1150 words in a little over an hour.

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I'm sure the last 1000 words will prove the least useable but they in any case do sketch out how the story will go.

So whilst I left the house wanting to do 1000 words I ended up doing 3600 (i.e. I've got 5000 words of a 5000 word story). Job well and truly smashed.

Now I've got to get it printed, read, redrafted and then again and again. It's good to feel it moving; even if it proves that only the first 1400 words are still any good. What have I learned from an afternoon of writing in three quite different environments (albeit two being in the library - the Picton is different to the cafe I can assure you). Well, I can write anywhere really. I dare say attempting to write for more than an hour or two in a pub would be the most difficult in terms of the music background (in some pubs) and the consistency of the writing (after a couple of stronger beers). Whilst in all three locations I almost wrote a 1000 words an hour or so the key finding is probably that if I ensure I set aside an hour a day then 500 words a day or more really is very attainable. And I should do that.

I should. But will I?

Thanks to the Head of Steam I even managed to update my website with this wee blog. And I have a Titanic 'Iceberg' to boot. It's a win, win, win. Huzzah!
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Zen & The Art Of Typewriter Maintenance

It's hard to believe for any youngsters (and not so youngsters) out there but back when I was at Uni we didn't have many of these computer things (or access to them) and I actually typed my dissertation out on an old typewriter with laborious two finger typing. Some students paid typists to type out their dissertation for them, but I wasn't flush. This means I've not got it to hand other than in hard copy including faded letters where not I've not pressed down hard enough or doubly dark from retyping (not to mention the white flakes of liquid paper/correction fluid). The dissertation even included hand drawn figures.

I'm a faster typer now and these days when I mistype there is not the issue of type-bars sticking and with the magic of computing the letters reorganise themselves into words instead of becoming botched smudges with dots of red from a sticky ribbon.

Typewriter

There was something quite enjoyable about typing on a typewriter though. Can't put my finger on it. Maybe you feel closer to it, having to be in the zone with the ribbon and the type bars, making sure that the type pressure was even and making sure each letter was right. The play of the keyboard and the noise and the return at the end of each line was all part of it. Perhaps typing on a typewriter as opposed to a computer is equivalent to the difference between driving and riding a motorbike. I should reread the first chapter or two of 'Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'. I reckon there must be an equivalent 'Zen & the Art of Typewriter Maintenance' out there.

Contemplating retyping the dissertation onto my computer. Perhaps I'll put it on my website (maybe under the Memoirs pages). Retyping it would make me revisit what I wrote back in the 1980s and discover the things I knew back then about the subject and have long forgotten. Haven't said what it was, have I? Well it was an unusual one and not a subject I've seen much about since (or indeed ever);

'The Origin of the Carbonatite Magma'

Now you know that, I bet you can't wait for it.

Ol Doinyo Lengai
Ol Doinyo Lengai

Carbonatite is a very rare igneous rock and the only currently active volcano with a carbonatite magma is Ol Doinyo Lengai in the African Rift Valley. But hey, if I get around to typing the dissertation up you'll soon know that.
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Drafting: DeadCades

Started writing the story for the final instalment of the Infernal Clock trilogy: DeadCades.

ICDeadCades

Already it has changed from the story I thought was going to write. I'd said before that I had a good idea for a story setting which I thought I could use for this almost as a testing ground. However that setting is probably a few decades later and would also, at least as a first tale, warrant a bigger story. In any case whilst driving along minding my own business the other day another story came into head apparently from nowhere. I think it must have been floating through the cosmos and got to somewhere in north Wales around the A55 whilst I was driving past and 'hey presto!' it popped into my coconut head. Story particles are like that; I reckon they'll find story particles in the Large Hadron Collider at some point. Fairy Tales will prove to be fundamental particles. Probably.

Anyways, I think it's a good idea - well of course I do!

However I am only 1200 words into a 5000 word story and I can feel it may need 15k words to tell it so I'll have to see where it goes. I haven't got to any scary bits yet, which is a bit of a worry in a horror tale (though there are two dead bodies).

Good to put pen to paper (well plastic keys into aluminium shell) and get it started. I'm using Scrivener but to be honest I could just type it out into any word processor with this length of story. But I'll find a few things out about Scrivener no doubt whilst I'm using it so it's worth using it rather than Pages anyway.

This morning I also blasted out a quick rough and ready story for Microcosms for the second successive week. Not sure I'll be writing that frequently for it, but I got told there wasn't a route (i.e. work) for me this morning so I had the time (even if I didn't want to have the time). Ho hum.
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Dreams of Deadcades

Had a couple of days thinking about my story for Infernal Clock: Deadcades and hadn't really got anywhere. Waking up this morning in a dream state I tried to push the dream in a good direction (ie futuristic and rather bad); would be nice to have the story pop into my head without much effort. But the method failed miserably with a dream that went nowhere scary or interesting at all. I'd have been better off just trying to dream about Salma Hayek walking into it, not that she ever turns up these days (I think she's too busy for personal appearances even disembodied ones).

Salma
Too busy

Anyway without Salma or a suitable Deadcade dream I had to lie there a bit and think about my story possibilities and you know what I think I've got it. I've had an idea for a long while about a larger (kinda book length) story setting and I think I can use this short (5000 word) story as a proving ground. Though the story itself would be darker and deadlier than my original ideas for the book it will show if the setting and general ideas have possibilities. Now it's time to start writing it or sketching it out.

ICDeadCades

Could be fun. In a dark way.
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DeadCades

ICDeadCades
Great to see the announcement this weekend of 'DeadCades' the third and final installment of the Infernal Clock Trilogy. The first anthology - curated and edited by David Shakes and Steph Ellis - was the Infernal Clock (April 2017) and featured twenty four stories based around different hours of the day (which will be why there was 24 stories). My story in it predictably was closing time (11pm) and therefore ended the book.
Infernal Clock

The second anthology was Calendark (December 2017) which was based around the calendar (see, there was a clue in the title) with specific days throughout the year featuring many festivals well and lesser known - my story was set around All Souls Day.

Calendark

And now the final anthology goes on the next stage out ... each story will be set in a specific decade from the 1880s through to the 2020s; that's fifteen decades. I chose the final decade as I spend so much time reading SF & F it seemed appropriate. I'm not saying just because it's the future my story will include elements of SF - after all it's only 2 years away - but we'll see where my keyboard takes me.

The author's for the DeadCades are listed below. If you click on the list it'll take you through to the Infernal Clock website which is worth following to see how the new book progresses and if you fancy getting into the book yourself there is the opportunity to write a drabble. Get drabbling!

DeadCades

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Facebook and The China Syndrome

Finally did it yesterday. Logged on to Facebook last night and deleted the account. Flip! Years of bits and bobs gone in the press of a button or two. Apparently bits of me will be on there for up to two weeks before it all disappears. The image of me fading away electronically on there is quite something. That said I'd deleted so much off there over the last few years there was mainly just photos and music stuff on there anyway. According to the message on Facebook if I log in over the next two weeks I can change my mind and reactivate it. I won't.

I've just deleted the account from my Buffer account (which posts the #ClassSongOfTheDay) so now it's just got Twitter to post to.

The only thing I may miss from Facebook is a few events that I may see through others going to on there, which is unfortunate I suppose but no biggie.

City City

After deleting Facebook last night I watched Only Connect which I seem to watch to demonstrate my ignorance and difficulty at lateral thinking (and to see the wonderfully quirky Mrs Coren-Mitchell of course). It was great to see the BBC show advert afterwards for 'The City & The City' by China Mieville. He's one of my favourite authors and this will be the first thing I've seen on TV by him. Looks like a great cast, including David Morrissey, and it will be very interesting to see how they show the city (and the city); it wouldn't seem the easiest thing to show on the telly. Click on the pic to go through to the BBC page about the production.

The City and the City
David Morrissey in The City & The City - BBC

Can't wait for someone to make some fab feature film or better still a mini-series of any of the New Crobuzon novels. Even thinking about it now I think I need to get re-reading these. If you haven't read any yet get on 'Perdido Street Station' and then catch the China bug.

Perdido Street Station The Scar Kraken
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Scrivener: Bit the Bullet

Getting the FlashFeed done was my first and probably only bit of writing to be done today; other than this couple of blogs. But there is writing news in that I've bitten the little financial bullet and purchased Scrivener 3 from Literature & Latte. I am 99.9% sure it'll be an investment well worth every little pound. The only way it won't be is if I stop writing, which I have no intention of doing.

I'm moving the PDF of the manual from my mac on to my Paperwhite so I can scan through that a bit and get an idea of all that it can do, which is patently a lot. It'll be especially great for both novel and any non-fiction work I want to do; for Flash Fiction pieces I can stick with Pages or a notebook. I'll have to do occasional updates on the blog on how I am using Scrivener and finding the software. Forty odd quid for something that I should get years out of is only a few pence a week, I shouldn't have procrastinated about getting it.

If you fancy looking at it you can always get a Trial Version of it over on their site (click on the link below):

ScrivernerLogo
Literature & Latte


So I've bought Scrivener, written my FlashFeed and written two blogs. Anyone think I may have been off today?

I did brave the Beast from the East which seemed more like the pussy from Wussy when I went out for a drug and alcohol test. I must say I'm always disappointed when they don't bring out a range of beers and spirits for me to identify. All they do is ask me to pee in a bottle and blow into what looked like a vibrator. How boring?
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Kicking the American Car Crash Habit

Time is always ticking. In many ways that's the elephant in every room. While we choose to have a lie in, climb up a mountain, ski down a mountain, read a book or watch television whatever we are doing there is that constant countdown to our own personal armageddon - or at least a final checking out. Tick tock.

And yet so many people choose to waste so much time. They are often unable to help themselves. And me, how do I chose to waste it? In the last few months it has been spent with a little too much TV, the stupidest being watching CNN. I mean there is nothing wrong with CNN per se, but after all it is the news network of another country. Looking forward to watching 'The State of America with Kate Bolduan' (or not currently as she's off with babs) and Wolf is daft surely.

I find it a good watch though. They get some interesting people on with daft views to the left and the right of the issues and the arguments are fun. When I say 'issues' obviously that largely means Trump and/or his mates those pesky Russians and his dysfunctional family and oddball corrupt cohorts. The daily grind of twitter stupidity from the dotard and the onward progression of the Mueller investigation both form fabulous grist to the news mill. And I watch it like it matters. I don't even buy newspapers anymore so why do I find myself watching this nonsense from the US?

Bolduan

Suppose watching the car crash of this awful President takes my mind of British politics and the self-harming Brexit phase we are going through. I should be more interested in this local stuff, shouldn't I? Not sure I should.

Years ago I used to buy a broadsheet (any from Times, Gurniad or Independent) every day and I used to watch Question Time - out of interest. But now, I see the odd 'I' small and the Metro - only if one is left next to me on the bus and that's it. As for QT I've given up; why wind myself up watching these liars and shifty characters play games with agendas and feelings. The whole issue with Trump and Brexit and Fake News is all tied up together with the MSN and Twitter and people playing high stakes games to no good end. The politicians announce what they are going to say in a speech in advance - I mean what the hell is that about? It's about controlling the agenda and using the news for soundbites in the knowledge that the news these days doesn't predominantly require journalism; when you see the nine o'clock news reporting people's twitter comments as news they seem to have abdicated their responsibility in that area.

So I don't watch the news. I don't watch Question Time but I watch The State of America. I can only think that it is the equivalent of being unable not to look at a car crash while you're driving past, seeing the carnage and thinking 'there but for the grace of god' and all. Watching the US channel must be like watching that car crash but in the knowledge that it could not affect me; whereas if I watch out British equivalent I'd get the added soul destroying impediment, that kick in the gut feeling, that every one of these decisions and agendas, that all these guys and gals are doing bad stuff to me and everyone around me. Every day.

But now I've got to stop it. Or at least wean myself off it. My daily fix of some Wolf and Bolduan stand-ins is costing me an hour a day at least. That's an hour a day I could be cooking & eating, reading, writing or playing the guitar. An hour a day is valuable and it shouldn't be spent watching the car crash of America under Trump. So tonight I will strum my guitar through a few songs or read a chapter or two of The Underground Railroad or write an hour's worth of the next great British novel.

And the TV will be off.
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Whittling

The other day I sat down with my notebook from last year and looked at the plan for 2017. Boy, it was full of good ideas and intentions, but I failed to deliver. My bad.

I'd have been better off just choosing one to go with and attack that, surely? Maybe, maybe not. When I raised this on my beloved Twitter the other day Steph said write for all the projects and see which ones work the best and I think that is probably a fine idea - as long as I don't use it as an excuse to procrastinate.

whittle

So for this year I've whittled the projects down to five (yes, that does not sound like serious whittling) - and I haven't even included the Semi-Mythical "Fergie Time" from NaNo.

  • Project 1 - HbSt1 - Fantasy
  • Project 2 - TT1 - YA Fantasy
  • Project 3 - PS - Short story anthology
  • Project 4 - LRA - None Fiction
  • Project 5 - 2HAB - Fiction (comedy)

As I sat looking at the notebook I found myself asking some questions about the projects, including; which stories (or premise of) were the most interesting and which ones would be fun to write and get invested in? I think if it is going to be fun and/or most interesting to write I am more likely to get stuck in and run with it.

So from having five projects which were pretty equal in possibilities I got to a point where I could put them into a priority order.

The short story anthology could be relatively easy to complete, but I'm more interested right now in writing a novel or novella length piece so having that as an aim will just take me away from focusing on that aim. There is a similar argument with the none-fiction work - which also may be of limited interest. That leaves the three novel ideas. For the first one (HbSt1) I have a good idea for world setting and I think it has great possibilities, but I don't have
the story to tell yet in that world. Clearly, unless an idea pops into existence within my grasp, that project should be put on the back burner. As for Projects 2 and 5 I have the story ideas together already.

That means then I have indeed whittled - I really have - and come down to two novel ideas to work on: 2HAB and TT1. It'll be much better to work on two than five. And then if one takes off then all the better.

Before I get stuck into these two beauties I need to do one thing though... I can't call them "Project 2" and "Project 5" and certainly not "2HAB" and "TT1". I need to give them cooler project titles. So what do you give them? Well, me being me, naming the projects after beers or breweries seems like a mighty fine idea (and can be extended infinitely). Here we go then:

2HAB is now
Project: Jaipur
TT1 is
Project: Sarah Hughes

and for completion's sake, and a bit of fun, in case I dip back into the others:

HbSt1 is
Project: Neptune
PS is
Project: Tiny Rebel
LRA is
Project: Plum Porter

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Writing Software Options

I have used StoryMill a little in the past which I quite liked, however it is an old version (Version 3) and now keeps crashing to a point of uselessness on my Mac. An 'update' to Version 4 would cost £39 - almost as much getting the new Scrivener3 which I'm now quite minded to do. But rather than splash £44 out on that without seeing if I can find a cheaper option I've downloaded a Trial Version of iA Writer, which I have never used before. Not sure how long the Trial lasts, but will use it for a while to see whether to spend £20 on it or whether I should go the whole hog with Scrivener.

My initial view is that Scrivener may be better for my attempts at novel writing. But the 'distraction free' page of iA may prove enticing in a different way. From reading about it online it does actually have quite a few options with respect to Markdown (which I haven't used before but appears very simple) and Viewing the document etc. It seems it will be a case of practicing and getting used to how to access and use these options to the point where I get what works best for me.

Ultimately though it's probably a case of whether the multitude bells, whistles and orchestra of Scrivener outweigh the simplicity of iA.

Anyone else had experience of using Scrivener3 or iA Writer, or any other Mac based writing software?

(and yes, I typed this up in the iA)
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Writing and Twitter Democracy

This week I've written three (yes three) FlashFeeds and one Microcosms; not bad over a five or six day period. They were all between 300 and about 370 words. The one day I didn't write I was out putting some thoughts on paper together on what my main target(s) could be for this year's writing. Anyone who follows my Twitter feed knows I am struggling with a multitude of ideas and not sure which to target yet. I think that Steph Ellis who suggested getting on with all of them and seeing which runs best seems a fine idea - if a tad MA-HOOSSIVE.

The other writing I've tasked myself with is doing some memoir pieces and to that end I put out my first ever Twitter vote with the choices between; Russia, Turkmenistan, China, and Nigeria. The results are in ...

Turk

It's the fabulously bizarre Turkmenistan. Where the hell am I going to start and end with that one (other than Turkmenistan)!?

Thanks to all the bods who voted. Just glad to receive more than a couple of votes! Who says democracy is dead?



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Writing Plans. Sometime.

All this thinking about reading and writing.... well? Well, when am I going to get time to think about it? Not got a Scooby.

So no update yet on a plan. I am however thinking that I should just make sure I set a daily target, something like 500 words a day. I think that would make a good target whatever the words may be spent on. Just making the concerted effort of regularly getting anything down on paper will be a good habit to get into however well aimed the words may be; 5 days in to 2018 and I ain't written much at all yet.

I'm of on a beer trip tomorrow so this 500 word goal I'll start from Sunday.

Will let you know how I get on (with the words on Sunday and the beer trip!)
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2017 Reading

2017 was a cracking year for reading and thanks to Goodreads I've got all the covers bar one er, covered below (the missing cover was one for a non-fiction book about Charles Dickens). In addition to these 48 books I also beta-read a novel which I expect to see come out this year from one of the FlashDogs.

In terms of the reading as per usual it has an SF & Fantasy bias:

  • Over half the reading - 25 books - was of SF or Fantasy.
    • Five of these were Terry Pratchett.
  • Three history/geography books.
  • Two books about writing.
  • One book about beer/pubs (Liverpool).
  • One book on music (Wilco).
  • One on football (Liverpool of course).
  • One on the planets.
  • Classics, included books/plays by: Shakespeare, Doris Lessing, William Golding, Mervyn Peake, Graham Greene, John Steinbeck and JRR Tolkien.
  • Oh, and I'm only featured in one of them (The Infernal Clock: Calendark)

I'd set myself a goal on GoodReads of reading 40 books which I exceeded. I've set myself the same goal for 2018 as rather than upping it I'd like to think some of the books I won't be reading will be because I'm writing some more. Haven't made specific plans on reading goals but I suspect that it will end up being broadly the same (though I'm running out of Pratchett's to go after!).

Reading and writing are both great hobbies. So the next time you are complaining that there's nothing on the telly - or you find yourself in a Twitter Refresh stall - then pick up a book (or write one). Then again go pick up a paintbrush or guitar. Or crochet needles. Whatever, get creative folks.

And so that is my first little blog for 2018 finished - I dare say the next one may involve more writing goals than reading ones. Here's to a fab 2018.

2017 Books 1
2017 Books 2
2017 Books 3


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Planning to Plan

God, where does the time go when it's not around here? (apologies to the BNL there) It only seems like a couple of days since my last Blog update but it's 8 days. FFS. Long days delivering and a couple of days for Xmas and that's it. Click and it's gone.

And so now we are in this weird limbo week between Christmas and New Year where many people have lots of days off and it feels like some sort of hiatus whilst we wait for the new year ahead to begin. Of course it's also the time where we look briefly over our shoulders and then look forward with plans and things for the year ahead and beyond.

Today I see another of our FlashDogs - Stella - has got her planning on the go and it looks damn good so far. Check it out ...

So I've gotta start thinking about the plans for 2018 over the next couple of weeks; when I've got a minute.

Whatever my plans are it will prove more successful than this - soon to be last - year's plan; whilst the plans were sound the implementation was pants.

I dare say my plan will be posted up here sometime in early January.

Looking forward to putting a decent plan together - it's nice to spend that time thinking about something larger in a holistic way.

Best of luck to those of you out there with plans in mind too!

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Keeping Regular

It's been over a week since a blog update. Not good enough! I need to get more regular with programming it in.

Anyway it's getting that time of year when you look back at the year that's gone and look forward to the one ahead. I'm not quite there yet, and I'll look into it in more detail in the weeks ahead, but there are a few things that are obvious with respect to my reading and writing;


Reading:

1. I've read more books than 'planned' (I use that word loosely) and there have been some fab reads of old and new books.
2. Most my reading has been actual paper books. Out of 47 books this year I think only two or three have been on the Kindle.
3. Successfully got through plenty of books that have been sat on my shelves for years. Result!
4. That said, I keep getting second hand books in and failing to give any away (I just can't do it).

Writing:

1. My plan at the start of the year was detailed and a bit of a stretch.
2. Er, nowhere near completing any of my plans at all. Complete FAIL!
3. Still, I am happy to get published in three books issued this year (the two Infernal Clock anthologies and the Tax Tales book).
4. I seem to be on a three publications a year mission over the last few years. So for next year I will have to aim for that as an absolute minimum.
5. Have enjoyed seeing the FlashDogs come in with the weekly FlashFeed prompt. Kudos guys!

Other stuff:

I must get a proper job and a better balance to things - which will also help me do more writing!
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Flash Reading

Not done much reading in last week or two; part of the problem of having longer working days. Just started a Sheri Tepper book. My first of hers.

Only just managed to get this week's FlashFeed (1.7) in too! Still 100% though, so more self awarded Brownie Points, thanks. I think that means I've done more writing than reading this week. Now that IS a first.

FlashFeed7
PhotoPrompt for FlashFeed1.7

Writing highlight of the week was finding my 'old' foldaway Bluetooth keyboard and pairing it with my phone. I've got Writer+ on the phone and also Wordpress, that means I should be able to type out little bits and bobs out anywhere whilst on the move. Happy days!

P1020674 2

Keep Reading and Keep Writing folks!


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A Hatful of Brownie Points

A day off. On a Friday. So what can I do? Well, clearly I can't not do a Microcosms, can I?

Microcosms 350

So yip, a quick 300 words later I've gone and done three Microcosms in four weeks. I'm awarding myself a hatful of brownie points. Shame they can't be used as currency anywhere.

For the first time ever I've spun and chosen three different story elements than was originally provided. I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me.

Anyway, still plenty of time for you guys to get your story on.

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November Writing Project

There was the little decision earlier in the week not to drop in and try a second NaNoWriMo. It was a pretty easy call to make without any plan in place and more pertinently a lack of surety of my available time this month. The writing projects I had in mind at the start of the year have stalled and are still in sight of the starting blocks. Rather than invent yet another goal (to complete NaNo) I have decided to get back on to one of the original projects and after a little deliberation I have decided that it will be: Project 1 - A Short Story Collection. Let's face it, it shouldn't have taken too much thought to come up with doing the damn things in the order I came up with them!

Project 1 is a series of 12 short stories, initially aimed at being between 1500-3000 words each, that's a total of 18k-36k. Given I've done two already then that means probably about 1000 words a day if I aim to do them in November - or a short story ever two days or so (compared to a consistent 1667 a day to do NaNo).

In terms of achieving 12 stories that work, are independent of each other and stand up the key thing in such a short space of time will be the number and depth ideas. So this month driving time = ideas time.

Of course whilst this is to some extent to replace NaNo as a driving force to complete a 'work' it's not like I won't have achieved anything if I don't finish them all by the end of the month; I'm not going to issue myself with an internet Badge for completion or reward myself with a T-Shirt. If it goes over by a week or even more then so be it. But the main thing is to drive something forward and to at least attempt to complete one of the goals I set myself at the start of the year.

bridge
Not crossing that bridge, yet.

The ultimate aim will be to get 12 stories together that I am happy with and that I can self publish some time in the new year. It'll probably just be Kindle, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Then again if I have 12 stories I'm happy with then maybe I'll just have a bank of 12 stories I can submit to publications... Anyway, like I say, get over that bridge when I get to it.

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FlashFeeding

A few years ago there were several flash challenge options to write for. I particularly loved Angry Hourglass and Flash Friday Fiction and really enjoyed the Microbookends challenge too. But now all three of these are no more. The only existing one I do quite regularly these days is Microcosms, but unfortunately with it only being live for 24 hours (and that being a Friday too) it is often difficult to fit in writing for it.

FlashDogs

So it was great to see the arrival of FlashFeed last week. Many of the FlashDogs got together through seeing each other on the AH and Flash Friday websites and if it wasn't for these challenges we never would have got to the position of having our stories published in the Flash Dogs books. It's great that it is live for several days giving more chance of people getting something done for it. The prompt is a photo prompt and there have been two striking images so far. The two thousand character (circa 300 word) limit is a decent length, similar to AH; long enough to get a nice story told and short enough not to scare you off. Got an hour? Get it done...

Kudos to the guys and gals who are running FlashFeed and let's see where that goes. Who knows, there maybe newbies out there who develop their writing chops on FlashFeed and I'm no doubt the community will grow and be a comforting blanket for all who come along.

Why not head over to
www.theflashdogs.com and give it a go?

FlashFeed2
FlashFeed2 photo prompt




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Mo Writing on Project X

I did finish the Calendark piece on Saturday and got it sent off - some 5550 words of it. Why I always leave it up to the deadline heaven only knows. Not sure about it and the day I've submitted it for already had a piece written for it, so who know? Anyway whatever, so be it.

The main thing is I got a piece finished. Woo-flippin-hoo!

P1020399
P1020410

Now then, what next? Well, I've still got all those bloody Projects to do... so maybe one of those. I will take a moment (or day) or two to think about that, but one way or another I'll be doing something on one of them this time next week. I'm sure.

#ProjectX



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Words down

After sorting the printer out I wrote 1600 words for Calendark this morning in around 90 minutes. Not bad at all. Now I'm not saying they are good words but they're words I didn't have yesterday. So now I have over 5800 words for the story down on paper (well Hard Drive). Well okay, paper now, as I've printed it out (I did fix the printer after all). Now I have reading to do and some very serious editing.

There's a lot to do.

There will be blood, bread and tears.

And a lot of editing.

#AmWriting
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#AmPrinting

Today's game involved writing, sausage butties and fixing the printer. First up was the sausage. There were no problems there at all. Then came the Printer...

It may save you £20 and a day or two waiting for a fix to read this:

The printer is an Epson WP: 4535 and the error message read 'Maintenance Box is not recognised'. The maintenance box collects the waste ink produced during the cleaning of the printer heads etc and once full the box needs replacing. Looked it up on the net and most the searches came up with how to replace a maintenance box and nothing to do with the message. Saw a couple of references which all were 'solved' by online questioning with the answer 'replace maintenance box'. Cheap boxes (including shipping) are around £20 (and obviously include a wait of a day or two to arrive). Frustrating in view of the writing I want to do today. Got to the point of ordering but thought I'd quickly check out the box a few more times.

WP4535

I turned off the printer and switched it on a few times. Same result. Switched off and took out the box and put it in again. Same results. Not looking good.

Box

Took out box, wiped finger over the chip on the box and put it in... and hey presto! Problem solved. Err, so dust or dirt on the chip? FFS. Anyway, sorted. I can print again. And edit/write.

Now for the writing. Dang, I've got no excuses for attempting Calendark now.

#amprinting
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Calendark: Plan

Off tomorrow and first thing I need to do is see if I can fix the printer. Really hope I can as I find it so hard to edit straight on the computer screen.

Then I need to get on with my Calendark story. Hoping to get toward the end with it tomorrow if I can. To be honest it needs to be, doesn't it? Maybe no Twitter tomorrow (in the morning at least), I will need to be strong, so strong! If I can do it then I will be well chuffed and will celebrate like it's September 26th. Or something like that.

Blood

Basic Plan: first off, a decent sleep tonight. Then sausage butty and printer fixing. Then writing writing writing with coffee coffee coffee.

sausage


If I can do it then I may celebrate with a visit to 3 pubs I haven't been to in Liverpool (yes, they exist) and then there is the Liverpool Champion's League match to consider too. Umm...

Beside writing and the printer issue this week I could consider upgrading my MacBook Pro to the new High Sierra OS. But that is a scary process to undertake and defo needs to wait until Calendark is done and dusted...

HighSierra

#AmWriting (or planning to)
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Calenedark Going Dark

Been a bit of slowed going since last Friday in terms of writing for Calendark when I was already up at 3500 words - with an ultimate aim to get to between 5 and 6000 words for the full story. I've managed another 550 words tonight but I'm conscious time is a ticking and I am worrying a bit about finishing the story even with a whole TEN days till the deadline day. Mad really. I mean it's not many words, but getting the story to work is a worry (in fact currently more scary than the story is).

I did update my Buffer for the songs for the next ten days (some quite old classics coming up and many shy of 3 minutes long to keep with Sal's attention span (Pink Floyd? Tush)) so I don't need to spend any time doing that (or using it to procrastinate with) over this last week.

Let's face it I should get there - I seriously need to. Just need to schedule a few hours over two or three nights then have one serious editing day. Surely while the Sword of Damocles swings above my head I'll focus enough to get there. Surely?

Erm... that said my printer is currently out of action. Procrastination, moi?
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Seasons of Shorts and Check Shirts

It's hard to believe it's September already. Where has this effing year gone? It's almost harder to believe that this time last year it was the hottest part of 2016. Thirty odd degrees centigrade?! This month is bucking the trend for September to be a really nice month; I'm thinking it may be time to upgrade from the shorts and T-shirt and get to trousers and hoodie a month early for work, but for now I'm persevering with the shorts. Can we please have a nice day or two, pretty please?

Drink-ajw2

Forgetting months this week has sped faster than Cassini through Saturn's rings and so far I've not written my next 2000 words for the Calendark story. I said I'd do it by the end of the week so I've still a few days to do it, but with birthday drinks and birthday recovery there are no guarantees. We'll see.

Might write; a quick 500 or so this afternoon.

Might write, right?

But first a pint then maybe another five and a half... season change, but my check shirts don't.

Cheers!!

DSC_0183
Drink-ajw
Drink-AJW3
Drink-AJW4
Drink-AJW5
Drink-AJW6
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Bloody Success

Woo Hoo! I set myself a target to get to 3000 words by Sunday for my attempt to get a piece into Calendark and (drum roll please) in fact I've got to >3500 already - yes, it's Friday (the one before, not after). So big clappy hands all around.

So far it's a few scenes and It'll defo need a lot of editing but I'm happy there's a story here.

The first hard thing before the editing though is to write the real horror bit (the last third of the story). Tension building will be key but how I work out how to do the bloody end is bloody difficult.

Blood

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Am Writing Some

Got delayed coming back from North Wales tonight due to a big crash on the A494 by Queensferry. Unfortunately that made me get back too late to get to the Poised Pen meeting. But when two people die in a car crash such delays, whilst annoying, should be put in perspective. I'm late but not late of this parish, as it were.

Anyway, not making it to the meeting at least gave me some reading and writing time. I'm still getting on with Titus Groan from the Gormenghast trilogy. I'm about a third in and it's a great read so far.

Then there is the writing and like I said on Sunday I want to write at least 1800 words this week to get the total up to around 3000 words by Sunday. I've managed in my free time tonight then to get 800 words into this with (worryingly, just a part of) one of the scenes of my story. I'm worried it may be a bit complex and it is definitely initially going to be over long. But getting the words down for the scenes as I see them now is the main thing and then I can look at culling and sharpening it up in the second half of the month (assuming I finish the first draft by say 17th September).

So far so good.

With the difference in scenes and the spread of time involved the editing process is going to be key (or a total nightmare) but it is a decent challenge. So thank you Shakes for the chance to write something more substantial than a flash. Once I get this out of the way then I'll drop back on to one of my projects for sure. Honest.
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Not Two Thousand, But Not Nothing

A week ago I said I'd start Calendark and aim to get two thousand words done in the week - and that I'd report back.

Well, here's the report: I've only managed just over 1250 words, but hey it's a start. I've got as far as the pub (yep, there has to be a pub in it) and it's a nice pub. The dark stuff is yet to happen (and that is not a Guinness by the way). In fact all the bit I've done so far is all nice and normal. Too normal. Something must be wrong. Very wrong.

Err, well it will be when I get to that. There another 4-5000 words to get the weird shit in. Will keep you posted. Want to have done at least 3000 words by this time next week (i.e. be half finished). Anyway main thing is I am actually writing.

Cheers!
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Calendark - The Beginning

#AMWRITING

I said I'd try and do a couple of thousands words towards a CalendarK piece by Sunday and I can report that I have at least started it. So far just 500 words or so into it, but I could well get to the 2000 word mark by close of play on Sunday me thinks. It's starting off all nice and normal... but I can foresee it heading into Wickerman territory...

Wickerman1

or maybe more Stepford Wives...

Stepford

or perhaps a bit Rosemary's Baby...

Rosemary

Well dang! Let's see where it goes.

It's just the beginning.

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A Different Day Today

CalendarK1


Last week I picked my Day to attempt to write a story for, for Shakes' CalenDark and then came up with a germ of an idea - I even wrote some words (really, I did). Today I've changed my mind and chosen another day. As soon as I picked it an idea formed more completely in my mind and it should be easier to write it with the story arc pretty well defined. Of course now I have 'just ' to write the fucker. A month to go: No problem. Err... anyway the aim is to get a couple of thousand words done over the next week - as a minimum. Will report back by this time next week.

Baltic

Of course this weekend it's a Bank Holiday and that means more time for writing with a three day weekend, right? Wrong. Worked Saturday and working Monday. So only off today. May get a few words down, but main thing was getting this idea sketched out - an achievement in itself. Liverpool being Liverpool there is loads on at the moment. Disappointed to miss the Mad Hatter Brewery Yard Party yesterday, but today I think I'll go and check out the folk festival at the Albert Dock and/or the shanty groups down at the Baltic Fleet for a bit this afternoon.

Salah

Then of course there will be a few choice ales watching the Liverpool v Arsenal match. Come on you mighty reds!


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Plonk

Sara walked through the anonymous Salford street laden with stuffed shopping bags, everything ticked off, the meals for the week ahead sorted and some special coffee to make when she gets back; her treat for a morning’s work well done. She looks tired and haggard, worn down by life’s daily grind. The one brightness the white fluffy clouds printed on her thin faded jeans. She says they make her feel good, like she’s walking in clouds if not up on them. Stephen hates them. But he doesn't matter. She phones him when she’s drunk and wants sex. Her drunken lover without love, his view doesn’t warrant a second thought. She used to feel guilt about these calls but not anymore. A woman has needs and he’s happy to oblige if he’s about. And while he laughs at the cloudy jeans it doesn’t stop him providing the service she wants from him. She checks the top of the Lidl bag for the bottle of white plonk, it wasn't on the list but it’s there. She’d give Stephen a call later.

corkscrew
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Time and That Angry Hourglass

The news came out earlier this week that Angry Hourglass is no more - even if it is one day ripe for resuscitation - and it is a sad week because of it. POTUS tweeted that it was 'the biggest worsest and most scariest news and probably FAKE NEWS' and then confusing in subsequent tweets threatened 'to nuke the servers holding the AH website' And then blamed China. Like that would help.

AH

Whilst I disagree with Trump on the nuke option (and blaming China) I do agree that it is bad news. My two favourite flash fiction challenges over the last few years have been Flash Fiction Friday (who couldn't love all those dragons) and Angry Hourglass. Both quite different but both had a great community of regular writerers producing some fab stories. Indeed it was the community that met through these two challenges that went on to form the bulk of the Flash Dog Kennels. Back in the day Friday's were for Flash Friday and Saturday or Sunday were for AH and now... well there's Microcosms on Friday if it fits with work and stuff. And of course that is the thing; it's even in the byline of AH 'Time is Short. So is our fiction.'

We struggle as individuals to put in an entry ever week or two and if we don't make it we may be disappointed with ourselves but so be it: our time is limited. Then there's the guys and gals that organise these challenges like LadyHazmat (aka Rebecca Allred). They have to spend time putting the things together each and every week: Putting together that challenge photos/phrases and ideas; Writing the blurb; Organising the judges; Uploading the results; Getting a new judge for next week; coming up with a new challenge; etc... And they have their life - and maybe even writing to do too.

Over previous years I set myself writing goals to 'win' Flash Fiction Friday and then Angry Hourglass. I think the first time I won AH was one of the sweetest moments because the quality was always so high and I had begun to think it was an impossible task. I can't remember who the judge was that week (I think once it may have been Sal?) but whoever it was thanks muchly.

I can only take my metaphoric hat off to each and every person who've been involved in producing and maintaining all these challenges over the months and years and I have nothing but happy thoughts and best wishes for all of you.

Many many thanks to all the Rebeccas (and any none Rebeccas). Angry Hourglass will be fondly remembered by many of us.

Cheers!!
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Gathering Pre Brexit Cups in May

Other than the odd Friday Microcosms I haven't written much over the last month. There's no excuses. Well, there are plenty but I can't be arsed using them. Just bloody put some words down fella!

On the day that Liverpool have learned they are to meet the Bundesliga team Hoffenheim in the Champions League Qualifier I'm currently reading 'Here We Go Gathering Cups in May' (edited by Nicky Allt). It is a series of memoir pieces about each of the seven European Cup Finals Liverpool have reached with a different writer for each of the finals:

Cups In May

Contributors:

Nicky Allt,
Tony Barrett,
Jegsy Dodd,
Peter Hooton,
Dave Kirby,
John Maguire and
Kevin Sampson.

It's funny reading the stories of football (and football supporting) past and even more past. Some of it takes me right back whilst it's also an eye opener on how different the events can be for different people in the same place doing the same thing. I'm half way through so haven't got through to the legend that is Istanbul yet, which is the only European Cup Final I've been to (although I also went to Athens for the Final in 2007 but didn't get a ticket or get in (which is not necessarily the same thing)), but it's making me think that I should write my Istanbul experience next as one of my Limited Edition memoir pieces.

Istanbul
Reds (and three Italians) beside the Blue Mosque.

Reading this as the draw for the cup was made makes me want to get on the old Football Special to Hoffenheim, well maybe not. But I've loved going to watch footy matches over in Europe (random matches not Liverpool ones) and met some good people through that; especially through the European Football Weekends crew.
Munich
In the Allianz Arena, Munich for an 1860 match (before getting the train to Salzburg for another match).

I'm off out shortly for a mooch and will be with camera for photos, pounds for ale - and a pad and pen for getting some words down.

Word.

Remember folks, You'll Never Walk Alone

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The Heart of the Matter

Really enjoying my reading at the moment and have just finished Graham Greene's 'The Heart of the Matter' which I really enjoyed; Scobie is a really great slightly messed up character. Will have to keep my eye out for them showing the old Trevor Howard film on the tellybox.

I'm now 27 books in to my aimed 40 for the year. In my last fifteen books I've read three Pratchetts, two Lessings, one Tolkien and one Tolkien piss-take - a bit of a fantasy/SF leaning at the mo (as per). I've only read a couple of non-fiction books; one on beer and one on maps - two fab subjects!

More Reading
GoodReads book list - completed reading

Whilst all this reading can be put down as a little training for a beginner writerer I need to get these writing projects of mine properly kick started. I need to finish at least one of my four projects this year. At least one! A bit on Project 1 or 2 today me thinks... watch this space.






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Reviewing & Editing

Not a bad couple of days for reading and writing. I was asked to 'Beta' review a novel which I've finally done. Was a great read and I can't wait to see it finished. Was nice to be asked to do it and am looking forward to Tweeting about it when it comes out!

Went back today to
'Fergie Time' and through some editing, all the way through to the end of Chapter 2. I'm not sure I'm doing a good enough job on it. Maybe by the third edit I'll be doing it properly - it's my first big job as it were after all.

Anyway
Project 3 edit so far: <15%
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Time Comes Around

It's been a while but I've finally got around to writing something for Miranda's weekly challenge over at 'Finding Clarity'

It was a great photo for
Week 13, why not give it a go? Word Count is up to 700 (with no minimum):

Week13Photo


When the Wheels of Time went Round and Round
A.J. Walker

The giant cogs and wheels kept grinding on slow and steady circling in a audacious dance. Smaller cogs and gearing sent them off at different speeds and in different directions. The noise was constant and not unpleasant. Young Joshua was aghast at the size of the place it was beyond his comprehension. It was mesmerising; and to think his dad worked here!

‘Room after room dad. How many rooms? Perpetual motion. It’s just like perpetual motion. Don’t they ever stop, how do you keep them going?’

‘Not perpetual motion son. When the tides stop the machines will stop too.’

‘But the tides have never stopped, have they? Why would they?’ There was a little tremble in his voice.

‘There are no guarantees.’ His father smiled. ‘But in our lifetimes I can’t see them stopping. Can you?’

‘No. Never.’

And the machines ground on. In one room it was grinding flour and you couldn’t see one wall from across to the other for the yellow fog, in another ropes were lifting laden casks from a boat to the second floor as if they were as light as a feather, in the next lowering crates onto a wagon. His father walked passed an open door making to leave. Joshua peered into the room. The wheels turned here too and in this one great vats of gently bubbling liquid were being mixed by gargantuan spoons. The surface of the dark purple liquid popped and fizzed and an iridescence splashed across the little waves. Even by the door the atmosphere stung his eyes and the odours were like nothing Joshua could approach describing.

‘What’s this dad?’

‘This? This is out of bounds lad. Forget you have seen it.’

‘Forget what?’

‘Good boy.’

In the years that followed when he saw oils on a puddle or even a rainbow in a moody sky he often thought of that place. That indescribable smell and the secret held with his dad. He was sure it must have been something magical, the colours of magic in a purple blackness. It had to be. But maybe it was dangerous too. The colour of many deaths. He’d almost asked any number of people about that room, but in the end he held on to it like a private jewel.

The summer sun was scorching his parched creased face but he was too tired and old to care and the feeling was tempered by the cool water pulsing over his feet. The tides still came like he knew they would. But now the factory was on cliffs ten metres above the sea decaying like a carcass of a long extinct animal. “The tides come but the water has gone,” his father had said, more than once.

Joshua’s grandson pointed up to a tumbledown tower above them, Joshua could just make out a rusted cogwheel behind it. ‘What’s that grandad?’

‘A place of where magic was transformed into bread and beer, where we made everything from gates to windows, to spears and cooking pots.’

‘Oh, was it magic that made those grandad? What makes them now?’

Joshua harrumphed, he hadn’t seen a new thing made in their town for decades.

‘Some other magic I suppose. Some where else.’ Or do we just recycle what we had already, he wondered.

He'd never found out what was made in the room of iridescence. The secret had probably died with his father. Perhaps it was nothing important at all: Possibly it was everything. He noticed the sun hot on his feet, the water no longer lapping over them. The tide must have been turning or he’d absently walked up the beach. Or the water was retreating from this cursed place once more.


____
WC: 617


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Big Little Update

Flip, it's been over a week since my last update. Not been too much writing from me in last week. I wrote a Memoir piece on some musical history: Smithdown; the band. And wrote a few small bits and bobs for nothing in particular. Unfortunately I missed Microcosms, which was a bit of a shame as I liked the theme idea this week (I even picked my book for it). Time defeated me after a very hot Friday at work.

I went back to reading my NaNoWriMo story from last November to see whether it has enough meat on its bones to turn into an actual fully fledged story. And... well I think it does. So yes, I am going to attempt to edit and polish it. It'll probably take a couple of months, but would be great to finish it. So bloody hell, I'm going to bite that bullet.

Heard from a mate who doesn't do that much reading who got around to reading my story in Infernal Clock and really enjoyed; he actually said 'gripped'. That made me happy.

So all in all whilst not much writing it is a big week for me... I'm going to finish writing a bloody novel. And now I've said that out loud, haven't I. So I have to. Watch this space.
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A Globe Trip

London: The Globe Trip

Only had one night there but had a cracking quick trip to London. Had the £10 Virgin tickets to London. The hotel up near Arsenal wasn't up to much but everything else went swimmingly!

The trip started well. A full English in the Shiraz in Liverpool then off to Platform 8 for the Virgin train to London. Ended up sat next to a woman on her way to Zambia for a trip with students from the University of Central Lancashire. Had a nice chin wag about traveling and reading. She was reading Lord of the Rings in paperback.

A guy who got on at Stafford overheard us talking and joined the conversation. Turned out he had some books with him. That he'd written. Cool! And who was he? Leaf Fielding. Okay, I hadn't heard of him either. But that's what Google is for. Flip! Think I'll have to buy that first book now.

I'd booked my ticket for Nell Gwynn at the Globe the previous night and went for the standing option. Glad I did. Standing was fine (no different to going to a gig (including have the issue of tall people in front of you). The play was brilliant laugh out loud fun. It was designed for the Globe originally and it worked fantastically. Didn't know the lead, but she was excellent. A few of the actors I recognised from the telly.

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Talking of which I sat next to Mark Rylance in the Swan Bar before the show (yep, Wolf Hall and all). Rubbing shoulders!

On Tuesday it was a quick walk around the Emirates stadium, home of Arsenal. A bit antiseptic as a new build stadium, but worth seeing as it was round the corner from the hotel. Then on for an hour walk around the never to be missed British Museum, before heading to a few pubs... including the oldest surviving pub in London the George Inn (near the Globe actually) and then up to Pimilico for Cask, and to Euston for the Bree Louise and the Euston Tap.

P1000276

A great trip.

Uploaded some pics onto
Flickr. First time I've Flickred for ages.


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As Exciting as Shoes

The Reassurance of Shoes

I don't like shopping for shoes, they're just things that sit on the end of me legs keeping my feet warm and dry. And I never like buying them, they're just 'things'. How boring, but how essential? And that's how I feel about buying a back-up Hard Drive. It's one of those things that you have and hopefully never need, but it's as essential as insurance or a battery recharger (or shoes*).

shoes

Let's face it as a writer most of us just use computers to write and store our bits and bobs (or hidden genius epics) on them. It's like our digital photos though; we don't print them out. So if the worst happens and your computer goes down how much of your writing will be lost? 50% 70% 95% it's all too scary to think about, isn't it?

My current portable Hard Drive is supposed to back-up by overwriting the older copies on it using the macOS Time Machine. Some time ago (I dare not think how long ago) my drive stopped backing up as there wasn't enough working space to do the deletion. Eek! So all my unprinted work and unused photographs are at risk until I get that new bigger drive and get Time Machine up and running again.

I've picked out a 1 TB WD drive (plenty big enough) and it's all of £55. It'll be good to get it. I'll get it tomorrow. Lovely to know that all my stuff will be saved. But still, like shoes, I won't be excited by it.
Hard Drive
That said, make sure you make your back-ups; or even print some of your most important bits off. If the worst happens and you haven't it doesn't bare thinking about.


* I realise that those of the female persuasion may be confused by this entire blog.


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Fabulous TV Eats Time

TV Eats Time Until There Really Is No Tomorrow

There has been rather a lot of great TV on for the last month or so. And I've loved watching lots of it, but it has slowed my reading down and, even more, my writing. Whilst work takes up so much time I really can't help that. TV though... I should make harder choices about what to watch or not, but flip there have been some cracking shows on. So rather than feel any guilt about it I'm calling it 'research into writing'. Just in case I end up doing any screenwriting.

Current and recent TV must watch for me:

  • Taboo
  • Line of Duty
  • Homeland
  • Follow the Money
  • Inside No 9
  • University Challenge
  • Only Connect

At least Taboo, No9 and Follow the Money have finished (and UC and OC have only the Finals to go) so I may have more writing and reading time without the need for making difficult telly-box decisions over the coming weeks.

Keep Writing - Stop Watching.
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Twisted!

Twisted Tax Tales

Once upon a time... a tax and accountant company* in Australia ran a writing competition. And one A.J. Walker had an off the counter story which fitted with the theme (basically story needed to include 'an accountant' as a character). I actually had a story I wrote back in my days doing an OU creative writing course called... The Accountant.

So a tiny bit of editing... Attach and... press Send.

Then wait...

Wait..

Wait.

Yep, Short Listed. Whoop!

I had posted the fact that I'd entered on Facebook and one
Mark Davoren spotted it. So he entered too. And yep, another writerer from Liverpool got in there too. Nearly all the rest of the authors were from Australia and New Zealand unsurprisingly. Was cool to see two Liverpool writers getting in there.

Twisted 1
And yesterday the book arrived. Lovely it is too, don't you think?


Just a teeny wee shame about the typo on my blurb about one of my favourite books;
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville has been autocorrected to Period Street Station. Doh!

Perdido

The book with a whopping 35 stories in it is available in Paperback and on Kindle. It's a mahoosive £16.55 in Paperback and I blame the Australians (and perhaps their tax rates) for that. At least the Kindle version is available too.


#KeepWriting

*Success Tax Professionals
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More Thinking Time Than Writing Time.

Time, Time, Time

Writing when you work for a living can be a right problem. Unless you write for a living of course. Then it's a whole other kettle of fish I expect.

Today though was a case in point. Expected to be back home by 5:30 or 6:00pm but got home at around 7:30. That's up to 2 hours of potential writing time out of the equation. And when the other parts of the equation include eating, dishes and winding down it leaves actual time pretty slim. I had hoped to get the bulk of one of my Project 1 stories finished tonight, but I haven't.

Still, whilst driving around north Wales on my deliveries today I did get some good thinking time for two of the stories I am doing so hope to get stuck into them and should finish them by the end of the weekend still. So that'll be fine.

There are other things of course that could help free up a bit more time... denying myself any Social Media time for one. Or having an absolute No TV rule. And maybe that 'Winding Down' time could be after the writing. But then again writing before winding down may lead to some unusually sweary and erratic writing; then again that may help with some stories.

Next time I'm short of time but keen to get something actually FINISHED then maybe I'll pre-wind write. Today I chose to write just a bit and leave it (got about 400 words down on a story). So I've got a foundation (some words). I've got my scaffolding (my ideas). It's now up to me to set aside the right write time over the next few days.

In the meantime at least it was a lovely day down/up/along here. It was stunning all day in Llandudno and Penrhyn, and the first day of the year I spent all day without a jacket on. Shorts are a-coming!

icecream

And I even had myself a (late) post work ice-cream in Rhos-on-Sea. Nice!

Keep Writing!


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Project One: More Storifying.

Project 1: Short Story Writing

I'm behind time a little bit with
Project 1 of my 2017 plan, but I have a (sub)plan to get two short stories completed this week for it. I've started the third one, just to get it rolling. It's an idea I've had for a while and hopefully will come out fairly easily ultimately. That's the theory, anyway. We'll see.

I intend to finish Story 3 this week and then go back to the story with the
1000 word start; as starts go it's not a bad one.

The lack of good telly each night should mean I've no excuse other than
lethargy and sloth. And there the answer may be coffee.

Pretty sure with both
Story 2 & 3 these are relatively low hanging fruit and then I can get back on target for my 'one story a week' aim.

Will report back on here with my progress by next Monday. So fingers crossed.


In the meantime I did start taking a look a my
NaNoWriMo 'novel' at the weekend to see whether it was any good and/or worth looking at doing more work on - perhaps as Project 3. Only read the first two chapters again so far and I'm thinking I need to read the next two to make a more reasoned determination. But it's not a 'no', yet...

Anyway folks, keep writing!
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Come On!

More Reading, Not Enough Writing... Come On!

Just finished reading
Primo Levi's 'If This Is a Man', my thirteenth book this year according to my reliable GoodReads friend. A good and thought provoking read if not exactly a cheerful one. Wouldn't be a pick for everyone. Not sure what my next read will be, but it will probably be more cheerful and thankfully less thought provoking... so many options. Still need to finish The Silmarillion so maybe I'll just drop back into that.

PL If

That said I've got writing to do! Yes, writing! I've just written a daft quick story for Microcosms and put that up on the site. It's my first Microcosms for a few weeks. But really that's a side issue I've got to drop back on to Project 1 (and/or 2) of my 2017 Writing before I fall behind on these.

Okay, decision made... next up will be some thought, if not words on my second story for Project 1. I reckon I can finish that (thought AND writing) by Monday to remain on track.

I have it printed it out. I have pen, I have paper, will travel... and, err, think...


Am Reading...
Am Writing (Promise)
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Project 1: and so it begins...

Project 1: The Short Story Collection

And so it begins... yep, my 2017 writing - other than ubiquitous random Flash - is
now off and running! To be in accordance with my plan I need to write a minimum of one short story a week to get a collection of 12 or so stories together in three months. Certainly doable.

Liver Pen 200

Well, I'm now one story in, yep! To be fair, in full on Blue Peter fashion, it was from a story I'd started earlier. It's spot on length wise, being just over 2500 words (aiming for 1500 - 3000 word stories). I'll give it a proper read through in a week or two to see how well it hangs together. It's a story that hasn't seen the light of day anywhere else yet. I'll probably try out at least a couple of them at the Poised Pen meetings over the coming couple of months. The stories are all going to be stand alone ones - the stories are to be held together by setting not theme.

The Thousand Word Prompt

I've also found another
half written story which could fit right in for Story 2 of Project 1. There's a 'slight' problem with it... It is written in a well detailed way up to the point it stops; but I have no idea where I was going with the story - I've probably a note in a notebook somewhere about it, but it is now effectively a 1000 word prompt!!





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Tragedy on the Lakeside

Lakeside Flash and Sunday Evening Fever

Off today and meeting mate for his birthday pints this afternoon, then a bizarre evening of music with.. er...
Tragedy a Heavy Metal band doing Bee-Gees covers 'and beyond'. I know not what to expect with that!

Tragedy
Tragedy

So reading and writing confined largely to the morning along with boring stuff like washing and ironing. Grrr.

First up was reading a few chapters of
Silmarillion. Another Folio edition, and another that has been sat on the shelves unread for far too long. Really enjoying the amazing world building with this. Short stories really, written as folklore or a biblical text, to set the background to LOTR and the Hobbit.

Then it was writing: it's a Sunday, so I've usually got to try
Angry Hourglass. I don't know why but it took a while to get a story from the picture this week (below). But got something done in the end. So as far as I'm concerned that's a win.

Lake
Photo: Ashwin Rao

Next writing will be something for Project 1. Or maybe 2...
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Writing Plan (Draft)

Writing Plan - February 2017

Writing plan is developing folks, let's call it a first draft. Should be a bit more firmed up over next week.

Project 1 - Short Story Compilation - ebook
Project 2 - Non-Fiction Book - ebook
Project 3 - FT or 2HB - novel
Project 4 - HS1 or TTYA1 - novel or novella

I’m not going to put many details on what these projects actually comprise at the stage other than their general form. As they develop the working titles and contents will come out when appropriate.

Even with ‘just’ four projects I know I’m being over ambitious; at least in terms of finishing all four in the year. But if I work on all of them at different points I expect one or two will take on a life of their own and then the reality of things will become clear. Let's face it if I finish two of them I'll probably be pretty happy and if I finish three I'll be
chuffed to little mint balls!


Projects:

Project 1 - is to be a Short Story Compilation of probably 12-14 stories of between 1500 and 3500 words. I’ll aim for c. 2000 words but let the stories get to their natural length rather than force it.

Project 2 - is a Non-Fiction Book I’ve been thinking of getting done for a while and can drop in and out of as and when.

Projects 3 and 4 - novels or novellas both Projects are currently down as ‘either / or’ and will be firmed up over the coming couple of months. If you followed my NaNoWriMo last year then you’ll guess that Project 3 is either 'Fergie Time' or a.n. other novel idea. I’ll make that call over the next week or so.

The Projects aren't necessarily in the order of commencement or completion (but probably are). That said Project 4 would definitely be started after completion (or calling a halt on) of Project 3.

Fergie Time is the only writing project that has any significant writing actually done at this stage. But the three other potential stories in Projects 3 and 4 are partially developed in my noggin and on scraps of paper.

Timetable:

Ha ha! Bit early to get that sorted but I will need to firm up a plan including schedules for all the Projects or else they will likely slip without me even trying.

Project 1. My feeling is that Project 1 should be completable in three months from start to finish in terms of writing the stories, just on the basis of simply writing a minimum of one story a week.

Project 2. Would be c. 3 months to write as well. The issue is whether I can fit the work required within the same 3 months as Project 1; dropping onto sections of it between the fiction writing. Would be great if I could. Undertaking the two Projects simultaneously is certainly a s t r e t c h goal. But back in the day of my report writing days I would often work on multiple reports, letters and proposals in a day (not to mention reviewing reports) so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Projects 3 and 4. Maybe it should be Project 3 or 4? Writing and finishing a novel or novella this year is my biggest target if not my first. Fergie Time may have legs, but if not the three other potential ideas have great possibilities too and it may well be a case of starting writing the other three and seeing which flows easiest… Any of these may take 3-6 months each… er at least…

Other Writing:

Of course there’s other stuff to consider in between.

  • I always go in for Writing on the Wall Flash Competition even though they’ve really stepped back from it themselves. It’s just a tradition for me now.
  • NAWG. Poised Pen is a member of NAWG and I should enter a competition or two.
  • Would love to give a screen or radio play a try at some point. Will just see if it happens, but currently don't want it to get in the way of the four projects above.
  • Similarly submitting to a magazine or podcast would be great, but at this stage only if a piece comes naturally and doesn't get in the way of the above projects.
  • And of course random competitions I haven't spotted yet!

So much writing. But I have some scheduling to do...


Keep Writing Folks!

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Reading Over... Time to Write...

With A Notebook in One Pocket

I said I'd have a plan for my writing year by the end of the month and that I'd get on to it after I'd finished the book I was reading. Or more to the point, not read another book until I've got a plan in place. Well here it is... no, not the plan... I finished reading '
The Dispossessed' by Ursula Le Guin last night so when I go out later It'll be with a notebook in one pocket and NO PAPERBACK OR KINDLE in the other one. Scary stuff.


Ursula

I'm ten books in to the reading year, which is well ahead of my target while heading towards forty reads. So no pressure on my reading time from that perspective while spending time on the plan. But I'll miss the daily reading... so basically I best get this writing plan firmed up with both realistic and s t r e t c h goals my friends!

Writing App
Get writing

Get Writing and Keep Reading everyone.






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More Books!

More Reading and More on Writing Plans

Was delivering today in
Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr in north Wales. The last delivery was a reattempt in Penmaenmawr which gave me the opportunity to pop into the excellent Second-Hand Book Shop 'Escape Reality'. It's an excellent shop - two rooms rammed with second hand books and it has a reasonable quantity of SF books, which is always nice.

Payment at the shop is through an Honesty Box (well, a slot in a door).

Ended up buying
six books! A couple of which were picked as much as for the fab old SF covers as for the stories themselves.

The books included tomes from
Beryl Bainbridge, Bernard Cromwell, Brian Stableford, James White, and Roger Zelazny.

Books

Books3

Books2

Currently I'm reading my first Ursula Le Guin - 'The Dispossessed'

I've got lots of books on my shelves and on my current list to finish; and am currently reading a great book too. So I didn't really need any new old books, but I've got them anyway. Second Hand Bookshops. Gotta love 'em.

Thing is now I need to create some space on my shelves.
Or else get some more shelves!

Of course yesterday I pointed out that I'm trying to get my
writing plans sorted and all this reading may get in the way of it, or at least in the way of the immediate plans. So I've decided that once I've finished The Dispossessed I'm not starting another book until I've finished The Plan!



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The Pen of Serious Decision Making

Writing Plans

Right, I'm a month and a half into 2017 and I still haven't confirmed what my
writing plans are (see blog 10.01.17) and it's not good enough. It's time to undertake some serious thinking and make some serious plans.

I'm giving myself
two weeks now, so I'm putting on my Specialest Writing Hat and holding tightly The Pen of Serious Decision Making and I'm going to get a plan together. Oh yeah, baby!

Er, that'll be two months in to the year before "
The Plan" is in place. But it is what it is, and so on 1 March 2017 come rain, come grey nothingness I will have it.

One of the considerations in this two weeks is whether to go forward at this time with
'Fergie Time' from last year's NaNoWriMo or whether to bin it (or at least hold off on it) to concentrate on other projects. We will see... hopefully.

In other matters, following the
Reflex Competition entered on the 7 Feb, I have also entered the Writers & Artists competition (now closed). On 'reflection' I should have given the piece a better title. But typically it was a finish on submission day job. Ho hum. If I get to enter it elsewhere following its failure in this comp at least I can rename it when I revisit it! There's a couple more competitions that I think I will enter over the next month or so. Unless they get in the way of THE PLAN!

Keep Writing, folks!
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A Reflex Action

Reflex Fiction Competition

Wrote a quick flash story for the
Reflex Fiction competition. The competition is theme-less so whatever you want goes - as long as it's between 180 and 360 words; ideal Flash Dogs length!

It's
free to enter, has cash prizes and is open until the end of February. So why not give it a go?



Reflex
Reflex Fiction website
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Reading and Writing Two Weeks In

Reading and Writing and Plans


Reading:

It's only the second half of January but that's like 1/24th of the year right? So I got to get my writing plans sorted soon.

Got some good reading done already this year. First off was '
Galactic Derelict' by Andre Norton. I bought it as much for the cover as it was a gloriously gaudy 1959 paperback. Was well worth the read in any case!

Next up was 'W
eird Ales II' edited by Steve Cotterill (created by Theresa Derwin). I said I'd review it as I was involved in the first volume, writing the introduction. I didn't have any involvement in the this one. A volume of short stories based around bars, pubs and drinks it is a mixed bag of great and not so, but that'll be down to actual personal preference rather than actual quality. Enjoyed the book and posted reviews on both GoodReads and Amazon.

Third up was one of my 'classics' on my aim to read this year list, '
The Tempest' by William Shakespeare. I've not had much experience of reading Shakespeare but enjoyed it and more will be read this year I'm sure. Macbeth next I think.

Last read completed this month so far was Asimov '
Nightfall Two' a selection of short stories which even included a flash fiction piece he'd written live on a TV show. He's a story writer master and every story had great merit and often fab twists. What can you say about the guy. Genius.


Jerusalem


Currently reading '
Jerusalem: a Biography' by Simon Sebag Montefiore. It's a heft hardback which has been on my shelf for a few years now - it was published in 2011 but I'm not sure whether it's been on the shelf that long. I'm about a third of the way through and boy is it packed. Clearly a 2500+ year history crammed into 520 pages means the pace is packed and when it has had such a ridiculously packed and complicated history it feels like a head spinner. Many of the stories of the peoples involved could have been lifted straight off the pages of the Game of Thrones (or the other way around). Any of these sound familiar:

Incest' pouring molten gold onto an enemy to kill them; having a feast for adversaries - then the waiters and kitchen staff clubbing and knifing them into the stew; 'Greek Fire'; matricide; patricide; flip all types of 'cides. In fact other than the lack of dragons I could be reading the GoT. Awe inspiring 'Biography' of the city. Pretty much too much to take it all in!

Only just past the Second Crusade, so let's see how the next 900 years goes.


Writing:

I've listed a few things I want to write this year on previous blog entries - bigger pieces than flash. But so far I have not firmed up what to start with. So far this year - other than a little preparation for one of my projects - I've just done some
flash fiction.

Lucky enough to get runner up in
Angry Hourglass last week, which was a nice surprise. Later last week I did an entry for Thursday Threads for the first time in many months (okay probably over a year) and on Friday I wrote a quick entry for Microcosms and again did a piece for Angry Hourglass on Saturday. So a fair bit of flash there then!

I think I'm
judging Angry Hourglass next weekend. So less flash options next week. Maybe, just maybe I'll be putting together something for one of my projects.


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2017 Writing Plans

Writing in 2017

Okay, I've set some reading goals for the year, so what about my
writing goals?

IMG_4884 2

In the past I've set goals like winning the Flash Fiction Friday or Angry Hourglass challenges, this year I'm going to aim to do a few more substantial things (that is to say of more words). Not that I'll be avoiding Flash! of course. I'll still be doing Angry Hourglass and Microbookends as often as I can.

Nothing concrete planned as yet, but thinking along the lines of;

  • self publishing a book (possibly non-fiction)
  • submitting to a magazine or podcast (maybe EscapePod or Clarkesworld)
  • writing a short screen or radio play (never attempted this before)
  • planning and beginning a novel or novella

Not sure yet about editing the story I did for NaNoWriMo - with all the above I may be a bit too busy.

Will see how the plans go er... after I've firmed up said plans! Watch this space...
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Poised Pen Secret Santa

Not sure I'll be getting too much writing done throughout December but there will be bits of flash I dare say, or micro-micro flash in terms of the FlashDogs daily #VSS365 on Twitter. One thing I will be doing though is for the Poised Pen writing group, where each year we do a Secret Santa. Instead of buying some tat for a fiver made of meat products we write a piece for someone else in the group based on some Christmassy theme or other. I've been given my theme and it's... well I can't say. Not screaming out at me yet, but no doubt some muse or stick of holly will hit me.

Dear Santa

The Secret Santa piece can be in any form (poem, prose, short story, play etc). I'm not sure about mine yet, but it won't be a novel or even a novella, but it will be longer than a FlashDog VSS365. Er, probably.

The only other creative writing I'll be doing this month is job applications and CV updates. I need a proper job. You know where I am, people!

Happy writing folks!

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