5000 limericks…


statistics2Presuming there are about thirty words in a standard limerick, I have so far written the equivalent of five-thousand – that’s 5000 – limericks in my latest attempt at writing.
I’m not bragging, it’s just the only thing I can think of to post about, which does not bode well for my blog in the long run, in all honesty.
Still, five-thousand limericks is not to be sniffed at. That’s a lot of rhymes. Makes you think.
So I guess this is a progress report.
With so many words done you’d have thought the story would be well under way. It would be a reasonable man that expected you to be in the meat of the tale by now. You’d be wrong. My lead character (indeed, the POV) has been problematic. It feels very much like I’m trying too hard to demonstrate the character’s growth, and as such am losing the pace. Not that pace was ever an imperative, but it’s never good to drag the story’s arse through the mud. The incidental (ie non-POV) chars are worryingly unremarkable and I have the awful feeling that, if I ever get to the end, I will need to re-write whole bundles of chapters (bundles being the collective noun for chapters, as all know).
But, Zen-like, I forge ahead, still enjoying the progress. A friend of mine said this week that they could never try to write as they’d just not know what to write, which struck me as quite shameful. If you don’t trust your imagination enough to make stuff up, then what the hell is going on? You have probably finally lost your inner child, and you are fully justified in mourning.
Well, post done, I’m off to do other stuff.
J

The Crimson Campaign, by Brian McClellan


Fantasy reviews

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The book’s blurb… from Goodreads

The hounds at our heels will soon know we are lions’ Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god. In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir’s advancing…

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Writing tools – a review of apps I use


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After two years forging a fairly inaccurate furrow through the field of attempted writing, I thought it might be time for me to do a little review of the myriad ways in which a writer can avoid actual writing by playing around with apps. Or, if I want to be a little more constructive about this, a review of the apps that have helped me and that I use often in the pursuit of writing nirvana.

In no particular order (although Scrivener is definitely top!)…

 

1. Scrivener http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php – Around £28 from the App Store

Scrivener screengrab

This is the writing software I now use. It wasn’t always the case. I spent a while writing in MS Word, Open Office, even Googledocs, but when it came down to it Scrivener was , I found, everything I needed, or what I could ever expect to use. The blurb, from the website…

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

It cannot be understated; this software is AWESOME, and I use that word reservedly at best. The list of options is incredible, and the ways in which it can help organise a draft is mind-boggling. There are criticisms, but only a few, but I have tried any number of alternatives (Ulysses, rWriter etc) and they are all inferior in one or a number of ways, to Scrivener. I wholly recommend. One downside is there is no tablet/iphone version, though we are persistently assured it will one day arrive. However, you can get past this in other ways – dropbox etc, as you will see later…

 

2. Evernote https://evernote.com/ FREE

Evernote screengrab

Evernote is a free online notebook that syncs with your devices, has loads of great embedded tools for clipping notes while you browse the internet, and, like Scrivener, a whole heap of options. Plus – and this is the best bit – it’s free. FREE! You can purchase additional features and storage, but I have yet to find the need. It’s just great for organising your notes. For instance, I have notebooks for non-writing stuff, for research, for images and so on. I have found this invaluable, especially because you can add notes wherever you are – through my phone or iPad, and it all syncs up. I could even log onto my Evernote through any browser on any computer and find all my notes there. Love it. Nuff said.

 

3. Dropbox https://www.dropbox.com/home FREE

Dropbox screengrab

Quite what I used to do before Dropbox I will never know, and I shouldn’t really have to tell you what it does, because everyone should know.

Most importantly I can sync my Scrivener files in Dropbox and edit them on my iPad/iPhone with Textilus (http://www.textilusapp.com/) – a simple yet powerful text editor – and then it syncs right back with Scrivener when I’m done.

Storage is upgradeable (like with Evernote) but I’ve not even nearly got close to my limits, so all is good in this world. Ah…life in da cloud…

The alternative to this is google drive (like you’d bother) or iCloud (which is looking threateningly good), but in the meantime Dropbox has the answers to my needs. Now, if only it could get me to actually write…

 

4. Pixelmator http://www.pixelmator.com/ FREE

Pixelmator screengrab

In the perfect world I would buy Photoshop. But the world isn’t perfect and I refuse to spend that much on software, no matter how ace it is (and it is…I’m slap bang in the middle of a 30 day Photoshop trial and it’s flamin’ brilliant), so I turn to cheaper alternatives for my image needs. I have tried quite a few (Gimp, Artrage et al) and they all have their good an bad points, mostly that they don’t have the features of Photoshop, and although Pixelmator has this problem too, it seems the best of a free bunch. I managed to make a map of sorts, for the first time working out how to do it thanks to youtube tutorials.

It really helps in worldbuilding to be able to visualise your setting, and Pixelmator has allowed me to do this. It is a good app, especially because it is free.

 

5. Aeon Timeline http://www.scribblecode.com/ Around £28

Aeon Timeline screengrab

I think the best way to describe this is to let the blurb tell you all…

Aeon Timeline is more than a series of events on a never ending line. With Aeon, you can divide your timeline into logical groups, projects, or concurrent arcs. You can model the relationships between events and people, places and ideas. Aeon calculates people’s ages for you. And you can link your events with research material such as external files or images that can be displayed inside the application.

Worldbuilding is difficult. Organisation is required (and I am not good at that). Aeon Timeline allows me to make a timeline that fits with my own calendar, own rules (want fifteen days in a month, three months in a year? You can do it here). When it comes to wasting time, this is the king of all. It can also sync with Scrivener and organise your chapters into a visual representation of events. It is very handy. That said, it is not going to be for everybody, but it works for me.

There you have it. Some software that I use in my everyday avoidance of actual writing. That said, I’ve written over a million words in the two-plus years I’ve been writing seriously, so they aren’t as good as all that for avoiding work.

Happy writing, people!

It’s not like me not to post for months, but there you go…


It’s nearly two years since I set out to bloody well write something, and I did. A quarter of a million words of a story that was not very good. Still, at least I did it. The plan was to carry on and try to write something better. That’s the part I’m struggling with. The header of this blog stated my intentions to post about how hard it is to write a book. The answer to this is two-fold. First, it’s not very hard. Just keep typing and eventually you’ll have something. Second, it’s f****ing unbelievably hard, so long as you realise how far you have to go and just how talented these published bastards are. It’s galling. Yet I am nothing if not persistent, and so I have not let it go. I write every day. Just not a lot of it is any good.

But that’s the point. Every day I think I get a little bit better. By the time I’m, say, a hundred years old, I will have written something I can finally be proud of. Hopefully.

Aaaanyway, the last few months have been pretty damned awful, but I’m attempting to put all that behind me because I suddenly feel the urge to blog again. Not that I was ever very productive.

 

Here you go. Simple post. Fin.

Navel-gazing comeback post of doom


It has been a while since I posted on this illustrious and rather ‘meh’ blog of mine, but be assured it was not the blogosphere I was ignoring, but the entire world… So with that in mind I thought I would ease back into it all with a gentle summation of my recent scribblings…

navelgazingLet’s see…. Well since I last mentioned anything I have done fifty thousand words of a contemporary thriller-type story set in Yorkshire in the real world/present day. That was fun, but, as usual I lost focus, and the story kind of drifted into uncertainty. C’est la vie.

And then I started another fantasy effort, which is ongoing – sixty-five thousand words so far. But I have reached that same problem that I have always had in all these projects… indecision and doubt. Lots of it. Enough to railroad it all, I fear. But I am working on it…

Not so damned easy, this writing malarky, I have decided. You may quote me on that…

Hopefully this missive will get me back into communicating with the outside world – I have been neglectful of correspondence and contact because of some stuff going on in my life at the moment. But I a trying to resolve this and get my head back on straight.

Do you know what? I hate reading navel-gazing blog posts like these, so I’ll stop now and maybe post a bit of whimsy at a later date, if I can spare the creative oomph required. In the meantime, as the great man said…Stay shiny!

Gilbert Egg-Hound’s bendy tale – Part One


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‘…orrow morning, you scum-sucking, vilely useless piece of infected, foul-smelling discharge!’

Gilbert Egg-Hound was not a patient man.  Having slammed the phone down with the sort of force normally employed by officers of the West Yorkshire Police Force during ‘extended questioning of coloured gentlemen’ during the 1970s, he less-than-calmly walked to his chair.  On reclining and gazing out of the window, Gilbert’s mood began to lift.  From his office by the canal, Gilbert had one of the best views in the city – to the right rose the Corn Exchange (which couldn’t help but to remind him of a majestic single breast nestled amongst the largely phallic skyline) while the building sites, shops and alehouses of Briggate and beyond disappeared straight ahead.  Over to the left, in the distance was the Town Hall, mercifully obscured by the offices and suits of Park Row.

The Town Hall occupied a very particular place in Gilbert’s heart.  Fully to understand this, first requires you to accept the fact that, despite appearances, hearsay and reams of evidence to the contrary, Gilbert Egg-Hound is a man of heart.  A well-hidden heart, yes.  A dysfunctional heart, almost certainly, but a heart nonetheless.  Alongside the hate for his former wife, an obsession with pastry products and the unlikely, unrequited love for She Who Must Never Be Named, sat in Gilbert’s heart a fear and distaste for the Town Hall and its staff, rivalled only by the fear and distaste displayed by the citizens of Lincolnshire when presented with evidence of electricity.

As you may have surmised (correctly, I might add) by this point, Gilbert Egg-Hound is not the sort of man to fear anyone; he was much more the sort of man to be feared.

The Town Hall however, put the shits up Gilbert like nothing else.

It was 1986 and the World Cup was being hosted by Mexico. England was in the grip of its usual deluded, fervent hope that they were going to win, just like twenty years before.  While he wouldn’t call himself a football fan – and while he’d never willingly admit to getting carried away with the ecstasy of an assembled partisan throng – Gilbert was as susceptible as anyone to World Cup fever.  Having followed the matches at arm’s length so as not to appear interested, Gilbert’s reserve finally broke during the Argentina game.

He locked up his office and headed to the pub. The landlord had managed to appropriate, from somewhere, a television the size of a fridge, and had, with faith alone,  hoisted it high up the wall with a length of rope. Literally dozens of people sat and stood beneath it, peering at the action.  No-one had seen a television of this size before, nor have they done so since, a fact that is merely a matter of background.

Gilbert arrived in time to see a slo-mo Peter Reid being thoroughly embarrassed by a dwarf with a perm, so set to drinking.  Heavily.  Unable to get comfortable and watching England get, for want of a better phrase, done over by the Argies, Gilbert began to feel unbalanced.  After a few more tetchy minutes, it happened: The Hand of God.

At this point, nobody was one hundred percent sure what had happened.  That is to say, nobody was prepared to say what exactly had happened – a key distinction.  What is known for certain is that on the evening of 22 June 1986, four men were admitted to Leeds General Infirmary with wounds that seemed consistent with ‘being beaten by a large, blunt instrument wielded by someone with the strength of a bear’, according to melodramatic neurosurgeon Dr Noray Parmalat.  The other definite in this murky expanse of half-truths and fabrications was that on the morning of 23 June 1986, Gilbert Egg-Hound was released from the Central Police Station without charge, without his possessions, and with a hangover that would wake the dead then immediately kill them again.

An uncharacteristically chastened Egg-Hound shuffled towards his home, under the non-existent cover of dawn, the streets pulsating with the rhythm of his pounding head.  Luckily for Gilbert, the streets were as good as empty at this time of the morning, so he was able to theatrically vomit into a drain with relative anonymity.  Having walked what seemed like the the thousand miles to his house, Gilbert entered, locked the door and went to bed to sleep the sleep of traitors, whores and criminals.

Dammit, man, it’s bigger than Crime and Punishment…


AncientTomeSmall

231,000 words, give or take a few hundred. That’s how it ended up. I started the process of writing my ‘magnificent octopus’ (to quote Baldrick) in May, but this story itself in the latter days of September, I think. Seven or eight months, over 130k words of dead-end scenes pruned, and a lot of pondering. Ridiculous, really, the lengths a man has to go to to write. And after all that, the end result is too big by an order of magnitude.

But just recall what my conditions were. Start something and bloody well finish it. And I did – well, a first draft anyway. Achievement, er, achieved.

It’s very much a first attempt at writing. It’s got plot holes, story-line cul-de-sacs, inconsistencies and is, basically, meandering. But I finished something, which offers me some hope that I can finish something else. I have learned loads (posted previously) and, I think, improved. Now it isn’t so hard to dredge a scene out of me. Now I can do one almost easily. That isn’t the problem. The problem is the ever elusive storytelling skill. That is the work in progress.

Still, if you read my ‘About’ page on here you’ll see that was the intention.

It is called ‘Apt’, and is told from the perspective of an indolent young man, and is about finding himself being forced into responsibilities that see him brought low. It is about how he changes himself to battle the realities of his world, and to save his home. He’s no hero, he’s not much of anything at the start, but in the end he finds the reluctant hero inside.

Sounds vague? Well, that’s because , (a) it is, and, (b) I am not sure how to describe it. I’m a ‘pantser’, not a ‘plotter’, so I really just go where the story takes me. If I was forced, I’d say it was a story about adopting responsibility and exceeding your self-imposed limitations. See…vague…

It is set in a fantasy world with no magic. There are no dragons or monsters, save the all too real mortal ones among us. I try to write stories featuring magic – I’ve even worked out one or two derivative magic systems, only to feel foolish writing it down. I don’t want to write children’s or ‘young adult’ stories, and whenever I try to write about magic it just makes me feel stupid. Not sure what that means…

Anyway, onwards and upwards… With a friend doing some editing on ‘Apt’, I am busy making changes, but I also have other writing irons in other writing fires, so lets see where that takes me…

The Ballad of Star-Streets Tony – A Cautionary Tale


street-lightsWell, enough of the bleating on about word counts and other guff, it’s time to embrace the whimsy.

Bob F, my compadre of creative gubbins (on occasion), had an awesome idea about an alien called Star-Streets Tony who shat stars. I know. Awesome. This, friends, is the start of his tale. In rhyme. Not very good rhyme, either. And remember, THIS COULD HAPPEN. Enjoy!

The Ballad of Star-Streets Tony

Oh, the world it was breaking, no more fuel for to take
The future uncertain, for everyone’s sake
As the lights slowly flickered, and started to die
The people of Earth sat, and started to cry

The future was bleak, but that was until,
Simply Red started playing, on a charity bill
Somehow this music called from on high
An alien being, who fell from the sky.

Yes, Star-Streets Tony – he fell to the earth
As Mick Hucknall sang for all he was worth
This mystical being, as welsh as can be,
Shat stars of power to light up the streets

The council of Rhyl, they harnessed these stars
To run all their street lights, and even their cars
They powered all the tv’s and radios too,
It could even run Rhyl’s famous portable loo.

Slowly did Tony give to the planet
The gift of his star poo – his electrical winnet
Nations had to swallow that bitterest pill
As they were suddenly ruled by the Council of Rhyl.

For many a year Star-Streets Tony did good
Shatting stars as only an alien could
But the council was shrewd and it kept his leash short
And they exploited him without so much as a thought.

But Tony became such an unhappy creature,
All needs were fulfilled, though his own didn’t feature
He grew tired and depressed at the futility
Of being used for his star-shatting ability.

He was old now, and wished for it simply to end,
This existence as a being, heavenly sent
But there was no way this immortal could just up and die
Except the council knew better, but kept up the lie

They refused to let Tony have his final hour,
The refused to let Tony take back all that power,
So angry as only a mystical being can be
Star-Streets Tony set about making himself free.

I know. Brilliant. Well, thanks for allowing me to put that in your brains.

Pip-pip, for now.

Ten things I’ve learned (serious post)


ToDoList024[4]

Well, enough of the whimsy (though I do like it) because occasionally this blog has to at least touch on my writing once in a while – it is the reason it exists after all. I do this on the auspicious occasion of my hitting the 200,000 word milestone. Actually, it’s 199,837, but I know that if I set to it, this blog’ll not get posted on today, such is the extent of my ability to get distracted.

So, what ten things have I learned since I started doing this, some ten or so months back? Let me list the ways and means…

  1. Don’t be an arse and set off on something without at least a modicum of planning. It’s all very cavalier and exciting to write by the seat of one’s pants, but it makes for a meandering tale that lacks focus. Have an ending at least superficially scratched into the meaty grey mass of your brain. You may be lucky and find one on the way and change it, but it’s better to start with one and change than just hope a plot will present itself. That way lies madness and 200,000 words of dubious worth. 
  2. Find someone who is willing to read your stuff, and will unflinchingly support you and tell you how fantastic you are. It makes for good productivity. Saying that, also find someone who will criticise the arse out of it. For balance…
  3. Even if you can’t be bothered, try to write something everyday. Yeah, it may be rubbish, half-hearted, and eminently delete-able, but it becomes almost second nature, and words start to fly.
  4. Last thing at night, as you lay with your head on the pillow, just think about where you’ve left the plot. Imagine where it goes next. I swear, if you grant some brain-time to it, the ideas come. Write em down if you think you’ll forget. I don’t need to, I remember everything, as I’m sure I pointed out at the start of this post…
  5. You will doubt yourself. You will read what you have written and think, “That is utter shash”. This is normal. But dont stop. Re-write. The next point will help…
  6. Be brave. If you are assailed by the winged tyrants of doubt, then don’t hesitate to cut that whole thirty thousand words. If I was on a deadline I would perhaps think twice, but if, like me, you are just writing to get your story done, then don’t hesitate to chop the last three weeks work. I have found the discarded stuff still contributes to the whole, even if only in background or in clarifying the best way forward.
  7.  Read. A lot. I often find that while I am reading I get a sudden idea for my own work, usually utterly unrelated. I think it must be down to the imagination part of my mind being stimulated. It works for me, anyway…
  8. Have a rest from it once in a while, but don’t stop writing. Go off and start on something fresh – a new story in a whole new world, if that’s your bag. In doing so you will find, when you go back to your original work, you will have some new ideas. You will find yourself in a rut, probably because you are thinking so much about the story, and a change can give you that freshness when you go back.
  9. Have milestones. Mine have all been word counts. The trap to avoid is the not wallowing in your successes. I found myself at 50k words and just stopped, a bit dismayed over the distance to the next milestone, and inordinately proud that I actually got there. But then next thing you know…100k words, and so on.
  10. Get someone to proof read. Your eyes will just skip over the errors in your own work, no matter how careful you are.

Wow, that was harder to do than I expected. I should have done a top three. I’m sure I’ve duplicated some entries, too.

I think this is one of my rare moments of serious reflection. You should cherish it. Not even the barest iota of whimsy. It feels wrong. Like watching a monkey masturbate. You know it’s wrong, but the damn thing has such a funny look on its face.

Until next time…

Fudgemella and the delusion-teaching Knight


“Once upon a time there was a dusky maiden named Fudgemella. Her super-power was astro-physics, which in medieval Poland was not much use. The gods had dealt a joker there.”

What? Where am I? Did you say Fudgemella?

il_fullxfull.238657111“Caught in a downward fiscal spiral, she began to toy with the idea of branching out, maybe learning a new skill, like Badger-baiting, or popery, which was all the rage.”

Hello? What are you talking about? What’s going on?

“As she traipsed through the streets of the generic proto-germanic settlement, she swung her hips seductively, perhaps hoping for some kind of monetary reward. Her gods had done something right with those hips, so the scales appeared balanced. She considered going to Denmark where her super-power might be more useful”

Oh God, am I trapped in the consciousness of a bad writer? Wait, was that a Tycho Brahe reference?

“As she passed a group of travelling diplomats (whose employer was in no way related to the events that surrounded Fudgemella’s eventual disappearance, rescue and vindication), she arched her brow, or her eyebrow – it is quite difficult to see from here.”

I am trapped in the mind of a bad writer. Hang on, did you just give away the ending?  And you’re referencing the writer’s perspective? Are you mad?

“Quite by chance, a knightly knight by the name of Sir Deus arrived. ‘Madam,” he said unto her, forcing the words ‘twixt cup and manly lip, ‘I am Sir Deus. Deus X Machina. The X stands for, er, Ex. I am here to teach you the art of delusion.'”

Oh, come on! You’re saying that you actually have a character named –

“Fudgemella, startled by the knight’s abrupt/surprising appearance, laughed with gentle admonishment. ‘Sir knight, I have no such need for your teaching, for I have already mastered that particular skill.’ She flicked a bead of sweat from her brow with the last two centimetres of a stiffened digit.

If I promise not to criticise will you let me leave? Please…no more…

“The knight, pushed to a rage beyond compare – like that other fellow that got just as angry when someone broke his pencil – charged his mighty steed into the watching diplomats, piercing, quite by happenstance, their hearts with his lance, like a diplomatic kebab. Although that probably shouldn’t be a reference in a period piece. Unless kebabs existed in medieval Poland. Make it a – what do they have in Poland? Sausages? Yes, pierced their hearts like a mighty polish sausage.”

Not sure about the imagery in this – very suspect… 

“Thus the dusky maiden’s refusal to bow down to masculine domination caused the world to explode into war that lasted eight years, with a hiatus in the middle when one of the knight’s friends got lost in a copse. The End.”

So…a sexist morality nonsense tale? Didn’t know what to write for a blog post, eh?

“Can you tell?”