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Fifty, not out…

It’s been a summer of semi-solid writing for me.  A little bit selfish on my part but worthwhile all the same and very enjoyable to boot.  So I’d like to offer a quick apology to my on-line friends for not seeming to be around much over the last couple of months.

I’d also like to say a big thank-you to the continuing trickle of new readers and especially those who’ve taken extra time to post reviews for Firebird and Thunder.  I’m really grateful for your encouragement.

So, how’s G’host coming along then?  Well, I’m satisfied with what I’ve managed over these last few weeks.  I’ve written around 15,000 words of draft which takes the base text to circa 45,000 words.  Allowing for edit, that’s about 40% of my target length.  Importantly, these 45,000 words are the opening and, for me, this always takes the longest.  Once the scenes are set, the key characters are in place and the main threads are initiated, the writing tends to feel like it’s all downhill from there.  That’s not to say the rest of the story will be easy.  Or that I won’t get bogged down or blocked from time to time.  It’s just that the start, for me, is always the longest part of the process.  Perhaps that’s because I’m a future-thinker and in my head I can always see where I’m going more clearly than where I am right now?  Perhaps this is just normal for writing?  Who knows?

And, on the subject of downhill from here, I suppose I should also mention that I’ve just turned fifty … Long pause … I’m not quite sure how this milestone crept up on me, or how I feel about it, but my friends and family have done a fabulous job of making sure I didn’t just ignore it! I’d like to thank them all for not allowing me to follow my normal routines and let it pass by unnoticed.

So this is where I am.  Fifty, not out … and still chipping happily away.

 

 

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Tomato Time…

Yes, it’s almost time for my annual pilgrimage to Finland and I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends and family over there.

This year’s visit is timed to coincide with the local town’s Tomato Carnival which celebrates the community’s agricultural cornerstone of… you guessed it… tomatoes.  Blog regulars will be familiar with this concept and there are even a couple of photos in here somewhere.

It’s always fascinating for me to have chance to visit, what is for me, a completely different lifestyle: almost a different world.  Where noise consists mainly of the sounds of wildlife, where affluence is having fresh food and a good fire, where happiness blossoms from simple social interaction and rich conversation.  The Finns do always make me feel so very welcome.

Work has been, what can only be described as, “mental” for these last few weeks and, whilst this has been going on, I’ve only been able to find enough moments to continue to develop the story-lines, content, and characters for the next novel.  As a result, I’m also looking forward to getting some solid writing time whilst I’m away.  I’m really itching to start drafting; whole passages are queuing up in my head and bursting to get out!  And I might even have finally settled on the book’s title, but I’m not quite ready to share that, yet…

Firebird and Thunder continue to tick over gently, which is a real delight, and I’ve even received some nice encouragement from readers recently.  So, wish me luck: it’s time to get Book Three started…!

From Snow to Snow…

I’m back from my trip to Canada.  The long journey was recompensed by lots of nice powder-snow, some bright sunshine, and news that the UK was colder – at times – than British Columbia!  Have to admit: it is blooming chilly here…   Roll on Spring!

I’ve noticed that, whilst I was away, both Firebird and Thunder have picked up some nice reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I’m always very grateful for any words of support and encouragement, so thank-you to those who have taken time to write them!  I really appreciate your support.

Am still storyboarding my next project which will be a return to a science-fantasy, action and adventure, theme.  More news and updates shortly…

[Now then, where did I pack my woolly jumpers…???]

Brain Pickings…

Jenelle Schmidt

Jenelle Schmidt

Fellow Authoress Jenelle Schmidt recently contacted me to see if I’d mind being interviewed for her blog site.  So – after some debate as to whether, given such madness, she might better benefit from some counselling – I succumbed and the resultant ramblings can be discovered here…

Q&A with Anthony Bellaleigh

Fellow writers might also be interested in participating: if so, why not drop her an email?

Fantasy fans might also like to check out her novel: King’s Warrior

So That Was The Year, That Was…

… Almost permanently wet.

It feels like only yesterday that I sat and drafted last year’s resume and here I am again: doing my annual audit and checking off what’s happened.  It’s kind of scary how quickly this comes around – time flies past us at an alarming pace, doesn’t it?

So anyway, 2012 was a year of quite significant contrasts for me.  Almost a “game of two halves”, if you’ll allow me to disabuse a soccer analogy…

For much of the year I was, effectively, unemployed.  This is never a great place to be but I didn’t give up on finding gainful employment (of the type that pays well enough to cover the bills) and was lucky enough to land a new role this Autumn.  That, on its own, would probably be achievement enough for one year but I have a few more:

  • Garden fences painted (despite the perpetual rain)
  • Garage woodwork stripped and painted (despite the perpetual rain)
  • Loft boarded (because there’s only so much rain you can take…)
  • Bedroom decorated (will it ever stop raining?)
  • Olympic flame watched (in a brief gap in the deluge – lucky me!)
  • Olympics cheered (along with 55 million other damp Brits)…

And, probably most importantly:

  • Thunder written (12 hours a day until May, then left alone for three months, then edited alongside starting my new job – i.e. over a month of far too many hours a day)…

With Thunder, I’d set myself a personal goal to see if I could improve on some of Firebird’s flaws: I think I have.  I’d also set myself a goal to publish in Autumn: I only just made it.  So why push so hard?  Why not just kick back, or give up, or not bother to set stretching goals?

Well, regular visitors will know that my year also included the unexpected and sudden loss of a friend.  A friend from whom I’d drifted apart, but was on the verge of meeting up with.  A meeting that circumstance kept delaying until, one day, he just didn’t come home from his holidays…

It’s shocking when something like this happens.  Especially when death comes prematurely to someone only a handful of years older than me.  But it serves to remind us that life is a short and fleeting gift.  Time travels past us too quickly.  The rain may never stop…

We have a choice as to what we do with the life we’re given: use it, or lose it.  And I’m determined to try my best to grab every second I’m lucky enough to be gifted, and to wring the most I can out of every single one…

Here’s to 2013: another cycle, another raft of seconds, another chance to do crazy things, to laugh, to cry, to make merry, or hay, or just to have fun…

Happy New Year Everyone!

On Yer Bike…

…Or the post also-known-as, Some Things Don’t Happen Every Day – Part Two.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but something unusual is happening in the UK at the moment. No, I’m not talking about the orange-yellow, hot, glowing orb that has been peeking out, from time to time, from behind our more normally gunmetal-grey cloudscape.  No, I’m not even talking about the sudden rash of Union Jacks currently fluttering from any available stick or length of string.

No.  What I’m referring to is the sudden – and somewhat disconcerting – propensity for smiling.  I’ve never seen so many happy, talkative and friendly Brits before.

I was out on Saturday and took this picture so you can see what I mean…

What’s going on here then?

A few weeks ago, it was random runners with flaming torches.  Now, it’s brightly coloured bicycles, completely jamming up the highways, and hurtling around like there’s some sort of race on…?

What next, I wonder?

Any minute now, someone’ll be telling me we’re playing host to the Olympics and I can’t see that there’s much hope of us doing that…

For that, we’d need some real support: support of monarchs, princes, lords and ladies; support of parliaments and prime ministers; support of infrastructure providers, police, emergency services and, of course, the public…

For that, we’d need to be prepared to stand in the world’s spotlight and to be examined for all of our strengths and weaknesses: good and bad.

For that, we’d need to be confident in our eclectic – and often eccentric – culture, history and legacies: good and bad.

For that, we’d need to remember how to smile and be friendly to one another…

Good Luck to all the Olympians.

Your achievements are truly breathtaking.

And, of course…,

“GO, TEAM GB!”

Thunder – Front Cover

Tomat CarnvalI’m back from Finland and am pleased to report that the small amount of swimming undertaken this year was done by choice, and not by accident.  The main event of the week – Tomato Carnival – was… interesting. I’ve included a picture, so you can see that I’m not making it up!  To be honest, it seemed like it was a good excuse for a big party, with all of the town invited, much drinking, much dancing and some very long hangovers…  So, all in all, it seemed to me like a very good thing to do at least once per year!  Thanks to everyone I met while I was there.  You always make me feel so very welcome.

Unfortunately, it’s also raining over there – 2012 is providing an equally miserable summer across the Nordic countries – but at least that meant I was able to have a serious crack at the 3D artwork for Thunder’s cover.

I think I might be starting to slowly get the hang of three dimensional rendering.  The new book’s icon is built up of a half-dozen separate components, each individually drawn, and then rendered into 3D and assembled into one composite.  The overall design follows Firebird’s template for continuity.  The icon is designed to draw upon various elements from the storyline.

So, after countless iterations of size, shade, finish, angle and lighting, I think this is the version I’m happiest with.

I’d love to hear what you think about it!

Thunder Cover v4

Thunder – The Blurb

Okay then…  Here goes…  This is the draft blurb for Thunder.

It took me about twenty different attempts to put Firebird’s Blurb together (a.k.a. Product Description, Back Cover, etc…).  I’m hoping I’ve done a better job this time around, but I’d really appreciate hearing what other people think about it.

Thunder will be categorised as Action & Adventure / Technothriller.

Any feedback or comments would be very much appreciated!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THUNDER

Mine is a love story, written in blood.

A tale of an ordinary life, destroyed in the same white-hot furnace of fire and metal that snatched away everything I ever wanted, that stole everyone I loved, that scorched my soul and then forged me into something new.

I am changed, alone, and in pain – with no friends, no allies, and no-one I can trust.

People call me Nick Tonner, but I don’t care much for names.  Some might say I’m a hero. Some might say I’m no better than those I despise.  Call me what you will, because it doesn’t matter to me.

I have nothing left to lose, and only one thing left to live for…

I want you.

Dead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Couple of Lessons, Learned…

I suppose all writers must, from time to time, find themselves in the same place as I am at the moment.  Writing, after all, is not dissimilar to any other professional or artistic endeavour. Practice, exercise, and experience all lend new insights and provide the opportunity to improve and become better.

Writing a second novel has certainly helped me to gain a new perspective on what I’ve written in the past.  Well, I say that, but I’ve also recently had some very useful input and pointers from a fellow author, blogger, and distant friend:  J.E.Lowder.  (Thanks, Jay!)

Over the last week or so, whilst I wait for my Alpha Readers to work their way through Thunder, I’ve been revisiting Firebird.  Not just because of the ‘British Typography’ issues which needed to be corrected, but also because the current edition of Firebird now falls short of my own, personal, expectations.  Here are a couple of recent discoveries – maybe you already know about them, maybe not – I thought they were interesting enough to share on here:

1. Purist that I am, somewhen during Firebird’s many edits, I got bound up in my punctuation.  I laid out Firebird using a formal, almost classical, style which employs very few commas. Technically, this isn’t wrong.  But it doesn’t really suit a ‘casual’ storyline.

Most modern fiction is set out using – perhaps overusing – commas to provide staging points for the eye.  For instance it it not mandatory, as some would believe, for either of the two connecting words ‘and’ or ‘but’ to be prefaced by a comma.  To some extent, these commas are frowned upon – for exactly the same reasons as it is ‘not preferred’ to begin sentences with either word – but the result can often be long, unbroken, sentences which provide no easy reference point for back-tracking and re-reading.  As an aside, the one before an ‘and’ is called a Serial or Oxford Comma.

2. In an attempt to avoid word repetition – which is a pet hate of mine – I did two things:

– I occasionally used overly complex alternative words which, when combined with the formal punctuation, run the risk of coming across as ‘trying to be too clever’…

– Worse, I used first and second names to refer to the characters throughout.  This, interestingly, seems to have several unexpected side-effects: it forces readers to focus harder than necessary on getting to know the characters when the book is mainly plot-driven; it makes the book harder to read – see above comment re: casual storyline; and finally, the use of first names – outside of dialogue – seems to impose a deeper level of implied intimacy, between reader and character, than a reader might want.

Anyway, re-editing the manuscript has been an interesting exercise.  I’m almost finished and will republish it soon.  Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about the several thousand copies that are already floating around in the electronic-ether, except to apologise for making the book a little harder to read than it perhaps needed to be, and to say thank-you again to everyone who has read it so far.

Hopefully future readers will find they have an easier time…

A few kind words…

… can really make a difference.

When, a few weeks ago, a Canadian authoress contacted me (on this Blog Site) and said that she’d just bought a copy of Firebird I thought to myself… ‘Cool, maybe I’ve finally got the blurb right?’

Then I discovered that she didn’t usually read thrillers… (‘Uh oh…!’)

Then I discovered she intended to do a full review and post it to her personal book review websites… (‘……!!’)

It’s probably worth me sharing that I have some personal rules that I’m trying to stay true to even though, commercially, they may be a bit foolish.  At some point I might share them all but a couple are relevant here:

  • I will always try my hardest not to ‘check in’ with anyone who I know (or suspect) is in the middle of reading one of my books (this is really hard, especially if they are family!).  My reason: books are a very personal thing and I don’t want to get drawn into the middle of that relationship.
  • I will not participate in “read-for-review” or “read-for-ratings” fads that I sometimes come across in the on-line eBook communities.  My reason: if people feel genuinely motivated to write something, they will – in their own style and hand – and those reviews and comments (whatever they say) will always be worth so much more to me as a writer.

Anyway, Ms.Budden is nothing if not an enthusiastic emailer (and a very friendly one, by all accounts) and so I have been drip fed a somewhat alarming commentary of sleepless nights, terrifying visions and of a reader suddenly well outside of their normal reading zone… (‘Oops… I’m fairly sure it’s in the right genres…!’)

And now she’s published her reviews…

Thank-you Norma…  Your feedback just made fifteen years of effort feel like it was worthwhile.

Norma Budden’s Review of Firebird

Norma’s Firebird discussion page (with my mugshot in the middle of it, which is enough to put anyone off…!)

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