Too hot, baking and vegetables.

Not much writing progress this week I’m afraid. That story that was begging to be written hit a dead end. I do have another rattling about in my head though and I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

The problem at the moment is that it’s just too hot to be bothered. Only I’m having to be bothered because it’s weather like this that makes everything grow. Instead of writing (or doing all the non-existent day job work) I’m either in the garden or on the allotment. I can only go into the polytunnel at night it’s that hot (49 degrees C yesterday, fully ventilated). Still, I can’t complain, I’m not going to starve anytime soon.

In the past week I’ve lifted the onions and put them out to dry. I’ll bag them up tomorrow, or at least that’s the plan (I’ll do it before I check my work email, that way I’ll get it done).

I’ve being harvesting spuds, cabbages, beans, peas, carrots, courgettes, salad, rhubarb and soft fruit. I’ve also being baking bacon and egg cake (it’s a pie, but that’s what my nana used to call it) and making jam. The chickens are laying eggs faster than we can eat them.

Anyway, back to hopefully a little bit of writing and, in the meantime, here are some pictures of some fruit and veg.

Incidentally, I’m still waiting on that submission that is close to overdue. Fingers crossed.

Writing, work, diets, fake alcohol, real alcohol, and the distant sound of wedding bells.

I’ve had a week off from writing, but I have a story in my head that wants to be written. The only problem I have is that with this odd flexible furlough thing going on I’m never sure when I’ll be disturbed and have to unscrew my writing head and put on the working one.

My boss has told me not to worry about doing stuff straight away, that I’m supposed to be given plenty of notice, and I must say that they do stick to that. Most stuff that comes my way has the tag “no rush for it” stuck on the end of the email. But that’s not how I work. I tend to see what needs doing and then do it as soon as I can. I’ve been caught out before with the “it can wait until tomorrow” thing. That’s just a way to allow work to build up until you end up buried in the stuff.

Oddly enough, for the last week I’ve had no work at all, yet done no writing to speak of. I’m going to have to set a time, outside of work hours, for writing now and try to stick to it. I have already said that I’ll only be available for work during my normal hours anyway, though I have being doing bits outside those hours if it suits me. Work seem to be fine with that.

Anyway, enough (or not enough) of work. I bought a book on Ebay the other week. Actually I bought quite a few books on Ebay last week, but this one, Scene and Structure, from the Elements of Fiction Writing books, came all the way from America. I saw a price sticker on the back, in dollars, and thought to myself, in one of those odd wondering moments, wouldn’t it be nice to know just who in America had this book before me. I have quite a lot of old books, Victorian and earlier, and many have names and even addresses written inside, something I don’t tend to see often in modern books. I find it a fascinating little bit of social history. Anyway, lo and behold, I opened up the book and there it was, a name and address. So O. Bermander of Dutton’s, Hollywood, I hope you had a good read back there in 1997 (all assuming I’m reading your handwriting properly). I’ve not read it yet, I’ve started Raymond E Feist’s Riftwar books again for the umpteenth time and I’m only on the second one (Silverthorn), there are another 27 to go if my collection is as complete as I think it is (and my finger and toe counting).

One last word, a general warning to all you red wine drinkers out there. I’m on a diet-ish-kind-of-thing, whereby, if I concentrate really hard and pinch myself, stub my toe and scream a few times, I actually put the chocolate bar down again. Anyway, whilst in a state of euphoria over losing a couple of pounds and a couple of inches off my rather portly physique (thanks to some insane 7 minute exercise routine that I downloaded to my mobile phone and which is slowly, by 7 minute degrees, trying to kill me), I decided to go all health conscious and try a bottle of low alcohol wine, and to go the whole metaphorical hog (which did not get eaten), I also bought a bottle of low alcohol Old Speckled Hen ale. The wine tasted and smelled like someone had taken a rather sweet fruit juice, possibly with plums in it, and mixed it with balsamic vinegar. It was disgusting, utterly horrible, but it did make a nice gurgle as it went down the sink. The beer was worse, it actually made me feel sick. It was an acrid taste that clung to the throat and remained there for hours. It also made a rather satisfying gurgle as it joined the wine in the water board’s subterranean domain.

So tonight, as my daughter has just informed me that her boyfriend is at long last her fiance (he asked permission on Christmas Day, so it was no surprise to me and I can only presume Covid had something to do with the delay), I’m going to have some proper red wine, and perhaps some chocolate, though my daughter is working so her brother who, unfortunately, is not old enough for me to marry off, will eat chocolate on her behalf.

Oh yes, and one of my submissions is really late coming back to me. It could be a sign but we won’t dwell on it. We won’t. No we won’t. We will not keep refreshing the email browser. We will not. Oh no we won’t.

Work, vegetables and submissions

Right, so at last I’m back at work, though only partially. I’m part-time apparently, though as I was already part-time I suppose I’m now part-part-time-if-and-when-needed-or-indeed-if-and-when-can-be-bothered.

Happily Mr Johnson is still making up a big chunk of my wages.

And, more happily, it leaves me plenty of time for writing and gardening, and blogging, which I don’t seem to be doing as much of as I intended too. It’s simple, I’m blogging mostly about writing and gardening, but they are the things I do most of, so mostly I am doing them, not blogging about them.

This week I have hand weeded two thirds of the plot. You’d think it would be well tended after all this time off but the constant cycle of heavy rain/heatwave has conspired to make a lot of things, such as lettuce and spinach, bolt for the sky, and has allowed the weeds to burst out like an invading army of alien greenery.

That army has mostly been put to rout, but my forearms and back are paying the price and there is still a third of the plot left to do. Hopefully, weather and work permitting, that will get done tomorrow.

Still, we’ve been enjoying plenty of fresh fruit and veg. It’s that time of year where all I buy from the shops is the stuff that’s bad for you. My Tesco Clubcard history must have me down as a chocolate bingeing alcoholic who never lets the taste of fruit or vegetables pass his lips in summer.

Most meals for the past few weeks have been made with home grown fruit, veg and eggs. The only thing I have to buy are things like flour and oil and meat, rice and pasta, anything overly exotic like peaches, pretty much anything I can’t grow myself.

Tonight we are having roast chicken with spuds, onion and cabbage from the plot and freshly pulled carrots from the polytunnel. The herbs are from the garden and the left over chicken will make a stir fry with green leaves and mooli, carrots, broad beans and herbs and the very last scraps will go in an omelette as the chooks are laying eggs faster than we can eat them (which means a lot of cakes too). Pudding will be caramelised rhubarb muffins, all week.

On the writing side, I’ve plotted a new short story and have submitted my first attempt at historical fiction, a short based upon my genealogical research. I have had trouble finding places to submit to as there aren’t the lists and websites to turn to as there are with Sci-Fi and fantasy. Ideally I’d like to find a British magazine to sent it too.

Anyway, the new short will be fantasy and, as said way up above somewhere, I’m going to get on writing it.

 

Submitting, at last.

I’ve finally submitted my story to Writers of the Future, though not the one I wrote through the workshop. That will go next month, unless I find somewhere else to submit it to.

I’ve got two stories out doing the rounds now, the most I’ve written and submitted in years.

In the meanwhile I’m on with another and still world building for a novel.

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I’d like to sit and write out on the decking, but the chooks seem to have other ideas. Can you spot all five?

 

(Incidentally, that messy mesh at the bottom is to stop them destroying those young plants I’ve just planted out)

Orson Scott Card’s How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and the WotF Online Workshop

Ok, I’ve not posted in a while.

I’ve been busy doing the Writer’s of the Future online workshop. I was, I admit, a tad sceptical at first, but I’ve taken quite a bit away from it.

There are 43 parts to the course. Mostly video talks by Tim Powers, David Farland and Orson Scott Card, with several essays by L. Ron Hubbard and others. You can watch and read these at your own pace and then do the associated practicals, marking each as complete as you go.

I found all of them useful, some extremely so. So much so that I’ve saved the transcripts for future use. I was especially taken with Orson Scott card, he has a way of speaking that makes things go ping in your head.

The course covers story ideas, which was very helpful, research, outlining and plotting, writing description, dialogue and narration, the basics of beginnings, middles and end, creating suspense, productivity and selling your work and a piece on art which I will admit I didn’t quite get the purpose of.

By the time I’d gone through the course (I haven’t completed it yet as the last couple of practicals involve finishing your story off completely and mine is waiting for me to give it last go over), I had a story idea in my head, fleshed it out, did some research and wrote the first draft. I then used the same process to come up with another story idea, which I will start writing very soon.

I was so impressed with Orson Scott Card that I dug around for a book of his I was sure I had but had never read, How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I couldn’t find it anywhere so ordered a copy from Amazon.

Typically, before it arrived I found my own copy mixed up with my gardening books. Anyway, now I have a spare and at least I can say that mine was bigger.

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The book itself is very SciFi oriented, but there is a good deal on fantasy too, particularly world building. I’ve not finished reading it yet, but my creative juices are flowing already. I’ve not written so much in years. I really want to get submitting stuff now.

Anyway, the WotF course is free and available at the following address and I highly recommend it https://www.writersofthefuture.com/courses/writers-of-the-future-online-workshop/

The book is not free, but is pretty cheap second hand and also highly recommended.

Finished novel and short, writer’s workshop, fences and brassicas

I’ve just heard from work that I’ll be furloughed for the whole of June so I should have plenty of time for writing. So much so that I’m having to plan things out a bit more than usual.

I finished off that novel I’ve being talking about. I’ll let it sit and stew for a bit while I work on the next big thing, though I’m still world building and doing character studies for that.

I’ve just finished another short that I think is just right for Writers of the Future, and that is now going to sit and stew too.

Once I think they’ve both stewed enough I’ll start editing them. In the case of the short that’ll be a few days, the novel will be a few months, maybe not until I have a first draft of the next one.

I have also signed up for a free writer’s workshop that WotF are doing online, so that should last me the month out. Hopefully by then I’ll have my world built and will have started writing the thing at last.

I’ve also been pretty busy in the garden and on the allotment. My neighbours put up a new fence so I took down my old panel thing. The panels, much to my surprise, were still in good condition, so I sliced and diced things and made a compost and pot store out of them as well as repairing the old fence at the bottom of the garden. It all looks quite tidy now.

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On the allotment, just about everything is in and growing reasonably well, though a bit of rain would help (anyone know any chants?).

I put up the brassica cage, which is huge this year (about 24ft by 12ft) and filled it with all sorts of brassicas. The beans and squashes are also in, the onions and garlic are all doing well and the carrots have mostly germinated.

An overnight frost managed to nip the potatoes and a few brassicas but the potatoes will recover and I have a tray of spare brassicas to fill in the gaps. I’m not fussy about everything in a row being the same thing, so I’ll end up with a hotchpotch of cabbages, kale, broccoli, cauliflowers and sprouts.

Took A Break

I’ve done quite a bit of writing in the past week. More than I have in a long time in fact. I’m currently finishing that novel I’ve mentioned a few times now, while world building for the next masterpiece.

With that in mind, I’ve given myself a break over the weekend, though I’ve still gone and done something writing related. I needed a notice board as my little desk is getting cluttered with all my notes and highlighters.

I like to keep track of just where my characters are by using a rough map. I thought it might be an idea to stick pins in it too, colour coded for each character/faction.

I found a cheap cork board on Ebay, but my writing space is in my bedroom so I wanted something that looks nice too.

I’ve made odds and ends, such as a wine rack and coat racks, out of old pallet wood before, so thought I’d use up a few bits of scrap wood I had floating around.

I think it looks alright, at least it does the job.

Anyway, back to the writing.

Digging, Writing and New Chooks

Well, as I said in the last post, I’ve been working on my next Writer’s of the Future entry. I’m about half way through I reckon, but I’ve also been making time to do the gardening.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time at the allotment, now that there’s no actual day job to do, and dug in the green manure ready to plant this years crop of brassicas. To just quickly catch you all up, I have the spuds in, the onions in, the broad beans are just starting to show, the garlic is marching along like no one’s business and I’ve sown the early carrots.

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In the photo you can see where I’ve started turning over the green manure. It was heavy work. All that heavy rain we had compacted the soil and then the recent dry weather set it hard. Since I took that photo I’ve dug the rest over though, so all I need to do now is get the framework up for the nets.

In the garden I’ve gone and done something I said I wouldn’t. I got some more chickens. I only had two brown hens left, and one of those is six years old nearly. I kept saying that I wouldn’t get any more but, after tidying out the shed and discovering that I have enough supplies, sans feed of course, to last me a few years, I thought it’d be cheaper to get some more chooks than to dispose of it all. By supplies I mean things like worming powder, feed supplements, mite spray and chicken tonic. They’re all quite expensive when it’s all added up.

Anyway, I got three marens, little grey and white speckled things. They’re not quite at point of lay yet and they’re only half the size of the brown hens but they’ll soon catch up. At the moment they’re busy sorting out their pecking order so some are a bit skittish. I’ll try and get some decent photos when they’ve settled down.

Anyway, the plan is to polish of that WotF entry in the next week or so, then to start polishing off that novel I mentioned.

Keep safe.

Getting Back On Track

A couple of posts back I mentioned that I had a couple of works in the pipes, or rather stuck in the pipes, clogging everything up and starting to fester. Well, I grabbed the mental draining rods and battered away at the pipes and one particularly smelly lump of imagination landed on the floor with a splat and I’ve decided to wash it off, give it a good polish and finish it off. I’m about two thirds of the way through it and am going to let it stew in my head for a while before cracking on.

In the meanwhile I’ve decided what I’m going to do for my next Writers of The Future entry and will get on with that while the novel above ferments and bubbles in the back of my head. I’ve already written over 4k words.

All this will of course mean coming up with a routine. I find I work better in everything I do with some simple structuring to the day. At the moment (thanks to this horrible virus that’s trying to do us all in) I’m furloughed from work but continue to get up at the same time and attempt to do similar things, just as my son continues to follow his school timetable as best as possible. Only now, instead of working, I can concentrate on writing, though I’ll be taking time for the gardening too (those vegetables don’t grow themselves).

I plan to write something every day and get myself back into the swing of things. One day a week I’ll put my efforts into writing up my genealogy findings. I’ll also try to blog more (you have been warned).

Self Publishing

Why self publish? That’s the thing you need to be asking yourself. Is it because you want full control over the publishing of your work? Do you want to make a fortune but not have to share? Maybe you’ve just had one form rejection email too many and you just want to see your work in print?

Well, and this is all just my experience, self publishing is not the easy route the likes of Smashwords and Amazon will lead you to believe. Simple it may be, so simple that just about anyone can do it, and therein lies the main problem with it. There is so much self published work out there that it’s hard to be seen, never mind stand out. You can be the best thing since Tolkein and make King and Feist look like a pair of would-be chancers. Unfortunately your highly polished masterpiece, just a few seconds after submitting to whatever platform you decided to go with, will be buried under a pile of slush that quickly, within minutes, will be a mountain. Every day a mountain of slush hits the internet and vanity publishing sites and the few tiny specks of brilliance it contains is locke away in the dark and eventually, once people get sick of downloading and deleting rubbish, permanently marred by it.

The only way for your work to stand out in such circumstances is to be highly active on social media, promote your work to death even as you are writing it, develop a following, garner rave reviews and then, maybe, you will sell some self published books.

Personally I went into self publishing as a last resort. I have quite a list of self published books (link at the top, go on have a look, buy some), many of which did the rounds of being sent to umpteen agents, all of which were rejected relentlessly. Most have got good reviews, a couple really good reviews, but none of them have sold well. I think this is because I don’t have a social media following. I don’t Tweet, I don’t do Facebook or Instagram. In fact I’m pretty much a social-mediaphobe, which is a bit odd, especially taking into account the fact that I’m a software developer by profession.

For someone like me, billy-no-online-mates, self publishing has not really worked, and the books I have self published will never get a look in at being published for real, they’re damaged goods now, already sullied and spoiled.

The next piece I finish will be submitted ruthlessly, and I will not give in this time. Mostly because I want to see my work in print and partly because I know, and again this is just me, that there is no real value in self publishing and it will make sure that the work will never see the light of day for real.

For you though the self publishing world might be different. It’s certainly easy enough to do, it’s just not so easy to make it work.