What happened between November and January? Small Places edits, Dusk re-writes

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted, and it’s been a relatively productive time. Although Christmas was not what I was expecting, we nonetheless had a cosy, happy time, despite not seeing friends or family. It’s been a shock being back at work during January, but I think that’s true universally!

After a preliminary read of Small Places back in October by my chief beta reader (my wife), I decided to make some fairly sweeping changes to it. That meant a few rounds of edits and re-reads, before passing it back to her and another beta reader. The beta reader suggested a few minor changes, but my wife is still halfway through – although the feedback has been largely positive. I’ve been encouraged by both of them to re-query, so although this means that it’ll be delayed for slightly longer, hopefully what comes to you will be a slicker, better book.

I’ve also started a Dusk re-write. Last year, I’d written around 69k words, but one of the characters felt very flat, and it felt like I’d lost the sense of wonder that I enjoyed conveying so much within Parasites. I’ve restructured and re-built a lot of it, and although a lot of the previous work will stay, there have – again – been some fairly radical changes. I do hope that this means a better reading experience and a more enjoyable book in the long term.

Editing always feels relatively frustrating to me, almost as if I’d got the words wrong in the first place, but I’m gradually learning not to watch the word counts and simply try to enjoy the process, write the best thing I can – rather than simply producing a book, producing something I really like. I’m not sure if that’s clear, but last year I’d certainly fallen into the trap of feeling bad about not writing as many words as I theoretically could. Perhaps it’s different when you’re a more skilled writer, or a writer with a deadline, but I’m sure that for me, it was probably a product of pandemic stress!

What happened in September? Resting, re-charging and a little Dusk

Hi team! It’s still just about September, but this’ll be a shortish update. I’ve been trying to recharge over the last few weeks after getting knocked sideways by an illness – thankfully not the dreaded ‘C’-word, but still something that saw me sleeping a lot and generally doing anything other than working and writing.

Thankfully, this also seems to have recharged my brain a little – I’m not entirely sure how season five of Prison Break, both seasons of The Order, the first half of Once Upon a Time and quite a few books managed to do it, but I’m slowly starting to get back into Dusk. I’m still only averaging 10k words a month, which is a bit measly, but I’m feeling better about it, and we’re currently sat at around 69k. It’s definitely going to be longer than Parasites – I’m still four or five chapters off finishing one of the major story strands, and only about a quarter through the other – but that’s pre-edits, of course.

Everything else is on hold, but in the meantime, I’ve written a short blurb for Dusk – hopefully this isn’t too much of a tease; we’re probably looking at a release date of mid- next year, but it’ll be sooner if I can, promise!

You can also read this on my Books page, but here it is:

It’s two years since Kael and Alessia returned from their expedition to find a solution to the big crunch, but things haven’t gone according to plan. Despite an unexpected source of help, Lyra’s resources are being used up faster than ever before, and one of the monstrous creatures from Carthusian, the city-ship, seems to have been sighted in Vulpes, Lyra’s farming city.

With new enemies coming from unexpected places, Vega’s mayor Alhambro is determined to find a faster way to navigate the thinnings linking universes, dispatching Basteel and Slyph into the diplomatic and scientific nightmare in Vulpes. At the same time, Kael and Alessia embark on a mission crossing a forbidden asteroid, an abandoned planet previously home to a super-advanced race and into the unknown.

But as a new, hostile species capable of traversing the thinnings emerges, it seems that the sun is setting on Lyra for the very last time.

I’m psyched about it and can’t wait to bring it out to you all. As ever, take care, stay healthy, and be kind.

What happened in August? Dusk, Small Places and Wild Court updates – and BBNYA news

Hi solarpunk fans! I hope that you’re all faring well. I didn’t get around to doing a July update, so here’s August – I’ll be honest with you, 2020 is a tough year and progress has been superslow. But we’re getting there.

So, where are we at right now? Well, Dusk is currently sitting at just over 58k words, but my writing brain does not want to engage over about 27 degrees Celsius. It’s also quite difficult to know exactly what percentage of the book that constitutes – the book flips between two different parties of people, and after struggling to shift my brain every chapter, I’m just writing the entire storyline of one before moving to go back to the other later on.

I have no idea if this is a good idea or not, but it seems to sit best with my head, so I’m going with it!

Small Places, my urban fantasy title, is getting close. It’s been read by two beta readers and a sensitivity reader, and generally got positive and constructive feedback. It’s now being read by – gulp – my wife, who has a laser eye for detail. She hasn’t read any of my work before, so this has been a fairly nerve-wracking affair so far. I’m pleased to say that her feedback is all incredibly useful, but that doesn’t make it any easier, psychologically!

She’s also extremely busy with her job at the moment, so that’s slightly slowing things down. The book is dedicated to her though, so I thought it only fair to give her a look at it first. Once she’s done, I’ll give it a final read to make sure everything is consistent and smooth, then it’ll need to be print / kindle formatted … but then we’re good to go! I’m excited to have you all read it at some stage, although I wouldn’t recommend reading it seven times in one year, which is essentially what I’ve done so far. 

I’ve also got to level with you about Wild Court. It’s stalled again. It really needs a huge amount of focus, inspiration and love to get going, so once I’ve finished Dusk, I’m going to see how I’m feeling. If I’m in a good place, I’ll strip it back, re-plan it and absolutely run at it. If not, then I’ll either work on the third book in The Navigator series, or the sequel to Small Places, although the latter is only half planned out at the moment. I guess that makes Navigator 3 more likely…  

In other news, I was absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for the BBNYA Awards – Parasites is currently in the Top 30 shortlist, with the Top 10 to be decided by September 30th. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!

What happened in May? Dusk, Small Places and Wild Court updates, pandemic problems and amazing books

April and May have been strange and difficult months, so I’ll start with the book stuff to avoid boring anyone with the personal updates if that’s not what you’re here for.

First up, progress on Dusk (Parasites sequel) has been a little slow – I’m on about 26k words, up from 15k this time last month. When I was working on Small Places, I once wrote twelve thousand words in two days over the Christmas break, so I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed at that … but in fairness they were very different times.

That said, I’m fairly pleased with how it’s coming together, although it definitely needs editing; I wrote a Basteel chapter that clocked in at about 4.5k words on its own! There’s a reasonable chunk of the book that takes place on the rest of Lyra, which was something I really wanted to do after finishing Parasites. You only really see Vega in the first book, so I wanted to explore a little more of the rest of the planet. 

We’re also coming close to the three-month deadline that I set for querying Small Places, so I may well be looking for beta readers and other bits and pieces soon, as well as setting a publishing date! With all the stuff that’s been going on, I tend to forget about it, then remember it quite fondly. I’m just not sure whether to do a last (sixth? seventh?) re-read before getting it out to a beta, but time will tell…

Finally, I’ve also started looking at Wild Court again, the low fantasy WIP I parked around the 50k word mark in the middle of last year. It’s now around 26k, although I’m finding that re-writing and re-editing a novel is much harder than writing it from scratch!

Onto the other stuff: I don’t know if any of you are gamers, but I remember when the first Baldur’s Gate game came out and there’s a narrated chapter break where there’s a reference to a journey being ‘an unfamiliar blur to your fractured nerves’, and that’s really how this month has felt. In mid-April, there were some difficult discussions at work where a few of my colleagues and I were faced with the possibility of a 40% pay cut. Thankfully that didn’t come to pass, but our physical office did close, so I had to go into London to pick up a few personal things that I’d left there.  

I was half expecting it to be apocalyptically quiet, but there were people around – lots of construction workers, and a small number of people travelling like me. There were maybe ten people in total on my train, so I was able to socially-distance quite easily.

My wife was furloughed fairly recently, which was initially stressful, but she’s now really enjoying it! We were supposed to be on holiday between two weddings a few weeks ago, and perversely, on the day my friend was supposed to be getting married (now postponed), he got hit by a car. He’s doing ok, thankfully.

I also found out that a guy I knew a while back had died, which was really awful. I hadn’t seen him for a long time, but he was a great guy, impossible to dislike. The silver lining was that I did get to attend the funeral remotely, which was very sad – but I was glad I could.

I don’t want to end on a negative note, so I’ll also add that I’ve been reading a lot more during lockdown; I’ve just finished the slightly disappointing Agency by William Gibson, but did re-read the magnificent The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is just a masterpiece. I’m now reading Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, which I’ve enjoyed before – I’ve got a weakness for South African Sci-Fi (Chappie and District 9, anyone?). As you might have gathered, I’m also a bit of a gamer and Terraria has been absorbing a lot of my time recently – the final update launches today, which I’m quite excited about – there just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything!

I do hope that you’re all staying safe, well and healthy – take care.

April Updates

Introverts in lockdown is already a bit of a tired trope and it’s definitely been an odd experience for this introvert. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s been easy!

My wife and I are very lucky that we moved to a fairly quiet house with a garden about two years ago and have no dependents (other than the cat!). Our families and friends are generally doing ok. My wife’s uncle and aunt both had Coronavirus fairly early on but seem to have made a full recovery; we spoke to them on Sunday on a Zoom call with four generations of her family and they seemed great. In the same way as everyone else, videocalls have become something of staple, although doing one with her 95 year-old grandfather was an interesting experience!

My side of the family seems to be doing ok as well. I played chess online with my seven year-old nephew last weekend, narrowly scraping victory on both occasions, despite a couple of mistakes. I’m really, really rusty…

Writing hasn’t been *that* easy, to be honest. Thankfully, my ‘real’ job is still ‘business as usual’, but everyone is just a bit more stressed and on edge than usual, which is completely understandable. Despite strict self-care routines – alternating between a walk in the park in the morning or a run in the evening, yoga, cooking and taking it easy – it’s been stressful, and I guess it’s the same for everyone.

Despite that, I’ve tentatively started a high fantasy title, even more tentatively titled The Witch-Lord’s Apprentice. It might not go anywhere, but the overall idea is to take a new slant on the everlasting battle between angels, demons and humans. I can already see Laini Taylor and Carol Berg’s influence there (I’m currently re-reading Transformation) but there’s loads of fresh stuff there as well.

It’s a month since I started writing Dusk (also a tentative title) the sequel to Parasites and the second book in the Navigator trilogy. I’m just over 15,000 words in, and I think it’ll be about the same length as the first one, but maybe a shade longer. It’s going to be a bit darker than the first book, but I won’t say anything more just yet! I think that 15k words in a month is a little on the slow side, but like I said, stressful times.

It’s late here, so I’ll just finish by saying that I hope that you and all of your families and friends are as well as they can be, and please continue to take care of yourselves.