Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Peek Into The Future

What will future publishing look like? No idea. But there are some hints as to how it might develop in an article about current and future publishing trends in SF.

One thing that springs out from the article is that the short form, the novella, is likely to grow in importance. There is some sense in this as our world gets faster and faster and attention spans get shorter. It's also worth remembering that the novella died out because of cost issues as much as anything else and older works by authors such as Asimov tended to be novellas.

Magazines are shifting onto the digital format and finding more subscribers that way, especially via Kindle, something the recent history of 'Asimov' shows. They have increased their subscriber base substantially whilst lowering their costs.

The article is well worth a read, whatever genre you write in, as it contains a lot of good information and some interesting guesswork.

Monday, August 29, 2011


WIP (West In Peace)

Not much to report on the novel this week, though chapter 10 is proceeding as well as can be expected. There will be a chapter 11, but I'm not sure about a chapter 12 as it depends on what needs tying up and what action needs to be there. In short, it's quite fluid...but fun.

I received some interesting feedback tonight from one of the group members which has been very helpful regarding the first chapter and it's problems, of which there are many. That there are problems wasn't a surprise, it is a first draft, but the nature of a couple of the probelms were. I'll write about them at a later date when I've started the main edit.

With regards to the ebook publishing, there has been yet another brainwave for marketing: local papers and parish newsletters. Local papers are ALWAYS on the lookout for stories, so as we are local and trying to beat the recession by setting up a company they should be interested. Parish newsletters will cost money, but hopefully not much.

As it was a bank holiday today, very little got done anywhere in the UK, so I'll see you all on Wednesday.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Bits

A whistle stop tour of the things that have made me laugh this week.

First up, the BBC's Oddbox. This week including mobile phone throwing (more of that please), dog yoga and land art. Also from good old Auntie is the list of the top ten jokes from the Edinburgh Comedy Festival.

The Daily Telegraph has an article about how much water women waste in the shower whilst shaving their legs, opon which subject I shall refrain from commenting.

And now: Newsbiscuit. The events in Libya have proved a rich goldmine for dark humour, such as Gadaffi's return from his annual holiday. Then there's the usual poking fun at the political decision making process.

Other headlines include, 'World's iPads stop wor', 'God sends hurricane iRene to avenge rise in Apple consumption', 'Catholics condemn " Pope Idol" reality TV show' and 'Scientists claim orange coloured, citrus tasting, fizzy ocean is just a fantasy'.

On that note, I'll wish you all a happy weekend, whilst I go and watch Cowboys and Aliens.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Space or Two?

When typing your manuscript, do you put one space between sentences or two?

My own habit is to put two spaces between sentences because it's what I was taught. I'm even doing it as I type this blog, even though I know the second space will be ignored by the HTML code.

Looking for an answer in the various books I have doesn't help as none of them cover the subject, not even the ones on punctuation (curse you Lynne Truss).

A search of the internet throws up various opinions, the most comprehensive of which can be found on Wikipedia in an article on sentence spacing. The upshot of this article is that single spacing is the current convention, but that double spacing is still used widely, even being taught in schools.

An interesting point to note is that in typesetting and printing a single space has ALWAYS been in use and that double spacing was introduced for typewriters.

Other sites suggest, nay insist, that one space is correct such as 'Grammar Girl'. The Chicago Manual of Style also states that one space should be used.

If you've already tapped the spacebar twice in your 250,000 word novel, do not worry for help is at hand with a simple tip using the find/replace function in your word processing software.

Which is correct? I'm leaning towards single, but habit forces me to use double. What is your opinion?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time To Get The WIP Out

W.I.P Progress
Monday 22nd August 2011
PI Willoughby reporting...

It was an ordinary day in Britain, despite the unusual golden disc that hung in the sky, moving slowly from one horizon to the next. Some said it was a UFO, others that it was the sun. Having not seen the sun for many years I was inclined to believe the UFO stories.

Ignoring this apparition I took stock of my writing to date. Chapter 7 has been completed taking the word count to 40,000 and ends with the sentence, "I'm screwed." Chapter 8 is almost there, needing only a scene with the arch-villain a dastardly and evil person who goes by the name of Harold. This will add another 5,000 words give or take a few thousand.

I have also had inspiration for the wedding scene that takes place towards the end which will now involve a fist fight. There will also be a love scene with Harold and his robot. Unless I have a better idea...which shouldn't be difficult.

Tonight, the writer's group will meet again to discuss our ongoing project to set up a publishing cupboard. We now have some banner and logo ideas to discuss as well as the first part of one of our featured novels to read. If we have time, there will also be some writing exercises. Those that don't take part will be executed.

Addendum: 12:18pm B.S.T.

The disc has now been hidden by some typically British clouds, the ones that hate to see anyone boast about their brightness. They have quietly covered this unusual occurence and will no doubt send the population scuttling indoors by the application of their water cannons.

I am inside and safe and ready for my next case.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Bits

It's P.O.E.T.S day: Push Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday.

As usual there is a helping of odd and fun stuff from BBC's Oddbox. This week including a swiss festival of amphibious cars, a moo-ing contest from the USA and a game of Farmer's Golf.

Newsbiscuit has kept me royally entertained with gems such as a community in shock when a child is told off being naughty; an academic rashly claiming that Jordan (Katie Price) doesn't write her own books; and sadness that Robin Hood has decided to resign.

In the blogshpere, my favourite entry of the week goes to the Vegetable Assassin for starting WW3 between the USA and Canada. Let the fireworks begin.

For writers there were some interesting posts, such as memorable first lines, and what it's like to live with a writer.

Of course dear old Auntie Beeb (BBC) has come up with the goods on pleasant and peculiar stories. Jersey Shore is being paid for its actors not to wear a fashion house's clothes, whilst a cow needed rescuing after it got it's head stuck in a ladder. Altogether now, SILLY COW!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Ever Changing Novel

What makes the modern novel different and, I would say, more interesting than 18th and 19th century novels? Dialogue.

I have just finished reading Gulliver's Travels and it took me a while to read. I have also read Robinson Crusoe in the past few months and the one thing they had in common was a feeling of drudgery.

Why? No dialogue.

A quick comparison of the above two novels and any modern novel will show the difference is speech is rendered. Whereas modern novels have speech marks to indicate words spoken, followed by the ubiquitous said/asked, older novels have far less speech recorded speech and Gulliver's Travels has none at all.

What it does have is references to speech and an account of what was said. It tells, not shows.

Modern literary fiction has much in common with this older style of writing in having very little dialogue and a number of those pieces of modern fiction could easily have been written in the 19th century. Maybe that's not a bad thing, but I can't help wonder if it points to a staleness in literary fiction and it only survives because of 'the empror's new clothes' syndrome.

The point of this post is that the modren novel is heavy on dialogue and lighter on description than at anytime before. It may be that our generation has seen so much more of the world than our ancestors and we need less help to see the world the author is creating. Or it could be that we seek excitement in our lives, a continuation of the hectic pace at which life goes on around us. I don't know.

All I can say is that the key to the modern novel is in it's dialogue. To become successful and proficient in our writing, we shouldn't ignore the other skills that form part of our writing knowledge, but we will need to work on our dialogue more closely than the others.

Monday, August 15, 2011


It's Monday, so it must be a WIP update.

I've finished chapter 6 and have got the book up to 32,000 words. Two of the main characters have been 'making out' in the midst of a firefight and the Dagon ship has nearly fallen apart when the rust holding it together starts coming away whenever they fire their main weapon.

The main theme of this book, or so it seems to me, is the three people wanting to make a family despite all the opposition and problems. There are also some role reversals going on. The woman is the action hero, the man is the emotional one and the daughter is the logical thinker. If you want an analgoy, think Kirk, McCoy and Spock.

I've also allowed some minor characters to have their own voice (aren't I generous). The ship's captain, commander McLintock, is giving orders when they are attacked by the Dagon vessel, but no one is sure if they should fire on it in case the rust falls off and it disintigrates in a shower of dust.

I won't spoil it by telling you how the battle ends, but eveyone survives...more or less.

Chapter 6 ends with the line, "Got a bucket of water?"

In other news, the ebook venture is panning out nicely as one of our number is working on a logo and a banner for the website. She has already come up with a couple of designs as a starting point.

One thing we have to keep in mind when doing this is that the logo has to be recognisable and easy to print, both in colour and black and white. It's early days.

Enjoy your week. I'm going to try and work out how to separate the lovers. They've loosened so much clothing that one gust of wind will strip them naked, the thought of which gives their teenage daughter the creeps.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday...And It's A Riot

You may have heard on the news that in the last few days we've a spot of bother in Britain. It's true. Despite this our gallow's humour is alive and well.

On newsbiscuit there have been plenty of joke headlines submitted:

- Bristol riots cause £16m worth of improvements
- Boris Johnson brings peace to London through medium of dance
- E-Looters target Amazon website by throwing bricks at own screens
- Police call in ex-NOTW journalists to hack rioters Blackberries
- Police allowed to shoot sociologists on sight.

There have also been a number of joke stories doing the rounds such as Looters apologise to locals for causing two days of visits by politicians. You can read some of the ones that didn't make it to the front page in the writer's room.

There was also an organised 'anti-riot' that encouraged people to stay in at night and at 8.30 make themselves a cup of tea. I don't need any encouragment to drink tea, so I was very happy to join in. You too can join the anti-riot as it's going to be on for a while yet.

Friends on the now ubiquitous facebook have joined in the humour with some 'comments' from Harry Redknapp, manager of Tottenham Hotspur.

- Harry Redknapp due to sign a new striker from Italy: Robatelli
- Harry Redknapp is disgusted at the riots in Tottenham. "All this looting and robbing and yet nobody has taken Robbie Keane"

But my favourite has to be this picture that shows the rioters and looters going too far.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Keep Your Ideas

When you have an idea that you can't make work on at the moment, what do you do with it? You should ALWAYS keep it.

Every writer has ideas that they can't use in their current work, but they all keep them for future use. Not because they could make a novel or even a short story out of them, but they can be springboards for other ideas.

Can't use that scene from a possible crime novel? Can you use the character in another story? Can some of the phrasing be used elsewhere? Is there anything in it that can give you an idea for something else?

The other advantage of keeping old ideas is that they can help you finish off a current piece by providing the link that you need, in much the same way as reading a novel can help you with a problem you're struggling with.

I have a folder of ideas next to my desk and some old fragments stored away on a file on my PC. They will not be thrown away. One day they could provide the answer to a question.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A Writing Update

The novel is now past 20K words edited/revised and it's looking good. It's even making me laugh. I have, however, left in a sad moment for one of the characters as it seemed to fit the story at that point.

So chapter 4 is almost done with one character fighting off four marines and breaking limbs, whilst Alan befriends a marine in the only way men know how: rolling their eyes at the antics of a woman and her pet robot. I have also introduced the secondary villain who is everything a pantomime villain should be: flouncing around with a cape and a snarl, thinking the universe revolves around her.

Mae is fascinated by her parents and is having problems fitting in with sentient beings as she has been raised by robots. She still talks too much and is far too honest, so don't ask her if your bum looks big that outfit.

The eBook venture has moved several steps forward as we now have four novels being prepared for the launch and a better idea of what will go on the website. One of our number is a talented artist and will design our logo and website banner, whilst another will take care of the facebook and twitter accounts.

One feature of the website I'm looking forward to is the 'flash fiction' page. Every fortnight we will publish some fiction based on the group's writing exercises, so there will always be something new to read. When we get into the flow of this venture, we may publish it every week.

That's where we are now. See you on Wednesday.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Another Week, Another Friday

To round off the week here are few things that have happenend.

Firstly, there's the BBC oddbox. 10 strange things from around the world including painted gorillas in Bristol and a nightmare walk around the CN Tower in Canada.

How do you make a nuclear reactor? Apparently you can do it in a kitchen, or at least you can in Sweden. A definite case of 'don't try this at home'. I'm surprised the news agencies haven't picked up on this one as the possibility for vegetable based headlines is enormous.

My children have gone to Germany for two weeks which means I get to have quiet evenings without the mental buzz of a hyperactive teenager around. Bliss.

Did you know that one in five of people who have smartphones use them whilst they are on the toilet? Nope, neither did I. The two obvious questions are 'why' and 'what are you doing with them'. I suppose it's no worse than reading the newspaper on the toilet as my grandfather did.

Finally, what books are you reading at the moment? My list is...
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
Berlin, Anthony Beevor
Time Out of Joint, Phillip K Dick
Heartless, Gail Carriger
Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Words And Phrases And Their Origins

Four words/phrases and their origins

1 - Derby. In sporting terms when two local teams play against each other it's known as a derby. Why? The original football match was a violent affair, dating from medieval times, originally played between the parishes of Ashbourne, near Derby, on Shrove Tuesday every year...and yes, they still play it with the same rules. The term 'Local Derby' was soon attached to the game and it is now used for any occasion when local teams meet in a sporting contest.

2 - Keep Your Nose Clean. You probably won't be surprised that the term originated in relation to children with runny noses. It was first recorded in the USA in 1887 and was then applied to the adult world, with the meaning of keeping yourself smart and, by extension, not getting involved in crime.

3 - Break A Leg. This one comes from the Elizabethan stage and refers to the bowing at the end of the performance where they had a line of legs. If you broke that line of legs, it was to pick up money or flowers and it meant that the audience appreciated your performance.

4 - Bloke. The word is Romany in origin and in Britain is a term used for man. Americans have used it for 200 years to mean 'stupid idiot'. Another example of two countries separated by a common language.

If there are any phrases or word usages you would like to know about, ask in the comments section. I can't guarantee to answer them all, but I will try.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Stitch In Time

As of this week, every Monday will be a WIP introduction and update, so without further ado, and acknowledging that it's now Tuesday (slaps wrist), here we go.


'A Stitch In Time' is a comedy SF novel set 400 years in the future, give or take a decade or so. If you want to be precise it's 2381. it focuses around three main characters, each with their own reasons to dislike Harold Kennedy.

Carla Neill, 39 years old, chubby, strong-willed and with more attitude than a room full of maiden aunts was exiled from Earth for giving birth outside of marriage 19 years ago...and she wants revenge on Harold. Preferably one that includes a blunt knife, no anaesthetic and a vasectomy.

Alan Radford is on another journey into the future and is now fed up with the whole shebang. A mild mannered man who wants nothing more than a quiet life surrounded by his books and a room full of creme eggs, he's about to come face to face with one of his biggest challenges. Finding someone who can make a good cup of tea.

Mae Clarke is their daughter. Born six mothns ago, she is, physically, 19 years old, has the knowledge of a 90 year old and the commonsense and social ability of a 5 year old. Filled with a desire to live happily ever after with parents who have never met and accompanied by a pet robot who has even less sense than she does, Mae is sent aboard the Dravid to fulfill her destiny. If only she knew what it was.

So far I have written or re-written 18,000 words and am on chapter 3. I'll give you more details next Monday.


In other writing news, the eBook venture is proceeding apace. We have two novels out for consideration and we're working on short stories for a collection to be launched at the same time.

The website is being built, the twitter account will soon follow as will the facebook page. We're still limiting ourselves to the Kindle at the moment, but we shall expand to other eReaders, probably next year.

The biggest problem we have with other readers is the lack of opportunity to publish on them. Whereas Amazon make it easy to upload books, sell and earn income from them, other ereaders are more difficult, at least in the UK. Having said that, using the Kindle is a good way for us to test the water and learn from our mistakes.

See you on Wednesday.