Looking Back At 2017

This last year has been a tough one. As a family we’ve had a lot of crap thrown our way this year. We’ve lost loved ones, and had issues of health pepper us amongst other difficulties life has a habit of throwing in our paths.

It has been a hard year, it’s not been harder than anyone else’s year. It’s been what it is. We’ve taken each day as it comes and in my opinion that is the best way to take life at times.

These things I won’t go into detail on. They are things that affect my family as well as myself and I don’t think it’s my place to talk in-depth about these events on my public blog.

One moment this year that hit me harder than I thought something of its nature could was the death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Although now I am really out of date with most music, I was a huge fan of Linkin Park when they first hit the scene. Their first two albums are two of my favourite albums ever, I didn’t even listen to that type of music until they came along. It’s music that speaks to me, but I didn’t realise how important it is to me until Bennington’s death this year. I mourned his death in a way that I haven’t for other public figures. I read a lot of Tom Clancy when I was in my late teens. I was a huge fan of Alan Rickman as well, and although it saddened me when they died it wasn’t like when Chester Bennington died. I immediately binge listened to the Linkin Park albums I had, and blitz their YouTube channel. It was only a month or so ago that I’ve stopped getting a lump in my throat when I hear his vocals. I realised a few weeks after his death that I felt like this because it was the first death of one of my icons. Someone who not only did I look up to and admire, but someone who spoke to me. I didn’t know the death of someone I didn’t know would hit me as hard as Chester Bennington’s death did.

I’ve had highs and lows with writing this year. A few projects I put a lot of time into have crashed and burned pretty badly. In particular I was quite demoralised by a zombie story I thought was going to be something good but it just didn’t pan out how I was expecting it too and it kind of gave me a bit of a confidence hit. I had done a lot of outlining for it, characters had been thought out and developed, but it just didn’t go right. I tried to rewrite it for NaNo, and it’s not bad. I’m happier with it now than I was initially but it’s not how I was expecting it to go. I think I can roll with how it’s changing, I just need to do some re-thinking on it.

Something I have learned is that it doesn’t matter whether I write with a pen and paper or straight into a word processor the words are the same. I wrote a first draft of a story I’ve got a lot of hope for by hand but was writing something else at the same time digitally and realised quickly that it didn’t matter how I wrote something, if I was in the mood to write it all came out the same. With this story in particular I’ve got to change a lot for the second draft. Like the zombie story I mentioned it came out different to how I envisioned it. The biggest problem is I’ve written it from only one point of view, and to tell the story I want to I need to do it from multiple POVs. I don’t think it’ll be difficult, but I want to let it sit for another month or two before I return to it. I’d like to get some more planning done for it as well.

The work with Owen is a little up in the air at the moment but I’m expecting to find out what’s happening early in the new year.

The highest points of this year for me have been getting two stories published. Both through charity anthologies from Burdizzo Books. The first one, The Final Charge was in Sparks: An Electric Anthology in October. The second was my take on The Three French Hens in this years 12 Days of Christmas 2017 Anthology. I am incredibly proud of both of these stories. They were a lot of fun to write and knowing the proceeds from both books go to good causes makes it feel even better than it does. The folks at Burdizzo Books are fantastic people as well, along with the group of writers they have around them.

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It’s great to finally have my writing in print and has really fired me up and shown me that it’s not impossible. There is nothing stopping me except myself.

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The last item I really want to talk about are a few of the people I’ve met this year. I attended a book launch for Sparks up in Walsall and met the head honcho and editor Matthew Cash as well as a couple of the other contributors. We later had another launch in my home town as Burdizzo Books’ other editor, Em Dehaney, is from Gravesend as well. Both launch parties were fantastic, I did a reading at both, although with the Gravesend one I was hit with a severe cold a few hours before and was incredibly unwell. I thought I was going to pass out during my reading, but it was still an amazing experience.

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Myself with Pippa Bailey, Matthew Cash, and David Court.

I also went to a few cons this year. Unfortunately DemonCon down in Maidstone has now come to an end. I was pleased to be at the last one in February, but will miss it. It’s the con were I first me Dan Abnett and his wife Nik, who are lovely people. I went to Birmingham Horror Con around that time as well, that was incredibly fun and I got to see my friends Cat and Lynx Raven again as well as Dave from From The Shadows. I also went to EGX with my buddy Stefan from Stefan’s Daily Gaming. Although I’m not a huge gamer this was a lot of fun as well. It was good seeing some great games and a lot of people who were in their element. Bristol Horror Con was my favourite of the year though. Not only did I see CL Raven and Dave (From The Shadows) again but I also went to a couple of panels. I spent a little time talking to Adam Millard and his wife in the VIP room. Seriously lovely people who were very encouraging of my own work and just fun to talk to. I also got the chance to speak to Tim Lebbon as well. Again, another awesome and encouraging person. I just hope the more of these I go to the more at ease I get speaking to all these fantastic people.

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With Lynx and Cat Raven at Bristol Horror Con

The horror community is really welcoming and seems to have a lot of heart to it. It’s definitely a place I feel at home it.

One night in particular that was both fun and tiring was an all-night ghosts hunt I went on with Boleyn Paranormal down at a True Crime Museum in Hastings. It was a lot of fun, very interesting and I met more awesome people, but I’m not doing another all-nighter. I was shattered for a few days after that. Cat and Lynx Raven were there as well, and they popped back to my home to meet my animal army before they returned to Cardiff. En Route to my house we stopped at the site of the Battle of Hastings. Although not far from my home I can’t recall ever going there and it was quite a surreal experience that I’m glad we took the time to do.

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Lynx and Cat saying hello to two of our hens

A massive highlight of the year for me was meeting Scott Sigler and AB Kovacs. I’ve been a fan of Sigler’s work for a decade now and when he announced he was coming to Europe, including the UK, it would have taken the zombie apocalypse to have stopped me from getting there. It was a great evening in a pub in London just hanging out with Scott, A and other fans of Sigler’s work (AKA the Junkies). It was good chatting to them both and seeing the love they have for the fans of the work. Both Scott and A have a lot of charisma and energy and clearly love what they do, and it was one of the highlights of the year.

2017 has had a lot of downs, but its had a lot of ups as well. That’s what I’m focusing on, I’m not ignoring the low points, just choosing to look at the positives. Most importantly I appreciate those important people I have in my life. My friends and family mean the world to me and I’m very grateful having them all.

Roll on 2018…

 

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21-5-17

I’ve managed to get this edit pass on The Space Watch done and dusted. I’m now waiting on Owen as he wanted to re-write the ending. I’ve also got a list of details we need to clarify and we’re going to have to do a huge continuity check as well.

I didn’t do any outlining today though, now I’ve cleared this up on The Space Watch I can get stuck into that.

I did receive my copy of Dark Cities from Titan Books and edited by Christopher Golden. I primarily brought this because it’s got a Scott Sigler story in it, but when I saw the rest of the line-up it’ll be a no-brainier to buy whether Sigler is in it or not. Speaking or which, here’s the line-up: Nathan Ballingrud, Amber Benson, Kealan Patrick Burke, Ramsey Campbell, M.R. Carey, Nick Cutter, Tananarive Due, Christopher Golden, Simon R. Green, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kasey Lansdale & Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, Jonathan Maberry, Helen Marshall, Seanan McGuire, Cherie Priest, Scott Sigler, Scott Smith, and Paul Tremblay. Now that’s a damn impressive line-up and I’m looking forward to diving into it. Although I’m not sure where on my ‘to-read’ stick it’s going to slip into!

Right, I’m off to read for a while, but I’m back at it tomorrow, I want to get this outline done. 

Perspective 

Since last weekend I’ve been watching Hells Kitchen on Netflix. There’s three series on there and I’ve got to admit, I wish there was more. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this show. I think I probably watched the first three, maybe four seasons of the show before drifting away from it, as I do, and as I was watching it last night while I was doing a little editing I realised that to the people aiming to win, Gordon Ramsey is what Dan Abnett and Scott Sigler are to me.

When I used to watch the show it used to amaze me how often they screwed up something they’d claimed to have done countless times before. This time round though, I can Appreciate the pressures they’re under. I’m not going to say I understand it, because I’m not there trying to reach these goals, but I feel I can see how much pressure they have in those kitchens. As I was walking to work this morning I realised that for the contenders working with Gordon Ramsey is a dream come true, and would I be any different if I was working with someone like Dan Abnett or Scott Sigler? I’ve been lucky enough to have met both of my writing idols, and I wasn’t quite a gibbering wreck when I met Dan Abnett but I don’t think I was far off. I would probably have been the same with Scott Sigler but we were in a pub, his business partner A Kovacs was there, along with twenty to thirty other Junkies (that’s what us Sigler fans call ourselves).  And what would I be like if either Abnett or Sigler asked me to work with them on a story! I think I’d be a gibbering mess till it had sunk in, and then I’d be second guessing myself half the time.

If I’m honest I’m not expecting that to happen, but if I am not writing and trying to get my work out in the word then I stand no chance at all. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

Good Morning, Sunday

This is going to be a bit of a bulky post as I just sum up what’s been going on in the last few weeks.

It’s been a slow couple of weeks with writing, I’ve literally written no new words for pushing a month now. In that time though I have been  working on an outline in much more detail than I have done in the past, and I’ve been working on getting last years FanFic piece read through. With the FanFic piece it’s a little complicated as I have to figure out what I’m going to need to connect the various pieces together, as well as figuring out what I’m going to re-write to make it all into a coherent story.

I have got my vampire collection all sorted out though. This is one of the files that I’d done beta note adjustments on, but I’d lost the file and have had to do them all over again. As I was doing the changes I couldn’t help but think it might just be an idea to rewrite the whole thing as (I’d like to think) I’m a better writer now. Aside from the time it’ll take for me to rewrite another story I’ve written (50k plus words), I’d also loose some of the subtext that is in those stories. I listen to Armand Rosamilla’s podcasts (Armcast and The Mando Method) and he has said that he has thought about rewriting some of his older work, but he isn’t now who he was then, and they’d loose something if he rewrote them. I can’t help but agree. I also don’t want to be that writer that keeps working on the same things and never moves forward. I do suffer a little of that but I’m trying to pull away from it. Now that I’ve got this done, and ready to go off to other beta readers, I’m feeling like I am moving forward.

We’re also moving forward on The Space Watch. Owen is working his way through, putting his stamp on it and I’m looking forward to sitting down with him to go through it in detail and see what he thinks needs working on.

I did have a massive highlight last Saturday (18th March) and that was meeting Scott Sigler. Scott is one of my writing idols and he’s having a small European tour and as soon as I heard him announce the two London dates I immediately booked the 18th off so I could go and hang out with a writer who I’ve been following since 2007. I also got to meet his business partner, AB Kovacs. Both Scott and A are really fantastic people. They are both very engaging, passionate, hard working, and genuine. They’ve also got a great deal of appreciation for the fans, we call ourselves Junkies, and that was very clear to see on Saturday. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best moments of my life, and has opened my eyes a little to how much of a rut I’m in. Both with writing and life in general. I am taking steps to change that, but I am quite an introvert and it’s not easy for me to step out of my comfort zone.

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Scott Sigler and myself
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AB Kovacs

Back to Saturday night though; in addition to meeting Scott and A, I got to hang out with a good twenty to thirty other Junkies who were an awesome group of people and were all so passionate about Sigler’s work. I also got to meet comedian, illusionist,  and writer John Lenahan. John was podcasting back when Scott started off, and is such a cool dude. What made him even cooler was that he did the voice of Talkie Toaster from the TV series Red Dwarf!

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John Lenahan

Elsewhere, I’ve been getting back into the cinema. I’m a huge movie fan and it’s getting to the time of year when the movies I want to see are coming out. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been to see Lego Batman, Logan, Kong:Skull Island, and Beauty and the Beast. Lego Batman was a lot of fun, silly and over the top, which is what I was expecting. Logan was just brilliant! Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine with such commitment, understanding and passion over the years it’s going to be a shame not seeing him playing the character again. Kong was surprising good. Action right from the start and never did it feel like it was slowing down. It just kept its pace, and the action didn’t disappoint. It’s also the first time I’ve really seen Brie Larson in anything. She’s been cast as Carol Danvers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I was really impressed with how she was on screen. Beauty and the Beast is probably one of my favourite Disney movies. I saw the animated version a couple of times at the cinema when it first came out, and it’s always resonated with me. The live action version was good, but I think it doesn’t quite match up to the original. This is one of those times where I’ve realised this film was going to find it hard to impress me because of my love for the original, that said there was a lot I liked about the live action remake and I will definitely be buying it on Blu-Ray when it does come out.

TV wise, I watched The Expanse, and really dug it. It was a little bit of a slow start but once I’d gotten to about episode three I was locked-in. I’m looking forward to seeing the next series. It’s also reminded me I’ve got to get through the rest of the books in the series. I’m now getting stuck into Iron Fist, and am really enjoying it. It’s just taken a turn I wasn’t expecting. I could quite easily go and binge the last four or five episodes but I’d like to get some work down today.

Reading wise, I’ve not got Terror Byte by J.R. Park finished yet. I’m enjoying the story but I’ve let myself get distracted by movies, TV and comics in the last couple of weeks. I’m going to aim to get back to reading before bed each night, again and will hopefully have it finished by this time next week. Speaking of comics, I’ve just finished House of M, and really loved it. I’ve been curious as to what led up to Scarlett Witch’s ‘No More Mutants’ moment and I brought House of M simply because the cover looked cool and I was intrigued by the title. So seeing Scarlett Witch’s ‘No More Mutants’ moment was an added bonus. I’ve now moved onto Secret Invasion. I also listened to Alone by Scott Sigler. This is the third book of his Generations Trilogy and really ended the series well. The audiobook was narrated by AB Kovacs and she smashed it! A really impressive performance, and very easy to listen to.

Well, that’s about it. Sorry for the chunky post, it’s not often I break five hundred words, let alone a thousand! I am trying to focus my attention and energy better. I’m not being overly successful with it, but I’m trying. Hopefully I’ll have a productive week.

Update 15-2-15

I’ve had a week where I’ve been fighting a cold and it’s only been the last 24 hours or so that I’ve began to feel a little more like myself again.
I managed some writing this morning and was just getting into a rhythm when I got interrupted.
The rest of the day has seen me fighting a pretty aggressive headache that is only now abating.
So today feels like a bit of a dead loss to be honest. I was feeling good and motivated this morning but after about midday things jut seemed to descend and they never really picked back up again.
I was planning to do some ARC reading today, along with some work on Project Apollo and maybe a couple of blog posts too. If I was really on a role I would have done a little comic book reading too.

The only good things that I’m taking from today are what I wrote this morning, I think it’s pretty good, and I started reading Scott Sigler’s Pandemic. This is the first chunky book I’m diving into this year and I’m itching to get into it and see how Sigler wraps this trilogy up.

I know I’ve been really slack this month. I’m going to change that this week and work on upping my word counts for each day. I’ve not got a set target in mind but I’m going to try and do more words then the previous day

The Champion by Scott Sigler

I was going to give a quick summery of the start of this story but if I did that then it would be a spoiler for the previous book. This is book five of Scott Sigler’s Galactic Football League series and it follows the life of Quentin Barnes as he tries to lead the Ionaith Krakens to a Galactic Bowl title, and deal with his family, team mates, his coach, team owner, Gods and the various people who want to kill him.

It’s been two years since book four came out and I’ve got the limited edition hardback and I’ve been listening to the podcast as Sigler is, like pretty much all of his work, is giving it away for free but after this weeks episode I realised I couldn’t wait each week for the story to continue. So I used my Audible credit this month to download the audiobook (I would’ve started reading it but I’m reading The Waste Lands by Stephen King). In two days I blitzed through this audiobook, getting through till about 10pm on Wednesday night as there was no way I could wait till the next day at work to finish it off.

I’ve been consuming Sigler’s work since about 2007/2008 and most of his work takes place in the one universe and theres a part in this book early on that almost knocked me off my feet, you’ll know it if you know Sigler’s work. That is something that I admire, writers being able to tie this stories together in this way, and it’s something that I’d love to be able to do myself one day.

This book had me laughing, it had me crying, it had me on the edge of my seat and it had me cheering on the Krakens.

The ending left a lot up in the air, but it didn’t leave me feeling short changed, not by a long way. Scott Sigler has said this is a seven book series and those last two books are going to be epic!

 

(over the next few months I’m going to be getting the previous four novels in the Galactic Football League series on audio because they are stories which get richer with each listen and from a writing point of view they are a great way to look at world building and character development and building a long term story.)

My First Submission, and Rejection

On Saturday, after a bit of a kick up the arse by Scott Sigler, I submitted a story to an online magazine. This was the first time I had sent a story out, and it got rejected. I was expecting that if I’m honest but I’m relieved that I finally got a story sent out.

I did learn a few things from this.

Firstly, I screwed up the cover letter big time. I’ve got a rough idea of what to put in a cover letter, and after looking at another place to send a story to I’ve got a better idea of what needs to be included. I am going to have a little look around the web and see what is recommended to include. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice and more importantly I don’t want editors thinking I’m wasting their time because I’m not prepared.

The second thing I learnt was that it doesn’t hurt. Yeah getting a rejection sucks but that is all part of the process and its something that we, as writers, have to accept. I know there is a lot of people who submit to these markets and to stand out amongst so many people and get accepted is a long shot, but not an impossible one. I already know where I want to submit the story next time but I’m going to look at the magazine in question and see if it fits.

I do need to get my finger out and get some more words written and stories finished. Most of my shorter pieces that I have almost finished are mainly in a set of stories I’m working on, my Vampire stuff, and I don’t really want to break them up. I like the idea of either merging them into a single story or into a collection, kind of like a continuing series.

So that’s a bit of a milestone for me, first story sent out, and rejected. That’s not something bad against me or the story I wrote (Okay maybe the story sucked 😛 ). There is always the chance that the tone of the story wasn’t right. Or the genre wasn’t right or a dozen of other reasons.

What’s next? well I’m going to try and find another home for the story and I’m going to get another one of my pieces polished off and get that one sent out.

 

Oh, and get some more short fiction written.