I’m still here

Still here, still writing, I just have nothing in shape for publication yet.

My modus operandi seems to be to want to work on everything at once, so I have multiple manuscripts (not just Dark Cities and Dark World) in progress at the same time. I have this insane idea that one day several years from now I’ll just publish eight books all at the same time.

That’d be nice, but I need to follow the dictum ascribed (as so many things are without substantiation) to Churchill that a book is never finished, it just gets published.

For anyone who’s still tracking these pages and is interested in seeing the Dark Futures triplet of stories through to the end, please hang in there. Most of the second book is written and the third is plotted out and partly written.

I promise to publish before one or other of us is gone.

Into the future

Well that was a longer interval between posts than I originally planned on.

It’s been quite a busy year with a whole set of family challenges as well as an extended trip back to the UK, never mind this whole writing lark, but I was a little stunned to check in on the site today and realize how long it’s been since I posted anything.

But enough of the posting about not posting. Another new beginning. Life is full of fresh starts. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, etc. A few quick updates on story progress and then back to the coalface.

Dark Cities has gone through several revisions as I have reworked the plot to accommodate the story arc of Dark World, the third and final book in the series. Along with Life In General this has delayed my publishing schedule but I feel on track to get it to my editor Karen early enough to hit a December publication time frame.

It’s been a curious journey through Dark Cities as I felt after finishing the first story that the characters and plot were more or less writing themselves for the second one. This carried me only so far until I realized that no, they weren’t writing themselves, they were in fact running away with the story. I’d chased them down some blind alleys, some dark streets. Lack of discipline, always my enemy, had let me think I was making progress when I was really treading water.

If there’s any saving grace to the lost time, it’s that I now have the complete story arc plotted out through to the end of the third book, and it’s one that has a much broader sweep than I originally intended.

The timing means that I’ve shelved the rewrite of Shadow Paths, my children’s story, for the time being. I’m still pecking away at the collection of short horror fiction that’s going to be released as Tales from The Edge of The World, and I may be able to have that in shape to publish early next year.

Life, meanwhile, has been full of incident and I’ll be bashing out some of the choicer moments here, along with some thoughts and observations from my recent trip back to the UK.

While in London I revisited some of the locations in Dark Streets, including Nick and Allie’s flat, the Shard, and Camden Lock. As I post more about the trip I’ll add photos and some reflections on what’s happening to the psychogeography of the city.  As always, London is simultaneously standing still and running full tilt into the future.

Good intentions and real life

It’s been a while since I posted but since I set myself a self-imposed deadline for publication of Dark Cities that I’m not going to meet, I thought I’d better get on the stick and at least get a status update out on the website.

My plans have changed a couple of times over the months since the publication of Dark Streets. My original intent was to rewrite my children’s story, Shadow Paths, and publish that next but I shelved that plan in favour of completing all three books in the Dark Futures story arc.

On the crest of a wave of energy and optimism coming off the publication of Dark Streets I thought I could have Dark Cities done by December and that was the publication date I put on the inside back cover of the first volume.

That proved to be a bit rash.

At this point Dark Cities is about 2/3 complete. Progress is good, but I’m finding myself doing more rewrites and plot tweaks to make the story work the way it needs to, and those take time. The net result is that I’m going to overrun my schedule by a couple of months.

If you were looking forward to reading Dark Cities in December, my apologies for being behind and I’ll try to be better at setting realistic timetables in future. I’m not going to set a new formal delivery date at this point, since I’m an indie publisher and the actual timing depends not only on my own writing schedule, but the availability of my editor, Karen, and graphic designer, Mary.

The good news is that if you enjoyed the characters and milieu of Dark Streets, there’s going to be a second helping available early in the New Year.

And with that, I’d better get back to the future.

The Terror! The Terror!

The Terror by Dan Simmons

The Terror is a story with a compelling idea at its heart – that the explorers are in a world for which they are poorly equipped and unprepared not just at a physical level, but at some deep philosophical or spiritual level. They are out of their element in so many ways.

The problem for me in reading it is that it took far too long to tell that story. It felt like it should have been a concise, tightly written suspense novel with a message bigger than the typical story of that genre. What it felt like instead was a sprawling, overly-detailed and often tedious account of what it’s like to live in one of the remotest places on earth.

There is so much repeat detail in there that it started to bore me – how many times do we need to be told of the crashing sounds of the ice ridges moving around, or that it’s a bit chilly outside and metal will freeze to your skin if you touch it? Details like this are important in a story, but there’s a point where the same thing repeated just becomes annoying.

About a hundred pages in I started skimming the book, jumping over the repetitive sections and the filler, trying to get to the interesting parts. There are striking visual images in this story, and some very well described set pieces that are well worth the read. For each one of those, however, there is a boring description of someone walking around, or a tedious digression.

Maybe it’s just that this wasn’t the story I wanted it to be. Maybe it’s perfectly fine and I came at it from the wrong direction, but I don’t think so. The early chapters and the late chapters I read in full. They were interesting and engaging and felt like they were going somewhere. The midsection – the bulk of the book – felt like it could have been comfortably cut by more than half and been a much better tale. It was too flabby by half, and some assertive editing could have made this a truly gripping read.

I was pre-disposed to like this story. I’ve read a fair bit about the expedition, and I like maritime themes and horror stories. As it is, I’m left feeling that the journey is just about worth it, but only if you shut your eyes now and then and doze through the boring bits. I hate to say this, but I think I’d enjoy this more as a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book. A trimmer, tighter narrative and this could have been a classic of the genre.

Dark Streets out in paperback

Just a quick post to note that Dark Streets is now available in paperback. It can be ordered on the UK Amazon site, and it’s up on the US Amazon site, but oddly not available to order just yet. I think it takes a day or two to roll through the various steps, so should be available in the US any day now.

In the meantime, here’s the rather splendid wrap around cover that Mary Musker did for the paperback edition.

UPDATE: Now available on Amazon.com at this link.

Dark Streets cover design and photograph © Mary Musker 2014.

Dark Streets cover design and photograph © Mary Musker 2014.

A slight change of plans

Now that Dark Streets is available for the Kindle on Amazon, I’m moving ahead with making a print version available through CreateSpace (probably ready by this weekend), and I’m looking into an audio version.

My original plan from there was to publish my children’s fantasy story, Shadow Paths, and then move on before the end of the year to a collection of short horror stories that I’ve been working on.

The trouble is, I’ve had so much fun with the world of Dark Streets that I’m not ready to let it go for that length of time. Funny how that goes. For a while there, I was long past ready to be finished with it. It had been a long gestation from a collected series of short stories set in a Dark Futures world to a coherent novel-length narrative. Now that it’s published it doesn’t feel like it was that long of a stay at all.

The plan now is to publish Shadow Paths in September – I’ll be getting the latest draft out to beta readers about mid-July – and Dark Cities, the second Dark Futures story, in December. The short story collection – Tales From The Edge Of The World – will now be out in March.

Anyone who’s been following this blog will appreciate just how rash a statement that is, given my track record with Dark Streets. The difference this time around is that I now know what it takes to finish a story of that kind, and I know how to structure it. This, of course, doesn’t mean that I won’t be wildly wrong. I’ve done project management as a day job, and anyone who’s been down that road knows how your best laid plans can go adrift. On the other hand, I ought to know a thing or two about scheduling work, right?


Let’s see where we are in September…

Yes. Considerably.

Dark Streets is now available on Amazon for the Kindle.

It can be found here in the US, and here in the UK.

That seemed so easy to type, but the effort behind me being able to type it is about a year of work from me and many other people who supported me.

Everyone mentioned here is also a friend or family member, but I’d like to acknowledge them in their roles with respect to this story.

A huge thank you to Karen Barrett-Wilt, my editor, for her perseverance and advice. She had plenty of reasons to give up on this project over the last year but she never did. There is probably a lot of good advice she gave me that I didn’t take but should have, and so any mistakes that remain in the story are mine alone.

Enormous thanks also to my graphic designer Mary Musker for her vision for the cover, and her patience with my back and forth on things I know next to nothing about with respect to design (everything, basically).

Thank you to my principal beta readers: my brother Ean, John Telfer, Chris Alban and Greg Barret-Wilt. Your wide range of reading and critical commentary was invaluable. Your ability to give me crap over a few beers was even more important. John and Ean, we’ll have the beers part of that next time I’m over.

And thank you to my girls – Beth, Olivia, and Charlotte, and even Large Marge – for the time you gave to this story, the time that I was away living in my head and writing this down; thank you.

Dark Streets will be out on CreateSpace for paperback print on demand shortly.

And so on to the next journey.

Shadow Paths, a Celtic fantasy story about a young girl’s journey through darkness into light, was something I wrote years ago and will be rewriting for publication at the end of the summer. After that, it’s a seasonal collection of short horror stories, titled Tales from the Edge of the World, also mostly written, but needing some attention.

Plenty to get on with there, but having finished one novel, I feel very ready to get to the next.  To borrow from the opening scene of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig as Bond:

“…you needn’t worry. The second is…”

“Yes. Considerably.”

Centigrade 232

I just watched the Thursday Colbert Report and find myself thinking that Stephen Colbert is completely missing the point.

With regard to the Amazon/Hachette dispute he references a first time author and how the lack of anyone being able to pre-order her book on Amazon is the kiss of death for a new title.

Well, yes, if you go through traditional publishing. Sadly, that publishing approach has failed to keep up with the times.

Case in point: I just published my first novel length story on Amazon. Dark Streets will be available tomorrow, once it completes the Amazon review process.

Unlike authors published through Hachette, or in fact any other traditional publisher, 70% of any sales are mine (as opposed to 10-15% through traditional publishing), I retain the rights in perpetuity as well as total creative control, I publish whenever I’m ready, and my story is available for as long as I want to make it so.

What Hachette and other publishers aren’t saying is that they missed the boat and let someone else control not only the means of distribution for books, but also provide a direct line from the writer to the reader.

How many of us remember the name of the publisher of the last book we read? If you’d asked me in the 70’s I’d have said Penguin, or New English Library. Back then those were the only publishers who made available the books I wanted to read. Now, I don’t have a bloody clue. Most of what I read comes to me not from a traditional publisher, but the actual writer. That’s a pretty tough value stream to replace*.

Publishing is changing *very* fast and we’re going to hear a lot of sturm und drang from traditional publishers. After that, unless they change, we’re going to hear nothing.


* I do have some thoughts on this – my day job is helping companies with process improvement and identifying value streams – and I’ll post those on another day.


A thousand steps

A short post  to mark the completion of Dark Streets. It’s been a long journey down those streets, and the characters have taken me down some twisting paths as well as a few blind alleys, but here it is: journey’s end.

Well, sort of. When I say ‘completion’, I mean that I have a complete manuscript.

Now for the next phase: a flurry of rewrites, blind readings, edits and tweaks.

I think as manuscripts go it’s in reasonable shape. This is my second complete novel length story, although my first to be readied for publication, and I learned a few things from the first one that helped me to make this a better story. I’ve already put a good chunk of the book through rewrites – it began as a series of short stories, so about half of the text has been reworked several times already.

On top of that my editor, Karen, has already worked through more than half of the story with me so we’re off to a running start for the next phase.

It’s a strange thing to be standing here, though, with all the plot lines completed and the story arc at an end. I thought I knew these characters before I set out, but they’ve shown me a few things that I didn’t know about them, and about London, a city I like to think that I know better than anywhere else on the planet.

Well then, here it is. One journey ends, another begins.

One thing at a time

When I started this blog almost a year ago my main intention was to put more of my energy into writing. Well, mission accomplished – to a degree. I’ve certainly done that, just not on the blog. Why is that?

The simple answer is that of the time that I’ve been able to make available to write, most of it has gone into writing stories. As of today I find myself mercifully within reach of completing Dark Streets – a story that has grown in the writing – and with several other stories in progress that will require much less effort to finish.

The main thing I’ve learned in the last year is that I’m not good at estimating time for this kind of project. I find it hard to believe that it’s coming up on a year since I began this venture, but there it is.

I’ve mentioned before that Dark Streets began as a series of connected short stories and evolved into a full length narrative. I think that evolution is partially responsible for this story taking more time to complete. I’ve had to think more deeply about structure and plot elements than I would have had to if they had stayed short stories.

Whatever the cause, the path is clear now, and there are a handful of chapters left to complete the story. I’ve revised the publication date several times since last November, but I now feel confident that I’m going to get across the finish line in time to publish at the end of March, more or less the anniversary of starting this journey.

After that, it’s on to the next story – Shadow Paths but one thing at a time, one thing at a time…