Progress Report – May 2015

Most of this month has been taken up fixing the side project I was compelled to write a couple of months back. It’s still third person, which feels better now I’ve added some more scenes (it’s about half again as long, despite cutting some, and novella length).

I redid the final act to make more sense for the lead character. The action now makes sense (to me) as the logical way to resolve the problem. Partly influenced by personality traits that maybe aren’t fully explored here, but I think it works. Most of the rest didn’t need much work, just a few additional scenes to cover the secondary POV character, without them being superfluous.


I might try submitting it to, since they’re currently open for novellas. Their guidelines are slightly odd. They say 30,000 to 40,000 words is the range their looking for, but will consider stuff slightly shorter, although nothing under 17,500. Mine is 18,500, which I’d consider more than slightly shorter. Still, it does seem to be just within the acceptable limit, although I’d assume with reduced chance of being successful (and it’s not in the genre in which they’re most interested).

I’ve been waiting for their imprint to open for submissions again, though I was hoping they’d be accepting longer works. I have a short novel (the 49,000 word Song of Thunder) that’s been sitting around since the end of last year. Since I’d planned releasing the Tales of the Thief-City short stories on a monthly basis it was easier to hold it back and see. If they don’t open to longer submissions by the end of the year I’ll just go ahead and self-publish.


Next up I’ll get back to work on the larger piece I’m in the middle of. I still have the viewpoint chapters of two of the main characters from the second part to do. One was giving me some trouble getting a handle on it, but the break has helped add structure to it in my mind, so hopefully it’ll go smoother now. Then I’ll just have the third part to come up with, from only a few vague ideas.

Publishing wise, the final two parts of the Tales of the Thief-City series are out in the next couple of months. That’ll put my number of titles on Smashwords at 50. Then I should put out a collected edition at some point (the print one is ready to go), and think about getting some of my outstanding projects ready for publishing. At some point.

Duty to Vote

It’s election season here in the UK (thankfully shorter than in other countries, and unfortunately without any open season for hunting politicians [that might make the news time taken up more acceptable and entertaining]) and politicians have again managed to irritate me by spouting off nonsense.

[Rant Warning]

The particular comment in this case was by some politician whose name I don’t recall (and have no intention of learning – remembering who they are only encourages the bastards) who got incensed at people not voting, saying that if they didn’t vote they had no right to complain about what the winning government did thereafter.

I’m not sure whether he’s willfully ignoring the fact that many people probably don’t have the option of a politician who represents their viewpoint, or whether the political classes truly believe their system caters for all viewpoints.

I think my voting area has eight candidates (I’ve already voted by post). Considering how many people are in the area, how can they possibly think this is enough to cover all viewpoints. Yet if there were enough to cover all viewpoints we’d probably have a problem locating the one we wanted among the horde.

And even if by some chance there is one of them who accurately reflects my worldview, why would I ever think they’ll be able to promote that in parliament. To have any chance of effecting change it needs to be a party in power reflecting your viewpoint, so we generally vote by party rather than individual (I can’t even remember the name of the candidate I voted for).

Yet the primary concern of most parties always appears from the outside to be remaining in power, allegedly so they can effect the changes they want. How often do they manage to do things though, and how often do they fail, blaming their opponents for blocking them.

Why then should people be bothered to vote if they can’t vote for what they want? Simply for the right to complain when whoever does get into power does something we don’t like?

Where exactly is the loss of this right enshrined in law anyway? Because I’m sure a politician wouldn’t make such a claim unless it was accurate. Would he make that claim in parliament? Where they can lie regardless.

Are politicians truly so insulated from the real world that they’re unable to understand why people don’t vote? When the main view of them is in that unruly creche of parliament where their primary occupation seems to be shouting each other down. So much for any hope of reasoned mature debate when that’s considered acceptable behaviour for those governing the country.

And it only gets worse in election season, with all the vicious attacks on each other rather than giving a good idea of what they’re going to do. But since the system is opposed to them making changes anyway, how can they promise anything.

While I did vote by post, I’m not sure I could have been bothered if I had to travel somewhere to do so. Until there’s a party that’ll try to change the system to a proper direct democracy, I doubt there’ll be any politician who’ll represent my viewpoint, so I’m stuck choosing the least objectionable option, and changing nothing.

But at least I retain the right to complain about it.

Heart of the City

The tenth part of the Tales of the Thief-City is now available.


Heart of the City smallHeart of the City

A familiar mystery brings Rax closer to the secrets of Nexi than he’s ever been. But he’s not the only one on the trail, and his competition may follow him into the heart of the city itself.
Tenth in the Tales of the Thief-City series. A 6,000 word short story.





The Perfect Story

Story ideas always seem more ideal before I start actually writing them.

The story exists in a perfect, if somewhat vague, form, unbruised by my clumsy prose.

As I break it down, look closer, its imperfections become apparent. But they’re minor blemishes in what’s surely a work of art, easily covered up by the judicious application of words.

Then comes the long slog of the actual writing, and the fluctuating certainty that I’m carefully crafting a pile of poo.

I carry on writing regardless, because I can’t be sure how bad it is until I step back and look at the final form. But my mind is already wandering ahead, thinking of stories I’ve yet to write, so perfect, so much better than this drivel I’m wading through.

Wade through it I do though, trying to learn what I’ve done wrong. Lessons to be applied to my next, perfect, story.

Which of course it won’t be. But that doesn’t stop me trying to write the perfect story, even knowing it can never exist outside a dream. I just hope that every story takes me one step closer to that perfection.

All my stories are practice for the perfect story I’ll never write.


The Lady’s Kiss

The ninth story in the Tales of the Thief-City series, The Lady’s Kiss, is out today. It’ll be free for this month on Smashwords and associated retailers (but probably not on Amazon).

The Ladys Kiss smallThe Lady’s Kiss

Even knowing his client’s lying, Rax can’t resist the opportunity to deal with a long-standing mystery of the city.
Enchanted lovers, an evil sorcerer, and a mysterious woman who could be the death of them all. Will Rax’s obsession prove his undoing?
Ninth in the Tales of the Thief-City series. A 7,000 word short story.

Createspace Woes

This is a public service announcement for those thinking of skipping the printed proof in favour of the digital version when publishing through Createspace. The colours don’t always come out as the digital version displays them.

Putting together a print collection of the Tales of the Thief-City series of short stories, I decided to use the basic cover design with different colours.

This is the standard cover for the eBooks, with the individual title filling in the gap. The colours feel like they could be a bit garish in print, so I went for a black and red scheme.

skel cover small








This is the front cover (I did an image for the wraparound cover, but this is enough for the current example). The digital version looked just the same.

Intended cover small








This is a scan of the actual cover (slightly cropped by the scanner, and less crisp). It’s a bit more muted than the actual copy, but the red at the bottom is less sharp, and you can see a blurring where the background buildings are, whereas with the physical copy it took me a few moments to see the slightly less than black greyness of them in print.

printed cover small








On first glance they just looked like part of the blackness, so made it look like too wide a blank area. I’m not sure whether it makes a difference that I tried out the matte cover this time, but you’d at least expect it to show the colours chosen.

This is obviously particularly irritating in that I don’t want to have to order another proof copy just to check the next attempt. Apart from the fact it took a month for it to arrive (unless I pay significantly more for expedited international delivery), this could easily become a money sink.

Having finished proofing the book (the final changes to the series made, so now they’re just awaiting publication), I’ve redone the cover with the greys lightened a touch and ordered the two free copies I get for completing NaNoWriMo. If these don’t look right with the below tweaked cover, I may not bother putting it up for sale.

new cover smallI think I prefer the colours on this version anyway. In digital, at least.





Guest Post: Writing and Self-Publishing a Fiction Novel

Today we have a guest post by Ben Russel


Writing and Self-Publishing a Fiction Novel

Prior to beginning the writing of a fiction novel, the writer should first think of what makes a fiction novel successful. The writer should ask oneself what his favorite novel is. Once the writer decides upon his favorite novel, he should ask himself why this is his favorite novel. What about the novel has captured his attention? What techniques did the author use in writing the novel? These ideas should be brainstormed and written on paper for future reference. According to paper writers at, this will assist the writer in ensuring the success of his novel which will be self-published at a later date.

Capture the Senses

When writing a fiction novel, it is essential to capture the senses of your audience. The reader should essentially “feel” the novel as their eyes scroll through the pages. For example, if an author is discussing a man, the author would want to not only discuss that he is 41-years-old but perhaps that he is a handsome and charming 41-year-old man, with silky black hair and the most beautiful ocean blue eyes. The author should keep the readers reaching for more and more of the novel. Any descriptive-type writing captures the attention of the audience and provides the audience with a vivid image while reading.

Strike the Emotions

This leads us to striking emotions of the reader. The author should make them happy, sad, confused and/or joyous. Striking the emotions of the reader leaves an imprint and allows them to further connect with the characters in the novel. Let’s discuss this topic for a moment. Have you ever read Old Yeller? Old Yeller is perhaps one of the most famous novels of all time. Why is this? This is because it strikes the emotions of all people who read it. Old Yeller is extremely descriptive while providing the reader with all types of emotions throughout the story. This is an excellent read for a beginning writer who is interested in further developing their own novel.

Writers Block

Writers block is one problem which the writer may face throughout the duration of the novel-writing process. Writers block is when the writer has no idea what to write about. The writer may sit with the word processor open for hours adding then deleting items. In order to overcome writers block the writer should take a break and/or begin placing themselves in the situation of their character. For example, if the novel is about someone escaping from jail and the writer is writing the chapter of the escape, what would the writer feel in that situation? The writer should brainstorm and write out ideas on a separate piece of paper.


Finally, think of criticisms. If the writer is outside looking in on their work, what would be criticized? Is there anything that is not logical? Is there any part of the novel that does not flow well? If so, these should be addressed. What is the reason the writer is writing the story the way that it is? These are questions which may be asked by readers and/or critics which the writer should be prepared to answer.


Now that we have reviewed several tips on writing the novel, let’s discuss how to self-publish the novel. This sounds like a troublesome feat but it is not very difficult to self-publish. Amazon provides independent publishing which allows the author to publish and sell via the Amazon online store. With Amazon, you are able to publish a book free of charge utilizing online tools they offer to authors.


The author has now written and self-published the novel. Using the tips of writing the fiction novel, the author has written a novel which fully captures the audience. What is next? The author now awaits the first purchase of his book via the Amazon store. The author is now a writer who has their novel available for purchase around the globe.


Author bio: Ben is an avid reader and writer. He’s now more into essay writing teaching high school and college students how to write different types of essays. One of his recent articles is on how to write a picture analysis essay.


Other Ideas

The hardest part of the writing process for me may actually be maintaining focus on the current project. It’s always more alluring to consider the ethereal possibilities of an idea just dawning in your imagination, than to focus on the slog of getting an old one written down.

I generally have a few knocking about in my head at any given moment. At the moment I have two sequels circling in the distance (closer distance than the number of other sequels I’ve considered in the past but which haven’t intruded on my thoughts in, oh, at least a month or two [until just then]), two novelettes and one short story in various stages of completion, and the need to proof the collected print edition of the Tales of the Thief-City series when it arrives.

Then I develop an idea of challenging myself to write a short story a week for a year, connected by setting and cast although not necessarily with the same ones as stars all the way through.

Ideas have started congealing, and it’d probably be a space opera (currently heavily influenced in tone by the Guardians of the Galaxy film, which I just rewatched). Soft science, since my knowledge isn’t sufficient for hard science, and given the nature of the project research time would be at a premium.

I doubt it’ll go beyond the idea phase though. Pragmatism says it’ll be unworkable. With no time to let them cool off, and do more than a couple of clean up passes on, they may not be in the best of condition. It’d be nice to think the process could force me to become better at that, but that’s not how it works.

It’d require preparation in world building a setting that could accommodate the structure, coming up with rough ideas for a dozen or so stories to start with, etc. And preparing a standard cover that can just have the individual title added, assuming I go the path of actually publishing them as eBooks rather than simply on a blog. They’d be more accessible as eBooks, but then there’s the issue of pricing.

Though I’m not happy that the lowest price I can set is 99c, since I’d rather have short stories closer to 50c, with 99c for novelettes and novellas. And if these wouldn’t be as polished as my other published stuff I’d feel even less comfortable about it. But if they were free I’m not sure how many downloads would actually be read, and a year is a long period of work to make free.

So it’ll probably never be doable. Now I just need to convince my subconscious of that.

Terry Pratchett

I felt a palpable sense of shock on reading of the passing of probably my favourite author, Terry Pratchett. It left me staring at the screen for a minute, and has taken a few days for me to get my thoughts together enough to write this.

He’s probably the author whose books I’ve reread most. They’re always fresh no matter how familiar, and draw you in from the first line. It’s going on three decades since I first read his work, and now I consider how many books he’s written I realise I’ve also probably read more books by him than by any other author (not even counting the aforementioned rereads).

There’s a playfulness to the language, a way with characters, and a capacity for dealing with large issues in rational and entertaining ways. And the humour of course, though never at the expense of the story (well, maybe occasionally. When it’s really funny).

It’s hard to avoid a selfish sense of loss at the books we’ve been robbed of by his premature death, but at least he leaves a body of work which should endure for centuries.

There’s still his last Discworld novel to be published. And of course the entire library to read again, and again, and again…

Side Project

I got distracted by a story idea I’ve had for a while, which started to come more into focus. It’s a modern pulp story of an immortal, for which I have a few more story ideas to follow on for. I wrote a short story for a supporting character who came into focus, and then did the main story with only a page of notes.

I should do more outlining. It’s ended up a mess. I was hoping for a novella, but at the moment it’s just a novelette. That may change, since it still needs a lot of work and a lot added. Character arcs, for one thing.

During the writing I also found myself switching into first person without realising, so I need to consider whether that’s how the story should be. It might make things harder, since I’d want to keep it to a single POV character. At the moment the main character only takes over the POV in the thirds chapter/segment. Which in itself is a bit messy, with the initial character not having further POV time.

If I do change it all to a single POV, I’ll have to reveal some things in the beginning which aren’t currently overt. The identity of one character is probably easily guessed, and is established pretty soon, but there’s another secret that I could skirt about. With a single POV I’d have to address it immediately.

Which could still work, but would probably change the tone of the following bits. Since most of it’s going to require heavy reworking anyway, I don’t suppose it matters. The short story shouldn’t require as much revision, so that might see light sometime sooner, but the main story will probably go aside until I’ve time to devote to it.

At least I have something solid (virtually speaking) for it now. Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable. I don’t have the gaping chasm of the story unwritten ahead of me to discourage interest, but it does have a firmer structure that could be harder to change later on.

I’m certain that time spent on outlining means exponentially more time saved on revisions. And probably less likelihood of abandoned projects.


Back to work on the main project for now. Unless another idea forces its way to the fore.