Back from holiday with a bump.

Back from holiday – had a great time and really enjoyed the rest and not having to do much of anything.

This morning, I was only about half an hour into my normal working day when I felt like I needed another holiday.  I really need to finish my novel and hope it’s a best-seller 🙂  Either that, or I could win the Euromillions lottery.

Ironically, looking forward to the break so I could get some more writing done, the biggest complaint I had was that I didn’t do as much writing as I thought I would; the lure of the sun and cider made me feel like George R R Martin in front of an NFL game. I’d even bought a great new notebook in Paperchase in the airport.

Still, I did pickup a great book to read in the ship’s library (which by the way, P&O Cruises have a very good stock of books) – Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. It was a hardback that had never been read (not a slight on the book, I think it had only just been purchased) and I felt almost guilty for reading it around suntan lotion and glasses of water.

Okay, so I must admit in my panic at seeing so many books in one place on a ship, I fell into alphabetic mode and picked up the first fantasy book I hadn’t read. Even though I’ve never read a Joe Abercrombie book, I’ve always felt close to him as an author as he’s around my age and grew up in Lancaster which is just twenty minutes drive from where I live. Part of me is always happy in the idea that if I told an author where I lived, they’d say, “Oh yes, I know where that is.”

Moving back to the novel though. What a book! I don’t usually spend too much time reading the blurb on the covers, but when I did I wholeheartedly agreed with the fact that it was a can’t-put-down book. I devoured the adventures of the unfortunate Prince Yarvi and followed him through his bitter struggle for redemption. I do have to admit that there were some rather large comparisons with a certain other young prince in Game of Thrones, but it didn’t really detract from the story. If you haven’t read this book, I would definitely recommend it.

In fact the ONLY negative I had was that I read it that quickly, I didn’t have time to choose another book and finish it before the ship docked for home. Joe can be happy that I returned it back to the library in almost pristine condition for the next lucky reader to pick up.

NB: Note to self (again), tablets are no good for reading books in the sun..

Anyway, got some great images on the camera that gave me some good ideas for a few flash fiction posts so they should be available throughout this week.

Five things that I have discovered about myself in 2013 (Pt. 5)

Welcome to part 5 of things that I discovered about myself over the past twelve months (for those who are interested, part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4)

Five parts, one a day…

5. My ideas come at inappropriate times.

I imagine for a lot of other writers, the muse visits us at different times or sometimes not at all (that’s how the name amuteforamuse was born). For me, it’s often at the most inconvenient times, such as walking the dog.  I do carry a nexus 7 with me and take full advantage of the word editor on it, but it is difficult to get everything down whilst you walking along the street.  Furthermore, I walk the dog in-between me working so I’m often getting in and then sitting down to work which means hardly any time to make sense of my notes.

Another time is just as I drop off to sleep.  Often I’ve been thinking about stories and plots throughout the day and the characters, words and all just seem to hit me at a fast pace whilst I’m laying flat out.  Again, I keep the notes but at some point I have to get to sleep.

Both ways mean I usually end up with a good set of notes, but very little substance behind them.  There is nothing worse than knowing you thought of a good few lines of conversation between two main characters but have forgotten what it was.  In addition, it’s just as frustrating to be reading a jumbled set of notes and not understand what they exactly meant just a few hours before.

This is something I can change, it is something I can fix but it’s going to take some effort.

Five things that I have discovered about myself in 2013 (Pt. 4)

Welcome to part 4 of things that I discovered about myself over the past twelve months (for those who are interested, part 1 is here, part 2 is here and part 3 is here)

Five parts, one a day…

I had to break this next one up into two parts as I’m still not sure which of the two had the biggest impact on me.

1) I’m inconsistent.  Really?  It’s not a surprise.  I mean I want to blame this on the types of work that I’ve done in my life; early shift, flexi-time, permanent nights, twelve-hour shifts and split shifts.  Is it any wonder I have trouble sticking to a routine?  Furthermore, up until the past three years, the work I did was mainly IT support which meant that I never knew what I was going to be doing from one hour to the next.  What is frustrating is that I do have some consistencies in my life, but they tend to be in areas that I consider to be unhelpful, such as completing timesheets at work at 0915 every Friday, or walking the dog twice a day.

I can see myself having to overcome a big hurdle if I’m to improve my inconsistency.  After all, it’s hard to change anything after you’ve been doing it for twenty-five years.  I just hope you can teach an old dog new tricks…

2) I have a habit of setting myself difficult challenges.  Take 2013 for instance, I set myself the following;

  • Complete first draft of novel
  • Read 52 books in a year
  • Learn to play the guitar
  • Run a sub-50 minute 10k run
  • Complete my English degree
  • Start up a blog and regularly update it
  • Create a website based on the world in which my novels / short stories are based

Guess which one of those I actually finished?  Yup, the English degree and we all know why – when the deadline is placed upon you by someone else, you tend to make sure you don’t fail it; it’s a lot easier to break your own rules.

I once read that to help reinforce any goals you may have been set you should publicise them – the idea being that once enough people know about them, it makes it harder to fail them.

I’m still not too sure on that one but 2014 will help me make up my mind.

Pt 5 tomorrow….

Five things that I have discovered about myself in 2013 (Pt. 3)

Welcome to part 3 of things that I discovered about myself over the past twelve months (for those who are interested, part 1 is here and part 2 is here)

Five parts, one a day…

3. I don’t have much to say

Strange thing to say for someone who decided to setup a blog, isn’t it?  But, when you consider that I work from home and face a brick wall from the hours of 0800 through to 1730, my life experiences must be considered limited?

The main elements for my blog were, and still are, my learning experiences as I worked through producing the first draft of my novel.  However,  my realisation that I don’t write as much as I thought I would may have hampered that.  Furthermore, my resolution to try and read 52 novels in year also got in the way of me reading the books that would have helped me more in the craft of writing.

Fortunately, I’m working on correcting that; I’m going to add some non-fiction books to my list of outstanding reads and make a marked effort to get through them and use that knowledge to help grow my blog and also continue finish the first draft of my novel.

In terms of output, I think I was fairly naive to think I could keep up the X number of posts per week that I initially set.  I follow quite a few people on my blog and some of them are prolific bloggers (upwards of 20+ posts per day), whilst others post a couple of times a month.  I think I’d like to sit somewhere in-between, but I’m not making the mistake of setting anything in stone.

Part 4 tomorrow…

Five things that I have discovered about myself in 2013 (Pt. 2)

Welcome to part 2 of things that I discovered about myself over the past twelve months (for those who are interested, part 1 is here. )

Five parts, one a day…

2. I don’t write as much as I thought I did

To be honest, this didn’t come as too much of a surprise to me.  After all, one of the main reasons for starting the blog was to focus my energies into completing the first draft of my novel, A Treasure Found.  Having started 2013 with around twenty chapters in various stages of development, and a word count of approximately 100,000 already in place, it should have been easy right?

As things turned out, I spent a lot of time re-writing in the first six months of the year and then the past few months either disillusioned, or busy on other things. Long story short, I’ve ended up with around 85,000 words in a ‘draft’ format but that only covers around a third of the book (gotta love Epic Fantasies) so there is still a big journey ahead of me.

As with Part 1, I have to admit that the ‘resolution’ element of the task has failed.  However, the need is still there and I’ve realised, if I am to be successful, then I need to re-focus my efforts and ensure that I spend more time writing on my novel as opposed to other things.

Part 3 tomorrow…

Five things that I have discovered about myself in 2013 (pt. 1)

It was just over a year when I decided to create this blog and use it as a foundation for my writing.  Not only would I use it to help me through some of the issues that I know would come up throughout 2013, but I’d also use it as an experiment to see how much of my free-time I could dedicate to something new.

With that in mind, I need to take stock of how the past 12 months have affected me and I’ve noted five things that I have discovered about myself during the year of 2013.

Five parts, one a day for the next five days

1. I don’t read as much as I thought I did….

This is a difficult one to admit and I’m still not sure that I can take all of the blame for this.  Firstly, at the end of 2012, I decided to sign upto a resolution of 52 books throughout the year.  I did that [blindly?] because I thought one book a week sounded easy.  Unfortunately, a few things complicated that thought including:

  • Fantasy novels are notoriously large and I picked some weighty tomes
  • I was in the final year of an English degree
  • My daughter left home and my son went to university meaning I spent more time with my wife

For all of the above, I managed to finish 12 of the 52 – that’s one a month, not one a week. However, I didn’t feel like I was reading any less.  Looking back I think I ended up compromising my list by spending time reading web forums, academic books and comic books – basically lots of things that weren’t actually on the list.

So, if anything, the first thing that 2013 taught me was that although I still read a lot, it isn’t necessarily novels, it’s whatever I have to hand at the time. Therefore, my new focus (not resolution) isn’t to read more, it is to have my books, or e-reader, closer to hand.

With regards to the list, will I admit defeat? Heck no…

The resolution has gone, but the list is going to stay. I even have plans to grow it but that is for another post.

Part 2 tomorrow…

Book #2 – Magician

“Tomas nodded, unable to speak.  He was burning inside, a cold fire of hatred for these Tsurani.  They had savaged his homeland and taken his brother in all but name, and now many dwarven friends lay dead under the mountain because of them.  His face was grim as he made a silent vow to destroy these invaders, whatever the cost…”

Tomas of Crydee not taking an invasion of his homeland by alien invaders too lightly….

I’ve just finished reading Magician by Raymond E Feist and, in reflection, it reads like a fantasy recipe;

Take one peaceful land

Add a generous pinch of alien invaders

Toss in equal amounts of elves, dwarves and humans

Stir in courtly sabotage and let it come to the boil

Simmer gently to allow fearsome warriors and powerful magicians to rise to the top

Finally, pour into a bowl, sprinkle with happily-ever-after and enjoy over a few nights with a nice glass of cider.

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Magician – a reading update

As part of my reading resolution I’ve been reading Magician by Raymond E Feist.  Although I’m not a speed reader, I had expected to finish this book by now but there have been a number of reasons that have kept me from doing so;

1)      Work – going back to work has reduced my reading time

2)      Other resolutions – getting a better 10k time when running, spending more time with wife etc.

3)      Length of novel confuses me…

I want to talk a bit more about point 3.  It seems that the Magician book rejects the common understanding that, as you get older, everything gets smaller.  Now, I do remember Magician being a somewhat weighty tome, but it seems to have grown much in length since I last read it.

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My Reading Resolution

After reading about Matthew Davis who wrote on the BBC website about his year with Dickens, I decided I would do something similar for the New Year. Having recently studied English Literature as part of my ongoing English degree and chewed through quite a bit of 19th Century fiction, I opted for something different.

I didn’t stick to one particular author but did remain in my comfort zone of Sci-Fi and Fantasy choosing books from lists such as NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books and 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels to Geek Out Over

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