Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My 2010 book awards:

The Top 5 books I’ve read this year:

I did have the pictures in my original post but they seemed to have disappeared.

1. Robert McCammon - Swan Song

I discovered Robert McCammon only last year when I read, “Speaks the Nightbird”, the first in the excellent Matthew Corbett series. I immediately read the sequel and also read, “Boy’s Life.” All three books I enjoyed immensely.

However, none were as great as, “Swan Song.” My first Stephen King book was, “the Stand” and whether it is nostalgic reasons or not, I still rank it up there as one of King’s best books. Even though looking back I remember hating the ending. Swan Song surpasses the Stand in every respect. There are moments in the book where I genuinely had tingles on the back of my neck. It is the first book in a very long while, where I have been so immersed in the story that I have forgotten where I was on my bus journey home. One chapter even saw me going intentionally past my stop to finish it – “All Hail Lord Alvin!”

Swan Song is one of those rare books that is told from multiple viewpoints and you never groan when you leave one character to join another. All of the characters are strong. In short it is a joy to read.

2. Excalibur - Bernard Cornwell

This year me saw me read the final book of three great trilogies. The best of these was the final book in the Warlord Chronicles. Excalibur is as close to perfect as a book gets. It wraps up everything in a satisfying manner. It has deaths that are moving and memorable and the characters stay true to themselves. I cannot recommend this trilogy enough. The only reason it did not take top spot was because it had the advantage of concluding two excellent books before it. I have subsequently gone out and bought a lot of Cornwell’s work as a result of this trilogy.

3. Troy: Fall of Kings - David and Stella Gemmell

This is the second of my completed trilogies. Unfortunately David Gemmell passed away when he was writing this book and his wife Stella took over. She does a remarkable job of working from his notes to the extent where you do not notice the transition. Again, the plot points are all tied up in a satisfying manner. The best thing about this book (as with Cornwell above) is the Gemmell’s have taken a well known story and flipped elements of it on its head. The changes are often brilliant and in most cases more plausible to the reader, highly recommended.

4. The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett 

This is frequently referred to as the greatest book in modern times. Whilst I wouldn’t go that far, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. If it wasn’t for reading such a strong list of books this year, it could have been easily number 1. Who would have thought that a story about a cathedral could be so exciting? Some say the villains are too cartoonish, but I disagree. They are all plausible and it is refreshing to read about a villain who is just and out and out evil scumbag. The vogue is for the villain’s to have shades of grey or redeeming features. Sometimes you just want your villain to be mean. A great book and an epic in every sense.

5. Under the Dome - Stephen King 

I went back and forth over which book should occupy the fifth spot. In truth it could have been one of 4 or 5 books that I really enjoyed, but did not quite reach the level of the top 4. I opted for King as no one does characters like him. I loved this book and like many of his books, some people have a problem with the ending. I disagree, I really liked the idea behind why the Dome is in place (at least you find out). Honourable mentions:

The Passage – Justin Cronin. Justin Cronin’s debut is really as good as the hype. The first third is fantastic and it only misses out on the top 5 as it suffers slightly in the middle when he decides to change everything.

Last Argument of Kings – Joe Abercrombie. It surprised me when compiling this list that I did not include this book. It is the third of the great trilogies I mentioned above and really deserves the accolades it receives. Again, another year it might have been higher.

Blood Harvest – S J Bolton. This is a thriller set in a rural town in England. My other great love in reading is the crime genre. For some reason I don’t talk about it as much, but this was the best of a strong year. Although I am reading John Connolly who is one of my favourites and that book potentially could easily make the list.

Best find:

This award goes to the author I have discovered or eventually got around to reading, depending on your point of view. The award goes to Jim Butcher. I read, “Storm Front” the first in the Harry Dresden series. It is fast paced, fun and I already know it will be a series I will be reading more of in 2011.

Most anticipated book of 2011:

This one is a no brainer really. I can’t comprehend the length of time it has taken to write this book but then I also don’t have a problem with it. George has said he will make an announcement at some conference or other around January 8th. He will have a death wish if this is anything but to say the book is completed and when it will be out. I predict he will say the book is done on Christmas Day and then the announcement in January will be to state when it will be released.

Have a great Christmas all and I will post soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Books: On James Patterson

I was around 18 and at University. I had taken a summer job to subsidize my drinking during the term time at my uncle’s air conditioning firm. It was also a time when I didn’t really read. A girl I was fooling around with recommended a book called, “Along came a spider.” As a young lad and eager to impress I duly obliged.

I was delighted I gave it a go. In Alex Cross I had found a cool detective that I didn’t know existed in literature (I have subsequently realised there are far better ones out there). In Gary Soneji there was the type of villain I loved. In short the book was fast paced with a good story. I was hooked. The short chapters gave way to the very definition of the term page turners.

As the months progressed, I devoured the next couple of books. I will never forget that summer doing air conditioning. It was a time where internet was not common place and so when I was strolling through Covent Garden on the way to a job in the Lyceum theatre and saw a board in a bookshop that read, “Roses are Red by James Patterson” coming soon, I punched the air in delight. God I miss those days when you didn’t know when a book was coming out – you only get that with George R R Martin these days!

A weekend job in WHSmiths had me looking forward to the book catalogue to see when the next book was coming out. Patterson led me to other authors: Mo Hayder, Mark Billingham, Harlan Coben, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen etc. All of which I now regularly read. (John Connolly I discovered in a unique way, which I will talk about some time).

Thrillers were my thing way before Fantasy. Usually it is the other way round but I’ve always been a geek at heart. As the amount of books I read increased so did my knowledge of the authors. Suddenly James Patterson had two books out a year, and then three and then four. His name was always on the cover but other names joined him. I still bought every book but the stories were hit and miss. The woman’s murder club started off fantastic and then by the time I read the “5th Horseman,” I half enjoyed it and I was half disgusted with how lazy the writing was.

I was actually half way through the “Lifeguard” before I realised I had already read it. I was appalled at how frequently the books were coming out and how hit and miss they were. At least he was still writing the Alex Cross series by himself I reconciled. However, even these were starting to take a dip. “London Bridges” was woeful in comparison to the others.

I was torn between ditching him all together and remaining loyal. After all he was the author that kick-started my reading interests again. In the end I decided to just read his Alex Cross books which were written solely by him and released once a year. This worked well, when I read them it was like meeting an old friend. The weak writing didn’t matter so much and instead I remembered why I liked him in the first place.

Which brings me in a rather long winded fashion on to his latest book – Cross Fire. THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.
I was really enjoying this book. I did enjoy the book in fact. After a number of recent books in the series where his arch enemy Kyle Craig would randomly pop up and threaten Alex, we at last get the showdown. Kyle “the Mastermind” Craig completely alters his appearance of Max Siegel, so he can work alongside Alex. Sounds silly I know, but it actually made for an interesting dynamic between the two. The plot unfolds and Kyle as usual is always one step ahead of Alex.

The scenes where they interact are well done and we get a very interesting conversation between the two over whether or not Alex would shoot Kyle give the chance. Alex replies “no,” but you know the time when he will have to make the decision for real is going to happen.

This is where the book falls down and I lost a little more respect for James Patterson. From book one, the Cross family have remained intact, even adding to their ranks. On no occasion have any of them been killed by any of the villains that have had a personal grudge on Alex. The series is crying out for such a death. Nana Mama is 92, surely her time has come? I loved her at the start of the series but her interaction with Alex is so repetitive. Every book she scolds him and tells him to lay off his work and think about his family. Every book, Alex says he will and then doesn’t.

Kyle Craig has been built up for a number of books now and it was an ideal time to kill of a major character. Does this happen? Of course not and this really irked me. Instead the so called “Mastermind” falls for one of the oldest tricks in the book and is easily dispatched. To add insult to injury, the last pages of the book mentions the return of Mr. Smith another villain we have already seen and thought dead. Who cares? He is not going to kill anyone significant. It will also be the third time a villain has re-emerged in the series.

Having said that, I enjoyed the book apart from the conclusion. The dynamic between Kyle Craig and Alex was good. The random appearance of Christine was intriguing although did not go anywhere.

Will I read the next one? You bet ya, and I will probably moan about that one as well. Hypocrite that I am.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book 2:

I'm still waiting for a friend to conclude their in depth editing on the first book. They only have ten chapters left and each chapter they have gone through has been invaluable. Unfortunately, I seem to be treading water. I'm still without the internet at home, but now am itching to get on with the writing again.

With that in mind, this week I carried out a chapter outline for the first quarter of the second book. I have been agonizing over this for quite a while. I have known the general story of the second book almost from the moment I concluded the first. I have also been desperate to begin writing it. However, what has surprised me is how difficult it is to link books one and two.

In terms of timelines, the second book continues straight after the events of the first and therein lies the difficulty. Every character I write about needs to do a bit of reflection over what has gone on at the end of first book. I need to find away to do this with out it being boring for me to write and painstakingly tedious for the reader. I guess in terms of the reader, in many cases if the book does get published, then the reflection will be good as it might well be a full year before they read the second book and will serve as a useful summary of the events.

Still it does not alter the fact that it is boring to write. Of course not every character needs to reflect on screen as it were. Some could have already done it and mention it in passing. It is choosing who reflects and who doesn't and how I make it interesting that is the problem. The chapter outline has helped focus a bit more, but I guess the only way to see how well I can do this, is to just dive in and see what happens.

So with snorkelling gear at the ready, I'm going in.

Friday, November 5, 2010

TV: The Walking Dead

Tonight sees the UK Premier of the Walking Dead. I am really looking forward to this for a number of reasons. Firstly, up until I gave up reading comics for financial reasons: Robert Kirkman and in particular the Walking Dead was my favourite series. (I also loved all of the Crossgen stuff, why did they have to go bust?) I read up to issue 48 and loved every issue, so you can imagine my delight when I found out it was being adapted for TV.

The second reason is that it is being directed by Frank Darabont. I loved the Shawshank Redemption and am one of the few people that loved the Green Mile even more. I also think the Mist is an excellent film. This man seems to choose his projects very carefully and does them justice it appears.

We will see what tonight brings with the first episode, I just hope the little one goes to sleep in time!

Books: The Pillars of the Earth

After sitting on my book shelf for a number of years, I've finally taken the plunge and picked up the Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I've heard many call this book the greatest piece of fiction they have read. Normally, I don't pay too much attention to these type of comments because they are often made by those who don't read very much and have little to compare it too. However, I am 400 pages into the story and have to say, I am really enjoying it so far. It's not up there with Martin or Cornwell but the saga has the sense of the epic. Who knew a story about a cathedral could be so engrossing?

November and a change of outlook

It seems every time I write a blog about doing more frequent updates, the gap between entries actually increases. This is not intentional but is just the way things work out. What have I been doing that has delayed me from posting any updates I hear you ask? I mean surely I must have some amazing explanation as to why I have abandoned my few loyal readers (of which I am so grateful for). Maybe, I had my fingers amputated and I am typing this with my nose? Well I’m afraid I don’t have one (cue the boo’s and the hurling of rotten vegetables).

You are well within your rights to be annoyed at this. I haven’t posted because I have nothing to say in regards to any updates. I haven’t lost my passion for the novel, but I have been forced to take a bit of a hiatus. This is mainly for two very good reasons. Firstly, I have just moved house. The move has been stressful as I’m sure that many of you who have been through a similar process can identify with. Secondly, I am also in the unfortunate position that many find themselves in, in that I am facing redundancy from my job. It is not clear when it is going to happen but it will be within the next 6 months probably. I don’t know how I feel about it really. It certainly is not a good time to lose a job, but then when is? Who knows, maybe this is a sign that I should concentrate on my writing and that is the career I should go for.

So, I decided to take a brief break from the book and just get the move out the way. That is now done, I am in my new house and unpacking and loving every bit of it. Soon, I will return to the book and begin writing the second one.

This morning however, I made a decision. Whilst I was not writing on the book, I am also not updating this blog, which is a shame because I do enjoy it. I just felt that as the blog is about the Ritual of the Stones I could not stray too far from that topic – just look at the vitriolic abuse GRRM gets on his blog posts on the JETs and Giants. However, I am no where near as famous as “the fishermen guy” as my wife calls him from his profile picture and no one is anxiously waiting for the release of my next book.

Therefore from now on, I will talk about all the things that make me tick. Whether it be books I’m reading, programmes I watch or even my beloved football team (who are languishing at the bottom of the Championship at the moment). As long as I flag up in the title what the subject of the post is about, my dedicated readers can choose to read it’s content or not.

So hopefully, I will now post more regularly but rest assured, I will be working on my book very soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Happy September to you all. I’ve noticed two more members have signed up to my blog now, which kind of makes me feel guilty for not updating more regularly. So before I update you on a few things I would just like to say a massive welcome to my blog and thank you for joining.
I’ve just got back from sunny Lindos in Rhodes, where I was basking in 47c heat. About 30 of us went out for a friends wedding and had a fantastic time. It was also the first time we had taken my little boy away and we were a bit worried about how he would be. As usual the little guy didn’t let us down and was as good as gold, loving the pool more than I could have hoped for.
Anyway, enough about my life, I guess you are all wondering what is happening with the writing. Well first things first, do you remember that short story that got accepted many month ago? You don’t? Well shame on you. Anyway, Route 246 by yours truly is now in the current issue of Deathheadgrin. Please check it out at: www.Deathheadgrin.com
I have been following the magazine closely and there are some great stories every month. Larry the editor is doing a great job and is really starting to increase his audience. As for my story, it might not be my strongest work but it will probably be my fondest. Not that I am selling myself short, it is just that I have really noticed an improvement in my writing since then (more on that later). It is about a guy who experiences a very uncomfortable situation in a very normal scenario and the struggle with his conscience whether to intervene.
I’ve also received very positive feedback on another short story I have written called, “Desire.” I will be making few changes to that one and then looking to get it published also.
Which then leaves me with the Ritual of the Stones. Last post I talked about being in limbo with the book. Things haven’t changed too much in terms of people critiquing the novel but they have changed in terms of my attitude towards it. I have my wife to thank for that, as she has really been pushing me to start sending it off.
I mentioned a couple of months ago, how during the editing of the novel I wrote a brand new chapter to add more dimension to a character. This chapter was easily the strongest chapter I had written and really stood out compared to the earlier ones. Now it has come to the point where I might look for representation from an agent, I have really scrutinised the start of the book (after all it is the first 3 chapters that are asked for normally).
Despite good feedback, I have decided that Chapter 2 is not up to scratch. Its only purpose is to set up Chapter 4 which is a really cool scene. However, isolated these two chapters do not add anything essential to the story and contradict the strength of one of the lead characters.
So with a heavy heart I have decided to cut them from the book completely and over the next week write a brand new chapter that achieves the same result but in a lot stronger fashion. This will not only make one of the lead characters more consistent, but will also give more background to another character who in hindsight was a bit cartoonish.
I thought this would be a really depressing thing to do, but I am really positive about it all. One of the things that deterred me from writing a book for many years was the knowledge that I am terrible at editing. Not the process, but actually motivating myself to do it. Over the last year though, I am latently pleased how much I have turned my attitude around towards this. After all it is essential if I want to be a writer.
Look for more frequent updates as I make these changes within strict self-imposed deadlines.

Mood: Positive

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In limbo

In limbo,

There is nothing worse then feeling in limbo. As things stand I have still only received two critiques back on the novel. Not that others aren’t enjoying it, it is just taking them a long time with holidays etc. Still, for an author who is anxiously pacing up and down waiting from some feedback it is incredibly frustrating.

I generally do not want to start implementing changes that the two others have suggested, in case the other readers disagree with them and it is not representative of the general opinion. I am waiting for a holistic view first which I think is the most sensible thing to do. However, I have made changes to the suggestions that have made me slap my head in stupidity as to why I never thought of making that change first.

I go on holiday in September, so I guess I will not get the feedback until after I come back now. It is a shame as I wanted to have made the final changes to the book and then begin work on book two when I return. The more time passes the harder it will be to write book two I reckon, so I might just take the plunge and begin work shortly.

I completed a brand new chapter which now gives one character a lot more depth and helps make reference to a plot point that had previously felt a bit contrived. The two friends that have read the whole book, loved the new chapter. Which was a nice bonus.

In the meantime, I have completed work on the short story I mentioned in my last update. It came in at 8,000 words and I’ve submitted it for review via the critters.org website. It will percolate to the top of the queue at the end of August if you are interested in reading it. It is slightly different to my usual stuff. It is called “Desire” and is about a young couple who have lost their sex life and are desperate to get it back before it ruins their relationship. Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July update

I have the best intentions to blog regularly (it is the only way to build up readership I know), however, I do not see the point of posting when there is nothing to update. I have contemplated talking about the fantasy world in general but that is not what this site is about. Besides there are far more competent bloggers out there that do this and they seem to have their finger magically on the pulse.

So what have I been up to? Moving house mainly. Well in the throes of moving. We have made an offer on a house which has been accepted and we have agreed an offer on ours. So it is all systems go. Unfortunately it hasn’t been as smooth as that, as we have had tremendous problems with financial advisors getting involved in the process that is nothing to do with them.

Why do I mention the move I hear you ask? (Especially as I have just opened with a paragraph stating I will not digress from the blog’s original purpose). Well simply put, the move has been consuming all of my time. From viewing houses, to showing people round ours, to completing endless solicitors forms and meeting with various brokers etc. The past month has been crazy.

Still, my book is now in the possession of none other than 5 people who are critiquing it. Better still 2 other people have already read it. These two were also the two whose opinions I was most interested in. One even read it in 2 days! Whilst it pleased me that they were so interested in the book to devour it in a couple of days, I can’t help but think, the book has taken me a year to write and someone has just consumed it in 48 hours!!

Better yet, they both seemed to really like the book. One was thoroughly impressed and has pointed out some very useful suggestions and the other (who was reluctant to read the book as he knew it would not compare to Robin Hobb, GRRM or Bernard Cornwell and didn’t want to tell me it didn’t match up to their genius), was pleasantly surprised and liked it more than they thought they would. Again, he has made some excellent suggestions.

I am still waiting for the other reviews to come in, but am currently working on inserting another chapter (which I had already made up my mind to include). There is also another scene I want to include as well. It feels good to be back in Frindoth again.

I am also 4,000 words into a short story that I am enjoying. With any luck, I can get this one published as well.

Hopefully the next update will be sooner but until then, take care.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mammoth update following a brief hiatus.

It’s quite worrying how quickly the weeks race by. It only feels like I posted the last update a week ago. I apologise for not doing it more frequently but I have been slaving away on the editing process.
Without further a do, I will just dive in and update you on what I have been doing:

Editing: This has been going really well. I set myself the deadline of the start of the world cup and with three chapters left to do, it looks like I will be able to achieve it. I am happy with many parts of the book.
There are still some things I would like to change and re-work but there comes a point where I need to let others see the work. Otherwise, I will have amended my work so much that I would be unreceptive to any changes suggested. So come this weekend, I will print the novel out and will send it out to those four people I have selected.

Mark C Newton: For those of you that don’t know, Mark is the author of Nights of Villjamur. An excellent debut novel in the, “Legends of the red sun” series. His second book, “City of Ruin” has just been published and I highly recommend you check it out. Mark has quite a strong online presence and out of all of the authors I read, his style of writing is most like my own.
I do not pretend to be any where near his level in my standard of writing, but there are parts of NoV where I thought, “I would have written that in the exact same way.”
Anyway, the reason I am talking about Mark is over at James Long’s Speculative Horizons blog, Mark gave a three part interview (the third has not been published yet). In part two, Mark talks about his writing.
He mentions how he always makes sure he writes 1,000 words in a session, something I do too and how he thinks self-help books on writing have their place but should not distract from the actual writing process.
The thing that really resonated with me in the interview though was the fact Mark hated editing. Something else we agreed on! When I read that, I got a rush of blood and rattled off an email to Mark asking him how he went through the process and how he improved his ability.
Mark got back to me very quickly, more quickly than I would have expected a best selling author too. It was also not just a bog standard reply but a very helpful response, where he recommended certain books and websites (contact me if you want these).
It is so refreshing (I know there are others out there) for an author to be genuinely helpful and interested in a fans work. I just thought, the least I could do was to thank Mark on here.

Critters: I mentioned in my last post that I was considering submitting a couple of chapters to get a feel of people’s opinion of the book. I relented and sent in the first 5 chapters. Which in hindsight was a mistake as this amounted to 19,000 words and put a lot of potential critiquers (I know that is not a word) off.
Having said that, 5 people were generous enough to give their opinions on the chapters and I am pleased to say overall the comments were positive. I was also giving some excellent advice.
One person in particular concentrated on the first chapter and gave their opinion on a paragraph by paragraph basis, stating what worked for them and what didn’t. Their suggestions were invaluable and I can’t thank them enough. I offered to review their work in return and if I am honest was a little apprehensive. Their comments to me were so professional and it was obvious they knew what they were talking about.
However, when I reviewed their work, I was able to offer my own suggestions and there were areas that clearly needed some improvement. This was a positive experience as it clearly demonstrated to me that everyone benefits from others looking at work. Even if someone tears your work to pieces, every one of us aspiring authors is going through exactly the same thing.

So that is all I have for now. I am gearing up for the world cup and the inevitable disappointment of England’s exit in the quarter finals but for a few weeks the country will be buzzing. Come on the three lions!!

Mood: Upbeat

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good news!!!

Finally! Things are looking up again. First of all I will jump straight to the good news. I submitted those two short stories I completed at the start of the year (yes I know I said I would send them off back in February, but I didn’t, so sue me). Anyway, one of them - Route 246, got accepted by Dead House Grin, an e-magazine that specialises in horror.

I did a little research before I submitted my stories and in the process I discovered a fantastic site called Duotrope.com. This website lists every magazine and gives such details as: how long the magazine has been in circulation, what their response times are like and if they pay etc. It also had a fantastic tracking tool for tracking your submissions and prevents you from sending simultaneous submissions as well.

As a result of using this website I avoided sending my story to any old Tom, Dick and Harry. Within days of submitting I got this kind email from the Dead House Grin editor Larry (you see what I did there, rhyming Harry vaguely with Larry – maybe poetry is my true calling, sorry I am stalling),

Dear Rob,
'This is Larry from Death Head Grin. Thank you for the submissions, I liked them both, but due to space I can only accept one. If it would work well for you, and if it has not been accepted elsewhere, I would like to use "Route 246" in the September issue.


'Larry Green

How cool is that? My first ever acceptance! May many more continue but at least – if all goes well, I will be able to say I had something published. It will also get my name out there.

In terms of the editing, I am back up to the point I was before I lost all my changes. This has been a massive challenge mentally but I can gladly say I have overcome it. The energy is back and I am raring to go. Roll on the rest of the book I say, my deadline is the start of the World Cup.

I have also been doing a load of critiques over at critters. My ratio had dropped down to 38%, which meant I had to review 15 critiques before I could have anything of my own reviewed. I have been feverishly working on these and have now got my ratio back up to the required level.

Why have I done this all of a sudden? Well I will tell you, if you hang on. As the editing is progressing, I am getting increasingly nervous about showing it to the four people I have singled out to read the book. What if they hate it?

To ease my fears I just want the option of a stranger’s opinion on the first couple of chapters. These are the chapters that I think are weakest and the folks over at critters can be brutally honest, which is what I need. I might, just might, pass the chapters their way.

Mood: Optimistic.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grin and bear it.

I have not posted for a while and that is because I have been going through a plethora of emotions. In my last post I stated that I would be aiming to edit a couple of chapters a week. On average, each chapter has been taking me just over an hour, if the revisions are minor (grammar and removing the odd word).

Two weeks ago I decided that this was not good enough. I have worked too hard on this baby to let it drift along indefinitely. I got the bit between my teeth and aimed for editing a chapter a day.

Around the end of last week, I was really starting to hit my stride and achieve the target, the book was coming together and I was feeling good about the whole thing. I did however recognise the earlier chapters did not stand up against the latter chapters in terms of quality.

And so, suffering from a bout of confidence, I submitted the first five chapters to critters.org. Now the four followers of this blog and the numerous randoms that follow as well (please pop in and say hi!) will already know that I did not want anyone to read the story apart from the five people I have selected. Why did I change my mind? I don’t know is the honest answer. Critters have been very good to me in the past and I have genuinely benefited from the members’ advice, so I guess I figured it was a good idea.

The risk of course is that I am submitting chapters that I know are slightly weaker and if they get slated then my ego will take a massive blow. However, if it is constructive advice, that can only be good right? Right?

The other problem is that I was 19 critiques down and so I have to do a critique on a short story every day until my chapters come to the front of the queue in order for it to be read. I know I can reset my ratio but I feel I owe it to all the other authors that have grafted like myself in order to have their work read.

So that long and winded, Nestor from the Iliad style explanation brings us up to the Bank Holiday weekend. I went into the weekend full of vigour determined to get a lot done. How was I going to do this? Why get up early of course. Yes you heard correctly, set my alarm on days when I was legitimately entitled to a lie in. Was I mad? What was I thinking?

Saturday morning came, the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and lo and behold I actually got up. I opened the laptop and set to work on Chapter 8. This was a big task as I decided to completely alter this chapter and write it from a different point of view. 9.30 am came and the little one stirred. Perfect time to stop. I saved and went about the day.

Sunday morning came and I did exactly the same thing. This time I was on the tricky Chapter 12. I chopped and changed a lot of the text. I also spotted a major plot hole and do you know what? I solved it – take that Meereenese Knot. The muse was with me and boy did I let it flow. I stopped when my family woke up and went on to have a very nervous day, watching my beloved Crystal Palace survive relegation by the skin of their teeth.

Monday came and I was too tired to get up but hey, that was o.k. I could afford to give myself the Bank Holiday off, I deserved it. All was well until Monday night when I opened up the laptop to send the book to my email account. (I do this so if I want to work on it at lunchtime at work I can). It also serves as another back up.

There I am merrily logging in, maybe even singing about birds suddenly appearing. When I think to myself, “that’s odd”. It hasn’t changed the last thing I did. I then frantically searched through the book.


Calm down, calm down. I can hear you all say. If you saved it, it must be somewhere. I thought the same, I searched and I searched and I searched. Nothing! I went on the internet and followed the instructions to recover files, searching for acronyms I never knew existed. WBK for example – nothing!

Rage, despair, denial. You name them, I have been through them all in the past 48 hours. I even took my laptop to work in an effort to sort it out at lunch.

Last night I almost gave up. I decided to sit down and just grin and bear it. I sat at the laptop and stared at Chapter 8 again. And stared and stared. Dejected, I shut the laptop down.

What am I feeling now? A small semblance of hope. At 12:45 a.m. I discovered a post on a forum where a woman had been through the exact same thing. Apparently Windows Vista does not always save the file in the correct place and when you search for it, it doesn’t search the temp files. She found the document she lost by opening up another attachment and discovering the path the computer saved it under. She then followed that path and there was her document in all its glory.

So now I just need to work out how to find that elusive path. The trouble is, I have no idea how to do that.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Interesting topic

At the Chicago con George R R Martin was said to have spoken about writing a Dance with Dragons. One of the things that irks him was remembering the eye colour of his characters and ensuring they were consistent. Over on the Westeros forum, Lady Narcissa and Maxlongstreet give a very good summary of his talk but below I have highlighted the relevant point that Maxlongstreet talks about:

“GRRM responded that this was one of the things that was making Dance take so long, namely having to go back and check a bunch of details. He said that without search functions in documents he would have gone mad.

He gave a very funny rant about eye color - about how in the real world, we really notice anyone's eye color unless we're very close to them, but in books, everyone has their eye color described. Having to go back and check the eye color he gave for hundreds of characters was an example of a detail that could drive him batty; GRRM said he regretted mentioning the eye color of any of his characters.”

I was discussing this with my brother –in- law and his immediate reaction was to say He could easily have solved the problem about going back and looking up things by writing down a detailed description of everyone for himself, before he introduced them in the books.

Now I am not one of those people that can’t stand for anyone to criticise GRRM. I do think a lot of the anger directed at the guy is crazy, but my brother-in-law’s comment struck me as the typical view of a non-writer, ignorant about the mechanics of the craft.

Yes, in an ideal world, every character would be planned out and one could look up their description in a handy index, and for the most part I’m sure George has this. But speaking as someone that has just written a book and is currently editing it and looking for the very same consistency issues, I can tell you the reality doesn’t work like that.

When I am writing a scene and a group of characters enter my imagination and therefore the story, I might briefly toy with their background but for the most part I just want to get them into the story whilst it is flowing. There is no way I am going to stop, plan each character out and write a description of them. After I have finished writing for the day, maybe I will really start to think about their background and jot down a few things about them but then I am not going to start checking that I have been consistent.

For the simple reason, once I start doing that, I am then entering the editing phrase. I might check a character’s eye colour and then read the sentence and think, “I don’t like that” and be tempted to change it. I have then disrupted the flow of my muse.

It would make it easier if at the end of each writing day, I made a note of all the characters and locations I had introduced but in practice in doesn’t work like that. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time flies

Boy oh boy, where did those two weeks go? I would love to say that I have been busy working away on the editing front, but April has seen me come to a stand still. Easter has got in the way and a combination of work being manic (8 staff reports to write) and the little one teething (only at night it seems), I am struggling to function let alone work.

In truth it has been getting me down. I have achieved this great feat in writing my first book and I am desperate to get some feedback. However, I realise I can’t get said feedback until the book is as best as it can be and I am simply not creating the time or energy to achieve this.

That is not to say I haven’t been working away on the book. I have now gone through the whole story and edited it. I am in the process of making the changes on the computer (which takes far longer than I thought it would). I have also re-written a large portion of chapter 2 and completed it. This was by far and away the area that needed the most work, so I suppose I have made good progress. It just doesn’t feel like it as I have not touched the book in almost a week.

However, when I get down about the book, I make a plan and that is what I have done today. I have given myself a target of 4 chapters a week to amend. I have put in for a week off in May to really concentrate on the book and get it completed.

On the more creative side of things, I have been mapping out parts of book 2. As things stand it will be told from 6 POV and will expand the world of Frindoth in a big way.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Working well

I have made pleasing progress on the editing front. I have gone through 363 pages out of 408. Hopefully I will be done by the weekend so I can start making those changes to the electronic copy of the book and begin the re-writes.

There are not too many passages that need re-writing, although there are quite a few areas where I wish to expand the text. This is dangerous and will certainly go against the Stephen King rule of: 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%. The question is, was my 1st draft long enough? It is a dilemma but a happy one.

I suppose when I look it, as things stand the novel is coherent and tells the story fine. The areas I wish to add in merely make the characters richer. Is this essential or are the characters lively enough as it is.

On an unrelated note, my boy has contracted gastroenteritis. He is so poorly it is heartbreaking. I thought I know what a loose bowel movement was, but it turns out after a couple of days changing liquid nappies I was wrong!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

First draft to second draft to third draft

I am making good progress on the editing front. I have now edited the first 267 pages of the story (there are 408 in total). The question that bothers me is: when does a second draft become a third draft?

At the moment I am going through the story with a nice red pen, taking out chunks of text, or tidying them up. In the margins, I ask myself questions such as: If Character A thinks this, is it reflected later on? In some cases I answer these questions, in others I wait until I will re-write those scenes that need it. So when I have completed this process for the entire book and made the amendments on the computer, does that constitute a second draft? Or will it only be once I have inserted the re-writes too?

As I write this, it has occurred to me the answer is obviously the latter of the two. Only when I have the story completely finished will that be the second draft. Still you can see the workings of the mind of a virgin editor.

The other thing that has struck me over the past week is how much I am actually enjoying the story. There are times (and this is going to sound unbelievably corny), where I actually forgot I was editing and just enjoyed the story. I really hope others get that sense of enjoyment.

Finally, a lot of authors talk about the editing stage of writing as a completely separate process to the creative side. I couldn’t agree more. When I was writing the book my mind was going ten to the dozen as I desperately typed the story as it unfolded in my head. I could easily sit and type non stop for two hours at a time. With editing, I just can’t do that. At most I have to do it in half hour chunks before my brain becomes fried with all the analysing. I find myself taking long breaks in between until I am ready to return to it. This is fine I guess, as long as I am disciplined enough to come back to it!!

Editing tip 2: Be disciplined, but know when your brain is fried.

Monday, March 8, 2010

First week of editing out of the way...

…And I have to say it is both exhilarating and depressing at the same time. On one hand, I am really enjoying cutting out the needless words, the pointless exposition and the “what was I thinking by including that” text. On the other hand, it is so disheartening to see just how much of the novel I am unhappy with.
I expected to edit lots at the start of the novel where I was finding my voice, but some of the early chapters are woeful. I thought I would find it hard to cut parts out of the story, but I have had no trouble eliminating virtually a whole chapter.
In many ways it is a good thing. Every cut I make, every inconsistency I come across will make the novel that bit better. So why am I unhappy? The parts I am unhappy with largely focus around the scenes involving a main character. I’ve written him so badly and so weakly that as things stand he has not got an identity. I am going to have to do a lot of re-writing around him.
As things stand I have edited 140 pages out of 408. This is just basic chopping and pruning. Once I have completed this, I will go back and do all the re-writes. I was secretly hoping I would only need to do two drafts of this novel. I realise I was kidding myself; this novel will need at least another pass after I’m finished this editing process.

Lessons learnt: Editing takes a lot longer than you think and there are no short cuts.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Let the editing commence

1st March tomorrow. The day I have scheduled myself in to begin the first edit on my novel. In regards to the short stories, I have edited and formatted them and have also set up a spreadsheet listing the magazines I need to send them off to. All that remains is to actually send them off. In the meantime here is a picture of how my novel looks like printed out. I've added the lego man for perspective.

Mood = Pumped

Monday, February 22, 2010


Good morning all. I say good morning but it is far from it weather wise. It has been consistently bucketing it down for over fours hours. The kind of freezing rain that makes you dream of holidays in warmer climates. I’ve already been evacuated from my building twice due to power cuts.
Anyway, enough with the mundane weather issues. We are nearly at the end of February which means I can end my self-imposed exile from the Ritual of the Stones and begin editing with a fresh perspective.
As you might know, one of the things that always discouraged me from writing a novel was I hated the editing process. I was never very good at going over what I had written. Whether it was essays at University, this blog or even simple emails at work (the latter I’m still notoriously bad at checking).
I don’t know why this is, but I have always been of the attitude: once it is written, than as far as my brain is concerned, it is done. I’m no longer interested in looking at it, or polishing it.
You see, I find it hard to change my work. Every time I think to myself, “well that can come out,” another voice opposes the first and sees why I included the phrase in the first place.
I recognised this attitude would not be good enough if I was to write a novel. So it has been with some trepidation that I have been approaching this stage of the process.
So what I have been doing to overcome this vice of mine I hear you ask? Research, research, research. I have read a lot of material on the editing process. I submitted some short stories to critters and learned how others edit.
Having done this research, I don’t pretend to be the world’s best editor by any stretch of the imagination. But at least I have now giving myself a fighting chance as making my novel the best it can be.
I edited the aforementioned two short stories last week. There were two things that surprised me: (If there was a theme for this post it would be the number 2 it would appear!!).
1) How much I enjoyed the process. I didn’t think anything of chopping the first and last third of the story. I liked the writing but the strength of the story was in the middle. That is where the story is told and so that was all that was relevant. The story is now infinitely stronger for being shorter and punchier. I also loved eliminating all those needless words: “That” and “Just.” When I was writing the first draft of these stories I was conscious of the fact these words creep into the text but I was still shocked how many there were.
2) I have actually improved as a writer. The first story I wrote after only a month of starting RotS. The second story I wrote in one session just before Christmas. The difference in quality was staggering. It just goes to show that practice does make perfect.

So having edited the stories, the next step is to send them off to a magazine. I have spent the last couple of days, researching magazines and checking their submission guidelines. I have also bought the magazines to see if they are suitable for my stories and have invested in the “Novel and short stories writers agency” (Please note the title could be wrong as I don’t have it next to me.) Although sadly a lot of the magazines listed are now out of date, the advice in there is great.
The aim is to produce a cover letter by the end of tomorrow and then send off the stories by the end of the week.

Roll on the rejections.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Man, this taking a break from the novel thing is hard. I have been good though and haven't so much as looked at the manuscript. I have tried my best not to think about it either but some days that has been impossible.

I did start a short story immediately after I finished the first draft but I've found that I wasn't quite ready to delve into it too deeply. I don't want to be consumed by a short story and then come March not be ready to edit. Still I made good head way on it and will park the idea for now.

Instead, I have been doing lots of research on editing and reading up on Medieval history. I am about to edit two other short stories I produced whilst writing a Ritual of the Stones, well one was a piece of flash fiction. This will be good practice in editing and I may even submit them to magazines.

I have also had a great idea for a thriller. It basically stemmed from a conversation I was having with my wife and brother-in-law. You know the kind of "What would you do if..." type conversations. They are usually outlandish conversations along the lines of "Would you rather your penis drop off, but marry the girl of your dreams or for it to stay on but never have sex again." This one however, was quite a good question. I won't pose it because the more I've been thinking about it, the more a story is starting to evolve from it.

On another note, I am getting more and more excited with how frequently GRRM is starting to post updates on ADWD. Maybe it is not too far away now from completion. I find it fascinating to see the thought process of George and how he works.

Will let you know how the editing goes.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Oh the elation, oh the joy. I have only gone and done it. Last night I wrote the final words of my first draft. It comes in at just over 126,000 words, consists of 375 Microsoft word pages (once formatted in double spacing). It has 29 chapters and probably a zillion errors. Do I care? Not in the least. I have achieved my goal! I have written a God dam novel!!!

Sorry for the outward display of enthusiasm, but I feel pretty good right now. I am unbelievably tempted to edit it immediately, but am determined to take February off and get some perspective. This morning, I actually feel a little bit lost. I have been so use to thinking about the novel and motivating myself to write it, that now I don’t have anything left to write on it, I feel strangely empty.

Thank you for all your support and I will keep you posted on the editing front.

P.S. I will still be posting updates on here throughout February. They might not be so Ritual of the stones orientated.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

So close

Hello, hello, hello,

Yes I was hoping to be done by now, (I am turning into GRRM more every day). Unfortunately, I've been through a tough couple of weeks. The first week, my wife and I came done with the flu and this past week, our little boy got it as well.

On Monday we had exactly half an hours sleep. There was no consoling him and he had a raging temperature. We felt so sorry for him as although he was crying, it was not a whiney cry but more of a "I'm so ill, help me" type cry, that just breaks your heart. Monday night pretty much set the precedent for the rest of the week and although we managed to get a few hours of sleep on the other nights, we arrive at today seriously deprived of energy and a baby who is still ill. If I was a method writer (is there such a thing), then I could write a pretty dam good zombie novel right about now.

All has not been a total loss in terms of the novel though. I managed to write a scene in the final chapter. I am actually very pleased with it. I had a rough plan of what I wanted to write, but as soon as I began writing, the scene took on a life of its own. Before hand, I was concerned the scene would not have enough substance, but by the time I had finished it, it actually turned out to be one of the longest in the story. One for the editing process methinks.

I'm going to go now as I'm exhausted, excuse the errors in this post!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Clear map laid out

Hello, hello, hello.

I am especially pleased today as I have a clear plan of how I want to spend the first part of the year and when I want the book completed by. Before I get on to that, I will update you on the progress I have made (as I know that is why you tune in so regularly).

This week has been a good week. I finished the last chapter in which I had absolutely no notes planned for. The only thing I knew before I started the chapter was what had to happen by the end. It was surprisingly challenging, as I had not written a chapter like that in a while. Creatively, I came up with a few good ideas that mean I will have to go back and amend a few simple things earlier on. This is all part of the wonderful editing process I guess.

One thing I was not prepared for was by the end of it, I was actually quite sad. It was the last time (in this novel at least) that I would be writing about some characters and I found I was very reluctant to leave them. You hear about authors crying when writing scenes or leaving characters for the last time and I have never understood it. To be honest, on some level I still don't understand it, but I have to confess that I amazed how hard I fund it to leave the chapter alone. I kept wanting to go back and add a line in here and there.

Anyway, moving on, that chapter is completed, which means I have two more scenes to write (completing another chapter) before writing the final chapter of the book. I will then spend a week fixing a few glaring errors that I have come across when writing (there are three, the first requires a new scene and the other two can be fixed with one or two lines of dialogue).

I estimate that this will take me until the end of January (a comfortable estimation (man, I love my bracket usage in this post)). I will then abide by Stephen King's advice and step away from the book for a long period by taking February off before editing it in March.

April will see me sharing the novel for the first time with a few select friends and then depending on thier opinions, I will look for an Agent in May.

It's nice to have a plan!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

GRRM Updates

George has given a brief update on his not a blog, he has just finished a Tyrion chapter that has been bugging him for 6 months. He says that he will reread it today and hopes it will stand up to scrutiny. He is also nibbling away at the knot. Could 2010 be the year?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year

The title says it all really.

I decided to do no writing over the festive period and so I return to the fold with three chapters still to write to complete my first draft. Today and tomorrow, I will spend taking stock of where I was before the break and then hopefully I will finish the book.

The good thing is, I already have several ideas about the next novel and recently thought of a good spin-off novel. I read a Patrick Rothfuss interview this morning (I recommend his blog by the way) and something he said really rang true with me. He was asked if there would be more books set in his fictional world beyond his planned trilogy. Pat replied,

"Absolutely. Growing up, I always hated it when an author created a world and characters for you to fall in love with, then walked away from it. My world is bigger than this single story. There are places on the map yet to be explored."

As much as I see myself venturing away from Frindoth, I agree with Pat 100%. There are so many stories I could write in that world and hopefully will do so.

There have been many blogs that have recapped 2009, as my blog is primarily about my writing I will not do that. Looking back, I can say that I am very pleased with the progress I have made. In terms of writing, I have nearly completed a first draft which is a major achievement for me, as well as drafting a short story and a flassh fiction piece which I am proud of. In personal terms, I have got married and become a Father. It just doesn't get any better than that.

My New Year's resolution is to get published. Whether it be in a magazine or a cream my pants dream scenario, get an agent. What are your resolutions?