2/27/2003

I found a site that's quite interesting called www.betterhumans.com, mostly about posthumanism, futurist silicon v. meat type debates. Seems like a good source of ideas. I'm ploughing ahead, and as far as the first draft of Against Gravity goes, I feel like I'm probably around the one-third mark.

We did the writer's circle at the GFT, but in my opinion it wasn't that great. You can hear music from adverts and the movies that are on quite clearly through the walls, loud enough at times - particularly when queues of people are moving past the room we workshop in - to make it quite hard to concentrate on whatever story is being workshopped. We may stick there as long as it's convenient, but I suspect if we do it's going to put people off coming back. We'd been thinking of sticking to the city centre, since some people find it easier to get to and more central depending on what part of town they're coming from, but I think we may have to slide back towards thinking about the West End. There just doesn't seem to be anywhere suitable in town now that Borders is out. I was even thinking of suggesting the Lansdowne Church, where we used to go .... but it would be a bit weird, for me at least, like stepping back in time. Or maybe that would be a good thing, I don't know.

Up to 36,344, or thereabouts.

2/26/2003

Well, I had some good - or at least hopeful - news. An email from my agent saying that Angel Stations has been passed on to the editor at the publisher's who are considering it with a good report from the editor's reader. To recap, originally my agent sent the synopsis and first couple of chapters to the editor, who handed it to his reader, who read it, decided it was good enough for the editor's consideration; as a result of which, that editor then read that synopsis and sample, and decided he'd like to see more.

Now what's happened is, that same reader has read the complete novel manuscript, and passed it onto the editor with what my agent calls 'a good report'. Now, that isn't a sale by any means, but it's good news. My agent does seem to feel the editor is going to expect rewrites, but I've already said I expect that anyway. I've done a good job of not looking at all at the manuscript - it's sitting right here by my arm where it's sat untouched for the past couple of months - so that it's fresh to me when I eventually go back to it.

So ... wish me luck.

In the meantime, I'm having some thoughts about my main character in the new story, Against Gravity. I need to develop him more as a character; spent less time on his background than I should have. I made him an investigative journalist. Note to self: on second draft, flesh this out a lot more. Make the reason he's thrown in jail some famous article he's written, some deeply excoriating piece of Pulitzer-winning journalism that's dangerous to the Wilber regime.

The word count's up to 34,945.

2/24/2003

That's the start of the Angkor Wat part of the story done. I used the Rough Guide online for some of my research, plus a map of that part of Cambodia I found, although I should download some more pictures of the complex to get my descriptions more accurate. I like to think of this as the 'Blofeld' section of the book.

Unfortunately, Mandy didn't get into Glasgow University for the English degree. However, she's still waiting on Strathclyde University, which supposedly actually has a better degree course in English. Fingers crossed. Also got a call from Dave, who's back from Edinburgh and, I suspect, wibbling on the edge of actually moving there since that seems to be where everybody he knows is. He's been spending much of his time, it seems, setting up an office network for the Green Party's Scottish headquarters for the upcoming elections. I may chase him up about maybe upgrading my pc purely so I can play demented computer games of the type that make MJ get that slightly distressed look on her face. But then, I'm not the one who walks about the flat coated in live Gerbils.

Today's word count is, 32,584.

2/23/2003

It seems someone from my circle of friends and acquaintances read my blog and made the observation that my obsessive (I don't deny it) daily word-count was a sort of writer-equivalent of Bridget Jones' clipped 'weight: 9 st. Calories: 300' diary entries. I don't deny it, though it does occur it might be a little boring for anyone reading this seeing nothing but lists of numbers.

Mind you, the whole point I'm doing this is to get my fingers up to speed before I actually sit down and do some writing on the book, assuming I don't do the book-writing first, which is when I end up with nothing to say because I've just pounded out 1800 words of rough first-draft text, I only ever end up sticking in a note verifying that I've written that number of words. And if you think I'm bad, you should see some of the writer's blogs I've seen; carefully broken-down tabular/statistical analyses of daily word count in a given month or year or day as compared to any other. Me, I just want something to look back over in twenty years, being one of those people who has enough trouble remembering what they had for breakfast yesterday morning, let alone remembering what the hell they were doing at all the whole of the previous week.

For the record, however, today it's at 31,321.

Things, then, I have done this week, apart from pounding on a keyboard. Attempted to learn the riff from the Red Hot Chilli Pepper's 'Can't Stop' on my acoustic. Agreed to produce a booklet for a printshop promoting the values of a group of religious nutters who i'm not even going to sully my blog by naming (my justification being, I need the money, they have the right to free speech regardless of how demented they are with the proviso that if I found anything genuinely offensive in their literature, anything actually or genuinely racist or inflammatory, I would and will drop it like a hot rock, etc etc). Also: walked into a place I used to work in as a designer, and spotted someone altering a passport on screen, from a distance. Or perhaps it was something else; but from where I was standing, it looked like a passport. Added the writer's circle to a couple of online listings of writer's circles in the UK. Went to see The Hours with Mandy, fully expecting what I'd categorise as a 'chick flick' I'd sleep through, but instead was knocked out by it. Yeah, I think that's about it.

2/22/2003

30,193 words in and rolling. It's crossed my mind that if the publishers do show an interest in the book, I'm going to have to functionally abandon Against Gravity in the middle to take care of Angel Stations. I'm tempted to quite literally blitz through Gravity if it came to that, and get a (very) rough draft written up within two months. But at the moment I'm getting at least 1200 words done a day, which isn't bad going.

Doing a little research on Asian temples for Draeger's corporate home. I decided on Angkor Wat, since I remembered Moorcock used it for the start of the very first Jerry Cornelius novel. It's an appropriately mysticism-filled environment for someone like Draeger, with his quasi-religious theories. I hope I can do the idea justice. But don't all writers?

It's been sunny all week in Scotland, but a freezing Arctic wind cuts through everything like a knife. My sinuses have been blocked all week, and even going out gives me a headache within minutes. My life has become so sedentary recently that I feel even more unfit than I usually do. I really, really need to get some exercise and flatten this stomach a bit. I was doing crunches until Christmas but, surprise, surprise, I lost the habit over that period. Not that it was really making that much difference, but at least I felt like I was holding it at bay.

Off to Hubbards in a little bit to see who's there, it being Saturday night of course.

2/19/2003

Against Gravity word count - 26,230
Maria is back from Australia, so that's the end of my fulltime gig splitting myself between two businesses. In the meantime, the boss of one of them - the one where I spend the most time - has had a business advisor type person in telling him how to run his business, improve sales etc, since in my boss's case it might be better to say he needs help in how not to run his business. In fact, it might be even more accurate he needs help in having his business perform anything other than a meandering, somewhat geriatric shuffle around an old folks home looking for that packet of mints it left lying around in 1946.

Boss has a habit of creating 'promo material' - meaning desk calendars, stuff like that, with the business name all over it. He then employs the cunning strategy of storing this stuff for up to three years in dark festering corridors far from the sight of man, perhaps so that when somebody trips over them and fatally injures themselves, the last thing they might think before the darkness consumes will be "hang on, that's right, i'd better get some business cards printe..."

The point is, I joined Boss and Advisor Guy in the office for about twenty minutes while Advisor explained what he thought would be a more effective way of promoting the printing business by not only producing colourful, attractive, and informative leaflets, but actually following them up with an enquiry or phonecall. All the time looking at me in the way that implied the Fatal Flaw in the Argument: to whit, that I am the one solely responsible for the design and text of previous leaflets.

Oh no. The reality is, I can design stunning, attractive and informative layouts, but then I have to hand itover to whoever ordered it, which is not unlike handing a '58 Moet over to a crowd of antifreeze-drinking down-and-outs on the hottest day of summer. If you give a range of designs ranging from good to bad for people to consider, I can guarantee you clients will always, ALWAYS PICK THE WORST.

So I had to sit there, unable to explain that in fact no, I wasn't responsible for the text of the original leaflet, which explains in infinitely boring detail the finer engineering points of our printing presses, something of no interest to any man, woman or lump of rock. Partnered, of course, with pictures of printing presses. Exciting stuff. And Boss wonders why people aren't stampeding to the door.
Went to see The Hours not long after getting back in from work, so not much chance to write. Mandy found a two for one offer for the Odeon in the Observer on Sunday, so we got in cheap, which was good, as I really hadn't had any interest in seeing the film. But what do you know - it was absolutely terrific, one of those real 'food for thought' movies. The weird thing is, as much as I love the written science fiction genre (though not to the exclusion of all else, of course) it's movies like The Hours that more often than not really do it for me. Everyone talks about Nicole Kidman as Woolf, but it's Ed Harris in his role as the dying poet that really knocked me off my feet. Excellent performances all round, mind.

2/17/2003

2/16/2003

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention. I got an email from my agent Dorothy saying that she's hoping to hear from the Big Publisher's about Angel Stations within, I think, the next two weeks. I sent her an e-mail that I've already started work on another book in the meantime. Cross your fingers for me. I'm prepared for the worst - and, of course, the best.
Against Gravity word count: 22,891.

Cold is clearing up, but it's freezing out here. I hate that I actually did miss history in the making after all ... all those people I saw passing outside my window were part of what's turned out to be the biggest mass demonstrations in the UK ... ever. And all I could do was sneeze in the general direction of the Labour Spring Conference down the road ...

Just had a thought. A lot of the time when I look at other people's blogs, they always seem to get round to the bit where they talk about the weird search references that brought them to their blog. I use servustat.com, which not only acts as an invisible visitor counter, it also tells you which country they came from, what language their computer is set up for, and if they found you through a search, what words they used, and what search engine they typed it into. This is because every month or so Google 'spiders' web pages around the world, meaning it sends out little autonomous software agents that find your web pages automatically and 'index' them according to what's actually written in them.

Which means, obviously, that the more popular search words you type in, the more hits you're likely to get...

So, by way of experimentation, I'm just going to type in some random probably-very-popular search-type words, just to see if my hit rate rockets, heh.

Harry Potter, space shuttle, nasa, sex, world cup, cnn, michael jackson, fame academy, oscars, christmas, iraq.

Now, that's just a few of them. I'll make sure to add some more in to this entry in the future, just to see if it does move things up.

For what it's worth, I know somebody is reading this thing, even though it might just be random entries when I update my blog and it appears for a few seconds on Blogger.com's main web page. Plus, I've listed the site in things like the 'scottish blogs' link you should see around here somewhere. I wonder if anybody's actually daft enough to read it regularly ...

2/15/2003

Against Gravity word count: 21,428

Wow. Not long after I posted that last entry, I looked out the window and realised there were people streaming down Argyle Street. Some carrying banners. Not an actual strand of the march, but people finding their way from one thing to the other. SOme of them had obviously come up by way of the tunnel that connects the SECC to Finnieston and Argyle Street. I felt bad at not taking part in the marches. It felt like history was taking part right in front of me and i should be part of it, but I felt drained of energy, and when I went out to buy milk and papers, it exhausted me. So I just came home.

Managed to get some writing done. Not as hard as I'd been worried it would be to get back in the groove, but it only really has been a couple of days.
I still feel sick. Mandy's out for the count with the same thing too. It's about half two in the afternoon and I just managed to stagger out of bed maybe an hour and a half ago. I'm definitely getting better - I can feel the cold receding, and I don't feel as weak as I did yesterday - but I still feel like I've lost a couple of days.

The thing I hate most about this kind of random illness isn't necessarily the physical discomfort; it's the boredom. Sometimes, all you can do is lie and wait for it to pass. This is boring. You know it's boring, but still you lie and wait, since any kind of stimulus - a book, tv, a conversation - is painful, annoying and difficult.

It's also affected my writing, of course. I didn't write either Thursday or Friday, which was hard, but my head was swimming and clogged. When you write this intensively, any kind of break - even a weekend - can send you into a relative tailspin, and the longer you leave it, the harder it is to put yourself back into the mental 'frame' you were in when you last had the manuscript open on the screen in front of you.

This, however, is not important.

I just spent the past hour watching the tv. There are almost - possibly at least - a million marchers in London protesting against the prospect of an assault on Iraq. Right now, the Prime Minister is giving a speech at the SECC, barely a mile from where I'm sitting now, at the Labour Spring Conference. There are God knows how many people marching through Glasgow towards the SECC as part of the same protest. And if it wasn't for the fact my head still feels like it's had half a mile of cotton wool dragged through it, I'd almost certainly be there. All I can do is flick through the cable channels - CNN, Sky, ITV and BBC24 - and watch the arial shots of miles-long marches winding their way towards Hyde Park in London.

Dishes are neglected, floors need hoovering. Perhaps some of these things will clear my mind to the point where, perhaps, I can get some writing done before I go to the pub tonight.

2/13/2003

Argh. I was thinking about going to a science fiction convention - Eastercon - this year, but in relation to the amount of money I make, the cost is prohibitive. Plus, I'll miss almost half of it as my girlfriend's birthday is on the Friday - her 21st, as well - so even if I did go, I wouldn't be able to get a lift there, and by the time I did get there, it would be halfway through the Saturday afternoon - plus, I'd have to book a train making at least two changes on the way to Hinckley, where the con is being held. The journey alone would take almost six hours.

This all assuming I leave at seven in the morning. Ach.

I've been to a lot of conventions. There are things I really like about them, there are things I really hate about them. I could utterly do without people walking about in fancy dress. This might make me enemies in some quarters, but frankly I find most of them embarrassing, one or two verging on disturbing. I recall people commenting on how conventions were places where people were always friendly, open. This always seemed to run against my own experience, which didn't always fit that model.

Nonetheless, I enjoy Conventions - mostly. I get to talk to other people interested in writing, published and unpublished. I had the notion going would be a good idea since I'm making the big push to get some publishable novels written. Even if I didn't achieve anything (although I'm not sure what I actually could achieve), at least I'd feel I was in the right mental environment. It would make me thing something like, there's something here I'm aiming for.

Plus, I was talking to Lawrence in the Counting House on Tuesday when we met to talk about where to go next with the writer's circle. He mentioned he'd read there was a strong correlation between the writers most frequently nominated for the Nebulas, and the number of conventions those same authors attended (read: schmoozing). That helped me make up my mind - at the time - to go.

But when I think of the money it'll cost - plus the time of travelling, how little time I'll be there, my state of mind for most of the Saturday on which I"ll have been travelling since seven in the morning - puts me off now. It's just too difficult, too expensive. Mind you, I know Craig's flying down. It's something to think about, and I have flown before, but it's far from being an experience I enjoy.

But I think it's likely I'll give it a miss this time, however much I don't want to.

Stinking cold. My mind is fuzzed. Didn't manage to get any writing done tonight. Had the cold last night as well. Some writing, not much. Had trouble focusing on the screen, dammit. See how I feel tomorrow.

2/09/2003

Against Gravity word count: 17,225

The story seems to be writing itself to a certain extent, perhaps simply because I made a detailed plan of it. Not that I haven't before. A previous outline I had was for a fantasy set in the wild west, involving ancient chinese prophecies and, er, japanese samurai. In the Wild West. Trust me the outline rocked. only i didn't have the confidence to really go anywhere with it. or the ability to do what i soon realised was a tremendous amount of research. I still have a couple of books i bought to help me; the writer's guide to everyday life in the wild west, and the writer's guide to everyday life in the 1800's. Both brilliant books just for browsing through, by the way.

Primarily, when i look back i think i just didn't have it in me yet to see how an outline could be translated into a novel length manuscript. For a lot of people, including myself, first of all you have to sit down and write, say, 100,000 words of consecutive text - regardless of how much of it is drivel - before you can really learn how to plan a story properly. In other words, only once you've internalised the experience of writing that many words, and can then apply it to a plot outline.

Or that's how it was for me, anyway.

I found an old book on my shelves by the writer Brian Stableford, on writing science fiction; it has a foreword where he talks about his early experiences as a writer. He would write 50,000 word novels in four week breaks from University. It's this kind of thing which leads me to believe those quotes I seem to see occasionally, saying something along the lines of, roughly speaking, 'writing a book is nine parts discipline and one part talent'.

Of course, it's not really as simple as that. But I think there's a lot of truth in it.

2/08/2003

Against Gravity word count: 15,617
Against Gravity word count: 13,379

Shattered. Spent most of this afternoon with four chinese guys, one translating for his three brothers, finishing their menu for their takeaway. I don't mind having people sit with me in a printshop while I finish their stuff, but you almost feel like you're performing in public, so you feel tense - not stressed, or nervous, just tense, so the whole thing takes two hours at the end of which my head has packed its bags and gone on holiday.

Then I come home and get a call from a friend who describes himself as 'having died eight weeks ago and been reborn', having suffered some kind of miniature nervous breakdown - or so he says - which necessitates popping around to visit me and tell me how crap his life is. Which I can understand, he's really going through that whole 'i'm thirty, my life is shit' (his words) thing.

Possibly exacerbated, one suspects, by the lack of anything even vaguely girlfriend-shaped in, oh, let's see, about six years. I know I should have been more sympathetic, but in these kinds of things you can;t really help people because if they're going to improve their lives, they have to do it themselves, one way or the other, in the end.

I'm lucky, really, in that I figured out what I want to do. Write. And, yes, occasionally design stuff. I feel like I'm in some kind of permanent 'groove' where I can sit down and write, say, between a thousand and two thousand words of at least reasonable, workmanlike prose in a single session. With revisions, this allows me to write a novel-length manuscript in anything from six to eight months, including initial polishes.

I suppose being this single-minded at this point in my life is a good thing.

2/05/2003

Against Gravity word count 10,548

I looked back at those first few unedited words I posted here recently and thought, yeah, I really hate it now. What I've got now is a lot better ... he said.

My fingers are tired. I don't mind working for the printing business I used to work for since it's only a couple of weeks of me helping out while Maria is away in Australia, but it is rather grinding work. Typing up menus, designing them up at what feels like some speed. The main work I do these days isn't perhaps the most regular of work, but at least it's more interesting - and less sweat-inducing.

I still can't make up my mind whether or not to go to Eastercon.
Against Gravity word count: 9,285

2/03/2003

Against Gravity word count: 8,778.

I was glancing over this blog and it's remarkable - to me, anyway - how much the book's storyline has changed since I started the blog. Keeping it has doen what I hoped it would do, which is externalise my thoughts so it would feel like I was working my ideas out to somebody who was listening, regardless of whether anybody was actually listening or not. That's me almost ten thousand words in.Still don't know what to think of it.

It's cold outside. Snowing today, so frozen ice to walk over to work tomorrow. I received an email from someone who edited a magazine I worked on a couple of years ago as a contributor and as the designer. He was very good at telling people what he was going to do with teh publication without actually doing anything about it. The best way I can put it is, I never before saw someone get handed a reasonably well-paying dream job about a million people in the UK would willingly cut throats to have (ie get paid to edit a music magazine, turn up at and leave work when you feel like it, go to a great number of free gigs, free music etc etc), and then pretty much try and talk his way out of it from day one. A very, very bizarre period of my life.

He wrote to me by email asking if I had copies of one of the magazines he edited so he could take them to a job interview. For some reason, he neglected ever to take issues of any of the publications he worked on home with him, ever. I'm convinced there is something of considerable meaning at the heart of this.

I look back on my time writing for a publishing company's magazines; also designing a couple of them, and eventually editing one of them for almost a year. In some ways I think, with justification, what a great opportunity, what an easy life I had there for a while. But I could never quite kid myself it was going to last.

Other times I think, with equal justification, what a waste, a shambolic, pathetic waste of an opportunity.

2/02/2003

Against Gravity word count: 7,350. Also including a bucketload of research on futurism websites about future biochemical warfare, USA crop patterns, stuff like that. It's going to take a good bit more research yet to get my future history about right.

I'm definitely having one of those off days. Walking around Glasgow city centre with icy freezing rain soaking both me and MJ for about six hours did not help. But we made it for the usual Saturday night at Hubbards and talked about the usual Saturday night things. But when I woke up today ... we both slept in until the middle of the afternoon ... I felt like shit. Crumbly and grey. I'm having a bath in a minute because that'll make me feel better. My eczema (which I've had since I was a baby, and thank the Gods is not nearly as chronic as it was when I was younger) was also acting up, probably in response to the constant soaking and temperature changes.

After I've had a bath, I'll be fine. That's my mantra for today. MJ is off to visit Jim and use his washing machine. News is still full of Columbia, no surprises there, but no real news either. It fell out of the sky, no one knows why.

Had an interesting story idea sitting here, copying a cd for a friend. Not really sf, more surrealist, possibly even Ballard-like, in terms of novels like The Crystal World, of catastrophic change? People start getting smaller, 'Incredible Shrinking Man' style, but it's not just one or a few people, it's everyone, everywhere.

Could be crap, could be neat.

2/01/2003

I just came home with a bad stress headache after spending several hours fighting my way through the iciest wind and rain this year to look for clothes and grab some food at what used to be a halfway decent cafe/bar (The 13th Note) only to wind up paying twice as much as I did six months ago for the same stuff. My head was pounding under the backwards-worn cap I have barely taken off since buying it at H&M last Saturday, then suffering a bad head-cold at the time.

I pulled off soaked jeans while MJ went for a shower; I slapped on the gas heater and got a couple of calls from friends telling me what their plans were for the night. I tried not to feel guilty about spending what seems to me a large amount of money, regardless of whether or not I objectively know I can afford it.

In the meantime I switched on my pc and started checking out my usual haunts, mostly blogs by WIlliam Gibson, Patrick Hayden, Charles Stross and the like. I couldn't understand why many of them were talking about the '86 shuttle crash. Maybe it was the anniversary, I thought.

I was feeling pretty befuddled, which was why it took me a little time to realise the shuttle that crashed in '86 had a different name. It was called the Challenger, not Columbia. I went to BBC Online and realised what had happened.

William Gibson puts it best here.