Back from the Dead!

Well, not really but every so often I like to be dramatic. Picture that as a jump into the spotlight with jazz hands. Yup, I went there, I included the jazz hands. Deal with it.

So where have I been? Nowhere in particular, I’m sorry to say but a lot has been going on and that’s meant a reshuffle of my priorities. Now, this whole blog is for a couple of reasons. I like to write, and this is an easy way to do something I enjoy. Whether it’s talking about books, stories or other things, it helps keep my writing skills sharp. I’ve developed a style and it’s a big part of me even beyond the blog.

Second, hopefully other writers or interested parties finds it useful – at least sometimes! I hope, through my experiences, I can help you, or others, get started or overcome hurdles that I face too. Writers are solitary creatures. We’re weird and crazy and a little bit eccentric at the best of times but that doesn’t mean we aren’t, or shouldn’t be, connected to the world around us. At least, I think so.

Finally, it’s a vent – and that’s important. We all need to get things out there at times, it can make everyone feel better. Sometimes it’s a long rant, others a more structured post or it can even be creative.

So, that being said, what have I been doing to keep me away for so long?

The book

Outside of work, this is what is taking up a lot of my time. I’m working on the 4th draft at the moment and, honestly, I’m happy with the progress being made – if not the time it’s taking me. I feel like the story is getting stronger with each revision, the world is growing and there’s enough in there to get teeth into, even if it’s not the longest sci-fi book in the world.

I go through phases of productivity and I’m lacking that right now. I stare at pages and my mind won’t focus. I’ve tried working on other stories or free writing, but nothing is coming. I’ve gone back to my games to distract me and I think it helps.

I need a solid block of time to finish the thing. I can’t continue doing an hour here, 30 minutes there – I lose the flow. So, there’s an opportunity coming my way to do that. Late summer will see me spend a full month getting this sorted. I’m hoping by the time this block of time comes, I’ll be working on the 5th draft.

Ideally, I want it finished by the end of the year so I can start submitting. And to start work on book two – of which I already have a full plan ready. Maybe I’ll try writing the 3rd book’s plan…

The day job

So, the opportunity.

I had already decided that I needed time to work on my book but supporting myself financially was always going to be a concern. I live alone, it’s not the cheapest option but it’s done me well. Work offered voluntary redundancy and I applied. After talking it over with my manager, it was approved and I will be finishing my current role at the end of July, just short of 2 years in the role.

Time wasn’t the only factor. The redundancy has a good pay-out and will give me the means to live without working for a while so I can sort the book out. Get some good progress done and advance a goal that I’ve been working towards for as long as I can remember.

I’ve turned down other jobs in the process of making this decision but there are longer implications to this too. It’s all a little scary but I’m feeling calm, hopefully and even excited for what lies beyond the next couple of months.

Future plans

So, what does this mean for me after July? Well, after almost 8 years here, I’m leaving Manchester. Not necessarily for good, but at least for a couple of years. Maybe more. I’ll be heading to Newcastle to live with the parents for six months or so. I’m going to finish the damned book and maybe start the next one (I’m a sucker for punishment, it seems). I’ve covered this above.

After that, going into 2018, I’ll hopefully be heading to Australia. Some of you know I’ve been talking about this for years, seriously trying to save for the last year or two and failing miserably. This opportunity gives me the money I said I needed to do this. And hopefully a little more. The family is very understanding of my plans and while it’s always been a dream, it’s time to make it happen. After my book.

I feel like I need a change. I need to travel, go somewhere else and see what I can find. Grab some adventures and experiences. I’m stuck in a rut here and I’m nowhere near ready for relationships or houses or stuff like that. Maybe an early midlife crisis? I pulled the longest grey hair from my head this weekend. Scary. Anyway, I digress.

I’ll be looking to build some freelance work up for that time at home and maybe beyond – content and social media primarily but also social advertising, PPC, SEO and such. I know it. I can do it, time to make a living from it. Get in touch if you know of anything or have any questions about it – I’ll try and help.

For now, more regular blogs incoming.

Making Sacrifices

I’ve been quiet again. Sorry. Not really, though. Those of you in the know will be aware of how hard early October is for me. That’s not the reason though. Well, not entirely.

The last five weeks or so, I’ve been working on redrafting my novel. It’s been difficult, especially to get into the swing of things. Now that I have, work is progressing at a decent pace but the problem is, it’s taken a lot (read: most) of my time. That, and work – and travelling to work – is a bit of a killer. It means I’ve had to make some tough choices.

Beyond the birthday plans, it means cutting back on social events, gaming and even swimming (I’m annoyed about this one the most!). As such, I’ve missed Halloween and all the fun parties and gatherings.

It’ll be worth it.

Editing is not easy. At all

To edit effectively, all distractions need to vanish. I’ve got the TV on but on shows and movies that I’ve seen many times before. It’s the noise I want. Working in silence doesn’t appeal to me.

I need to be objective and, at times, brutal. Some pages are covered in red ink while others have only a few corrections. It’s weird, going through three pages you think actually work well and don’t need many amends (this time around) but then you read eight pages that have so many changes it might have been easier to just rewrite them from scratch.

I exaggerate but hopefully you get the point.

Thankfully, I’ve been editing projects, both creative writing and marketing focused, for the last ten years or so. If all goes to plan, I’ll be working on the digital file by the 12th November.

The sacrifices

As mentioned, gaming has gone out of the window (despite having plenty of games to play!). I’ve turned down a lot of plans with people. Partly due to money but also because they’re a distraction and if I break the run I’m on, it could take even longer to get it done.

Swimming has gone as well. There was an injury followed by illness and now this. It’s been about six weeks since my last swim and I’m suffering withdrawal! I know that I’ll lose some of the fitness and progress made over the last five months but I’ll get it back. By then, I might be able to step it up and do something else. Maybe I can start running a little.

Forgive me

If I’m quiet, or distant, or constantly saying no to your plans to do something, give me a little time. It might seem like I don’t care but I do – possibly too much – just about my writing right now. It does take priority. If I did this full-time, it would be different.

We’ll get through it. Maybe I’ll appreciate these activities more once I can do them again. If it helps me publish this book, it’ll definitely be worth it.

NaNoWriMo – Week Three

Targeted word count – 46,000

Current word count – 0

It’s now three weeks in and I haven’t been able to find the motivation to get on this. I think it’s safe to say I’m a definite failure now but not have anything by this point? That’s got to be my worst effort yet. Still, I have time and if I can get something then this won’t be a complete loss. I was hoping that blogging about would help motivate me but just too much has been going on. Still, there’s always 2015!

Competition update

So, I didn’t hear anything back from the ITV competition – according to their entry rules and terms and such, I would have heard something on the 21st November. I didn’t, so time to move on. It’s always disappointing but as most writers will know, there are going to be far more rejections than successes – unless you are a real prodigy, and even then I’m doubtful.

It’s a shame but it did do one thing for me – it got me to evaluate some projects I’ve been on and off with for years, to really think about them, where they’re going and how much I’ve grown. I had some great support and help in the short space of time and I’m grateful for those who’ve helped me.

I now have two fully formed ideas and plans in my head (and on electronic paper), with both being at various lengths already. They can work, I know that. I’ve just got to keep at them, keep improving them and hope I find an agent/publisher that sees a gap in the market better than I can and take it on. Thankfully, that’s not all I’ve got.

What’s next?

Well, December will see me working on my novella for Salt’s submission. I’ve had some very valuable feedback on that piece already – and I know some areas I need to work on so I’m hoping that it will be as gripping for others as my current proofers. It’s had a positive reaction so far, which is great but what’s better is that they’ve not been afraid to give me feedback and point out mistakes. That’s invaluable for any creative – or any person – who wants to improve, and I really do.

I can’t really give much away yet but keep an eye on this blog to find out more about it in the future. Whatever happens, it will get out there!

I know it might seem strange to look away from NaNoWriMo before it’s over but this project is the sequel to one I did years ago and submitted to the ITV comp. I thought it was time to write it but I think going back to the first one might be better. Anything I get will be useful, no doubt about it.

Time will tell.

Is The New Watch really the End?

The New Watch

The New Watch

So, book five. I had very high hopes for Sergei Lukyanenko’s The New Watch. I love the first four and if this one could keep up with those, it was fairly certain I’d feel the same with this one. As it turns out, it did and I do! One thing I did appreciate was that the spelling for Gesar returned in this book, opposed to Geser as featured in The Last Watch. I’m not sure why it bothered me so much but it did.

So, let’s dive in.

A brand new mystery

We’re back with Anton Gorodetsky. He’s changed a fair bit since we first met in The Night Watch. He’s moved up the ranks in the Watch and gained a lot of power, which has undoubtedly helped his relationship with Sveta – or that’s what we’re led to believe. His daughter is growing up quickly and her power is unmatched.

Although we’ve been introduced to the idea of reading the future with probabilities and such, now we’re really get involved with Clairvoyants and Prophets. Both can spell big trouble for humans and Others and it opens up a whole new mystery about the nature of the Twilight – we’re even asked to question if it’s really alive!

Some more historical figures are revealed to us in this volume, expanding on the theory that most of the mythological and notable figures in our history were actually Others, explaining their talents in whatever field they were in. It’s an interesting idea and certainly gives our writer a lot to work with and plenty of people for Anton to meet. Zabulon doesn’t play a massive part in this story, much like the last, and that’s a shame. I do enjoy his meddling.

Arina also returns once more, even more powerful than before. I’m sensing a pattern here, with her. Ever since their first meeting in The Twilight Watch I had an idea that they were going to get into it and this might be their last chance if there really are only five books in the series (it’s no longer a trilogy with a sequel).

How important is destiny?

Ever hear the question “if a tree falls down but no one hears it does it make a sound” – or a variation of that – then you’ll be familiar with the question posed in The New Watch. It’s been altered a little and is now “if someone doesn’t hear a prophecy then will it still happen the way it is spoken?”

It’s an interesting idea and one Anton must get to grips with and make a decision on at various times through the book. There doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong answer so please tell me your theories on this.

It’s implied that the Twilight itself might be alive in some form and that it is at risk from Anton’s daughter, Nadia, nonetheless. It all comes down to the prophecies spoken and heard, making this a battle for survival. In that case, who is right and can anything be done to change destiny? Small changes have been made before, of course, thanks to the book of Destiny and Chalk from the original trilogy but what about on a grand scale? I’m not about to give away the answer.

So, is this really the end?

Honestly, I’m not sure. The ending could work, it does tie up a fair few things but leaves enough things to keep you thinking – and that is key. Think about all the TV shows, films and books you’ve read that tie everything up together. Do you find that you stop thinking about them until you’re reminded of them? I do but if there are things to think and wonder about, they stay with you longer, you go back to try and find out more and you’re more likely to talk about them. The New Watch does this well but I get the feeling that it’s not over.

The flip side is I haven’t found anything that might indicate a sixth book is coming (whether it’s final or not). Everything I can find suggests it’s just the five books but I’ve been talking to a few friends who are fans of this series and a couple have said they’ve read about a sixth so we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way, The New Watch is not one to miss. If you’re new to the series then get on it so you can enjoy some great books!

When Three becomes Four: The Last Watch

The Last Watch

The Last Watch

While I really enjoyed The Night Watch trilogy, the way it ended confused me. I understood what was going on (eventually, after a couple of reads) and while it seemed to close up well and tie everything together, I had a feeling that we weren’t finished with Anton. Throughout the books, we gain a deeper understanding of the Twilight and the role of the Others. It’s not simply a case of telling us the next step of Anton’s life, there’s more to it than that. It’s what The Last Watch, the sequel to the trilogy, handles so well.

A familiar setting

While not the whole book, a good part of the story is set in a very familiar place for me; in Edinburgh. I was born there and I have family who still live there so I visit when I can – less so now I’m older and working – but I could definitely tell a lot of research and planning had gone into getting it right for readers. Some will never have been there and while I’m not saying I know Moscow like the back of my hand from these books, there are parts that I could look at and remind myself of the books with. I like that.

There are attractions like the Edinburgh Dungeons, Edinburgh Castle and even Waverley Station to name a few and the Fringe Festival is also taking place. That’s not completely unrelated but doesn’t play a massive part in what’s going on.

Some old faces

There’s the usual crowd in The Last Watch. Anton is our protagonist still and we’ll see Svetlana, Nadiyushka, Gesar (although it’s spelt Geser in this book. That confused me), Zabulon, Arina, Edgar, Semyon and even Egor.

We’ll meet new people too, of course as Anton doesn’t stay in one place too long and it’d be boring if this was purely a holiday! The head of Edinburgh’s Night Watch, Foma, is a new acquaintance and we’ll be meeting Galya again, a young werewolf girl who was first introduced in The Twilight Watch.

My favourite character also made an appearance again, which I really enjoyed even if it was only briefly.

Night and Day Watch films

The Night Watch and Day Watch films

A word on the films

Films don’t really come under my remit here but they’re worth mentioning. While I can and do watch them, they are vastly different from the books. The Night Watch and The Day Watch films are loosely (very loosely) based on The Night Watch book only. They’re worth watching so you can see how different but it annoys me for multiple reasons – that’s another story.

When references are made to events in other books, a note is placed at the bottom of the page so the reader can check up on it, which is great if it’s been a while. This happens in The Last Watch as Anton thinks about what might have happened in another situation or life. It’s a bit of a nod but for me, puts some distance between the films and the books. Needed distance.

Tell me if you agree!

A great spin on a classic myth

I don’t want to give too much away by going into a lot of detail but the Merlin myth is introduced to us in The Last Watch. I say introduced because it’s one of the stronger links made out of all four books – at least that I related to. It makes sense in a lot of ways for it to appear in this book given the setting and it provided a much deeper background to the world and history of the Others and the Twilight.

It was handled very well, treated as myth and history up until the end where the revelations are made. I found myself guessing what might come up throughout the book and while I got some small details right, I was actually way off with a lot of my ideas.

Where next?

This was a really good way to end off the books, at least for now. I’d have been quite happy to have no more at this point – yes, there are more things I’d like to know but I like that. It keeps me going back for more, digging up clues I might have missed. The story came back on itself and I was content with that. However, there is more to come, as I found out earlier this year! Check back next week to find out what that is.