The Midfield Conundrum.

No, this is not, as the title may suggest, a blog about how Manchester United could sort its problems out. Firstly, This isn’t a sports blog, and secondly, I’m more of a rugby man.

No, this is about the fact that I’m starting to get a bit… well, bored of The Delta Children. I’m 38k words into the bloody thing, and I’m struggling a bit. This is my first foray into Action/Sci-Fi, and at the moment a lot of my characters are standing around doing not very much at all other than setting the scene.

It’s the bit all writers get a bit bored of, I suppose. It’s like sitting in the cinema, watching the film roll, when you were the one who filmed it. You know what’s coming, and you know the good bits are coming up but you’ve got to get through the bits where all the characters are talking to each other first.

Ultimately, I have a month and a half to finish this book before my self-imposed deadline. It’s plenty of time. I’ve just been toying with another concept in my head and it’s really grabbed my imagination.

I’m actually tempted to put back the second season of High Moon Rising/Order of Britain in order to write it. But we shall see.

 

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The calm before…

I’ve had fairly hit and miss luck with promotion over the year and a bit I’ve been publishing, but recently, in order to spur my sales a bit I jumped on the chance to get in on one of Patty’s Promos.

Patty Jansen, a damned fine author in her own right, spends time each month running a promotion through her website, and a couple of weeks ago High Moon Rising Volume One was part of her 99c promotion.

Given that my books are pretty damn niche, I wasn’t expecting big things, and since my promotions have been limited to giving away books for free before now, a sales promotion was something I was very new to.

However, I was pleasantly suprise by the results. Over the course of the weekend, I ended up selling about twenty books. This may not sound like much, but it was twenty more than I’d sold in the previous month!

I’ve made no bones about the fact that promotion is my least favourite part of indie publishing, mainly because its time away from writing, but finding a good promo is brilliant. Unfortunately for me, I’m going to have to get back on the proverbial wagon soon, because Call of Herne is  veering over the horizon. Currently, my goal is to finish The Delta Children by the end of October, and get a head start on season 2 of my main books for 2017.

It’s a steep learning curve, but you live or die by it, I suppose.

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Tick… tick… tick…

I think every writer has days when they don’t want to write, and those are the most difficult days you’re ever going to get. As much as you push yourself, sometimes it’s better to take the hit and leave the writing, because if your heart isn’t in it, the quality of your work will suffer.

As a writer with a day job, however, equally difficult are the days when you’re looking at the clock and thinking ‘I could be writing. I could be at home, tapping away on my keyboard, hammering out the plot of this story.’

Today, thankfully, was one of the latter. The Delta Children is finally coming into its stride, Call of Herne is edited, but is waiting for my in house artist to find the time to do the book cover, and I’ve got ideas bouncing round my skull like ping ping balls in a wind tunnel.

I like these days. When I was at Uni, I was encouraged to always carry a notebook with me, so that I could jot ideas down as and when they hit me. It’s a habit that I’ve sometimes allowed to lapse, but not in the last few years. The Nuclei of most of my stories are in there,  and I add and ditch ideas as I go along. Today I had random ideas about clockwork worlds and faery counter-terrorism units bouncing through my mind,  and it always helps to scribble away in my House Stark notebook and think of where to go next with my writing.

Admittedly, after The Delta children is done, I’m going to have to get a start on season two of High Moon Rising and Order Of Britain before I do anything else, but it’s nice to have some other toys in the attic.

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Fatal four way.

I have, as I may have mentioned before, got a bit of a tendency to not plan ahead when it comes to my stories. It isn’t so much that I don’t plan, but beyond the initial nucleus of the idea, I tend to disregard most of the details I plan really early on, and from that point onwards improvisation takes over.

Delta Children is well and truly into that phase at this point. From a relatively small cast of characters, the stories roster is beginning to expand and adapt to fit the story. The most interesting example of this so far is a news reporter who, initially was just a throwaway characer, but had now become fairly central to the second act, by becoming a catalyst for groups of characters to link together.

There are currently three active factions in the story, and I was definitely struggling to bring them all together, and eventually it became clear to me that I’d have to expand even further and bring in a fourth player to the game. A part of me is starting to get uncomfortable with expanding the cast this much, but it’s become unavoidable. 

The only other way would be to Deus Ex the hell out of it, and whilst I’m not averse to a bit of the old Machina, it would be way to early in the story at this point.

At the moment, Delta Children is starting to straddle the line between thriller and Sci Fi, with a few horror elements thrown in for kicks. I’m also starting to plan season two of High Moon Rising / Order of Britain, so I’ve got plenty to keep me entertained!

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Promo time! 

I’m in this month’s promo by Patty Jansen, along with many other great authors; check it out! 

http://pattyjansen.com/promo/

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So…

I was intent on writing a full thousand words today but…

Too Hot

I shall catch up later in the week.

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Fighting my corner. 

I am terrible at planning. I’ve said this before, but no matter how detailed a plan of a book I write, within a couple of chapters, I’ll have veered away from it into the dim and mysterious shadow lands of improvisation. Hell, ironing out those gaps is what editing is for, right?

Of course, occasionally that means I’ll write myself into a corner and it will take me a while to get myself out of it.

In the case of The Delta Children, that first roadblock has hit me about 20k words in. Id managed to get all my characters into a reasonable position to start a conflict, but the catalyst for that conflict was being distinctly unforthcoming.

Thankfully, my old adage of a jigsaw puzzle became appropriate again. I was sitting in work, and my brain woke up from its week-long state of fuzziness and began pelting me with ideas like a kid pelts a house with eggs on Halloween.

So, the ideas were there, but then came the necessity of getting them down on the page. I wasn’t sure how to get the whole world turned against the Deltas, but inspiration came from one of my wifes TV habits.

Bex watches the news pretty religiously, and more specifically in this case, she watches Channel 4 news. C4 news is hosted by thr legendary Jon Snow, (no, not that one. This one knows plenty,) and the presenters tend to have a rather… Combative style when it comes to interviewing government figures.

So, taking a leaf from their book, I wrote an extensive scene of an interview between a news presenter and a government representative dealing with the fallout of the Deltas escape. It was a pretty difficult scene to write, mainly becausw it is all dialogue. There was no quantifying action or statements in between the speeches, it basically reads like a transcript of the dialogue between the reporter and the government rep.

I’m actually really happy with the scene, enough that I may revisit the characters further down the line in the book. It was a definite challenge, and one that I enjoyed immensely, but more importantly, it will lead straight into the setup for the next major event of the book.

And that is something thats going to be straight out of the James Herbert side of the playbook.

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Story fragment: Jericho’s Wall

Occasionally, I go dredging through my stories folder on google drive, and find fragments of stories I’ve started but not continued for whatever reason. I thought that I’d share one with you. It’s a rough cut, but maybe you’ll find something to like.


The silent man crested the hill, his boots kicking up spurts of dust from the landscape. He reached for his water skin, shook it slightly, testing how much remained inside the toughened leather.

You need to find a source of moisture, Jericho. I’m detecting a possible source two kilometres to the north.”

The man named Jericho glanced up at the cloudless sky, a mute frown flashing briefly across his face. Far to the west, an airship was working it’s slow way across the sky, it’s gondola hanging beneath it like a pilot fish shadowing a shark.

Any signs of life?” He thought. If he concentrated,he could detect the slight glimmers of energy as the machine searched for a response.

A couple of travelers, nothing more.” There was a pause, a fraction too long to be unintentional. “Best get moving if you want to get there before dark.”

You’re lying to me, Solomon.

No, I’m just not telling you the full story. Get moving, Jericho.

He shrugged, and began the trudge towards the oasis.

**

Charlotte dipped the bucket into the clear blue waters, lifting it clear of the oasis. A mischievous smile crossed her face, and she upturned the bucket over her head, drenching herself in the cool liquid.

“Charlotte, stop wasting time and get over here!” came a stern voice from the caravan.

“Sorry Pa!” She grinned and refilled the bucket, carrying it over to the wheeled house. Her father looked her up and down, one eyebrow raised.

“Couldn’t resist it, could ya?”

She blushed slightly, and set the bucket down next to the hob. Her smile faded as she glanced towards the shaded bedroom.

“How is she?”

“She’ll be better for water. Away with you now, Feed the mules, then yourself.”

She nodded, and walked down the steps towards the front of the vehicle. She opened up the hatch at the front, wincing as sweet-smelling steam hissed out of its black innards. The crater-dragons heads popped out, and she grinned.

“Alright, you rock guzzling devil-mules. Who wants feeding first?”

The dragons chirped, and leapt over the edges of their compartments, scurrying towards the bricks of coal she poured onto the ground. Fed and contained, the little crater’s body heat could power a caravan like theirs across the desert in days, rather than weeks. Charlotte adored them. She leant back against the side of the caravan as they chomped down the raw coal, occasional flickers of flame escaping their mouths.

She glance up towards the horizon, and frowned. Riders were approaching out of the haze.

**

Jericho approached the water hole quietly, his hat shadowing his face from the harsh sun. He glanced towards the east, where the airship was still making it’s ponderous course towards the cities. He envied their ease of travel. He had to rely on a solid pair of boots and a much-patched water-can to survive out in the wastelands.

He reached the oasis as he sun was rising towards noon. A caravan was sat by the cool waters, a couple of men lounging on fallen log benches that some helpful soul had cut over the years.

I don’t like this, Solomon.” The wanderer noted.

Nothing to like, old man.” The machine in his head noted.

As he moved towards the waters, the men looked up at him with disinterest. Solomon ran their facial features against his database swiftly, coming up with matches.

Carl Donovan and Elias Mitchell. Known brigands. No threat to one with your abilities, Jericho.

“Afternoon there, friend. Pleasant days to you.” Donovan said.

Jericho nodded to him, and headed for the cool waters. Donovan frowned.

“Hey, I’m talking to you, pal!”

Jericho turned, his eyes cold steel beneath the brim of his hat. He raised one hand, noting how Donovan instinctively dipped for the gun at his belt. He paused, allowing the man to calm down, then opened his mouth, and tapped his knuckles ion his throat.

Donovan frowned for a moment, then his jaw dropped as he realised the stranger’s meaning.

“Yer a mute? Can’t talk?”

Jericho nodded, a rueful grin crossing his face.

“Aw, I’m sorry friend. Didn’t mean no offence.”

Jericho nodded again, then gestured towards the water.

“Feel free.” Donovan said.

The tall wanderer headed for the water, and stripped down to his underwear. Scars covered his body, signs of a man who had survived plenty of fights. Donovan spotted knife marks and the puckered flesh of bullet holes.

“I don’t like this guy.” Mitchell murmured to his comrade. “He smells of trouble.”

“And you smell of horseshit.” Donovan snapped. “Just keep yer eyes open and your hand close to yer gun. We’ll deal with him when the time comes.”

**

There’s a third man in that caravan, Jericho. He’s holding the family hostage. Theres something else as well. Some odd biological signs.”

Mentally, the wanderer shrugged.

This ain’t our business, Solomon. Don’t try and make it so.

We know these men are brigands. We know there’s a family in there. I’m detecting a man and two women. One of them’s damned young.

Jericho rolled his eyes.

You’re determined to get me involved, I take it.

I’m a justice engine, Jericho. This is my programming.

The wanderer sighed.

I’ll wait for an opportunity. At least that way I can finish my bath.

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The Wyndham-Herbert balance. 

So, since muggins here forgot to cloud save the latest version of The Delta Children before coming away to the deep south, I’m stuck blogging instead -aren’t you lucky! 

I mentioned on my previous blog that one of the authors I was aiming to influence the book I was John Wyndham. One of my formative Cbooks when I was young – thanks to the influence of my dad – was Day of The Triffids. You wouldn’t think a book about giant man eating walking plants with poisonous stingers would have such an influence on my life, but it was the first time I read sci-fi that didn’t deal with spaceships, and big star battles… Anything outside the traditions trek/loowars pantheon really. 

Wyndham’s work is… Very English. It’s almost quaint, by modern reading, in some of the ways it phrases things but its still a relatively subtle way of writing that focusses much more on interpersonal relationships and the way the characters work with each other. I’m not trying to make big sweeping statements about governments or write metaphors for great historical events, I merely want to tell a story. Admittedly, now my characters are out in the world, I’ll have to flesh out the politics of their version of Britain. 

On the other side of the influential writers coin, there’s James Herbert. Herbert was very much a horror writer, with books brimming with gore, action and sex. As a 15 year old lad, I’m sure can see what interested me about them. But the other side of Herbert’s books was his use of perspective. He frequently left his main characters sides in order to spend a few pages with bit part characters who fleshed out the world, almost like little short flash fiction pieces inside the overall context of his books. It was a technique I played around with in Order of Britain: Stone of Madness, and its tremendously fun to use. 

So there we have it, two very different styles, and I intend to be influenced by both of the. Tea and biscuit horror, as it were. 

Ironically, I started this post on Tuesday, but since my little sister was getting married in the middle of it all, I kind of got caught up on other things. Congratulations to Joe and Becky! 

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Audience Appreciation. 

One of the problems I’ve had so far with The Delta Children is figuring out exactly what kind of audience I’m writing for. With the Out of the Void books, its been a lot easier – urban fantasy is its own audience, and they’re relatively easy to pitch, as it were. Werewolves and wizards can sell themselves with little difficulty. 

As I’ve mentioned before, though, I’ve never written SciFi before. Its new ground for me, and I struggled for a little while as to exactly who it was aimed at – mainly in terms of age group. 

Initially, one of my main influences in my story ideas was John Wyndham, author of The Kraken Wakes, Day of The Triffids, and most important significantly, The Chrysalids. 

The primary difference in The Delta Children, of course, is that the changes to the children are very much created by humanity at large, with the four Deltas having been created for the intention of military exploitation. 

I have started to settle into the story and adapt to my characters in the recent words, but I’m coming to the point where the characters are moving out into the broader world, and I’ll have to establish the government and world in general. 

The main things I’ve had to think about thus far, though, is language and violence. I’ve tried to maintain a policy of minimal swearing, but sometimes it feels natural for the characters to use bad language, either in anger or in insult. The problem is, the instant you  do that, it upgrades the story from being something you can aim at a teen audience to one that’s aimed at adults. 

Weirdly, I think that a lot of my thoughts were arising from the fact that my characters are children themselves. The oldest of the lead quartet is sixteen yearanold, and these kids have been raised in a secure facility for their entire lives. In an odd way, I think I’m a little protective of them. 

It may get darker from here. There are strange places for the group to go. 

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