One Week to Go!

So, next week (a week today, actually!) I leave for Japan.

9 days in Tokyo, 1 day in Kyoto (approximately)… a trip that I agreed to almost exactly one year ago, and have been saving up for ever since. I am insanely excited! It’s been about 20-25 years since I originally wanted to go to Japan, but this is the first time I can afford it!

It’s not quite the trip I dreamed of, but that’s absolutely okay. Spending a week and a half in Tokyo won’t even start scratching the surface of the city, and thankfully I’ll be exploring the city with a friend who has been before, so that should make things a bit more manageable.

My Japanese is rusty and was never very good to start with, so I’m hoping to get by with a lot of bowing and apologizing.

I am, of course, bringing my writing with me, because even on whirlwind trips there will be some time to relax… I plan to have at least one afternoon spent in a nice little coffee shop somewhere overlooking a nice scene, and writing for a few hours straight. Plus a few hours per day… I have two novels that aren’t going to edit themselves!

Anyway! I hope to take a few nice pictures, eat lots of tasty weirdness, and get a little, little glimpse into life on the other side of the planet. I should probably pack at some point too!

Outline Done, And More Editing!

I think I’ve made my opinions vis-a-vis editing quite clear. But, typically, I edit three to four times as much as I write… which sort of makes sense (I mean, if it takes “1 unit” of time to write a chapter, and “1 unit” of time to edit a chapter, it will take four times as long if only because I usually do 3-4 editorial passes!). But still annoying.

Anyway, last week I got the foundational work for the next short story done, which is nice. I don’t usually go in for outlines except in the very rough sense, but in this case I wanted to get the major plot notes down so that it will all come together eventually. I’m pretty optimistic about the story, and since this is technically a sequel to the first “Black Cacophony” episode, it is quite validating as an artist. They liked it enough the first time to pay for a second time! Woo!

Still no word from the agent with my sci-fi YA novel, but that’s okay I suppose… I was hoping to have something finished already to send them immediately if they don’t like the one they have right now, but it’s not looking like it will be finished for a month or two (and that’s assuming Japan doesn’t torpedo all the plans entirely).

Anyway, back to work! Hope everyone had a great summer, and is looking forward to the cooler autumn to come!

New (Free) Short Story Up!

Hey folks! It’s been a few months (okay, more than a few) but I finally got around to publishing another short story! You can check it out over on the “Short Story” section of this here website.

This was a quick little one I wrote a while back. I wanted to see if I could write an “action” story where none of the action actually happens. Sorta like that scene from “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” or from “Hero” where the entire fight takes place in the mind before anything actually happens.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, honestly. The Haiku are… well, as good as any poetry I’ve ever written, I suppose (and almost entirely lifted from actual Haiku written by Basho, I believe).

Anyway! Progress on the novels continues, and I have enough money saved up to actually pay for editing costs when those come around again, so that’s something as well. I’m going to get back to that… hope you all enjoy the story!

Sold Another Story!

So I landed another commission story sale. Yay! It’s a small sale, but honestly this makes 2019 my most profitable year for writing since I started being a writer oh so many years ago.

Which is great! Sure, I’m still losing money (writing is expensive, people, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), but it’s part of the process. It’s steps towards being a full-time author, and that’s the important part.

Plus, it’s a pretty kickass story I get to write. That’s also pretty nice!

This week (specifically today!) I’m going to flesh out a framework for the story, do some background research (one of the characters is very particular about radio etiquette, and that means watching a few videos and jumping into a few Wikipedia/TVTropes holes), and come up with a solid foundation for the eventual audio story it will become. I’ve learned not to do a few things (have characters interrupt each other while talking… really tricky to record), and overall I’m excited about the process.

It’s a tonne of work, but hey, it’s paid work! And that’s a start.

Also, less than a month before I leave for my 10 day trip to Tokyo… excited/nervous! Going to be great/nervous-wracking!

A Weird Revision/Rewrite Thing

So work on Novel 5 (currently titled “Marshal Morcos”, but that’s almost certainly going to change at some point) is a weird little thing.

Basically, this is the skeleton of something I wrote in a NaNoWriMo (“National Novel Writing Month”) back in 2013. It’s been sitting around on my laptop for 6 years waiting for me to have a chance to reread/edit it.

Which is what I’m doing. And man, has my writing changed a LOT in the last six years.

I mean, it’s not completely fair. NaNoWriMo is about hitting word targets, not about producing quality work. And I hit the word target (the final word count before I started the editing process was 50,001), but the new version doesn’t exactly resemble the original.

For example, the opening scene is this weird quasi-dinner-party-political-thriller sorta thing that initially was very dry. The new version, humbly, is a lot more like the dinner scene from Dune… political machinations within machinations, shifting allegiances and subtle jabs between both allies and enemies. It’s not great yet, but the beginnings of something great is there. Hopefully over the next two revisions I can find the great first chapter in there somewhere… or maybe cut it completely. That tends to be the fate of most of my first draft early chapters. But we’ll see!

Anyway, it’s neat working with such old material of my own. And kinda fun… I like the optimism that I had 6 years ago!

Other than that, the beta readers are continuing to do amazing things with Novel 4, and no word from “my” agent regarding Novel 3 yet. It’s been about 7 months… this is usually when they send me their thoughts. But we will see, we will see…

Last note, just over a month before I go to Tokyo! Excited!

Feeling Better Through Application of Nines...

Well, the response to the Black Cacophony episode was pretty positive. About 70% of the people who responded to the poll were willing to listen to more full episodes of the story, which is great!

Sadly, that other 30% is a pretty big chunk. It means that I can’t expect to do too many more of these, and the rate of 3-4 a year seems to be about it. Still, that’s a step in the right direction… and I’m really not complaining. The audio story wasn’t why people tuned in, and enough people liked it that I get to keep doing ‘em, which is great!

It did send me into a bit of a sad-spiral for a few days, but I sat down and shotgunned 40 episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which I’ve enjoyed, as well as a few sci-fi movies (“I Am Mother” was okay, but too depressing for my tastes) and a few old episodes of Deep Space Nine. Overall, it’s definitely helped put a positive spin on how I’ve been feeling, which is good. I’ve never agreed with the concept that artists need to be angry and/or depressed to produce good product… and life is too short to spend too much of it miserable.

Also! Only about 40 days until I go on my Japan trip! Excited! Lightly terrified, but excited. Still doesn’t feel quite “real” yet, but it’s approaching the point that I’ll start thinking about it as a thing that is actually happening, as opposed to a nebulous event sometime in the future.

Anyway! Back to writing Novel 5! Hope everyone is doing well!

Black Cacophony, Episode 1, Live!

It’s always a glorious and terrifying moment when one your stories goes out into the world.

A story I sold to the “White Noise” podcast just went live today. I’m really very proud of how it turned out… there’s a little bit of a chat about how the story evolved before and afterwards, but the majority of the episode is devoted to the story itself (about 45min long). It’s set in the Infinity universe, but I don’t think it requires much knowledge of that universe in order to enjoy.

If you’re curious, and I hope you are, you can listen to it here:
https://benandmarty.libsyn.com/91-the-black-cacophony

Hopefully the podcast gets enough positive feedback that they let me do it again! If so, I have some interesting ideas for the next one… some ways to streamline and speed up the process.

Anyway! Hope everyone enjoys!

Second Draft Done!

Phew! Best part about editing a novel is definitely FINISHING the editing! Which I have now done… which feels pretty good.

I’m still working through the story with the Writers Group, and that’s going really well. Some good suggestions, in particular a chapter I think I can squeeze in between 9 and 10 which will help flesh out the story and add some interesting context. But I have still finished the first editorial pass, and that’s a big hurdle so it feels really good to be done that.

In other news… I’ve started Novel 5! This one doesn’t have a title yet, but is very much a space western. Two Interplanetary Marshals sent to the farthest reaches of human space to bring law and order to the wilderness. It’s part crime procedural, part Firefly… at least, that’s the plan. For now it’s a very rough outline of a thing, but I am really looking forward to it! I like the two main characters already (Kristen Smith and Caitlyn Morcos), and playing them off each other should be a lot of fun.

Anyway! Nice to be writing again. But first… I’m going to read Chapter 7 from “Dune” to get the right feel for a banquet scene I’m writing. Ah, if only all research could be so sweet…

Have I Mentioned I Hate Editing?

Before I jump into more of why Editing is the worst (most important) part of writing, let me just say that one of my 3 adorable cats is currently gently snoring in a sunbeam. It’s exactly as amazing as you think it is.

Anyway! Editing continues. The audio story I submitted last week was accepted and paid for (still my favourite part), and the client has requested a short interview to discuss the process for the listeners of the podcast.

I am going to try and finish up most of the novel editing today, and then throw together a quick “out-takes” audio file for the best screwups we made during recording. Because there were SO MANY.

Good editing. Important even in audio formats. Who knew?

Anyway! Other than that, I watched the first three episodes of Deep Space Nine (still my favourite Star Trek, don’t @ me), and they were extremely satisfying. Oh, and I watch Baby Driver, which was a lot of fun but made me really think about how it was perfect for its format. Like, it wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying as a book or comic or whatever. The visual juxtaposition with the music… incredible.

Oh! And I watched Into the Spiderverse last week… may be in the running for my favourite superhero film ever. Just… stunning. Completely stunning.

So lots of media consumed… time to go back and produce more of it myself!

One Finished Audio Story!

Well, it took a month… but the audio version of “Black Cacophony” is finally finished! Woo!

I’m actually pretty satisfied with how it turned out. Sure, it was a TONNE of work, but it was really pretty rewarding. Recording all the “voice actors” (big shout out to everyone I know, since by now I’ve asked you to record something for me!), then the narration, and then stitching it all together and feeding in the sound effects… very, very satisfying.

The end result isn’t perfect, but it is an improvement over my previous efforts. I hope the client is happy with it… as soon as he gives the thumbs up, I’ll link (or post!) the result here!

Other than that, editing work on Tintian (Novel 4) continues apace, which is nice, and I continue to have no time whatsoever to do anything, which is less nice. But hey, I go to Japan in just under 9 weeks, so there is that, at least!

Audio Work is Hard!

Today I’m recording the narration for two short stories (one very short, one regular-short). That is probably going to take me all freakin’ day.

I really enjoy doing it, don’t get me wrong, but it is a tonne of work to get right. Between balancing levels and cutting and pasting audio into the right places and then, after all that, putting in sound effects and music… yeah, it’s a tonne of work.

But! But. It’s work for which I’ve been paid a small amount for, and honestly I’m happy to do it. I don’t think I’ll ever make a living out of it (unlike writing!), but it is a neat little thing to do. Another artistic pursuit in a life too full of them, I suppose.

Anyway, I’m on Chapter 17 on the Tintian edits, so that’s still moving along nicely, and I’ve finally paid for my trip to Japan in its entirety, so that’s a weight off my… bank account. 70 days until I go! I can’t wait!

Happy Canada Day!

Canada is not a perfect country. It has problems of racism, an increasingly paranoid and reactionary right-wing movement, and a significant amount of NIMBY-ism.

That stated, it is a pretty great country. You can acknowledge how much work needs to be done while still appreciating the good that has been accomplished.

I’m really lucky to live in this country. Sure, it has problems, but where doesn’t? And at least there are people willing to stand up and try to make things better.

As for writing, I have a long weekend to hopefully finish up editing my new Tintian novel (which is coming along nicely, despite how much I hate editing), and then I have an idea for a novel kicking around my head that I want to try out.

But not for today. Today I rest and appreciate that which I have while not forgetting that things can always be better. Happy Canada Day everyone.

Editing. Worst Part about Writing, Or Absolutely The Worst?

Man, I do hate to edit.
I mean, I don’t mind editing other people’s stuff. I can’t say it’s fun, and tragically I don’t have the patience or the fine-detail attention to be able to do it professionally (I studied it for a little bit, and while there was some satisfaction in it, I wasn’t much good… I tended to either get lost in the story, or get frustrated and stop), but there is something nice about taking somebody else’s work and tweaking it just a little to help them see a different way of saying the same sort of thing.

But yeah, my own work? Frustrating as hell.
Still, it has to be done. It is, without a doubt, my least favourite part about being a writer. I want to craft worlds and weave stories… but in order to do that, you have to polish your words. And man, is it ever important.

Well, whatever. I’ve started now (I’m on Chapter 6 so far), and that’s a good thing. At the rate I’m going, I suspect I’ll be done my edits in July, and then off it goes to the professional editor.

In other news, I’ve finished that paid story and been paid for it. That felt good… it’s an incredible feeling to have somebody pay you for work you’re proud of. A feeling I hope all of you, dear readers, get to enjoy more often than I do!

Getting Back Into the Swing

It’s been a long 6 months. This year has simultaneously been flying by and dragging its heels… longer shifts at work coupled with a concerted effort to get into better shape has resulted in so little free time that it doesn’t really exist for me other than as a concept any more.

That stated, things are going okay. I sold a story (woo!), I’ve been producing short stories and novels at a consistent rate, and I have one novel still under consideration with an agent. Fingers crossed on that one. Plus, the Writers Group has been great for keeping me focused on writing more stuff.

September is approaching quickly, and my trip to Japan with it… I’m equal parts excited and nervous. There’s no way that the trip can actually live up to my expectations, but that’s okay! I’m still really, really looking forward to it. Additionally, my novel was supposed to be edited by now, but that’s okay… I’m equally excited to start putting more time into that as well.

Regardless, this is more-or-less the halfway point of the year. I think I can probably manage to sell a few more short stories before December, and I remain cautiously optimistic about selling the novel. We will see, I suppose…

Anyway! Hope everyone else out there is having a great summer/winter, depending on which pole you are closest to!

June! Gah! Where is the Year Going!?

Six months!
I mean, technically it’s only been 5 months and we are heading into the halfway point of the year, but STILL! Gah.

I managed to sell a story last month, though, and that’s an accomplishment I am very proud of. I’ve almost finished it, which is very nice… it’s off getting its last round of edits for tomorrow, and then will be polished and presented to the final home. Hopefully he likes it!

Gosh, I hope he likes it. Anyway, we’ll see. Always time to change it if he wants.

In other news, I have a bunch of models I need to paint and am getting paid for a handful of them, which is nice, and got a bunch of free games for others, which is also nice, but none of that makes me as happy as selling stories. I really gotta step that up… if I can sell a story a month I’d actually be pretty well off. And it would give me plenty of time to do other writing, which would be gosh-darn ideal.

But that’s for another day. For today, I’m editing Novel 4 in advance of sending it to my professional editor. Probably won’t finish this week, but who knows… I might!

Video 11: Final Thoughts

Well, there we go. 11 videos, hopefully some useful, but at least finished!

I had a lot of fun recording these, and I do sincerely hope that somebody (or somebodies, dare I dream) found them useful.

And hey, if you have any thoughts on my thoughts… let me know!

Video 10: How Much To Write

I mean, the correct answer is “as often as possible”, but what does that actually mean?

Here I sit down and talk a little about how often I write, my personal word count and yearly writing goals… that kinda stuff!

Video 9: All About Drafts

This video has me discussing how many drafts I tend to work with for a novel. Short stories tend to be done in 3-4 edits, longer works are usually 5-6 edits, each with its own purpose and goal.

That stated, as usual, this is my personal method, but hopefully some of you amazing people can find it useful!

A Quick Word about Numbers

I have an education in physics. Technically, I have a degree in physics and 12 years of experience in R&D (specifically astrophysics and optics).

I don’t really consider myself a physicist. I was pretty crap at all the “important” parts of physics (ie: calculus and algebra). But this education and experience has set in my a fixation on the importance of numbers.

On that note: as of the end of April, I have surpassed an arbitrary, but interesting, milestone in my career.

There are now 100 copies of things I wrote “out there”. A total of 100 people have something I wrote that they downloaded or had shipped to them through Amazon.

(My Kobo numbers are, for all time, a total of 6 books sold… so I may have hit this milestone in March, but whatever. Close enough)

Now, it’s taken me almost exactly 2.5 years to get to this point (October 2016 to April 2019). That’s about 40 books per year… which is what it is. A bit depressing, sure, but all it is, is numbers… and at least I have a benchmark.

And of course this doesn’t include numbers on short stories I’ve published, or contests I’ve entered (and won, occasionally!), so the “real” figure of people who theoretically know my work is higher. But still. A milestone, at the very least.

So! Here’s hoping the next 100 books don’t take another 2.5 years… onwards and upwards and all that!