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Captain's Log II

Writing Date 9325.10 (pm)

Hi folks, seems a while ago now, but how was your Christmas? Mine was mint (thanks for asking). I got a vinyl copy of Kamasi Washington’s Heaven and Earth; we saw Into the Spider-Verse on the big screen, and the day before Christmas Eve, the Cleveland Browns beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26 – 18 for their second Battle of Ohio victory in a month - FANTASTIC! (unless you’re a Bengals fan, in which case, commiserations).

I love Christmas – feasting, drinking, gaudy lights … here in the north, I love the way we put our collective finger up to the Lady of the Cold, saying: “Geddardofit!!” And I love having that bit of time to sit back, mulling over the year gone by: the good stuff, bad stuff, and the never ever, ever do that ever again stuff (not usually too much of that).

So, 2018 – what was it all about?

Well … in writing terms it was editing, proofing, planning, world-building … tons going on. That aside though, for me, most of it was overshadowed by the sad deaths of Ursula le Guin and Stan Lee; two titans, gone the same year – devastating.

Weirdly, I was reading A Wizard of Earthsea in January when Ursula le Guin died – the same battered old copy I’ve been carrying around from my parents’ house through various bedsits, apartments, shared and family houses in five cities and three different countries over the last forty years … I went on to read the whole Earthsea collection after that, right up to The Other Wind - breathtaking! Her world-building was awesome; characters so real. It’s a shame the TV and movie adaptions were always so … disappointing.

Then Stan the Man. Over the years I may have tried convincing myself other writers were ‘better’ than that great pulp pioneer. But he’ll always be my first idol. I couldn’t read till I was eight - without Spider-Man and the Silver Surfer I don’t think I ever would have got started. Now, my (fabulous) teenage kids are a great excuse to go and see all the Marvel movies, but no one’s ever more excited than me. And among all the great sci-fi, fantasy and literary writers I’ve come across since I was a kid, whose work is going to be remembered in a hundred years? I bet his will! So thanks for a lifetime of wonder, Mr. Lee. ‘By thy choice, and by thy faith, the legends ne’er shall perish!’ (and if any of you get that reference, you’ll make an old comic fan very happy!)

Despite the losses though, I did manage some writing. I actually started the year with the first draft of a novel (Volume One of my trilogy), so first up was editing. I’d stumbled on a tip from Kurt Vonnegut, now a maxim – ‘If you can take a word out, take it out,’ and with that as a yardstick I got a 120,000 word manuscript down to 92,000 without losing … anything, as far as I can see. My kid sister’s been proofing it over the past couple of months (Gawd bless her!) and I was going to publish soon as that’s done, but my daughter (whose already a better writer than I’ll ever be) has now convinced me to have some beta-readers go through it first, so it’ll be a while yet.

I also got a load of work done on Volume Two. And that’s been fab. When I started this trilogy, I didn’t make any notes or anything - just threw down whatever came to mind from one day to another. But that all got out of hand after a while, so I’m now getting my head round the transition from pantser to planner and … it’s a lot more fun than I expected! One thing I’ve been doing is putting together proper back-stories for a bunch of characters I’ve had around for ages, and it’s been great getting to know them properly after all this time. There’s one woman in particular, whose just a sidekick in Vol.1 but comes to the fore in Vol.2, and I always knew she had a gift for sorcery, but I didn’t know anything about her Mum’s death, the six siblings, or the grumpy old Dad who was so mean she sold herself into bonded servitude just to get away … It’s been riveting - like finding a whole new novel tucked away inside the one I already knew about – what I thought was the story leading to another, then another, and another, on and on into the far distance … wicked!

I suppose the only problem is knowing when to stop.

Hope y’all have a productive year.


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