so anyway...

No, this is not a blog. But it is a place where I can micro-rant about things that you maybe find interesting. Or maybe not, mind, so prepare to be mildly disappointed.

Here, I can also share news, updates and background stuff that usually gets buried during the writing process, but almost all story ideas have some little titbits that add a little seasoning to the reading experience, assuming that's what you're looking for.

Sometimes I wonder if we read to understand ourselves better. Both we, ourselves, and us as a species. And if that is the case, then the act of reading is as much a part of that as the fantastical words rising off the page. And so - like those 'behind the scenes' things the movie people do - I will try to bring the process and the person to life, here, in the same way I try to with the characters in my stories (although I'm sure they'd have something to say about that).

juggling stuff x 5 - 6/10/22 

1. Echoes of a Lost Earth: Part One came back for final final proof read and I accidentally did a bit of a structural edit then changed a smidge here and there, the fate of some characters and other stuff. I did kind of hint that I would. Anyway, the publisher now needs to do another proof read. My bad. So waiting for that to happen. And then, off to the printers (once cover art is done).
2. I have started The Difference Engine, and am taking it more slowly, as I rushed my last story and suffered the consequences. I've been a little too target driven of late, so I need to calm it down. Coming on nicely though. Communism. Religion. Imperial republicanism. All supposed societal nirvanas.

3. I have postponed submissions of After the Rise until Lost Earth (One and Two) are published. This is to avoid confusion regarding my status as a writer (I'm a Schrödinger's Author currently). Plus, I'm struggling to find the time.
4. The Observer Effect has been renamed Shattered Light. Again, I have removed that title as the story doesn't justify it. One day my brain will conjure an idea to curl comfortably around that premise. One day. Not today, though. Plus, it needs a major rummage about in and making more better.
5. The major first edit of American Gods has been put back to the new year. Time: it really is a thing, you know.

two quick things (plus two) - 30/08/22 

Yesterday I finished the first full read through and edit of The Observer Effect. I'm pleased to have that nailed, and I am loving the Culture novel (Iain M. Banks) vibe. But, I think it needs to go back under the knife once I've had a moment, and reemerge as a slightly longer, more involved story (with basically a better ending).
Today, the final amended manuscript for Echoes of a Lost Earth: 

Part One came through for my final final. I'll end up fiddling, but I
can't help it. So in a few days that'll go back to the publishers and it really will be onto the next publishing stage.
Next up is a short story - The Difference Engine; once I've worked out the premise, which has yet to drop (but I'm working on it).
And, next month I shall begin the joyful process of submitting After the Rise.

The Observer Effect - a short story

I have just finished Observer Effect. Boom, just like that. Actually it wasn't, and it still isn't. It's long for a short story, at 20k, and I really like the set pieces and the characters. But... Not sure yet about the sort of last third and most critically the ending. I mean, it's not terrible or anything, but my standards adviser is wagging their finger at me and reminding me I can do better.
The cover copy (blurb) is a bit rough and ready, but that's still settling, so bear with it.

So; where I'm at with it, is:
- It's written - beginning, middle end, the works - and is available from the 'Short Stories' section, with sample. It'll need a final edit after an air gap, but otherwise, good to go.
- But also; I think I might revisit that last third and see about changing how it goes from there, including a different ending. Accepting that that will likely push it into novella territory.
Sometimes it goes like that, I guess (and it's not the first time).

After the Rise - a novel

After the Rise, a novel of just under 106,000 words is finished, final edited and done, and I am really pleased.
A sample is available in the 'Novels' section, so I hope that you enjoy that.
I started by writing An Original Thought, which quickly grew legs and became its own thing so I changed the title and went with it. It's also a massive homage to Logan's Run and A Brave New World - two fantastic examples of utopian/distopian futures, which got me thinking about why neither systems work.

Hence the midtopian ideal, the collective harmony of the communal body, and the idea that original thought is a sin (an original sin, no less) and must be guarded against. I also liked the idea of arbitrary tribes and so went with eye colour.
Anyway. Without being immodest, it's a better story than I remember (noting that I'm the least best person to judge objectively) and so I have decided to submit it in the early autumn (probs after I've written Observer Effect). 
Because, why not?

minor update - 25/07/22

It got hot and I've been taking bit of a brain break. I re-did the garage floor. Again. And other stuff.
I also final edited Rise, so super pleased to have that done.
But, the main thing, though, is that Lost Earth (Part One) has just come back from the publisher's for approval.
The manuscript for Echoes of a Lost Earth: Part One has come 

back from the publishers, having been typeset and proof read. Exciting. So now I have to do my bit; give it the once over and approve the changes type thing, and then it's onto the next phase - covers and blurbs 'n' stuff.
If nothing else, I will learn many things about the process.
Plenty to do, then. And still have Observer Effect to think up and write down.

Even American Gods Die - 26/06/22

It was supposed to be a three part story; no more than 70 to 100k. Well, that didn't quite work out. What a funny old world, as Yulia would no doubt say, after a quick murder.
However, little everyday murders aside, I have finally (I say finally, I wrote a massive novel in less than a year, so go me) finished American Gods
181k. That's how many words it took in the end. And five parts. Blimey. I really didn't see that coming, but, it's done, finished, The End. And I'm actually really pleased with the result. It's still a rough first draft and I haven't read the whole thing through, cover-to-cover, but from what my brain has been able to retain, I'm pretty chuffed. If only for what I've leaned about pace and characterisation.
And that opening scene I wrote in May last year - it stayed in. Mostly. I think my approach to the ending - to focus on giving each character their own - was a bit of a brainwave (well done, brain). I have just finished reading a standard length book and

the ending was, to be fair, pants. So I feel that giving the reader (of which I am one) a proper ending commensurate with the story is crucial to the tale you're trying to tell. I could be wrong. I probably am.
So, apart from adding an additional chapter almost immediately after declaring that I'd finished, and layering in some additional backstory for Rendell and Constance (to give them more motivation for their actions), oh and more fags for Darlla, I really am done.
Now, I'm going to let the story percolate for a while and then in the autumn I will begin the (unending, unenviable) edit process, once my brain has forgotten the story enough that it doesn't assume it knows what's on the page but actually reads the actual sentences.
Oh, and so now my brain is thinking Observer Effect, so that'll be next. After the final edit of After the Rise (been putting that off for a while).

my brain and other organs - 30/05/22

I've been waiting a while to provide an update. This is because I thought that I would be finished with American Gods by now. Finished in the "completed" rather than the "frustrated" kind of a way.
But no.
I blame my brain.
You see I rely on my brain to do all my thinking - as most do - and when it comes to writing, I type, my brain comes up with the story. So it's my brain's job to work out the ending and it likes to tease - to keep me waiting til the last moment - which I'm used to, and I thought that this time was no different.
Then I realised that it was stalling, making me type up scenes that were basically giving me something to do because it hadn't worked out how to wrap this thing up.
Meanwhile 70k words sailed past, then 100k - and I'm thinking now that this is a 130k story - but then 130k flew by, so that I have arrived at 149k and still, without an ending in sight, even though all the characters have gathered and are kind of expectant.

So I sat my brain down and made it come up with an ending, and that really is not my job. I type, it does the clever stuff. However, it seemed that it needed a kick in the brain-butt. A moment to focus (which it normally does while I'm asleep, but...).
See, the thing with a long form and now a longer long form is that the ending has to be commensurate to the length of the story. Grand enough to justify the effort the reader has gone to to get to that stage. And my brain wasn't coming up with the goods.
Luckily, I stepped in and now have an ending which I am about to begin. The secret, it turned out, isn't to pull together an all encompassing mega-ending, but to focus on giving each character their own and then hooking those up. We'll see if it works.
I think another 10k words and I'm there, but it could be less.
And then there's the edit, so we'll have to see how long the final version is.
All my other organs are working fine, by the way.
Oh, and I've come up with an interesting premise for air. Exciting.

minor update - 08/04/22

So, another twoish things have happened.
First, having taken that mid-novel-writing break (for most of March, I know, but I bought a car and I really really like cars, and buying them especially, so... anyway), I have come back to the machine and finished Part 2 of American Gods (and started Part 3, coz basically I can see the finish line from here, just). So that's really exciting and although much polishing will ensue after the words are all hammered out, finishing a long form is a big deal.
So, go me. Yay.

Second, my brain has started work on The Difference Engine (without being asked to, of course), which it seems to want to tackle next, and even given The Observer Effect a passing ponder or two (robots, I'm thinking). So it seems my brain is keen to be getting on to the next bit of mental torture. No rest, etc.
So generally all good.


Oh, and Ukraine - maximum respect. 

two big things - 24/02/22

First big thing: I am - I think - now around half way through Even American Gods Die. 70k words and half way through Part 2 of 3 (although no idea what Part 3 looks like yet, but that's half the fun). It's coming on and I'm pleased. I'm just taking a break before I tackle the second half. The middle chunk in a long form can be a bit of a slog (don't tell anyone). I'm also having to go through and convert from 1st to 3rd person (not the first time I've fallen into this hole and will be more wary in future - a good learning thingy). I tried to be clever and it bit me. So less being clever with the writing style from now on. There's a reason why all the characters can't be 1st person (dumbass). Although trust me, it was working; for while, anyway. Until I needed to kill some off. Then it didn't work as well. You live and learn. So yeah, American Gods progresses. No quick wins with long form, so not much to report, otherwise.
Because of the second big thing I've had to remove my novels from being free to read; just samples available now. Others stories can still be requested though. 

Second big thing: Echoes of a Lost Earth has been picked up for publication by an international UK-based independent publisher. I am tres excited. Signed the contract last week and it all kicked off today. Luckily, I write all my stories as if they were published so have bios and blurbs already good to go. Anyway, suffice to say that I am really pleased, although it doesn't really feel as if it's sunk in yet. Maybe when I see the cover.
Also, the plan is to split the story into two (there's a natural break at the 99k word point, between books 2 and 3) and publish as two separate novels - Part One and Part Two (obvs). So that's great, and kinda two novels.
I have to say, it does morale the world of good. It means, also, that come summer/autumn time, I will transition from impoverished writer to impoverished author.
While the publishing process grinds away, I am going to focus on American Gods and then The Difference Engine, and maybe even The Highest Hill in the Sky (if I can fit that into '22).
So yep, two big things.

The Final Incidence - a short story

The Final Incidence, a short story of eighteen and a half thousand words is now finished, final edited, and the sample is now up in 'Short Stories'. Really pleased with it, which came out much 

different to what I went in with, but that's often the way.
Enjoy the sample and if you want the rest, simply get in touch and I will send you the ePub. There's no charge or commitment. 

new year, more... typing 14/01/22

So, it's a new year. Cool. Whilst I'm not enjoyed the energy crisis caused by a sudden hike in gas prices, I find it interesting that I wrote about gas manipulation and international sub-threshold weaponising of energy supplies, over 12 years ago, in the first draft of Lost Earth. And hypergliding missiles, pandemics, migrations... I feel like it's coming true. Back in '07 I was writing science fiction; now it feels like... a news report. I even created a character called Omicron! Blimey.
So I took Christmas off as I was having yet another existential crisis over the way I have chosen to write American Gods. Ugh! But, turned out to be the best thing, as when I came back to it in the new year and reread the 23k I'd banged out before Christmas, I realised that it wasn't this terrible thing that I was beginning to fret that it was. So, I've cracked on and have just finished Part One: The Death of a King

which ended up being 45k. So happy with that. Not that it's all about word count (but...). So, really pleased with my progress. That part is now with my go-to beta reader to find out if the style works and then I'll begin Part Two: In the Shadow of the Sun. So going great guns and it appears to have decided to be a novel after all (or three novellas). In-between, I'll final edit Incidence so that's done. Hope to have American Gods complete by May, and then onto the follow-up to Three Systems, and ideally, The Difference Engine, just as soon as I figure those two out. Oh, and plus The Observer Effect, and air. So that's '22 sorted (plus more like '23 too, really).
Otherwise, everything is awesome (you sing it), everything is great
My autumn submissions window will close soon, so hoping for some news on that front too, next month.
Happy new year.

 general update 21/11/21

Submissions are done; now I wait.
...
...
It goes on like that for a while.
But, you never know...
I updated my book covers with a cleaner font and changed the look of the Lost Earth covers, which I really like now. (But then I always say that).
I've yet to final edit Final Incidence as I'm letting it percolate, but I had good feedback from the beta reading and so I shall be incorporating two minor changes to make it work better. Over Christmas, probably.

So, I took American Gods off the site because I couldn't quite work out where is sat, length-wise. Plus, I was in procrastination mode. Then another idea came to me - air - which became my new fave and I put that up instead. Then the way to write American Gods came to me, plus I stopped obsessing over what length to force-write it at (preferring to let it unfold naturally, which took the pressure off) and so I started it last week, and plan to see where it takes me. Turns out, trying to plan everything out, chapter by character - not really my style at all. Got me all of a tizzy. So feeling much better now, and what length it ends up, I guess I'll find out at some point. But for now, I'm enjoying writing this story, using an entirely new premise/perspective. I'm 10k in and liking it so far. That can change quick, mind.

quick one 22/10/21

A family thing happened which knocked me off my rhythm there for a moment, but that's in the rearview now.
So, I started writing The Observer Effect and finished up with The Final Incidence. So that's what it's called now. I shall save Observer for a story more suited to the scientific angle, rather than the philosophical.
I haven't started American Gods yet, despite having it planned out, and although I can start right now (with Incidence wrapped - 

less final edit), I think there's some pontification coming. I think I'm going to final edit Three Systems, and hope that The Difference Engine comes to me while I'm doing that, with the aim of knocking that out before Christmas and then, having mulled American Gods some more, start that in the new year. 
It's a plan. Kinda. Meanwhile submissions continue. No takers yet.

three quick things 27/9/21

First, I have begun the submissions process, with Echoes of a Lost Earth. Pleased to have finally built up the courage to do it, but it's also truth to the head time.
Second, I have completed the planning element of Even American Gods Die. I have an outline plot, character bios and a timeline (the latter being something that I just couldn't put down for like a week - so much fun. Which means, I'm good to go (once I've worked 

out the perspective).
Third, the broad concept for The Observer Effect came to me the other day. Been wondering how that might unfurl for a while, so it's nice that it happened. I suspect that I will be owing much to Stephen Baxter and Peter F Hamilton for sowing the seeds of the 'observer' premise. And so I'm going to knock this one out before I start American Gods

writing update 10/9/21

I didn't sleep well last night. I read later than I usually do, fell into a deep, brief, slumber and when I awoke my brain decided that that would be the ideal time to start work on my new project, Even American Gods Die.
Thanks.
I was going to start it next week and would therefore have been fine with a nice long sleep (I like a good sleep). But I don't get to choose, so...
I think it's going to be a long form story (novel length) and I'm going to approach this one differently to After the Rise and Echoes of a Lost Earth
By that I mean, I intend to spend a really good amount of time planning this one out. Chapter by chapter. Character bios. All that stuff they say you should do, but I always preferred to just get on with the writing. Natch. But stomping around where angels fear may not be the very best way, so I'm trying it their way, this time.

So last night, my brain started to work out some of the world building stuff. Political structures, past events, main players, opening sequences. It's all a jumble right now, but rather than just leave it tumbling around in my head (like I normally do and can get away with, with short form), I'm going to write it all down and then place it in order. Only once I have a fleshed out end-to-end story, am I then going to start tap-tapping (I wrote an opening scene a few months ago, but that doesn't count - I may not even use it, although it's ace so I probably will).
I also need to reread and final edit A Light Beyond the Stars (my latest short) and I hope to be able to bang out The Observer Effect short before I start on American Gods proper - I've spend most of '21 re-editing all my works and building this blooming website, so I feel like I haven't got much to show for 2021. A third story would make me feel better. Only problem is, for Observer, all I have is a title.
Still, worry about that another time, right now, I'm ordering my unordered American Gods thoughts. Smiley face.

reading

I'm a slow reader. I always have been. I think I benefit from a greater word absorption rate, but maybe that's a myth. I might just not be very good at hoovering up words on a page. That's more likely. They can jiggle about a bit and are very good and simply being the words I think they're going to be rather than what the author typed out.
But that's just me.
I read every day. And not just what I write (although I do a lot of that). No. I also read for fun. I read when I'm writing and when I'm not. I read because books are still the very best form of story telling.
Dune (the film) comes out soon. It'll be epic and I can't wait. But I suspect it won't quite measure up to my perspective view of the book (which I read in anticipation of the film coming out, and blimey it's dense). Books can stack 'em high, have more layers, greater depth. More majesty. And, it allows my imagination to 

unfurl. It feeds my brain in a way a film can't. Not so immersively. Even the obvious epicness of the upcoming Dune.
And so when people say that they don't read when they're writing because it confuses them or that they may inadvertently plagiarise another work, I say, what twaddle.
And when others say they don't read at all. That they don't like to read but that they do love to write, and is that okay, I'm slightly incredulous.
Or maybe they are just better at this, but the idea that a person can write without reading the best writing out there feels like arrogance. Or ignorance, perhaps.
But what do I know, except that I'm fairly certain a writer also has to be a reader.
I'm currently reading Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky, who may be one of the best writers of today. Why wouldn't I want to learn from a master writer such as that?

my book covers

So, a quick one about my book covers, because a few (and I do mean, a few) people have asked.
I make them in PowerPoint and then screenshot a cropped image. Simple. And it shows. But, it's part of my process; I create these before I begin writing, y'see.

My aim is to keep them deliberately simple while maintaining a standardised, inoffensive look. I want them to be identifiable as mine at a quick glance. I'd like to think that they hint at the tale contained within, but that might be stretching it a bit.
I'm not a cover artist, of course I'm not, but these will do. For now.

mark j suddaby | writer