I’ve said many times –in many places– that I don’t write because I want to, I write because I have to. It’s a compulsion, which if it’s blocked off, leads to something close to clinical depression (my name is Colin, and I am a creative junkie….)

Ever since I ended a particularly brutal bout of writing a couple of weeks ago, with the synopsis and sample chapter for a new novel, I’ve been concentrating on administration and blogging.

Which is a pain, but keeping adequate financial records is a legal requirement as well as a particularly time-consuming chore; the other time sink has been completing an application form for an MA, which has taken up most of the last two weeks.  and of course, there’s the blogging, which takes more time than you might expect from the haphazard way I seem to throw words onto the page.

In theory then, no time for writing fiction.

Which would seem to contradict my theory that you need to write every day. Except that by blogging I am writing (although it’s not fiction), and I’ve racked up enough experience (I have written over a million published words) not to need to write every day as much as a novice does. But still….

…the urge to write fiction runs deeper than even I realized. I awoke on Saturday morning with the scenes from an unfinished story called Razorbill Island running through my head.

For a variety of reasons I’ve needed for some time to road test the Scrivener package, and this was the perfect opportunity.

I only got a couple of hundred words written, but I’ve worked out what to do with the story now (the problems were as much structural as of writing the words).

Which just goes to show that even when I think I’m okay with my schedule, my subconscious knows better; that like magma beneath the Earth’s crust, the words are always ready to ooze out any time.

• August 8th, 2011 • Posted in Writing • Comments: 0

All Over The Place

Today is the third Monday of my summer job for this year, and my first week solo: My predecessor -and my trainer for the first two weeks- Heather, has moved on. Suddenly I feel like a tightrope walker who’s had their safety net removed. There are a million and one things to remember, and I’ll be  handling cash, which leaves no margin for error, although there’ll be checks on checks on checks.  

My day the same as in the previous years, and indeed my Mondays over the last university year except that I walk Alice around the park before catching the bus three days a week, and the bus is into Bristol, rather than the bus to Bath. The ride is a lot less interesting or scenic than toward uni, as the traffic crawls along through the crammed streets of Bristol.

Geographically I’m very close to where I worked before; the Abbott’s House is just behind the Eye Hospital, that little building crouching among the surrounding behemoths that loom over it. In many other ways though, it’s a million miles away from previous years.

I’m working in a small office that belongs to Above & Beyond, part of a quasi-autonomous operation that’s staffed by only fifteen people, mostly young, and all enthusiastic, so there’s a definite buzz to the place. They are a charity specifically set up to support the nine (or is it eight? Or ten?) hospitals that make up the United Hospitals of Bristol Trust (or UBHT – the NHS likes its acronyms).

But. This year I’m working 3 full days, from Monday to Wednesday, 9 until 5.30. During that time I’m pretty much offline, so virtually all the jobs that I need to do to keep the business ticking over has to be crammed into four days. And that’s before I start writing.

Three, actually; the last two weekends, we’ve spend part of it away. Last Sunday we went down to the in-laws before hurtling back, while on Saturday, I travelled up to Derby (and back). It’s made it almost impossible to work out a routine, and ironically my one absolutely free day -Thursday- has been spent doing odd little jobs that have become overdue during the intervening three days.

I’m gradually easing toward some sort of routine, but I still feel all over the place, both physically and mentally. Somehow I need to find enough energy in the evenings to sort out some of those niggling, time consuming jobs -like ordering printer catridges or posting parcels- during Monday to Wednesday, either during the evening or in my lunch break.

It’s helped that I’ve managed to sort out some problems with a horror story called ‘Razorbill Island’ that I’ve been bogged down with, and get about two thousand words done over Friday and Saturday, and Alt.Fiction has been put to bed for another week. That went very well from the perspective of entertaining and educating the audience -at least I hope it did!- but book sales were on the floor for everyone, except for those offering one and two pound second-hand books. Dark Spires sold no better than anyone else’s work.

I think it’ll  be some time before I’m completely comfortable with the new routine. Who knows? It may take all of the eleven weeks I’m scheduled to be at Above and Beyond….

• June 27th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Fit Again & Working

Back to office work for a few weeks, while I wait for all my cunning plans to come to fruition. I’ll be working part time for a charity, which will be a nice change from the mausoleum-like bowels of the Eye Hospital.

Actually, this feels like a triumph of sorts; for the two weeks, I’ve had Labyrinthitis, and infection of the inner ear system which leaves one falling over and lurching alarmingly just while walking in a straight line on a level surface. Because just maintaining an even, upright stance is so tiring that it leaves little capacity for thought, or even memory – the simplest tasks require too much thought, while I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve forgotten where I’ve just put down something that I held in my hand.

Walking down the steep hill at the top of our road on Saturday to walk Alice in the field was the toughest thing I’ve had to do in quite some time.

But I did it, and I’m fit to work. And yesterday, as abruptly as the condition  came on, it  seems to have righted itself – I’ve completely regained my balance.  Huzzah! (And I never thought I’d say that about the prospect of going to work…)

• June 13th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Last Week

Illustration by John Tenniel

Why I’ve been “a bit quiet” lately (because, according to several –unconnected– people, I have been….). 

To celebrate my finishing the academic year, Kate and I took a couple of days off last week — we went to Dorset  and spent a couple of days down beside the sea. On Thursday Kate went to the Royal Bath & West (Agricultural) Show and returned clutching plants for the garden, while I manned the fort – or in this case, the in-law’s garden.

And it was our 23rd wedding anniversary as well on Saturday (anyone know what wedding that is, if silver’s 25?) on Saturday. I got Kate the usual – chocolates, CD (Goldfrapp’s Supernature,  ‘ cause she likes a good toon) and a book – David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day. Kate said as I opened mine, “I’ve only got one thing for you this year.”

Only one thing: Only a November 1939 first edition of The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll ! I wondered why she was quizzing me about what he wrote about a week before. In passing I’d mentioned that I’d never read ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ – something I put right in the sunshine on Saturday afternoon.

It was a low key anniversary, but sometimes they’re the best sort. And it’s nice to know that we can still surprise each other -occasionally- even after a quarter of a century….

• June 6th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Final Stats on Hours Worked

The final stats for the academic year 2010-11…

Awaaaaay back at the beginning of December, I blogged about keeping a track of how many hours I worked each day and on each subject; the four modules that I was taking , plus general reading, blogging, networking and most importantly, writing. And ‘others,’ which I think is pretty much self-explanatory.

I worked a grand total of sixteen hundred and fifty hours a week; over the thirty weeks of the academic year (inluding holidays) I’ve worked fifty-five hours a week. February was my busiest month, working sixty-one hours a week. But tiredness is as much a cumulative result of working long hours and sleep debt….

In terms of work split, I did about one hundred and sixty hours each on Writers Workshop and Feature Journalism, and about one hundred eighty on Film and Genre. But Genre has yielded three short stories and two novel outlines, so it was worth it.

 I spent just over two hundred hours writing fiction that wasn’t involved with uni, and two hundred and five reading (but not for class). Another one hundred and eighty on networking – going to cons, and on social networks, and about one hundred and ninety hours each on blogging and reviewing, and on Others.

On the positive side, it meant that nothing ended up being neglected. On the downside, I’ve found it hard not to note the time this morning, despite it only ever being an eight-month experiment…

So that was my year (well, eight months of it, anyway) – what did you do in yours?

• June 1st, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

New Article on Suite101

In which our intrepid blogger reneges on a commitment he made to himself and friends…but he has his reasons…

Some time ago I decided to stop writing for Suite101. I’d become increasingly frustrated with the poor returns, and saw no way -short of working myself into the ground, or hitting the blogging equivalent of the jackpot- that I was ever going to earn more than three or four dollars a month however much work I put in, which was frequently ten hours a month or more.

I didn’t make a general announcement, but did tell some friends, which left me with the chance to keep my options open. But now, as part of my decision to optimize my blogging that I talked about yesterday, I’ve looked again at their demands.

Now Suite have cut their  quota of targets, and since I have a couple of articles left over that probably won’t get past the gatekeepers of most magazines, it seems to be a good time revisit that decision, even if it is for only a few more months. And for the first time, posting one article a month will give me the clarity I’ve been seeking for a long time.

Sometimes in business, one has to look again at previous decisions.

• May 31st, 2011 • Posted in Writing • Comments: 0


News of new reviews, interviews and A Sekrit Project.

This morning seems a good time to round up some on-going stuff, some of which I’ve mentioned in passing recently.

First up, I’ve guest-blogged over at Alathea Kontis’ Genre Chick Interview, which was fun; there are some clues within as to when the interview took place, for the mildly curious.

Secondly, Ian Whates’ anthology Further Conflicts has received its first review, and Warpcore SF had some kind things to say about ‘Occupation,’ my contribution.

Finally, still on the subject of reviews and interviews, I’ve received my first commission from a ‘general’ (as opposed to genre) magazine to interview a fellow writer. Unfortunately, I can’t yet identify them, partly because I’m not sure of the etiquette of announcing thecommission, but also for fear of jinxing it. Let’s just say that I’m absolutely ecstatic at actually getting my first journalism commission! (I’ll reveal all nearer the time – honest)

Until next time.


• May 26th, 2011 • Posted in News • Comments: 0

Glass Walls

This morning has been a real battle, in stark contrast to yesterday morning when I laid down a good four hours and ended up with about eight hundred words.

It shows how variable a writer’s output can be. This morning I feel like one of those birds that you sometimes see trapped in greenhouses or conservatories – they’ve flown in, and at every attempt to get out they fly into a glass door or wall.

I awoke with plans to do three or four jobs, and at every turn I’ve thudded into an invisible wall; that, or I managed to finish the job, but after several times as long as it should have taken. The delays have been tiny, but niggling; a phone call at an inopportune moment, a notebook that locks up and refuses to respond, a chequebook that isn’t where I think it should be and which takes ten minutes to find, my own inability to concentrate.

It’s probably that last factor that’s the real cause of the problem.

I may have had one beer too many, last night (the monthly meetings are on the whole becoming ever better attended), or that I’m tired. It may be that without the constant relentless pressure of assignments, but also without the structure that uni provides, I’m adrift. Whatever it is, it’s only with typing this that I’m starting to regain some clarity. That’s one of the many reasons why I blog – talking about it to someone helps me see where the problem is.

Years ago, on a course run by Bruce Holland Rogers*, he (or it may have been co-organizer Eric) observed that sometimes writers procrastinate, finding a million and one things to do rather than actually write. “That’s fine,” he said, “but you have to be honest with yourself. If you’re not getting much done, give yourself the day off.”

So I did. And since I gave myself the day off after I finish this post, the pressure and confusion has lifted. I have no idea why, but I’m just going to go with the flow; if I write one word today, it will be one word more than when I started this blog.

* I don’t normally link to Wikipedia, but Bruce has so many sites that it seemed sensible to link to a hub – you’ll find his websites at the base of the article there.

• May 24th, 2011 • Posted in Writing • Comments: 1

Film Evening

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’ve been taking as one of my electives the Planning & Making A Film module, which includes a separate film blog.

Last night came the big emotional pay-off, as the eleven short films made by the students were shown at Bath’s Little Cinema. It was almost a red carpet evening- outfits verged from student-chic to dinner jackets- with host Mike Johnston donning a wholly appropriate tuxedo (He’s on the left of this shot with the winning team).

Our film, Heads or Tails was first up which meant that we got to relax after that and just enjoy the show. Sadly, we didn’t win; See What I Say deservedly won both the audience and the critic’s awards, but it was enjoyable just to see it up on the big screen.

Then it was time to say goodbye to the module, and also to one of the crew, as Jaeeun flies home to Japan at the end of June. I have one more tutorial and then the academic year 2010-11 is officially over, but it felt very much like the end of term last night.

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m almost sad it’s over.

• May 20th, 2011 • Posted in Events • Comments: 0

Is It Just Me?

Everywhere I turn this morning, I seem to be confronted by bits of technology not working as they’re supposed to, or in many cases not working at all. I’m starting to wonder whether I have some mysterious aura that fritzes machinery and electronics.

We have BT Vision which -in theory- allows us to tape and watch TV programmes at a later date with a simple press of a button on the TV Guide. Except that a significant  proportion of said programmes cut out after 5 to 10 minutes and insist that the recording has completed. BT told us some weeks ago that it was known problem which had been resolved. Not on our set it hasn’t.

Yesterday I thought I was close to completing my last film assignment; I’d written the text, all that was left was to upload said text to Blogger and paste in the links. Er, except that Blogger keeps crashing my machine when I switch from HTML mode to standard mode; then last night it refused to preview beyond a certain point; then it simply refused to save. I suspect that the blog post has reached a certain permissable size, but that’s only a theory, and Blogger Help is as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Is anyone out there an expert on Blogger, by the way? If you, feel free to get in touch via but put ‘from the website’ in your header. I’d hate for the spam filter to chomp you up.

In the meantime, I shall have to break the blog post into three and hope that that doesn’t contravene the assignment isntructions, and it also calls for yet more links to be inserted. With breaking the original assignment into three equal-ish parts that isn’t going to be a short job — and it may turn out to be due to some other problem entirely.

Lastly, we recently switched to British Gas. We are obliged to provide a meter reading online. Guess what? That didn’t take, so they asked me to call in via an 0800 number. And when I did, I got a “sorry, there is a fault” on the line.

Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations, but rather than being more convenient and saving time, as the ads claim, it’s actually considerably less convenient, and has added probably an hour two to my working day in each of the last couple or three days. Seriously, is anyone else having this level of technology fail?

• May 7th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0