Thursday, October 5, 2017

Who's Pushing The Pedals On The Season Cycle?

Soon I'll be dragging out my winter coat and scarf as the days grow short and the evenings close in. But for now we're enjoying lovely days. Blue skies, fluffy white clouds and an array of autumn colours in the village.

Ask people around here about winter, and they'll tell you it's not like it used to be. They used to be long and cold, but the last heavy snowfall that brought Lincoln to a standstill and closed the schools for four days was in 2010.  I've seen pictures of it. Family sent them to me at the time.

Last winter was mild in comparison. We really only had two light snowfalls, and the flakes melted quickly - all traces gone within an hour or so. Not that I desire to be snowed in, but it would be nice to have some real snow around - if only for the photos. Long range forecasts for this year are mixed, and suggest it could either be mild again or we could have a really cold one. They just don't know.

Either way, we've already stocked up on firewood. Last Friday was quite cold, and we used that as an excuse to light our first fire for the season. It was lovely, homey and comforting. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. I won't need too much pushing to light another one soon.

I've been here more than a year now. We've been through one complete cycle of seasons, and I've enjoyed them all.

But enough on the weather report. I do have more publishing news to share, but I'll save that for my next post.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pieces Are Falling Into Place.

When I was a teenager I loved doing jigsaw puzzles. For some reason I haven't even attempted one in years. About seven years ago, I think, was the last one. I was in a holiday rental in Germany with family and someone started one. We all joined in and had great fun.

Every now and then I think about buying a jigsaw again. I'll often have a look when I see them in shops, or sometimes I'll browse the second-hand ones in op shops (charity shops). I haven't seen any that interested me enough to buy one.

Until this week.

I was shopping with Lindsey in the local supermarket when my eye was drawn to a 1000 piece puzzle. A photograph of boats in a harbour with sandy coloured buildings in the hills behind. I grabbed it, then went through all the others on the shelf. Again, none of the others stirred even remote interest in me, but I loved the harbour scene. I bought it, and I'm really excited about starting it this weekend.

I think I inherited my love for jigsaws from my aunt. She always seemed to be doing them, and I recall her sharing a few with me. There was one in particular she gave me, and it's the only one I recall from my teenage years. I loved that picture, and I wish I still had it. A few years ago I wrote about my search for it. It continues, albeit irregularly. Every now and then I'll get into google, ebay and jigsaw websites trying to find it. No luck so far.

This is how I remembered it back in 2014.

It's a photograph along a cobbled street in Europe, with an outdoor cafe. Set in the late 60s, I think. I think there was probably a harbour on the right, with boats and yachts. Everyone is simply enjoying the sun, eating, drinking. I remember a few people wearing RayBan style sunglasses. No one pays any attention to the camera - except one kid who is gazing directly at the lens, and therefore, at me.

This week I've remembered more. I'm not convinced the street is cobbled. And I'm not even sure it is a street anymore. I think it was probably just a waterfront. There were boats on the right, as I said, but now I remember one of those dark timber speedboats with chrome fittings that seemed so exotic and European when I was a kid. I have a feeling there were other boats, with masts and rigging. Above the cafe I think there were canopies or umbrellas - probably white and square.  And somewhere in the depths of my mind I recall mountains in the background, with a stone square tower nestled among them. I suspect it was between 350 - 500 pieces. My research this week suggests it may have been either a late 60s/early 70s Tower Press puzzle, or possibly a Milton Bradley. Or maybe not. The picture as I recall it certainly had the feel of some of the Tower Press puzzles.

Of course some of the details may be imagined, or meshed with images of other puzzles I did around that time.

Edited to add: Three days later and my research seems to be paying off. I mentioned it had the feel of a Tower Press puzzle,. The photos they used on their European puzzles were of a similar style. Now I discover TP were huge in Australia in the 70s. That fits. Researching European harbours has helped too. I can't find any photos from the same angle, or from the same time period, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if this puzzle is of Portofino, Italy.

I do know that when I see it, I will recognise it immediately. And if anyone remembers the same puzzle, finds an image of it, or can point me in the direction of a hardcore jigsaw puzzle forum, I would be most appreciative.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Another Sale.

It's been ages since I've sold a story, although until about six weeks ago I hadn't submitted one for a very long time. So you can imagine how thrilled I was last week to receive an acceptance email from a publisher in the U.S. It is an anthology with an interesting theme and I was fortunate enough to have a story sitting here doing nothing which I felt would be a good fit.

Now this is a story I really like. And it's a story which came close at a couple of pro-markets, receiving personal rejections and fabulous feedback. I rewrote and slashed away at the story based on those comments and I believe it was an even better story because of it. I am so pleased I have finally found a home for this piece.

Don't forget I have a story in Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook which is due for release in November. This is going to be a fantastic publication and I can't wait to get nmy hands on a copy. The names in here are fabulous, the stories are great and the artwork looks wonderful. I am truly excited to be in this one. Keep an eye out for it in your local Australian bookshop. Hopefully it will do well enough to warrant an international release.

I have a few other stories out at the moment. Again these are good pieces, and I have a feeling at least one of them will sell. Of course I have my fingers crossed for all four - but publishing rarely works that way.

I shall, of course, keep you informed.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Seeking New Opportunities.

Have you heard of the hidden job market?

It is believed as much as 80% of jobs are never advertised. These positions go to people through other means - usually networking, headhunting and referrals.

Of course this can make life difficult for someone like myself who has only been in the UK a short time and doesn't really have a local network. There are ways to grow a network and I am taking those steps. But it can be a long, slow process.

I have decided to take the slightly unusual step of promoting myself as a potential employee. No, I haven't splurged out and bought time on one of the TV stations, instead I've created a web page. Check it out here.

And if you know of anyone who needs a hard-working administrator, please don't hesitate to share the page with them.

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's Still Rock 'N' Roll To Me.

As I posted recently, most Tuesday evenings I wander down to the local for their open-mike night. Regulars, for the most part, play a variety of both originals and covers - blues, folk, 50s, 60s and 70s. Lap steel guitars, banjos, mandolins, acoustics, electrics, keyboards and even full bands are dragged out. The quality varies, but the passion is there. Always. These folks do it because they love the music.

It's a fun evening. I get to chat to friends, have a pint or two, and listen to some tunes. Every now and again something special happens and the music transcends the time and place. And those performances are the ones I long for.

It's inspired me to pick up my own guitars and play more often - a habit I'd long fallen out of. At the moment I play an hour or more every night, re-honing my skills, learning new songs and toughening up my fingertips. It's a lot of fun.

I've also been inspired to listen to a lot more 50s rock. A couple of rockers play a 50s set, which I thoroughly enjoy. Mark jumps up and sings a couple of numbers. And he's good. He's gotten me into Charlie Gracie who I'd never heard of before, but had a few hits here in the UK. Fabulous and Butterfly are wonderful songs. My listening at the moment includes a couple of fantastic 50s compilations, as well as albums by Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.

I knew some of these songs already, but I feel like I'm hearing them with fresh ears. And there have been some surprises along the way. Elvis Presley's B-side, Mess of Blues, is just amazing, and should have been a hit.

Hey, hey, my, my - rock 'n' roll will never die.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Most Roads Lead To Helsinki.

Summertime here in the northern hemisphere, and we're rapidly approaching Worldcon. For those not in the know, Worldcon is the World Science Fiction Convention, held annually around the globe. This year, the 75th con, is to be held in Helsinki in mid August.

A year or so ago I had hopes I would attend, particularly since I was now in the UK and so close. Alas it was not to be. Scheduling and other factors worked against me. So I'll be here in my cottage, sitting at the computer and watching with envy as my friends from around the world converge in Finland for fellowship, discussions, beer and more beer. Oh, and possibly even some networking and pitching of stories.

It's the fellowship I enjoy, the sitting, chatting and getting to know new friends.

I wish you all well as you start to pack.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Recent Scribbling.

It's been a good month for writing.

Not only have I submitted four stories in the past two weeks, but I have started another story and written an article. This week I was commissioned to write another couple of articles which will be published shortly.

I love writing, when I can manage to make the time. And I wish I had more time in which to sit and focus my energies on getting words on the screen. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a full time writer? Maybe not for everyone, but it's what I desire and should I win the lottery I think that's what would happen. Of course winning the lottery would actually require a great deal of luck; even more since I so rarely buy a ticket. But I can dream.

Writing these articles takes a great deal of research. A lot of time spent looking at documents, chasing links and leads, and formulating clear, concise paragraphs that are easy to follow. My feedback from editors suggest I succeed at delivering on this.

My fiction writing is improving as well. I plan on selling four or five stories by the end of the year. My Sherlock Holmes story is due for release in a couple of months, and I think I have another story out by Christmas. All I need is the confirmation and I'll be able to share those details with you.

It's time I found a writing group here in Lincoln. I need to mix with other writers. But finding the right group for you can be tricky. Ideally it should include writers at a similar and higher level than yourself. I've been in groups consisting of only beginner writers, and it was of little benefit to me. They don't have the experience and skills to critique your work as required. A mix is ideal, with new writers and some old hands.

I'll start looking around soon, see what's happening. There should be a group that meets my needs. After all, this is a university city. Surely there are fellow writers geeks.