• Christmas Story Progress, Diversity and the Limitations of Time

    Well, my good intentions of having my Christmas story ready for release in September seems to have fallen a little short. I have five chapters so far. While I haven't pre-determined a specific length for the book, even a short novel will require at least ten more.

    I simply haven't had the time to sit down and write as much as I had anticipated over the summer. I seem to have been in demand for giving talks locally and preparation for those has distracted me somewhat from my writing. I will, however, endeavour to finish the story before Christmas.

    In the meantime, I've included a character who suffers prejudice due to a condition called Vitiligo. Vitiligo is a medical condition affecting the skin’s color. When you have Vitiligo, the cells that produce your skin color (also called pigment) are destroyed, and can no longer produce pigment. As a result, some of your skin loses its color in a process of depigmentation. The patches of lighter skin can appear anywhere on the body. Only about one percent of the world’s population has Vitiligo, including yours truly. You might notice a lighter patch of skin on the left side of my face in photographs.

    My purpose in including this character is part of a wider trend towards diversity in characters. Most writers taking part in this conscious process are including characters of diverse racial groups and disabilities in their books, often as primary characters. The minor conditions, like Vitiligo, are easily overlooked, but can cause the person social difficulties and prejudices. I will admit that this has been relatively minor in my own case, but in Victorian times, people might react to someone with light patches on their face as if they had Leprosy. In fact, Vitiligo was sometimes mistaken for Leprosy historically and only in the nineteeth century was the nature of skin layers beginning to be properly studied. Schoolchildren can be similarly unkind over something they do not understand.

    In true Dickensian style, my character will be shaped by his experiences of this little understood condition in a time when a simple white patch still brought accusations of being in league with the devil in some quarters.

    I do like the way the story is shaping up and I will make every effort to have it finished in time for the holiday, or preferably in advance so that some people might wish to include it in their Christmas reading. Perhaps early November will be possible. I can but try.

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  • Christmas in June

    I am beginning to understand the dilemma that full time authors must face every day; which project shall I work on today?

    Once one begins writing, ideas begin to flow and the storylines occur much more quickly than time could possibly allow to accomplish the actual writing before the next new inspiration comes along.

    For a part time author like myself with a busy schedule in my established career, life begins to look short. How many books can I produce in the few decades I have before retirement? How many will I finish this year?

    As I progress, ever so slowly, on the various projects at hand, I've come to the conclusion that if I want my Christmas story to see print before the holiday arrives this year, I had best focus on that one and leave the others to follow in due course.

    Several people have written to me to ask if there will be further adventures for my character, Reg Dawkins. As it happens, I've had exactly that in mind since I finished Jack Dawkins and he features in the short story I submitted to the Of Words and Water Anthology 2014.

    However, the idea for the story came out of an idea for a book which takes place at the time of Christmas, 1899. The Turn of the Century setting will have some changes from the earlier Victorian time frame as is necessary for realism. It is an interesting challenge as my speciality is early Victorian era.

    The story itself will include a few familiar characters from Jack Dawkins, so it is technically a sequel. However, the intent is that it should be a stand alone Christmas tale.

    I'm going to target September for a release. This will mean finishing the first draft by end of July so that there will be time for proper editing and design. One of the perks of working in education is that we do get a few weeks during the summer when we do not have to attend classes and these weeks of reduced time commitment will be coming up very soon now. I think there is a good chance that I can reach this goal and have it all ready to go before classes begin for the next term.

    So, while everyone else is sunning themselves in some Mediterranean holiday spot, I will be trudging through the snow with Reg, and quite possibly up to no good. With a will, I might even be able to do my Christmas shopping early this year, while the mood is upon me.

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  • NaNoWriMo

    It's a November event, but I'm writing about it in March. Why? Simply because it has come up in conversation several times in social situations recently, so I've had a look into it to see what it entails.

    To put it simply, those who choose to participate are challenged to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. According to my calculator, that is 1666.666666666667 words per day.

    That isn't much more than the daily quota I gave myself when I was in a hurry to finish writing Jack Dawkins. I had some holiday coming and settled in to write a minimum of 1500 words per day. Jack is, of course, nearer to 85,000 - 90,000 words if I remember correctly, but I did make great strides with that minimum for the weeks that I applied myself to the project.

    Taking part in the national challenge is out of the question for me as November is a busy month in education, but I found it an interesting idea that all over the Western world, aspiring writers are committing themselves to a month of writing frenzy. The website for official registration is at http://nanowrimo.org/ if anyone is interested and not already signed up.

    It is interesting to compare the atmosphere of the modern literary industry with the traditions of publishing over the past two centuries. When discussing Dickens in some of my classes, the conversation invariably turns to the serial publications where his early novels first came into being, one chapter at a time, and the ease with which an educated man could get into print. I'm not being sexist by omitting the words 'or woman' from that statement. The simple historical fact is that women did find it much more difficult to be taken seriously as writers in the Nineteenth Century. See 'George Eliot' for reference.

    In the Twentieth Century, all of that changed. The rise of major publishing houses and the culture of submissions went through several phases before settling into what is now referred to as 'Traditional publishing', wherein the hopeful author would submit a perfectly formatted manuscript to be read and tossed aside by a reader within a publishing house and receive the ubiquitous rejection slip, except on the rare occasions that the manuscript was accepted and went on for further assessment.

    While this system is still obliquely in place, the past decade has seen some significant changes in the actual practices inside the publishing houses as well as the popularisation of the self-publishing industry as defined by Amazon Services. We can recognise that there are other avenues of distribution outside of the Amazon Inc. model, but there is no getting around the fact that Amazon holds the Aces in this part of the publishing industry at present.

    Publishing houses have experimented with various models to hold on to their place in the world of publishing and haven't lost the battle yet, though smaller publishers have increasingly given way to digital publishing businesses which have little or no controls, beyond the basic laws for each country regarding the conduct of business. The rise of digital publishing has gone hand in hand with social networking, and the inevitable 'spam' culture of first time authors.

    I have to admit that the social networking aspect of modern marketing is something I find unappealing. I have accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Tumbler and several others, but seldom make time to log in to them or to make much of an effort to develop my 'cyber presence'. Occasionally I think that perhaps I should at least put some effort into developing my Facebook author page, but the inspiration never lasts past a few posts or mention of a sale on my book when the publisher tells me one is coming up.

    Like many others, I have gone with the services of a digital publisher to save myself the efforts that go into formatting, advertising and all that lark. It's nothing I couldn't do myself if push came to shove, but with full time employment and a desire to write more books, anything that takes some of the technical work out of my hands is worthwhile to me. I don't expect to retire on the proceeds of a single novel, whatever publishing path I should choose.

    The publisher has been putting all new releases on the KDP Select programme, at least for the moment. I was asked if Jack Dawkins could be taken off Smashwords, which distributes to a variety of outlets, and refused. I agreed that new releases can be put on KDP to begin with, but I wanted Jack to have the widest possible distribution. One might suggest that going with a traditional publisher would have been the way to achieve that goal as it would mean easy distribution to bookshops, but publishers are not looking for classical literature at present. They want youth fads or whatever will sell the most. One can't blame them. They are, after all, in the business of making money.

    My purpose in writing, however, is to create literature. It is something that I intend to continue to do, though it may be a slowly growing collection. I may well use some time off work over the summer to complete the Christmas novel that I began, so that it can be ready when the appropriate season comes. I do want to also finish the science fiction tome that I began as well. It all takes time, and time will tell how long it takes to manifest my ideas. Writing is self-indulgent, there can be no doubt. It brings a certain satisfaction that is unaffected by the state of the industry that surrounds publishing.

    If anything, I am grateful that I chose to indulge in this avocation at a time when the digital publishing culture allows me a lot of control over my own progress. Perhaps I will perform my own version of NaNoWriMo, but in my own season. Best of luck to those who join in the official challenge this year.

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  • Just a quick post to mention that Jack Dawkins is currently included in the Smashwords Read an Ebook sale

    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/301093

    50% off with code REW50 until 8th March.

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  • Writing for WaterAid

    I've just submitted a story to the anthology, Of Words and Water 2014. This is a collection of short stories donated by writers to encourage donations to the WaterAid relief fund to help bring clean water to areas of the world where it is badly needed.

    The editor liked my story, so I am set to be placed with good company. I recognise the names of a couple of the writers who were involved with the first volume in 2013 and apparently there is a push to bring in more recognised names for this year's version. One celebrity commitment is already in place and several more are being followed up.

    It's an exciting project and I feel rather good to be a part of it. Apart from the good it is doing, it has allowed me to finish another project and to give some ideas that have been floating in my head a place to manifest. It's quite possible that the story I submitted will expand into another book, a Christmas story this time. The protagonist is none other than Reg Dawkins, who became a favoured character in Jack Dawkins.

    Expanding one of my own original characters will at least avoid the pitfall of concocting a story, only to find that someone else with a similar idea has recently released a story on the same topic. It has become a trend for me. I think of an idea for a story and someone else appears with a similar idea neatly finished, as they've been working on it from long before it occurred to me. I feel like a comic character in The Pickwick Club; a writer who is forever thinking of good story ideas only to find that the story has been written by someone else.

    On a positive note, someone has released a book about the adventures of Jack Dawkins during his time in Australia. I'm actually rather pleased about this, as I had entertained the idea but didn't really want to write it. The story did need telling, but now someone has told it and I feel the task lifted from me.

    I still have two projects in the science fiction realm to complete. No one has duplicated my ideas for these as yet, so you'll excuse me if I keep them secret for the time being as I am hoping to finish both before someone else gets there first. Whether I can do this and still have my Christmas tale finished in time for the 2014 holiday season is yet to be seen. Three books in a year would be rather ambitious, but we will see how it goes.

    In the meantime, I encourage everyone to have a look at the 2013 volume of Of Words and Water and to consider downloading the 2014 volume when it is released later this year. If you have a few pennies to donate to WaterAid, that would be brilliant but the books are free. Information can be found at http://ofwordsandwater.wordpress.com/

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Literary Fiction, Historic Fiction, Humour

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Welcome to Charlton Daines

The chronicles of a writer perhaps destined to be obscure, but determined to contribute to Literarture as an art.

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