The Big Five-Oh

Philip HarrisBooks, StoriesLeave a Comment

Despite Google Drive‘s best efforts, I wrapped up my fiftieth story on Wednesday – the Lovecraftian story I started on Valentine’s Day – The Ordeal (Season One, Episode Thirteen). I’m really happy with how it’s turned out which is a relief; it would suck to hit that milestone with a story I hate. Of those fifty stories, eighteen have been sold, four have been posted online in forums etc. and six of them are permanently consigned to the trunk. By my reckoning that leaves twenty two that I could still place. I also wrapped up Dan Simmons’ Drood yesterday. Drood is a fictionalised account of the last few years of Charles Dickens’ life, told by Dickens’ friend, Wilkie Collins. Simmons’ has cleverly interwoven events from Dickens’ and Collins’ real lives with supernatural elements to create a unique and compelling story. The book is at its strongest when the mysterious and diabolical Drood (named after Dickens’ last, unfinished, novel) is in the picture but at times it feels more like a dry biography than a novel. The first time I started reading Drood, I got a couple of pages in and then put it aside. Not because I didn’t like what I was reading but … Read More

Google Driving

Philip HarrisChatter, Theatre, Writing AdviceLeave a Comment

I use Google Drive to sync data, including my stories and related docs between various machines. I have backups as well, of course, but Google Drive lets me work across multiple machines very easily and provides an element of redundancy that’s reassuring – at least until last night. I’ve been doing the final revisions to The Ordeal (Season One, Episode Thirteen) and was planning on doing one final pass last night before sending out the first submission. When I came to edit the file, it was gone. After much swearing I managed to load a temporary file into Word that gave me an almost up to date revision but I lost a couple of passes of edits. Today I was able to track down a more recent version of the file but I’d already spent an hour re-revising the manuscript. I’ll now have to go through the two docs and make sure I haven’t missed anything critical. Not particularly convenient. What happened was that, for some reason, when I saved my revisions on Machine A, Google Drive deleted the file on Machine B (presumably ready to update it) but never copied the new file across. I have a weekly back up … Read More

Only Three Days?

Philip HarrisChatter, Movies, Running, The Ghost Smuggler, WritingLeave a Comment

My wife and I went out for our first long run in a couple of weeks yesterday – a “short” 18km route to ease us back into things. It was a fantastic day, cool with clear blue skies. We ran along the English Bay seawall, round Lost Lagoon, through Stanley Park along Pipeline to the east seawall, then right along the seawall to “Mile Zero” before cutting back to Lost Lagoon and English Bay seawall to run home. It’s a route we use a lot – it’s flat, there’s a decent amount of variety, a few places to get water and you can double up the middle 6km to get some extra distance. I felt good during the run but an hour or so afterwards I was feeling pretty beaten up. My calves were very tight and there was a little ball of pain half way down my back. It was at this point that Ann mentioned that it only takes 3 days for running fitness to start dropping off. And I’d missed over two weeks. Thinking about it today, I think it had more to do with the fact that I wore my “race shoes” – a pair of … Read More

Buenos Dias

Philip HarrisBooks, Chatter, Stories, WritingLeave a Comment

On Wednesday, we got back from a holiday at the Hacienda Cerritos near Todos Santos, in Mexico. It’s the first time we’ve been to Mexico and we had a fantastic time. The Hacienda Cerritos is in an amazing location with stunning views and a very nice beach. They could do with a new set of pool balls though. The Hacienda Cerritos, Mexico We were planning a very laid back, relaxed holiday so I was hoping to get some serious writing time in. That didn’t quite work out, but I did get some serious reading done and finished a whole bunch of books (thanks Mr Kindle): Red Shirts by John Scalzi The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumiere A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck The Dervish House by Ian McDonald Pantomime by Laura Lam Filaria by Brent Hayward Yes, I read too fast but some of those are pretty short books. That’s a lot of great fiction but the highlights were Mary Robinette Kowal’s poignant science fiction novelette, The Lady Astronaut of Mars (which you can get for free from her blog) and Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House – a dizzying mix of Istanbul, … Read More

An Innsmouth Valentine’s

Philip HarrisChatter, WritingLeave a Comment

I took the day off from work on Thursday. Not because I wanted to prepare an epic Valentine’s Day surprise for my wife but to go to the dentist. Thankfully, it doesn’t take an entire day to go to the dentist (unless you’re really behind with your flossing) and my appointment was early which left me the rest of the day to write – and write I did. I’ve been hitting my head against the outline for the rewrite of The Ghost Smuggler for a few weeks now and I’ve got it to the point where I’m almost ready to start writing again but with a whole day of free time available to dedicate to writing I wanted to actually write rather than just think about writing. It was time to call Ethel the Muse and hit the ideas folder. I’ve had an idea for a Lovecraftian story sitting around for a couple of years but for some reason that particular idea really grabbed hold of me on Wednesday evening and by the morning I’d fleshed out the story and was really excited about writing it. I’ve been pretty pleased with how the seven point story structure and outlining has been working … Read More

It’s a Writing Wrap

Philip HarrisStories, WritingLeave a Comment

I finished revising my new story – Bottled Lightning – today and sent it out into the big wide world. I’m pretty happy with it, especially since I really didn’t like the first draft. I read it through for the last time today and I think I managed to whittle it into something I can be proud of – as someone on Twitter pointed out to me over the weekend, you’ll always think you can make something better. Whether or not it’s good enough for publication remains to be seen. I also finished Justin Cronin’s The Passage yesterday. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a vampire apocalypse novel – think zombie apocalypse but with vampires. I enjoyed it and I’ll read the sequel but despite a few unresolved threads I wasn’t so enamored with it that I felt I had to rush out and buy the next one. Instead, I started Caitlin R Kiernan’s latest book, Blood Oranges. I’m a couple of chapters in and enjoying it so far. So much, in fact, that a large portion of this evening will be spent reading. But first, more submissions.

Outlining – Simpsons Style

Philip HarrisChatter, WritingLeave a Comment

A long time ago, I forget where, I saw Matt Groening talking about the script writing process for The Simpsons – specifically how they make sure each episode is funny. Given that everyone appreciates different types of humour and the same gag can have one person rolling around on the floor while the person next to them yawns and suggests they switch over to Two and a Half Men they need to pack as many jokes into each episode as possible. They do that by iterating over the script multiple times. Each time they add another layer of jokes, one liners and visual gags until the episode is full of funny (or they run out of time). We apply the same idea in video game development and call it polish. It’s an essential part of the creative process, in my opinion. It’s the only way to get to that secret something, that special sauce, that separates a great game or show or movie or book from the merely good. That’s what I’m doing with my Ghost Smuggler outline this week. I’ve built my outline based on a mixture of the first draft and my latest ideas and now I’m running through the … Read More

Seven Point Story Structure

Philip HarrisRunning, Stories, Writing, Writing AdviceLeave a Comment

Fantastic run yesterday. Our route took us from False Creek, along English Bay, up through a fog shrouded Stanley Park, across the Lions Gate Bridge, back down to the seawall to the little pier at Dundarave and back again. The weather was perfect for running and I wish I’d had a camera with me. If I had I would have got some fantastic shots of the mountains rising up out of a layer of very low cloud. That’s a long way though, either 28 or 29km depending on which gadget you believe so I spent the afternoon alternately reading Justin Cronin’s vampire apocalypse novel, The Passage, and lying on the bed thinking about the plot of The Ghost Smuggler. I’ve been gearing up to restart my rewrite and last week I decided to try the Seven Point Story Structure that’s often talked about by Dan Wells. The results I got by going through that exercise have made a huge difference and reignited my enthusiasm for the rewrite. I heard about this system on an episode of Writing Excuses and followed that up by watching the YouTube videos of a presentation Dan gave about the system at Life, the Universe, and Everything (you can find the first video here). … Read More

Another Aftermath

Philip HarrisChatter, Stories, Video Games, WritingLeave a Comment

The story I started three weeks ago, Bottled Lightning, is now sitting at 4,356 words – a little over 1,500 words shorter than the first draft. I read through it again yesterday and tweaked it a bit more. I’m happier with it, but still not happy. In fact, I was more disappointed with it than I remembered. It was kind of demoralising actually. Never mind. I did write a new story yesterday, Aftermath, a one hundred word submission for an upcoming anthology. It’s actually the second piece of flash I’ve written called Aftermath. Apparently, I’m fond of that title. In other news, I’ve been playing a lot of Letter By Letter recently. It’s a word game on iPad and iPhone that’s sort of Othello with letters. You score points by placing tiles onto the board to make words but you can also use letters your opponent has played. Doing so changes them to your colour, giving you points and taking points away from your opponent. That simple mechanic means that the lead swings back and forth between the players and games often come down to the final turn. You can get Letter By Letter for free on iTunes and there’s a bit more info on the … Read More