Tuesday 22 February 2011

Two weeks

It's over two weeks since I posted anything here, so what does a typical fortnight in the life of the working SF writer look like?

Monday: blog post about Winston Link. Fiddle around with novel rewrites. Buy rowing machine from Argos. Start watching "The Three Doctors" on DVD while on treadmill. Later, stare at large cardboard box containing rowing machine in the hope that it will assemble itself.

Tuesday. More fiddling around. Guitar lesson with Richard in the afternoon - only a half hour usually, but it's surprising the amount of concentration it takes out of me. Feel like I'm making progress, though. Recuperate with cup of tea and cakes. More writing, then more Doctor Who. Vague recollection of having watched "The Three Doctors" in the eighties.

Wednesday: more writing. Amazon package arrives with a selection of brilliant Cherry Red CD reissues: Furniture, The Passions, Lotus Eaters - all great eighties stuff I've liked but never owned. Also: an Aztec Camera boxset, which is excellent value. After work, assemble rowing machine, which in itself feels like a major exercise session. Amazingly, it seems to work. Early night because of travel next day.

Thursday: up with the lark to catch train to London. In Paddington by 11.30, followed by quick sprint across town to favoured hotel.  Check in, then meet another writer friend for enjoyable lunch. Talk about films, world war two, editors, deadlines and so on. Then catch tube to Canary Wharf where we are both present for a book launch at Barclays Bank. Get tour of Barclays Capital trading floor - very impressive, in a "I don't understand a sodding thing that's going on here, but it all looks very shiny" way. Proceed back to Barclays HQ for book event, which goes well. Later, adjourn with a number of other writers and Barclays people to restaurant.

Friday: no rush to leave London, so mope around in enjoyable aimlessness for a few hours, visiting usual haunts. Decide to keep away from guitar and music shops. Train back to Cardiff, then home for tea. No writing or exercise as generally worn out, but in a good way.

Saturday and sunday: weekend off. Don't go anywhere. My wife and I repair felting on shed roof between downpours. Watch "Franklin" on DVD, over which we have divided opinions. Begin watching House season six. We love House but have to ration our watching, or we'd end up going through the boxset in a few days.

Monday: day of preparation and low-level disruption. Into Cardiff for business meeting, then back home. Doing talk on wednesday, so spend evening reviewing Powerpoint slides and try and work out what the thrust of my argument will be. Different audience to the usual, so need to fine-tune. Don't get much actual writing done, but then never do before any travel. General rule of thumb: in order to write for an hour, I need to feel like I've got three hours of potential writing time. Same thing applies to days.

Tuesday: up to London again. My wife comes with me this time as she has to go to the consulate for a passport renewal. Work on laptop on train, deciding to eliminate all text from my Powerpoint slides, keeping the presentation purely visual. No bullet-points. Check in, grab a sandwich and go separate ways. I travel to North London to meet another writer friend, we chat about "the biz" and then travel together to Covent Garden for Orion Authors party. Posh bash, this, with "proper" writers in attendance in addition to snivelling genre types such as myself. In previous years, famous celebs such as Michael Palin and Richard Hammond have been in attendance, but I've never seen them. Last year, spotted both Fat Hairy Bikers. This year, only one of them. Note that general level of drunkenness seems to be moderately down on previous bash. Adjourn to pub for one more pint, then back to hotel where neither of us gets a good night's sleep due to noisy neighbours and paper-thin walls.

Wednesday: early start again, as we need to be back in South Wales by noon. Work on train again, enjoying the benefit of the quiet coach. Collected from station by my mother, who drives us to her house where we left the car overnight. Just time for sandwiches and a cuppa, then off out again. Doing talk at Lifelong Learning Centre in Church Village, between Llantrisant and Pontypridd, to U3A group. Talk seems to go well although I go on a bit longer than I intended. Later, meet librarians downstairs - all very friendly and enjoyable. Stop at furniture shop on way back to mother's to order bookcase. Chinese takeaway with mum, then home again. Tired but generally satisfied with day.

Thursday: attempt to get back into writing groove but don't succeed. Travel is always disruptive. In the afternoon, jump at chance to accompany wife to Tescos and then our local Focus DIY center. We select some paint for some interior redecorating.

Friday: more of the same. By mid-afternoon, decide I'm not going to get any productive writing done. Tidy up, then skive off. Watch more House.


  1. It kinda sounds as though the procrastination fairies are having their way with you ;-)

  2. Thanks Al, you lead a comfortingly normal existence(Focus DIY lol!)Always appreciate your passion for writing and humility, a rare mix these days. I posted on here a while ago regarding The Suburbs / OK Computer BBC Music comparisons that you helpfully backed me up on, just wondered if you've managed to listen to King of Limbs much yet and what you make of it?! Good luck with the rewrites, All the best, Benji

  3. Thanks Al - seems a touch surreal that a top writer spends time at Tesco's and Focus - love it!

    House rocks....

  4. Hi Al,
    I'm a big fan in process of reading all of your novels. A week ago I finished House of Suns, and it is now my favorite.

    Sorry, if this not the space to contact you and ask you a question... but i have not found another better way.. I'm very interested in the Priors, have you written anything else about them? And also, do you know where can i read about scientific data on humans surviving travel at sub-relativistic speeds and the tech mankind would need to develop for such feat?

    Adrian from Costa Rica.

  5. Orin: sounds that way, doesn't it? Although I think it's just the usual disruption caused by too much travel in too short a period. I've been more productive this week.

    Benji: no, I haven't listened to King of Limbs yet; as with In Rainbows I'll gladly wait until I get it on a CD. I presume that's the plan at some point. Right now I don't care as I'm madly in love with Midlake. Radiohead, you are so dead to me.

    Pete: Tescos, Focus, Wilkinsons, SpecSavers - the glamour never ends.

    Griffindell - no, that's all I've written on the Priors; they weren't mentioned in the earlier novella "Thousandth Night", although I think the existence of aliens was alluded to. As for relativistic travel - not sure, really, my own reference books are hideously out of date, I suspect. I'll have a look and see if I can turn anything up.

  6. sounds like you having fun...just please do not pull George RR Martin on us...

  7. You sound like a school teacher putting off his half term marking (I speak from experience).

  8. It's gratifying to read the diary of a novelist that doesn't consist of:

    Get up
    Go to keyboard
    Make coffee
    Make Coffee
    Eat Dinner
    Go to Bed

    Get up ...

    The underlying subtext is that successful writers do nothing but sit at a keyboard and type - occasionally ingest a foodstuff.

  9. I have been known to ingest a foodstuff now and then :-)

  10. Hi Al,

    The Lotus Eaters!! That brought back happy memories, they were a great band from Liverpool (my home town). I've got an album of theirs on cassette somewhere....

    I read not so long ago that Mick Karn (bass player with Japan, another of my favourites) died earlier this year at the far too young age of 52.

    All the best,


  11. Al - since you've deleted your contact information from your website, I need to use the comment feature on your blog. I've just started reading your stuff and am struggling to find it for the kindle. Any chance that they will release your older books in any electronic format?

    I make my living on the road and carrying dead trees is a hassle and a half.

    Mark Levison
    mark at agilepainrelief dot com

  12. Hi Mark - some of it is definitely already available, but I'm crap at keeping track of the titles. I really need to sit down and get an overview.

    Sarah: is that "our" Sarah, by any chance? Too right about Mick Karn.

  13. Al - In Canada (a backward country) only Zima Blue is available for the Kindle. I would love to buy you Revelation Space series (or anything else), but your publisher needs to meet me halfway. They need to make them available :-)