Friday, December 23, 2005

Speaking ... naturally

I recently read a post on PBWriter's blog extolling the virtues of Dragon naturally speaking version 8. The last time I tried this piece of software it was at version three or four and the kids and I spent a happy hour confusing it utterly. It reciprocated by confusing us just as much.

With faster processors, more ram, more hard disk space, I suppose it was only natural (no pun intended) that the software should have improved over the following five versions. So, armed with almost $200 Australian, I bought a copy from eBay. It arrived today so I plugged in the headset and microphone, installed the software and spent 20 or 30 minutes training it.

All I can say is what a huge difference five versions makes. My accent is a mix of British and Australian and I tend to speak very quickly. Despite that, the software seems to know what I'm trying to say. (which is more than I can say for my kids when there are chores to be done.)

I'm quite looking forward to writing a short story or a chapter of my next novel in this fashion. One benefit is that you can gaze out the window and dictate without even looking at the screen. One negative is that talking to yourself can be taken as a sign of madness.

In summary, I would wholeheartedly recommend this software. I have already caught up with half of my e-mail backlog without laying a finger on the keyboard more than once or twice. I just dictated this entire blog entry and only had to correct two words. Not bad after only 20 minutes training.

In case I don't post again before Christmas, have a good one.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Titles are everything

Link taken from The Title Scorer

Put in your title, answer a couple of questions on the make up and it'll tell you the likelihood of your book hitting the bestseller lists. I put mine in and Hal Spacejock scored about 45% chance while Hal Spacejock Second Course scored 79%

I'm guessing they've analysed a load of bestsellers and distilled the titles to discover what elements most have in common. For example, titles with a proper name plus one or more nouns (e.g. Harry Potter and [something]) do better than wacky, oddball, too-clever titles which nobody can pronounce. A double or treble meaning is good, as long as the title isn't contorted unduly to make it work.

Personally I think the content is more important in making a bestseller - you need word of mouth for that, which means people reading and enjoying the book, not just talking about the title. On the other hand, every little bit helps in this game so why not put your intended title to the test?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A voice from the future

Here's a blog for those who prefer something a little more interesting than my behind-the-scenes writery posts:

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hal Spacejock III progress

You can't buy Hal II yet (or even Hal I, if you live outside Australia), so non-writers might be surprised to hear that I'm putting the finishing touches to Hal III, a book which won't be in the shops until September 2006.

Sure, my editor will be giving me a list of suggestions to improve things, but the manuscript I'm handing in will be as finished as I can make it on my own.

The final deadline for Hal Spacejock III is April 2006, but I've got two SF conventions, a literature festival and the launch of Hal II to contend with at the same time. Anyway, my editor requested the manuscript in time for xmas, which is akin to a general requesting his troops attack the enemy.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why yWriter is essential to me

I haven't mentioned yWriter much on my blog. It's a tool, I use it, and that's that. Today I realised just how much I owe this software, after an incident with my work in progress.

The story so far: the draft of Hal Spacejock III is due in next Tuesday. Over the past week I've been scribbling on a printed version, turning the last five chapters into a mess of arrows, underlining and crossing out. I've inserted sentences describing new scenes, added comments explaining what the sentences are for, and then added notes explaining the comments explaining the sentences.

One page amongst 30 from the end of the book

So far so good... this is working. Now, some months back I generated a DOC file from my Hal 3 yWriter project because I thought I'd finished the structural stuff. Since then I've done two line editing drafts, which means the original project is outdated and unusable. So, today I tried to perform the edits in the word processor, and within half an hour I felt like I was up to my waist in quicksand and sinking fast. I couldn't get an overview of what I'd changed, what needed doing, what the structure looked like now that I'd moved scenes around, whether the chapters still ended on high points or hooks... nothing. I couldn't find the placemarkers for new scenes I had to write, or the comments I'd written telling me what they should contain. I couldn't link the narrative, quickly check that characters weren't in two places at once... I couldn't function, full stop.

Finally, in desperation, I cut the last five chapters from the DOC file and built a new yWriter project. I pasted the chapters into files, automatically split on the scene breaks (* * *) and applied scene descriptions and titles. Then I marked scenes as 'outline', 'draft', '1st edit' and so on. I felt myself relaxing as I did this, gradually hauling myself out of the Quicksand of Despair. By 1pm I was ready to write again, and by 4pm I'd knocked off two thousand words and knew exactly what I needed to do to finish the book off.

This isn't a commercial for yWriter (it's a free program anyway, and I really don't care if I'm the only person on the planet using it), but I don't understand how other writers can sit down with a big DOC file and come up with a coherent book. I'm an organised person with a decent attention span and a very good memory, but I'm in awe of anyone who can leap about in a huge file and make it work.

I realise Word and OO have outlining, but it's never worked for me. Last time I tried every line of dialogue was picked out as a heading, which defeats the purpose of an outline. And you can't drag and drop a scene, and editing comments is clunky, and... Well, they're not yWriter.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Final final

I just put the corrected galleys for Hal Spacejock Second Course in the mail. Just two minor things, neither of them important. I then spent more time writing a new bio than I did reading the galleys - or at least it seemed that way.

After I mailed the parcel I enjoyed the feeling of relief for all of five minutes. Then I opened up the Hal 3 file and continued work. This one is currently 84000 words, which is 4k longer than the first two books in the series. My plan is to trim the excess over the next two revisions, tightening up meandering dialogue by converting four lines into two or removing them altogether. (It's amazing how much better dialogue sounds when you trim it back.)

I have two characters to remove, and a minor character I'm planning to promote to major (hah). Book two features a strong female character (Sonya Polarov) opposing Hal, and while I don't want book three to be a carbon copy, there IS a minor character (Lieutenant-Colonel Ortiz of the Cathuan military) with a similar role. What can I say? I like writing kick-arse female characters prepared to take charge of their own destiny.

In the current revision Ortiz appears halfway through the book, but my plan now is to introduce her in chapter three, where a group of soldiers infiltrate a robot plant. That means dumping the two characters I mentioned, who currently run that mission. They also appear in a later scene, discussing the typical fate of movie henchmen, which will be dropped completely. If you want to read it, scour the web for the Bowman Publishing edition of Hal Spacejock Just Desserts. Good luck, as there are only 90 or so in circulation. ;-)

I also have a scene where Hal dresses up as a stewardess after Clunk mis-reads a contract. I'm wavering over this one - it's a bit of a farce, and I usually avoid making idiots out of my characters. Problem is, there are two events during the flight which are significant later, so dropping the whole scene isn't an option.

Oh well, back to it.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pleased with Hal

I got an email from my publisher today, telling me they're very pleased with the sales of Hal Spacejock. Hopefully the sales are about to get even better, because the Abbeys/Galaxy Xmas catalogue has my book on page 12.
On the down side, Hal Spacejock Second Course now has something to live up to. Trust me to find a cloud enveloping every silver lining ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Nanowrimo Winner

I worked steadily for 23 days, writing 1700 words or so per day until I reached 41500 words. Then I came up with the mad plan to write 7500 words in a single day. It worked - and because I only had 900 to go by 10pm I knocked them off as well. Hasta la vista, Nano.

I should point out that I write fiction via an internal editor. I don't splash down grammatically incorrect repetitious nonsense and hope to clean it up later: I write as if my draft were to be published as-is.

On the other hand, my major plot ideas come after I've written the bulk of the book. I like to write in scenes, and I like to string together scenes for each viewpoint character. What I mean is, I'll keep writing about one character and just fling in notes about what the other characters are doing in the meantime. When I run out of inspiration I just write one of the other characters' streams. What happens is that one stream will influence another, and then I have fresh ideas to carry those along.

Tying them up at the end is the fun part.

For example, Hal 4 features three or four subplots and I had no idea where there were all going or how they were linked. I was happy to just mine each one, writing along with the knowledge that weaving the threads could come later. Now, after several days of reflection, I've come up with what I think is a killer plot which neatly joins the bits together. The trick now is to re-read and edit the threads so that each has clues & references to the others and to the overall plot. You can't know all this stuff before you begin writing, believe me, and I think many first-time authors fall at this hurdle. Staring at a blank page and hoping to come up with a knock-out plot isn't the way to do it.

When you read a book there's no knowing which bits the author thought of up front, and which were cunningly inserted in a later draft. A novice writer might read a novel and wonder how the author come up with all these twists and turns. Well, they probably didn't. They just wrote and wrote until they had a messy first draft, then kept only the bits which followed the plot they ended up with, and wrote other bits to bridge the gaps.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fandomedia Thanks

I just wanted to say a public thanks to Ju for inviting me to Fandomedia. Perth fans are a great bunch of people, and the program was well thought out. Plenty of time for chat, eating and drinking, and the Emerald hotel is very con-friendly.
I had a ball on several panels including interview with an Alien: Chuck McKenzie and his reproductive hands and Erika as the team leader for Perth Inter-Species Specialists (We're real artists) Other highlights included the Goodies panel, the Sunday morning coffee panel featuring Kaneda the barista and much detail on why a lot of cafe coffee sucks, and chatting to a number of writers throughout.
I've been attending cons for over five years now, but this was the first one where my wife and I managed to schedule things with the kids so she could attend. I'm sure it was nothing like she expected: Many people think cons are just a bunch of weirdos dressed in Trekkie uniforms. She didn't have THAT perception (because I've told her about cons in the past), but I don't think I'd managed to convey the friendliness of the all-embracing fan community. Well, now she knows.
Fandomedia 2005 is done. Look out for Fandomedia 2006!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Go Socceroos!

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oy Oy Oy!
Yeehah ... Australia just qualified for the soccer World Cup!
You're not going to believe the coverage it's going to get in this country. From now until the tournament in Germany next year it's going to be soccer soccer soccer. For too long the world game has been a second cousin to rugby and AFL here, but this is going to boost it unbelievably.
My local archery club was absolutely swamped when Australia won a gold medal in 2000, as parents herded their budding Robin Hoods in for their chance at fame and fortune. Now everywhere you go you'll see kids in green and gold booting soccer balls around.

Update: It seems SBS captured 36% of the Australian TV-watching audience last night, and the peak viewing audience matched those for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. For decades SBS has been plugging away with soccer while the other channels (ie. the ones most people watch) completely ignored it. All I can say is HAH!
Aussie newspapers are reporting a 40% spike in visits to their sites as people get to work and catch up on the aftermath of the game, and on the Age website I notice that eight of the top ten most viewed articles are soccer-related - the first seven plus the ninth. (The other two are probably stories on how soccer balls are made.)
Sydney is planning a ticker-tape parade - perhaps as early as tomorrow (most of the Socceroos play for european clubs, and will need to get back 'home' for their weekend games.)
Australia is a sport-mad country, there's no doubt about it.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Promo CD

Hal Spacejock is appearing on the Fantastic Queensland Speculative Fiction Library promo CD. If you follow the link you'll find a web-based version of the disk, which features 14 Aussie SF/Fantasy authors with extracts from their latest books plus a bonus article or short story from each one. I submitted the first chapter of Hal Spacejock along with a humorous fantasy story originally published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Launch of Australian Specfic in focus (ASif!)

Check out ASif! (Australian Specfic in focus!) – launched today with over 50 reviews by 22 reviewers of Australian speculative fiction and comics. The site aims to double review every Australian publication, author and artist of specfic. A big task, but someone’s gotta do it.

The aim is to have all the low-down you need to find out what you want to read and where you need to go to buy it. And for the next month, there are freebie prizes, including a copy of the forthcoming Shadow Box CD, for spiffy answers to the online treasurehunt! What are you waiting for? Visit ASif! now!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sunday Times mention

A couple of weeks ago Hal Spacejock got a mention in a comedy piece on literary awards (Miles Franklin crossed with the Brownlow count. You have to be an Aussie for this one.) Personally I wouldn't have typed the whole article in just to share it (copywrite plus waste of time.) However, it's posted on Tara Moss's news page so click the link and have a giggle.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Nano progress

My goal is 1700 words of fiction per day, for a total of 52700 words by November 30. So far, so good: I'm six words ahead of schedule.
That means I've written 10,206 new words of Hal Spacejock 4 in six days, and when you factor in a day job, my part-time software business and family life it's not bad going.
Occasionally I wonder why I'm putting myself through the extra pressure, particularly when I could be editing Hal Spacejock 3 - unlike #4, that one's under contract. The answer is that the first three Hal books are coming out at six month intervals, and if my publisher decides to extend the series I need to write them now. To meet that six month deadline, each book has to be finished before the previous one is released. Hal 3 will be ready by March '06 for a release date of Sept '06. Hal 4, if there's going to be one, would have to be written and edited by Sept '06. Hal 5 by March '07.
Bear in mind I've had no word from my publisher on any of this - they've only just brought out book one, and for all I know they might be wishing they hadn't! But I have to plan ahead, and one Hal book every six months means there's no let-up.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

NanoWrimo begins

Every year thousands of dedicated writers set out to write a complete novel in a month. November is that month, and it started at one minute past midnight on the first (today, as I write this.)
I've signed up this year, hoping to knock off half of Hal Spacejock 4 by the 30th. (A complete Hal Spacejock novel is around 90,000 words.)
Why did I sign up when I already know I can write a whole novel? In a nutshell, I work best with a deadline and I enjoy a challenge.
The Nano deadline suits me because it's much easier to skip unimportant stuff when you have to write 1,700 words each and every day. There's also the reward aspect, where you won't allow yourself another coffee until you reach 500, 1000, 1500 words, or you're not allowed any TV or DVDs or casual web browsing unless you've done your quota for the day. That works quite well.
The challenge is a major one - Assuming you get 250 words on a double-spaced manuscript page with industry standard margins (ie. huge), 1700 words is almost 8 pages. And that's not dictation or copying from a book - it's all fresh fiction from your brain. Every day.
I'm off to the dentist in about 1/2 hour, but when I get back it's writing time. My goal is to start off with 3000 words.
By the way, you might like to check out my NanoWrimo Progress Forms

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

First review of Hal Spacejock

This is the moment authors dread even more than opening envelopes with rejections in. The first review. Will they get the humour? Will they pick the plot to pieces?

See for yourself

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, October 17, 2005


I've been waiting patiently for this, and can now report that the West Australian newspaper printed their article featuring me & my books. It was a full page piece, very well written and condensed from the original chat I had with the journalist. (The West is Western Australia's only daily newspaper, with a weekday circulation of around 210,000 copies)

Aside from the article and a photo of the book, readers were also treated to a mugshot which will have old ladies reaching for the CrimeStoppers phone number.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Download a new Hal adventure

While you're waiting for Hal 2 you might like to view this totally unauthorised Hal adventure entitled Hal's New Ship.

Coming next, a Clunk version called 'Where's my Hal?'

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Two of them, one soon and one a long way off.

The first appearance is at Fantastic Planet on the 28th of October. I'll be doing a reading from Hal Spacejock at 4:30pm (Fantastic Planet is an SF bookstore in Shafto Lane, Perth, Western Australia.)

The second is a three-day event called Kids' Lit 2006. This will be the fifth annual festival of children’s literature, reading, writing and illustrating to be conducted by All Saints’ College. The focus is on the promotion of young people’s literacy, and they have a packed program with about 8 concurrent streams. Over the past four years they've attracted 40,000+ visitors, and it's getting bigger each time. I'll link to the program and ticketing details once they're available online. It's a prestigious event and it sounds like a blast, so I'm very happy to be invited.

Update - Make that three appearances. I forgot to mention Fandomedia. (Sorry Ju)

Just a reminder that I maintain an appearances page on the Hal Spacejock website.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Free short fiction

I decided to put four of my previously published short stories online. One appeared in the first issue of Potato Monkey, and promptly won an Aurealis Award. The other three appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001 and 2002.
You'll find details on the Hal Spacejock website, including mini synopsis and info on original publication dates. They're all very different - Fantasy/humour, SF/humour, straight SF and a short comedy piece.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hal Spacejock - #3 Bestseller

Three weeks in the charts, and now at number three...

Dymocks SF Bestsellers w/ending 24th September

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

On to Hal Spacejock Just Desserts

Hal Spacejock is out and Hal Spacejock Second Course has been handed in, so I'm doing what any sane mortal would do - I'm working on the draft of Hal Spacejock Just Desserts.
The third book in the series is my favourite, and even after all the editing improvements to books one and two I still think it's the best of the bunch. This one was the easiest to write, too. After struggling with the previous books I had a better idea of this novel-writing business.
One downside to this is that I've been laughing along with book three, wondering whether I can write something like this again. I mean, now that I know the sheer amount of work involved after starting with a blank page it looks like a hell of a lot of work.
Am I still up to writing fresh new books?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Hal moves up to #4

I was pleased to see it debut at #7, but for Hal Spacejock to stay in the bestselling SF list AND gain three spots is a huge boost:

Dymocks SF Bestsellers w/ending 17th September.

I've lived with these characters for over ten years now, and it's heart-warming to think their adventures are being read right across Australia ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hal Spacejock Second Course

Here's a pic of the finished draft of Hal Spacejock Second Course. I printed two copies, one for my wife and one for my eldest daughter... if it meets with their approval I'm ready to hand it in ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hal Spacejock debuts at #7

Hal Spacejock debuts at #7 on the Dymocks Scifi bestseller list (week ending 10th September) Thanks to all who bought a copy!

Dymocks have 80 stores across Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Book launch aftermath

Between 80 and 100 people circulating amongst the bookshelves, browsing and catching up with friends and acquaintances. A dozen people from Fremantle Arts Centre Press and Dymocks, trays of sandwiches and drinks. Loads of copies of Hal, gleaming under the downlights. An excited buzz.

There were a couple of brief speeches and then the cash registers began to rattle and beep. It was two hours before they fell silent, and then we retired to Hans Cafe en masse for a celebration dinner.

To all who attended, thank you. It was a very special evening, an overwhelming event after so many months and years working on my books with only self-motivation to keep me going. Now, when I'm struggling with a tough scene, I'll just pull up an image of one hundred smiling faces.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Lots of writery things

First off, the Hal Spacejock book launch is tomorrow night. People are still RSVPing despite the 26/8 cutoff date, which is great. Sounds like we'll have more than 60 people, and one newspaper is going to run a writeup on the launch after the event.

Which leads me to my next item. Nyanda from Fremantle Arts has worked tirelessly on publicity, and has already organised press & radio for me, the launch and the books. I wanted to mention that publicly, because usually it seems to be the author who gets all the attention. FACP have a great team, and I'm more than happy to push them into the limelight while I keep working on the followup Hal books ;-)

In other news, my editor believes Hal 2 is a nice leap ahead from Hal 1, which is great. The last thing you want to do is follow the first title with something not as good. Not that I'd write endless Hal novels to cash in - I write to entertain myself, so each book had better be snappy, funny and moving or I'll find some other series to read.

I've had no email for 48 hours, thanks to a series of problems with my ISP. It's been vewy vewy quiet, although people can still get hold of me through my contact page (

During a trip to Dunsborough I saw copies of my novel in Dymocks Busselton, and then spotted them in a couple of bookstores in Perth. Dymocks Carousel has a large display with several posters and a bunch of copies, and I happened to walk in the other day just as someone was paying for theirs. Without a word, Stefen took the book and handed it to me for signing. Perfect timing :-)

I've just about finished the mods to Hal 2, which goes back to the editor on the 6th of September. I'll get it back a week or so later for a final polish, and then it'll hit production. I think this one will be out in April next year, and I'm setting up a 'Hal 2 notification page' combined with a draw for a free copy upon release.

Enough for one post. If you're coming to the launch tomorrow night, say hi. And if you emailed me since Sunday night - I haven't got your message yet.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The big moment

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I got the red-inked manuscript for book two back today, along with five pages of notes from Janet Blagg, super-editor extraordinaire. And what did I find tucked in the padded envelope with this slab of work? A pristine, new, 3cm thick, real live, dead-set gorgeous copy of Hal Spacejock! 393 pages of my blood, sweat and tears, printed on natural, recyclable paper from wood grown in sustainable forests and lovingly bound in a cover designed by Adrienne Zuvela using Les Petersen's terrific artwork.
This isn't a wishy-washy tome of slender dimensions, it's a thud-worthy novel of hand-to-hand combat proportions. If I was stuck in the trenches, I'd want a couple of these protecting MY vitals from stray bullets, I can tell you. Hopefully the vast majority of the book-buying public will agree, and with a bit of luck Hal Spacejock will hit the counters in army surplus stores across the nation. Hey, if I had to light a cooking fire in a hurry, I know what I'd choose!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, August 08, 2005

How to lose customers - FAST!

I have a spare dial-up internet account with a major Australian phone company. This is purely a fallback in case my broadband goes down - although my regular ISP provides a dialup service, it's bound to be clogged within minutes of any outage.

This spare account costs me $5.95 per month, and I get 1 hour of 'free' usage in that time. I never use the thing, I just check mail via my usual ISP once every few weeks to get the spam and the occasional credit card billing notice.

Today I got an automated reminder telling me that my card had expired (I got a new one a couple of weeks back.) They wanted me to log in and update the expiry date so they could process the $5.95 bill. Duly chastened, I went to their web page and entered my login details from memory. Wrong. Tried again. Wrong again. Tried one more time, and got a message to the effect that my account was now locked for three hours for my own safety.

I figured I'd email them to let them know that I would try again tomorrow. In their 'update your card' email I found the following: If you have any questions regarding these charges, please contact the Customer Support Centre by e-mail on (name changed to protect the twits) So, I wrote to them and a few minutes later I got the following reply: ** This is an auto-generated message to let you know you have sent an email to an unattended mailbox. Please do not respond to this email. ** This email now told me to visit a special customer page to contact them. I did so. It asked me for an email address, so I gave them my regular one, and I skipped all the crap about which software I'm using, how much money I have in the bank, the names of my children and which OS I have on my PC (I once made the mistake of picking Linux for this kind of thing, only to get a curt email telling me they didn't support Linux - despite the fact I was emailing to upgrade my internet account...) Now I just make it all up, confident that whatever I put they will ignore it and get me to explain it all over again.

I hit SUBMIT and was immediately struck by two things. One, they wanted me to complete a full page of information on my address, phone number, etc, etc because they didn't recognise my email, and two, they wanted $14.95 to proceed with my 'support query'. Do what!? I'm writing to let them know that I can't enter my card details because I'm locked out, and they want me to pay for the privilege?

Yes, I stuffed up my password a couple of times, but any company which employs Monty Python to design their customer support department doesn't want me as a customer. Therefore, I'm cancelling the account.

If I need a backup ISP I'll pick a small, local company with real people on the other end.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Feedback times three

I had three lots of nice feedback lately, a nice reward after striving long and hard to get the novels into shape.

First, my publisher tells me the reaction to Hal 1 has been very good. The distributors and book reps are behind it, and one chain store is apparently going to make the novel a group purchase and will feature it in their September catalogue. That's the sort of lift for a novel which money can't buy.

Second, my editor sent me a quick email to let me know how much she's enjoying the revised edition of Hal Spacejock 2.

Third, I got an email from someone who bought a copy of Hal Spacejock off me a couple of years ago. (That would be the first edition, hope he's still got it ;-) He told me that my novel inspired a love of reading in his eldest son, to which I say... Magic! As an author, nothing could please me more.

When I hear about Harry Potter breaking records and Harry Potter making millions for JK Rowling (good on her!), all I think about is hundreds of thousands of kids with their noses in the latest book, lost in another world as their imagination works overtime. After seven books, you can bet they'll be casting around for more. Here's a tip - if your budget doesn't stretch to new kids novels at $20 a pop, just drop by a Salvation Army or Red Cross charity shop, where you can pick up armfuls for 50c to $1 each. Don't worry about whether they're any good or not - your kids will develop taste all by themselves. Simon's Law: Every child should own 300 - 400 novels.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Get 'em while they're hot...

My publisher organised a batch of fridge magnets to celebrate the upcoming launch of my novel. If you want one, see my fridge magnet giveaway page.

(I promise there are no plans for a Hal Spacejock talkie-doll.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

In she goes...

There's nothing quite like it. After four months of rewriting, rewording and replotting Hal Spacejock 2, I finally emailed it to my editor. And I beat the deadline by one day, which is icing on the cake.

I finished the original novel in 2003, and you might wonder why it needed 4 months of work when I already considered it done way back then. First, a book is never finished. You can always cut more flab, and you can always improve the plot or characters. Second, writers get better with practice. After you've written three or four novels, your earlier stuff can start to look pretty dire. During a rewrite you can address both of these problems.

The first edition of Hal 2 weighed in at 79,500 words. From March to late June 2005 it grew to 90,000, thanks to new and expanded scenes. Then I had three weeks to trim it back to a target of 80,000. Guess what, it ended up at 79,500. (No, I didn't just remove the same words I spent 3 months adding!)

Yesterday I read straight through the first ten chapters with a big smile on my face, enjoying myself immensely. I suppose the parallel is when a director first sees the final cut of their film - for ninety minutes (or three hours, if you're Peter Jackson...) you close your eyes to the camera angles, editing and hastily-completed sets and just enjoy the thing, soaking it up like a regular cinema patron.

Am I happy with the finished novel? Yes, very. I've always liked Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts the best, followed by the original Hal Spacejock, and finally Hal Spacejock: Second Course. Now that books one and two have been rewritten and edited, I'd have a much harder job picking a favourite. (I should say Hi to Jules, who would like nothing more than Hal 4 ;-)

Anyway, Hal 2 is in. I'm sure Janet (my editor) will send the file back with dozens of comments and clarifications for me to address, but that's just another step in the process. One I'm really looking forward to ;-)

Then, on to book three!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jaw-dropping internet

I've been spending far too much time on the google maps site lately. For those who don't know, you can visit, click satellite and then view an aerial photo of pretty much anywhere.

For example: The Pyramids. Once the page loads you can drag the map around by clicking and holding your left mouse button. (I didn't realise they'd excavated so much of the area surrounding the pyramids.)

You can zoom right out until you can see the whole planet, then have great fun locating Disneyland, Heathrow airport, your own house (if your area is one of the high-rez images), and anything else you can think of (I've always wondered what the Rock of Gibraltar looked like from the air. Or the London Eye, Meigs airfield in Chicago and the Statue of Liberty.) For example, I found my house and showed my kids an aerial view of the drive to their school, following the roads.

Much fun. Big time waste. Beware.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Yippee on two counts

I got a really nice surprise yesterday: Hal Spacejock is now listed with the big three in Australia! (There are three major bookselling chains in this country, with 70-100 or so stores each: Dymocks, Angus & Robertson and Collins Booksellers)

So, this morning I woke up inspired. After several really tough days on the book (a tough day being one where little happens) I vanished into the bedroom with my laptop and worked from 11am until 11pm, with two breaks for meals. In that time I polished off 95% of the remaining work, leaving one little scene to rewrite tomorrow.

Next up, I'll print the whole thing out (currently almost 90,000 words) and delete one word in 9 to get the thing back to about 80,000. At the same time I'll reword, insert, adjust, trim, rewrite and scribble on every single page.

My goal is to have the draft finished by the 30th so I can stick it in a drawer and forget all about it for two weeks. Then I'll give it another polish and send it in to my editor. Then I'll want a holiday.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, June 17, 2005


Want to motivate yourself to finish writing your book? Try dangling a carrot.

Back in 2002/2003 I wouldn't let myself see Lord of the Rings (Two Towers) at the movies until I'd finished my novel. The film came out in December, and I had to wait until March. That's three whole months until I allowed myself to see the thing!

In 2004 I repeated the dose with the third film in the series. This time I got to see it in February.

I just bought myself a copy of GTA San Andreas for the PC, a game I have been looking forward to for the past 12 months. The packet is sitting in my line of sight, right above my monitor, but I won't open it until I've handed Hal 2 in to my publisher.

It doesn't matter what the carrot is. Use it.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I've mentioned this before, but when I'm writing or revising a book I use my yWriter software. (Over 1000 downloads in the past 7 days - it's spreading.)

yWriter allows you to give each scene in the book a rating, using the following choices: Outline, Draft, 1st Edit, 2nd Edit, Done. In the beginning it's all outlines and you have a lot of work ahead of you. My current novel has 136 scenes in it, and according to my latest work report there are 11 at the outline stage, 46 drafts and 79 at 1st edit. The work report uses a deadline for each stage to show you what you have to complete each and every day - for example, today I have to turn 4 draft scenes into 1st edit.

Now, these ratings are subjective and I've been known to push a bunch of scenes from one rating to the next just to get them off my work schedule. For example, today I went through all the scenes and decided seven or eight of them were more like 1st edits than drafts, thus completing two days work with several mouse clicks. (Then I get on with rewriting the next 3 or 4 scenes, happy that things are moving nice and fast.)

Used properly, you can keep a tight rein on the book. On the other hand, seeing a 3 page list of scenes to be rewritten is almost enough to turn you to film making.

This is the hardest part - I'm currently spending 8-14 hours a day on this novel, and the thought of doing that for the next 3 weeks gives me something to worry about at night. All I can do is nibble away at it, and if promoting scenes above their status is what it takes - so be it.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Writing links

Thought I'd post a couple of highly recommended resources for writers:

Allen & Unwin's Writing Center

Ian Irvine's Guide to Success and Truth about Publishing

No point paying for it when you can get it for free, eh?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

I love the smell of panic in the morning

I just realised my revisions for book two amount to 40 new scenes. I dropped this little fact into a casual email to my editor, and I should get a reaction early next week. Right after the paramedics have finished with her ;-)

It's not as bad as it sounds. A lot of these new scenes are nothing but a quick cut away for another angle on the action. Shorties with 3 or 4 sentences. Promise.

Others are single scenes split in two, leaving the reader on a cliff hanger while I insert a brief unrelated scene to heighten the tension. Or to drive them mad. Or both.

Anyway, writing 40 new scenes is a fair slab of work. It's not in the 'let's tweak this a bit' category, it's more along the lines of 'let's write half the book again' I'm sure the Press would rather I stuck to tweaking, but I went through a similar crazed author process with the first book and that was ready two months early.

I wrote one scene yesterday and another three today. At this rate I'll have them all done in two weeks.

Who needs sleep anyway?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I've updated the Hal Spacejock site, adding a bunch of my raytraced images. (Raytracing involves creating a 3D scene in a modeller and assigning textures to all the objects. When it's done you render the scene using a program which simulates how light would react with the surfaces. The classic raytracing example is a couple of glass balls on a chequerboard background, but you can do just about anything with it.) If you're interested, look up the Moray modeller (shareware) and the PovRay renderer (free). Here's a scene I just put together for an example:

Clicking the image will take you to my raytracing page, where you can grab a couple of images for use as desktop wallpaper.

I'm still working on Hal 2, tweaking a shorter version of the summary. It's nearly ready now.

Lots of interaction with my publisher - last week there was a flurry of activity with the cover designer, the sales rep (bookstore sales) and the promotions manager (press releases, etc). There's a Penguin sales conference in June where the sales rep will be presenting upcoming Fremantle Arts books. (Penguin distributes FACP titles outside of Western Australia.) So, last week I worked on a kind of cheat sheet for my book, something to show the 200 or so Penguin reps who will be in attendance. Because humorous SF is a bit of a departure for FACP they're getting me a bit more involved with this kind of thing, which is great. They're also working with Penguin, who DO publish this kind of thing. (e.g. Red Dwarf)
Earlier this week I paid a visit to Westbooks in Burswood, a book store catering to kids and young adults (they sell to the public, but their main business would seem to be with schools around Western Australia). Anyway, I met one of the buyers and introduced myself, and she promised to look out for the book when it comes out. Just think, if they get Hal into schools I could single-handedly put hundreds of kids off reading serious books. As if they need MY help with that ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A one and a two and a...

After the meeting with the publisher I agreed to approach one or two SF authors to ask whether they would read a pre-release of my book and furnish a cover quote. You know the sort of thing - those snippets they put on the front or back of the book in quotes, like "Not too crappy!" "A moderately well written tale!" and the infamous "I couldn't put it down!" (Yeah - too much double sided tape)

This is fraught with danger. After all, you're approaching respected authors in your chosen genre and asking them to make a public comment on your novel. They won't want their name on a stinker, so you have to ask in the right way, giving them an escape route so that if they think it's a pile of crap they can simply say 'sorry, but I didn't get a chance to read it.'

Working on the principle that it's better to ask three or four people and get one quote, I asked three authors and a reviewer for cover quotes... and they all said they would oblige - if they got a chance to read it, har har.

Oh, and another thing about book one: It's no longer just a figment of my overheated imagination

Amongst all this excitement I finally knocked off the summary for book two. Because my editor has already read & commented on the original edition, this summary is comprehensive (over 14,000 words in this case), so that it addresses every point raised. Most of the changes relate to the WHY of things, and in the new version I get to dream up all sorts of complicated reasons why ... but no, that would give away the best bits!

14k is a lot of words, but it's quicker than me rewriting & submitting one version after another of an 80,000+ word book. As per the first Hal Spacejock title, my editor will send back the summary with comments all over it, I'll read them and apply changes, reworking the plot until we're both happy.

Then I'll sit down and rewrite the book from beginning to end, matching the summary. Or so she thinks. What actually happens is that I get these bright ideas while writing the new version, inserting new gags, embarrassing situations and stuff-ups in between the changes I said I was going to make. This freedom to improvise helps keep the rewrite fresh for me, and while I don't go nuts with this stuff it does make the book better. Eventually.

While I'm waiting for cover quotes for Hal 1 and the editor's response on Hal 2, I've decided to start outlining book 3. Unlike the first two books I still have Hal Spacejock 3 in a yWriter project. (The first two were exported to Word files long ago) Therefore, up until 5 minutes ago I thought book three was more-or-less outlined from when I was planning and writing it. Hah. The entire 'outline' consists of short sentences like 'Hal takes off', 'Hal lands' and 'Hal crashes'. That was okay when I was my own editor, but now it means I've got to start from scratch, reading every scene and summarising it.

Looking forward to it ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Publicity & such

I got a nice surprise today. I enjoyed a coffee at the publisher's premises and got to chat to most of the people there, and then spent some time with Nyanda, the marketing and promotions manager. That's when I discovered my novel is coming out two months ahead of schedule, so the release date will now be September 2005. Wow, less than six months to go.

I've promised to do my bit for publicity by supplying a list of SF reviewers which the publisher can send books to. SF is a brand new field for them, so their contacts are mainstream. They'll still send out review copies as usual, but my years in the SF field are hopefully going to unearth a killer list of luminaries. I'm having a fine time at the moment scouring the web for SF reviews in Australia, hunting down names & contact details and pasting everything into a notepad file.

"That's their job," you say. Yes, the publisher might regard your input as unwanted interference from a busybody author, so a brief chat before you start suggesting hundreds of bright ideas would be wise. Just ask them what, if anything, you can do to help. If they don't want you interfering, no problem. Don't hassle them.

Ok, they're happy for you to help. "But I don't want to do that stuff," you say. Believe me, you DO. Remember, the publicity people have a dozen or more books to promote, so the effort you put in will be appreciated. If you don't do it and they don't have time, where does that leave your book?

I forgot to ask whether to confine myself to Australian reviewers. My book will be on Amazon so a 'foreign' review would still be beneficial. On the other hand, it costs around ten bucks for the publisher to post a single copy overseas, and only two bucks within Australia.

Finally for today: The official site for the Hitchhiker's guide movie The trailer is amusing. Marvin is great, and I swear that's Alan Rickman's voice. (If they ever make a Spacejock movie he's a shoe-in for the baddie in book one. Actually, he's pretty much a shoe-in for the baddie in any movie.)

Now, back to the Hal Spacejock II synopsis.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Die cast & set in concrete.

Last week my editor asked me to have a go at a back cover blurb for my novel. I confess I've had a LOT of practice at this - I self-published 3 novels, and because I only printed a tiny quantity each time I've gone through more blurbs than an ink jet goes through vastly overpriced cartridges. But this time I only have one shot at the most important sentences in the entire book (and the ones most people will read... before they stick the thing back on the shelf.)

I came up with this after much brain-scratching. It's not supposed to be finished art, just a concept which explains the idea I was toying with. Does it make the book sound interesting? Fun? Feel free to participate by posting a comment below. They'll likely use something else entirely, and I have their 'write a blurb please' request figured as (a) a cunning ruse to see if I'm really a busy-body or (b) something to keep me out of their hair for a while.

They also asked whether I could secure cover quotes. All my books have been reviewed, and I've collected a few decent comments over the years ("Hey, this doesn't suck!") But I thought it would be nice to have something new, so I contacted an author and a reviewer whose only crime was to make positive noises about the earlier editions of my book. Their punishment was to be put on the spot, to be asked for a cover quote for this new edition, something which would con your ordinary, average book buyer into thinking I'd written something worth reading. (Side note - you'll see me having a go at myself quite often. I like to get the boot in before everyone else does. Dang it, there I go again...)

While all this organising was going on I received two countersigned copies of the contract. I wanted my wife to witness my signature, since it's a big event for me and I was keen to share it with the special person in my life. Unfortunately we both had different events on over Easter, and found ourselves 400km apart for 5 days. She was playing in a concert band, I was attending a science fiction convention for the magazine I'm involved with. So, an hour or so after we both got home today (the kids were 50km away, staying with their grandparents) we did the signing thing and I mailed off the publisher's copy. Done deal.

Regarding artwork, the publisher is talking to Les Petersen, the artist who drew the original covers for all three of my novels. Because Fremantle Arts Centre Press are primarily a literary house, a lot of their books have arty covers. And my books ain't literary. I had a nagging worry (ok, I was sick with worry) that Hal Spacejock would appear with a cover which made it look all highbrow and literary and arty. But if they use Les's artwork there's stuff all chance of that, so my mind is eased. (You can see the older covers on - one picture is worth 1000 words of blog.)

I'm also keeping an eye on Amazon. Using the advanced search you can find books by a particular publisher, sorted by release date. I can already see Fremantle Arts books up to June 30, so I'm expecting November books to appear some time after July. Don't worry, I'll list the URL for the book the second it appears - I have quite a few people waiting to order it, and you can add your name here.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, March 24, 2005


I have this thing with my lower back - a couple of vertebrae with bone spurs or something (looks like dracula fangs on the Xray) I found out about 3 or 4 years ago. It's nothing major, just one of those things you live with. I just have to pick things up properly (bend knees, keep back straight) and twisting with heavy weights is out.

Despite precautions, from time to time I'll do the wrong thing and endure a week or more of discomfort. Twice now I've really done it, causing all sorts of grief as I'm confined to bed for 5-7 days, totally unable to walk. Right now is one of those times.

So, I'm typing this through a haze of anti-inflammatories & heavy-duty painkillers. Lucky for me I picked up a new laptop barely 6 weeks ago. It's an el-cheapo machine, light on the features, but it has that essential component built in - a DVD player. Say no more.

On the books front, I've agreed to the draft contract and the publisher is sending me a witnessed contract to sign. This contract covers my first three novels, and while there are clauses I'd liked to have altered, I've decided to take a longer term view. After all, I didn't get into this game expecting overnight success - I typed the first words of book one over ten years ago now. These aren't the last novels I'm going to write, and I've always joked about writing 15 in the Hal Spacejock series for a start. (That's one way to get a bookstore shelf to yourself - cf. Pratchett)

You read about authors who get sick of their major characters and kill them off rather than being forced to write more books with them in. (e.g. Doyle with Sherlock Holmes) Why is this? Some want to use their fame and fortune to do something experimental or arty. Some run out of ideas. Some of them resent their popular and famous characters, who become better known than the author themselves. To wannabe writers who would sell their soul to get one book into print, let alone a never-ending series, this seems precious, selfish and dumb. Maybe when Hal 14 rolls around I'll feel different, but if people want more in the series I will feed off that demand and motivate myself to deliver. And I'd be more than happy for Hal and Clunk to be the famous ones while I pull their strings from the shadows.

I recently created PAD files for all my software programs - these are like the CIP information you find in the front of books, a sort of electronic catalogue entry. The beauty with PAD files is that you stick them in a folder on your web site and then tell the central repository where to find them. Over time, freeware and shareware sites pick up the files and list your programs in their download sections. And here's the best bit: when you change the PAD with a new version of the software, all those sites pick up the new details and update their records. I have 11 programs listed now at, and there's usually a new version of one of them every week. I double-click a batch file and records all over the planet are updated within 24 hours... science fiction indeed. Yesterday 2 sites listed updates and I immediately got 1300+ unique visitors.

Google is obviously the dominant search engine, and it can be an ego boost to go searching for your own programs to compare the rank with others. For example, my new MP3 player sofware (yPlay) leapt to the top of all searches in about 24 hours. Terms like "Freeware MP3 player" and "Freeware Ogg Player" took longer, but searching Google Australia for those terms brings my site up first. I don't understand how it works, but I guess Spacejock has a fairly good Google ranking for something so generic to go to #1 so quickly. Then again, with the transient nature of the web they could be on page 65 two months from now.

If the Spacejock novels take off it will be interesting to see how quickly the word 'Spacejock' becomes associated with my books instead of my software. Right now it's about ten thousand to one in favour of the software, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye on it.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The joys of line edits

I come to you with bleary eyes, sick of the sound of my own writing. What better time to pontificate in a blog, eh?

On Friday I received an email with a line-edited version of my novel, Hal Spacejock. This is the rewritten version which Freo Arts Press will be publishing later in the year, and the editor has gone through it line by line to find confusing bits, things which could be expressed better and so on.

I printed the revised version and jumped from one change to the next, applying the ol' red pen and approving or reversing each one. It was easy work, since the editor was kind enough to send me a version with all changes tracked.

Next I took the slab of paper and entered all my own changes into the word processor. Then I printed another copy of the book, took it away and read it cover to cover - all 81,767 words of it. There's something addictive about tweaking a fresh slab of text, and I will often find myself stripping 200 commas from one draft only to insert 250 during the next. (For example, the comma in the previous sentence isn't necessary. But if you take it out and re-read it you might find that a comma after 'text' does indeed improve it.) So, after 17 hours straight I had 250+ A4 pages covered with red scribble. I returned to the computer and entered those changes. Sunday I printed another copy and repeated the process, and this time there were only 2 or 3 changes per 6 or 7 pages. Monday I printed another copy and once again repeated the process. This time there were only 2 or 3 changes per 20 pages. Today I'm reading the book with the red pen lying on the floor beside me - with the understanding that I can only pick it up for stuff-ups.

The problem is that I don't know how my editor will react when this little hand-grenade lobs into her inbox. Am I a dedicated professional writer because I did 4 more draft copies to polish this thing to the highest possible standard I'm capable of? Or am I a perfectionist nut who's just created hours more work for an already overworked editor? I feel like the latter to be honest, although I was only striving for the former. She's going to receive this word document evocative of that old joke. (What's black and white and red all over? A draft of Hal Spacejock!) If you've used the 'track changes' mode in a word processor you'll know what I mean - it's possible to switch between the normal black and white mode, and a mode where everything you've deleted shows up in red with a strike-through line right in the middle of the text.

Oh well, tomorrow I'll discover whether I'm Pro or Nut.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

British Telly

Ok, I admit it. I'm a big fan of British Telly, particularly shows from the mid 70's to mid 80's. Probably because we emigrated to Spain in the mid-70's and I didn't SEE any telly until we moved to Australia in the mid-80's. And don't we always want what we missed?

Anyway, in the 80's I managed to catch a lot of repeats of programs like Minder & The Professionals but they were usually tucked into a midnight time slot and interspersed with cheesey ads which seemed to overwrite bits of the programs. In other words, nobody bothered to stop the program while the ads were playing.

The whole VCR revolution passed me by... I didn't buy a single film or show on video, knowing that tape wears quickly and I was basically renting the show for 3-4 years before it was unwatchable.

But when DVDs started appearing I went nuts. On my shelf I have dozens of films, including many from the SF genre, a complete set of Minder episodes (up 'til Dennis Waterman left the show), a recently purchased set of The Professionals (Bodie & Doyle plus the Cow) and I have a complete set of the Sweeney on the way.

There's something about popping a DVD into the player and watching an episode end-to-end which has been completely missing from commercial TV since ITV used to have a single intermission in the middle of a show (helpfully titled 'end of part one') I don't know how anyone puts up with animated station logos, watermarks, bouncing banner ads, flashing 'coming up next Wednesday' announcements and so on right across the program they're watching but I voted with the off button somewhere around 1994.

I have to admit I'm a sucker for boxed sets: give me 16 DVDs worth of episodes over a couple of films any day. Which is why I've yet to buy any Dr Who episodes. Well, apart from the fact they're best remembered as exciting shows from my childhood - watching them these days is like reading your own early fiction... a slow, dawning realisation that it was never as good as you thought it was. What they've done with this show is to package up each episode (4 or 5 parts, about 2 hours worth of vision) into a tardis-like box which sells for a fortune. I'm sure it's great for people who want to collect a certain fondly-remembered episode, but it ain't gonna fly for me.

But is it worth buying something like a TV program on DVD when you can watch it for free? Well, maybe they cost money but let's weigh up the financials:

On TV, a 1 hour episode contains about 17 minutes of ads, so 24 episodes equals almost 7 hours of adverts. If you value your leisure time at $10 per hour you've just saved $70, which will pay for most boxed sets.

Next, a doctor's visit might run to $25. You make me sit through 24 hours of station promos and I'll need several visits for high blood pressure, some expensive medication and a new TV thanks to the remote I'll have launched through the old one.

Then there's the 'missing episode' problem. You're about to sign a deal for a new house when you realise program X is on telly. Do you chuck the estate agent out so you can watch the episode, thus missing out on your dream home? Or do you skip the program because some things are more important than finding out who shot JR? Or do you carefully program the VCR... with the wrong channel? Aggro plus.

There was a series in the 80's called Chessgame. It was a three parter starring Terrence Stamp which was shown in six parts in Australia (so they could cram more adverts in). The problem is, back in December 1983 the final part of this gripping spy thriller was being shown 1/2 hour after our plane left for Australia. That taught me a lesson about watching multi-part shows on live TV which I've never forgotten. 3 weeks ago, some 21 years after watching parts 1 and 2, I managed to see the final part of this series. On DVD.

I rest my case.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


I watched a couple of films tonight, unable to stare at the computer screen thanks to a combination of eyestrain and headache. First up was Men in Black II, and although I barely remember the original I'm sure it was a lot better than this. I'm into humourous SF, not silly SF.

The second film was The Quiet American with Michael Caine. I thought Caine was very good in this, very believable, but overall I was disappointed. I don't know whether it was the intention, but twists were telegraphed well in advance, which left me waiting for something unexpected to happen. It never did. Since they revealed the ending right at the start, I suppose that was inevitable.

I managed to strip a few more scenes from my second novel earlier today. Like renovating, first you tear out the bits you don't like and then you build something better. Or you totally cock it up and leave uneven walls, rampant sawdust and lumps of plaster glued to the carpets.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Excellent book on contracts

Title: How to be your own Literary Agent
Author: Richard Curtis.

I've read a few books on the business aspects of publishing lately, and this one really stands out. The author is an experienced agent sharing his knowledge with a gentle humour. Ok, sometimes not so gentle.

I read the book cover to cover in one sitting, skimming only the sections on collaborative writing and book packagers, and not only did I learn a lot I also laughed out loud at several observations.

The book includes a sample publishing contract and several author-friendly clauses which can be substituted for the more usual publisher-friendly versions.

I saw comments on Amazon declaring the book a gloomy, depressing view of the publishing world but in my opinion the publishing world IS depressing and gloomy when you're trying to get into it. So many manuscripts, so many dead ends and rejections... little wonder many eventually give up in despair.

I'm not suggesting you rush out and buy this book, but if a publisher or agent nibbles at your query letter you'll know where to find some impartial help.

I've listed this title in the Recommended Books section of my website and I will certainly be reading it again.

WIP: I've come up with a plot change for Hal 2 which will fix a series of wishy-washy events, turning them into something with more bite. I've also worked out a couple of structural changes near the beginning which will tighten things up nicely, allowing me to remove several redundant scenes later in the book.
Today's music: Paperback Writer - the Beatles. (Can't get the damn tune out of my head.)
Mood: Sleep deprived. The kids are back at school, and 1am to 7am isn't enough sleep.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, February 07, 2005

First Post

I don't know how successful this is going to be - in terms of my adding content, that is. I write novels, I write and maintain computer software and I run a customer support forum and update a pair of web sites daily, so I don't know how much time I'll have left over to write random thoughts into a blog.

But this blog is about my writing, so I'm going to give it a shot and see what happens.

Yesterday I discovered something like 100 unfinished short stories in my work-in-progress folder. I went through a write-and-submit patch in 2001 and then turned to writing novels, leaving this glob of unpublished work in a forgotten folder. None of it is publishable, and I suppose a it's better to think of it as practice material than wasted effort. Going back to read some of these pieces, I can also see why I didn't finish writing them in the first place ...

Mood: Pensive.
WIP: Editing my second Hal Spacejock novel. Re-plotting.
Music: INXS Shabooh Shabaah. I used to listen to this driving to and from uni back in the 80's . The tracks evoke the rattle of the Renault 12 I was driving back then. Not a lot of power in that car, but one hell of a heater.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)