Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas, Western Australian style

Went out with the family today, taking in a trip on the Swan River. We stopped off for a barbie and sunk a few tinnies too. It was a nice day out, and I've included a few pics below.

To those of you enjoying snow, sleet, rain, cold temperatures ... ha ha ha. Then again, we almost hit 46C on Boxing Day (115F) so you can laugh at that. (It wasn't that hot today, or we wouldn't have ventured outside.)

And greets to my eldest daughter, who turned 13 yesterday. Yes, we now have a teenager in the house ... fortunately, she's not the wild sort.







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

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!

Phew - two weeks weeding the garden, tidying the house & surrounds, buying stuff for xmas dinner (new folding chairs, food, etc), wrapping prezzies, hanging xmas decorations and lights, going to the dentist, more weeding, cleaning the pool, more cleaning ... I almost wish I was still slaving over my NanoWrimo effort!

Still, the turkey is defrosted in the fridge, the veggies are all peeled, cut, diced & whatever, and everything is ready for a great day tomorrow. We'll have around 20 people over for the day, and I'll be on the go from about 9:30 am, which is when I have to make my Special Stuffing (I just stuck the recipe on my website) Crumbled bacon, bread cubes sauted in olive oil, onion, egg, fresh rosemary and thyme ... last year it was so good people were passing up the turkey and tucking into the stuffing instead.

I'll put the turkey on at 10:30 am, since it's a 5kg size (about 11lb). I've cooked turkeys in our barbecue for the past 10 years, and this one won't be any different. When the summer temp is 38-40 degrees outside (over 105F) you really don't want the oven making things worse, so cooking on the BBQ is the solution. I use shallow oven trays and invert them over the hotplates and grille, then light the outer burners only (4 of the 5, leaving the centre one unlit.) The turkey sits in the middle, and the hood goes down. In our oven we usually roast at 180C, but the BBQ can hit 260-280 with 4 burners on full, so it's important to keep an eye on it.

The turkey will take 3 hours all up, and an hour or so into the cooking I'll put potatoes, pumpkin, whole onions and parsnips in to roast. These sit in baking trays, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. I usually wrap the pumpkin in tinfoil and bake it whole.

Half an hour later I add a huge metal stock pot containing peeled potatoes and lots of water - plus mint & salt. These will boil, and are ready by the time everything else is done.

Inside the house, in the nice cool aircon, we just have to steam the green veggies - brussels sprouts, peas, beans, etc. They only need 5-10 mins, and aside from heating custard and warming the christmas pud, that's the only cooking we'll need to do indoors.

I know I've missed some of the food (cured ham, for example, but that's just sliced & served cold) but these days I can cook a whole xmas dinner for 20-30 people on autopilot. I just make sure I have a spare gas bottle, and I check under the hood every 30 minutes to see whether anything is getting too well done. If so, wrap in tinfoil or reduce the heat.

Anyway, if I don't post again before the new year, Merry Christmas to everyone and I hope you have a fantastic time.

Simon Haynes

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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upgrading to the best version of Windows

Here's a comparison of XP and Vista, specially written for those stuck with the buggier of the two. (Non-computer types and the humour-impaired can safely skip this article.)

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

Friday, December 14, 2007

Terry Pratchett

I have to say, this really sucks. Here's a guy who's given an enormous amount of laughs and good cheer to a huge worldwide fan base, and he's rewarded with a cruel blow like this.

I still remember the first time I heard of Terry Pratchett. I was an enthusiastic teen computer user, spending hours per day on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and one of the games I picked up was a computer version of The Colour of Magic. That must have been 1984 or 1985, and it's been wonderful to see his books hit greater and greater heights ever since.

Well, here's hoping modern medicine can pull off a miracle ... and a few experts in high-end brain chemistry wouldn't go amiss either.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Catastrophic Windows Failure ... ho hum

Another day, another refusal to boot. Switched on my PC at 7:30 am and it wouldn't go anywhere. Tried safe mode and it kept rebooting after showing the MUP.sys driver. Used Google from the laptop, found a zillion people with the same problem and about as many solutions. (This is the third time this has happened to me in the past 18 months. You think I'd have switched to Linux by now. If it weren't for certain games ...)

Anyway, I set up a second copy of XP on a spare hard drive, booted it, tinkered with the main C partition, no go. Fortunately (or rather, intelligently) my C drive is just Windows and Program Files - my 'My Documents' folder is on its own 5gb partition on a second drive.

So, I ran Paragon Drive Backup, took a snapshot of the broken C partition, then restored my latest snapshot dated October the 11th. Rebooted into my now-working, but outdated install, let AVG and Firefox and Microsoft and Adobe and Java all update themselves, sorted folders in the Program Files folder by date on my C drive AND in the backup snapshot, and reinstalled all apps I'd added to my system after October. Updated to OpenOffice 2.3.1. Restored my Firefox profile in the Documents and Settings folder. Rebooted to confirm it's all working.

Total lost time: around 5 or 6 hours. I have to pick the kids up from school in half an hour, which means basically the whole day is shot, and I've yet to answer a single email. Mind you, I'm lucky I can fix this stuff. For the average punter it would have been wipe and reinstall, perhaps losing all their data in the process.

Now, had this been a Linux installation I'd have booted from a live CD, manually edited the broken config file in a text editor (no registry on linux, thank heavens) and rebooted to a working machine. Net wasted time: around 5 minutes.

And Microsoft want me to upgrade to Vista? The hell I will.

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

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vanishing act

I've been so busy lately that blogging has been the last thing on my mind. What with getting Hal 4 ready, completing nanowrimo, rewriting Remind Me Please and yWriter 4, doing essential maintenance on the house etc, etc, I've hardly had time for a breather.

I owe emails to quite a few people, and I have a load of paperwork to get through. Bear with me ... it will happen. NanoWrimo and the new yWriter 4 application have both generated huge quantities of email on top of the usual load, which hasn't helped.

Oh well, at least the Xmas break is coming up.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NanoWrimo progress

I really wasn't looking forward to NanoWrimo this year. I've been plotting, writing and editing Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch since April, and I only finished the final proofs early in November. I must have read the manuscript over thirty times, and the thought of starting another book immediately made me feel ill and very, very tired.

But despite that, I felt a strong solidarity with all those people embarking on their own Nano journeys, and from day one I never doubted I'd get there in the end. I took it easy, writing as much as I could each day and forcing out an extra 500 words here and there. I also put a lot of time into yWriter 4, which is probably the most user-friendly and reliable release of this app yet. (If you're one of the many thousands of yWriter users worldwide, I hope you find it as useful as I do.)

Oh, and I wrote myself a little text editor which allowed me to set a word count and then go at it, watching the count decrease in the status bar as I typed. I reckon that prog was the difference for me on many slow writing days.

So, without further ado:

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

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What am I reading?

Marshal Zeringue of the Writers Read blog recently asked what I was reading and what I had on my TBR pile. Naturally, I revealed all.

Also, I just saw the CMIS Resource Bank website has a listing for all three Hal books, giving each a nice review and rating them as suitable for ages 13+. (This site is run by the Western Australian Education Dept, and I guess that explains all the visitors to the site ... they can't all be after simple recipes.)

Snips from the reviews for each book:

Hal 1: "As might be expected, things start to go wrong and just keep going that way in this clever novel."

Hal 2: "The rich variety of characters and the very clever humour is attention-holding from beginning to end."

Hal 3: "The satire is great, the plot oddities continue to fascinate. Simon Haynes wants to write fifteen Hal Spacejock books. We are happily waiting."

I like how each review ends with a plea for the books to be turned into a TV series or a movie. (Although the phrase 'over my dead body' springs to mind. Hands up if you've seen a mainstream movie oozing with clever humour* lately.)

* Hey, that's how the reviewer described it ...

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

yWriter 4 beta is out

To celebrate handing in the final, final proofed manuscript of Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts I've released a beta of yWriter 4. The timing is awful, what with me needing to write 1800 words per day from now until the 30th of November, but what the hell.

(By the way, if I sent you a copy of Hal 4 for a cover quote, the final date of the 31st/Oct was wrong. Still have about a week to go.)

Anyway, you can import yWriter 2 and 3 projects into version 4, and you should read the warnings on the web page before running it.

(In short: When you open a yw3 file it's renamed to yw3.bak. Therefore, please make a copy of any project folders if you intend to open the contents in yWriter 4.)

Oh yes, and enjoy!

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

The lol phenomenon

I know my sense of humour isn't defective, so why don't I laugh at the lolcatz pics spreading across the net like wildfire? I feel like I'm missing the joke. Maybe it's the fact they're cutesy, or the fact many of the pics have dumb animals carefully arranged into staged positions so we humans can laugh at them.

So, what kind of lolcatz would make me laugh? Something clearly not staged for the camera, something where the pic and the caption tell two completely different stories, something with hidden meaning for those in the know, something which is not the same old run-of-the-mill cute. And something where I know I shouldn't laugh but I just can't help myself. (Yeah, I'm picky, but I apply the same criteria to my novels.)

Anyway, my ideal lolcatz is something like this:

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

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ripper wrapper

Supposed to be getting my Nano words done and, more importantly, finishing the final proofing of Hal 4. So what did I do today? Amongst other things, I went to a concert my wife was playing in and wrote a system tray prog which wraps Video Lan Client (VLC).

VLC has this great transcoding mode you can run from the command line, so if you happen to have a DVD with home movies on (you know, a menu system plus several tracks, some of which are the ones you want), then my prog lets you view the DVD contents by track and playing time, tick the tracks you want and then rip & transcode them to much smaller AVIs in the background. It names them track by track, and does the whole lot one after another before stopping. (Incidentally, VLC is my movie-playing app of choice. Worth a download - and it runs on Windows, Linux and OS X.)

On a dual core CPU you can merrily do this ripping bizzo while foreground tasks run as fast as ever, which is sweet. And making it a systray app means no clutter on the desktop. For now there's a big kludge where the command line options are dumped into a text box, but ticks and checkboxes will follow. First I have to proof Hal 4 and finish my nano words for the day...

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

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Out of character

What happens when your major character gets involved in a situation where you suspect he'd probably act one way, and yet in the interests of entertainment you force him to do the opposite?

I'm having a fine old time writing a series of scenes featuring Hal, but they're not in character. Without revealing too much, he gets caught up with a military type, and they're trying to escape from a hotel which is under siege. Now, I'd half expect Hal to hang back, let the other guy do the work, and then nick off at the first possible moment. Instead, he's loaded to the eyeballs with assorted weaponry and is going for it like Arnie on speed.

The humour comes about because he's hung all these grenades off his belt .. by their pins. Now and then he loses one, yells 'Grenade', and in the ensuing destruction he fires off a few random shots to 'get' the person attacking them.

Nobody gets hurt, but the destruction is more and more impressive at every turn, and it's as funny as hell to write. Not only is he single-handedly destroying this hotel, but his military offsider has no idea it's Hal causing the damage.

I have no idea where this is all going, or whether these scenes will ever make it into a finished Hal book, but right now this novel is Die Hard meets Lost meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Fun!

So, what do you do when your own characters run amuck? Do you straighten them out and tell them to behave, or do you write on and see where they take you? (This is where series books can be tricky, because you've already established the character. However, that's no excuse for keeping them in a straight jacket ... just look at how much some characters changed over the course of BtVS or Angel, for example.)

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beta versions!

I don't often blog about my software, but I know a lot of you are using yWriter.

Over the past week I've been altering chunks of yWriter3 to make the file storage a bit less extreme. Right now it sprouts text files like weeds whenever you do anything, and I wanted to tidy things up a bit. So, I wrote a version which consolidates all these additional files into the main chapters.ini, scenes.ini and so on. I also added features to the characters sheet, and tweaked a few other things.

Then I went much further, and rewrote the entire storage system to use XML files. This was a major change, so last night I dubbed THIS version yWriter 4, keeping just the smaller improvements for yWriter 3.

yW4 isn't available yet, but you can grab a beta of new improved yWriter 3 here. A couple of points: 1, you need yWriter 3 installed before you can run the beta - instructions on the page I just linked to. 2, make a backup of your current project folder, all of it, before running the new beta. Just drag and drop the folder to create 'Copy of ---'. Then, if this version of yW3 messes up on your system, you just reinstall the original, rename the messed-up project to 'Messed up ---' and rename 'Copy of ---' back to just '---' Once you've confirmed it's all running smoothly again, you can then delete 'Messed up ---' (In all of these examples, --- is the project folder, not the yWriter folder.)

Also, if you want to hold off messing with betas until AFTER NanoWrimo, that's probably a good idea.

There's another beta I've made available too: RMP. That one's here, and the same warnings apply. (Although in this case events.dat is all you need to back up, and RMP2 won't harm the original.)

As for yWriter 4... I'm now using it myself instead of yWriter3. What that means is that future development of yWriter 3 has ceased, and all improvements and extra features will go into yWriter 4 from this point on. I'm expecting to release a beta soon .. it's working fine, but I really have to deal with Hal 4 and 5 before I take on more work.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Here we go... getting into the zone

21,000 words into NanoWrimo and I finally hit that 'here we go' moment. It happens every time I start writing a novel ... one minute I'm on this side, writing on the laptop about things happening in an imaginary world, going through the motions and keeping the wordcount happening, and the next I feel the scenery blur around me and I'm in the other world. The characters are there, carrying on right in front of me, the place is real. From this point I can leave and re-enter whenever I want, and it's a whole lot easier to write the story.

Does anyone else get this? The Magic Portal to your Plot World which only appears when you've written enough to cover the entry price? Or maybe I'm just slightly odd.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Electonic Hal

I was browsing Dymocks Online today, curious to see whether the pre-release listing for Hal 4 had appeared yet. It hadn't, but imagine my surprise when I discovered they're selling an ebook version of Hal Spacejock book one.

Here, see for yourself. And have a giggle at the price while you're at it.

(I don't know whether their ebooks are available to buyers outside Australia, but if they are, then by my calcs an expensive Hal ebook is still half the price of a printed copy plus airmail.)

Oh well, I'm not sure Hal appreciated being digitised but I'm sure Clunk got a buzz out of it.

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Odds and bods

Several updates today, before I get back to my NanoWrimo work. (I'm a whole day behind, but not for long.)

First, thanks for all the birthday wishes. It was the big 40 for me, and we had a nice BBQ in the hot Western Australian weather. (That means I cooked the BBQ outside in the heat while everyone else lounged around in the pool or sat under the aircon.) A very nice evening, and my steaks marinaded in whisky for 8 hours went down a treat. (After first going UP when I put them on the flames.)

Second, Nano progress: Lousy word count over the weekend, but 500 words here and there kept the thing moving. This morning I spent an hour plotting ahead, and another hour re-plotting some of the bits I'd already written. This after I discovered my 16,000 words to date have raced through the first half of the plot in about three chapters. Need to pace myself and develop things properly.

Third, Stephen Wrighton of No Krakana has posted an in-depth review of Hal 1. I'm not going to spoil the review by summarising it, but it's worth reading if you still don't know what Hal Spacejock is all about. Okay, perhaps one brief snip which I really liked: "It shows a grim understanding of both current culture in regards to software and how we interact with in on our PCs and the Internet, as well as an even grimmer understanding that companies will try to utilize such things whenever possible."

Yes, the books are funny ha-ha and Hal is a klutz, but I was pleased to see a mention of the satire which bubbles through the series.

Stephen's based in the US, and as with many of these reviews and comments, he includes the usual desire to see a US publisher take on the books ASAP. (Recently I've been getting a lot of those demanding that a British publisher take the books on, so I guess that's a nice change.)

All up, a busy weekend. Now for an even busier week...

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

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nano progress days 7, 8 and 9

Wrote 1100 words on the 7th, 1000 yesterday and 550 so far today (although it's only 1pm.)

I'm hoping to do another 2000 today - enough's enough, and it's time to knuckle down and get ahead. I have a very busy weekend coming up and my publisher is posting back the page proofs of Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch for me to go over early next week, so I can't afford to let things slide.

Yesterday I designed & coded myself a little text editor which allows me to set a word count (e.g. 500) so that it can maintain a 'words left' count in the status bar as I type. I finished writing undo/redo and auto backup code for it today, and the 550 words was my first effort with it.

Oh, and today I also used Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate the words. I think much faster than I type, which means I usually edit on the fly, rewording the next sentence in my head while I'm still typing the previous one. (I type about 60 wpm.) Throw in plotting and character creation on the run and you can see why I don't like distractions when I'm working.

Anyway, Dragon is okay but somewhat CPU intensive, and it lags a fair bit on my laptop. The desktop has a dual CPU and power to spare, but I can't dictate on that because we have an open plan house - too much ambient noise.

The other problem with Dragon is punctuation, especially in dialogue. I've decided to plough on without it, and I'll correct it later. (And correcting misinterpreted words is another whole ball o' fun.)

How's everyone else doing with their Nano efforts? Ahead? Behind? Anyone else using speech-to-text?

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Nano day 6

Nada! Zero! Zip! At least, that was the story until 10:20pm. You see, today was the day my editor and I had to discuss any last-minute changes to Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch. (That's book 4 in the series - I'm writing book 5 for Nano.) I compromised on a couple of things, she compromised on a couple more, and eventually we declared it done. I know she'd have liked a few more changes (sorry Janet!) but there's always something to tweak.

Anyway, I had a lousy headache after that so I turned to my favourite computer-based task ... programming. Yes, I spent the day converting the database in Remind Me Please to XML, writing an automatic converter for existing users, tidying up the custom alarm sounds bugs, fixing the delete-expired-events bug, and generally speeding it up. I really enjoyed myself, and it made a nice break from worrying about Hal.

Until half an hour ago. Then I realised I was 1700 words short of my daily target of 1700 words, so I typed like crazy and reached 1200 or so. I'll do the other 500 in a minute, just before bed.

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

Monday, November 05, 2007

NaNo Progress day 5

*Zap* *kerpow* 1919 words today, 8750 total.

Hal and Clunk have just uncovered the truth about their passenger, and they're not particularly happy. They've also realised there's an opportunity for some easy cash, which has taken the sting out of their problem. It's just a pity they've yet to realise there is no such thing as easy in the Hal Spacejock universe!

During today's sessions I wrote around a couple of scenes which were leftovers from years gone by - they can go into the draft after Nano.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, because that's when Hal and Clunk meet a very interesting character. I don't know how to play this one yet, but often the character's age, personality and background don't really come out until the second or third draft, so I'm not too fussed at this stage. Even age and appearance are approximate - I just need them to play their part in the plot, and I'll sketch in the details and enhance them later.

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

Back cover blurbs

It's that time of the year again - no, not Nano, something far worse. I have to submit suggestions for the Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch back cover blurb!

I'm not sure whether you're aware of this, but my 'suggestions' for the first three books made it onto the back cover verbatim (go me), and I also designed the naff torn-out adverts for books one and three ('Space pilot for Hire' and 'Guaranteed Cheap') The card from my recent blog post ("the customer comes first") will probably be used on Hal 4, too.

Did I say how much I love working with my publisher, Fremantle Press?

Anyway, I wanted to come up with a blurb, so I turned to my wife for advice. She said I should just think of the funniest bits in Hal 4 and use something from those. Alas, the only bits I could remember consisted of the kind of humour which, taken out of context, would have my books delivered to school libraries in brown paper bags.

Even now I'm reluctant to raise them, so to speak. It'd be like pulling the naughty comments and gags from Blackadder and using them to promote the show - instead of being minor asides, people would think the whole series was wall-to-wall risque gags.

To me, the other important thing with a back cover summary is that it not reveal any of the plot beyond the early stages of the novel. Some books (and DVD covers) go way too far, giving away the ending and half the journey taken to get there. Spoilers, people! Hate them.

Therefore, the Hal summaries have to be enticing without being specific, funny without being filthy, and crafted so that people know what sort of book they're getting without revealing the plot.

The other thing I've tried to do is stay consistent across the books. Give the reader three things, mention Hal and Clunk, then include a second para with a hook and a bit of humour.

Okay, that's the preamble sorted. (Does that count towards my NaNo progress? Thought not.)

Here's an early attempt. It's much too wordy and not funny at all:

Hal Spacejock and Clunk are looking for a cargo job to settle their bills, and they find just the thing on planet Dulsuil. While Clunk signs them up, Hal visits the spaceport lounge for a quick coffee, and when an attractive young woman asks him out on a date he realises his luck has finally changed.

Yeah, right.

First an old rival swoops on Hal’s cargo job, stealing it away with a promise of top class service and a bigger, faster ship. And then Hal’s date turns out to be in law enforcement: yes, the young woman is really a Peace Force trainee facing her first – and possibly last – case.

Now Hal must choose: Take on his rival and attempt to win back the cargo job, or set aside his own problems to help the young woman in her dangerous investigation.

Whatever he decides, it’s No Free Lunch for Hal Spacejock!

Next up, version two. This one gives a bit more detail and attempts a bit of humour. You'll see three things from the book in the first para, Hal's reaction and a hook:

A cunning and persistant rival, a trainee officer sucked into a dangerous investigation and a planet with more bugs than a new operating system ... yes, even Hal Spacejock's unshakeable faith in his own abilities is under threat.
Will he take on the rival to save his own business, or set aside his problems to help the trainee with her first - and possibly last - investigation? Whatever he decides, it's No Free Lunch for Hal Spacejock!

However, the 'unshakeable faith' line isn't good enough, and I'm not happy about the three things either. I'll keep working on it.

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

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NaNoWriMo progress day 4

The Nano forums are up and down like a genetically modified mouse, but the writing goes on and on.

Today I extended the forest scene, threw in some nail- and shortbread-biting action and sent up three major films in a handful of paragraphs. "Make sure it hasn't got a sunroof!" - classic.

I've also ended up with a possible method of disposing of/freaking out the bad guys at the end of the book - but that's a long way off yet.

Tomorrow I'll leave the forest and get back to the actual, you know, plot. Hal and Clunk have to meet their client to collect payment, and that's when the fit hits the shan.

Footnote: Someone emailed me to ask that I stop promoting NaNoWriMo because the forums can't handle the load. Actually, the point is to write 50,000 words in November on your own computer, and whether the forums work or not really don't enter into it. Also, I seriously doubt my own modest efforts had much to do with the 139,000 people who logged into the NaNoWriMo forums on the 3rd of November. And if it's any consolation, the forums are much quicker tonight.

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

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nano 2007 progress

As usual, it took about 500 words before I'd abandoned the plot outline and segued into a much more interesting scene (which will then never appear in a finished Hal book, as usual.)

On day one I wrote about Hal & Clunk's new passenger, an old boy with a newly-purchased (but wrecked) old robot, who is promising to pay on arrival. He stands to inherit a large amount of cash, but has to present himself at the solicitors in time to claim it. Gotta love those deadlines.

Unfortunately the landing field is overflowing, and Hal and Clunk are told to land on the next planet and catch the ferry back. The alternative is to land illegally somewhere quiet. Hah. I love giving them these legal/moral choices, especially as Clunk is the legal & moral one, and Hal isn't.

On Nano day two I started on a farcical meeting between the various parties, with Clunk insisting on a democratic vote. Should they land illegally, or should they land elsewhere and catch the ferry? Guess which way the vote goes.

So, H&C drop off the passenger and agree to meet him outside the solicitors for payment. Then they go off to conceal the Volante in a nearby forest. In darkness.

They leave the ship and make their way through the trees, only to discover a five-metre-high electric fence with loads of warning signs on the other side. Oh dear.

Day three .. is today, and I haven't started yet.

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

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Joss Whedon's new show

Article here

A quick skim of the plot & central character had me choking on my coffee. Yes, I know it's random coincidence, but it's pretty much identical to the antagonist's plot in Hal Spacejock Just Desserts.

Fortunately, the books have been in print for ages. Unfortunately, not in the US, where everyone will just assume I copied from Whedon. Damn.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Interesting day

Things you don't expect to hear at archery #225, especially when you're at full draw:

"My daddy has a tattoo of a shark on his butt."

Injuries you have trouble explaining to a doctor, #188:

Whilst making weapons for a halloween fancy dress party, you're cutting vampire stakes on the drop saw when one catches the blade and flies off with enough force to impale you. Fortunately it slams into your belt buckle, ricochets around the double garage and ends up under the car.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Suggestive Cards

You're enjoying a quiet drink in a cantina when gunshots erupt. (Not sure who fired first - it's all so confusing.) Anyway, a confident-looking space pilot thrusts his business card into your hand and offers to get you off the planet.

Is that a bit suss, or is this one even worse?

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

24 hours of plotting later ...

Since I posted about plotting yesterday that exercise book hasn't left my side. So far I have fifteen pages of notes, and I'm getting some decent ideas for Hal 5. Below are low-rez scans of the pages, just because 14 pics are worth 14,000 words. (Does that count for NanoWrimo??)

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

Nanowrimo Tips

1) Write in 500 word chunks, 4 per day. Should only take 20-30 mins each. One first thing, one at lunch, two in the evening with a break.

2) If you write less than 1700 words one day, don't stop until you've written 1700 + double the difference the following day. That way, when you're thinking of giving up for the day you know you're getting double the work for your reward.

3) Buy yourself a reward and dangle it. I just got hold of the Lost season 3 boxed set, and it's sitting above my monitor, sealed. I won't allow myself to watch it until I write the 50,000th word for Nano. If I don't write 50K, I won't allow myself to open the seal until 2008.

4) If you fall behind, look up my NanoWrimo 7500 words in one day catchup form/article

5) Turn the TV off. If you have to cook/clean/do other chores, make them brief.

6) No sharpening pencils.

7) Delete your email and web browser icons from the desktop/start menu. Force yourself to go through C:\Program Files\etc to find and run them.

8) Each evening, after you've written the daily 2k or so, outline a few scenes for the following day.

9) Write the scenes which interest you, not necessarily the next scene in order.

10) Don't be afraid to branch out. If your plot changes, leave a note in the text and keep going.

This is my third Nano, by the way. I completed it in 2005 and 2006, and I have every intention of doing it again. I'm not a particularly fast typist (I don't really touch type - although I don't have to look at the keyboard) but I manage to do my 2k per day or else.

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Outlining & plotting

Okay, you're starting a new book. Maybe it's part of a series, or maybe it's completely new. Blank page syndrome. Help!

Well, I can't give you a plot or a set of characters to use, but I can tell you how I approach each new novel.

I like to use a cheapo 64 page exercise book for my initial plotting. I can get away from the computer and scrawl ideas, rip pages out and generally use it like a brain backup. I'm certainly not ready to use a computer at this stage - that would be far too organised and regimented, even with a mind mapping tool. (The idea with a notebook is that I keep moving forward, reusing the good ideas from earlier pages and dropping the bad ones. On a computer, you end up deleting and editing text, which leaves you only the most recent version. Bad author, bad.)

I always start with the characters, and because this is a series book that means Hal and Clunk are pencilled in right away. If you're writing a new book you have to come up with your protagonist, and I reckon that's one of the hardest things to do. You'll want your readers to care what happens to this person, so a sympathetic or likeable protag is often a good start. And if you already have some plot ideas, they'll help to shape the character - think about their job, their attitude, their financial and mental state amongst other things.

Next up is the antagonist. Who are they? What do they want? Why is your antagonist getting in their way? Maybe experiment with the seven deadly sins until you come up with the right combination (all in the name of research, naturally.)

By now I'll have a few plot ideas - nothing detailed, just something big enough to carry a novel once subplots and other issues are mixed in.

Now I look at minor characters - pro and anti. Do I want a confidant who betrays the protagonist (or antagonist), a friendly face hiding their own agenda, a genuinely helpful character, or what? (Or all of them?)

At this stage I'm moving ideas around, based on the plot and the characters. Who does what to whom is taking shape, and I start picturing locations. A barren planet, a space station, a solicitor's office, deep space .. usually these are dictated by the confrontations in the plot, but there's total freedom when it comes to the outdoors.

By the way, during this process I'm consciously avoiding ideas and situations I've used in other books, and anything I remember from movies, TV or books. "Cop on holiday trapped in a building beset by terrorists" made a great novel, but I don't fancy being known forevermore as the guy who ripped off Nothing Lasts Forever.

So, the exercise book is bulging. Next up is putting it all into Freemind.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Hal 3 review

My publisher just forwarded me a Hal 3 review from the latest Fiction Focus*, and it's a good one! The Hal series has done pretty well in school libraries across Australia and New Zealand, so it's good to see the third book given a nice wrap:

"The satire is great, the plot oddities continue to fascinate and readers are fairly sure that the 'heroes' will somehow get out of every mess they get into. Simon Haynes wants to write fifteen Hal Spacejock books. We are happily waiting."

* Fiction Focus is a selection and buying guide for secondary schools and other institutions serving teenagers.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cover Contest

It's been a while since I gave away a book through my blog, so let's have a contest. And since it's my blog, I'm going to make you work for it. Hah.

I'm going to paste the current blurb for Hal 4 below, and I'd like guesses as to what the finished cover might look like. Bear in mind it's not even a glint in the artist's eye yet, so I don't have inside knowledge and neither does anyone else.

Puzzled? Here's an example: The cover has a vibrant pink tone and Hal, naked to the waist, is giving Clunk a piggy-back. Alongside them, a woman in riding gear has a suggestive grip on a horse whip, and in the background two orcs are squabbling over an author's thigh bone.

(You understand this is wildly exaggerated. I don't actually need to win a copy of my own novel, what with having written it and all.)

Conditions: If nobody comes close, I'll award the free book to the most imaginative entry. If there's more than one apparent winner, I'll pull the winner's name from a hat. Just one winner, in other words, and they'll be announced as soon as I get the finished cover AND get clearance to post it.

Okay, that's the instructions, conditions and the example out the way. Now here's the latest version of the blurb (no, it hasn't been funnied up yet!):

An old rival seeking revenge, a trainee officer thrown into a dangerous investigation and a planet with more bugs than a new operating system ... When Hal and Clunk set out to make a fresh start, this wasn't exactly what they had in mind.

Now Hal must choose: Take on his rival to save his business, or set aside his own problems to help the trainee with her first - and possibly last - investigation.

Whatever he decides, it's No Free Lunch for Hal Spacejock!

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

Monday, October 15, 2007

How many drafts?

First, a picture:

Now the explanation. The red folder at the bottom contains dozens and dozens of outlines. The green folder contains my ideas for the novel.

The manila folder on top of those contains the 110,000 word Hal 4 draft dated 16th of August, and it was the first I was prepared to print out after writing the book on-screen for five months. Every single page of that draft has editing marks like these:

The next folder contains the second draft, dated 27th of August. The pages are even more hacked about than the first draft, and after putting in those changes I submitted the novel to my editor.

The folder on top of that one is the printout my editor handed back. I put a red tab on each chapter beginning so I could find & address her comments.

The next one is my fourth draft, now slimmed down to 94,000 words or so, and the fifth draft (88,000 words) sits on top in the final manila folder.

Now we get into the loose pages - chapter by chapter printouts which I'd edit, then print again. The A5 sized printout buried in there is a copy of the draft I received back from a first reader, who gave me lots to think about. Then another draft, and sitting right on top is the ARC I gave my wife to read.

And just in case you think there's less work in the later drafts, here's a page I was working on last night, barely 24 hours before the manuscript had to be handed in:

and the reverse ...

In total you're looking at the editing I've done over the past eight weeks, not including additional changes on-screen. Bear in mind ALL that editing took place AFTER I'd written the first draft.

A novel isn't ready for publication after you finish the first draft. No sir.

EDIT: Not everyone goes this wild. In fact, Holly Lisle has an article from the opposite end of the scale: One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle.

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

Positive thinking

A few months ago my wife rescued a bedraggled zebra finch from a shopping centre carpark, and we've been looking after him ever since. (They're not native birds - this was an escaped pet.)

Anyway, today my wife brought home a female finch, and within ten seconds of adding her to the cage the male was hauling grass stalks to the corner and building a nest. I mean, it happened literally that quickly. So fast, in fact, that he didn't actually stop to ask the new bird whether she was up for it.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2007

5, 6, 7, 8

Okay, I'm just two days out from handing in the final manuscript for Hal 4. Since I emailed it to my first readers a week or so ago I've polished and tweaked, tweaked and polished, and it's really taking shape. (All the excellent feedback really helped - and there's more coming in all the time!)

So, now that Hal 4 is nearly done, what next?

Here's the plan:

Hal 5 is loosely plotted, and I'm intending to write 50,000 words of it next month for NanoWrimo. It's a big Hal and Clunk quest, with less focus on secondary characters.

Hal 6 is already 85,000 words. This was GOING to be Hal 4, but the plot outline kept changing until it was nothing like the stuff I'd already written. It's a jumbled mess right now, but I'll do a new outline based on what I have and take it from there. (It's a dig at the art world, with a cargo of valuable gear, neurotic artists, exhibition disasters and so on.)

Hal 7 consists of a couple of notes I've had knocking around for a year or so. Confident (brash) fighter pilot, military stuff, threat of alien invasion, Hal deeply involved in military affairs for some strange and as yet unexplained reason. (Note to self: avoid similarities to Han Solo/Star Wars.)

The idea for Hal 8 just came to me, but I can't say much because it's all spoilers. Expanding the business with the help of an old friend is the best hint I can give.

The order of these novels isn't set in concrete, by the way. I'll write whichever excites me the most. And perhaps by the time I hit #14 or #15, they might even (gasp) be available outside Australia and New Zealand! (Powell's and Amazon sell the Hal books as imports, but they're rather pricey.)

Onwards, Hal and Clunk!

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kids' insights

My kids just showed me what they've been working on all day. It's an Oblivion addon called the 'Debating Room', where they've built a fancy parliament and added a copy of every leader and ruler from the game. (If you don't know what Oblivion is, think single player World of Warcraft. If you don't know what World of Warcraft is, I'm not convinced you're using the same internet as everyone else.)

Anyway, when they came to drag me away from Hal Spacejock 4 edits they said they wanted me to 'come and listen to the politicians having a debate.'

I did, and I discovered my kids have carefully upped the aggression levels for all these noble leaders and rulers so the minute you enter the room they all start belting the crap out of each other. Yes, it's cage fighting as we really want to see it! Why bother with expensive elections?

Oh well, it explains why my kids have been howling with laughter all day.

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

Simon's Simple Recipes

The other day I stuck a few of my fave recipes on my website (Simon's Simple Recipes), and today I was surprised to discover several visitors coming in after they'd searched Google for 'simple recipes'. Turns out my little effort comes in around #8 or 9 on the Google Australia search results, just ahead of the recipe page for a massively popular morning TV show.

Thanks Google ;-)

By the way, the one that really makes me laugh is this: My article on flower pressing. I should imagine it annoys a few visitors doing careful research on the subject, but that's what makes it amusing.

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

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sporty Simon

Yesterday my eldest daughter and I joined an archery club*, and today I bought a second-hand windsurfer. Looking forward to a long summer ;-)

* I used to shoot at this club and participate in tournaments, and still have my gold, silver and bronze medals from several state & club events. Last night I spent a couple of happy hours fixing up the equipment, rebinding the grip with tennis racket tape (I have large hands, so the standard handle is too skinny) and fiddling with the arrows.

As for the windsurfer, I used to be a real dedicated nut. Only on the river, not the ocean, but my old Bombora tri-fin used to go at a hell of a lick in gale-force winds. I still have the wetsuit and harness, the latter being a big metal hook you held the boom with, to rest your arms.

After I got married I sold the board and bought a surfcat instead, with a spinnaker and a trapeze harness. There were three of us on it once, no idea how fast we were going but a wave washed my brother-in-law's feet off the hull when he was at full stretch in the trapeze, and he swung all the way round the mast and ended up dangling in the water on the opposite side. Not sure how we avoided tipping over, either.

What with the regular family cycle outings as well, I reckon I'll be the antithesis of a pale SF geek by the time summer is done ;-)

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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nanowrimo Reminder

National Novel Writing Month (NanoWrimo 2007) registration is now open!

Even if you don't write a word for the entire month, the forums are great fun.

I've signed up again (sucker for punishment) and will be grinding out my 50,000 words in November. To help, there are a couple of progress forms on my site, and my yWriter 3 has several Nano tools to keep you on track.

So, is anyone else daft enough to sign up for this kind of writing commitment?

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

Monday, October 01, 2007


This may also be of interest to the writers amongst you...

Twelfth Planet Press is pleased to announce the release of the first issue of the new YA electronic short story magazine, Shiny.

Shiny #1 contains stories by Sue Isle, Trent Jamieson and Eugie Foster.

You can pick up an issue for the lowly price of three dollars at the Shiny website

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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Andromeda Spaceways issue 31

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is now available. Issue 31 features a never before seen interview with fantasy author Robin Hobb (who also writes as Megan Lindholm) alongside fantastic new fiction, poetry, art and non- fiction by new faces and some of our favourite authors gracing our pages once more.

Don’t miss the new instalment in the award winning Red Priest world, brought to you by Dirk Flinthart. Are you having Goblin withdrawal while waiting for Jim Hines latest Jig novel? Get your fix with The Haunting of Jig’s Ear! Delve into the dark depths of award winning author Shane Jiraiya Cummings’ mind in Memoirs of a Teenage Antichrist, and check out a topical piece in Sonny Whitelaw’s The Promise. Whether it’s a chuckle, a shiver, a tear to your eye or just a darn good read you’re after, issue 31 will deliver!

Full Contents listing:

The Garden of the Djinn . . . Dirk Flinthart
Wicked View . . . Marie Alafaci
The Promise . . . Sonny Whitelaw
How I Learned to Keep Tidy . . . Matthew Chrulew
Reading the Lines . . . J J Irwin
The Haunting of Jig's Ear . . . Jim C Hines
Memoirs of a Teenage Antichrist . . . Shane Jiraiya Cummings
The Neighborly Thing . . . Suzanne Palmer
Sing . . . Mary O R Paddock
Getting the Curse . . . Susan Abel Sullivan


Wayfaring the Space-Time Continuum . . . Davina Aw

Special Features

Interview with Robin Hobb . . . Tehani Wessely
Interview with Alastair Reynolds . . . Edwina Harvey

Visit for more information and ways to order your copy in print or PDF. PDF subscriptions also available at a great price, or get your hands dirty (well, not really but paper does feel so nice!) with a print subscription!

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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ask someone who knows ...

For some weeks now I've been trying to find the right word for the opening sentence in Hal 4. I had 'lying' in a bunk, where I wanted something more like 'slumped' or 'collapsed'. It's been nagging me, and I've had a couple of attempts at it, but tonight I decided to nail it.

So I asked my wife, and as we were testing alternatives my nine-year-old happened by. "Oh, you want 'sprawled'" she said. And kept right on going.

I now dedicate the sprawling first line of Hal 4 to my youngest daughter. Onya lass.

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

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Interview with Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt's novel Blood Engines was released yesterday, and here’s a little Q&A to answer all your burning questions about it:

1) What was your inspiration for writing Blood Engines?

There were multiple inspirations. I’ve been writing stories about the main character, sorcerer Marla Mason, for years, and finally decided it would be tremendous fun to write a whole novel about her. The novel is also something of a love song to San Francisco, and I had a lot of fun exploring that city and its history. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by Aztec mythology, so it was enjoyable to write a novel where the villain is a devotee of those bloody old gods. I managed to work in various other fascinations and obsessions, too: poison dart frogs, hummingbirds, Emperor Joshua Norton, snake gods, sex parties, oracles, and other nice things.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

Stephen King is probably the biggest influence — I started reading his novels when I was eight years old! Charles de Lint and Jonathan Carroll are also huge influences. These days I like George R.R. Martin and Scott Lynch a lot.

3) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

While I enjoy reading some mimetic fiction, I get bored in my own writing if there are no gods, monsters, or miracles. I especially like contemporary fantasy, because I like the tension created by the juxtaposition of the familiar with the magical.

4) Why did you decide to make Marla the chief sorcerer of her own city?

In the early stories I wrote about her, Marla was dangerous because she had power without focus. In order to make her more vulnerable and sympathetic, I wanted to give her something to lose. Thus, I made her responsible for the well-being of her own city. The responsibility puts tremendous stress on her, but it also gives her a profound sense of purpose.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

I like to cook, read, play video games, spend time with my family and friends, take walks to the lake or the farmer’s market, and see movies. The usual things.

6) What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

For this book I read a lot about Aztec mythology (The Codex Chimalpopoca is no beach read, either, I’m telling you), and wound up reading a fair bit about San Francisco’s history, too (I would especially recommend Tom Cole’s A Short History of San Francisco — it’s smart, accessible, and, well, short.) The only preparation I do for writing is making sure I’m sufficiently caffeinated.

7) Marla loves kicking ass. Is that your favorite thing too?

I haven’t been in a fight since junior high. I’d rather have a war of words than fists anyway.

8) What are you writing now?

I’m working on the fourth book in the Marla Mason series, Grift Sense — having already written book 2, Poison Sleep, and book 3, Dead Reign. The books are being released six months apart, so getting all the books written in time is sort of a marathon that’s also a sprint, and sprinting a marathon? That’s hard on the system. But I’m still having tons of fun.

9) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, for as long as I can remember. (I wanted to be other things, too — an actor, a rock star, an artist, a chef.) But writing was always there, and I’ve been doing it steadily since at least third grade. (I think learning to write in cursive was a turning point for me!) As for how I got where I am now… sheer persistence. I write, I send stuff out, I write some more. Writing, at this point, is as necessary and familiar as eating and sleeping.

10) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

I have no typical day. I have one day a week off from my day job — Wednesdays — and tend to do most of my writing then. In the morning I spend a couple of hours doing freelance non-fiction work. Then I have lunch, take a walk, think about my story, and come home and write fiction for a few hours. Though if I’m up against a deadline, I just write pretty much every chance I get — before work, after work, on lunch breaks, late at night.

11) Where do you write?

Mostly at my desk in my office, which is in fact a tiny little nook just off the kitchen. If I’m feeling stir-crazy I’ll walk down to a cafe and write longhand there.

12) What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

I like writing first drafts, because that’s where the fun and excitement is, though in truth I’ve started to really enjoy revision in recent years — it’s not the white heat of creation, but it’s a fun and challenging exercise in craft. As for what’s hardest… all the business stuff. Copyedits. Proofreading a book I’ve already read ten times and am thoroughly sick of looking at.

13) What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?

I’m not sure SF/Fantasy has a particular purpose that’s different from the purpose(s) of all literature, which are variously to edify, to entertain, and to illuminate the human condition. Though if pressed I might just quote G.K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated.”

Tim Pratt's stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and other nice places, and have been nominated for Nebula and Hugo awards. Some of his short work is gathered in two collections: Little Gods, and Hart & Boot & Other Stories. His first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, was a 2006 Mythopoeic Award finalist. His Marla Mason series of urban fantasy novels, written under the name T.A. Pratt, begin in October 2006 with Blood Engines, and continue for (at least) three volumes after that. He lives in Oakland California.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Interview with Kelly McCullough

Kelly McCullough's first novel, WebMage, a fantasy-cyberpunk hybrid, was released by ACE books July 25th 2006. It has now been joined by a sequel, CyberMancy.

Kelly is a fellow member of sfnovelists, and I'm happy to present an interview with him for your reading pleasure:

1) What was your inspiration for writing Cybermancy?

There are a number of reasons I wanted to write this. First, I wanted to write something else in the WebMage universe (this was before WebMage sold) because I really like hanging out with these fun, funny characters, and I love the world. Second, there was unfinished business left over from WebMage, most notably Shara's injury/death which happens off screen. Finally, and maybe most important for the arc of this book, the Persephone myth has always made me terribly angry. Here is a young goddess who is condemned to be eternally bound to her abductor and rapist, Hades the god of the dead. It's appalling and the injustice of it something that I found that I really wanted to write about.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

I was raised on Tolkien and Asimov and Shakespeare, and I still love them all, particularly the Lord of the Rings, Richard III and a Midsummer Night's Dream. I discovered Roger Zelazney and H. Beam Piper when I was a little older, and Zelazney is certainly one of my strongest influences. My favorite writer as a writer myself is probably Tim Powers. I always learn something when I reread him.

3) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

The fact that the genre puts no limits on my creativity. What I'm most drawn to as a writer is world. I love to invent whole worlds with their own internal logic and rules, and realistcally where else do you have to scope to do that? I also love both as a reader and a writer the sense of being taken completely out of the here and now.

4) Why did you decide to make Ravirn a hacker/sorcerer?

I started the WebMage series from the idea of a magical internet that tied worlds together like webpages and used code for spells. If I wanted to really explore that concept in depth I needed someone who could do more than just use the magical equivalent of web-browser, I needed someone who really understood how the coding worked. That meant a hacker and in the context of the world I was writing, that automatically made him a sorcerer too.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

Well, writing really is near the top of my list for play as well as being my job. I really enjoy sitting down to work every day. But I also love walking and biking with my wife. I'm an avid videogamer, mostly role-playing stuff like Final Fantasy, but also puzzle games and stuff like Ratchet and Clank, all of which I play with my wife. Like most writers, I'm an avid reader, though more non-fiction than fiction these days.

6) What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of
preparation do you do when you are writing?

I didn't need to do an enormous amount of new research for Cybermancy, since it's the second book in a series. I did do a refresher on my general Greek Mythology and especially on the details of Hades and the Persephone story. I also have to constantly update my computer knowledge base, but that's just part of my ongoing non-fiction reading. I really do more general research than I do specific stuff for any given book. As a part of being a writer I try to have at least a couple of serious non-fiction books going along with keeping up general and scientific news. That's probably a good two hours of every day, often more and part of what I think of as my job.

7) Ravirn loves hacking and cracking. Is that your favorite activity too?

Actually no, I'm aware of programming and hacking (my mother's a computer geek as are a number of my close friends), but I've never been much interested in the mechanics of how my computer works.

8) In Cybermancy, Ravirn finds himself breaking into Hades to bring back a dead friend in the mode of Orpheus. How do you put yourslef in situations like that as a writer to try to make them believable?

It's tough sometimes. Ravirn is stronger faster and more durable than I am. Many of the things he attempts would pretty much kill me. On the other hand, since he's a figment of my imagination and hence only a part of me, I like to think I'm smarter. I also get to manipulate the world he lives in to make things harder or easier as seems appropriate. The other thing to remember is that believable and real are not necessarily the same things. There are all sorts of things that happen in fantastic fiction that are completely unreal but believable in the context of the imagined world. There's a shorter answer and maybe I should have given this first: I really like playing make-believe.

9) What are you writing now?

Two things actively, with a third hovering off to one side. My main project is MythOS which is the fourth book in the WebMage series and will be out in 2009. I'm also writing the first book in a new contemporary fantasy series. I was really inspired by a recent trip to Halifax and this book is the result of that trip. I'm trying to get the first three chapters down while the experience is still fresh. It's kind of a reward. Once I've got my WebMage done for the day (never less than 1,000 words) it's kind of fun to play with some other characters. I've also got the second book in YA fantasy set in World War II that I've been playing with. The first book went to my agent a few months ago, and I really love the idea, but I promised myself not to start until I've finished MythOS.

10) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

No. If you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I was between the age of 11-22 I'd have said an actor or a stunt man or maybe set designer. My degree is theater and I grew up on and around the stage. But then I met the woman who I would later marry and realized that between the hours and the travel, theater wasn't entirely compatible with having a happy home life. At about that same time I got my first computer. One day I was kind of trying to figure out what I could do with my life if I gave up theater, and it occurred to me that it might be fun to writer a novel. So I did. I'm no working on 12th and 13th and I've never looked back.

11) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

On a good day I get up around 8:00, hop on the treadmill and use my laptop to read the news while I put in 3-5 miles. Then breakfast and a shower and off to my office for 5-8 hours of writing time. I do that five days a week with occasional variations for research days, editing, dealing with promotion, that kind of thing.

12) Where do you write?

In summer I work in a second floor screen porch overlooking a really lovely park in the small town where I live. In winter I sit in our south-facing TV room and soak up the sunshine reflecting off the wood floors. That's the routine, but I'll write anywhere and have, including tucked into a corner at the Air and Space Museum in D.C., on planes, in coffee shops, etc. My real office is my laptop.

13) What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

The easiest thing is world. My brain is really wired to create large-scale magical systems and the historical structures that go with them. Hardest is character. I'm not a natural character writer and I've really worked hard to get where I am with it.

14) This isn't your first book, tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

Right now, it's really only WebMage and some short stories in various magazines and anthologies-a couple of those are available for free reads at my website, I've also got a collection of hard science fiction short stories in an illustrated collection called Chronicles of the Wandering Star, but that only available to teachers since it's part of a middle-school science curriculum. The funny thing about that is that since it's in a number of large school systems, probably more people have read that than all my other stuff combined despite the fact that you can't really buy it.

15) What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?

Two things really. One is true of both F&SF and Fantasy, the other is true of SF alone. The first, to carry us out of ourselves. I think one of the greatest services fiction does is to allow you to be someone else someplace else for a while. It allows you to transcend the day-to-day and that's really important for the human psyche. The second, to explicate and advocate reason and science. The methodology that
is science is one of humanity's most powerful tools and SF is the fiction of science. It can both generate a sense of wonder in the reader about subjects scientific and put those same subjects into story which can help a reader make sense of the ideas.

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Interview with Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is a fellow sfnovelist author, and her new novel SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL is set to hit stores from today. (How can you go wrong with a librarian witch?!)

Mindy was kind enough to post responses to a set of interview questions, and I've included them below. Enjoy!

1) What was your inspiration for writing SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL?

When I wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, my theme song should have been "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". That book was completely light and fluffy, a fun escape from a busy work week, family commitments, etc. When I had the opportunity to write another Jane Madison story, I wanted to dig a little deeper - to look at the decisions that we make with regard to friends and jobs, the tough calls that force us to decide what is important to us. (I wasn't willing to give up on the fun, though :-) )

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

When I was growing up, I read a lot of classic fantasy - J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Anne McCaffrey?. I devoured Patricia McKillip?'s books, and I practically memorized every word of Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series.

Now, I read much more broadly, alternating between genre fiction for fun (my favorites in the past year have been Scott Westerfeld's UGLIES/PRETTIES/SPECIALS trilogy) and literary fiction for musing(most recently, Sherman Alexie's THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN). I also read a lot of non-fiction, especially popular non-fiction on narrow topics, like COD and SALT.

3) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

I've always enjoyed the sense of possibility in speculative fiction, the ability to explore other ways of thinking, other ways of being. Even as my own writing has shifted from classic fantasy (SEASON OF SACRIFICE and the Glasswright Series) to paranormal romance, I've continued to draw on the Sense of Wonder that first addicted me to reading.

4) Why did you decide to make Jane Madison a librarian?

I work as a librarian in my day-job, managing seven libraries for a fourteen-office nationwide law firm. In the course of that job, I've met hundreds of librarians who live fascinating lives. Yet, in the eyes of the public, librarians are still the people who say "shhhhh". I wanted to write about Jane Madison to make people realize that there's a lot more out there beyond the stereotype.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

I spend a lot of time watching baseball - I married into Red Sox fandom. To justify the time I spend in front of the television, I quilt - entirely hand-pieced and hand-quilted wall hangings, with a bias toward traditional patchwork patterns.

6) What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

When I start a novel, I create a spreadsheet. One column lists, in a few sentences, what happens in each chapter. The other columns track the number of pages, the number of words, and the date that the chapter was last modified.

When I'm ready to start writing, I just roll up my sleeves and go. I conduct a fair amount of spot research as I'm working. My characters tend to be much more fashion conscious than I am; I often need to check the name of a designer or a color of make-up. I also find myself regularly tracking down the qualities of various crystals and plants -- the essential "props" for Jane's witchcraft.

7) Jane and her best friend, Melissa, quote Shakespeare to each other frequently. Are you a fan of Shakespeare?

For years, I've held season tickets to the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. They do a phenomenal job with their productions -- even when the plays are not my favorite (and they present a wide range of classical theater, not just Shakespeare), their sets, costumes, and lighting design are spectacular. I used to stage manage plays in college, and Jane's love of Shakespeare brings that avocation back to me.

8) If you were Jane Madison, and you discovered that you were a witch, what would you do?

I probably wouldn't handle the situation a whole lot more gracefully than Jane does. She reaches out to her best friend right away. I would probably try to keep my powers a secret for as long as possible, because I'd always sort of worry, in the very back of my mind, that I was absolutely, totally, completely insane.

9) What are you writing now?

I'm hard at work on the third novel in Jane's series, MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL (which will be in bookstores in October 2008). After that, I have a new series for Red Dress Ink, about a stage manager who discovers a genie in a magic lantern.

10) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

When I was in seventh grade, my best friend and I decided that we would spend our spring break writing a sequel to the LORD OF THE RINGS. (Oddly enough, we didn't get it finished in nine days.) I learned, though, that I loved creating characters, building their personalities and then tossing them into challenging situations. I wrote off and on all through high school but fell away from writing in college. When I started law school, though, I was desperate for something to balance the dry cases that I was reading. I wrote my first published novel while I was working as a trademark and copyright litigator at a major law firm. Eventually, I quit practicing law to become a librarian (in part, so that I would have more time to write!)

11) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

In a perfect world, I wake up each morning at 6:00, work out until 7:00, write until 8:00, then eat breakfast, shower, and get ready for work. (I have to be in the office by 9:30.)

In the real world, I travel a lot for my day-job, and publicity and promotion tend to sponge up my weekly writing time. I usually set aside one or both days of the weekend to write for three or four straight hours. When deadlines are approaching, I forfeit a week of vacation from the day-job, using the nine days (work-week, plus two weekends) to pound out around 35,000 words (approximately a third of a novel.)

12) Where do you write?

I have a home office on the ground floor of my three-story townhouse. I sit at a desk that I bought at IKEA about 15 years ago; it looks like leftover hardware from the space shuttle, but it has the best ergonomics of any computer desk I've ever used. I use a five-year-old Dell desktop computer, running Windows XP, and I write using WordPerfect? 10. I keep an Excel spreadsheet to track my story outline.

(When I'm traveling, all bets are off - I write on a hotel bed, on a couch, on a chaise lounge, wherever I can find a surface to balance the laptop I'm using -- which might be my own, a friend's, or a loaner.)

13) What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

I have a very difficult time starting a new chapter - the blank screen intimidates me, and I find a hundred and one excuses to keep from writing. (I have forbidden myself from playing FreeCell?, and I had to remove Tetris from my computer entirely.)

I love editing chapters that are already drafted - I truly enjoy reviewing the flow of the language. On my final pass of editing, I read everything out loud, so that I can make sure the sound is as close to perfect as I can make it.

14) This isn't your first book, tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

I have six traditional fantasy novels - SEASON OF SACRIFICE (a stand-alone novel about twins who are kidnapped from their medieval fishing village and taken to an inland town, where they are expected to participate in a terrifying religious ceremony) and the Glasswrights Series (GLASSWRIGHTS' APPRENTICE, GLASSWRIGHTS' PROGRESS, GLASSWRIGHTS' JOURNEYMAN, GLASSWRIGHTS' TEST, and GLASSWRIGHTS' MASTER.) The series tells the story of Rani Trader, an apprentice in the stained glass makers' guild who witnesses a murder and is accused of being the killer. She's forced to go under cover in her society's strict castes to unmask the true assassin.

I also have one other paranormal romance, the first of Jane Madison's stories, GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT. It's about a librarian who finds out that she's a witch. But you probably knew that already :-)

15) What is the purpose of fantasy/science fiction, if any?

Different genre publications have different purposes. Some are truly written to entertain, to take us away from the cares and worries of our daily lives. Others are written as cautionary tales, to warn us about the dangers of politics, of science, of society, of whatever. Still others are written as elegies, reminding us of great men and woman, of leaders who may have never lived. The best genre fiction combines many (or all) of these functions.

Part of the purpose of the Jane Madison books is to raise money for First Book - - a national charity with the mission of giving underprivileged children their first books to own. I donate 10% of my profits on both GIRL'S GUIDE and SORCERY to First Book.

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

Friday, September 21, 2007

Day out

I dashed out for a 10k bike ride this morning, just to clear my head before carrying on with the novel polishing. Spring is a beautiful time of year in Western Australia, and it's a pity it's so short. (Only lasts a few weeks before we hit the long and very hot summer.)

Anyway, I snapped a couple of pics over the handlebars on the mobile phone. I also took a couple of brief clips with a load of bird song (more like feral screams, really) and I might put them online another time. Really have to get back to the novel.

(And if you thought WA was one big red desert with tin shacks, these images should change your mind ...)

Near Riverton Bridge

Looking across the water at Riverton Bridge

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

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Auto Summary meme

Here's the deal: Open your novel or WIP in Word 97 or later and click AutoSummarize. Change the options to 'create a new doc and put the summary there' and '100 words or less', then paste the result into your blog with these instructions. (This meme was my own stupid idea, btw.)

Here's the result from the first Hal book, where he sounds like a bit part in an 80's text adventure:

Hal Spacejock

Hal shrugged. Hal sighed. Hal sighed. Hal nodded. Hal blinked. Hal frowned. 'Clunk! Hal frowned. Hal frowned. Hal nodded. Hal grinned. Hal shrugged. Hal sighed. 'Clunk? Hal blinked. Hal nodded. Hal sighed. Hal sighed. Hal frowned. Hal nodded.
Hal nodded. Hal nudged Clunk. Hal waited. Hal frowned. 'Clunk? Hal shrugged. Hal shrugged. Hal frowned. Hal nodded. Hal nodded.
Hal sighed. Hal nodded. Hal frowned. Hal pointed. Hal grinned. Hal frowned. Hal groaned. Clunk! Hal sighed. 'Clunk? Hal groaned. Hal frowned. Hal nodded. Hal stared. Hal grinned. Hal grinned. Hal frowned. Hal smiled. Hal grinned. Hal grinned.

After all that I'm surprised his head hasn't dropped off. But hey, at least ol' Clunk got a mention.

And just for a real laugh, my Word Verification for this post was bashsf. Indeed!

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ventus by Karl Schroeder

To celebrate the publication of Queen of Candesce, SF author Karl Schroeder has just released his first novel, Ventus (TOR, 2001), as a free ebook.

More details and the download links can be found on his blog post.

And here's why you should take a look, other than 'Simon Says':

New York Times Book Review: "Deeply Satisfying"

Kirkus Reviews: "Delightful and engaging, both intellectually and viscerally: a superb achievement."

You'll find more reviews if you follow the link.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Going the other way

The Grumpy Old Bookman recently posted a snippet about Siobhan Curham, mentioning that this multi-published author (four books with HarperCollins and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK) is turning to self-publishing for her latest work.

Here's a quote from her new Facebook group: I think the deciding factor for me in taking the self-publishing route was when an editor suggested I write something more formulaic as "it would be easier to sell to the supermarkets."

Now, I went through the self-publishing process several years ago*, and I have to say the hardest part was getting the books into readers' hands. Shops really don't want them, your work is lumped in with every other self-pubbed novel and opening your mouth in a mailing list or forum is a sure-fire way to start off the usual self-pub vs traditional publishing arguments.

I always believed that if you proved your ability first, maybe with short fiction sales to legit markets, then self-publishing could make sense. Therefore I'll be watching Siobhan Curham's progress with interest.

Also on self-publishing, but in a completely different way, Tansy Rayner Roberts has started putting the third Mocklore novel online chapter by chapter. A few years ago a publisher put the first two Mocklore books out, but for one reason or another they never got to the third. Full details and Tansy's comments are here.

* My publisher always likes me to clarify this: Although I self-published once, my current novels are not self-published.

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

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chat transcript

I did a live chat with members of "The Writers' Association" back in 2005, before Hal Spacejock was first launched. Adam Wieland was present at the time, and he's just posted the transcript on his blog.

The chat covered a few topics, from publishing to editing and several other things unrelated to either. Pop over and take a look, and if you have any questions feel free to post them here!

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

Career meme

Nicked from Anysia

1. Go to
2. Put in Username: nycareers, Password: landmark
3. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questions.
4. Post the top fifteen results

Here's what I came up with:

1. Computer Engineer
2. Research Analyst (Financial)
3. Retail Buyer
4. Computer Programmer
5. Technical Writer
6. Media Buyer
7. Purchaser
8. Electrical Engineer
9. Multimedia Developer
10. Mechanical Engineer
11. Aerospace Engineer
12. Advertising Copywriter
13. Business Systems Analyst
14. Communications Specialist
15. Writer

The amazing thing is that I've done most of those for a living or as part of my regular day job. (All except 11, and given I write SF that's kinda sorta covered by the spaceships I design for my novels.)

I'd really love to do more of #12 - and funnily enough, a couple of weeks ago I had an email from a retired Madison Ave copywriter who'd just read through my website and reckoned I should be doing copywriting full time. Not the first time I've heard that, by any means. But how do you get into such a job when you live in the most remote capital city on the planet?

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Much happiness

After the brief phone call with my editor yesterday morning I was expecting the worst when I went to see her today. (She was noncommittal on the phone, which I took as a very bad sign. Well, I never said I was a confident writer did I?)

Turns out she loved the plot (best so far, yes!), loved the new characters and loved the way Hal showed a new side. Suddenly I'm full of confidence again after a damn near sleepless night, and I know I can nail this thing.

On the minus side, she pointed out that the first 100 pages need a lot of tightening and there's no real humour. Neither bothers me - I'd already flagged the beginning as too slow and I have up to 20,000 words of snippage available to me. As for the humour, I usually add that during the polishing stage, when the draft is almost there. (If this seems a bit mechanical ... well, I never claimed to be an ad-libbing comedian either.)

So, good news on all fronts. I have about three weeks to lose the verbiage and address all the other queries and issues Janet raised, and then I'll send out the final draft to my first readers. After I've selected them ;-)

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

ASIM well received

I'm off to meet my editor to discuss Hal 4. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, let me leave you with some reading material. Horrorscope reviews ASIM #30:

"ASIM celebrates five years of continuous publication with one of its strongest and most even issues to date. Issue editor Robbie Matthews recaptures the magazine’s initial intentions for fun, entertaining speculative fiction with nine new stories that are light in tone but rich in story. The fiction here is ASIM at its very best: with stories written with entertainment in mind that don’t fall into the common trappings of cheap gags or preachy morals (a common fault of some stories in past issues). The end result is a collection of fun bedside tales and the perfect anti-dote for all those serious sci-fi warnings of doom and gloom."

Read the full review

1. Remember you can order the print or pdf editions online.

2. Do so.

3. You can also order our best-of-ASIM collections.

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

Monday, September 10, 2007

Murky Depths first look

Issue one of UK magazine Murky Depths lobbed into my mailbox recently, and I have to say it's one of the best-looking mags I've had the pleasure of laying my hands on. (The cover warns of 'Mature Content', so the link isn't for younger readers.)

As most of you probably know, I'm a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine where the design ethos was cheap 'n' pulpy. Well, the Murky Depths team has taken the opposite approach, and their art-laden mag with its heavy gloss paper is something to behold.

But never mind the quality, what about the contents?

I'm happy to say they measure up to the presentation. Many of the pieces are either heavily illustrated or are presented in graphic novel format. (Calling them 'comics' doesn't fit, not with the dark horror throughout.) Evocative and thought-provoking, I think MD is a great addition to the ranks of spec fic publications.

Fans of grim, bloodthirsty spec fic should definitely check this one out.

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

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Someone's reading this stuff

... or at least, linking to it. Kathryn Linge just posted a top-ten list of Australian spec-fic blogs, and my blog came in at number 6.

Thanks to everyone who's linked to one of my posts or shared my blog with their own readers, because you're the reason this blog made the list. Let's face it, it certainly wasn't my toast posts or TV rants ;-)

(I just noticed my LiveJournal blog came in at #17. What can I say ... I'm a net addict.)

Thanks to Kathryn for posting the list - looks like a lot of work, but it was interesting to see a regional take on blog popularity.

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

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I don't even remember how I ended up on Facebook, but invites are trickling in and I'm happy to add anyone reading this. You'll find my Facebook profile here.

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

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another funny series

You've heard me talking about Hal Spacejock often enough, but there's another series you should be looking out for, buying and reading: Jim C. Hines' Goblin Quest. I read the first book and it's a hoot, so when I discovered Jim was giving away signed copies I had to mention it. Head over to his blog for details.

The other thing I'd like to mention is that I'm running a giveway of my own. I draw signed copies of the Hal Spacejock books every month, your choice of 1-3, and the September draw will take place soon.

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

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Python Time

Those who saw my recent 'believe it or not' probably won't be surprised by this, but did you know I've never seen an entire episode of Monty Python? My only exposure was the Flying Circus cassette the BBC put out in the late 70's, which I wore out with repeat listenings. Oh, and the films of course.

Anyway, the 16 ton megaset lobbed into my mailbox today. It's all 45 episodes plus a couple of bonus disks, and that should be interesting. I didn't buy this for myself, though - this one's because my eldest daughter asked for it.

Over the weekend I watched season 1 of Angel, which was fun. I also spent the past three days - 9am until 10pm daily - spring cleaning the garage, putting up hooks & shelves and generally being the spiders' worst enemy. We moved into this place just on ten years ago, and let's just say the garage needed a thorough sorting out.

For the past two nights, following garage cleaning duties, I've been up until 1am sorting buckets of odds and ends into trays - thousands of mixed screws, nuts, doohickies, widgets and thingummies - and simultaneously watching a bunch of episodes from season 1 of Auf Wiedersehen Pet.

As for Hal 4: I'm not even thinking about it. My editor is hoping to get the report back to me Friday week, and when I re-read it I want to approach it completely fresh. Or rather, I'll be so sick of tidying up that re-reading a 100,000 word manuscript for the umpteenth time will be a nice break.

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

Monday, September 03, 2007

More bureaucracy

Second prize for ineffective mailouts goes to the insurance company. Last week I phoned company X to say I'd switched to insurance firm Y, and today I got two letters from company X: a late payment notice in one envelope, and a credit note for the identical amount in the other.

But first prize goes to a Rather Large Phone Company (RLPC), and you'll need a little background for this one: Ten years ago we combined our home phone and two mobiles onto the same bill, thus saving a tiny amount of money and a whole lot of separate payments. Over time I moved my mobile to prepaid (never use it anyway), and the home phone to another provider. With me so far? Simple math will tell you that my wife's mobile was all that remained on this bill.

Recently, my wife and I agreed that our eldest daughter should have a mobile, and while my wife was out shopping she found a really good prepaid deal, including a very nice phone. So, she bought two of them - one for our daughter, and one for herself. Note that this was NOT with RLPC.

Now comes the fun bit. She took her old phone into a RLPC shop to cancel it, but they said they couldn't because it was on a joint bill in my name. All they could do was apply to have the phone removed from the joint bill, and once that went through we could then cancel the phone. With a bit of a shrug, my wife said okay.

Two weeks later we cut the phone off, and a week after that I get a bill for two weeks of network usage. Now, we'd already paid three months up front (until the end of September) before going to cut the thing off, so I was surprised to say the least. I dug out the old bill, and with both in hand I phoned RLPC mobile. Here's how it went:

Me: I have a query about a bill.
Them: Give us the account number.
Me: (New account num)
Them: I'm sorry, that's been cancelled.
Me: Yes, I know. But I have a bill here for $12.
Them: You need to pay it.
Me: But on this other bill for the same phone I have a credit for $50.
Them: What's the account number for that one?
Me: (Other account num)
Them: I'm sorry, that's a joint billing account. Would you like me to put you through?
Me: Sigh. Okay.
(Purr purr, lots of ads for their broadband accounts, then finally I hear someone on the line)
Me: I have this bill for $12 but you owe me $50.
Them: What's the account number?
Me: (1st account num)
Them: I'm sorry, that's a mobile bill. You'll have to speak to mobile.
Me: But I was just speaking to mobile and they put me through to you.
Them: That's because you said it was a joint account.
Me: It IS a joint account. (Gives joint account number) You see, mobile X was on that account but they wouldn't let us cancel it. So, we moved it off the account.
Them: The mobile number you gave me isn't on that joint account.
Me: Yes, I know that. We just moved it off so we could cancel it. There's NOTHING on the joint account. But you're trying to bill me for the mobile number on a new account and I still have a credit on the joint account.
Them: What's the new account?
Me: (1st account num)
Them: I'm sorry, I can't look at mobile phone bills.
Me: But you own me fifty bucks, and the guy on the other line wants me to pay $12. Wouldn't it be easier if you just offset them and paid me the difference?
Them: I'm sorry, that's a mobile bill. This is joint billing.
Me: But you're the same company!
Them: I'm sorry. Would you like me to put you through to mobile?
Me: Aaarrgghhhh!

So, I've paid the $12 on the new bill and I await my $50 credit with interest. So to speak.

(And just for completeness, this is the same company who messed me around with a 99c bill and a 1c credit for an internet account last week.)

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

Friday, August 31, 2007

I love this stuff

I've had a dialup account with a major aussie ISP for the past few years, just as an emergency backup, and despite a couple of half-hearted attempts I've never been able to cancel it. Their automated phone system is the source of several jokes in the Spacejock books, and their website is worse. Example: To cancel my account online they wanted me to register for their feedback system and then give them my credit card so they could charge me for a consultant to process my request.

Anyway, my credit card was compromised a few weeks back so the bank issued a new one. Cue outraged squawk from ISP when they couldn't put through the regular monthly charge.

I emailed back to say I wasn't giving them the new number, and to cancel the account.

I got an email back inviting me to upgrade to broadband. (Something they used to phone me about regularly, even though I have a business broadband account with another supplier.)

I emailed back to say I wanted to cancel the account.

They asked for my credit card to facilitate the cancellation.

I said no.

They said they'd have to send me a bill for the used portion of the month.

I said fine by me. The charge was only $5.95 a month anyway, so how much could a portion be?

I received a nice printed bill for $0.99. (Cost to post bill, $0.50)

I decided to pay using BPAY (online banking) but got an error message: This company has a minimum payment of $1.00

Knowing exactly what would happen next, I debated whether to post them a cheque for $0.99. Then I thought stuff it, they started this and paid their $1 through BPAY. (Cost of processing a BPAY payment, for the recipient, is around $0.80. Cost to me - nothing.)

Today I got a letter from the ISP with a credit for $0.01 (Cost to post the letter, $0.50)

Now I'm wondering whether to ring up and demand a cheque.

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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Deadline +2

So, what does an author do right after handing in book 4 in their (hopefully) on-going series?

Me, I'm busy plotting Hal 5 in Freemind. I want to get the outline done before Hal 4 lobs back into my lap.


Mental trickery. If Hal 4 is all I have and my editor isn't that keen on it (happens) and sends me a long list of repairs (definitely happens) then my entire writing career hangs in the balance, I'm a failure in the making, etc, etc. However, if I have the next book on the go it gives me a crumb of comfort to cling to. That way, Hal 4 is just another project, not the ONLY project.

Did I mention the whole lack of confidence thing? Authors are steeped in it from birth.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Answer to my believe-it-or-not

A few days ago I posted a bunch of statements and challenged readers of my blog to guess which were true and which were false.

Without further ado, here are the answers:

All the statements were true.

And the lucky winner is ... M@!

Email me at spacejock (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your book. And well done ;-)

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mainly 28s reviews Hal Spacejock

One from the 'weird-places-to-spot-a-review' department ...

Mainly 28s, the "specialist 28mm wargames review site" has reviewed Hal Spacejock

And the second printing isn't even 28mm thick.

A snippet:

I think the highest praise I can give is that it reminds me of Douglas Adams rather than Terry Pratchett - it's more mature and not as "in-your-face" as Pratchett (who is one of my favourites). I really like Simon's style. The way the whole plot plays out reminds me of my past in sci-fi role-playing (Star Frontiers and that sort of thing) with its twists and Hal's vision of the universe and his place in it. I think that anyone reading Hal's adventures will see a little of themselves in him - I certainly did.

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

Hal 4 is winched onto the slab ...

Ten minutes ago I emailed the manuscript for Hal 4 to my editor, Janet Blagg. After she's read and analysed it (maybe two weeks from now) I'll get a report back with all the major and minor issues she's uncovered. At that stage I'll probably have one week to think about them, and two weeks to implement any changes (including altering the plot, rewriting whole scenes and basically turning the book into something publishable.)

Publication date will be April 2008 - and I'll probably push for the 1st of April, since it'd be an appropriate date in a Spacejockian sense. An April Fool book. Perfect.

Just out of interest, the current manuscript is 101,000 words, but I actually wrote 142,000. One third of the total was cut, chopped and snipped out for not being relevant, funny, exciting or interesting. Before this book goes to print it may well drop to 90,000 or even 80,000 words (as per the previous 3 titles.) As you can see, the finished effort is defined as much by what you leave out, as what you put in.

Do I like the book? I'll tell you when it's really finished ;-)

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