Tag Archives: 2014

My writing in 2014

Novels written in 2014

  • The House-sitter (74,000 words) – SF time-travel mystery

Short stories written in 2014

  • A Crest of a Wave (2300 words) – SF, Mars
  • Like Clockwork (3000 words) – SF, Mars
  • Cast In The Same Mould (4200 words) – SF, Mars
  • Finding Waltzer-Three (1400 words) – SF
  • An Empty Vessel (3000 words) – horror
  • What Are We Going To Do With You? (5900 words) – YA horror

Flash fiction written in 2014

  • For a Tooth (850 words) – humorous SF
  • Kraken Mare (250 words) – SF
  • Corvus Cornix (250 words) – horror
  • All I Can See Are Sad Eyes (850 words) – horror

Fiction sales in 2014

I wrote about 124,000 (new) words in 2014. That’s less than last year, but that figure doesn’t reflect the huge amount of time editing and reworking ‘The House-sitter’. Also, I’ve often been exhausted due to my son’s sleep patterns, so this is still a higher word count than I’d anticipated.

To date, my fiction word count total is now something in the region of 448,000 words. I’d hope to reach the half-million mark at some point in early 2015.

First million words ometer 45

Favourite films watched in 2014

Under the SkinAs a consequence of having a one-year-old child, this year I saw only ten films released in 2014. The only essential one was the unsettling and astounding Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer). Next in line were All Is Lost (J.C. Chandor), Frank (Lenny Abrahamson) and Calvary (John Michael McDonagh). Locke (Steven Knight) gave plenty of food for thought, in terms of scripting and character development.

For All MankindBefore my son was born I worried that I’d no longer have the attention span for ‘difficult’ cinema, but I was proved wrong. Being stuck in the house every evening has its benefits! My favourite films that I saw for the first time in 2014 include Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana and Diary of a Chambermaid, both subversive and compelling. For All Mankind (Al Reinert) was a revelation – how had I never seen this NASA Apollo footage before? I was blown away by the formal perfection of Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda). Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche) and Stroszek (Werner Herzog) tie for the most engaging central performances. Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman) and Hunger (Steve McQueen) were the two films I found most unsettling. Other than For All Mankind, The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer) and The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris) were my favourite documentaries, both exploring the truth via artifice, although Hoop Dreams (Steve James) came close. Alongside Cat People (Jacques Tourneur), my most purely pleasurable film experiences this year were Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (Val Guest) and The Nanny (Seth Holt).

Favourite tracks of 2014

Firstly, it’s been more a year for albums rather than individual songs. Even though my longlist is 41 tracks and 4.5 hours, I’m being strict with myself for this list by not including tracks to represent albums I love, if the track doesn’t stand alone. So nothing from Oren Ambarchi’s Quixotism (Part 3 came close, but is far more glorious in the context of the album). I’m also disallowing tracks from compilations and rereleased albums, therefore it’s a no-show for the Soul Jazz Gipsy Rumba or Strut Haiti Direct compilations, Finders Keepers’ Lewis album, or the rerelease of Aby Ngana Diop’s Liital.

So it’s a pretty pared-down list. Only eight tracks remain, though two of them are well over the 10-minute mark:

  • I Have Walked This Body by Jenny Hval & Susanna
  • Advice to Young Girls by Copeland ft. Actress
  • CIRCLONT6A[141.98][syrobonkus mix] by Aphex Twin
  • Hidden Thieves by Eyes & No Eyes
  • Nothing Important by Richard Dawson
  • Body Sound by Holly Herndon
  • Pretending by Mice Parade
  • Speech Spirits by FIS (The Nagger remix by Oren Ambarchi)

Here’s a Spotify playlist:

The numbers

OK, so I keep a log of all the new stuff I listen to. Doesn’t everyone do that? Up until today I’ve listened to 589 unique albums, 98 EPs and 41 singles this year – that’s 728 releases in total.

354 of these titles were released in 2014. This chart shows the release years, ordered by listening date:

Listening years
254 releases were by artists from the USA, 204 from the UK. Germany’s next in the list with 37 releases, then Australia with 23, then Sweden with 18. I listened to artists from 55 different countries in total.

But that’s just the releases that were new to me. I don’t log everything I listen to. That would be crazy.

Most of my listening was via Spotify. The site’s ‘Year in Music’ tells me that my most-listened genres were experimental, drone, glitch, warm drone, post-rock. Sounds about right.
Apparently I’ve listened to 38,739 minutes of music on Spotify this year, which certainly justifies the £10/month payment.
That’s 645 hours. That’s 27 whole days.

Finally, Last.fm tells me my most-listened artists this year. Given that many Oren Ambarchi tracks are longer than 10 minutes, he’s even more of a clear winner:Last.fm 2014 listening

Favourite albums of 2014

meshes_of_voice-27626501-frntl_1408276585Meshes of Voice by Jenny Hval & Susanna
Plotting a course between pretension and striking beauty, this album features more exquisite moments than any other this year. Jenny Hval’s impossibly high falsetto weaves in and out of Susanna’s warmer tones. Contrasting hummable melodies, the most unexpected elements are the unsettling drones, reaching a pinnacle in ‘I Have Walked This Body.’

 Richard-Dawson-Nothing-Important-300dpi

Nothing Important by Richard Dawson
The title track is the single most exciting song I’ve heard all year. It’s folk music for this century. It’s punk music without the posturing. It’s the short story I wish I’d written.

 Quixotism

Quixotism by Oren Ambarchi
Every so often I revisit a location important to me during my childhood. Each time, when I arrive, I worry that the magic won’t remain. Each time, I’m surprised all over again. Quixotism works in just the same way. Its simplicity seems mundane at first, until you begin to notice all of the irregular elements. Then it becomes hypnotic, even when the thump segues into jerky techno. It’s my favourite 2014 album for driving in the dark, occupying a similar place to Carter Tutti Void’s 2012 album Transverse.

 Other albums fan

Everybody Down by Kate Tempest, for its genre-busting storytelling. Pipes by Katie Gately, an artist who’ll no doubt produce something even more astounding in the near future. La Isla Bonita by Deerhoof – an unexpectedly direct and fun return to form. Wilderness of Mirrors by Lawrence English, for soundtracking my writing in 2014. And possibly, although it’s a bit soon to tell, Shadow of the Monolith by Lawrence English and Werner Dafeldecker.

Compilations

Compilations

My absolute favourite is Gipsy Rhumba: The Original Rhythm of Gipsy Rhumba in Spain 1965-1974 from Soul Jazz, strange and diverse and loved by my son. Marshall Allen presents Sun Ra And His Arkestra: In The Orbit Of Ra on Strut is outstanding. The French Avant-Garde in the 20th Century on LTM is terrific, too.

2014 reissues

ReissuesAnthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1 by Craig Leon – astounding proto-techno from early-80s Takoma label. Money by Nath & Martin Brothers, the funkiest ride of the year. Furia by The Fates, a weird folk/post-rock diversion from 1985.

Favourite record labels

Thrill Jockey (new releases by Skull Defekts, Man Forever, OOIOO), Hospital Productions (Vatican Shadow), Exotic Pylon (Time Attendant, Isobel Ccircle), Editions Mego (Oren Ambarchi).

Favourite albums overall, new to me, from any year

Even before the release of Quixotism, 2014 was, for me, the year of Oren Ambarchi. I heard 14 of his albums for the first time, five of which I adore (Connected, Grapes from the Estate, Intermission 2000-2008, In the Pendulum’s Embrace, Quixotism). The combination of The Glass Trunk and Nothing Important puts Richard Dawson in close second place. Free jazz was another predominant theme – I love Karma by Pharoah Sanders and World Galaxy by Alice Coltrane. Hillbilly Tape Music by Henry Flynt is an eye-opener. What?? by Folke Rabe was on constant rotation for a while, during writing stints. Material by Emptyset is terrifying and exhilarating. Inspiration Information by Shuggie Otis features killer tunes. I felt embarrassed I’d never before heard Slates by The Fall. And Go Bo Diddley by Bo Diddley is another of my son’s favourites and therefore mine too.

Favourite books read in 2014

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t read much this year (23 books, with two still unfinished). Blame my one-year-old son and my recent tendency to fall asleep after reading two or three pages in bed. (Having said that, I may have read Where The Wild Things Are more than 100 times.)

StonerMy absolute favourite this year was Stoner by John Williams, a story so familiar and everyday that each of the protagonist’s disappointments felt like a friend injured. Couples by John Updike didn’t let me down and opens up for me a whole world of Updike novels not featuring Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom. Concrete Island, though flawed in its second half, is my favourite of the three J G Ballard novels I read (the others being High-Rise and The Drowned World). The Machine by James Smythe was the only recently-released novel I read, but I thought it was fantastic. My favourite non-fiction book was Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. And I wish there were more books as digestible and unmissable as Sum: Tales From The Afterlives by David Eagleman.

Favourite TV shows of 2014

Fargo 2My favourite TV show this year was Fargo (FX/Channel 4), an unexpected treat featuring a plot more convoluted and characters more relatable than anyone had any right to expect. Like HBO’s True Detective, the anthology format gives high hopes for keeping things fresh in later seasons.

BoJack

BoJack Horseman (Netflix) was another show that oughtn’t to have been so good. The Netflix binge-watching approach worked in its favour, with a central storyline and the ability for single episodes to take diversions such as the incredibly bizarre ‘Downer Ending’.

Glue

My far my favourite UK show was the rural murder-mystery Glue (E4), demonstrating that youth dramas could be just as complex as any gritty adult programme. The twists were satisfying and characters were allowed to fade into the background once proven innocent.

The most frustrating misses this year were True Detective (HBO) – with six enthralling episodes followed by two that, for me, undermined most of the character development that came before – and Sherlock (BBC) – in which the writers fell prey to serving the huge online fanbase rather than the story. Finally, while uneven, Doctor Who (BBC) generally hit the spot, with Peter Capaldi and the raft of new writers excelling but the old guard dragging their feet.

Writing update, May 2014

First million words ometer 40Ting!

OK, so my writing spreadsheet didn’t actually go ‘ting’ when I hit 400,000 words, but it should’ve. Anyway, I’m using this tiny milestone as an excuse to summarise my writing up to this point in 2014, following on from my 2013 update.

Short stories

  • A Crest of a Wave (2400 words) – SF, Mars
  • Like Clockwork (3500 words) – SF, Mars
  • Cast In the Same Mould (4200 words) – SF, Mars
  • Finding Waltzer-Three (1400 words) – SF

Longer fiction

I’ve temporarily shelved the historical time-travel novel I was working on from Sept-Dec last year. The main reason is that, with the birth of my son and resultant general exhaustion, the research element was beginning to bog me down. Another good reason is that the main premise seems to share a lot of similarities with a project I’ve heard is in development elsewhere. Grr.

Instead, most of my writing this year has been towards adapting one of my stories, The House-sitter, into a novel. It’s another time travel story for adults, contemporary, and pretty dark. It’s currently running to 56,000 words after a bare-bones first draft. I’m really enjoying writing this one.

Publications

  • By the Numbersanthology reprint, upcoming

And that’s it.

I’m telling myself that this is no bad thing. Since my modest success in getting stories published last year, I’ve set my sights aimed higher and submitted only to semi-pro and pro markets. No bites, but several positive comments, just enough to give me hope. And as I mentioned earlier, my novelette, Carus & Mitch, received an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future judges. I got my certificate in the post last night. It’s blue and sparkly.

 

So, 400,000 words written in total, and 40% of the way to my first million. Not too shabby. So far this year I’ve written around 75,000 words (along with edits of various projects) despite sleepless nights courtesy of my son.