I thought I would share a update on the model I am making. It is not going to be a quick project by any means! So far I have made all of the internal cabinets and shelves and a few of the tiny paper folded items. This project will probably take me more than a few months, in-between full time work, writing time and, you know – life! It is extremely fiddly and the air has been blue on occasion.
The handles for the cabinets have to be created with wire and the decorative parts. The suitcase and boxes are cut out of a template and folded and the fruit bowl was five separate pieces! This is the first model I have attempted, so it is a steep learning curve.
Apart from that, I have gotten back into my detective manuscript of book two in the trilogy, A Tainted Search. I had not visited it since the end of November, when I completed National Novel Writing Month. I let it percolate for a while. Leaving a manuscript after an intense month of writing, allows me to mull over its content and gather my thoughts on the continuing story.
Do you leave a manuscript to develop in your mind? If so for how long?
It feels good to be back in the writing saddle again after a break after National Novel Writing Month and the Christmas & New Year’s celebrations. Leaving a manuscript for a while helps refresh our brains (and Muse). Obviously, we do not need to return to the frantic writing style of November, thank goodness! With a sizable word count from the challenge, we can now relax back into the story.
There are a couple of options we can take. Firstly, to continue where we left off or to go back to read the text and make changes or plunge into editing. We all have a specific target for our NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Some will be filed way for another time, others completed before the editing process, while others may be subject to a full revision. Whichever, method you use, it is always a personal choice once we see the work of November.
My second book in my detective trilogy – The Tainted Search, took an unexpected twist during November, so I am keen to follow the story line to see where it takes me and my characters. I did know one of the characters was the cause of the procedural mistake, but until NaNoWriMo not the method of how he was found out and by whom. It has created an unlikely alliance.
What are you doing with your NaNoWriMo manuscript?
I found a holiday project to do in the week between Christmas and New Year. A small model of a library (although the label says Sam’s Study). I, of course, opened it when it arrived with excitement, but this was short lived when I realized each component – shelves, cabinets, etc. – were not separated, but all mixed together! So my first job was to find the pieces for each item and put them together. The other ‘surprise’ was how fiddly this is going to be! Oh my goodness – frustration beckons, I do believe. Maybe it will not be the relaxing little craft project after all. Time will tell.
I have not planned a word count for the holiday’s, but will utilize some time to continuing writing the second book in my detective trilogy, The Tainted Search. I have over 50,000 words from NaNoWriMo already so another twenty or so is achievable without full time work getting in the way.
We all know that the holiday’s tend to reek havoc on our writing schedule, but there are ways of grabbing writing time. There are always lulls in activities, whether it’s traveling time, the lethargic atmosphere after a meal, or solitary early mornings. You can find somewhere to ‘hide’ away, even if its only for half an hour or so. Here are a few tips to try.
Relax your normal rigorous writing timetable – take time to chill and observe.
Keep track of the number of words you write instead of how long you wrote.
Make the most of “un-scheduled” time – waiting for a flight or sitting in a vehicle en route to a function, at children’s rehearsals, a break for coffee during shopping.
Wake up earlier (or stay up later) than usual to ensure that you spend some time writing.
Decide on a specific amount of time to write and block that time.
Use the time to track your progress on a current project.
Feel comfortable to reflect on your writing plans or current project.
Experiment with prompts, a new genre or a short story.
You’re going to be around a lot of people so pay attention to the interactions and conversations use it as research.
A new location can inspire an new idea or inclusion in a current work.
Always carry a notebook and pen.
Refuse to feel guilty when you remove yourself to write.
Remember it is okay to rest and enjoy the celebrations.
How do you find time to writing during the holidays?
When I was about 23, I wrote a book of horror stories which I typed on an old Underwood typewriter. At the time I didn’t have the faintest idea about publishing, so I put them in a file folder which, by the way, I still have.
Many years later, I was Chief Technology Officer at a company into which I had poured my heart and soul. The company didn’t make it through the high-tech meltdown of 2003, so I did what all techies do in such a situation: I started looking for consulting projects. After a long day of phone calls, I opened a WORD document and started writing a post-apocalyptic novel that had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while. I wrote non-stop until something like three in the morning. For me it was my heroin; I was hooked.
I kept writing most days but at about 40,000 words, I ran out of steam. I put the book to one side and tried writing another novel about a man, so totally bored with his life, that he seeks excitement by becoming an assassin. This too petered out. Finally, I completed a 115,000-word business thriller about a high-tech entrepreneur who gets scammed by a venture capitalist and then gets his revenge by scamming the scammers. I gave it the awful title, Vengeance Dot Com. This was before the days when agents and publishers would accept emailed submissions, so I mailed out over a hundred copies of the book… and watched as the seventy-plus rejection letters trickled in.
At the time, I had heard about the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, which is in a suburb of Vancouver and is, I believe, one of the largest writers’ conferences in North America. I went there with the idea that I would just learn all about how to write a winning synopsis of the book and about how to submit it to agents. Then they would see what a wonderful book it was… right?
The first session I attended was on the craft of writing and I was horrified to learn that there were some things I was doing wrong, disastrously wrong, in fact. Who’d have thought it? I immediately changed my focus from sessions on marketing to sessions on the craft of writing. In one of these sessions, I met Lisa Rector-Maass, an editor from New York. I engaged her to do a review of the book. I got back a superb thirty-seven-page critique and realized that it was a non-starter. No amount of editing was ever going to save that book.
At the time, I had a project where I was managing software development for a company whose offices were in the downtown east side of Vancouver, which is a poorer part of the city where lots of drug deals happen. Every day, on my way to my client’s office, I would carefully avoid stepping on discarded needles. I used to pass the entrance to an alley that was filled with addicts who were sleeping, shouting out, shooting up, drinking coffee, eating fast food, and buying and selling drugs. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out. I remember thinking how awful it be to wake up and find yourself in that alley. I started to obsess over the idea and mentioned it to Lisa. She asked me some questions that just got everything flowing in my mind and the first Cal Rogan book was born. Lisa mentored me through Junkie and the second book Oboe and she was my editor for both books. I credit her for most of what I have learned about the craft of writing.
2. Did you have a clear idea of the genre you wanted to write or did the story dictate that?
No. I love science fiction and thought that maybe I could write a sci-fi novel. But once Cal Rogan came into my life, I had found my genre.
3. Why did you choose thriller crime fiction?
It was where Cal took me.
4. Where did the character of Cal Rogan come from?
I was answering Lisa’s question of who it might be waking up in that terrifying alley. I thought about a lawyer, a doctor or a cop. I liked the irony of a cop, who had probably arrested his fair share of addicts, waking up there. Her follow-up question of ‘why was he there?’ was immediately answered, ‘Because he’s now an addict himself.’ Thus was Cal born.
5. Do you feel your character has grown in each book?
Oh yes. He still fights with his demons but he works so hard to stay drug-free. Book by book, he rebuilds his life, often in the face of people or events that could send him back into the downward spiral of addiction.
6. Is writing a series easier or harder than a standalone?
Much easier, I think. I have a cast of characters who have grown over the writing of the books and I love them all. Their words and actions just leap onto the page. I work on the plot and the characters write the rest. 🙂
7. You cover tough social issues within your narratives. Was this a conscious decision?
I didn’t set out to make social commentary. As I was researching drug addiction, I was faced with the question of whether legalizing drugs (all drugs, not just marijuana) would be a good or bad idea. I don’t want to write preachy books so I allow my characters a few moments to argue the issue here and there. They are coming around to my way of thinking. I am a firm believer that legalization with control, just like with alcohol and tobacco, is a far better way to go for everyone in society and I feel that I can defend that position pretty well. I also like my characters to explore moral or philosophical questions like when is it morally correct to kill someone? Do we have free will? Is incest ever OK?
8. Is there a subject you will not cover?
No. The only thing I don’t do is write explicit sex scenes. My readers’ imaginations are much better at filling in the blanks than I could ever be. In the same vein, I don’t give long descriptions of a character’s physical appearance. For example, I don’t think I have ever mentioned the colour of Cal’s eyes. I think it’s way more fun for readers to see the characters the way they want.
9. How do you structure your writing schedule?
Prior to covid, every day I would drop my son at school and go to the Vancouver Public Library to write. For the last year and a half, I have been homeschooling him and writing on the weekends and, for an hour or two, here and there, during the week. Covid has not helped my productivity.
10. Can you tell us about the latest book in the series?
The seventh, and latest book in the series is called Jailed. After some harrowing experiences in the previous book, Captive, Cal quit the PI business and went to teach Shakespeare at Simon Fraser University. A student approaches him and begs him to help exonerate her brother who has been falsely convicted of murder. After reluctantly visiting the brother in the Kent Institution, one of Canada’s grimmest jails, Cal is convinced of his innocence and sets out to find the real killer with unexpected results and some disastrous consequences.
11. Do you have a current manuscript you are working on?
Always. I haven’t finalized a title and I’m not sure where it’s going yet, but the starting point is that a woman is found wandering in the downtown east side of Vancouver. She is obviously wealthy and she claims to have lost her memory. As Cal investigates, he discovers that she bears a remarkable resemblance to someone who has been accused of orchestrating a multi-billion dollar fraud. As an aside, the fraud is based on a real case.
12. Would you consider writing another genre? Why or why not?
I have often thought of writing science fiction but I just don’t think I’d be that good at it. However, Cal Rogan has a daughter, Ellie, who is now twelve. I have started working on a series set in 2040, where she is a detective. It definitely won’t be science fiction but will describe a world that I see as a logical extension of where we are today.
13. Which genre do you enjoy reading?
I love crime fiction, psychological thrillers, espionage, and science fiction. For non-fiction, I tend towards science and philosophy.
Robert French is a software developer, turned actor, turned author. He is the writer of the seven (so far) Cal Rogan Mysteries crime-thrillers about a drug-addicted ex-cop who fights his way from living rough on the streets to being a much-sought-after PI. The series, set in Vancouver, Canada, reflects the best and worst of the city. He is passionate about having the right words on the page and with every new book, his goal is to make it better than the previous one. His loves are his family, science, language, certain elements of philosophy and craft beer.