Although the primary purpose of this post is to give an update on progress on my next novel My Family and Other Ghosts, it would be remiss not to mention the COVID–19 crisis. At this stage, none of us knows when we will get through this, and how-wide ranging the impact will be. All we can do is follow the social-distancing advice and look after each other. The only positive that might come out of this is that it may start to bring the country together again after the divisions of the last few years, but that's small comfort right now. I'm not sure Johnson is the man to do that – happy to be proven wrong – but let's hope those around him can rise to the challenge and show true leadership. Rishi Sunak seems to be making a good start.
I know I'm one of the lucky ones. Thanks to a traumatic 2017, I reinvented my life, left my software development/managerial career behind to concentrate on writing. After downsizing and relocating to be mortgage-free, I knew I'd be able to survive for quite a while without significant income. Also, following my years of project management experience where I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst, I'd built up a small buffer long-life food over the last couple of years in case no-deal Brexit came to pass. That means we've had no temptation to panic-buy, we can slowly eat into this, and we shouldn't be a burden if we can't leave the house for a while. It's almost like I knew what was coming. Well, no, as much as I'd like to boast of my prescience – I just wanted to live a less stressful, self-sufficient life while trying to make a living as an author.
As I say, I know I'm one of the lucky ones, despite having health conditions that put me on the edge of being more at risk. I can't control how the virus will affect me when/if I get it, no-one-can, so all I can do is follow expert advice, not do anything to make life worse for others, and preferably help where I can – certainly for close neighbours and family.
Of course, another reason why I'm lucky is that, if anything, staying indoors more will help, rather than hinder, my writing, at least in the short term. There are a couple of places I'd liked to have visited for research, but that was just for local colour rather than anything critical. So, I can plough ahead with this novel!
MY FAMILY AND OTHER GHOSTS
I'm now at around the two-thirds mark of the first draft, coming in at just over 51,000 words, having completed part 2 of the novel, which focused on Lisa Parsons. Just so you can keep an eye on how well I've planned, for comparison with my last post, these are the chapters in part 2 – you'll see I've renamed one from last time:
That now means I switch Alex Parson's perspective for part 3. That part is largely unchanged in my plans, but I have added an extra chapter into the subsequent part 4, as follows:
That should keep me rather busy for a while. I'm building up a set of notes for the items I know I need to attack in the second draft, even before I give it a thorough review. Once that is done, I'll send it off to my son/editor-in-chief to give his too-expert feedback. Usually, we then discuss it face-to-face over several hours, and I come away with copious notes to rework several aspects, as he's usually right, dammit. This time, I fear, we'll have to do it over Skype, but things could be worse.
THE MUFFLER'S MINISTRY
And once that's done, if we're still all stuck indoors self-isolating, there's a new novel percolating in my brain; I'm in the early stages of thinking about the novel that is yet to come.
It's actually progressing surprisingly well, considering I wasn't really thinking about it until a couple of days ago. I had a few odds and ends I'd jotted down as vague things I might want to incorporate, but then a flash of inspiration made it all slot together. I've only got an outline of the background to the world and the primary setting within it. I also know how my main character fits into this, although I don't know that much about him yet, other than that his father will be important too. There's a small matter of what the story actually is from a narrative perspective to worry about, but that can come.
There's a little commonality on the surface with something from my novel Integration, but not much. It will also draw on some of my own experience working in the civil service <cough MOD cough> back in the late 1970s. I need to research a little more to give a coherent political background for the society too – the starting point for which will be reading Paul Mason's Postcapitalism: A Guide To Our Future. Quite often, I don't agree with him politically, but from what I've read about it, aspects of this should make an interesting narrative starting point. At least it gives me something to read in the interim!
The other thing that's important for me about this novel is that again, it will be a stretch for me as a writer. For the first time, I'll be dabbling in the world of fantasy, at least on the surface. Everyday, routine magic will be the norm in everybody's lives, although it definitely won't be a big sword and sorcery epic.
I was trying to think of other novels as a comparison to what I was thinking, to make sure I wasn't subconsciously nicking anything. I can see aspects of Charles Stross' Laundry series and Jodi Taylor's St Mary's series in there, but only very superficially. Having thought of them, I can safely try to avoid the parallels when I write it!
I've got a very early working title for the project: The Muffler's Ministry. That is likely to change, especially if I don't end up using the name Muffler! Once I get a bit more advanced, I'll create its own tag for the blogs, but I expect it'll be drifting into the background again now while I finish off My Family.
That's it. As you can see, I've plenty to be getting on with while waiting for the world to get back to normal, although I'd strongly expect "normal" to be quite different going forward. This could be a wake-up call to the world, and to the type of government we need/deserve.