Desert Of Zin

The occasional blog of Alistair Bain – Writer, Husband, Father and Chief Techno-Arcanologist at the Institute of Giant Robots, Spaceships and Wizards. None of these positions pay well.

LoNoWriMo (November day one)

It’s not NaNoWriMo, it’s LoNoWriMo!

It seems the differences are I’m not engaging with the NaNo community and that I’m working on something that needs a substantial edit and rewrite.

Word count from day one is 1073. Not a massive amount but it’s a start. And I don’t have a target in mind. Once the story is done, it’s done. And I’m taking 30 days to do it.

Day One Count : 1073

November 2, 2014 at 11:45 am | Writing | Tags: , | No comment

All the writing, all the time

Or, a bit of writing, last night.


This was my impromptu “home office” set up last night. After Doctor Who was watched, and very much enjoyed, I decided to dodge the usual late night time wasting of GTA5 and do some ACTUAL WRITING. Yeah, I know. What an incredible idea.

(The oversized keyboard in the picture belongs to Aurora. It’s meant to save her from battering the laptop keyboard. And the laptop is Ruth’s old one. Turns out the “u” key is a bit temperamental. So, I thought, I don’t mind using the bright green oversized keyboard. That lasted about five minutes before I settled on not minding about a single temperamental key.)

A few years back I successfully completed NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, with my sci-fi masterpiece The Planet Of Snakes. Don’t go there. There is honestly nothing Freudian about the title. Nothing at all.

I’ve tried editing it a couple of time over the years with no real success. Last night was another dig at it. What I ended doing was starting a rewrite. There are some good ideas in the original version but it’s too disjointed to make a decent story out of. That is, an edit isn’t enough. So, not with a heavy heart at all, I’m embarking on a longer novel than the first attempt taking part of the structure and dropping anything the clangs. And there’s a fair amount of that.

On the first attempt last night I battered through 500 words in about a half hour. And after reading it, it was binned. Awful. Terrible. I didn’t want to fall into the old trap of writing loads that was later unworkable. Neither did I want to edit as I went as that’s the death of productivity. (Once I wrote a chapter. Six months it took me. I was really pleased after countless revisions. Unfortunately, I ended up being sickened of the story and it still lies abandoned.)

So with 500 words written and abandoned I started again. But with the same approach I’ve taken with the few works I’ve actually finished. I one and half hours I wrote 382 words. But good words. I took my time, checking that what I was writing was actually worth being committed to the screen.

382 words. Not much. But 382 words more than I’ve written in a while.

September 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Gaming, Writing | Tags: , , , , | No comment

Catching up with Operation: Throw Words At The Screen

The Spires At Midnight was finished. I totally forgot to say that a few weeks ago. I’ve been able to fix an old laptop just enough so that I can get access to Draft. That’s easier for writing!

And my computer desk is cluttered with unpainted miniatures so it’s not the most restful writing environment. Heh.

The other main project I’ve been throwing words at has been the space fiction. This continues to rumble forwards inexorably. I have no plans for this stuff other than to keep myself entertained. I enjoy sf/sci-fi immensely but I wouldn’t dream of foisting my own attempts on an unsuspecting public!

So, I’ve not cleared through as much as I would have liked this month but at least my writing has fallen into a regular pattern. Which is just as well as NaNoWriMo starts on Friday…

October 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Writing | Tags: , , , | No comment

NaNoWriMo 2013 – What madness is this?

I was going to post about something else today but that can wait. I have very alarming news.

This year I’m going to do NaNoWriMo again.

That’s right, like a fool I’m going to fire up the 50,000-words-in-a-month-a-tron and dislocate my sanity in the process.

And the name of this epic? Mechasnake!

Now, I feel compelled to explain something here. The last, and only, time I successfully completed NaNoWriMo was 2008 with the pulp sci-fi masterpiece Planet Of Snakes. Since then there’s been a running joke among some of my writer friends that any of my ideas are dramatically improved with the addition of giant snakes.

After yesterday’s post, a friend, The Real Big Al, commented and invoked the name Mechasnake! (don’t you just love the way that sounds with the exclamation point?) just as I was musing on whether I’ll involve myself in that annual writing marathon. Unfortunately (for everyone) the idea is stuck in my head.

Looks like I’ll just have to do it. (sigh) Life is so hard sometimes.  ;)

September 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Writing | Tags: , , , | No comment

So, happy new year! (a quick tour of 2009)

So, happy new year!

It’s been a ‘interesting’ year, full of ups and downs.

It started well, with me riding high off the relative success of last year’s NaNoWriMo.  It was an important milestone with my writing, the first time I ever got around to actually finishing something in a short time that I even remotely liked.  So, that was Planet Of Snakes (a sequel to the unfinished Desert Of Zin) and very happy I was with it too.

(Not that it matters what’s finished and what’s not, things have changed in that quarter.  More on that in a mo.)

Then, shortly after the new year, my mother had a cancer scare.  Not good, not good at all.  But she had it removed, went for her radiotherapy and everything is currently peachy keen.  (It’s amazing how you can get all of the angst, worry and relief of a time like that and boil it down to a couple of sentences…)

Then a few months into the year amazing news arrives.  Ruth is pregnant!  I still remember how excited I was when I found out.  We had been trying for a while and finding out really was a gift.

Then we hit the summer.  And intimidation and bullying at work.  Not good seeing as I worked for the my church.  With the benefit of hindsight, and plenty of counselling, there is definitely an element of a culture of dishonour about the way some Christians act despite the ‘Culture of Honour’ that is advertised.

Anyway, it wasn’t a sudden thing.  Using the same old hindsight as before it’s clear that my self-esteem and confidence were being ground down over a long period of time.  More on that later as well.

There was a welcome break in there called Summer’s End, a progressive rock festival in the small town of Lidney, by the Forest of Dean.  Myself, The Psycho Chicken, Bruce and (when she felt like she could endure all that glorious prog) Sharla enjoyed Steve Hackett, Pallas, Pendragon and all the wonderful bands in between.

But then back to work where the situation continued to get from bad to worse…

The months of September, October and November were back to the growing depression, anxiety, stress and suicidal tendencies.  This really was the worst part of the year for me.  I was being intimidated and harrased by my line manager (who, unfortunately, was also my minister) and despite already letting people in authority know the situation he was still my line manager and still intimidating and harassing me.

Now, I understand that in the cold light of day it might not seem like much, but when your church is your work and the only feedback you get from your minister/line manager is negative and your interests and thoughts are open to ridicule, it tends to affect you poorly.

NaNoWriMo arrived in November, right at the height of how bad things were getting.  With panic attacks and ‘The Fear’ growing almost daily it was a miracle in itself that I was able to get over 24k words.

This was the ‘All-New’ Desert Of Zin story.  I felt like the existing one was going nowhere.  I had no plan or interest in keeping it going and any ideas I did have just seemed tired.  But then I thought that it might be an idea to take the core concepts I still had in mind for the story and just start afresh.  Different setting, different characters (although with the same names) and with a narrow scope, at least initially, than the original attempt.  And for the most part I’m a lot happier with it so far.  Lots of stories to tell though, which is good.  Stops me from getting too bogged down with any one story.

But it wasn’t finished in the month, so there we go.  I’ll try again with something new next year.

It was the second-last weekend in November when everything hit the fan.  Angry threats were made at work and that was the straw that broke back of it and I handed in my notice.  Better that I was unemployed and healthy than employed and suicidal.

And I haven’t really regretted it once.  It’s a no-brainer that I have not been back to Whiteinch Church of Scotland for the Sunday Celebration and I don’t think I ever will.  I do wish them well for the future but if they ever want to see this ‘Culture of Honour’ fully realised they’ll have to really look at sorting themselves out.  One thing that going though my own counselling process has shown me is that there are a good few of Whiteinch Church leadership who need counselling of their own.

But with a month of the year left, two wonderful things happened.

A story, Whiteinch In Flight, was accepted for a local anthology…

…And my daughter was born, late for Christmas, but in plenty of time for the new year.

I have big plans for 2010.  It really feels like I’ve been through a lot this year and I’m confident and a feeling a lot more prepared for what I’m planning for the year ahead.

There are books to write, a wife to keep happy and a daughter to raise.  No problem.

January 2, 2010 at 8:18 am | General, Listening, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No comment

So, what’s going on?

Wow.  It’s been over a month since my last post, and life has been hectic.

Let’s see.  What has been going on in the life of Al?

Well, NaNoWriMo started and, two and a half weeks later, stumbled and fell of the ride.  Loads of bad stuff happened, mostly from my work, and I was a basket case for the majority of the month of November.  Truth be told I was a basket case for a good few months before that and I still have a long way to go before I’m back to normal (whatever that is) and am back working on all cylinders.

25,000 words though.  That’s not bad at all.

I’m currently unemployed as I had no other choice than to leave, the sanity of both Ruth and I was more important than a part-time admin job, and it’s going to be a long haul before I have my confidence and self-esteem back to where it should be.

Anyway, all of this madness got in the way of my finishing NaNoWriMo, which is a damn shame as I was really enjoying the story I had set myself this year.  But with time on my hands before the impending birth of my first child (due date = 13th December!) I am spending some of it on Desert of Zin so I don’t totally lose the thread like I did before.

December 7, 2009 at 7:23 am | General, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | No comment

NaNo ‘09 build up

I’ve been away for the last few weeks.  On a wee holiday up east of Elgin at my in-laws.  The in-laws weren’t there leaving myself, Ruthy, her sister and the dog to deal with the bloomin’ awful weather.  Oh well, at least I wasn’t at work.  Small mercies and all that.

I was planning to do something for the New Writing Dundee competition.  I had two stories partly done but neither of them seemed right.  I’ll work on them in the meantime.  There’s always another competition or magazine I can send them to and I’d rather they were right than rushed.  Although they’ll wait until after this year’s NaNo I’d dare say.

As for NaNoWriMo 2009…

I’ll be writing Desert of Zin this year…

But wait, haven’t I already been writing Desert Of Zin?  Won’t working on an already existing work be against the rules?

Yeah, well.  It’s not a case of working on the original, that’s a dead duck.  I’ve been working on it for so long and it’s been going nowhere.  The story is lacklustre and I couldn’t care less for the characters.  A shame, as Planet of Snakes (last year’s NaNo) is good and worth keeping.

So I’ve started again.  A completely fresh story, with similar characters.  Something less Space Opera and something better.  Much better.

November 1, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Writing | Tags: , , | No comment

Back on the yWriter

Well, it’s been a busy week with work and home stuff.  Loads to do in the office with the audited accounts coming in and at home I’ve been doing more prep for the arrival of baby.  All very excited for that.

The computer desk has been jettisoned (today, thanks to Edgy) and the pc has been set up in the front room on Ruthy’s old work desk, with a new Acer 22inch wide-screen TFT monitor replacing the 19″ CRT monstrosity that took up most of the space on the old desk.  And now that part of the shifting of stuff seems to have settled, I have time to dedicate to bashing more words into the various stories I have on the go.

Which nicely brings me to the point : yWriter is back on the PC!

For those who don’t know yWriter is a very nifty piece of software that helps you organise your work, by chapter and scene if neccessary, and it helped me organise things enough to get though the joys of last years NaNoWriMo.  And it’s back in time for this year.  Quality.

One thing to note though, I tried running it on Linux through Mono but it’s nowhere near as good as it is in Windoze.  Fortunately I have Xp set up in VirtualBox and it’s working very nice there, thank you very much.

Which reminds me, more work to do.  The pub beckons soon but there’s easily an hours worth of writing to get done.

September 26, 2009 at 11:32 pm | General, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | No comment

NaNoWriMo 2008 Final Count!

Oh yeah, totally forgot to post my final count for NaNoWriMo 2008.

I had 53950 words!  Not bad, eh?

Nope, not bad at all.

I would talk more but i’m enjoying a cool beer (first Leffe and now Hoegaarden) after a crappy week.

(And my confession is that i have not touched any writing since the end of NaNo, but rest assured I’ll get back to you with The Plan.  Oh yes.)

December 10, 2008 at 1:55 pm | Writing | Tags: | No comment

NaNoWriMo Day 24 final count

Day 24 Expected target : 40008 (rounded up)

Day  Actual wordcount : 45144!

To put that in a more local context, yesterday I had 40142 words and today I have 45144 words!

I’ve had a 5k Day!


Unfortunately I can no longer work my hands but I only have 6 days left to do less than 5 thousand words.

November 24, 2008 at 11:47 pm | Writing | Tags: | No comment