The last three months have been a blur of writing, deadlines, more writing, more deadlines and a big, steaming pile of stress. No sooner was one project finished than three others were due, all of them requiring many, many, many hours of research, writing and revising. Since mid-November I've written three issues of the Phantom, finished my work on the Sarah Jane Smith audios, supplied several long features to the Judge Dredd Megazine, written the first draft of my first radio play for the BBC, scripted the first two episodes of my Fiends of the Eastern Front in Stalingrad comic strip, written the third volume of my Fiends trilogy of novels and completely revised The Complete Inspector Morse, adding 10,000 words of new material. Keeping all the plates has been more than a fulltime job, but sleep is for tortoises, as a great man once said.
Now, finally, I've reached a momentary pause amid the mayhem. Virtually all my contractural obligations have been fulfilled, something that lifts several large weights off my shoulders. In fact, I think the radio play is the only job I'm currently contracted to do any further work on. I'm contributing to a five-day serial for broadcast as part of Woman's Hour on Radio 4 this summer, along with four other scribes. All five of us are meeting tomorrow at the BBC HQ in Glasgow, along with producer-director David Ian Neville to talk through the scripts and the characters - should be a fascinating experience. I've been fancying the idea of working in a writers' room, so this will give me a first taste of that. I've met two of the other writers before, so it won't be a room full of strangers, making the day slightly less daunting.
Six hours before I set off for LA I finished my work on the second edition of The Complete Inspector Morse. No doubt there'll be some tweaks and revisions requested by publishers Reynolds and Hearn, but hopefully all the hard work's behind me on that project. I didn't ask for a new advance on this edition, preferring to put my trust in the book's abilities to generate ongoing royalties from the first copy sold. After several years of working on material that either didn't offer royalties or didn't earn them, it'd be nice to get sent the occasional cheque for already existing work. As mentioned above, the new edition has an extra 10,000 words - about a third of them devoted to the recent Morse spin-off Lewis - and the text has been rewritten from end to end. I doubt there's a page that hasn't been changed, most of them significantly so. That book really is a labour of love, especially since I won't see any royalties before October at the earliest.
While out in LA I found a copy of my first new Sarah Jane Smith audio in the dealers' room at the Gallifrey convention. I couldn't resist buying it, even though Big Finish will be supplying me with free copies - eventually. I imported the story into iTunes, set the playlist to play continuously and sat back to enjoy the story. Tip for the future: don't try listening to an hour-long audio drama will jetlagged and exhausted. I conked out near the end and woke up to find myself twenty minutes into the beginning again. Despite my exhaustion, it sounded great and I'm proud of the finished results. Now I can't wait to hear the second SJS, Snow Blind, which is due out before the end of the month.
Since this is an in-between day, I've got a chance to contemplate what I want to do next. The MA Screenwriting course is keeping me busy on Thursdays and I'll have new assignments to tackle over the coming three months, along with a shedload of reading for the interactive writing module. I've got a few other irons in various fires that could turn into significant chunks of work, but no other books under contract at present. I'm due to be pitching a project to Big Finish, so I need to come up with a story for that. I've been too busy the past few months to devote any time or creative energy to my long-delayed novel proposal for Warhammer, so that needs some contemplation. There's six more episodes of my Fiends strip to write, so that will need looking at again soon, especially with artist Colin MacNeil getting geared up for the project. And Matt at the Megazine is talking about some more features, with some intriguing ideas getting floated for those slots.
Beyond that? Time to tackle some of those projects I've kept putting off because I was too busy working on paying jobs. Time to stop coming with up reasons - however valid - for not biting the bullet and doing some serious work on spec scripts and proposals. Time to step up to the plate and prove I'm not just a hack writer churning out stories based on other people's characters. It's frightening and it's exciting. As for right now - it's time for lunch.