Sunday, 23 November 2014

Maplecroft


It's always a real pleasure to read a book by an author one has not read before, and be blown away by the story.  Cherie Priest's Maplecroft hits all the right notes with its re-framing of the Lizzie Borden murder case as a Cthulhu mythos tales of Deep Ones in the town of Fall River.  I started it last week and was entranced, and finished it in two sessions.  I really enjoyed the mix of history, and the creepy atmosphere of the story.  A joy to read.  I shall be looking out for more novels from her next time I'm in Forbidden Planet.

Well this week we managed to watch the last season of True Blood.  We've been fans from the start, but I confess I've only read the first of the Charlaine Harris books that inspired the show.  From reading that I've been holding back on getting the rest of the books, because I've enjoyed the TV series so much.  The final season wrapped up almost all of the plots, apart from the Were-panther's, and there was much sadness and joy.

We also re-watched the Wachowski's adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta.  A film that divides people.  I must admit the first time I watched it Hugo Weaving performance wearing the mask was a bit disturbing.  But the thing is that the film has lots of powerful scenes and performances, and the music is profoundly moving.  I shall have to sit down and reread the graphic novel now.

Work wise I spent three days working on Bad Dog, using Scrivener to compile a PDF that I read, which allowed me to see the text afresh, and pick up errors or things I wanted to change.  I've now sent the current 81,869 word draft off to my editor for a report on the things that remain problematical.  As much an exercise in communication – as in seeing whether or not we understand each other, or more like have I understood her comments and done the right things?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Log 2014 Nov 16th: Bad Dog 5th Draft


I finished, for some definitions of finished, the fifth draft of my current novel Bad Dog on Friday evening - in a spurt of creative enthusiasm that comes when the end is in sight.  Of course I've now shot myself in the foot by getting Scrivener to produce a PDF, which I'm reading, and finding stuff I want to polish.  Still, for definitions of finished it's something.  This draft is structurally close to my original first draft, but a world away in terms of the writing, characterizations and setting.

Looking back at my files it took me 18 weeks to write the first working draft, which ended up being 93,075 words.  The second draft took five weeks with a total of 90,970 words.  I spent 20 weeks reworking the third draft, and ended up 87,999 words for my effort.  The fourth draft only took three weeks, and ended with 88,908 words.  My fifth draft took five weeks, and looking back at my records I cut about 8,000 words out, but ended writing extra scenes, which brought the total back up to 82,317 word, but this draft is still the best part of 10,000 words tighter than my original work.

I can only continue working to tighten up the text, reduce repetition and try to add more drama to the story.  This is all uncharted territory for me, but that has been true from day one.  I remind myself that being able to write a good story is 99% blood, sweat and tears, with the remaining 1% being a combination of talent and inspiration.  Though it can be argued that the latter is what makes a good novel great, but at this point I'm aspiring to be just good – great can come later.

Things I've been watching, or have watched, but forgot to mention - Edge of Tomorrow, which is the film adaptation of the manga All You Need is Kill, and for the Blu-ray release has the title Live, Die, Repeat added in front of the original title, because the film didn't do well at the box office  I know that a lot of people have mixed feelings about Tom Cruise, but given the likelihood that I will ever hang with Tom, or any other Hollywood star is less than one, and I really don't pay much attention to the tabloid gossip, none of this matters to me.  But that said I have been avoiding the film, because I knew that the plot is very close to that of Bad Dog, and it features power armoured troops fighting aliens.  As they say there is no such thing as an original plot, but Bad Dog's similarities are all surface level stuff, and the MacGuffin driving the plot is different; as in mine is based in real science and Edge of Tomorrow is just pure Hollywood razzle-dazzle.  Besides that Emily Blunt is brilliant and Tom gets killed a lot, so all is right with the world

Other films we watched since last week were Iron Sky: Dictators Cut, which is a Finnish B-movie that people either love or hate.  We loved it, because Space Nazis from the Moon invading Earth in flying saucers, what's not to like?  There is a sequel being made, and the trailer features Adolf Hitler riding a dinosaur called The Coming Race.  Finally, we also sat down and watched the Europa Report.  A found footage movie telling the story of the first mission to Europa, I don't think I'm giving any spoilers away by saying it doesn't end well for the astronauts.

So that's it for another week of internet raging where the old adage of you reap what you sow has never been more true.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Magnificent Maleficent


This has been definitely a week of watching lots of stuff.  In no particular order: Maleficent, Grimm, and all three The Thing films.

Maleficent was bought by my partner, and I had no particular expectations when we sat down to watch it.  The reviews I'd read had been a bit mixed, but I really enjoyed the film.  The writer is to be commended on how she re-framed the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty into a heart warming story of true love.  So yes it's a bit of a chick flick, but it has a dragon, and some weird and rather cool tree like warriors that guard the magic land called the Moors where Maleficent lives.  So highly recommended.

Grimm season three was fun, but not as good as season two, in that the cliff-hanger finale was less interesting.  Though to be fair having had the hero drugged lying in a coffin surrounded by zombies at the end of last season was going to be a bit tricky to top.  The show is still a monster of the week police procedural, and it is rather formulaic, but the relationship between Monroe and Rosalee makes me want to keep watching.  Also Sergeant Wu is being developed, though I think far too slowly, as it's about time he was a full member of Team Grimm.

We finished the week by starting to watch the three Thing movies, spurred on by listening to a series of podcasts.  We both enjoyed the Howard Hawkes version for the snappy dialogue, which really felt like real people speaking to each other.  We then watched the 2011 Norwegian prequel next, which is OK, but doesn't quite nail it - though it's a very loving homage to the John Carpenter version, which we have lined up to watch tonight.

Reading wise, I finished Max Brooks' World War Z.  I enjoyed it, but a couple of things annoyed me.  For example a soldier calling a magazine a clip, and I wasn't totally convinced by the big zombie take down scene where the descriptions of the details about the battle stretched my credulity.

The soldier recounts that he was firing one round a second, and while he had breaks, the battle lasted for 15 hours.  One round a seconds is 60 rounds a minute, which is 300 rounds every five minutes, which is 3,600 rounds/zombies per hour - the ammo weighs 3lbs per 100 rounds, so 1,770lbs of ammunition for each soldier.  Seems reasonable, but the numbers don't make any sense.

Accounting for dramatic license, and assuming the zombies came shuffling in at a steady pace and peaked somewhere around the seven and a half hour mark, this equals 27,000 zombies per soldier for the battle.  Say 1,000 soldiers (number not specified, but unit described as forming a British square, which has to be large enough to contain the lorries carrying the ammo sitting in the centre, so my best guess), then that's 27 million zombies.  I calculated from the description of the size of the piled up bodies - about 1.8 million zombies - based on a ring of dead zombies at 500 yards out from the firing line).

While I may be being pedantic, I do think it shows that one needs to do one's research, and understand the implications for one's logistics.  Also, please can we not have a rehash of Napoleonic tactics - modern battles are based on fire and manoeuvre for a reason, and just don't get me started on why being surrounded is not a good plan.  It's like the military forgot every lesson they've ever learnt from history!

Still mustn't quibble too much over the little niggling details, because the story was enjoyable enough.

Finally, another weeks worth of editing on Bad Dog.  Twelve chapters revisited for a total of 34,749 words.  Just under half way through the second edit.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Agents of Shield


I managed to forget to put my weekly update last week, which I'm going to put down to forgetfulness, rather than the onset of age related dementia.  

We've been having a break from Xena & Gabrielle this week, diving into Marvel's Agents of Shield.  We've been assiduously avoiding spoilers, but having watched Captain America: Winter Soldier, it was kind of obvious that Hydra was the big story arc.  We really enjoyed the series, yes the first few episodes were setting the scene, but the payoff was well worth it.  I guessed Agent Ward was the double-agent, purely from the process of reasoning from first principle.  Still, the story had enough twists and turns, clever surprises, and good dialogue to carry one through the slower parts.  Must admit we thought Agent Coulson was a clone, it was the whole Blade Runner mementos that sold us on that idea, the denouement of what had really happened was both touching and clever.

This week I finished my first editing pass of Bad Dog's fifth draft.  Checking Scrivener and my diary log of daily work I've reduced the running total from 89,368 down to 82,730, which is 6,638 words cut out of the text.  This draft I've gone through the work looking for all the tense errors, which were previously eluding me, but I can see them now.  That had been very frustrating, so it's good to have found my editing mojo.

Of course this still doesn't mean that my writing can carry the story in the manner to which I aspire.  Wishing I can write better is not going to make it happen, so I continue once more into the breach etc.