Friday, 25 September 2015

Its Time of the Season


A call out to The Zombies, because this week I've read two zombie books.

The first is My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland, which you can probably tell by the title is not World War Z.  My partner bought it after reading an excerpt somewhere online and  suggested I should read it.  The title pretty much tells you what it's all about.  It's a light-hearted rags to riches urban fantasy story that takes the topic and treats it to an off the wall approach.  I really enjoyed this even though I wasn't expecting much.  I'm very much looking forward to reading the two sequels.  BTW brains taste nice.

The second zombie book I read this week was Feed by Mira Grant aka Seanan McGuire, which is set in a post zombie World War setting.  The title has a double meaning as the story is about bloggers who write about the news; in this all the zombie news that's happening, with a shout out to people like the late Steve Irwin etc.  So replace crocodile with zombie and you're good to go.  I really like the writing in this book and I certainly will be acquiring more books from her.  But, be warned she has a touch of the George R.R. Martin about her, in that she kills off characters.  Minor spoiler warning – she kills the kitten that one of the characters has saved from a zombie outbreak, which really shocked me.  So all I'm saying is don't get too attached to characters.  There again it wouldn't be a zombie book otherwise.

As for my writing this week I have to be honest and say I got very little done.

I've not been able to face up to re-reading Strike Dog again out loud.  So I spent the time researching stuff for my next novel instead, which is tentatively titled The World of Drei.  It's an expansion of my short flash fiction piece called Territory, which I first commented on here.   I submitted it to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and I had a very nice rejection back from them.  You can read the original idea for the short here.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Edge of Tomorrow aka All You Need is Kill


We picked up a English trade paperback translation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel being marketed under the title of the film Edge of Tomorrow.  I reviewed the film Edge of Tomorrow aka Live. Die. Repeat some time ago, and now that I've read the book I thought I'd take the time to muse about both, and their relationship to my novel Bad Dog.  As I said, the similarities between Bad Dog and the film Edge of Tomorrow are all surface level stuff, with the MacGuffin driving the plot being entirely different.  Alien tachyon technology versus my idea of a holographic multiverse.

For the purposes of this review I shall refer to novel by its original title – All You Need is Kill.

The book is quite short, running in at around 50,000 words, and I managed to read it over the course of Sunday morning.  While there are many small differences between the film and the book, which depending on one's tastes either adds or distracts from the story, in general the plot is the same.  I thought the translation was very well done, and I'm really nit-picking when I say I noticed a couple of things that I would have used different words for – namely clip for magazine, especially as the word magazine was used a few line later for instance.  The ending of the book is differs from the movie, and this makes it worth reading if you want to see how the author originally intended the story to end. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading All You Need is Kill, it reminded me of science fiction that I read back in the seventies and eighties.  Plot driven action that runs with an idea.  So if you are into military SF with power armour then this book should hit the spot.

This week I've finished the first out loud read through of Strike Dog and rewrite.

I feel a bit burned out after five days of solid work editing 100,314 words, with 1,072 words trimmed in the process.  I've made some notes about things that I need to go back too.  Mostly to do with duplication of background information.  I plan to do another out loud read through next week, which hopefully will go a lot faster second time round.

So that's it for another week.  See you all on the bounce.

Friday, 11 September 2015

I've Got Friday on my Mind

Which can only mean one thing, write a blog entry.

Things are interesting.  Not being shot at kind of interesting, but I'm going through one of those writer phases.  I'm not sure if it's a power-up to the next level or delusional thinking, as in emotional responses are not a solid basis for rational assessment.

Still I've been working on my writing, and some parts of the process seem to be coming together, because contrary to what people think just because one can write a sentence down on paper doesn't mean anything.  Stories consist of sentences – hard to argue with that – and sentences are grouped into paragraphs, but here's the thing, a story is greater than the sum of its parts.

All novels are in effect magic tricks, as in illusions performed by the writer to convince the reader of the veracity of the stories setting, but stories are not reality.

They're a construct to explore the human need to understand the world we live in.  Gosh that sure sounds pretentious, but we tell each other stories all the time.  Usually they're very small stories, mundane in their scope, and explain our actions to others so that they'll understand that we're (insert meme of choice); so that we don't end up in a conflict with them –  as in appear inconsistent and untrustworthy.  In short we want to feel good about what we do, and have others feel we've done something good too.

Exceptions do occur.

So, I've spent the last week reading my first novel out loud from beginning to end.  That was a thing.  My throat tells me it's a thing.  It was a useful exercise, even though at times it was painful, because reading out loud is slow, and I felt the need for speed.  Most authors will read what they've written out loud, it's one of those tools you get told about, but sitting down and reading a novel from start to finish is quite a task.

Inevitably I ended up revising some parts of the text, and made some notes to action after the read through.  This resulted in a couple of chapters being taken out of the story.  Sounds like quite a big thing.

And in one sense it was.  Three scenes that duplicated parts of the story were merged together.  But other overlapping scenes were kept.  I just moved them to another chapter, so in terms of words lost not such a big thing.  As a result I've started reading out loud my second novel, which due to it being a lot less polished is actually taking longer to do. It's taking longer to revise scenes, and the re-ordering the chapters as a result of how the story flows.

The result is that I have novels on my mind.  Everything else pretty much taking second place to my need to finish what I've written and send them out to be sold.

Friday, 4 September 2015

London Falling & Severed Streets


When I was preparing to write this piece I was going to say and see my review of London Falling, only to find that said review exists only in my imagination.  Well this post is going to transfer my thoughts about reading London Falling and its sequel Severed Streets from the interior of my mind into something that can be read on the internet.  Such is the power of the blog!

A disclaimer.  I vaguely know Paul Cornell, but there again I'm acquainted with a lot of authors, but only because we tend to hang out at the same places; conventions and parties.  It's not some secret members only club or anything like that.  I met Paul at a SF convention.  I saw him on a couple of Dr Who panels, and threw a few questions at him about the Time Lords and the Daleks, which garnered a reply of, "Have you been spying on our writing meetings?"  We've also talked in passing, as well as being on a panel together.  In short he's a likable person.

I've said before that urban fantasy is not my core interest, but I will read books that have interesting premises written in the urban fantasy genre.  We heard Paul read an extract from London Falling at the Olympus 2012 British SF EasterCon, which led us to go and buy a copy.

London Falling is promoted as the first book in the Shadow Police series, and introduces a grimdark London where all is not what it seems.  It's effectively a realistic present day police procedural novel set in an urban fantasy setting.  Overall I quite enjoyed the story, but there were times when the tone of the novel went places that were not very entertaining.  Or to paraphrase my friend Roger said in his review (warning spoilers), the story is full of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to other unpleasant people.

However, I enjoyed the first well enough to want to read the sequel.

Severed Streets starts well enough, delivers a shocking development, and then the middle wallows around until the highly telegraphed plot twist, where it all picks up again, and comes to a reasonably satisfying conclusion.  But Paul Cornell's tendency to fall into describing the nostalgie de la boue does at times overwhelm the joy of reading the story.  My main gripe is that the novel does not deliver what it promised at the end of the London Falling.  Namely what happened to the old guard?  My friend Roger has a review with spoilers here.

On a lighter note, much lighter, we are burning through the last series of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Season five was very good and this one is managing to maintain the quality of the stories.

Writing wise I've been working through Alix's, one of my Beta readers, line edits.  I managed to do just over the first hundred pages before going on holiday to Provence, but only managed to restart work this week, because I became distracted by the controversy surrounding this years Hugo awards.  Looking in my diary tells me that I've edited 40,437 words this week.

So on that note I'm going to finish as I want to finish the edits for Bad Dog today so that I can start working on my Alpha readers feed back of the second draft of Strike Dog.

NB: Edited to include another link so that one can compare and contrast reviews.  Roger reads and reviews a lot of books and is well worth book marking his site.