Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Xmas


Run away, hide or look busy.  Oh no that's when Jesus is coming.  I've been a bit busy over the last week doing stuff so I'm just catching up with posting something to my blogs.

Friday our friend Clive came around bearing a Xmas gift of a bottle of a very fine Lebanese wine, and we added to it by opening something from our wine rack, as one bottle between three is not quite enough.  Saturday morning was spent recovering from the excess intake of alcohol while Saturday afternoon was spent eating to excess with Roger and Chris and other friends.  We were celebrating the shortest day of the year by eating cooked meat products, and various other sundries.  We both drank Ginger Beer, because one of us was driving and I still felt rather fragile from Friday night.  Spending the afternoon generally shooting the breeze and catching up with people made for a nice end to the week for us.

So it really feels like we have had a bit of a social life this December, what with parties and entertaining.  Tonight we had Bill around for a meal with wine and port and watched one of my favourite Xmas movies, Die Hard.  So we are now all ready for the big day tomorrow when we get to watch the Dr. Who Xmas special.

I've also finished the first pass edit of my novel, removing two thousand words in the process.  Most of those were redundant "I said, she said" tags.  Now to blow through the cobwebs and shine up the prose ready for my beta readers.

On that note I shall end this entry and I hope everyone has a good Xmas holiday and manages to enjoy themselves.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Creative Madness

I was a bit ill yesterday after my beloved gave me an early Xmas present in the shape of some lurg that is going around Imperial College.  At least I can't complain that I never get given anything.  So I have spent extra time in bed and generally taking it easy.  This meant I missed going to the writers group meeting, but I'm sure they are all glad I didn't come along and give them all an unwanted Xmas present.  We also missed the Xmas Jomsviking readers group that we go along to, for the same reason; we like our friends too much to make them ill.

However, while I quite enjoy lying around being busy doing nothing, it has one side-effect.  I get terribly hyper with ideas running around my head.

So this morning I was drinking coffee, thinking about reading something, but my head was just full of ideas.  Crazy ideas that were a melange of things from my dreams, playing my favourite board game, and thinking about the film Surrogates that I watched a few of years ago.  I review it en passant here.  So this afternoon, rather than being spent reading a book, chillaxing on the sofa has instead seen me busy writing notes and laying out two novels in Scrivener.  One is about AI developments being used by the military that will not end well for the world.  The other book deals with living one's life in a world where everything you see is augmented and nothing you see is truly real anymore.

Then I decided in a moment of manic frenzy to compile my Bad Dog universe bible and twiddle with my Professionals meets Cthulhu novel.  My shoulders ache now.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Blood Ties


A bit late writing this week due to spending Saturday demoing a game called Ogre at the London Dragonmeet games convention all day, and Sunday was taken by entertaining two dear friends who we have not seen in a while.  Last week I had an indulgent catch up with lots of reading and trying to put the internet to rights.  Along with getting lost on TV Tropes for three days researching story tropes.  That link carries a memetic warning; you will spend more hours there than you intend to.  Consider yourself warned.

This week we've been watching Blood Ties, which was based on Tanya Huff's Blood series that started with Blood Price.  Anyway, the TV show runs to twenty two episodes over two short seasons.  For reasons best known to the TV executives the third series was cancelled, probably because there wasn't enough sex.  It's one of those shows that we loved for the relationship between the characters and the dialogue sparkles when the three main characters are kicking against each other.

On the reading front I have been carrying on with Chris Moriarty's Spin State, which due to the above excuses I've still not finished.  So I will come back again to it when I have.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Thanksgiving


This has been a busy week what with Thanksgiving on Thursday, going to a friends book launch on Saturday afternoon and then to our first Xmas party in the evening.  All that and I finished the first draft of Ghost Dog.  So this week I only managed to write 3116 words, to bring the running total for the month up to 27,779 and a first pass word total of 96,910 words that got bumped up today as I did edits from my Alpha reader to 96,993.  Well pleased with my progress this year.  Permission to cheer loudly all round if you would like to?

Reading this week I've started with Chris Moriarty's Spin State the first book of a trilogy.  I liked this book the first time I read it and have had to wait more years than I care to remember to see the third book arrive.  Hence the re-reading of the first two books before starting the latest one as it has been a while.  I've felt that this series hasn't had the love it deserves, but there again that might be down to when it first came out, which was around the time Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon series hit the shelves.  Who knows, I don't.  Expect a bit more on Chris Moriarty's novels over the course of this month.

On the watching front we sat down and took in both of the new V seasons.  I found myself really enjoying re-watching season one and wondering why we had delayed for so long in getting season two?  I guess we just lost track of it.  It's a good enough show, just not a great show, but it has its moments.  I thought that the story arc development was too slow, which may have been a factor in it not getting renewed for a third season, but there again what do I know about American TV show renewal (not a lot)?  I was surprised by the online commentary and the feeling that it had an anti Obama message vis-a-vis healthcare.  Being British this undertone completely went over my head and I still don't see it to be quite frank.

We then started watching season one of The Professionals.  A late seventies, early eighties cult TV show featuring Bodie & Doyle that has a great theme tune that worms its way into your head.  A couple days after we started watching this the actor who played Bodie, Lewis Collins, died.  I remember when I originally watched the show I wasn't all that keen on Bodie as a character, much preferring Doyle.  However, on this re-watching of the episodes my opinion has changed.  I think Lewis Collins really shines in all the scenes he is in and I much prefer his character.  So there is evidence that one's opinions do change over time, because if you had asked me who my favourite character in the show was a couple of weeks ago I would have said Doyle.

So now I have finished my third novel my intention is to go back and use my new found skills and edit my first and get it ready for the Beta readers who I have lined up.  After that I intend to work on my Cthulhu meets the Professional novel a I feel I can now do it justice.  I also intend to catch up with a lot of books that I've been meaning to read and I will no doubt refer to them en-passant here over the next few weeks until I get back into the saddle writing the next novel.

Finally, apropos this blog you may have noticed that I have been updating things by adding more labels to my entries, and in a few cases expanding titles, and or splitting the odd post into two.  I expect that the format of this blog will continue to evolve as I add more content next year.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Day After Who


Well it has probably not passed by unnoticed by many people that Dr. Who has turned fifty years old, which certainly makes me feel old, because I remember the seeing the first episode way back in 1963 as a child.

The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat's was in one word awesome.  I sat and watched it with my beloved and we were both enthralled, and I remember muttering awesome as the first scene of the Dalek fleet doing their thing around the Planet Gallifrey came on screen.  John Hurt's War Doctor upstaging Tennant and Smith at every turn, awesome.  Bilie Piper as the weapon, awesome.  The Zygon breaking the fourth wall and talking about their performance and getting into role, awesome.  The scene with Tom Baker as the curator, awesome.  The arrival of all thirteen of the Doctor's TARDISs to save the day, awesome.  The final scene of all the Doctors, both moving and awesome.  In short the show was the crowning moment of awesome that Dr. Who needed.  Colour me impressed as it hit all the right emotional spots.  I stand in awe.

In other news, struggling to finish A Game of Thrones, which I feel is about a hundred pages too long.  I don't know if this is down to watching the TV series, or what?  So I hope to read the next two books before watching the third series on disc.  It's not as if I find George R. R. Martin's writing difficult to read, so I'm a little puzzled by my response to finishing the story.

My progress ha been good this week with a total of 9,239 words that brings the running total up to 92,771 words.  So I'm well into the end run and finishing the first draft of my third novel.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Writing Log 131117


As you can see I've gone blond, and I'm not sure whether to stay blond or go back to being a red head.  Neither is my natural colour, that is sort of auburn, or was, but now with a large dose of grey, hence the assistance from my hairdresser.  So purely in a sense of fun what do my readers think?

This week turned out to be a good week for banging those words out and progressing the third novel.  Three chapters sent to my alpha reader, the first of which blew her out of the water.  Not literally, but she was at a loss for words.  So the weekly total was 9,693 making the running total 83,564.  Checking back on my previous two works I'm now at plus one week over the time it took to finish the previous novel.

Still reading A Game of Thrones, with 168 pages to go.  I finding it okay, but it drags a bit for my tastes.  Not that it isn't a good read, but it's not my thing; a certain lack of rockets, robots, or ray-guns.

This week we watched Warehouse 13 season 4.  The start of the season didn't grab me, but it improved, as in it went back to what it did best and so the season ended quite well.  My complaint here is that the show tried to deal with quite serious themes, but the scripts and actors couldn't carry the weight within the format of what is basically a very light hearted family show.

As an addition I see that Doris Lessing has died.  I had the great honour of being her minder at 45th World Science Fiction Convention held in Brighton, chosen purely on the grounds that I wasn't going to go all fan googly all over her.  I remember her as charming woman who was rather bemused by the idea of being invited to the convention, who enjoyed talking to people.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Lest We Forget

Remembrance Sunday, lest we forget.


Yesterday I was at a writers critique group day, my second as a visitor, before I have to choose to become a member, which I did.  If for no other reason that I need social contacts who get what I'm doing.  I enjoyed reading both the stories that were discussed and feel I have a good chance of fitting into this group.  Unfortunately, no more meetings until the New Year.

This week has been busy with me going to the inaugural lecture of Professor Alex Blakemore who kindly invited me to attend.  This was an outstandingly good lecture on genetics and copy number variants that I took a lot away from.

Writing wise I managed 4,743 words this week, which brings the running total up to 73,559.  I got some very positive feedback from the last chapter from my Alpha reader, which is always heartening.

I'm still reading A Game of Thrones, there's a surprise, not!  He does go on a bit.

Finished watching Arrow though.  An adaptation of the DC's Green Arrow that is very good.  The first four episodes were outstandingly good.  They gripped one from the get go and I was of the mind that this was as good as Person of Interest.  However, while both shows share similar themes, technological Batman style vigilant, Arrow is bound by its tropes, whereas Person of Interest takes the tropes, twists them and then shreds them before moving on.  So, if you are a superhero fan then Arrow is well worth watching, if you want to see a good superhero show and don't know where to start then likewise Arrow is a good place to start.  If you are not into superheroes you may find the story a bit melodramatic and farfetched.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Fireworks


Another week and another internet outage, which means this is a day late.  On the upside I've had more time to read, because not surfing the internet and putting it to right.  So I'm now about two-thirds of the way through A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  It's what I would call a page turner, easy to read and pulls you along.  Interesting to compare how the characters are portrayed in the books versus in the TV series.  There are some differences, the biggest being the ages with everyone being younger, but more care worn.  The novel feels very much like a historical fiction with a soupcon of magic in the form of the WhiteWalkers and the dragons.

Work wise I managed 5,794 words for what turned out to be another three day week due to having to go down to Aldershot to pick up my truck.  This months total was therefore 23.398 words, which brings the novel up to a running total to 68,828 words. So definitely in the home stretch here.  I've just scanned my draft and realised that I'm further into act four than I thought and act five is on the horizon.  At this point I'm over schedule as both the previous two novels were finished by this time, but I feel this is the best writing I've done so far, as I've certainly upped my game at a couple of points through this story.  Of course levelling up only means the obstacles get harder, but still it's a good sign.

We've been watching Arrow on our projector this week, until the bulb died.  So I'll say more next week about this series.  What I will say is that I found the first four episodes enthralling.  So, to end this weeks blog, may I wish you all a happy and safe Guy Fawkes night, a peculiarly British tradition when we celebrate what can be seen as the failure of religious extremists to destroy the Mother of Parliaments and the survival of democracy, or the the failure by disenfranchised citizens to send the rulers of this country a message to the establishment of this country that they suck.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Game of Thrones


Well this has been a week where Real Life (TM) has gotten in the way of writing.  Monday it was take the car to Aldershot for its annual service and MOT and like a new lieutenant with a compass I managed to get myself lost.  The cause; transposing two digits when inputting the postcode for the directions.  So a simple hour an a half journey took three hours.  To add insult to injury the train back took two hours. Needless to say I was exhausted by the time I got home.  All my American friends will be sniggering about now, but trust me forty miles in Britain is not like travelling forty miles in the States.

Writing wise this week was a disappointing 3549 words, as effectively I only manage two days of sitting my butt in a chair and typing.  Still this means another chapter written and I'm very close to starting act four.  Running total now stands at 63,041 words.  Hopefully next week will be better, but next week I have to get myself back down to Aldershot to pick up my car.

Finished watching Stargate SG1 hurrah!  Season ten ended with a time travelling story that was actually very good as it had real consequences for one of the characters.  Stargate: The Ark of Truth the first movie was a neat wrap up of the Ori storyline that would have been told in a longer form had there been a season eleven.  Unfortunately, Stargate: Continuum the second movie was another time travelling story that felt a bit like old rope to me as everything is neatly tied up with a paradox  that loops back on itself.  The performances were all well and good, but the story just felt like it was going through the motions.

Reading wise I've just picked up George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.  I didn't have three dragons to pose with the books, so you get two plush kittens and Norbert the dragon instead.  I'm not an avid reader of epic fantasy, but I really like the HBO series, so promised myself I would read the original story it was based on.  I like the writing style, very engaging.  By the way it may take me some time to read all of this series.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Lion of Comarre & Against the Fall of Night


Four weeks ago I reported that my writing total for Ghost Dog was ahead of the curve compared to the same points during Bad Dog and Strike Dog by about ten thousand words.  To my chagrin I now find I'm two weeks behind at the comparable point, which means twenty thousand word behind.  Such is the vagaries of writing, that or my general ineptitude.  This weeks total was respectable enough though with 6,723 words put down, which bring the running total up to 59,492 words.

So some angst about being useless and perhaps I should seek out a career in shelf stacking, but on the other hand Ghost Dog shows me I can write multiple books and that my writing style is growing.  Whether or not anyone apart from me, my partner and the plush toys will like it is another matter.

This week I re-read Arthur C. Clarke's The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night, which I have in a Corgi edition that contains both stories.  I really wanted to re-read Rendezvous with Rama, but no longer have a copy, as I was looking for inspiration for some scenes involving ancient civilizations that I need to write.  Anyway, not the best character writer in the world, but he certainly knew how to think up big ideas, and like most SF fans of my age, one of the big three that I read avidly when I was younger.  Moment of geekness; I just edited Wikipedia as they failed to list The Deep Range on his page, even though the novel has its own page.

Nearing the end of our Stargate SG1 original series marathon this week.  Season 9 actually got better as it went along and the end of season finale was very good leaving everyone in jeopardy.  Just started season 10 and so far I've really been enjoying watching the show.  Perhaps not as good as season 6, but it runs it a close second.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Control Point


This has been a difficult writing week as I've struggled to get the words out of my head and down onto paper,  metaphorically speaking, given that everything is digital bits on my computer.  So I found myself at the end of this week having only written 1,518 words in total, which is an appallingly low amount from getting myself stuck by not knowing what to write.  Given that I've outlined the plot and know what is in each chapter, for definitions of know that mean the probability wave is not collapsed, but the choices are known, this is kind of a way bad situation to be in.

I then went into angst mode, never a good thing to do, and wondered why I seem to be in my editing head space, rather than my drafting head space?  I even rewrote a chapter that my alpha reader said was good, but lacked action, or plot development, even though the characterization was good.  Rewriting takes as long as drafting and doesn't necessarily add many words to the end product.

After that I tried rationalizing my mood and lack of productivity down to visits to my rheumatology consultant, the subsequent blood test, and having a flu jab, which a lot of people report as making them feel unwell.  Not to forget two visits to the dentist and doing my bit for World Mental Health Day at Imperial College London, which you can read about here.  So a busy week.  I also haven't been sleeping well, and by that I mean worse than usual, due to the noise from the builders working on the exterior of the block of flats where I live.  All of which seem like good reasons to me for a lower work output.

However, yesterday I had an epiphany where I realised that I had written my characters into a situation where they would have to do something stupid for all the wrong reasons, and that I needed to go back and rewrite an earlier chapter.  Doing this will allow me move some of the things that I described earlier in the story and put those events in a different form in a later chapter.  This will allow my heroes to make what looks like a good decision for all the right reasons; of course this will later turn out to be the wrong decision in that it leads them into jeopardy.  Plot problem fixed and Scrivener makes it so easy to do this.  I now have thirty one chapters outlined and I feel good.  This doesn't mean that the writing gets any easier, but at least I know what I need to write now.  Current running total stands at 52,829 words.  On reflection I had this self same problem previously; to me it seems to indicate a process on the learning curve that I have yet to master.

Reading wise I finished the book Control Point by Myke Cole and was left with mixed feelings.  On one hand I think it's a very good first novel.  It kept the pace of the story moving along quite nicely, and I like all the secondary characters.  About the only criticism I would make is that I would like to have seen some more humour in the dialogue between the characters.  However, I didn't like the main character who I thought was a whiny idiot.  Also, the mix of traditional fantasy tropes within a military SF story didn't completely float my boat.  The teaser for the sequels though did start from the consequences of the heroes actions, so Myke Cole clearly has thought through his plot, which I like.  So if you like military action set in a fantasy world this is likely to be something you'll want to read.

Finished watching Stargate SG1 season 8, which in my opinion has the worst end of a season finales of the show with a Deus ex machina time travel story called Mobius.  The acting and dialogue were good, but having the episode end with the characters not having to go on the mission just sucked.  YMMV.  Season 9 is just okay, which is sad because it has both Claudia Black and Ben Browder in it, both of whom I love from Farscape and therefore the show should be better than just okay.  Claudia steals every scene she is in and brings life an vitality to the cast, but it feels too much like old rope to me.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Writing Log 131006


This was a short week work wise for me, because I spent Monday catching up with stuff I normally do over the weekend.  Therefore this week I only managed to put my butt in the chair for four days to produce 5,822 words that brings the running total of my third novel  up to 51,295.  Not as much as I would like to have written, but for me targets are guidelines, so no real grumbles on this front.

Saturday I went along to a writers group critique session, and sat and listened to them do what they do, which was most interesting.  I'd been told that such events were quite critical, but what I observed was largely constructive, so assuming that they'll take my money I'm joining them.  To some extent this is going to be my new social group to fill in for the lack of a job where I meet people to talk to.  So all good I think.

On the watching TV front we are still working through Stargate SG1 and have just started season eight.  Season seven had what I think is one of the best end of season finales the show ever did.  It was the one where Anubis attacks Earth and the SG1 have to use the lost Ancient defense base to defeat the big bad.  All very satisfying with the X303 Prometheus and X302 fighter footage up against Goa'uld death gliders and Al'kesh attack ships while Ha'tak motherships rained fire down from orbit.  All deliciously over the top action.  Season seven also had the very moving two-parter that features the death of one of the series reoccurring secondary characters that was very well done.

One rant about the show and this is about the treatment of Samantha Carter and the writers effectively making her into the Black Widow by having all her relationships end in terminal situations.  I know that Daniel and Teal'c both lost people and O'Neill's whole story arc centers on the death of his son and separation from his wife, but Samantha is just the crash test dummy of relationship difficulties.  One could almost imagine it was as if they could think of no other way of developing her character.

Reading wise I've just started Control Point by Myke Cole, but haven't yet finished it, so I feel it's too early to comment, so I'll come back to it next week.  Off now to have a Lazy Sunday afternoon, hence the Zombies song YouTube link, and enjoy the autumnal sun coming through the windows of our flat.

Monday, 30 September 2013

The Fuller Memorandum


What a difference a day makes.  I've been without an internet connection all weekend with service restored this morning at 11.00.  All down to a fault on the voice line that BT owns.  So I've been sorting out a zillion emails, catching up with what the internet thinks and sorting out problems with one of my credit card companies login that now require cookies for their security procedure.  As someone who has set all cookies to be deleted when I quite the programme this has caused a certain amount of frustration as I was locked out of my account.  It seems that the previous change of password changes didn't take, or something.  I put in a complaint that using cookies as away of maintaining security was a dumb idea.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

Writing wise last week was not super productive as I ended up spending too much time thinking through plot points and having to write specific scenes to make everything work, which I always find hard.  On the positive side my alpha reader thinks the two chapters I wrote were great.  So total number of words for the week was 5,305, total for the month 22,760, and running total for the novel stands at 45,477.  So I'm about at the halfway point. Yay me!

Fortunately, the lack of internet access wasn't an issue for me on Saturday as I was out at an Absolute Writers forum meet-up at a pub in London (my partner on the other hand was going up the wall trying to sort it out).  I don't post a lot to the forum for several reasons.  First is that I'm not a prolific poster on any of the forums I visit.  Second, I've realised that visiting forums and reading load of posts is a time sink.  Third, American forums have a hard time with British sense of humour, especially one from a former British nurse who tends towards posting black and ironic comments in particular.

Anyway I had a nice time talking to various writers and some of their partner's.  So big shout out to all the attendees on Saturday, if you are reading this?

I was also most flattered to be asked when was I going to start submitting my work for publication by Julie, a writer I know, and as a result I'm planning on sitting in on a writing group session at some point in the near future to see if my face fits, and if I like them.

Still watching Stargate SG1 and now on season seven.  That's the one where Daniel Jackson returns as a series regular, but given the number of guest episodes he featured in during season six it never really felt like he left.  Neither season six, or seven are as punchy as season five.  They have gone back to having filler episodes about characters that don't add anything to the plot.  I think they missed the chance to up their game at several points.  There again what do I know?

Reading wise the loss of the internet meant that I sat down and blew through Charlie Stross's The Fuller Memorandum on Sunday.  It was that good it made me weep in despair and I wanted to shout out, "I hate you Charlie Stross for making me feel so inadequate as a writer, hiiiisssss, boooooo, suck."  The man can write.  One day I want to grow up to be as good a writer as him.

So that's it for another week.  See you next month.  ;-)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Writing Log 130922

Laser project my partner is working on.  Real science stuff.  Image © Imperial College 2013
Okay this week I finished reading my Sandman collection, and while by the end of it I was enjoying the process of reading it. Also,  it occurred to me that I have changed over the years, and that my annoyance at being slowed down by changing between text and image processing was a sign of me getting older, and probably an indication of age related process.  I also took a moment to reflect upon a comment made by a comic artist friend of mine that my script for The Bureau was in his opinion not drawable, which is arguable, but I can see where he was coming from, and tend to agree.

Of course last year when I dragged the text out to work on I found myself getting into an awful mess with the task of converting it from a script into a novel.  I remain hopeful that when I get back to working on it, sometime early next year, I hope that the experience gained from writing three first drafts will get me over the hump, so to speak.  I certainly feel that I have developed as a writer during the course of this year; both from a structural perspective and that I have become more skilled with words.

So this week I have managed to write 6,518 words, bringing my running total up to 40,247, and by comparison to the previous novels at this same time I am ahead of where I was when writing them.  For instance Bad Dog at the six week point I had written 29,998 and Strike Dog a very similar 29,772.  For me the lesson learnt here is that I get caught inside my own assessment of how I'm doing and think I should be doing better, when in actual fact I am doing better.  Score one point for keeping a log of my word counts, not for the numbers per se, but to keep one grounded in one's progress.  I am clearly writing consistently and the amount I'm able to write is increasing.

Away from my neurotic self obsession with failure I've been watching more Stargate SG1.  Finished season five, which was note perfect.  Not a single episode was filler.  Best season so far.  Just started season six and while it remains good, some episodes are not necessary to the overall plot behind the story arc.

Reading wise I'm still labouring my way through The Emperor's New Mind, which couldn't be more densely written if it tried.  Sorry, Hawking's did a far better job with his Brief History of Time in conveying complex ideas in an accessible manner, and I know that a lot of people who bought this book and were unable to finish it, because they thought it was hard going.  Trust me when I say that Penrose's book is a much harder read. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sandman


This has not been a good week for me health wise with a bad bout of rheumatoid arthritis sneaking up on me and laying me out flat for three days.  Still mustn't grumble could be worse, I could have no immune system at all.

The other thing that bothered me was that I seem to have lost my comics/graphic novel mojo.  I use to seriously enjoy reading graphic stories and restarted with Sandman written by Neil Gaiman, but have found myself tripping over the format with the pictures getting in the way of the story.  Probably a sign of getting old.

Still watching Stargate SG1, having just finished season four and now starting on season five.   The end of Apophis story arc was actually very well done, and one actually felt sorry for his predicament that led to his death.  I've started compiling episodes into essential arc stories, supporting episodes and filler episodes; imagining how I would edit the series to cut it down to the most action packed and character developing episodes.  This also has made me think about how I would have done the Battlestar Galactica reboot differently too, which wouldn't take that many alterations to fix the plot holes.  Such is the burden of aspiring to be a writer, one starts analyzing everything one reads and watches.

So this week my own writing has been rather limited and I only managed two days work in total for 3,036 words, which brings the running total to 33,730 words.  Hopefully, next week will be better.

I did spend yesterday doing more research for the novel I'm working on about what are minds and how to make them, courtesy of the internet and watched an interesting interview about microtubules working at the quantum level?  Unfortunately, while I can buy that for a dollar, the presenter then drifted off into uncertain territories that would have been better left alone as he undermined the veracity of his ideas with stuff that was quite frankly loopy IMO.  By that I mean I know enough about what he is talking about to understand that what he is suggesting is non-testable, and therefore fails the criteria for being based in scientific reasoning.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Principle of Angels


Another week another dollar and on the internet people have been upsetting others with their views.  Oh wait it's the internet, people are always getting upset over something someone else has said.  So no change there then.

I've just started skimming through The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky, which is nearly thirty years old according to the copyright date inside.  Had I done my research before buying it I probably wouldn't have bothered with it.  Not because it's a bad book, or because it's arguments are not interesting, but just because it isn't really telling me anything new that I didn't already know from primary research sources. If unlike me you have not been following the research into artificial intelligence then I would highly recommend this book as a good introduction to the debate on why we can make artificial non-human minds.

What is interesting is that this book is in opposition to Roger Penrose's book The Emperors New Mind, which is equally old with an original 1989 copyright date.  I've put this book down to rest, because it is hard going with pages of formulas.  Penrose takes the opposite stance to Minsky and argues against artificial intelligence.

I think both authors are right, but for different reasons.  Will we be able at some point make artificial intelligence like Minsky suggests?  Undoubtedly the answer is yes, but with certain terms and conditions that require that our technological civilization lasts long enough to achieve them.  I would liken AI to nuclear fusion and say it's about fifty years away, except that nuclear fusion is likely to happen within the next fifty years, whereas AI is in my opinion less likely to happen within that time frame, and therefore Penrose is right in that we don't know what we don't know to make an artificial mind.

It's not because I don't think it can't be done, it's because I don't think we have the theoretical base on which to construct minds outside of the good old fashioned biological imperative to reproduce ourselves.  I'm firmly in the camp that humans are biological machines, but we don't even have a pathology of mental illness that would at least be evidence that we understood how a mind works (my core professional area).

Back to the internet and the greying of the SF Worldcon, sorry can't resist commenting.  Lot's of furore amongst those that chat about some stuff about the BOF* at this years Worldcon and where have all the youngsters gone?  And OMG it's the end of fandom as we know it unless we do something.  Then comparisons are made with DragonCon and why can't the Worldcon be more like that?

All I can say is that in 1939 the SF Worldcon the idea that media convention where actors were feted was probably not in the forefront of peoples minds.  The Worldcon has historically been a convention for people interested in reading and writing SF.  As for encouraging the youngsters who go to ComicCon and DragonCon to go to a Worldcon, I would suggest that unless they are interested in reading and writing then one is probably on to a hiding for nothing.  YMMV, feel free to leave comments.

Back now to what I'm reading.  I'm currently well stuck into Jane Fenn's Principle of Angels, which I'm looking forward to finishing off this afternoon.  I'm really enjoying it and Jane's voice is so clear that I feel I'm having a conversation with her about the story and the ideas she is developing as I read each page.  Highly recommended.  On the watching front; we are still working through Stargate SG1, now on season four.

On my own writing, my work in progress has seen me add another 7,901 words to the first draft of my third novel, which now stands at 30,702 words in total.  An interesting development in how I write has occurred (the dynamic of plot versus characterization), so obviously I've blown through one of these learning points on the curve to becoming proficient novelist.

*Boring Old Fogey, or other equally suitable and or offensive term for the letter F of your choice.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Mad Scientist's Daughter


End of week three on the third novel.  I've been assiduously keeping track of my writing this year and it's interesting, for values of interesting to me, to compare the writing totals for each.  For Bad Dog I managed to write 13,303 words in the first three weeks, Strike Dog 18,124 words, and Ghost Dog 23,198 words; this seems to suggest that I'm getting better at maintaining steady progress from just the process of sitting down to write five days a week on my writing.  What I think is referred to as the craft of writing; techniques and practice.  This weeks total was 8,103 words, which included one day where I ended up writing six words, because I had a negative total from deleting a earlier passage that contradicted a later passage in the novel.  First time that has happened to me, but I expect that when I finish Ghost Dog and go back for the rewrites this will be a more common phenomenon.

Still watching Stargate SG1, now working through season three.  Some real heart breaking episodes especially when Daniel Jackson's arc gets re-booted with the death of Shauri; a real tear jerker after all this time searching for her and having his friend kill her to save his life.

On the reading front I'm well into a free book I got at Nine Worlds GeekFest called The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which is accurately described by its subtitle: A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots.  So not my usual reading matter, but it's charmingly written and quite engaging, if rather lacking in 9mm gun action.  Okay that's it for another week, catch you all on the bounce.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Stargate SG1


Well it's the end of week two on my project and I managed to type a useful 8,803 words this week, which brings the running total up to 15,150 words in total.  So not a bad place to be at the end of two weeks of writing, especially considering that Friday was a bad day where I wrote nothing because I was too tired to stay awake.  One of those days when my rheumatoid arthritis got the better of me.

Yesterday I stated reading Charlie Stross's Atrocity Archive and a rollicking good read it is too.  I, being typical me, read the second book in the series first, but even though the novels have a cast of characters that carry over from one to the other; I think I can safely say you can read them out of order, on the basis that I did and nothing untoweird came out of Planck space and turned me into goo.

I'm also reading Roger Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind, which is less than easy going due to the amount of mathematics strewn about the pages, and a tendency to literalism to illustrate a point e.g.: three pages full of zeros and ones to illustrate a u Turing machine code in binary.  I think it may take some considerable time for me to finish this book as it makes for slow reading.

We are still watching Stargate SG1 and are now well into the second season of this long standing show.  Some episode are a little bland, or the tropes have become too familiar, but there again this show started in 1997, which is sixteen years as the crow flies.  So I'm pretty disposed to liking this show as it has lots of good memories attached to it, and reminded me why I spent ten years playing in live action role playing game inspired by it.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Writing Log 130818: Ghost Dog

Last week I started work on my third novel, working title Ghost Dog.  Due to fighting off the lurg after attending GeekFest for three days last weekend I didn't manage to write everyday, so this weeks total is is only 6,079 words.  This is not as much a I would have liked to have written, but all things considered is pretty good.  What is interesting is that the second chapter has taken me in a new direction for character development that I'm told by my Alpha reader will have serious consequences for me; as in the character will now get truly pissed off at me if I do bad things to those around her.

This is the first time I've really encountered the reader owning the character that I'm writing, which I heard about on the panel where writers were talking about their experiences with their editors at GeekFest.  It is an interesting response that generates quite strong feelings of possessiveness within me.  Still, better now than later.

Wolf in Shadow


We've been re-watching Stargate SG1, which surprisingly stands up rather well all things considered.  The pilot episode in particular being very engaging, and I feel that new shows could well take a leaf from old ones about what makes a successful pilot that engages the viewer.  This being Stargate SG1, we shall be watching episodes for some considerable time, given that there are ten seasons to get through.  I shall probably call for breaks between seasons to watch new stuff that has caught my attention; like Arrow for instance.

Reading wise I've just finished reading John Lambshead's Wolf in Shadow that was a real page turner.  Liked all the characters and I'm looking forward to a sequel in due course.  I was reminded when reading a particular passage that my friend Alex Stewart had mentioned this book to me sometime ago, and that I had forgotten all about it.  It's a gritty urban fantasy story set in London and it has made me start pondering about my own London Occult novel that I have waiting for when the stars are right and I can finish writing it.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Nine Worlds Convention 2013

Left to right: John Medaney, Paul Cornell and myself.  I'm already looking like death warmed up and this was my first panel of the convention.
I had presupported the Kick Starter for Nine Worlds GeekFest when I first heard about their intent to run a multi-media SF&F convention In London, and was looking forward to attending this new event.  The crew who ran the convention did a very good job, and have already announced that they are running a second one next year.  The date for one's diary being the 8th to the 10th of August 2014.

About the only down side is that the 2014 London based SF&F Worldcon is running the week after, GeekFest and I'm not sure I'm up for two weekends on the trot, just because of how exhausting a full on weekend can be.  Anyway, I went as a punter, but found myself on three panels after my friend John Medany asked for volunteers on his FB page. 

The first panel I went to see on Friday was Cake or Death?  Plot, Pacing & Character Death, with Cake.  This had Paul Cornell, Zen Cho, Charlie Stross, Liz de Jager and Marcus Gipps who were all very entertaining.  Can't remember who was moderator though, and it's not in the programme book. This was a light paced discussion on giving the readers what they want and then taking it away from them, before giving some back i.e. start a story in a happy place, throw bad stuff at the protagonist and make things go horribly wrong, before resolving the story with a reward, which may include dying to save the world (cake & death).

Straight after this I was on my first panel with the the rather more famous Paul Cornell, Roz Kaveney and Adam Christopher talking about Comic Book Heroes on the Small Screen with John Medany as moderator.  I thought that this panel rollicked along and had a reasonable crowd considering it was held in the Radisson overflow hotel.  My only real contribution here was to suggest that small screen was now outmoded as a descriptor, and perhaps serial story format might be a better term.  I also made an observation that super heroes tend to more popular during depressions.  We discussed en passant a lot of shows and it does seem like we are in for some treats in the near future.  I'm so going to be buying the Arrow when it comes out on disc at the end of September.

After that it was time to eat and then chill with friends.

Saturday we were up bright and early, and I really don't do mornings.  Mind you none of my friends do either, and certainly some panelists were also commenting on the whole mornings are overrated thing.  I think we can all see the theme here.  So the first item we went to see was The Future of Technology and Society with Charlie Stross, Cory Doctorow, Dr. Lilian Edwards and Helen Keene moderating.  This was a very thought provoking panel and Lilian Edwards' contribution about law was especially so.

After that we went to The Publishing Panel Q&A with Editors and Agents with Marcus Gipps, Ian Drury, Anna Gregson,  Juliet Mushens and Jared Shurin; I remember Ian Drury being on the panel, but he's not listed in the programme book.  I assume this was a last minute change with Stefan Fergus, but I may have remembered this wrong.  My partner found the comments quite depressing; as in the general pessimism in the industry about having the resources to bring new talent to the market.

After that we went to a debate on Is our Future Utopian or Dystopian? SF Authors Decide.  Tricia Sullivan, Jaine Fenn, Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross were the stalwart panelists, and I believe Tom Hunter was the moderator.  Cory was about the only person on the panel who saw any light for the future and possible routes to a better society, while the rest of the panel were largely pessimistic with the caveat that they are authors and dystopia sell better, because there is more conflict.  As Jaine said, "I blow things up."  As an observer I would comment that the future is probably not going to be either, unless as Charlie said, "We get a collapse of civilisation and humanity can't rebuild because we've used all the easily accessible resources."

I then went off and did a bit of MIB stuff for Steve Jackson Games until it was time for me to go to the next panel I was on.

This was on Reunification: Star Trek versus Star Wars, which was about the effect of the Star Trek franchise now that J.J. Abrams is signed to direct the next Star Wars film.  I was definitely the left field panelist on this item, which had John Medany as the moderator, James Swallow, David McIntee and Jenny, whose name like mine isn't in the programme book, but she was awesome.  Everyone else had written for the franchise except me; my only qualification for being there was my background in game design, and being a player, which meant most of my comments were offside.

After that it was time to eat.  Then we went to see Helen Keene do a stand up routine about the space race that illuminated the history from a whacky you can't make this stuff up perspective.  She was a hoot.

On Sunday we dragged our weary corpses in for the ten o'clock panel that I had so foolishly volunteered to be on.  This was called Howdy Partner: SF Westerns, which I thought I held my own on.  Helped by my interest in Firefly and having seen Defiance recently.  Ostensibly the panel was about do we want more SF Westerns, or more shiny starships, or gritty starships fleeing the oncoming apocalypse?  I was on this with John Medany, who was again the moderator, while David & Lesley McIntee brought gravitas to the discussion as I cracked jokes at John's expense for my entourage consisting of Susan, Julie and Clive whom I had dragged along with me.

After this we went to Racefail 101, which was a talk about racial stereotypes in fiction.  Zen Cho, Tade Thompson, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Stephanie Saulter with Anne Perry as the moderator (However I don't remember Stephanie Saulter being on the panel, but another woman who had just had her first novel published whose name I forget).  After this I ended up dropping in on several other panels with Jilie until we settled on Kinda Gay: LGBT Representation in Genre TV, which just caught my interest from how the topic of gay characters are treated on TV.  This had Roz Kaveney, Gary Russell. Alex Fitch and Cleo (only name given in the programme book) talking and answering questions from the audience.  This had an interesting and lively discussion on stereotypes and lazy story telling.

After that we both decided that we were all conventioned out and went home.  I'm still recovering; I've been fighting off con crud and now I'm coming down with a sore throat, which as I said makes me think that attending two convention in one week next year will be too much like hard work.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

You Are Not So Smart

I said I was going to write something back here on my CBT blog about You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney, but after writing about Into the Woods I thought it apropos to do it here instead.  You Are Not So Smart is a collection of essays on why we as humans make so many mistakes when it comes to the way we think about things, and it has made me reflect on the way I will portray characters in future.

I've already commented on John Yorke's Into the Woods use of Freudian and Jungian theory for developing characters here.  One thing I will add is that the transition of psychology from being a branch of philosophy to becoming an area of study in its own right was driven by Freud, but he did not do good science.  By that I mean he was not skeptical of his theories, and did not seek to prove the null hypothesis through well documented experiments that could be replicated by others, which is the hallmark of good science.  So, for me, basing character development on Freud, or Jung's theory of character, which has no basis in science just seems wrong, but there again I would call myself a science fiction author.

So, if you are interested in understanding the current level of knowledge about how humans behave then I can thoroughly recommend You Are Not So Smart.  The descriptions of the various ways that people end up deluding themselves into thinking that they are doing the right thing, and the experimental research that supports the behaviours are all nicely encapsulated, which makes for easy reading.  This book is perfect fodder for when you want to write real villains; showing how they got to their position of deluding themselves into believing that they are doing the right thing.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Into the Woods


This is going to be me pontificating about John Yorke's Into the Woods book that has the subtitle of A Five Act Journey into Story.  As I said before I found this book a very involving read that presented a compelling argument about the nature of stories, namely that they must have a beginning, middle and an end, which seems kind of obvious.  However, what is discussed is that what makes the middle of the story so important to the reader is the structure of the story; namely the acts that a story is broken down into.

What John Yorke discusses is that the modern three act structure is rooted in the older Socratic five act form, and that to understand that the drama comes from understanding the psychological necessity for the mid-point.  At least if I've understood him properly that is?  I'm sorry if that sounds a little quizzical, but given the academic nature of some of the arguments being discussed, more summary and less footnotes to support the thesis, antithesis and synthesis of the necessity of acts as part of the structure of story would have been a good thing.

I have one final quibble with the authors use of Freud and Jung to underpin his arguments for the development of characters in stories.  Namely that psychology has come on a long way since the days of Freud and Jung, and that their work doesn't meet the criteria of being evidence based and open to scientific testing.

However, I learnt a lot of things about story structure, the necessity of acts and their purpose that I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be a writer.  It is that good.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Person of Interest


This week we've been watching Person of Interest, which was recommended to us by my friend John Medany.  It has sucked us both in and we've been watching three episodes a night.  The cast is excellent too and Michael Emerson who plays Mr. Finch is incredibly good.  I also like the female Detective Carter played by Taraji P. Henson who looks and feels to me like a real woman.  Great writing that both inspires me to do better and makes me feel totally inadequate to the task at the same time.  My recommendation is that you just throw your money at the computer screen and buy it now.  Come back and finish reading this blog later.

Went to see Pacific Rim, and you can read my perspective on the film here.

Reading wise I started Charlaine Harris's the first book in the True Blood series; Dead Until Dark.  Enjoying it, and it certainly makes a change from what I usually read; it's light and fluff and doesn't require anything deep from the reader.

I'm also reading a non-fiction book recommended to me by my friend Alex Stewart of Ciaphas Cain fame, on plot structure.  Called Into the Woods by John Yorke it has so far proved to be an excellent read, but I find myself reacting quite strongly to the outdated Freudian psychology used to talk about character motivation.  I will probably do a fuller overview when I've finished and given it some more thought.

Well after fifteen weeks I have finished the first draft of Strike Dog, the second of three novels I plan to write.  I found myself going through a steeper learning curve than during my first novel Bad Dog, because the structure and plot were more complicated this time round.  I now feel a bit empty as I write this, and need some time to recharge the creative juices.  So my plan is to catch up on some reading and then start the third novel, Ghost Dog, in a couple of weeks time.

So this week I wrote 4.648 words, running total for the month was 18,513, and the grand total for the first draft stands at 95,285.  Permission to cheer loudly granted!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Writing Log 130721


Ah yes four days off from writing that was still like work, for definitions of work that means requires effort from one.  So Monday I wrote 1327 words, which brings the total on the second novel up to 90,664.  So the end is in sight.

The rest of the week I was at the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies annual conference held this year at Imperial College London.  So on Tuesday I attended a workshop Implementing Emotion-Focused Techniques in Schema Therapy led by Jeff Young, which was very useful.  The room was rather too well air conditioned, so we all rushed out in the breaks to warm up in the sweltering heat of the hottest week of the year in London.

Other things I went to were number of key note speeches and several panel discussions that were very thought provoking, and I may well write about on my CBT blog.  The most useful being a talk on the Integrated Volitional/Motivational Model of suicidality.

Didn't really read much this week, though I did watch some episodes from the Japanese animation series Ghost in the Shell, which I will no doubt talk more about next week.  So Monday it is my nose back to the grindstone to try and finish Strike Dog.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Merchant Princes

 
Last week I left you all with the comment that I had started reading The Merchant Princes series by Charlie Stross that has just been reissued in three fat volumes by TOR.  I really, really enjoyed the first book, called The Bloodline Feud, and plowed straight into the sequel The Trader' War that left the plot on a cliff hanger that sucked me into the third book The Revolution Trade.  So be warned that these three books are real page turners that leave you wanting more.  It cost me two days writing this week as a result, which is not a bad thing, but is a thing.

I liked the story, the characters and the machinations of the various factions.  What I didn't like was that at the end I was left wanting more, but I've just read that he has been commissioned to write three more books in the series.  Yay!  I so want to know how the Miriam, Erasmus and James Lee relationship goes in New Britain.  I want to know what happened to Paulie and Mike?  Does Donald Ramsfield destroy the world?  Colour me excited.

Since my partner was reading the Stross books too, I ended up starting another book so we could sit reading together on the couch, rather than watch a film, or TV show together.  I had bought the latest Larry Corrria Monster Hunter Legion, which is the fourth book in the series.  Another real page turner about people who hunt monsters for a living.  It's a real hoot, and Larry has a way of making me break out in laughter with his one line wise cracks.  I love the character's too.  Another series that leaves you wanting more.

As can been seen from the above I spent a lot more time reading this week and the only film we watched was Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  This was another excellent outing for the steampunkish version of the Holmes franchise.  I have a fondness for both Downey's and Cumberbatch's versions of the great detective, as they both bring different things to the table.  Great story telling and dialogue too.  What's not to like?

Finally, only three days writing done this week, so I feel like a bit of a slacker with only 7,863 words done, which brings the running total to 89,330.  So I'm on the home stretch now.  What has been interesting, on reflection, is that I've had to work my way through what some call second novel syndrome, and what I've learned is that the craft comes from practice.

So that's it for another week, as I sit sweltering in my flat with the aircon on to start cooling down the room.  Next week I'm at a CBT conference for four days, so another week where I don't expect to get a lot of writing done.  Catch you on the bounce.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Looper & More Films I've Watched


Running a bit late this week due to spending the weekend in sunny Cambridge at my friends Kate & Malcolm's summer BBQ.  I also sloped off writing last Thursday and Friday and read instead, which was naughty of me too.  Need the break though, but this week must get back into the saddle and finish the novel.  First rule of writing finish what you start.

Stuff I watched this week included Despicable Me, WALL.E and Looper, all of which are well worth spending your valuable time watching.  Bruce Willis was very good at being himself in a story that had his older and younger versions of his character playing the antagonist and protagonist of the story.  Very clever.

Book wise I was entrapped by Mr. Stross, damn you Charlie for writing a page turner I couldn't put down.  I started reading The Bloodline Feud, which is the omnibus edition of the first two books of The Merchant Prince series.  The whole series is now available in three volumes from TOR books.  It is I understand a revised and edited version that is the author's preferred text.  All I can say is that this series has sucked me in, and I am now on book three.

My writing this week has therefore been reduced by the above diversion.  Still I managed to write 4,776 words, bringing the running total up to 81,465.  So I'm in the home stretch on my second novel.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Anime


This week we have been watching Japanese anime to wind down in the evening.  As you may be guessing I watch a lot of films on disc, and have a fairly extensive collection of films and TV shows to watch in an evening.  What attracts me most to the visual story telling medium is the dialogue, which is always inspirational when something pithy is said and sticks in one's head.  It certainly makes me try harder to write snappy dialogue in my stories, though I suspect I fail more often than I succeed.

So this week it was Denno Coil, which I can sum up as Enid Blyton's Fantastic Five meets the Matrix.  This might put you off from watching it, but quite frankly I was totally charmed, bewildered and fascinated in equal turns throughout.  The use of virtual reality overlays on real surroundings through the use of Google Glass analogues, and the childrens exploration of their world was enchanting.  A very dark story for its target audience too, which only goes to illustrate the cultural differences between the West and Japan.  As a follow-up we are now watching Girls und Panzers, which is a light and froth tale where the conceit is that driving tanks is the equivalent to flower arranging; again very Japanese.

Reading wise I currently working my way through two books.  The first is non-fiction and is called You are not so Smart by David McRaney who has a blog.  It is a collection of essays on why we as humans make so many mistakes when it comes to the way we think about things, and I highly recommend that you all go out and buy a copy as it's that good.  No really, stop reading this and go buy it now.  It deserves a longer post than this, and I'll write something longer on my CBT blog when I get around to it.

The other book is Star Corpsman: Bloodstar by Ian Douglas, is the first in a new series about Marines in space.  I've enjoyed reading his other USMC in space books in the past.  It's certainly an engaging tale, but I'm finding some of the story telling structure intrusive.  This may just be down to me be more critical of his writing now that I'm writing myself.

Finally, my writing log for this week shows that I wrote 10,614 words, which is not to be sniffed at, except by my computer that tells me I failed to meet my targets to finish the first draft on schedule.  This month I've written a total of 36,067 words and the first draft of Strike Dog stands at 76,803 words.

Last night, while snuggling in bed with my partner we were talking about the new chapters I'd written this week, which I got me to start thinking about the next story.  I didn't fall off to sleep easily last night because of that as ideas swam around my head, kicking down doors and just demanding I pay them some attention.  Needless to say when recounting this at the breakfast table this morning in the cold harsh light of dawn (9.30am, but it felt like dawn to me) it all seemed a bit less than the awesomeness I had in my head last night.  Still I'm going to go now and make some notes.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Cloud Atlas


Friday night I finally got to watch Cloud Atlas.  What can I say?  I tell you what I said; I want to watch this again.  It really engaged me and moved me to tears.  I was crying for the characters and for the exquisite writing, which made me wish I could write like that.  There have been complaints over white actors made up to look like Chinese people, but in my opinion these complaints miss the point, because they have black actor made up to look white, and a Chinese actor presenting as a white person.  To complain about this is miss the point of the movies, which is to have the actors play multiple rolls to provide the narrative connection between the six stories.

One of the films watched during the last week include, Tin Tin, where the opening credits bored me, and I initially had an uncanny valley reaction to the CGI motion capture characters.  However, after the introduction of Snowy the dog I was swept away in a joyous world of comedy and adventure like no other.   I also rewatched Kick Ass, which I saw in the cinema and finally bought to watch again.  The first time round I was less than impressed with the movie, as I didn't think it was as good as the hype.  Having watched it for the second time I can say I enjoyed it more.  Nicholas Cage's standout performance is one of the best things I've seen from him.

Other films watched included Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which are perennial favourites in my household, which we rewatched again because of the new Pegg & Frost movie that is due out soon.  Last, but not least rewatched Scott Pilgrim, which was a hoot.

As for my writing this week, I managed end up doing 9,242 words, which given that by the of Monday's work day I had only written 63* words, was a bit of a comeback.  Running total for the first draft now stands at 66,208

* This was all down to having to take a sleeping tablet after a series of very disturbed nights of sleep from to a combination of pain, and the noise of London Underground working on the tube line that runs past our flat.  My head was just empty on Monday, even though I had slept like a log from taking the tablet, which only goes to show what the side-effects of medication can have on one.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Films I've Been Watching


I had a mad moment when thinking to myself that I should rename my diary and call it my log, for the reason that it is a nod to Star Trek.  I can then delude myself into thinking I'm the Captain of the starship USS Writing a Novel NCC2013 and have those voice overs so beloved of the TV series.  Though of course a ship called Writing a Novel is more of shout out to the late Iain M. Banks Culture series than Gene Roddenberry's work.

I said all that I can think of saying about Iain here, but my friend Jaine Fenn wrote a nice tribute here.  As a result the beginning of the week I was on a bit of a downer, which affected my writing.  I chose to cheer myself up by watching some films.  Dredd, which was excellent, and Southland Tales where we decided to eject the disc at 45 minutes and watch MegaMind instead.  That was a good choice.  It had witty dialogue, good characterization and was funny too.  Last night we watched V for Vendetta again, which in my opinion only gets better each time I watch it.

Over the last few weeks we have also watched season five of True Blood, which sagged a little just before the end, but pulled out all the stops for the finale.  Continuum season one that showed a lot of promise.  Finally, watched the fifth and final season of Fringe, which has been one of my favorite shows, and it hit all the emotional nails on the head with the resolution of story arc.

Now if only I could write dialogue as good as in my favourite shows.

Well wishing ain't going to make it so, only blood, sweat and tears will do that.  So this week I managed to write 7,255 words, which brings the first draft of my second novel up to 56,970 words. I'm just about to enter what can be called the third act, where the shit hits the fan, things get serious, and really bad things happen to the characters.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Writing Log 130609


This week I caught off my FB page a link to the Hon. Paul Hellyer - Canadian Minister of National Defense announcing the aliens are here already, and that there are four different factions.  This made for interesting viewing, though probably for all the wrong reasons.  Trust me I say I really want to believe, but I truly don't believe that we have been contacted by aliens.  Colour me skeptical about anyone who argues for conspiracies about aliens and the New World Order.

However, as fodder for inspirational ideas, or wrinkles to how one tells a story then I'm good for this kind of stuff.  So I started to imagine how the aliens in my current story must be reacting to cross shaped unidentified flying objects that they can see in the skies above their heads, and how my science team are affecting the society that they are observing as they initiate first contact with them.

Spooky synergistic stuff, because I then began discussing this with my partner and talking about how titles with X in them are seen as cool.  For definitions of cool anyway, and I said The Ring of X, and my partner replied X-Dog.  From such light hearted Sunday morning banter the end of the Bad Dog universe sprung forth, with the questions of what happens when all the pigeons come home to roost, so to speak?

Another week, another dollar, or in this case another blog entry.  A bit of me feels slightly sheepish that I haven't finished wring up a couple of other posts on things I've been watching, and for that matter an article on micro versus macro writing and one on character versus plot.  Been too focused on working on my second novel in progress Strike Dog, which as far as I'm concerned is a good thing.

So this week my record diary tells me that I managed a tad short of ten thousand with 9,968 words written.  This is the best I've done since starting this novel nine weeks ago, and I have now reached 49,728 words.  The writing is not any easier, but it is flowing better,  Things are falling into place as I hit my marks on plot turns and character developments, discovering things in the process.  So I enjoyed my writing this week.

Yesterday I went as a guest to a writers group in London to hear a very informative talk by one of the commissioning editors of Gollancz.  I also got to meet a few over writers and hang with the cool kids I guess.  Gave me a lot to mull over and think about.  It confirmed that my plan to just write novels, as a way to learn how to write, seem like a good idea and that waiting before I go back to rewrite number one was an okay strategy.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Scrivener


This last week has been an interesting one for me in that it represents extremes of creativity versus productivity.  On Tuesday I had one of those days where I sat down and worked for a solid six hours and added zero words to my first draft, and yet it someways it was the most creative day I had this week.  As I have mentioned before I use Scrivener, and you can colour me as a fan of this piece of software.

So on Tuesday I spent my day using the cork-board function of Scrivener to do some much needed work on the plot of Strike Dog, which had been bugging me big time.  Most of this had to do with the timing of certain things and having gotten them in the wrong order.  The end result was a story that was getting bogged down as I couldn't figure how to write the scenes that connected all the events together.

By the end of the day I had moved the seven point structure that I use to build stories around so that cause and effect made sense.  I was showing my partner this and at the end demonstrated the outlining function of Scrivener, which up to now I haven't really used.  So I also learnt a bit more about how to use Scrivener, and how to structure and outline a story.  A win-win scenario if there ever was one.

Needless to say I only managed to write 456 words on Wednesday, which was a bit disappointing.  However, on Thursday and Friday the words flowed like spice being mined on Arrakis.

So this weeks total was 5,863 words.  Total for the month stands at 22,725 words, and the first draft of Strike Dog is now 39,803 words.  So I'm reasonably pleased with my progress this month.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Silence: Book 1 of The Queen of the Dead


Well it's May bank holiday weekend here in Britain, and Memorial Weekend in the States, so I am with my partner hanging out and generally kicking back.  Yesterday was definitely a lazy day as I didn't sit down to write my weekly progress diary, hence the one day delay until today.

I've just re-read Starship Troopers again, which never fails to surprise me each time I read it. This time I walk away with some new insights about the writing style and the plot of the story.  Heinlein, despite his faults, is one of my core SF writers from the time when I was a very impressionable youngster.  As such I remember the works of his I read quite fondly.  The only book of his that I don't particularly like is Farnham's Freehold.

I also read an urban fantasy book called Silence: Book 1 of The Queen of the Dead by Michelle Sagara yesterday.  Indulging in the luxury that comes from reading a good book rather than trying to write one.  I was really captivated by the opening chapter of this book.  The writing style is absolutely lovely, and I read the whole book in one sitting, which doesn't happen often to me nowadays.  I can't think of a better recommendation than that.

As for my own humble writing efforts this week I managed to take twenty-six letters and arrange into combinations that added up to 5,214 words, which makes my running total for the month so far 16,862 and the first draft of Strike Dog has now reached 33,951 words.

On this note, one of my readers commented that word count is a poor measure of writing progress.  I suspect that by progress he means something more than number of words written, which is correct.  However, I'm a cognitive behavioural therapist by trade, and one thing that we do is take measures.  My diary, for me, is about having a tool to measure my progress in achieving the goal of finishing a book.  It helps me to look back at my work when I'm feeling I haven't achieved very much, and see that I've written more than I thought I had.  I shall have to come back and unpack this more at a later date.

So enjoy the rest of the weekend and catch you on the bounce.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Terrible Minds: 25 Things


Over at Chuck Wendig's blog terribleminds this week he posted another of his 25 Things posts that he does so well.  This week it was on outlining and helped me through another tough week of writing.  So thank you Chuck.

As I was thinking about how to write my diary this week I thought I could try my hand at 25 good things that I learnt from Chuck.  Unfortunately, I'm not Chuck, and I just don't have that mad joie de vivre thing going for me that he does so well.  Instead I have my usual diary that I maintain as a way of keeping a grip on reality, as defined by my ability to maintain forward progress with my second novel.

So this week I recorded that I managed to do another 5,171 words, which brings the novels running total up to 28,753.  In some aspects I feel I've made a breakthrough in that I know I'm now into the second act of the novel and know what my story is about.  Now it is down to how I write that story, which is still evolving in its details.

I've also managed to finish reading Evan Wright's Generation Kill.  This story makes a fine bookend to Nathaniel Fick's One Bullet Away that I mentioned in a previous post.  It has left with much to think about.

One thing Wright wrote was that the war in Iraq was a lot like the film Groundhog day.  Each days fighting in Iraq presents the same problems over-and-over again, and each day the Marines go out and try to do the right thing.  Funnily enough my first novel has that whole groundhog day thing going on for the main character who is trying to make things go the right too.

Serendipity, or what?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Genre v Literature

Back here I talked about theory versus practice. Today I'm going to unpack my thoughts about the title of this post by drawing up a list of what I think of as science fiction novels that I've been told are not genre works, but rather literature.
Frankenstein
The Time Machine
War of the Worlds
Brave New World
1984
On the Beach
Canopus in Argos
The Handmaid's Tale
These are only given as examples, and people's opinions may vary on whether or not they are works of science fiction?

In the case of Doris Lessing's Canopus in Argos series, the literary critics have argued she wasted her time writing SF (As an aside I was once Doris Lessing's minder at a science fiction convention, tasked with making sure the fans wouldn't overwhelm her and help her navigate around the convention).  That's what gets my goat.  The assumption that writing genre is a waste of time.

It seems to me that the qualities most ascribed to literature is that they are stories that are written and read as if they were set in a timeless now.  The primary purpose is to describe the human condition, which I understand to be that of fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Style and form take precedent over story and plot.  Finally, the writing of the story is in, and of itself, part of the artistic process, which is a journey for the writer who characters are discovered through the process of writing the novel.  Therefore literature is something that is superior to genre, because it talks about the human condition and therefore has lasting value.

Now I may have misunderstood what I thought I was being told, so any mistakes in characterizing the above case are mine.

However, while a novel may have lasting value, I would argue that this is a product that arises from the passage of time.  Take Shakespeare as an example.  Now considered to be timeless, but there was a long period when his works fell out of favour and were then rediscovered.  So unto each generation a new literature born, to paraphrase Joss Whedon.  The one true thing that can be said is that the definition of literature changes.

If one agrees that is true, then all the works in my list can be both literature and genre.

So perhaps the question is why is genre less than literature, given that the definition is style and substance that allows for classification?  So in short all literature fits within a genre.  In my experience as a therapist people have a need to divide things into true versus false, good versus bad, which is binary thinking that becomes all, or nothing.  I believe that things are generally on a continuum of yes, no and maybe, which changes according to the evidence.

Therefore when critics seek to separate works into literature versus genre they are working against the historical roots of writing by creating a false dichotomy where none needs to exist.  Please feel free to discuss and disagree with me.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Writing Log 130512

Me in front of the USN Hornet CVS 12 now a museum at Alameda, which I've based my descriptions of what it is like to be aboard a naval vessel in my novel Bad Dog.  Don't make up what you can steal from what is real.
Another hard week for me as I slowly dragged words from out the darkness that is my inner psyche screaming into the light.  Part of the dynamic is my desire to not write a pastiche of something I have never experienced.  In this case a description of what one has to go through Marine Corps Officer Cadet School, as the last thing I want to do is make myself look like a fool.  So I've been stealing from my research resources and make them my character's experience.  Note the word steal, not plagiarize.  The difference is the the former makes it mine, whereas the latter just uses stuff without understanding it.

Anyway that is hard work and writing slowed down as a result.  I spent time restructuring three chapters into two new chapters, followed by shuffling the sequence of the first eight chapters.  In between doing this I wrote a the first draft of a review for a magazine article.

So by the end of last week I had only managed to advance my novel by 3,646 words, bringing the running total up to 23,582 and I feel a bit lost in the story.  My second novel is proving to be a harder story to bring into the world than the first.  I'm therefore treating this as a learning curve and riding the wave as best I can.

Been re-reading One Bullet Away and comparing it with Generation Kill by Evan Wright, which tells the Iraq invasion part of Fick's story from the perspective of an embedded reporter.  Fascinating reading.