Friday, 31 January 2014

Logical Fallacies

Click to enlarge.
This week there has been some unpleasantness on the internet, which in the bigger scheme of things amounts to not a lot of anything, all things considered.  However, it strikes me that it behoves all of us to keep in mind when making arguments not to fall into the trap of making logical fallacies.  The above illustration, which you can click on for a larger image, outlines some useful ones to remember when posting opinions on the internet.  For a fuller list try here.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Apocalypse Codex

I started reading The Apocalypse Codex, another volume in the Laundry series, by Charlie Stross that I ended up finishing in one day, which should tell you how much I both enjoyed it, and how much I was drawn in to the story.  

Our hero, Bob Howard, is again sucked into the machinations of the Laundry and manages to come out of the shit smelling of roses.  Charlie has a great way with phrasing things, and a light touch that just makes this a fun book to read.  I stand in awe.  Great characters, good dialogue and a compelling story.

We also started watching the second season of The Professionals this week, which despite being dated in many ways from the way it's shot, the pacing and the time it's set in, remains interesting viewing for many reasons.  It's also great for period research into what was around in the late seventies and early eighties; no mobile phones, and no pagers are used until the third season.  

All grist to the mill for me as I work on The Bureau.  Needless to say it fails the Bechdel test big time.

Writing wise this week has been good for me with a total of 8,612 words produced.  So I now have 32,167 words done, and I have sent the revised first eight chapters to my alpha reader that nicely forms Act one.  In my opinion, quality of writing aside, this is from a structural perspective the best first opening act I've written to date.

More important than the number of words I wrote this week, was the amount of editing and revising that Scrivener allowed me to make during the weeks work that has allowed me to transform the mess I called a plot into something that works.  

I love the way that Scrivener allows me to switch stuff around and make the job of writing a novel more straight-forward than just using a word processor and some other means of managing the research and character files. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ancillary Justice

I've just finished reading Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice this week, which makes it the first novel I've read this year.  For double bonus points I've added a new author to my authors I have read list, and for triple bonus points a book by a woman.  

The latter shouldn't really matter in the bigger scheme of things, but it does, because women are hidden in the SF genre by those who only see novels by white middle class males as being worthy of merit.

This book is wonderful.  It's about an AI, and more importantly it's well written with excellent characters, a good plot and great description.  It made me want to curl up when I finished reading it, because it was that good and I felt so sucky as a writer.  

It's fairly hard space opera, it has FTL, but everything else seems to obey the laws of physics.  The best thing about the novel is the challenging perspectives and use of the female pronoun as the neutral descriptor of gender that gives the story its sense of describing a truly alien culture.  I'm now looking forward to the sequel, you can read Ann's blog here.

Watching stuff this week was split between finishing off Grimm season two, and then going back and finishing off Space: Above and Beyond.  

Watching Grimm was really like being addicted to crack-cocaine, which depending on one's perspective can either be seen as a good thing, or indicative of the writers producing fan service.  Season two ended on a cliffhanger and of course that leaves us waiting for more.  

We hates them we do.

Finishing off Space: Above and Beyond was a bit of a curate's egg, bad, but with good bits.  

The bad bits are all obvious and can be found easily enough online; for example the science is appalling and the representation of military organisation laughable.  The good bits are that some of the stories were punching way above the quality of the series, and the ending to season one was a real carpet being pulled out from under the feet of the characters understanding of what was going on, and of course killing off one of the characters and putting two more in dire jeopardy was to be expected.  

There were hints to the viewer throughout the series that all was not what it seemed, but the characters very rarely got to see the big picture.  It's a show that could well stand a re-boot, if they attended to the issues that kicked the viewer out of the story e.g: having a better rationale for pilots who are used as grunts.

The end of the second week of writing my new novel that ended up with me spending three days editing Bad Dog after getting the first lot of feedback from one of my beta readers.  So this week I only managed 2,143 words on The Bureau, bringing the running total for my fourth novel up to 23,539.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Looking Back on 2013

On my pile of books to be read soon as I want to revisit this old favourite that made a big impression on me when I first read it all those years ago.  I was fortunate enough to meet Arthur C. Clarke at a small one day convention in London called Lunicon in 1976.

Over the last few months you may have noticed I've put more tags on my posts, and I've tried to make the blog reader friendly, for what is mostly a diary of my progress as a writer that I keep as a tool to strengthen my change of direction in my career.  If averages could be calculated from total page views then this blog receives about two hundred views per post.  The truth is a lot different.  On average I get between fifty and a hundred views per page, except when I don't.

Looking at the page tally the biggest hit last year was the post I did on Arthur C. Clarke about reading The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night with over 1200 hits.  I imagine that most of these were Googlebot hits, but I may be wrong.  Certainly it suggests I should mention Arthur C. Clarke more on my blog if I want to get more hits per post, as if I would ever do something like that!

I've just heard that John Lambshead is working on the sequel for Wolf in Shadow, which was one of the standout new author reads for me last year.  You heard it here first, or not if it's the case that you follow John's blog.  The other standout new author to me that I read last year was Michelle Sagara's Silence.  I recommend both of these books as well worth the time and trouble to hunt them down and buy them.

As I've said I've still working on the how the blog looks, what I put on it and making sure that things are tagged so that people can find their way around the content.  A lot remains personal diary keeping of what I write, but I intend to keep posting about stuff I've been reading and watching too.  Thank you for reading.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


As I said here we really got bitten by season one of Grimm, and my partner went and ordered season two, which we are now nearly at the end of watching.  Seriously addictive fun, and it is nice to see the format of the show develop with all the hints about the background of the world.  While the cast is largely male centric it does have several strong female characters, and it passes the Bechdel test too.  So highly recommended.

Work wise this week I've started my fourth novel, which was the one I abandoned back at the beginning of last year to write my Military SF trilogy.  This one's working title is The Bureau, which will be changed as and when I can decide on a better name for it.  The first couple of days were spent picking apart the earlier draft and compiling a version that I was happier with.  The next day was spent redoing the outline and putting in a five act structure, adding characters to the story bible, and doing research.

By end of all that I was feeling less than awesome, because it's a lot of work that doesn't feel like one has a lot to show for it, but as they say writing is writing.  Got down to drafting the first new chapter one, to replace the old chapter one and managed to 3,258 words done this week.  This brings the first draft up to 21,789 words.  I've also realized that I wrote 18,552 words last year that I hadn't accounted for, but I've decided to compile them with this years totals instead, just because I can really.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Reflecting on Work: Year 1

Last year was a one where my achievements exceeded my original expectations.  My initial aim was to fulfill a promise I made to my partner that I would not waste my time sitting at home doing nothing, but would write a novel.  In the end I wrote the first drafts of three novels and I've started on the fourth this week.  In addition I have maintained a steady stream with forty-nine posts over the nine months from when I first started, which is also good.

As I was saving off my blog posts I found that I had written an additional 18,518 words that when added to the posts I made to my other blogs bumped up my total to 29,984 words.  On top of that I wrote five reviews for magazines totalling 12,735 words.  Adding the 285,361 words I wrote for the novels I get a grand total of 318,080 words produced this year.  Not bad for the first year of writing.  Of course not bad depends on one's definitions of success, or productivity, which I think is a very slippery concept for writers who are effectively self-employed.

Author friends of mine say to me that the industry standard is 2000 words a day.  So, if we divide my total of 318,080 words by 365 one can easily see that I failed to reach a thousand words a day, with an average of only 871 words per day.  But here's the thing, how many writers write everyday, 365 days a year, apart from possibly Stephen King?

Putting my former NHS head back on for a moment I know that no one builds a service plan based on each member of staff working 52 weeks a year.  For a start there are the statutory Bank holidays that adds up to ten days, and the five day working week to consider.  On top of that are mandatory training days, annual and sick leave to account for.  Realistically the best one can get is an average of 42 weeks work out of an employee; though I recognize that this is not something a self-employed person has the luxury of enjoying, but I'm using it as a guideline to assess my productivity.

Therefore if I use 210 days as a baseline and divide my grand total by that I get an average of 1514 words per day, which feels about right to me.  By that I mean I expect to hit 1500 words on most of the days I write and can exceed that on a good day.  The point of all of the above pontification is that being a writer is rather a singular profession where self doubts can often loom large about one's productivity and one's value as a person.  This is my way of challenging the doubts I have about myself using the evidence I have gathered.

Thank you for reading, your support is truly welcome.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

2014 Another New Year

A better late than never New Year post to mark the passing of the days.  As you can see from the above picture it rained here on New Years Day.  

However, despite the miserable weather, over the Xmas period I've been editing the first draft of Bad Dog and I'm nearly ready to send my baby out to be eaten by the Beta readers, I mean sent out to be read and enjoyed.  It now stands at 90,582 words, which means I removed about 2,500 words from the novel during the second draft.

In spite of the writing I've been doing I've largely been taking it easy, eating good food, drinking nice wine and watching films and the odd program on TV.

On the TV front we saw and enjoyed both Dr. Who and Sherlock.  I enjoyed both immensely.  

We saw a bunch of films.  First off was the original Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston, the original and the best of the series in my opinion.  Then we watched The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy that was a scream, and I hope these two actresses get to do another project together as they really spark off each other.  

My partner got us The Host, that was surprisingly good and very engaging, but it is a chick flick.  Then we watched World's End with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman that I was really looking forward to seeing.  It has a kicker of an ending too.

After that we started on mainlining the series we got, starting with Grimm season one.  

While I cannot argue that the format of the show is repetitious, the stories and the character interactions are brilliant, and we have just gone and ordered season two.  It's that good.  

In the meantime while we wait for Amazon to deliver our order we have just started on Space: Above and Beyond that has recently become available on region two.  It's an oldie from 1995 that only saw one season.  

It has its problems, but some of the stories we have watched so far have been outstanding, having the characters tackling hard issues.  The biggest problem is the writers lack of of understanding about the military organization and chain-of-command, which leads to some real foot in mouth plots where our Marine Aviators are sent on missions where grunts would be sent instead.

I managed to finish Chris Moriarty's Spin State too, which I really enjoyed reading again.  The book has some wild out of the box extrapolation based on quantum entanglement that is mind blowing.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes hard SF that pushes the boundaries.


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