Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 6

 

The last of my summer fun reading posts.

I bought this book by Sarah A. Hoyt, who was new to me on the strength of her blogging, called A Few Good Men.  However, this ended up as one of those books I bought and didn't get around to reading for a while.  But in all fairness, to both her and myself, I have quite a few of these; though not as many as some people I know.

I'm reluctant to try reading a new author, which when I was young would never have crossed my mind, but not it has become a thing.  Probably a sign of my impending old age and countless disappointments in the past.

Initially I was umh and aahs as I started this book as it reminded me of The Count of Monte Cristo––in space!  Except its not, as it's set on Earth, in the future where a few good men have taken over and rule the Earth.  So, not really such good men after all.  But, once I settled into the tale of over-throwing the good men I was charmed by the story, which is different enough from the novel that clearly inspired it to be engaging.

The only reason I haven't picked up any other of her books is that finding the first book in the Darkship series, to which A Few Good Men is a side novel, has proven to be difficult.  However, I have a little list, and I shall hunt down copies in due course.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 5


Last weeks failure to post means that this week I get to put two up.  The next book I dived into from my to be read pile was Glen Cook's masterpiece The Dragon Never Sleeps.

I commented on Passage at Arms here, as it is one of the great military SF novels of the genre, but I'd never gotten around to reading his other military SF novel.  This is partly down to how difficult it has been to get hold of a copy,.  And remember I don't do E-Readers or enjoy reading fiction on a monitor; and you can call me an old fuddy-duddy if you like.

Let me start by saying they don't write books like this anymore, as in this drops you in the deep end, and just expects you to keep up.  It also expects the reader to be acquainted with the tropes and able to keep up with concepts that are mentioned in passing.  This is hard SF, where the characters are not more important than the plot and the ideas, which is opposite to what I see today where characters are considered to be the most important factor in a story.

It was every bit as good as its reputation would make it sound.  Can't say more than that.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 4

 

I had meant to put this up last week, but work demands meant I was tied up with more pressing matters.  The result was too much to do in the time available.  However, this has meant I will be able to implement some decisions I've been putting off due to a lack of time over the last 18 months.

Enough of the business side of being an aspiring novelist, because writers like to read too.  After finishing the Andromeda series by Dietz,  I jumped into reading the sequel to Dead Six by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari called Swords of the Exodus.

This is not in any shape or form SF.

There's some mild fantasy flavour, but not enough to remove it from the real world.  Rather it treats some real world conspiracy theories and gives them a twist that could be explained by either being supernatural or alien artifacts.  We shall see how it pans out in the third book.  I enjoyed it, and the gun stuff is excellent.  From reading around the web, I understand that this places the book in the male dominated action and adventure genre.

I may have misunderstood.

Regardless, this second book also clearly shows both author's development as writer's.  The characterization is superior to the first book: as in both Valentine and Lorenzo are more clearly defined as people in their own right.  In the first book, it was sometimes unclear from the voice of the character, who-was-who, except by referring to the chapter headings.  This time I was never in any doubt about which character I was seeing the narrative through.

So again, recommended, and I can't wait for the third book to come out in paperback so I can find out what happens next.  As a further recommendation I went and bought Mike Kupari's first novel, Her Brother's Keeper, on the strength of reading this.

Damn, another book added to the to be read pile: current running total 31.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 3

 

My sudden spurt of reading has been driven by seeing the size of my unread book pile.  My original count was 38 novels sitting around, gathering dust, and generally sniggering at me while lowering property values.

That's a joke for those with no sense of humour.

This motivated me to dive into my unread pile, but I have to confess that I have recently bought some new books.  The new arrivals include the William C. Deitz's novel Into the Guns, which is the first in a new series; Tanya Huff's new Confederation novel A Piece Divided; and Larry Correia's Monster Hunter Siege, which I bought in hardback because I couldn't wait despite knowing I won't read it immediately I had to have it.

Colour me a fan of the Monster Hunter series.

So my unread novels currently stands at 30 books: made up of 16 new books, and 14 old books to be re-read.

I've known about William C. Dietz's work for a while, but like all things, it can take me a while to get around to reading an author.  He's known for his Legion of the Damned series, but I didn't start there, but rather with his prequels series that begins with Andromeda Falls.

I found this an enjoyable read.  The heroine, who starts from a place of comfort,  has to escape assassination when the new Empress takes to the throne and decides it is a necessary thing to kill all the supporters and relatives of the old emperor.  It's a reversal of the rags-to-riches plot with added murder, death, and intrigue set against the French Foreign Legion in space!  And by this I mean Dietz uses the heritage of French Foreign Legion as the framework for a future version as the setting of his story.

It works for me, it may not work for people who are not interested in or who abhor military history being seen as something other than a blot upon humanities record as a species.  I breezed through the series, made easier by the fact that each book starts where the other finishes.  So, this is truly a trilogy, and not a series of three books set in the same universe.  The ending is clearly delineated, and though I've not read the main series, it serves the purpose of being a prequel for the Legion of the Damned, and is a good introduction to Dietz's Legion setting.

The fact that I bought a copy of the first book of his new series tells you all you need to know.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Brian Aldiss RIP

 

My long-term followers who read this blog will remember that I first mentioned Brian Aldiss during the London SF Worldcon, LonCon 3, here.  Where a  bunch of enthusiastic fans sang happy birthday to him.  A happy memory.

A moments reflection reminds me that this was five years ago to today.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Brian back in 2015 at the British Science Fiction Association and Science Fiction Foundation jointly run day long event, imaginatively called the Mini-Convention, which you can read about here.  What I wrote there, where I said, "...given that he's not getting any younger (none of us are) it seemed like an opportunity we should take."

So, another icon of my youth has died, the by all accounts peacefully in his bed on the 18 of August.  At the age of ninety-two he's had a good run.  It feels a little bit sad to realize that I've not read any of his books in years or reviewed any of them on my blog.  I can see a re-read at some point in the future.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 2


After finishing the Grimnoir Chronicles I started reading Michael Z. Williamson's A Long Time Until Now.

Some of my friend's don't like American libertarian science fiction.  I've often expressed the opinion that I don't like science fiction which espouse communism.  So I understand that certain ideologies can put readers off.  However, on reflection, after an email exchange with a different friend, I would recognize that both are in essence science fictional utopias.  One based on individual freedom, the other based on communal sharing.

In my professional capacity as a cognitive behavioural therapist I think neither can be implemented, because it would require an evolutionary change in homo sapiens sapiens genome to effect either.

Having skated around politics, lets move back to the text.

Williamson's latest book is in my mind not as good as his Contact with Chaos story.  However, A Long Time Until Now shares a lot of the things that made his other book very interesting.  The description of paleolithic life and arising social structures within a science fictional framework displays a stunning knowledge of history from extensive research.

What let it down, for me, was its length, and the ending.

A Long Time Until Now is a long book, and while I didn't feel it was too long or poorly paced, the story does take it time to unfold.  The bigger disappointment was that the ending didn't quite nail it, because I was left wanting to know more, but its pretty clear there won't be a sequel.

Saying that, I would recommend getting it anyway and reading it for the masterful research.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Summer Reading Fun: Part 1


I met Larry Correia back when he came over to Blighty to sign a  few books and go to book fairs, and you can read my piece I wrote then here.  I'm a big fan of his Monster Hunter series, and contrary to any impression you may have of him, he is actually very nice and his wife Bridget is easy to talk to too.  So, I've had copies of his Grimnoir Chronicles sitting on my to be read pile, which has been irritating me for a while–I hate having too many unread books sitting around lowering property values, I mean collecting dust in my flat.

The problem was I had heard Hard Magic being read on the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast, and quite frankly I found it only mildly interesting to listen to.  But it had been a while so I felt beholden to read the first book before reading the sequels, and I'm glad I did.  The reading experience was far superior than the listening one, and I delved into the sequel, Spellbound, and then Warbound, the third book of the trilogy, consuming them with gusto.

On reflection I think it has to do with pace.

Spoken word speed is between 110 to 160 word per minute.  I read at around 350 to 450 words per minute, which is not meant to be a boast, it's just my average reading speed of a minute per page.  So, the experience of listening to Hard Magic had made it feel slow and dull, even though the narrator was good––it wasn't his fault––it's the format that I don't like.  When I read a book, I'm carried along by the pace I read at.  An interesting book grabs me and drives me to finish reading it.

It is amazing what a difference that makes.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Story Ideas


The other week I spent one of my writing days blogging, taking pictures and letting thoughts noodle around in my head.

I also sorted through my projects, I have several folders full, and did what was effectively a spring clean.

Decided to open a new Scrivener file for a novel set around Saturn. Working title: The Conflict, and then I realized that's a tad meta.  Noodling ideas for a proper title, and brainstorming plot ideas, which looks a lot like staring into space.  I have an idea for the opening scene set around Saturn, but the middle and end of the story or to be technical what's it all about still eludes me.

Or, as I write this I realize what I have may actually be the end of the story, leading to the final confrontation and conclusion.  Such is the way of ideas, they happen.

In amongst all this noodling I ended up writing an extra 517 words, got to catch them all, on my finished fifth draft of Strike Dog, which was telling me it wasn't quite as finished as I thought it was.  Running total for the finished draft is 103,660 words, which has now gone back to my Alpha reader for her to peruse.

Now I'm starting on the next draft of Ghost Dog, where I already know I have to write ten new scenes–two lots of story arcs, one to add back a missing plot element, the other to give a bigger picture of what's happening for the reader.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Science For Fiction 2017


This is the third year in a row that I've attended the conference, come workshop, come convention that is Imperial College London's Science in Science Fiction.  It is run by the energetic Dr. David Clements, who can call on world class experts to present on a diverse range of topics of interest to any science geek who wants to write stories with up to the minute science in them.

Wednesday afternoon we all met up for the first talk, which was about the Square Kilometre Array and the Epoch of Reionization by Emma Chapman.  A fascinating look at how science is pushing our knowledge of the beginnings of the universe further back in time through advances in technology, and how we are getting to the stage where the amount of information that can be amassed will exceed our ability to record it.


Next up was a talk on Titan and Cassini by Ingo Mueller-Wodarg that explained the importance of what has been found, and what the mission hopes to get from the final end run that bring the mission to a close with the spacecrafts destruction in Saturn's atmosphere.



Thursday began with the presentation Ending the Universe by Arttu Rajante, who clearly is enjoying his research.  He presented an interesting talk on the Higgs Boson and what finding it means under the current Standard Model.  Basically the end of the universe will be driven by the Higgs Boson forming an expanding singularity that will eat the universe at near light speed; in about 10 ^ 160 years from now.


After  that the next talk brought us back to the present with a talk on Visiting Mars, with a VR Demonstration & discussion by Sanjeev Gupta who is a geologist who works with the Curiosity programme.  Fascinating stuff that discussed the historical development of Mars and future plans to explore the Red planet.


Extremophiles and Synthetic Biology by Robert Weinzierl was next.  Unfortunately my picture of Dr. Weinzierl has too much motion blur to use, which I didn't notice when I took it.  He discussed how life adapts to extremes and this fed back into the problems with sterilizing spacecraft that we want to send to other planets that may have life.

Forming Stars & Planets by Tom Haworth was the final talk.  He covered what we think we know, what we actually know, and what we need to know about how stars, planets and star systems form.


By the end of the final talk I was feeling pretty exhausted from the heat, which was not surprising given the temperatures in London.

Friday, 30 June 2017

June Reflection

This writer's metaphorical coal face, where all the magic happens, as in putting one word after another.  Picture taken by me, processed by Susan because I used her fish-eye lens to get everything in.

It's June and over on the Mad Genius blog earlier this month I found an interesting post, which stimulated me to sit down and reflect on this years writing so far.

Reflecting on my own writing this year, which has felt laboured, as in not enough and what I've done has been a bit of a slog, I looked at what I've done.

For the Galactic Journey fan site I've written six articles:
January Freeze (The Great Explosion, by Eric Frank Russell)
February Thaw (tales from the British fan)
A convention of a different colour (Eastercon in the UK)
“To ride on the curl’d clouds” (ARIEL ONE)
Old And New (UK’s New Worlds Magazine)
A is for Armchair Theatre (Out of this World – UK’s new sff anthology)
These six pieces total up to 5,434 words.  My blog here totals 5,090 words (excluding this piece).  And my wargaming hobby blog totals 8.095 words.  For a total of 18,619 words.

Looking at the work I've done on Strike Dog, my second novel and sequel to Bad Dog, it's hard to come to a figure.  The fourth draft of Strike Dog ran to 91,552 words and the current fifth draft runs to 103,141 words; so roughly that comes to 12,089 new words.  But, I restructured the novel while editing it, and looking at my notes that came to 78,010 words, according to my running total I keep in my diary of each day's work.

So, at one level I've written 18,619 plus 12,089 words for a total of 30,708 words.

If editing is writing, and I would argue it is because–gotta catch them all–then in the last six months I've written 18,619 plus 78,010 words, which comes to a total of 96,629 words.

The latter is 3,716 words a week and that feels a lot more impressive than the former, which only comes to 1,181 words per week.  However, I can't help but wonder if I'm deluding myself by such an optimistic appraisal of the amount of work I've done this year?

Perhaps a better way of thinking about my writing is to see it as a process.  If, over time I produce novels, what does it matter whether it's a novel a year or a novel every other year?  It only matters if it's important that output has to generate income, and in that respect I'm currently secure.  This is not a state that is guaranteed, so being mindful of my goals and working towards them is probably my best option.

Still, Strike Dog is now going back to my Alpha reader for reappraisal.

Friday, 23 June 2017

The Vang: The Battlemaster


And now I've finished the third book in Christopher Rowley's The Vang series, the first being  Starhammer, and the middle book being The Military Form, and what a ride it has been.

This is not your usual series or even for that matter trilogy, the story being far looser than what one has come to expect when reading either.  Yet it has elements of both.

It's a series if one considers the first novel to be a prequel written to define the setting, which it is because it lays down a lot of world building stuff that underpins the sequels.  However, given the settings are separated by a thousand years they're not exactly sequels except for the theme that links them all together.

As for being a trilogy, then if the simple definition of a trilogy is three books that tell a single story then yes but, the single story is not about the humans.  It is instead a story about the Vang, and Rowley manages to generate in the second and third book quite a lot of sympathy for the plight of the Vang even as they do horrible things to the humans, which is quite an achievement.

All added up it makes for an interesting execution of what a story is, and how it can be told.

And it is very clear I've given nothing away about the plot of the story, and I'm not going to.  If eighties SF interests you, as in all that is old is not necessarily passe, then these books are well worth reading.  If one like military SF where the military side is mostly from the alien perspective, then this story will also be of interest.  If one thinks that the eighties is full of old fashioned stuff which has no value, then you probably want to skip these.

I loved it, and more importantly I want to read more by Christopher Rowley.  The biggest question is how is it that these novels aren't in print, it seems such a shame to me, as they have a lot to offer new readers coming into the genre.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Vang: The Military Form


I reviewed Starhammer here, The Vang: The Military Form is Christopher Rowley's sequel and middle part of what is loosely a trilogy: the first book is effectively a prequel to the second book, and the third is effectively a postscript.  As I said before, the story telling is compelling, and like before I found myself picking the book up in spare moments to read a few more pages.

The story takes place a thousand years after the events in the first book, and mankind has spread throughout the galaxy, free from the threat posed the Laowans who dominated the first novel.  But, the threat of the Vang remains, mostly in remnants of their technology.  This book starts with a crew who finds something interesting in space, the kind of something that could make them very, very rich or very, very dead.

It's not much of a spoiler to say that the later is closer to what actually happens, as in lots of people die as the consequence of waking a military form Vang, which then proceeds to do what it does best: conquer lesser forms by assimilating them.  There's several twists and a wry commentary on how rulers demands mean that the military is not allowed to do what is necessary; and that's just from the Vang perspective.

Had to go away and start reading the third when I finished this, which says everything you need to know really.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Starhammer


This book is the first part of a loosely connected trilogy by an author I've not read.  It came recommended to me from a friend of a friend, and I uhm'd and aah'd about getting copies because the prices on Amazon were at one point astronomical.  Fortunately, I kept an eye on them and they dropped back to more reasonable levels after about a year.  Also, reviews on Goodreads were a bit mixed, and after reading the book I can see why, but my usual comment applies–they're wrong because they miss the point.

Let's start with the pitchline:  Aliens meet the Thing...

At one level that tells you all you need to know about the theme and the tone of these books.  If you aren't able to manage visceral shock and horror then these books are not for you.  However, if like me you enjoyed the film Aliens, and loved John Carpenter's The Thing, then this book and its sequels may well rock your boat.

However, terms and conditions apply.  This is not Colonial Marines in space kicking ass, and the alien Vang are not exactly the Thing either, being a far more rational, and disturbing exo-parasite life form.  Also, the writing has elements that would get a lot of criticism in today's market, for example, the occasional use of mind hopping in chapters.

But, this none of this detracts from the story that is compelling, driving forward from one crisis to another, that leads to the ultimate reveal of a dead alien races weapon, the eponymous Starhammer, created to fight the Vang.  Highly recommended, and I will add the Vang were the inspiration for the Flood in the Halo series.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Archery Update


Looking back at my post I see that it has been ten months since I last posted anything about my archery practice; or preparing for the oncoming zombie apocalypse, if you're so inclined and are thinking about narratives.  Anyway, it's that time of the year when the weather is nicer and we are getting out and shooting at competitions, which means I have had to eat my words about doing so as evidenced here.

Last year my scores looked like this:


And this year has seen me move forward and achieve my bowman rating:


We've entered a couple of competition already, and much to my surprise I've come away with a couple of medals and this stunning trophy.


Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Battle of Forever


I have a pile of books to be read.  I'm pretty sure lots of people who like to read do to.  After reading Grave I decided to re-read The Battle of Forever by A. E. van Vogt.  He is one of my favourite  authors, with his short story the Black Destroyer being the classic that arguably marked the beginning of SFs golden era, and also inspired the Alien film series.

My worry that the The Battle of Forever wouldn't stand up to a re-read was unfounded, and while I could criticize the way the story was told, doing so is not really my thing.  What I will say is that the story kept me engaged and wanting to continue reading, something that a lot of other books do not.

The plot is a combination of the heroes journey, a quest and rebirth, by using a naive character as the central protagonist who is a master of philosophy.

This device allows van Vogt to pit an intelligent but, gullible character against aliens who, if not exactly evil, clearly do not have the best interests of humans at heart.  This is in many way classic science fiction, in that the story is about big ideas and discussing a future where travel amongst the stars is possible.

I enjoyed it so much that I read it in one day, an event that is so rare nowadays as to call attention to itself, but also an indicator that the novel is short or as I prefer to think of it, tightly written with no flab.

With regard to my own writing, I'm still adapting to the demands of running a clinic three days week, which is considerably more tiring than just doing two days.  I've been progressing my second novel, but have realized that I really need to up my game when describing the aliens, because of stuff I've been watching and reading in the meantime.  However, progress remains slow, and realistically if I could do more I would, so I just have to be patient with myself.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Ghost in the Shell


I have now been to see Ghost in the Shell at the cinema, which is a thing for us as we so very rarely go to the cinema nowadays because it's too expensive, and full of people being loud, possibly as we were once from just being young and exuberant.

I shall start by saying the critics are wrong.

This film, while not a classic in the same way as The Matrix or Blade Runner were when they were first released, is despite that a solid piece of entertainment.  Probably the best live action cyberpunk outside of The Matrix and Blade Runner.

It tells a slightly different version of the Major's origin story, and for that matter Section 9 too, but this is no way detracts from the film.  If anything it's the best bits version of the various iterations of the Ghost in the Shell stories, as told over the years through the various mediums of manga and anime.  Scarlet Johansson is perfectly cast as the Major, and Pilou Asbæk nails Batou.

If you want a big screen treat go see it.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Expanse


We've managed to watch season one of The Expanse, and enjoyed it very much.  Certain caveats: it starts slow with the TV equivalent of an info dump/world-building that shakes itself out by the end of the second episode.  After that it's pretty much high-octane story telling.  The news is that it has been renewed for season three, but that numbers the viewing numbers are not what the network hoped for.  Knowing my luck it will be cancelled, but you never know.

If you haven't checked it out I suggest you do.  It has certainly piqued my interest in writing a novel set in our solar system: I fancy doing a pretty hard SF take, which is problematical because it will affect what stories can be told and how one tells them.

Still, what's life without a challenge.  I may be some time.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Grave


Reading wise I finished the third book in the Queen of the Dead trilogy by Michelle Sagara called Grave.  I raved about the first book, called Silence, here.  I wrote about the second volume, called Touch, here.  Now I've finished the third book and have mixed feelings.  I struggled to read the book because it felt over long and drawn out, but the climax was heart rending, as in it made me cry for the characters.  If only I could write that well.

What I would observe is that book one was a tightly written novel of 289 pages, book two was 325 pages and the third volume was 450 pages.  Assuming a page is 350 words that's 101,150 words for the first book, rising to 113,750 in the second, and 157,500 words.

What I take away from this is two things.  Longer isn't better.  Trying to fill in all the characters back stories takes away from the plot's momentum.

But, I should add the caveat that I'm less inclined towards reading long books, which is why I won't be buying the novels The Expanse is based on if the show is cancelled, for pretty much the same reason I stopped reading George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series after the first volume.  This probably marks me as out of touch with the current fashion, but it's not long novels per se, just series that are made of very long novels that drain my will to read.

Monday, 3 April 2017

April Progress

Me shooting at the itty-bitty target in the distance.

As I have mentioned before real life demands, as in my day job, have slowed my writing to a crawl.  I've been taking some time away from writing and reading and doing other things, but as people who follow my model-making and gaming blog know I've been writing up my hobby activity, and for those who follow me on FaceBook my archery.

It seems that the urge to write hasn't gone away, and if anything the urge to write more novels remains.

However, being the victim of my own success I've found myself increasing my day job from two to three days, which doesn't sound like much, but it is.  My job is quite demanding and leaves me drained, not helped by my rheumatoid arthritis.  My consultant may cheerfully write that I'm in remission, but remission is not the same thing as cured.

So my plan is to do less frequent updates here and on my other blog too I suspect.  Hopefully, I can maximize what spare time I have to working on my novels.

Talking of which, I managed to surprise myself by editing more words than I thought I would on Strike Dog.  More importantly I began rewriting a chapter from a different character's point of view that I really, really wasn't looking forward to doing, because it felt like drudge work.  Not only that but, I had some ideas come together for my third novel Ghost Dog and I'm currently working on two new point of views to weave into the plot.  One I had planned, as in my Alpha reader pointed out I'd left a plot strand hanging, and the other is different idea bouncing off the first.

So that's all for this post.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The March of Time


Cue the music for the news and ask where has all the time gone?

Well, I can at least point you all to this months Galactic Journey piece I did on the 1962 British Eastercon.  When writing this I found it remarkable that a lot of the things that are going on in SF fandom now are very similar to what was going in in SF fandom then.  Especially, in my case, watching parts of fandom splitting apart over what I would observe as things that are not controllable.

Hence my link to The March of Time video, things may look old fashioned in the film newsreel, but it's the same stuff we are still doing today–living our lives as best we can in a world we can't control.

I've been taking some time out to do hobby stuff, which can be seen over on my other blog where I keep all the stuff about my addiction to toy soldiers and playing games.  I've been making up some 20 plus year old Heavy Gear game miniatures and having a blast while doing so.  I find working with my hands very relaxing, and it gives me space to let my mind wander.

And the wonder is that when the mind wanders thoughts appear.  Ideas stream in from the dark recesses of the mind, and some are even worth writing down, to be incorporated into my novels.   As I have said before, I have drafts of both the sequels to my first novel done, but while I have an idea of an outline of where the series goes, nothing is yet set down.  Some of my ideas are elusive things that I can't quite get to grips with or, I can see that I haven't quite gone far enough in working out all the ramifications of the idea.

So, one word after another, I will carry on with the next chapter of Strike Dog, my plan being to rewrite a scene from another character's perspective.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Progress Update


It has been a while since I've made a post about my writing.

I've been going through a slow period due to a combination of factors, some in my control, some not.  My day job demands have been rising, a victim of my own success, but my manager has got that under control, and I feel a lot let stressed: not just from the work, but from the pressure of having to commit to more work than I can manage.

It's also that time of the year where the weather is miserable, it's dark, damp and cold.  I've felt run down and even went off reading, which is a thing.  I've only just managed to finish reading a second novel this year.  The first was Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion, actually read so I could review it for Galactic Journey, see here.

After that I started Michael Z. Williamson's When Diplomacy Fails.  I've only mentioned his work in passing back here, and it took me longer to read the third book in the Ripple Creek series as I kept putting it down.  That says more about me than the book, but the author is better handling action than he is with interior dialogues of character beliefs: as in the action grips you by the seat of the pants that is hard to match when writing reflective thoughts that are well meaning, but ultimately don't really add anything i.e.: could be removed without detriment to the story.

Still, Williamson is one of those authors who I will buy his latest book when it's available in paperback because he delivers high octane action goodness.  Inspirational too.

So, looking at my diary this year I've only managed to work on my second novel a total of four days out of a possible 16: with some caveats I might say eight days because writing for my blogs and other people's blogs take time, as in they don't write themselves and the Galactic Journey pieces take a lot of research time to do too.  That's not a complaint, just an observation.  But, assuming that I'm now only going to realistically write one day a week it has consequences on how long it's going to take me to finish the edits on my second novel.

Currently I'm at chapter 16 of Strike Dog out of 62; OK some of those are very short chapters.  Words wise I've done 31,209 words out of 97,578 with 66,369 to go, which doesn't sound so bad: a third of the way through rather than just a quarter.  However, this doesn't take into account any extra writing I will do to add sub-plots etc.  There's a lot resting on this second novel, given that the first was rejected, because the publisher wants to see my second one.  I really want to nail it so they'll want to publish my story, because it would make my life so much easier than having to self-publish, given the demands of my day job.

Finally, rewatched Predator over the weekend.  Thirty years old and still eminently rewatchable.   As the old saw goes, they don't make them like that anymore.  And that's not sarcasm, this movie is a streamlined, pulse-pounding action flick that grabs one from the opening scene and keeps the roller-coaster ride going until the end.  Neither of the sequels are as good even though both have merits, the third being better than the second because the second hasn't dated well.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

NASA Trappist


And if you have the time you can listen to the full announcement on YouTube.


Isn't science wonderful?

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Picocon 34


Rounding out my birthday week was Picocon, run by the Imperial College Science Fiction & Fantasy Society: a student society.  A longstanding, usually one, occasionally two day event that has become the traditional start of science fiction conventions for this season.  As always there were authors invited to come and speak, and a small selection of dealers selling books and merchandise.

The first talk of the day was Jaine Fenn, on aliens set against her background of being brought up in a small village where she was the only one reading science fiction, and going to a school where she was the only girl who didn't have a pony.


After a short essential break the next speaker was Paul McAuley, who I've never had the pleasure of meeting or listening to before.


Again the theme was aliens, and this time the portrayal of aliens as a child: with mentions of the Mekon from Dan Dare, Zoonie the Lazoon from Fireball XL-5, and Daleks from Dr. Who contrasted against blond haired aliens from George Adamski's the Flying Saucers Have Landed.

Then it was time for the final talk of the morning with Al Robertson.  


Again aliens was the theme, but Al concentrated on corporate entities as artificial intelligences as being the aliens we've grown up with.  Then there was lunch, which this year was not in the Student Union bar, but slightly spoiled by the fact we waited 45 minutes for our order of beef burgers and chips, which was appalling.  Still, the burger were nice.

The the final talk was by the lovely Justina Robson, who I have had the pleasure of being on a panel with during the London Worldcon back in 2012.


Her talk was about artificial intelligence and thoughts and went through a number of iterative cycles of thinking about what that meant and how we as humans discuss god like agents who can control our destiny.  I found her talk fascinating.

The final event that we attended for the day was the four authors talking about artificial intelligence, robots and the future and taking questions from the audience.


You can hear the talks for yourself as Chad Dixon very generously gave his time and resources to putting everything up on the internet.  Thank you Chad.


Friday, 3 February 2017

Wargaming


An elegant wargamer from a more civilized age.  Oh and I just found this too.


Says it all, though and now you know why I can't find the time to play as many games as I would like; that's a joke by the way, just in case you want to say that games don't take nine hours to play.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Chillaxing

All the small rocky planets of the Solar system to fight over.

I have as the groovy kids like to say, been chillaxing: for definition of taking some time out from working on Strike Dog that mean I've been writing for the Galactic Journey, a review of Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion, researching what I'm going to write about for the next article, taking pictures of my wargame models for Miniature Wargaming magazine.  Quite frankly I needed to take a break because all this is on top of my work in the NHS, which was a little bit stressful leading up to Xmas.

So, I've been taking some time out to do some me things.  This mostly means sitting at my workbench assembling wargame models.  Some authors draw or paint pictures of the stuff in their imaginations, write songs or poetry, invent new languages.  Me, I make miniature soldiers of my imagined future.  It's the way I roll, but more importantly it makes me happy.

The picture is a reminder that one day I want to write a near future, for definitions of near that might mean up to five hundred years ahead, story set in our Solar system with colonies on other worlds.  It might feature war.  Who am I kidding, it will be a war story set either around Saturn or Jupiter: there advantages and disadvantages to both.

So that's it for now, catch you on the bounce.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Distractions


I have been working across the holiday season on several things other than finishing my novel.  Hence the title distractions.

The first two distractions were writing short reviews of books sent to me for review, which of course I had to read.  This time Osprey sent me two books that I could comment on, if not with considerable authority, with enough authority that I felt I could write a brief review for each that would be informative.  Those have now been sent off to John Treadway the editor  of Miniature Wargames.

Wargaming with toy soldiers is a lifetime hobby of mine and over the years I've amassed miniatures and terrain.  My only regret is that I don't get to play as much as I would like, and also not finishing projects in a timely manner.  My excuse is that it's my hobby, not my job.

Anyway, John from Miniature Wargames had also asked me if I could supply some pictures for the next issue of the magazine, because he had an article on BattleTech about the new Alpha Strike rules.  He asked for ten shots, I sent 17, and I believe four made it into issue #406.  Yesterday I saw one of the pictures which is being used for the Dark Horizons insert–a magazine supplement within the main magazine.  At the top is my original picture, and below is the crop they used.


I'm feeling pretty chuffed by this.  At some point, relatively soon, I will be running a photo essay on my other blog to show off the pictures that weren't used.  After all, a lot of work went into making the terrain boards, assembling the models and painting them, and the considerable amount of time it took to take all the pictures.

Speaking of photography, I'm now working on an article–a rewrite of something I sent Henry the previous editor of Miniature Wargames–about how I take the pictures I took: namely getting everything in focus from back-to-front when shooting pictures of very tiny models.

But before that I have my regular monthly article for Galactic Journey to write, and this month I'm reviewing another Golden Age author whose works I read voraciously when I first started reading science fiction.  So, busy with many distractions taking my time up, preventing me from getting on with my novel.

But writing is writing, and I'm enjoying doing what I'm doing, and things fall where they fall.  Makes me grateful for having the day job because I don't have to worry about where the money is coming from.  Until next week, have a nice one.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

PetMan


Combat androids are only briefly mentioned in Bad Dog, but they're central to the back ground setting of my universe, and in the sequel Strike Dog one will get to see them in action for the first time.  My combat androids are based off the Boston Dynamics company Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin–PetMan–a project designed to fulfill a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) brief.

However, in won't be until final book Ghost Dog that you will get to see combat androids deployed in anger against an enemy.

The Bad Dog universe military designation is HOS, which stands for Human Operator Surrogate, and they're semi-autonomous robots with a hybrid expert system artificial intelligence operating system.  Think of them as walking drones that require a human to controller to OK the firing of weapons.

This allows the operator to effectively operate twelve PetMen, with the network allowing them to multi-task, and therefore one soldier can act as a squad.  The PetMen acting as both a force multiplier, and reducing the number of soldiers exposed to enemy fire.  In my imagination Global Dynamics Corporation Defense Industries sales pitch would call them An Army of One.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year & Reflections on 2016

With my new quiver I have the whole the whole badass archer thing down pat.

Time for me to look back and sum up my thoughts after four years of writing.

Work wise, it has been a complex year for me, what with starting the day job.  Two days a week, may not sound like much, but I run a clinic at a major London NHS Trust, and the work demands a lot of me.  Regardless, it's something I thought I'd never do again after my illness, and at the end of January I will have been working for a year.  And there's archery... a sport, come hobby, come martial art I've taken up, with the aim being to get me out of the flat and doing more exercise, which is good but takes time.  However, all good, all things considered.

Other things that have consumed time this year, besides getting a new camera–that took several weeks to get used to using–was having to change my internet service provider and buying a new computer.  Both of these took up more valuable spare time that I could have been using for writing.  So much for my excuses.

Less good was having my first novel turned down, and now I have to decide what to do next?

Realistically, given I don't have an agent, sending it out around the publishing houses is a waste of time, and given that good agents are as rare as rocking horse pooh I think I shall avoid going down that path.  I have a plan, but you'll need to be a little bit patient with me as I put things into place before announcing what I intend to do next.  I need to get several other things in place.

One of those things is my second novel, which is stuck in the editing and polishing stage, with minor re-writes of stuff and additional scenes being worked on.  That may actually add a lot of words to the novel, as in twenty thousand or so, depending on what I decide to do.  At this moment  Strike Dog is currently running at 101,724 words, so we shall see how this goes, but whatever happens it means it's going to take me longer to finish than I expected it to.

My third novel Ghost Dog, running at 97,475 words, is also still being worked on after my Alpha reader pointed out I had planted a sub-plot at the beginning of the story and singularly failed to capitalize upon it.  Doh!  Tracking my words written this year is therefore a bit difficult, but I guess it ranges from 199,000 to 398,000 words edited, given I've done two drafts of each novel.

But then there is the writing for the blogs: nine pieces for Galactic Journey that came to 8,230 words, 51 pieces on here that came to 18,155 words, and 52 pieces for my other blog adding 12,682 words, plus a few odds and ends.  This comes a total of 39,067 words.

Adding everything up I make this a minimum of 238,266 words up to 437,465 words written.

This is way down on last years totals, but there again I had the day job, which only goes to show how much time that actually takes.  Still, it sounds like excuses to me and I'm not one who likes excuses.

Reading wise, the number of books read this year felt low, but after compiling my list I see I managed to read 21 novels, which is only five less than last year.  I've also read five non-fiction books, which when again rather surprised me as I hadn't thought I'd read that much either.  So I seem, despite what I felt, to have made good on intentions and managed to almost equal last years total of books read with less spare time.

This only goes to show that feelings are not facts.  Useful to hold onto when things feel like they're getting on top of one.

NB: Told by my beloved that I should show the groups I was getting.

My group of three top centre, Susan's bottom centre.